October 31, 2017

F1 Update!: Mexico 2017

A perfect day for racing greeted the F1 Fiesta as they sat on the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez's grid.  A tense atmosphere still hung over the crowd though, as everybody knew they were about to see a showdown that would probably decide the World Driver's Championship.  On pole was Ferrari's Seb Vettel, who needed to finish at least 2nd to have any chance of extending the fight to Brazil.  Next to him on the front row was the latest wunderkind to take the Formula 1 world by storm, Red Bull's Embryo Verstappen.  He had no dog in the hunt for the Championship, but very much wanted a win.  And behind them was the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, points leader who only needed to finish fifth or above to clinch his fourth driver's championship... or have Vettel finish below 2nd.  These three could honestly be expected to not hold back in the nearly kilometer long run to the first turn... the first car there would have an advantage for the rest of the race on the narrow Mexico City circuit.  So what happened?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2017 Grand Prix of Mexico!


*LIGHTS OUT:  The drag race was exactly as exciting as predicted.  The big names were three wide as they piled into the braking zone for the first turn, but as Vettel had the inside line, he held primacy of place... for about twenty feet or so.  Coming out of Turn 1, Verstappen pulled alongside the Ferrari, and to the left which put him on the inside for the approaching Turn 2.  Vettel was slightly balked by the Red Bull, made very light contact with it, and had to back off the accelerator a touch to avoid anything worse.  This loss of momentum opened the door for Hamilton to come charging through, taking second away from the German as they barreled into Turn 3.  Then there was carbon fiber flying everywhere and Hamilton's Mercedes was limping.  The Ferrari had lost half its front wing, the silver car had a flat right rear tire, and Verstappen could be heard going "ha ha" as he galloped away. 

*QUESTIONS QUESTIONS: The aerodynamically impaired Ferrari made it back to the pits well before Hamilton... it could still go fast after all, it just didn't have much in the way of downforce for the turns.  A new nose was slapped on, as was the hardest compound of tire on offer for the weekend... clearly Vettel was looking at going the rest of the race on one set of rubber.  Mercedes decided to do the same for their car.  Both drivers were at the back of the field, with Hamilton in dead last.  The question now became very simple: could Vettel fight his way up to second place from the rear of the field?  The corollary to that was "could Hamilton do the same thing"?  Neither man had a chance to win, of course... or did they?  Embryo wasn't known for his... um... stability behind the wheel, after all.  

*WHOLE AND BROKEN: Soon enough, the early answers to the questions posed came in... "maybe" and "nope."  The driver of the Prancing Horse began to pull himself up the field, slowly but surely, and seeming to have to fight tooth and hoof for every position.  His encounter with Massa for 15th place nearly saw them come together in what must have been a terrifying moment for Vettel... to lose a shot at the championship because frickin' MASSA wouldn't get out of his way?  Ridiculous!  On the other end of the spectrum was Hamilton's Mercedes... stuck in 19th place for so long that Verstappen lapped him on Lap 20.  As it turned out, the collision with Vettel caused more damage than was immediately apparent.  The Merc's diffuser had been broken, either by the impact or by the flailing tire, in such a way that much of its effectiveness was gone.

*HOW DO YOU SAY 'KABLAMMO' IN FRENCH?:  First came Smiley Ricciardo's Red Bull, which ate another turbocharger.  Then Brendan Hair-tly's Toro Rosso came to a stop on the side of the track, flames issuing from the exhaust pipe.  Nico Hulkenberg's Renault died via KERS failure, the team instructing him to exit via the nose of the car and to jump off so as to not ground himself.  Carlos Sainz's French car retired from self-inflicted handling issues.  This left only Pierre Ghastly's Toro Rosso and Verstappen's Red Bull as cars with Renault power still running... and both pit walls were terrified by what they could see was coming.  Hair-tly's failure brought out a Virtual Safety Car on Lap 31.  This allowed both Vettel and Hamilton to throw out their one-stopper plans and put on fast tires.  Verstappen's lead over second-place Valterri Bottas was some 11 seconds at this point.

*AH THE CONFIDENCE OF YOUTH:  Around Lap 40 or so, Red Bull's pit wall instructed Young Master Verstappen to perhaps slow down just a touch so as not to risk angering the engine gods.  A lap later came the radio call "Okay Embryo, so that (lap time) was the same as the previous lap."  A moment or two of silence, then the Dutch driver responded with "I'm really sorry."  For some reason, the obvious laughter in his voice suggested he wasn't very sorry at all.

*BETTING ON RED:  With Verstappen dominating the race, all eyes turned to the Ferrari of Seb Vettel.  By Lap 35, the halfway point, he was in 8th place.  In most circumstances, this would have been a fantastic finishing position considering the problems at the start... but he may as well have been on the Moon for all it was worth to him.  He continued to pull his way up the field, the new fast tires making all the difference in the world.  On Lap 57 of 71, he managed to make his way past the Force India of False Esteban! to take fourth position.  Far behind him, both in track position and in time, Hamilton had dragged his broken Merc up to 10th.

*OH.  OH DEAR.:  Vettel was in fourth, but needed desperately to reach second.  It was a subdued pit wall that radioed him, letting him know that his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, was in third.  Normally, this would be a GOOD thing for the German, because team orders would force the Finn to give the position up.  But the pit wall continued, this time with the bad news: he was 24 seconds behind Raikkonen.  Left unsaid was the gap from Raikkonen to Bottas: another 27 seconds.  Vettel's reply really left nothing more to be said: "Oh mamma mia."  Stereotypical Italian comment aside, the German could not relax.  He needed to be closer to his teammate so he could realistically be allowed past if Bottas had problems, and of course four Renault-powered cars were already out of the race, three of the retirements power-unit related.  For all his dominance on the day, Verstappen could be out in the blink of an eye, and Vettel would have his second place finish.

*WITHER HAMILTON:  You know it's a bad day for Mercedes when their lead driver and three-time world champion is fighting Fernando Alonso's McLaren for 9th place, but there they were, throwing haymakers and uppercuts at each other.  Alonso later said that he thought the McLaren was "the best chassis on the grid", and he may be right... certainly he was able to hold off a damaged Mercedes for some good clean racing.  Probably the best of the day, truth be told.  Alonso did eventually come out behind in their little tete a tete, but that meant that he had only managed to climb some nine positions on the day instead of 10.  Not too bad for a car with a wind-up engine in it.

*THE END:  Vettel managed to get within 15 seconds of his podium-bound teammate, but no closer.  Raikkonen was a whopping 33 seconds behind Bottas' second-place Mercedes.  But 20 seconds ahead of them all was Embryo Verstappen's Red Bull, taking his second race victory of the season.  But nobody really noticed that, because all eyes were on Hamilton who was celebrating his fourth world driver's championship.

The next race is in two weeks in Brazil... see you then!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 09:25 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
Post contains 1381 words, total size 9 kb.

1 Verstappen and Gasly had clear air pretty much the entire race, which wasn't the case for the other four Renaults. Probably a cooling issue. 

I actually didn't get why Hamilton DIDN'T hold back. All he had to do was finish fifth or above and it wouldn't matter what Vettel did. He could have just hung back from the first lap chaos - worst case, he finishes third. That's what I would have done. But then, perhaps that's why he has the four championships in a high performance sport and I occasionally put up a good fight in Boggle.

Thanks for the update! :-)

Posted by: Mrs. Will at November 01, 2017 06:14 AM (JPRju)

2 Huh. Well, it seems not to have been a dull race. (Good going, Verstappen. See what happens when you don't try to get ahead of yourself, as it were?) Interesting observation about the McLaren, considering they've largely been a non-factor lately.

Posted by: GreyDuck at November 01, 2017 05:12 PM (rKFiU)

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