May 24, 2009

F1 Update!: Monaco 2009!

A glorious day in Monte Carlo, a sunny sky greeting the F1 Circus as they lined up on the grid.  Would Jenson Button continue Brawn's dominance?  Would Ferrari mark their territory?  Or would Sebastian Vettel return to the top of the podium?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the Grand Prix of Monaco!

*RUNAWAY:  For all intents and purposes, the race was over when the tire covers came off for the formation lap.  Every car in the field opted to begin on the "hard" compound for their first stint... every car except for Button and Barrichello, the Brawn Boys.  The softer tires were faster, true, but they were known to go bad after only a few laps, and the speed gained from them wasn't all that much.  The "hard" tires were considered the way to go, all in all.

But nobody told the Brawn Boys.  Button cleanly stayed in the lead when the lights went out, and Barrichello blew the doors off of Raikkonen's Ferrari to take 2nd into Sainte Devote.  Then, poof, the race was over as the two disappeared into the sunset.  By the end of the first lap, Button has a one-second lead over his teammate, and a three-second lead over Raikkonen.  By the end of the third lap, it was a nine second lead over the Ferrari.  The Ferrari thinking had to be let them run, when their tires go off around lap 9 we'll catch 'em

But they didn't go off until lap 13 or so.  When Button's lap times started to climb precipitously around lap 15, he pitted and got on the hards... and only a couple of laps later, the Ferraris came in, out of fuel.  Race REALLY over.

*REBIRTH:  For all that the Brawns made it look simple, Ferrari got everything right today and found themselves on the podium for the first time all season, and both cars earned points for the first time all season as well.  We won't know if they're really back until Turkey in two weeks (Monaco isn't a fair judge of car pace), but they're at least pointed in the right direction.

*REGRET:  The BMW and McLaren freefall continued.  Kubica DNF'd with brake failure, Kovaleininninninnie crunched the barriers near the Swimming Pool, Hamilton finished 12th, and Nick Heidfeld was probably thrilled to finish 11th.  No points, and may St Fangio the Quick have mercy on your soul.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Jenson Button.  What can be said about his drive?  On a track that punishes even the slightest mistake with a ride on the crane, Button was perfect, and was never threatened as a result.  Except for the end of the race, when he turned his car off in Parc Ferme instead of the traditional Monaco location of in front of the Royal Box.  He then had to jog the entire length of the pit lane to get to his podium.  Oops.

Button sets a higher top speed than the BMWs
*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Ferrari.  Raikkonen in third with the team's first podium of 2009, and Massa in 4th?  Considering the way their season has gone, Maranello has to be going nuts. 

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 12, Felipe Massa was sitting in sixth, stuck behind Seb Vettel who was having some handling problems.  Coming out of the tunnel, the Ferrari was parked right under the rear wing of the Red Bull, and through the Nouvelle Chicane he stayed there.  Into the Swimming Pool complex, Massa ignored conventional wisdom that says that you can't pass into Tabac.  He got on the inside of Vettel, crossed his fingers and forced his way in.  Truthfully, it was a move that wasn't required; the Red Bull was having a bad day and would crash out a few laps later.  Still, it was a very gutsy manuever and a well-earned MotR.

*MOOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  Other than Button's finishing faux-pas, the clear winner of the Mooooooo-ooove has to be Toro Rosso's Sebastian Buemi.  On lap 11, he was following closely behind Nelson Piquet Jr.  In preparation for a pass, Buemi tucked into the Renault's slipstream heading into Sainte Devote.  Then Buemi got distracted by something shiny, perhaps some of the jewelery on display in the grandstands, and neglected to slow for the turn at all.  The result was... interesting:

He wound up getting into the rear of Piquet and simply bulldozed him into the runoff area.  While Piquet got free in time to avoid the tire barrier, Buemi just kept right on going into the wall, burying himself wheel-deep.  Both cars were out of the race... lovely job, Buemi!  Well done!

*DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

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May 10, 2009

F1 Update!: Spain 2009!

A return to the Old World... will it be a return to the old guard in F1, or will the new breed continue their rise to glory?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2009 Grand Prix of Spain!

*THEIR MOTHERS WOULD BE SO PROUD:  Another race, another dominating win for BrawnGP.  Rubens Barrichello led until the first round of pitstops, though not without some yelling and exhorting from the pit wall.  Surprisingly enough, both drivers were on three-stop strategies, though Jensen Button was switched to a two-stopper after the first... um... stop.  That turned out to be the correct strategy, as Button inherited the lead when Barrichello made his stops, then ran away and hid.  Afterwards the first cracks appeared in the happy smiles of the team when Rubens began complaining that he didn't intend to play second fiddle to anybody.  Unfortunately that's exactly what his career has been, first to Michael Schumacher, now to Button.  We'll see how that plays out down the road, but for now Brawn is just as dominating as ever.

*FACES ONLY A MOTHER COULD LOVE:  Another disasterous day for the so-called Big Three.  Felipe Massa got into the points for the first time this season, true, but Ferrari quite nearly threw his 6th place away when they screwed up on their fuel calculations and didn't put enough gas in his car to finish the race at normal levels.  With six laps to go, Massa was in fourth when the team told him to dial down the fuel mixtures and the revs to conserve fuel.  The Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel, with no such restrictions, blew past the limping Ferrari like it was standing still.  With four laps to go, Massa was 16 seconds ahead of the Renault of HWMNBN.  On the backside of the track on the final lap, HWMNBN zipped past Massa to drop him to sixth.  At the finish line, Massa was only 1.5 seconds ahead of 7th and fading fast, and it was all self-inflicted by the team.  He eventually ran out of fuel on the cool-down lap.  Meanwhile, Massa's teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, had a hydraulics-based throttle problem that stopped the car after 17 laps, but only after the car's KERS unit had failed.  Again

Meanwhile, BMW was 7th and 11th.  That may sound pretty pathetic, but it's an improvement over their previous results.  McLaren nearly got Lewis Hamilton into the points, but had to settle for 9th place from the reigning world driver's champion.  His teammate, Heikki Kovaleinninninnie, had a broken gearbox that forced him to retire to the pits on lap seven.  Bizarro Season continues.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE: Jensen Button drove another flawless race to win, which against his teammate he had to do.  He could have fought Barrichello at the start but refrained.  He could have thrown it away by a slip or a bobble, but there wasn't one to be seen.  When he needed to increase the size of his lead, he poured on fast lap on top of fast lap.  It was, dare I say it, a Schumacher-esque performance.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  BrawnGP is dominating the series right now, but without becoming the unlikeable-800lb-gorilla team (see Ferrari).  While some teams have gambled needlessly in previous races (see Ferrari, rain tires, Kimi Raikkonen), BrawnGP made sure they'd win the race by switching their drivers onto differing fuel strategies early.  They ended up 1-2 on the podium, no mistakes by the team anywhere.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  At the beginning of the race, a vicious crash took out both Toro Rossos, the Farce India of Adrian Sutil, and the Toyota of Jarno Trulli.  Almost immediately a Safety Car was called out while the track workers cleaned up the immense debris field left on the track afterwards.  On lap 7, the SC came in and the race was back on.  HWMNBN got a great tow behind the Red Bull of (eventual third-place finisher) Mark Webber down the straightaway, then dove to the inside near the pit out.  Webber forced him even farther inside until HWMNBN was actually on the grass, but he still powered past the Red Bull.  A very nice pass, but not the reason we're talking here.  As the Renault cut in front of Webber to gain the line for the fast approaching Turn 1, Webber swooped behind HWMNBN for an instant, then set up on the inside, just off the Renault's starboard quarter.  As HWMNBN braked for the turn, Webber somehow held off the brakes and streaked past, tires screaming in protest as he threw himself through the bend.  The Renault tried to do a "reverse under-over" in counter-attack, but couldn't pull it off as the Red Bull stayed glued to the track and kept the power on.  WHAT reduction in downforce?

*MOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  Adrian Sutil's attempt to avoid the coming first turn schmozzle that put him in the perfect place to be speared by the spinning Toyota of Jarno Trulli would at any other time earn him the Moooooo-ooove (he never even bothered to try to make the first couple of turns, instead just diving into the run-off area.  Trulli, having been punted by Nico Rosberg's Williams, spun and lanced across the track, ending up exactly where Sutil was re-entering the circuit)  However, since it happened on the first lap, it is ineligible by rule for the award.  Instead, we're giving the coveted award to Scuderia Ferrari for screwing up their sums and not putting enough fuel to finish the race into Felipe Massa's car and costing them a fourth-place finish.  First they screw up in Quals with Kimi Raikkonen, now this?  And Ferrari is supposed to be the premiere team in F1???

*DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

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