May 25, 2008

F1 UPDATE!: Monaco 2008!

Monaco is called "the crown jewel" of Formula 1, but generally the race itself isn't all that exciting.  Not this time!  THIS is the F1 UPDATE!

*IT'S RAINING AGAIN...:  Take everything you know about F1 racing at Monaco, cover it with water, then throw it out and hang on.  Best race of the season so far, no contest.  As the cars sat on the grid just before the parade lap, nobody knew just exactly what the weather would bring.  The track was damp and drying, but Formula One Management was saying "rain in 15 minutes".  Everybody went safe and chose intermediate rain tires, but Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari couldn't make up their minds fast enough, saddling him with a drive-through penalty early.  Once the race began, though, everybody made it through the first turn safely and it started to look like just another Monaco...

...and then it began to rain, and the F1 UPDATE! crew began to laugh.  More nose changes than you'll see at a Hollywood movie premier.  Lewis Hamilton fishtailed into the wall and blew a tire, but no suspension damage.  It looked like his race was done, and it would have if it wasn't for David Coulthard's Chin kissing the wall, then being rear-ended by SeaBass, bringing out the Safety Car.  Suddenly, everything was back to square-one.  Massa lost it on the one place on the course with run off area, Ste Devote, and dropped back, putting BMW's Robert Kubica into the lead.  After the first scheduled pitstops, though, Hamilton had the lead.  That early pitstop to change his blown tire began to look like a godsend.  And so it was, as he took his McLaren home to the win, followed by Kubica and Massa.  In between, though, the rain stopped, and it became a guessing game.  A late Safety Car put the whole race in doubt again, as Hamilton and Kubica were on hard-dry tires, while Massa was on the softs and kept it close, to no avail.

*POINTS FOR EVERYBODY!: Seven teams earned points today, with McLaren being the only manufacturer to get both cars in the top eight (1st for Hamilton, 8th for Heikki).

*TIME OUT:  For the first time in who-knows-how-long, a Formula 1 race was ended by time limit, not by finishing every lap.  F1 races have a maximum time of 120 minutes, y'see, and when the rain came, everything slowed down.  When the time expired, there were still two laps left.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE: No, not Lewis Hamilton, though at any other race he would have won it.  F1 UPDATE! is proud, however, to give the DotR award to someone that we wouldn't ever have guessed we be giving it to... Force India's Adrian Sutil.  Throughout the weather, Sutil showed that he's got awesome driving skills in the wet as he worked his way through the field... and with a few laps left, he was sitting in a no-kidding, for-real fourth place, with a legitimate shot at a podium to boot.  Then, through no fault of his or his team's own, it all turned to ashes....  It's small consolation, Adrian, but you, far and away, deserve the Driver of the Race award.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Nobody.  We can't give any team praise this race.  Everybody had problems this time around, from McLaren's Heikki Kovaleiniinninninnie stalling on the grid to Ferrari not being able to decide on a tire for Kimi to BMW botching the setup on Grizzly Nick Heidfeld's car to Renault deciding to go to dry tires a few laps early, while teams like Williams or RedBull did nothing to distinguish themselves, earning their points merely by surviving.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  It's always a tense moment.  The lead car(s) are lapping their way through the field, when they come up on two (or more) cars battling for position.  The trackside marshals throw up the blue flag, telling the slower cars to move aside for the leaders.  The problem is doing it without surrendering an inch to the cars you're fighting.  In this case, Massa came up on Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg on the run down to the hairpin.  Button and Rosberg moved over to let Massa go by, everybody braking all the while.  Rosberg, however, jumped behind Massa, and stuck his nose under the Ferrari's tail (so close that is Massa touched the brakes any harder, Rosberg would have been in the cockpit with him), preventing Button from getting back inside.  Perhaps an ungentlemanly move, but perfectly legal (and sneaky as all hell).  For that, Rosberg, you deserve the MotR!

*MOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  We understand that F1 is hard.  Very hard.  So hard that it makes idiots out of the best drivers in the world.  That's why we created the award that celebrates the bovine in every driver, the Mooooo-ooove of the Race.  To begin with, the F1 UPDATE! crew wanted desperately to give the Moooo-oove to Kimi Raikkonen for losing control of his car and spearing into the rear of Adrian Sutil's Force India, ruining the outstanding 4th place Sutil had in hand and forcing them both into the pits (and crushing Sutil's suspension).  It would have served him right.

However, cooler heads prevailed.  Instead, the Mooo-oove goes to an earlier case of stupidity.  HWMNBN had been following Grizzly Nick Heidfeld closely for a couple of laps, almost being able to pass, but not quite.  Now, it's quite difficult to pass at Monaco, but there ARE some places to do it.  For the most part, however, the hairpin is NOT one of them, not without some assistance from the car ahead of you (see: Button, Rosberg, Massa, Move of the Race).  HWMNBN, perhaps realizing that he didn't have a chance in hell of doing anything this race anyway, decided to force the issue.  He sauntered inside of the BMW by not braking, then couldn't make the turn.  The result was not pretty:

Heidfeld, in fact, wound up forced into a spin, banging back into HWMNBN.  This brought both cars to a dead stop, blocking the entire track and bringing six or eight other cars to a complete halt on the streets of Monaco.   Completely pointless pass attempt that nearly ruins your car, someone else's car, and turns "race" into "park"?  Well done, HWMNBN, here's your Moooooo-ooove!



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May 11, 2008


A terrible bit of driving, an excellent bit of driving, a risky fuel strategy and a broken record... this is the F1 UPDATE! for the fifth round of the Championship!

*TURKISH DELIGHT:  Michael Schumacher was the last driver to win the same race three years running; now Felipe Massa has matched that, with an extra filip.  Not only has Massa won the Turkish Grand Prix three years in a row, he's also had the pole for all three of those races and nearly led every lap of all three to boot.  Think Mr. Massa likes the Istanbul Otodrom?

*TUMBLIN' DICE:  There are times in any season when a team has to gamble on a strategy if they want a chance to improve themselves.  Today, McLaren knew their cars were going to run badly on the soft compound tires.  They also knew that the Ferraris were faster when the cars had equal fuel on board.  So they rolled the dice on a three-stop strategy.  This would give them the ability to run light on fuel the entire race, as well as limit the amount of time they'd spend on the soft tires (remember, FIA regs say the teams have to run both hard and soft tires during a race).  The result of this gamble was clear: Lewis Hamilton wound up 2nd and was charging down hard on Massa.  Heikki Kovaleinninninnie suffered a puncture in the first complex of turns and wound up 12th, so we can't really judge the strategy on the basis of his run.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  On the face of it, Massa should win today, but instead, we here at F1 UPDATE! are going to give the award to someone else:

Congratulations to Honda's Rubens Barrichello for breaking Ricardo Patresse's record for most F1 starts all-time!  Even though you finished 14th on the day, you're still the DotR!

*TEAM OF THE RACE: Ferrari.  Obviously the class of the field, though perhaps not by as much as was expected.  Still, 1-3, pole and fast lap by Kimi Raikkonen is pretty darn good. 

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  Thanks to the removal of traction control, this exciting track has become even better.  We had passing going on all over the place all day long, and most of them were contenders for the MotR.  However, a pass for the lead trumps them all.  On lap 24, Lewis Hamilton had a lighter fuel load than Felipe Massa and had to get past the Ferrari to have any chance to make the three-stop strategy work.  Hamilton got a tow down the straight and ate up the space between the two cars in great chunks, then moved inside of Massa.  Both braked late into the turn, Massa tried to close the door on the McLaren, but Lewis was having none of it.  Massa had to jerk his car outside and Hamilton got past... then ran away in a hurry.  Hamilton only had the lead for a few more laps before he had to hit the pits again, it was still a great pass, and well deserves the Move of the Race.

*MOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  The glitz and the pagentry of the F1 Circus can never completely mask the taurean aspect of some of the drivers.  For that, we created the Mooooo-oove.  Today, the award was decided before all the cars were through the first turn on the first lap.  Giancarlo Fisichella was, apparently, distracted by something bright and sparkly, and completely neglected to slow down as he rocketed into turn one.  Meanwhile, Kaz Nakajima was just trying to make a left turn, doing nothing wrong at all.  The result?

Believe it or not, that picture just doesn't do the incident justice.  Here's a look from another angle:

Yeesh.  Neither driver was hurt, though the Force India was out of the race immediately.  How about Nakajima's Williams?  What sort of shape was it in?

No rear wing, at least one flat tire, and one of the wings on the airbox ripped off?  Yep, that's pretty impressive!  Congratulations, Giancarlo Fisichella, you just won a Moooooo-ooove, and you're beginning to invite comparisons to the infamous "Fast" Yuji Ide!



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