September 06, 2015

F1 Update: Italy 2015

A bright sunny day greeted the F1 Circus as they made their way to the grid, accompanied by the fevered howls of thousands of tifosi.  Would either of the Ferraris be able to deny polesitter Lewis Hamilton's this win?  Would his new engine handle the stress of the fastest circuit on the calendar?  Will there be any pasta jokes in this writeup?  THIS is your F1 Update for the 2015 Grand Prix of Italy!

*THE START... CRINGE!:  The worst thing you can possibly see during a Formula 1 broadcast is a trackworker making the "X" symbol with his arms, indicating that there's been an injury after an accident.  The second worst thing you can possibly see is a car stalled on the grid when the lights go out.  That occurred today, as Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, starting second, apparently forgot how to engage a clutch.  His car sat there like a red chicane as he frantically played with the flappypaddles trying to engage a gear... any gear.  Behind him, Nico Rosberg, starting from fourth, missed him cleanly, but it took a bit of quick dodging on the part of Valtteri Bottas' Williams to not plow at full acceleration into the Finn's backside.  With some wicked shuffling, the entire field got past, but Raikkonen was 20th and last before he started moving.  He hadn't stalled, the revs never dropped... he was like he was a 15 year old being taught how to use a manual gearbox for the first time in the parking lot of a K-Mart (for our British readers, substitute "Tesco's" for K-Mart.  For our other overseas readers, we're afraid you're on your own for this one).

*THE RACE... CRINGE!:  The new spec engine that Mercedes fitted into their cars for this race weekend performed as well as could be expected for Lewis Hamilton.  Teammate Nico Rosberg, if you remember from Quals, was running an old engine because of what turned out to be a coolant leak.  A "legacy part" from the 2015 spec layout failed in the 2016 engine, allowing coolant to get into parts of the power unit you don't want coolant to get into, rendering it useless until it gets thoroughly cleaned.  In any case, that the engine works well is bad news... for everybody that isn't Mercedes.  Hamilton galloped over the horizon and never looked back, turning this from "race" to "farce" very quickly.  By the time the first (and only) round of pitstops concluded, he had a 20 second lead over Seb Vettel, and it would only continue to grow.  See, Mercedes actually told Hamilton before the race not to take it easy on the new power unit... they need data on how it'll run in race conditions, after all.  Where in the closing stages he might dial the power down a touch and coast home, here at Monza that never happened.

*BUT... WHY?:  With some three or four laps remaining and with a 23 second lead, a most curious radio call was heard from the Merc pit wall to Lewis Hamilton: "we need to (increase the) gap, don't ask questions, just execute."  For a wonder, a Formula 1 driver didn't ask questions, at least over the radio: he just drove.  By the time he finished the race, he had over 25 seconds in hand on Vettel's Ferrari, and almost 48 seconds on the Williams pair, Felipe Not Nasr Massa and Valtteri Bottas.  Nobody else was within a minute of the leader when the race finished.

*LUMP GO BOOM:  We used to use this "bullet point" all the time when F1U! was just starting out.  Those first five, maybe six years would see a massive engine failure nearly every race it seemed.  These days though?  Reliable, nearly bulletproof power units mean that "Lump Go Boom" is mainly relegated to the filing cabinet of headlines, rarely seen and practically never used.  That we can dust it off and shine the light of day upon our old friend in a way that makes sense is a lovely moment for us.  And it is exactly what we said when Nico Rosberg's Mercedes belched smoke and rolled to a stop, a desultory fire licking from the exhaust, with two laps left.  That he lost a third-place finish was forgotten when one thought that maybe it had something to do with the imperative Hamilton had been given.  Maybe the team was thinking that something similar could happen to him and it was a race between engine failure and victory.  Either way, the booming of Rosberg's lump was the first mechanical failure of a Mercedes car this season.

*OH.  YEAH?  HEH. :  After the race we found out just what was going on.  Due to the tire failures at Spa-Francopants, the FIA came right out and said that tire manufacturer Pirelli would issue minimum required tire pressures for each race.  Any car found with tires below these levels could be penalized, up to and including exclusion from the event.  Four cars were tested mere minutes before the final recon lap: the Mercs and the Ferraris.  The red cars passed easily.  The two Mercs, however, did not.  While Rosberg's penalty became moot when he killed off all the mosquitoes at Monza, Hamilton's victory was suddenly in serious doubt.  Lower pressure means a softer tire, meaning more grip at the price of more wear.  That only one rear tire was found to be .3psi too low didn't matter: an exclusion was a real possibility.  As it turns out, the Stewards decided that the loss of pressure was caused by the cooling of tire after the heating blankets were removed, and Hamilton was allowed to keep his victory.

*DOMINATING: In the world of F1, a "grand chelem" is the unofficial award for a driver winning the race, leading every lap, and setting fastest lap of the race.  So what is it when a driver is fastest in every session of Practice, every session of Quals, has the fastest lap in the race, wins from pole, and leads every lap to boot?  Whatever it's called, Lewis Hamilton had it. 

Next up, we find ourselves in Singapore in two weeks!  See you then, allegedly!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:32 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
Post contains 1032 words, total size 7 kb.

1 "You want me to GO FASTER? Well, okay boss..."

On the one hand Hamilton has to be feeling pretty good about victory after victory. On the other, man, it's like he's barely having to work for it. I wonder if there are mixed feelings about that aspect.

Posted by: GreyDuck at September 07, 2015 09:58 PM (/zxpg)

2

He's having to work. Don't worry about that. Driving a race is a grueling physical experience even if you're in the lead the whole way.

I'm sure that he doesn't mind how things are going.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 07, 2015 10:35 PM (+rSRq)

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