October 02, 2017

F1 Update!: Malaysia 2017

A gray, gloomy sky over Kuala Lumpur greeted the Thundering Herd as it made its way to the starting grid.  Polesitter Lewis Hamilton had to be experiencing mixed feelings as his Mercedes sat in its prime spot.  On one hand, he was on pole having put in a great lap during qualifying.  On the other, his Mercedes was acting like a temperamental diva.  The team couldn't dial it in for long stints and little technical gremlins were running around the insides of the power unit.  On the whole, though, it was a good position to be in, particularly considering his main rival, Ferrari's Seb Vettel, was dead last after a technical failure in quals.  Just behind Hamilton sat birthday boy Embryo Verstappen's Red Bull.  The Dutchman had celebrated his 20th birthday the previous day and the Red Bulls were feeling particularly racy the whole weekend.  So what happened next?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2017 Grand Prix of Malaysia!  


*BEFORE: After a qualifying session that saw him take second spot on the grid, Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was asked what his goal was for the race.  "I'd like to get more than 100 meters," replied the Finn, a reference to the race in Singapore two weeks prior.  He didn't.  Some engine glitch kept him in the garage until the very last moment, then the team sent him to take his place in the starting lineup.  Once there, the mechanics began working on the car again, taking the rear bodywork off so they could tinker with the power unit.  Ultimately this proved fruitless, the team pushing the car back to the pits to work on it while the rest of the cars went on their way to take the start.  In the end, Ferrari would retire the car.  We can only assume Raikkonen got himself some ice cream.

*LIGHTS OUT:  The run down to Turn 1 in Malaysia is one of the longest on the calendar, plenty of time for mischief to be perpetrated by those desperate or unaware.  Throw in Embryo Verstappen, not known for his love of carbon fiber (unless it's in tiny pieces), being up at the front and Hamilton had to be wondering if HE'd make it through the first turn in one piece.  The weather played a part in the start, despite there not being a drop of rain in the sky.  Earlier in the day, it had rained and the grid was damp... or, to be correct, half the grid was damp.  It seems that half of the track had been resurfaced some time in the past.  The two surface materials used, left and right, were not the same.  As a result, the even-numbered side of the grid was visibly wetter than the odd side.  Once the race began, the cars starting on the right side of the grid all made better starts than the ones on the left.  It didn't matter much in the long run, but there you are.  For a wonder, the entire field made it through the first set of turns without too much damage... or indeed, any at all that we could see.  By the end of Lap 1, Hamilton led Verstappen, who led Valterri Bottas in third.  Remember that Seb Vettel guy, starting back in 20th?  By the end of Lap 1, he was 13th, and quickly moved up to 12th.

*AND THEN...:  At the beginning of Lap 4, DRS was enabled, and the Red Bull in second place was within the one-second zone of the leader, though only just.  The rear wing slot popped open, and voila!  12mph bonus to Verstappen's speed down the straight.  He made up the gap to Hamilton quickly enough, but looked to be too far back to make any sort of move.  Wrong.  The Dutchman decided that he didn't need to brake until it was almost too late, zipped past the Mercedes on the inside, and made the move stick out of the twisty complex at the end of the front straight.  As it turned out, the Mercs were having problems with their KERS systems not recharging fast enough, and Hamilton had been caught with his battery boost not able to produce as much power as it should.   If it had been, there may have been more of a defense made.  Or perhaps not; Hamilton is leading the Driver's Championship, and with Vettel far, far behind on track, there was no need for the Brit to tempt fate by dueling with the birthday boy.

*MEANWHILE:  Vettel's Ferrari was making steady progress on-track.  The man he picked off for 12th, Nico Hulkenberg, was having some difficulty with his car so he pitted earlier than expected.  Concerned that he would undercut them in the pits, four other drivers pitted for new tires, promoting Vettel into sixth place.  He would take care of Sergio Perez for fifth place on Lap 19.  Fifteen places in 19 laps... pretty good work, that.  

*UP FRONT:  Verstappen was doing to Lewis Hamilton what Hamilton had regularly done to any car that wasn't a Mercedes for much of the past four years: he was driving away.  The lead would reach nine seconds and stay right around that amount for a very long time indeed.  Meanwhile, behind those two worthies we find the other Red Bull, that of Smiley Ricciardo camped out in third, but nervously glancing in his mirrors all the time.  That's because Vettel, after having a nice little scrap with Bottas, had moved into fourth position.  Worst still for Ricciardo, Vettel was on fresher, faster tires and was turning laps a full second faster than anybody else on track.  All of that had to be sitting in the back of the German's head... if only his car had worked on Saturday, this clearly would have been his race.

*CATCH AND RELEASE:  The Ferrari steadily closed in on the Australian, filling the Red Bull's mirrors like a T-Rex chasing a Land Rover.  Then, as Lap 48 turned into Lap 49, with the Ferrari pit wall telling him to "attack now", Vettel made his move... which Ricciardo smoothly blocked as they approached the braking zone for Turn 1.  The Ferrari driver backed down, and shortly thereafter began to lose time to the Australian.  He had raced his tires off, and he was unable to challenge again.

*THE END:  For a wonder, Red Bull's Max Verstappen cruised home with a lead that was nigh on 13 seconds over Hamilton's Mercedes.  Ten seconds behind him came Ricciardo, who's gap over Vettel for the final podium spot had opened up to 15 seconds... a marvelous display of damage containment by the Ferrari driver.  It had looked like Hamilton would have buried his nearest challenger.  Instead, he barely managed to buy the shovel he would need to start digging.  Throw in the temperamental state of the W08 recently, and Hamilton had to have some concerns.

*...THE HELL?:  As the drivers were on their cooldown lap, we were treated to camera shots of Verstappen being happy in cockpit, with lots of yelling over the radio.  He had become the youngest driver in F1 history to win a race, breaking Seb Vettel's record by over a year... or he would have, if he didn't already hold the record, having won his first race in 2016 at the age of 18 and change.  And then the cameras frantically cut away to show us this:

Vettel had been behind the Williams of Pleasant Stroll as they were on their cooldown laps, with the Ferrari moving somewhat faster.  When they approached the next turn, the Ferrari driver went past Stroll.  There was a coming together and the Ferrari ended up a shambles.  The Williams, on the other hand wasn't even scuffed.  Both drivers blamed the other.  It is the opinion of F1U! that Vettel probably should never have put himself in that position in the first place... he's got a championship to fight for, and while this happened after the race, suspension damage often causes collateral damage to the engine or gearbox.  Changing those would give a penalty for the next race.  Reports are that the gearbox is undamaged, but those reports weren't coming from Ferrari.  Very, very bizarre, and not the first time this season that Vettel has done something stupid.

So that's it for Malaysia.  Next race is next week, at F1U!'s official favorite circuit, Suzuka in Japan.  See ya then!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 09:39 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
Post contains 1408 words, total size 9 kb.

1 I thought Ric did a great job holding off Vet. He managed to use the backmarkers very well to slow Vet down.

Max did say he felt comfortable taking a risk because he figured Ham would play it safe, having a championship at stake. I haven't seen if Lewis has commented on it himself. I thoroughly enjoyed his facial expression at the end of the race, though. 

The line from quals I thought was funny was when, having been asked about getting past Hamilton, Max said, "I don't want to get sandwiched," and Kimi immediately retorted, "I don't want to get hit." Haha.

And I figure Vettel riding on Wehrlein's car had to violate some health and safety reg somewhere... 

Posted by: Mrs. Will at October 03, 2017 05:37 AM (JPRju)

2 Well, good on the birthday boy, even if Hamilton was taking it easy to a certain extent.

Posted by: GreyDuck at October 03, 2017 07:32 AM (rKFiU)

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