September 28, 2008

F1 UPDATE!: Singapore 2008!

A nice night for a drive, eh?  THIS is your F1 UPDATE! for the Grand Prix of Singapore!

*GOOD NEWS:  There are two things that the crew at F1U! dislike intensely... Ferrari and He Who Must Not Be Named.  Well, and mushrooms, but that doesn't have any bearing on the race.  So the sort of day (night?) experienced by Ferrari put a grim, satisfied smile on our faces.  First, there was Massa's disaster of a pitstop, driving away with his fuel hose still attached (and sending one of his mechanics sprawling).  This eventually turned into a drive-through penalty for the Brazillian, for "unsafe release into the pit lane".  Then there was Kimi Raikkonen's unforced error late in the race, catching just a smidge too much curb in the Turn 10 left-right-left complex, sending him arrowing into the wall and throwing away a solid fifth place finish. 

*BAD NEWS:  To counter the smile on F1U!'s face, HWMNBN won the race, his first in over a year, his 20th overall, and his 50th career podium.  Even this win for Renault had a slight bit of grimness to it, however, as it was handed to HWMNBN when his teammate, Nelson Piquet Jr, slammed hard into a wall.  This brought out the Safety Car... one lap after HWMNBN had made his first pitstop.  He was also the first driver to pit, giving him a huge boost in position when everybody else stopped a couple of laps later.  Make no mistake, he was the right driver in the right car today, but jumping from 15th to a win needs help and luck, and he got it.

*SINGAPORE SWING:  Hey, Valencia, were you watching?  THAT'S how you do a new track.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Nico Rosberg.  No, he didn't win, and no, he didn't pick up 14 places like HWMNBN did.  He started 8th and couldn't seem to catch a break back there in the pack.  To make matters worse, when the Safety Car came out, he was very low on fuel and had to pit before the pitlane was open, incurring a 10sec stop-and-go penalty.  But a funny thing happened: his car came alive.  He wound up in the lead by the time the safety car went back into the pits and started ripping off blisteringly fast laps.  When he finally served his stop-and-go penalty, he had opened up such a gap that he only lost a small number of places.  Good driving in the last few laps, particularly with Lewis Hamilton filling his mirrors, solidified his career-best second-place finish.  Nicely done, Wonderboy!

*TEAM OF THE RACE: Williams.  The only team with both cars in the points, and a surprise 2nd place to boot?  On a night when most of the other teams didn't exactly cover themselves with glory, Williams turned in a very solid performance and earned themselves a TotR.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  On lap 42, Lewis Hamilton was trailing David Coulthard's Chin down the front straight.  Out of the pits came HWMNBN, rejoining the race right in front of the two.  The Chin had to slow down a bit, letting the McLaren pull right up behind the Red Bull.  Heading down the short straight to Turn 7, Hamilton swung to the left side of the track and began to charge.  The Chin edged left to give Lewis less room, but Hamilton just clenched his teeth and bulled through, pulling off a beautiful pass.

*MOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  While in general, we here at F1U! prefer to give these awards to the actual drivers, there are moments that are so egregious that they must be honored.  Today's winners are the Ferrari engineering staff, for creating the stupid "automatic lollypop" that led to this:

If Felipe Massa loses the Driver's Championship by a couple of points, this is why.  Bravo, Ferrari, here's your Moo.

*DRIVER COMMENTS OF THE RACE:

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September 23, 2008

Hamilton's Appeal Ruled "Inadmissible."

The FIA's International Court of Appeals has thrown out Lewis Hamilton's appeal of his 25 second penalty, applied post-race at Spa, on the grounds that the appeal was "inadmissible".

In their decision, the International Court of Appeals cited Paragraph 5 of Article 152 of the International Sporting Code, which states: “Penalties of driving through or stopping in pit lanes together with certain penalties specified in FIA Championship regulations where this is expressly stated, are not susceptible to appeal.”

Even if they were applied in error.

Color me shocked.

So Felipe Massa is now officially the winner of the 2008 Grand Prix of Belgium, Hamilton is dropped officially to third, and the FIA has taken yet another step towards complete irrelevance. 

The person that crossed the line first at Spa, having done nothing wrong, has had his victory taken away... and I'll going to go so far as to say that it was taken away because he was driving the wrong color car. 

We here at F1 UPDATE! will finish this season, but then we'll be taking a long look at whether we want to be associated with this sport any more.


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September 14, 2008

F1 UPDATE!: ITALY 2008!

It never rains at Monza.  Never.  Never ever.  But it did in practice.  It did in Quals.  Did it during the race?  THIS is your F1 UPDATE!

*WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS:  The last time there was a wet race at Monza was 1985.  By coincidence, that was also the first year in F1 for a little independent team from Italy named Minardi.  There have only been four rainy races in the 59 year history of the Italian Grand Prix.  Make it five, as it was so wet today that the race started behind the safety car.  It appeared that Toro Rosso's gamble on a wet-weather setup had paid off, but would Sebastian Vettel be able to hold off the McLaren of Heikki Koveleaninninnie, starting right behind him?  Very quickly it became obvious that the answer had a seriously good chance of being "Yes", as Vettel ran away from the rest of the field when the safety car went in on lap two.  By the end of the first flying lap, the Toro Rosso driver had a two second lead on Koveleinaninninnie, and it was growing every lap.  Then the question became "how much fuel does Vettel have?"  He must be light, how else could he fly away so quickly?  Well, yes, he did have less fuel, but only by a couple of laps... after his pitstop on lap 18, he fell back to fourth, but everybody else still had to stop.  After the leaders had all stopped... Vettel was leading again, by a good 15 seconds.  Lewis Hamilton, who started 15th, was on a one-stop strategy and had closed up on the Toro Rosso, getting as close as one second behind, but he had to stop and disappeared.  Vettel was never challenged again, and cruised to a 12 second win for his first victory, his team's first victory, and becoming the youngest winner in F1 history.

In 2005, Minardi was sold to Dieter Maeterschitz, founder of the Red Bull empire, to become Toro Rosso. 

*YOUTH IS WASTED ON THE YOUNG:  Not only did Vettel win the race to become the youngest winner in F1 history, but with Heikki Koveleaininninnie finishing second and Robert Kubica third, this was the youngest podium in F1 history.  When Michael Schumacher retired after the 2006 season, people said that F1 was doomed.  Then some kid named Lewis Hamilton appeared, and now Vettel, Kubica and Heikki have all won their first races this season.  Michael who?

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Duh.  Sebastian Vettel made a grand total of zero mistakes on a slick, slippery track and never had to worry about a serious challenge as a result.  Yes, he had the advantage of driving at the front of the thundering herd, meaning he was the only person to actually be able to see all day, but at any second he could have skidded into a graveltrap or a wall.  He didn't, and completely earned this victory.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Double Duh.  Minardi Toro Rosso had the perfect strategy for the race, executed it perfectly, and timed their pitstops to perfection.  Those two stops went flawlessly, and as a result, they were rewarded with a dominant victory.  Toro Rosso has about 1/10th the number of employees of McLaren, and are considered the "junior team" of the two Red Bulls.  Yet Minardi Toro Rosso has entirely crushed their more senior teammates.  Embarrassing for Red Bull, great for F1.  Bravissimo, signores!  Now do it again and we'll start talking about a fourth "big team".  Darn shame SeaBass stalled his car on the grid, otherwise we might be talking about a double podium for y'all.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  On lap 36, Lewis Hamilton had to go back into the pits to switch from full-wet tires to intermediates.  He was still getting the speed from the heavy weather rubber, but they were quickly going away on him; it wasn't wet enough for them.  Into the pits he went, and on cold tires he was forced to watch Mark Webber steam past him in the first chicane.  Immediately thereafter, the McLaren went ripping off after the Red Bull, and with a grand total of one turn's worth of experience on the Intermediates (which couldn't've been heated to race levels yet), Hamilton outbraked Webber into the second chicane.  Nothing more than a driver at the top of his profession showing what could be done, and how to do it.

*MOOOOOO-OOVE OF THE RACE:  What happens when you take the best drivers in the world... and you remove their brain for a second or two?  You get the Mooooo-oove of the Race.  Today's Mooo-oove goes to Giancarlo Fisichella (again).  On lap 13, he somehow managed to run his Farce India into the back of David Coulthard's Chin's Red Bull in the first chicane (top speed: 45mph) with enough speed to damage his front wing.  The wing, wobbling as he went, stayed on the car just long enough to fall off in Parabolica, sending Fisi straight off into the wall... where his entire car got borked, thereby becoming the first and only car to retire from the Italian Grand Prix.  At his home race, too!  Bravo, Giancarlo, Qui è il vostro premio della mucca!

*DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

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September 07, 2008

F1 UPDATE!: SPA 2008!

(UPDATED WITH PHOTOS OF THE INCIDENT)

At Spa, the rain giveth, the rain taketh away... but to whom was giveth, and to whom was taketh?  And what the h*ll is the FIA thinking???  THIS is your disgusted F1 UPDATE!  We've thrown away the usual format of F1U! due to the events of the race and immediately following...

*NOW THAT'S WHAT WE CALL RACIN':  The skies over the Ardennes Forest were dark and leaden when the race began, with the torrential downpour of 45 minutes earlier ample testament of what could happen.  As it was, the track was pretty much dry when the lights went out... except for the start/finish straight and La Source.  That stretch of track, which might be considered somewhat important to the start of a race, was still sodden, and that promised an exciting start.  Sure enough, one of the more confused beginnings ensued.  Lewis Hamilton stayed in front through the first turn but Massa, starting alongside Hamilton, wound up getting shuffled down to fifth or sixth.  11th place-starting Jarno Trulli was touched by the hand of St. Fangio the Quick and rocketed up to fourth, passing other cars as if they were standing still... which they nearly were, as all the other cars were braking for La Source.  Trulli, who held off braking until it was very nearly too late, wound up being rear-ended by SeaBass, who broke a chunk off his nose.  Trulli, even though he continued on gamely, was never seen again.  It seriously appeared as if half the field ended up having to use the runoff area in that first turn.  Hamilton then began to gallop off into the distance, opening nearly a five second lead in one lap.

Then La Source, still damp and slick as whale snot, sent his McLaren skidding and flumphing off-track.  While he recovered, Kimi Raikkonen zipped past, with Hamilton rejoining the race in second.  And that's how it stayed until three laps to go in the race.

*HERE COMES THE RAIN:  With 20 laps remaining, the FIA announced that rain "was expected in 20 minutes", putting the weather on track about lap 36 of 44.  As usual, the FIA's forecasters were wrong... by about five laps.  In the meantime, the Lewis/Kimi battle was shaping up to be one of the best of the season.  The Ferrari of Raikkonen managed to pull out to as much as a six second lead, but after the second round of pitstops both Hamilton and Kimi put on hard tires.  Neither car ran particularly well on hards during practice and quals, but the McLaren had run better than the Ferrari.  The same was true during the race, as Hamilton began to carve great chunks off the lead.  With three laps remaining, the two were separated by less than a second.  Then it began to rain, and that's when the race really began.

*RAINING ON THE PARADE:  Into the final chicane, Hamilton made his move on the outside of Raikkonen.  Kimi was having none of it and refused to budge.  The two cars touched slightly, which had the effect of causing Lewis to cut the chicane.  Coming right back onto the course, Hamilton had the lead, but he had to immediately back off and let Kimi take the lead back due to the sporting regulations.  By cutting a corner like that, one cannot gain a competitive advantage.  Slowing down, he let Kimi by on the start/finish straight, then immediately tucked himself down under the gearbox of the Ferrari.  The two cars scissored back and forth approaching La Source, each driver trying to figure out where the other was going to dive.  Hamilton made his move to the inside into La Source, just barely getting by.  How close was the pass?

Yes, that's Raikkonen's front wing rubbing on the right-rear of Hamilton's McLaren.  It was a clean move, and about as daring in the rain as one can get.  But it wasn't over yet!  Down the Kemmel straight, both cars were twitching slightly.  Into Les Combes, Kimi had a big twitch, the rain playing hob with traction.  Both drivers tip-toed through the upper part of the track, with Kimi close aboard the McLaren.  What they didn't realize is that a Williams had spun and was retaking the track just ahead of them, under yellow flags (though that isn't visible in this shot):

Both drivers wound up having to dodge to the outside of the turn (and the mobile chicane of the Williams), with Raikkonen taking the lead (under yellow, a no-no) as Hamilton wound up having to take to the grass.  The lead was short-lived, though, as Kimi, suffering from the rain, wound up spinning in the next turn.  Hamilton, still accelerating, passed Raikkonen, who never left the track but lost a ton of momentum.  At this point, sixty seconds back or more, the BMW of Nick Heidfeld, who was ninth, had pitted for Intermediate tires.  The two leaders, however, couldn't dare to do so.  Two turns later, Hamilton slid out wide over the curb, but Raikkonen lost it completely, pirouetting into the wall just short of the final chicane.  This put Felipe Massa into second place.  Neither Hamilton or Massa went for the Inters, knowing that either could win if they just kept the car on track and the other spun, but that stopping for wets would throw the race away.  What followed was one of the slowest four miles in F1 history, as both drivers may as well have been on ice.  The final lap was nearly 45 seconds slower than laps being turned when it was dry!  Even so, Hamilton was 10 seconds or more faster than Massa on the last lap and "cruised" home for the most exciting finish in years.

*MEANWHILE...:   SeaBass and Toro Rosso was in line for the last step on the podium.  Not stopping for Intermediate tires, he gamely plunged ahead like the two leaders, just trying to keep it on the track.  Behind him, however, HWMNBN , Robert Kubica and SeaBass' teammate in Toro Rosso Sebastian Vettel did stop for wet tires and were charging like mad, running SeaBass down like he was standing still.  All three of them passed the French Fish in or near the final chicane, dropping him all the way down to seventh.  But wait, if those three cars passed him, shouldn't he have been sixth?  Remember when we mentioned that Grizzly Nick Heidfeld had pitted from ninth a couple of laps earlier?  He blew past everybody, picking up six spots in the final two laps to earn the final spot on the podium, putting paid to a fantastic Belgian Grand Prix.

*LATER...:  And then, the FIA had to louse it all up.



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