June 27, 2010

F1 UPDATE!: European Grand Prix @ Valencia 2010

We've never seen a race where one event so completely dominated the results, but that's the only way to interpret what happened today.  But what happened?  And why was it so influential?  THIS is your F1 UPDATE! for the 2010 Grand Prix of Europe @ Valencia!

*MARK WEBBER AND THE TERRIBLE HORRIBLE NO GOOD VERY BAD DAY:  It's hard to imagine that any day in a F1 driver's work life could be considered bad, per se.  After all, they're F1 drivers.  Their job is to take one of the most technologically advanced race cars out on a track and go very fast with it... and get paid great honking stacks of money to do it.  It's dangerous, of course, but the cars are very safe and the drivers are very, very skilled.  What a F1 driver might call a "bad day at work" would be a day in the giggle factory for most of us.  "Oh dear, I had an awful day at work today, I only got my car to go 170mph instead of 180 and finished last in the grand prix.  May I eat some more caviar and champagne off the small of your back, Giselle, or would you prefer to peel me grapes and feed them to me?"  Terrible.

And yet, describing Mark Webber's day as "bad" isn't going far enough.  Starting from second on the grid, with his teammate just ahead of him, Webber looked to be in good shape for a high points-paying finish.  When the lights went out his start didn't seem too awful.  However, starting on the dirty side of the track, he wound up getting passed by cars that managed to slide onto the clean side before he could.  By the end of the first lap, he had dropped all the way to 9th.  His retreat ended at that point, but 8th place Sebastian Buemi proved remarkably tough to pass.  After seven laps of frustration, the crew on the pit wall changed his race strategy on the fly and brought him in for his mandatory tire change.  He returned to the race in 19th, but in the interesting position of having everybody in front of him still needing to make a stop.  All he needed to do was go quickly, not let the drivers ahead of him get too far afield, and when they made their stops, he'd leapfrog back up the standings.  His tires may not be as fresh as theirs, but a driver of his ability could work around that.  Two laps later, he had closed up on the Lotus of Heikki Kovaleinninninnie, and while it was a race for position, it was clear that the Finn had no chance of holding Webber behind for very long.  As they came down the back straight towards Turn 12, the Red Bull was in good position to pass under braking.

And then it all went terribly wrong.


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June 13, 2010

F1 UPDATE!: Canada 2010 (UPDATED)

We here at F1U! would love to tell you exactly what occurred during today's race, we really would.  It seemed like an exciting one, full of strategy and tense calls by drivers and the guys on the pit wall.  Unfortunately, I'm honestly not sure we'll be able to.  You see, today's Grand Prix of Canada was on Fox and while they had SPEED's Legendary Announce Team providing commentary, it wasn't their normal coverage... but we're getting ahead of ourselves.  THIS is your F1U! for the Canadian Grand Prix!

*...AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSORS:  We think we counted eight commercial breaks during the actual race portion of today's broadcast.  As this was a remarkably quick contest (only around 90 minutes, give or take), we missed out on a substantial portion of the actual contest while we were watching ads for deodorant.  For example, the Lotus of Jarno Trulli retired at some point with flaming brake discs... literally.  We never saw it, as it occurred during a commercial break.  The relentless (and apparently inviolate) network schedule also saw us head to a break just as HWMNBN was trying to pass someone for position.  Appalling.  Just as appalling was the Legendary Announce Team's coverage on the day, though this is somewhat more understandable.  You see, one of the main reasons we love the L.A.T.'s race call on SPEED is that they automatically assume that the viewer has, at the very least, a grasp of the basics of Formula 1.  This allows them to work in more detailed and intelligent conversation on the nuances of the sport.  Unfortunately, when the races are on Fox, they must assume the complete opposite, that the people tuning in have little to no idea of what actually goes on during a F1 race.  As a result, they "dumb down" their call, having to spend time explaining, for example, why the T-camera on each car is a different color... or, for that matter, what a T-camera is!  They also spent time explaining why there's so much red in the grandstands, the rivalry between Ferrari and McLaren (and why it mattered to the sport), and most tellingly, the difference between a F1 car and your average NASCAR vehicle.  All of this makes perfect sense, as Fox is the home of NASCAR and most of the people who'd be watching are fans of that form of motor racing.  But when they have to spend five minutes explaining how the race is actually started, you know that it's going to be a long day for the knowledgeable fan.  As we here at F1U! use the comments of the L.A.T. to identify the key moments of each race, not having the smart banter around made this something of a frustrating day.

*TIRE RACE:  Which is a bloody shame, because if there was a race that needed the sort of in-depth, expert comments that the L.A.T. provides during their SPEED coverage, it was this one.  More than any other contest this season, the Grand Prix of Canada was a race of tire strategies.  During the Quals writeup we here at F1U! said that it looked like McLaren and Lewis Hamilton were going to be in trouble, since they were on the soft tires and the Red Bulls were on the hard.  As the softs were only very slightly quicker and much less durable than the hard rubber, we expected the Red Bull duo to hang with the McLaren until the faster tire fell apart, then jauntily head off into the sunset.  Except, it didn't happen that way.  Hamilton won, with his teammate Jenson Button right behind (for the second consecutive race, no less), and Ferrari's HWMNBN was third.  Neither Red Bull was ever really a contender, but we couldn't tell you why that any of those cars finished where they did.  Except for one thing: the tires today were crap.  It all came down to the tires, and because the L.A.T. had to explain to the viewers why there were so many people servicing the cars during a pit stop, they couldn't explain the nuances of what was actually occurring, both on track and on the pit wall.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Lewis Hamilton was supposedly on the wrong tires, with a car slower than the Red Bull.  Yet, somehow, he made it work and won his second race in a row.  In fact, upon reflection, it wasn't even really a contest... you never got the feeling that he wasn't in control of the outcome at any time during the day.  What more can you ask for?

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  McLaren, surely.  Their second 1-2 finish in a row, they've moved to the tops of both Championships, and their cars were bullet-proof while Red Bull's Seb Vettel had "an issue" that was, it seems, nearly terminal.  Again.  Good job, boys.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  Not to sound like a broken record, but this one goes to Lewis Hamilton.  On Lap 15, he was in third, trailing close behind leader Sebastian Buemi (yes, really) who had yet to make his first pitstop and Ferrari's HWMNBN.  Coming down the run into the Champion's Wall chicane, he got a tow behind the Ferrari and broke to the outside while HWMNBN moved inside to close that option off... which is what Hamilton wanted him to think he was going to do.  By faking the Ferrari out, he skipped from the tow of the Ferrari directly into the slipstream of the leading Toro Rosso.  As the McLaren began to ease ahead, we began to become concerned as it looked like he was going to just run the slower Toro Rosso over.  Just as Hamilton needed to decide whether to evade or go for the chicane, Buemi went straight on into the pit lane, opening the way for the McLaren driver to make the pass cleanly... a pass that, it turned out, was actually for the lead.  Very nicely done, but we can't help but wonder if he had gotten information from the team that Buemi was going to pit.

*MOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  Usually we here at F1U! prefer to give this award for bad driving to one specific event; a driver being distracted by something shiny and wiping out half the field, for example, or a pit stop where the car drives off before everybody is done working and dragging the rear jackman halfway down the pitlane.  Today, however, we're going against our preferences and instead giving the award based on an entire body of work.  Slappy Schumacher, as the announcers are wont to tell us every time his car is on screen, has more wins than anybody else in F1 history (and his win total is more than the number of starts that 12 drivers in the field had... combined) and is a seven-time World Driving Champion.  While it's fair to wonder just how many of those victories would have been taken away from him if Ayrton Senna had survived that terrible weekend in Imola, there's no question that Slappy is on the short list of the greatest F1 drivers of all time.  None of that mitigates the performance he put in during today's Canadian Grand Prix.  He didn't just look slow out there on track, but dangerous as well.  He was involved in the usual Turn 1 hijinks, losing an endplate in the process.  He later bulldozed Robert Kubica off the road while "defending his position" at Turn 5, sending them both off on some agricultural racing.  Late in the race, he moved aside to allow the faster Felipe Massa pass him going into the final chicane, then dodged back into the racing line at the last moment, crunching the Ferrari's nose in the process.  It's poetic justice that he was passed on the last lap by the two Force Indias, dropping him out of the points, and with any luck he'll be penalized for dangerous driving in the post-race review.  None of this is new, of course; he was always aggressive-on-the-verge-of-dangerous, but when he was with Ferrari he could get away with it because he was Der Schumi.  Now?  Not so much.  It couldn't happen to a better guy.

UPDATE 641pm: Slappy wasn't even given a... er... slap on the wrist.  No penalties.  Felipe Massa, on the other hand, was given a 20sec penalty for speeding in the pit lane after Slappy broke his nose.  This didn't affect his final position, so it's pointless.  Robert Kubica was given a reprimand for his action involving Adrian Sutil (see below), and NKOTT got the same for causing an accident with Rubens Barrichello on the start.



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