September 29, 2007

F1 UPDATE!: JAPAN!

Back in the good ol' days, every race at Fuji started like this:

Wow, 1000 point bonus!

The view from Massa's car.

Today? Not so much.

*SPA IS CALLING, THEY WANT THEIR WEATHER BACK: For only the fourth time in F1 history, the race began behind the safety car. Why?

Oh.

Because the wet weather on Saturday became even worse by the race. In fact, this was probably the wettest race we at F1 UPDATE! have ever seen... and that includes this year's European Grand Prix. See, that race just had one downpour. Today's race had medium-to-heavy rain all day long. So much rain fell, in fact, that the first 17 laps were run behind the safety car. While we believe it was a bad decision to do that, at least the race did complete in the two-hour time limit.

*DID WE MENTION THE RAIN?: This view from Takuma Sato's cockpit just says it all:

It was like this all day.

The surprising thing was that there were so few accidents.

*OH, THE RACE! FORGOT ABOUT THAT...: Once the safety car went away, we actually got a pretty decent race, with some heavy implications on the Driver's Championship. Lewis Hamilton was possessed by the spirit of Michael Schumacher and turned in a masterful wet-weather drive, winning by nearly 13 seconds. Fernando Alonso, on the other hand, spun and crashed out of the race around the 2/3rds mark, and now finds himself 12 points behind his teammate with two races to go, a nearly insurmountable gap. Felipe Massa is now out of contention altogether, and Kimi Raikkonen in third is hanging on by the skin of his teeth.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE: Heikki Koveleaininnie. Renault gambled in qualifying, setting both their cars up for a dry race. The gamble failed miserably, dropping both Heikki and Giancarlo Fisichella way down the grid, and seemingly costing them any shot at a podium. Nevertheless, Heikki, running no rear wing to speak of, and therefore suffering from a tremendous lack of grip, managed to run his Renault up into 2nd place. He then had to fight off his fellow Finnish racer Kimi Raikkonen in the last lap to stay in second. Considering that, by all rights, he should have been off-track a dozen times today, Heikki Koveleaininninininnie gets the DotR.

*TEAM OF THE RACE: Renault. Rain may be the great equalizer, but it also makes a mockery of all the plans and strategies that go into a F1 race. No team looked good today: McLaren had their first DNF, Ferrari peed one right down the leg of their firesuits by starting their cars on completely undriveable Intermediates, RedBull/Toro Rosso managed to go from podium finishes (and a possible win) to wrecking themselves (see the "MOOOO-oove" below)... the list goes on and on. But there was Renault, coming in 2nd and 5th with either an example of marvelous improvisation or incredible good luck, and their best race of the year.

*MOVE OF THE RACE: On the final lap of the race, Felipe Massa was frantically trying to get past Robert Kubica for sixth place. For the last third of the lap, Massa was either alongside, immediately behind, or just a smidge ahead of Kubica, but not past him. Then he basically played a game of chicken with the Pole, getting his tires so close to the BMW that Kubica could have counted the number of tread grooves on the Ferrari's 'full wet' rubbers. Kubica peeled off, then swung back in towards the red car. Massa, who'd spent the majority of the day off-track anyway and probably had a good feel for the asphalt runoff areas, intentionally blew the final turn. Probably screaming "Screw the rain" in Brazillian, he then buried the accelerator and outran Kubica to the finish line. We have no idea how the FIA Stewards won't investigate the racing activities there, but for now, Massa gets the Move of the Race for that startling sequence.

*MOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE: Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel had it all today. Everything was going his way, from becoming the youngest driver in F1 history to lead a lap, to sitting pretty in 3rd place after Alonso pronged his McLaren, bringing out the safety car. Just ahead of him was Mark Webber in his RedBull, the junior team following the Big team. Both would have been the best finishes ever for their respective teams, and Webber had a distinct chance at a win (as Hamilton seemed to be having problems after being bumped earlier in the race). Then it all turned to dust, as somehow Vettel rammed into the rear of Webber's car, destroying the Red Bull's suspension and knocking him out of the race. Vettel's Toro Rosso limped back to the pits with it's front-left tire at a 45-degree angle to the direction of travel. From hero to goat in one second. The last shot we saw of Vettel was of him in the back of the Toro Rosso pits, helmeted head in his hands, his body language suggesting that he wanted to learn more about seppuku, in a hurry.

Honorable mention goes to the SuperAguri mechanic who decided to lean over and manually (i.e., with his fingers) open Takuma Sato's fuel cover after he had just had nearly a full tank put in, thereby causing this:

Fwoomp!

"Um... Taku? Pay no attention to that orange glow in your cockpit, and whatever you do, DON'T look in your mirrors..."

*DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE: will be posted Sunday afternoon.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:08 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
Post contains 912 words, total size 6 kb.

1 Wow, I was amazed they even ran that race considering the lack of visibility.

I saw the beginning of the race with the ongoing safety car parade, and since the middle of the night cuts into my beauty sleep, I took a nap. When I woke up, Hamillton was leading, Alonso was nowhere to be found on the leader board, and the action was pretty darn good, even with the rain.

I was delighted with the outcome, since it gave Hamilton such a commanding lead. I'm sure Alonso found himself a cat or a dog to kick once he got back to the garage to ponder his DNF.

At one point Ferrari seemed to be in trouble for not starting on the mandated tires. Anything further on that?

Posted by: Mallory at September 30, 2007 12:30 AM (u2PEb)

2 Mal, it looks like their excuse ("We never signed for the message, so you can't prove that we got it!") is going to win the day.

The Stewards have handed down penalties to Vitantonio Liuzzi (docked his standing point for passing Adrian Sutil behind the safety car) and Sebastian Vettel (ten-spot grid penalty for China for running into Mark Webber behind the safety car), but no mention yet about Ferrari.

So the FIA proves again that Ferrari Is All-important.

Posted by: Wonderduck at September 30, 2007 02:59 AM (d/RyS)

3 Fernando Alonso, on the other hand, spun and crashed out of the race around the 2/3rds mark, and now finds himself 12 points behind his teammate with two races to go, a nearly insurmountable gap.

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. (Heh heh heh heh.....)

It's kind of too bad we didn't get to find out how this track runs dry. And we'll have to wait two years for our next chance to find out.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 30, 2007 05:05 AM (+rSRq)

4 How many points do drivers get for first place, second place, third place?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 30, 2007 06:45 AM (+rSRq)

5 Steven, we only have to wait for next year (hopefully) to find out how Fuji runs dry. While the GP of Japan will alternate between Fuji and Suzuka, that begins next year... with Fuji; the next time we'll see Suzuka will be 2009.

Points break down like this:
1st - 10 points
2nd - 8 points
3rd - 6 points
4th - 5 points
5th - 4 points
6th - 3 points
7th - 2 points
8th - 1 point.

Hamilton has a 12-point lead on He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named with two races left. If he wins next week, or finishes above HWMNBN, he wins the Driver's Championship. Anything else and the Championship will not be decided until Brazil... though the odds would be awfully long against HWMNBN.

Raikkonen needs to win both remaining races, and hope that Hamilton scores three points or less (a tie would go to Kimi on the first tiebreaker, driver wins). In other words, he's pretty much screwed.

Current Driver Standings:
1st - Hamilton, 107 points
2nd - HWMNBN, 95 points
3rd - Raikkonen, 90 points
4th - Massa, with 80 points, is out of contention.

Posted by: Wonderduck at September 30, 2007 07:41 AM (d/RyS)

6 It ain't over until it's over, of course, but it seems that as long as Hamilton isn't a blithering idiot, and doesn't take stupid chances in the remaining two races, he's in a commanding position.

A DNF would be a big deal, but if he's reasonably careful, he should be fine on that.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 30, 2007 12:42 PM (+rSRq)

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