August 24, 2008

F1 UPDATE!: European Grand Prix at Valencia 2008!

New track, new street course in fact, but did it bring us excitement?  THIS is your F1 UPDATE!

*STOP US IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE:  During the Ross Brawn/Slappy Schumacher era, Ferrari was known for many things, but one huge reason for their success was that their cars were practically bulletproof.  They practically never broke down, and when they did, it wasn't the engine.  In the post-Slappy era, Ferrari hasn't been quite as invunerable, but they've been pretty solid.  Today, Felipe Massa had a brilliant start from pole, then ran away from everybody.  Lewis Hamilton managed to stay in contact with the Ferrari, but couldn't manage to close an ever-widening gap.  With that gift, Massa had the race in the bag.  And then...

Kimi Raikkonen's engine went splat.  Massa, untroubled, finished up the race by increasing his lead every lap, and eventually won an easy victory.

*MORE PITLANE PROBLEMS:  Last race it was a rash of fires stemming from refuelling rig problems.  This time around, it was Ferrari's newfangled system of lights connected to sensors on the fuel hose.  First, in autonomous mode, it let Massa out of his second pitstop just as a Force India car was pulling by... resulting in a $10000euro fine.  Then on his second stop, Kimi left before the lights told him to, knocking over three mechanics (fortunately, only one of them was injured, and that only slightly despite the reports of him being stretchered off).  Neither incident would likely have happened if there had been a "lollipop man" controlling the stop.  Ferrari might want to reconsider this whole lighting scheme...

*...AND YET, THERE'S NO AMERICAN SPOT ON THE CALENDAR:  Spanish fans packed the grandstands at the new circuit today... until the first lap incident that knocked Spaniard HWMNBN out of the race.  10 laps later, there were visible blue seats.  20 laps after that, whole sections of the bleachers were empty.  What will happen when their hero isn't racing anymore?  Darth Bernie, please note that the USGP routinely had the largest turnout of the year, even though there wasn't an American driver to root for (except for Scott Speed, which doesn't count, because nobody rooted for him).  Just something to keep in mind...

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Felipe Massa.  The only way anybody was going to catch him today was if he screwed up somehow.  He didn't.  Not once (until the post-race interviews).  End of story. 

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Toro Rosso.  Sixth and 10th doesn't sound like the usual TotR performance, but when it's one of the usual backmarkers, one begins to understand the award.  Nice job, guys, but you should have kept the Minardi name going.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  We hate to say it, but none.  There was no passing to speak of today... in fact, this was actually a pretty dull race on-track.  Nice layout, though.

*MOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  By all rights, Kazoo Nakajima deserves this for running into the back of HWMNBN on the first lap, but we here at F1 UPDATE! were all too amused by the shadenfreude.  So instead, this award goes to Ferrari for their travails in the second round of pitstops.  Not only did they let Massa nearly get his car ruined by a Force India, but they also had Kimi run over a couple of their pitcrew, THEN he blew his engine in the next lap.  Niiiiiiiiiice.  Here's your Moooo-ooove!

*DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

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August 07, 2008

F1 UPDATE!'s Mid-Season Awards: 2008!

We find ourselves in the middle of the F1 Circus' Summer Vacation, and there's nothing going on to write about.  So we've gotten together, argued over everything, and finally came to a consensus on a bunch of categories, both serious and... um... not so serious.  Let's get right to F1 UPDATE!'s inaugural edition of our Mid-Season Awards!

*MOVE OF THE SEASON SO FAR: Grizzly Nick Heidfeld, Britain.  Twice in seven laps, on a very wet track, Heidfeld passed two cars in one turn.  First it was Glock (to the outside) and HWMNBN (to the inside), then later it was Koveleinninninnie and Raikkonen.  He went from sixth to second in these two passes, in nigh impossible conditions.  Bravo, Grizzly!

*MOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE SEASON TO DATE:  Lewis Hamilton, Canada. 

IN THE FREAKIN' PITLANE!!!


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August 03, 2008

F1 UPDATE!: Hungary 2008!

Well, that doesn't happen every day!  This is your F1 UPDATE! for the Hungarian Grand Prix!

*RUNAWAY VICTO... OOPS:  During the Ross Brawn/Slappy Schumacher era, Ferrari was known for many things, but one huge reason for their success was that their cars were practically bulletproof.  They practically never broke down, and when they did, it wasn't the engine.  In the post-Slappy era, Ferrari hasn't been quite as invunerable, but they've been pretty solid.  Today, Felipe Massa had a brilliant start from third on the grid, leaping over both McLarens by the first turn, then ran away from everybody.  Lewis Hamilton managed to stay in contact with the Ferrari for a while, but a blown tire put paid to any chance he had of winning, and actually placed him outside the points at the time.  With that gift, Massa had the race in the bag.  And then...

...Massa's engine went splat.  It rolled to a stop just past the start/finish line with three laps to go, leaving a puddle of various fluids under its carcass.  Seventeen seconds later, McLaren's Heikki Kovaleinninninnie swept past to take the lead and a few minutes later, his first ever victory.  Longtime readers know that the F1 UPDATE! crew have very little love for Ferrari, but even we feel a little bad for the Brazillian.

*SMOKE ON THE WATER, FIRE IN THE... PIT LANE:  Major problems with the refueling rigs at Hungary, as three separate teams (Toro Rosso, Honda and Williams) all had fires during their pit stops.  If it was just one team, you could chalk it up to ineptitude.  Three means there was something wrong.  The supposition is that the rigs had problems dealing with the high ambient air temps today, the thermometer reaching 95F.  Fortunately there were no injuries, and indeed no damage other than some lightly scorched paint jobs.  You'd best bet, though, that the incidents added another layer of stress to an already tough job.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Two weeks ago in Germany, Toyota's Timo Glock had a nasty accident when his suspension let go, sending him spinning backwards into a wall.  He spent a couple of nights in a hospital with back pains as a result.  In Hungary, though, he qualified fourth on the grid and drove a practically error-free race to set himself up for his first career podium on the third step.  Then Massa's engine went splat, and suddenly Der Glockenspiel found himself with eight standing points and the second step on podium... and a huge grin.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  McLaren.  A win for Heikki, a fifth for Hamilton (and lucky to get it), and Ferrari losing a sure win?  Yep, McLaren gets the team of the race for their performance, their third win in a row, and jumping past BMW in the Constructors' Championship.  Sometimes luck is as important as skill.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  Vaucaunson's Duck suggested Massa's pass on Hamilton at the start of the race for the MotR, and considering the paucity of passing today, we were seriously considering it, despite the general prohibition on 'off-the-grid' moves earning the award.  Instead, we're giving it to what is, essentially, a non-move.  On lap 54, Nelson Piquet Jr went into the pits.  Upon exiting, he found Jarno Trulli rocketing down on him.  The Renault was at a horrible disadvantage: slow out of the pits, heavy with fuel and on cold tires.  The Toyota, on the other hand, was in the exact opposite situation: momentum, grippy tires, and a fuel load that wasn't new.  Piquet, not wanting to relinquish the position to the Italian, went on the offensive, forcing Trulli to take an outside line (the long way 'round the turn), then hip-checked the Toyota even farther outside with a tire bump.  Trulli slipped back, and Piquet kept the spot... a very nice bit of driving indeed.

*MOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  Usually there's a miserable performance of some sort in a race that points out the mere humanity of the drivers, but today?  Not so much.  So, instead, we're giving the Moooo-oove to Lewis Hamilton.  First he drives too defensively and lets Massa get ahead of him at the start, then his aggressive braking style causes his tire to blow, costing him a win?  Yep, that's a Mooo-oove, but a wimpy one.  Sorry, Lewis, but we've gotta give it to someone.

*DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:


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