June 19, 2016

F1 Update!: Europe 2016

It was sunny and warm in Baku, Azerbaijan as the F1 Circus lined up on the grid for the inaugural race in that old, old city.  Nico Rosberg was on pole with his teammate Lewis Hamilton back in tenth... in between were all the realistic challengers both for the win and for the driver's championship.  So what happened?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of Europe!

*LIGHTS OUT: ...we can't do this.  Not this way.  Not after this.

In a way, it's our fault.  We here at F1U! were excited for this race.  The track was terrifying and fascinating in equal measure, the result of Quals made for a slightly jumbled Top 10, and since it was the first time F1 had raced at Baku, nobody was sure how the track would really race.

We should have known better.  Formula 1 is good for many, many things, but the one thing that F1 does not handle well is doubt.  The teams handle the unknown very poorly... potentially exciting unknowns cause F1 teams to drool on themselves in the night, gibbering madly in the darkness of their motorhomes.

And so it came to pass that today's race at Baku was easily the most boring race this season.  There were no risks taken, nothing that could have been considered bold (moves, strategies, tire choices), even the first turn didn't cause much in the way of bumps and bruises.  By the end of the first lap, Nico Rosberg was already out of DRS Zone range, and by the time DRS was enabled on Lap 3, he was two seconds clear of the field.  Next time over the start/finish line, the lead was four seconds because the tires on Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull had given up the ghost.  Ferrari's Seb Vettel got past him by the next lap, but the damage was already done.  The Merc driver had an incredible 14 second lead by the end of Lap 10.

It was pretty clear that the only people with a chance to catch up to Rosberg were his teammate Lewis Hamilton, and maybe Valterri Bottas, the Williams driver that managed to hit 235 mph down the long, long straight in Quals.  As it turned out, Bottas wound up holding Hamilton back during a critical point in the race.  His immense speed made a DRS pass practically impossible, so that when it did finally occur, he was a half-minute behind his teammate and in fifth place.

Hamilton then spent 15 laps trying to figure out a problem caused by the engine settings on his steering wheel.  Please note that the exact same problem arose on Rosberg's car, and he figured out how to fix it in less than one lap.  So that put paid to any chance he might have had to catch the leader, slim as it would have been.

Nobody else had anything to show the leader, and nobody pushed the limits of the circuit.  The four DNFs were for mechanical problems, not accidents.  Nobody even came close to the walls, and almost all the passes today involved the DRS.  Rosberg led from flag-to-flag, ended up winning over Seb Vettel's Ferrari by 16 seconds.

Vettel was 10 seconds ahead of Force India's Sergio Perez in third, who in turn was eight seconds up on Kimi Raikkonen.  Hamilton finished 23 seconds behind the Ferrari Finn, nearly one full minute behind Rosberg.

This race, simply put, was a massive disappointment.  We're glad everybody came out safely, but that was the only high point of the day.

Next race is two weeks from now in Austria. 

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:33 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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1 What are "D-rates"? When Hamilton was having trouble with the settings on his car, he was complaining about them.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at June 20, 2016 01:06 AM (+rSRq)

2 After looking at the transcripts of the radio calls, it looks he was saying that various engine performance reports were, essentially, "derated".  As in, they weren't putting out expected amounts of power.

Posted by: Wonderduck at June 20, 2016 07:29 AM (Hdexn)

3 My feelings on the race mirror yours.  Some of the jousting in the mid-points places was kinda interesting, but it was a pretty blah race overall.  I ended up leaving the replay running in the background and doing something else, just to see if anything happened.

Having seen the track in race conditions now, I can't see how the 8-9-10 complex is in any way safe.  Any crash in that narrow passage will block it completely (for example, if someone derps the entry to and any following cars will pretty much have to slam the brakes or add to the carnage.  And I can't see how they do anything but red flag the race to remove it.

Posted by: ReallyBored at June 20, 2016 03:09 PM (MmkR/)

4 hmm, sunglasses is supposed to be "...if someone derps the entry to 8 )..."

Posted by: ReallyBored at June 20, 2016 03:10 PM (MmkR/)

5 This is why I'm morally opposed to automatic graphical smilies.

Posted by: Mauser at June 20, 2016 10:38 PM (5Ktpu)

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