April 22, 2012

F1 Update!: Bahrain 2012

All the hand-wringing and complaints proved not to be enough and the 2012 Grand Prix of Bahrain was to take place as scheduled.  How was the race?  Did protesters manage to disrupt the event?  Did it rain? Could Mark Webber manage to finish 4th in his fourth straight race?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix!

*BACK TO THE BAD OLD DAYS:  When the lights went out, polesitter Seb Vettel was off and away, opening a 2.2 second lead by the end of the first lap.  Other than a failed late-race challenge from the Renault Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen, the result was never in question... just like in 2011.  If we're exceedingly fortunate, this was just an aberration and things will return to chaotic-normal in Spain.  If we're not... *shiver*

*WHAT WE WEREN'T SHOWN:

Smoke rises as protesters burn tires at a march in the vicinity of the Bahrain International Circuit. 

*DRIVER OF THE RACE: Red Bull's Seb Vettel had an opportunity to regain his glory days of 2011.  He grabbed it off the line, ran with it, and left the rest of the field in the literal dust.   Other than a lap or two during the pit rotations, he lead the entire race.  Even when Kimi Raikkonen pulled within a couple of car-lengths of him later in the race, one never got the feeling that he was in danger.   

*TEAM OF THE RACE: Renault Lotus.  Both drivers on the podium, and only a dominant drive by the reigning world driver's champion kept them from a win... yes, that's a good day for any team.  When it's from a team trying to prove that it deserves to be mentioned with the big boys?  Well done indeed.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 21, Sergio Perez and Dean Maldonado had been scrapping for the past five minutes.  Meanwhile, the Force India of Paul di Resta casually made its way up behind them, looking for some opportunity to get by.

As the Sauber and Williams drivers threw haymakers at each other, the Force India danced in and threw a little jab.

...and came out the other side leading the both of them.  For making it look so incredibly easy, Paul di Resta wins his first MotR!

*MOOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 10 Lewis Hamilton attempted to pass the winner of last week's race, Nico Rosberg.  For his part, Rosberg decided that he didn't want to let the McLaren by without a fight...

...so he pushed him nearly two car-widths off the circuit.  He then whined back to the pit wall that Hamilton had passed him off-track.  On Lap 25, HWMNBN came up on the Mercedes of Rosberg, and what do you think happened?

That's right!  Rosberg, apparently taking lessons in good driving from his teammate, shoved the Ferrari off-track in the same place he did Hamilton.  While both incidents were investigated by the stewards after the race, neither earned Rosberg a penalty.  They did earn him a Moooo, however, as one suspects that this will come back to haunt him.

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

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April 15, 2012

F1 Update!: China 2012

No rain in the forecast, a jumbled grid, a first-time polesitter with six World Champions poised behind him, and arguably 10 cars with a valid chance to win.  To say today's Chinese Grand Prix had potential would be something of an understatement.  But did it live up to that potential?  Did we get our third winner in three races?  Or did someone take firm command of the Championship?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2012 Grand Prix of China.

*LIGHTS OUT:  It's often said that Formula 1 is, above all other things, a team sport.  The evidence for that usually lays quite thin on the ground, however.  The start of today's race was a good example of a team's two drivers working together, though.  As the red lights began to come on, nobody honestly expected polesitter Nico Rosberg to hold the lead past a few laps; his Mercedes hadn't shown the staying power.  The same could be said for Slappy Schumacher, his teammate and partner on the first row.  When the lights were extinguished and the race begun, the two German drivers worked together to maximize the team's chances of getting a victory.  Polesitter Rosberg got away blindingly fast, while Slappy's getaway was good but not great.  He very carefully managed to bottle up the rest of the field as they headed through Turn 1 while Rosberg began to disappear over the horizon.  The other 22 drivers could only sit on Schumi's tail and make occasional attempts at a pass, all of which were easily fended off by the surprisingly quick Mercedes.  Rosberg pulled away to a four second lead; hardly insurmountable, but far enough away that it'd take a heroic effort to track him down.

*BORING:  And that's how it stayed for the first 12 laps.  The train held up by Schumacher was released when he went into the pits... a pitstop that turned out to be the end of his race.  Miscommunication between the jackman, lollypopper and a tire changer saw his car released before the front-right tire was entirely torqued down.  A few turns later, he pulled over before the wheel could work itself free.  That was the last bit of excitement we saw until around Lap 45 or so.

*NOSE-TO-TAIL:  One common complaint American viewers often have about F1 is the way the field gets spread out during the course of a race.  "It's not exciting", they say, and it's hard to argue with that point.  Close racing is preferable to having everybody 200 yards apart.  On Lap 46, here's how the field looked:

This is the battle for second place.  Kimi Raikkonen leads Seb Vettel, Jenson Button, Lettuce Grosjean, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Bruno Senna and Pontiff Maldonado, with the whole group separated by two seconds.  There were a couple of reasons for this admittedly uncommon occurrence.  The first was that all of these cars have roughly the same level of performance in comparison to each other.  To be sure, there are differences: the Red Bulls are the slowest on the straights, Renault Lotus the fastest, for example, but everything seemed to be balancing out.  The other reason may have been the most important... tire clag.

This season, tire manufacturer Pirelli vowed that they'd make a tire that didn't wear as dramatically as the 2011 tire did, and for Australia and Malaysia, it looked like they had succeeded.  In China, however, the tire clag began building up early and never stopped.  Drivers were reluctant to leave the clean asphalt to make a passing attempt on the less grippy marbles... leading to Kimi Raikkonen leading a train.

*EXCITEMENT:  The last 10 laps had enough excitement to make up for the rest of the race.  Kimi's tires fell off the infamous cliff, and in the space of one lap fell from 2nd to 10th.  This lead to the uncorking of the rest of the field.  To begin with, Button got past Vettel, then Lewis Hamilton did the same.  As the race neared completion, Vettel's teammate Mark Webber muscled the young German aside to move into 4th place, in a moment that had to feel good after the crap he's put up with the past two seasons.  Leader Nico Rosberg, far enough up the track to not be able to see what was going on, said he had no idea what was happening.  "The pit wall was calling, saying 'Kimi is in second, now Button is, now Vettel...'.  I didn't know what to expect next!"

*WONDERBOY: Years ago, when Nico Rosberg came into F1, we here at F1U! nicknamed him "Wonderboy."  Near as we could tell, he had everything you could possibly ask for in a driver: GP2 champion, the ability to drive fast under pressure, a good bloodline (his father is a former World Champion), and a great hairstyle.  The only thing he didn't have was success in F1.  "Wonderboy" became derogatory, then we stopped using it altogether.  On Lap 56 of the 2012 Grand Prix of China, Rosberg finally began to live up to his billing, bringing home a 20 second victory for his first F1 win, and the first win for Mercedes as a Constructor since 1955.  Button and Hamilton trailed behind, followed by Webber and Vettel.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Nico Rosberg.  Other than laps during the pit rotations, Nico led from pole to flag, at one point had a 25-second lead, and was never in danger of losing control of the race.  Easily the equal of many of Vettel's dominating performances in 2011.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  McLaren.  A 2-3 finish is always a good result, though they did throw away any chance at a victory during Jenson Button's nine-second-long pitstop towards the end of the race.  Still, could be worse, they could have thrown away a possible 1-2, like Mercedes. 

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  Towards the end of the race, there were so many passes it was hard to choose just one.  After lengthy contemplation, the F1U! team decided to go with the pass that led to the end of Kimi Raikkonen's stay in the points.  Seb Vettel had been stalking the mumbling Finn for a couple of laps, looking hither and yon for an opening.  On Lap 48, he made a go of it.

Going into the turn, he looked like he was going to try going around the outside, so as to be better positioned for the next bend.  Raikkonen, holding the racing line, could not have been particularly concerned.

Surprisingly, Vettel tightened up his turn and undercut the Renault Lotus driver, then stomped on the gas and smashed the KERS button.

He then proceeded to out-muscle the Kimster into the next turn.  In the process, Kimi burned off what was left of his tires' grip, sending him staggering into the clag on the next turn.  Pretty much everybody passed him after that, including two soapbox derby racers, a R/C car, and Narain Kittylitter.  Okay, that last one is too ridiculous to believe, but our point is made.

*MOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  It's unfair to give this one to the recipient, as he really didn't do anything wrong per se, and indeed it could be argued that it's more an example of fine car control than anything else.  But we've gotta give it to someone, and Mark Webber is the lucky fellow.  On Lap 37, the Australian ran very wide off the turn known as "Indianapolis" and discovered that doing so might not be the best of ideas.

A driver the height of Mark Webber pretty much is sitting on the floor of the cockpit with no padding of any sort, and it's well-known that F1 cars are entirely unsprung.  The jolt Webber must have received upon landing had to have been teeth-rattling and spine-compressing.  Despite this, the RB8 showed no ill effects, and he still finished fourth.  Good job, Mark... here's your (undeserved) Moo.

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

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F1 Frustration (China 2012)! Oh, Nevermind!

(As I got ready to post this, the signal came back... if I may quote Emily Litella, "Never mind."  It's not raining, by the way.)

A rather burly line of storms is in the process of floating over Duckford and Pond Central as I type...

The "*" is a pretty good generalization of Pond Central in relation to the rest of the city... and where the thunderboomers are... or were.  It's bucketing rain, and there's been some big bass rolls of thunder, but that's all.

Unfortunately, my DISH satellite signal has packed up and gone away.  "Total Signal Loss" is the message, which means who knows when it'll come back?!?  Of course, as I type this, SPEED's coverage of the GP of China has begun, and I'm staring at the "Total Signal Loss" message.

Guess I might be watching the Sky/BBC download sometime in the afternoon.  This might delay the F1Update! a bit.

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