July 29, 2012

F1 Update!: Hungary 2012

The umbrellas were out in force as the Grumbling Herd began to make their way onto the grid, but would the weather make a difference?  Would Jenson Button swim to a victory, or would polesitter Lewis Hamilton run away with it?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2012 Grand Prix of Hungary!

*UMBRELLAS?  OR PARASOLS?:  Considering the way it'd been described in Practice and Qualifying, we were expecting to see a grumpy old man with a long beard building a big boat in the infield paddock area, while pairs of animals waited for him to finish up.  Instead, when SPEED's coverage came to life, we were shocked and surprised by the sight of blue skies with nary a cloud visible.  Disgustedly, the F1U! staff packed away the water wings and flippers.

*AND WE'RE OFF!  NO, WE'RE NOT!:  As the field began to form up on the grid after the recon lap, it seemed to be taking a long time.  Since F1 cars have no fans, cooling is accomplished only when they are in motion... and the cars at the front were getting hotter and hotter as the cars at the rear took their places.  Eventually, the track official at the back of the grid began to trot across the track, waving a green flag; this signaled to Charlie Whiting, F1 race starter and technical supremo, that everything was okay and he could begin the race.  But halfway across, suddenly he stopped waving the flag and reached for a radio.  And then we saw a sight that hasn't occurred in years:

The start was aborted and the field was sent around for another recon lap.  Nobody is quite sure why the start was aborted, and the confusion claimed one car, that of Slappy Schumacher.  "The car was overheating.  When I saw the yellow flags, I shut the car off," he said, apparently not expecting to be sent around again.  He wound up starting from the pit lane, getting a puncture, earned a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane, losing all telemetry feeds, then retiring from the race completely.

*AND WE'RE OFF!  THIS TIME FOR SURE!:  When the lights went out on the now one-lap-shorter race, polesitter Lewis Hamilton got away clean, led the field through the first turn and headed off over the horizon.  Behind him, Lettuce Grosjean held second, but Jenson Button beat Seb Vettel into the turn for fourth. 

*NAP TIME:  And then it settled into a typical dry race at Hungary... dull.  Oh, to be sure, there were moments of the race where it looked like we could have some excitement, such as when first Grosjean, then much later his teammate Mumbles Raikkonen, had runs at Hamilton for the lead.  Indeed, both Lotus drivers managed to cut the lead down to a second or less, but could never quite get close enough to make a move on the leader.

*NOTHING VENTURE, NOTHING WIN:  Realizing that their cars couldn't compete straight up with either the Lotii or the McLarens, Red Bull rolled the dice and went with three-stop strategies for both of their drivers.  For Seb Vettel, it paid off; he was one lap away from getting a podium spot as the race ended... the one lap lost with the aborted start.  For Mark Webber, the strategy failed; he was in 5th when he made his third stop, resumed in 8th, and was unable to make the new tires work.  He finished in 8th.

*RED STORM RISING:  While HWMNBN was never within sniffing distance of the podium at any time during the race, he still managed to increase his lead in the driver's championship by finishing fifth.  With second-place Webber in 8th, the lead is now 40 points... which means that, in the worst possible case, the Ferrari driver could DNF the next race, Webber could win, and HWMNBN would still have a 15-point lead.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Mumbles Raikkonen looked exactly like The Iceman of old today, relentlessly closing in on the leader without ever putting a wheel wrong.  Only a KERS problem kept him from making a serious attempt at the lead.  If there was ever any doubt to his ability to win a race, he buried it today.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Like Raikkonen, if there was any doubt that Lotus had a serious chance to win this year, the race today put paid to it.  2-3 on the podium, with both drivers having had good runs at the leader at various times in the race.  They're close, and Raikkonen and Grosjean look like they'll make it happen sooner rather than later.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 45, Mumbles Raikkonen came into the pits for his last stop of the race.  As he came out, his teammate Lettuce Grosjean was thundering down the front straight at full steam.  As Raikkonen crossed the pit exit line, the two were neck and neck.

Raikkonen, on the inside, had the racing line, but Grosjean the momentum.  So Mumbles, being a cold-blooded Finn, decided to make life difficult for his teammate.  Very difficult.  In the process, he probably caused multiple cardiac arrests on the Lotus pit wall.

Tires interlaced, the two headed right for the outside of the turn.  Mumbles, not caring that it was his teammate to his left, kept pushing outside.  Grosjean had two choices: abandon the turn or crash the two of them out of the race.

Wisely, he headed for the run-off area and let his teammate keep 2nd.  Just behind the two of them, Seb Vettel yelled "drat".  So Mumbles Raikkonen, for holding your place against your teammate, here's your Move of the Race!

*MOOOOO-OOOOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 48, Hazzan Maldonado decided that he needed to get past Force India's Paul di Resta.  He had an entire track-width to work with as he pulled alongside the Scot into a right-hand turn... and then he flicked the Williams' steering wheel to the left.

The result was a hard thump to the side of the Force India, which was shoved off the track.  Unsurprisingly, the Marshals took a dim view of this tactic and gave Maldonado a drive-through penalty a few laps later.  There's nobody in the field right now that is as blatantly dangerous as Maldonado; here's your Mooooo, and you now have a month to get over yourself, jerk.



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July 22, 2012

F1 Update!: Germany 2012

In contrast to the sopping wet Qualifying, the skies over the F1 circus was partly cloudy as they waited for the lights to go out.  Would it stay dry?  Would HWMNBN, the season's first two-time winner be able to become the first three-time winner?  Or would national hero Seb Vettel finally win his home race?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2012 Grand Prix of Germany!

*WE'VE SEEN THIS ONE BEFORE, JUST WITH DIFFERENT ACTORS:  When the lights went out and the grid accelerated away, polesitter HWMNBN's Ferrari charged away and headed for the hills.  While Vettel wanted dearly to chase after him, he had to spend the first couple of laps fending off a concerted attack from Mercedes' Slappy Schumacher.  By the time the silver arrow had been dealt with, the red car had a few seconds in hand over the Red Bull, and it looked like HWMNBN had every intention of keeping that way.

*RED HOT LEADER ON BACKMARKER ACTION: It stayed that way through the first round of pit stops, with Jenson Button, in what must be considered a surprise third place, around five seconds back.  As the race neared the halfway point, it was obvious that Vettel was quicker than HWMNBN, closing the lead down to six-tenths of a second and looking like he was going to blow the red car away with the aid of DRS.  But it never happened, in part because the Ferrari driver made good use of terrain, i.e., Marussia's Charles ToothPic.  Just as it looked like Vettel would be able to get past with the speed boost from the open slot-wing, HWMNBN got the same bonus.  Y'see, the DRS detection system does not differentiate between leaders and backmarkers... if you're within one second of a car in front of you in the detection zone, you get to use the DRS, even if the car in front is in last place.  So at that time, HWMNBN got to stay ahead, and put a car in between him and Vettel to boot, but surely that wouldn't last, and it didn't.  But then the Red Bull driver had to contend with another annoyance... Lewis Hamilton. 

*PULLING GUARD:  To say that Hamilton was having a bad day would be an understatement.  At the beginning of Lap 2, he ran over a carbon fiber shard and suffered a ruined tire.  As he limped his way around the Hungaroring, he bemoaned his fate, even going so far as to get on the radio and say that the team should retire the car.  He managed to get to the pit, the team checked him over and sent him back out... nearly a lap down with sixty-odd left to go.  But after his second stop around Lap 35, he came out of the pits a lap down, but right behind Vettel (and just ahead of his teammate), and with fresh tires.  Much to the Red Bull driver's surprise, Hamilton attacked, got past, then tried to go after the Ferrari... perhaps halfheartedly.  "I don’t see the point in him trying to race us," said Vettel afterwards. "It is a bit stupid to race the leaders."  As it was, Hamilton could not catch HWMNBN to unlap himself, and maybe kinda held up Vettel a bit while his teammate dove into the pits.

*WOW THAT WAS FAST:  A few races ago, McLaren couldn't do a pitstop without it all ending in tears, flying tireguns and lost places.  Not this time.  Button came in, got a fresh set of tires and got out again.  He had been stopped for 2.31 seconds.  When Vettel stopped next lap, Red Bull could not match that and Button passed him for second place.  He then set sail for the Ferrari in the lead.

*FAIL, AND FAIL AGAIN:  He tried.  He really did.  He closed down on the red car, pulling to within a half-second, but no closer, and perhaps killed his tires in the process.  Ultimately, Button had to stop attacking for the lead and start defending his position from Vettel's attacks.  In fact, on Lap 66, Vettel made his move around the outside of  the Hairpin.  Button defended, pushing Vettel wide, but the Red Bull still got by...

...at this point, the F1U! team was yelling at the TV that this was illegal as Vettel had left the racing surface.  When honorary F1U! team member Vaucaunson's Duck asked if anything was going to happen to the reigning world champion, the jaded response was "not a chance."  The race ended with HWMNBN leading Vettel, who was a second ahead of Button.

*...AND THEN:  The FIA had been keeping a gimlet eye on Red Bull all race, and had been made aware of Vettel's transgression.  Shortly after the race, the stewards handed down their judgement: a drive-through penalty.  As the penalty was given after the race, it was changed to a standard "add 20 seconds to his race time."  This dropped Vettel to fifth place, promoting Button to 2nd and Mumbles Raikkonen to the final step on the podium.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Other than the first race of the year, Jenson Button has had a terrible season.  It was nice to see him fighting for the win again, and he drove an excellent strategic race.  Well deserved.

*TEAM OF THE RACE: Sauber.  Yes, Sauber! Gandalf finished 4th, Sergio Perez 6th, and they proved that they're the best of the midpack by routinely powering by Force India all day.  Heck of a result for the "privateer" team.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 15, Slappy Schumacher was hunting down Nico Hulkenberg for 7th place.  Heading into the braking zone, he was in perfect position.  Meanwhile, some distance behind, Mumbles Raikkonen seemed to be out of the squabble.

Into the turn, Slappy dove inside Hulkenberg, slipping past and forcing the Force India to go wide into the next turn...

...when from out of nowhere, Mumbles ignored his braking altogether and still somehow managed to make the turn, getting by Hulkenberg and nearly surprising Slappy in the process.

For his banzai move from out of nowhere, we'll give Mumbles Raikkonen the MotR!  Good job!

*MOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  There really weren't any, so we're bending our rules that prevent Lap 1 incidents from winning either Move or Mooooo-ooove of the Race awards.  Heading into Turn 1 at the start, Felipe Massa just drove directly into the back of Lettuce Grosjean.  The result was... predictable.

The carbon fiber shards left behind were the cause of Lewis Hamilton's shredded tire, and race.  Good going, Massa... here's your Moooooo.

Drivers quotes will be dropped this week, as this F1U! is late enough as-is.  Next week is the Grand Prix of Hungary... god help us.  See you then!

Almost forgot!  Here's the latest episode of McLaren Tooned!


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July 08, 2012

F1 Update!: Great Britain 2012

While it hadn't been raining for the proverbial forty days and forty nights, it had rained a lot at Silverstone Circuit, to the point that the race organizers asked people not to come to Quals.  So what effect did the weather have on the field as they pulled onto the grid?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2012 Grand Prix of Great Britain!

*WHAT IS THAT?:  As 23 cars pulled onto the grid (The Red Menace's engine went ploin! halfway around), there were shadows on the ground and a flaming ball of burning gas in the blue sky.  Yes, that's right, the sun made an appearance today.  The Legendary Announce Team said that there was rain in the area that would show up around halfway, but it never happened.  This is not as beneficial to the teams as you might think; pretty much everybody had a wet-track setup on their cars.  Still, when everybody is wrong, ain't nobody disadvantaged, we suppose.

*LIGHTS OUT:  Once the field got away, polesitter HWMNBN made it perfectly clear that Ferrari had completely turned their season around.  Back at the beginning of the year, their car was totally uncompetitive, and only the Spaniard's skill kept it anywhere near the points.  Now he cut hard across the nose of Red Bull's Mark Webber and began to head off into the sunset.  When Seb Vettel pitted on Lap 11, his soft tires worn to nubs, it looked like HWMNBN's gamble of starting on the Hard tires had paid off.  It looked doubly so when Webber brought his car in on Lap 15, soft tires exhausted and failing. 

*NEXT UP:  HWMNBN brought his Ferrari in for another set of hard tires the next lap, with enough of a lead to stay five seconds ahead of Webber.  In a complete inversion of the usual case, the Hard tires were clearly the compound to be on, both fast and durable.  The Soft rubber just wasn't doing much.  Continuing his domination of the race, HWMNBN continued to open the lead, reaching 19.8 seconds when Webber stopped for another set of hard tires on Lap 34.

*THAT'S OMINOUS:  The dark clouds beyond Woodcote made Ferrari's plan very clear: run on the hard tires as long as possible until the rains came, make one less stop than everybody else, and stand on the podium in wet-weather slickers, galoshes and Ferrari-red umbrellas.  All they needed was for the rain to fall.  The problem with this strategy should be clear: if it doesn't rain, you're stuck on the poorer-performing soft tires at the end of the race.  When HWMNBN's tires fell off the cliff and he began to cough up a second per lap to the fresh-tired Webber, he pitted for Soft tires on Lap 39.  He emerged from the pits still in the lead, but now desperately praying for the rains to fall so he could get off the Soft tires for something... anything... else. 

*PROHIBITION IS ALIVE AND WELL:  It stayed dry, and Webber began to stalk the red car, taking chunks out of the Ferrari's lead each lap.  On Lap 45, the lead was down to a half-second, and Ferrari had sent half of their pit crew out behind the mobile homes to do a frantic rain dance.  Missing a supply of eagle feathers and tomahawks, their shimmying had no effect and the clouds refused to open up. 

*AND THEN...:  Inexorably, the Australian Red Bull driver, the support of the crowd firmly behind a member of the Commonwealth, closed in on HWMNBN.  It was just a matter of time, and Webber waited patiently until his opening came.  With five laps left, he cleanly slipped by the Ferrari for the lead and drove away, eventually winning by three seconds.  HWMNBN finished second, with Seb Vettel less than two seconds behind him.  Five seconds further back, Ferrari's other driver, Felipe Massa, finished a desperately needed fourth.  It never did rain.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  The first lap of the race was rather confused and exciting, with plenty of action, at least one occurrence of three-abreast racing through a turn, and more than a little carbon fiber shed.  In the biggest incident, Lettuce Grosjean made contact with Paul di Resta, which eventually led to the Force India driver retiring from the race.  Grosjean, a slow puncture affecting his tires, pitted on Lap 2 for new soft tires, falling all the way down to 22nd... effectively last place, what with di Resta retiring and The Red Menace having died on the way to the grid.  Over the course of the next 50 laps, the Frenchman drove a sterling race, eventually finishing in a more-than-solid sixth place.  Not bad for someone who was told they weren't good enough for F1 a few years ago.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Red Bull.  They out-strategized Ferrari, then outran them on a circuit that really favors cars that have different strengths than theirs possesses.  They then finished 1-3.  How can you not give them the award?  Honorable mention to Ferrari, 2-4 at the end of the race, jumping to 2nd in the Constructor's championship, and HWMNBN leads the Driver's championship.  Not bad at all.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  Late in the race, Red Bull's Mark Webber had the tail of HWMNBN's Ferrari in his sights as they both roared down the Wellington Straight.

Using KERS and DRS, he pulled past as the two ran into the big sweeping left-hander, kept his momentum up, and was able to keep the Spaniard behind when he tried to counterattack.  A perfectly clean pass, not the most dramatic in the world, but it WAS the most important: it was for the lead, after all.

*MOOOOO-OOOOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 38, Gandalf Kobayashi, locked in a legit struggle for points, swept into the new pit lane right at the speed limit, his Sauber team kneeling in position to receive their car.  Nothing out of the ordinary here, something the Japanese driver had done hundreds of times before... except this time, apparently distracted by something bright and shiny, he hit the brakes a moment too late.

In the process of locking his clampers down, he skidded into four of his mechanics, wiping out the front jackman and the three front-right tirechangers.  Fortunately, nobody suffered anything more than bumps and bruises, though there are reports of a sprained finger on the wheelgunner.  Because nobody was hurt, I'm happy to give Gandalf his well-deserved Moooooo!



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