June 30, 2013

F1 Update!: Great Britain 2013

We here at F1U! didn't notice the skies over Silverstone today, but it wasn't raining, that's all that's really important.  So it wasn't raining when the cars formed up on the grid behind polesitter and "hometown lad" Shiv Hamilton.  One could only assume, however, that points leader Hannibal Vettel was feeling confident and relaxed as the 22 drivers waited for the lights to go out.  But what happened after that?  That's why you're here!  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2013 Grand Prix of Great Britain!

*LIGHTS OUT!:  Here at F1U!, we understand that Red Bull driver Mark Webber has a problem.  We call the "Mark Webber Lousy Start©" and are just amazed every time it happens.  Other than in Australia, however, he's been pretty good this season.  Not today, though... today, he made up for lost opportunities.  When the lights went out, Shiv Hamilton made a clean getaway from pole, as did Hannibal Vettel in his Red Bull.  Hamilton's teammate Nico Rosberg's start wasn't quite as good as Vettel's, which dropped him into third.  And then, there was Webber.  Our first thought was that he had been balked by a slow-starting Rosberg, but replays proved us wrong: it was a classic "MWLS©," and a real doozy at that.  As they approached Turn 1, he was already down to 10th, and soon to be playing the part of pinball.  He was plonked by the Lotus of Lettuce Grosjean, kicked off the track and into the runoff area of Turn 1 with quite a bit of damage to his front wing.  Dropped to 15th, it looked like he was out and gone from view.  Meanwhile, Felipe Massa apparently woke up today feeling like the man he was before the incident with The Spring.  He jumped to 5th place from 11th on the grid and was looking quite racey indeed.

*ONE TWO THREE!:  Hannibal Vettel's modus operandi when he starts a race from the pole is "get away clean, do everything possible to get one second ahead of second place by the time they turn on the DRS system, then run away and hide."  It's a good plan, and has worked very well for him.  Upon occasion, it's worked for other drivers as well.  Today, Shiv Hamilton was giving it a shot, and sure enough, everything was coming up roses for him.  He had a 1.5 second lead over Vettel when DRS was activated for the field, and was over two seconds ahead on Lap 7.  It was early, but things at least seemed like they were going well for the Mercedes driver.  Then, suddenly, everything went south.  His left-rear tire nigh-on exploded, sending pieces of rubber spraying across the racetrack and greatly reducing the amount of traction available.  He managed to limp his car around half the circuit back to the pits, but dropped from first place to last in the time it took to do so.  One could only imagine the glances down to the Pirelli office on the pit lane.  Of course, this promoted Hannibal Vettel into the lead, Nico Rosberg to second, the Force India of Adrian F'n Sutil to third, and Felipe Massa to fourth.  Until Lap 10.  It was on Lap 10 that Felipe Massa's Ferrari blew his left-rear tire in almost the same place as Hamilton.  The glances at Pirelli's office suddenly changed to stares.  Then, on Lap 15, while Jules Vergne was under attack by the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen, we saw our third tire failure of the day.

It goes without saying that it was a left-rear, of course.  That made three in seven laps, and four on the weekend (McLaren's Sergio Perez suffered a left-rear failure during practice).  The stares at the Pirelli offices had become glares.  Unsurprisingly, given the amount of carbon fiber and rubber debris strewn around the circuit, Race Director Charlie Whiting called out a Safety Car, only the third we've seen at Silverstone since 2006.  Whiting later admitted that he considered red-flagging the race at that point.

*HOO-BOY:  A number of drivers came in for new tires at this point.  Soon we were hearing radio calls from Ferrari and Red Bull to HWMNBN and both Hannibal Vettel and Mark Webber, saying the same thing: we see cuts on the inside of your left-rear tires, stay off the curbs.  Tire pressures were duly increased and drivers tried to be slightly less aggressive.

*YOU'RE KIDDING:  When the race resumed on Lap 21, it was very much like we've been used to at the beginning of a race: Vettel rabbitting off into the distance, Rosberg grimly keeping in touch but failing to do anything to close the gap.  For the next 15 or 16 laps, that's the way it stayed; Vettel with a two or three second lead over Rosberg, while Vergne retired his Toro Rosso.  The damage it suffered when the tire let go was too much for safety's sake.  When Vettel came in for his last tire stop and resumed in the lead, it looked like the race was won.

*AND THEN...:  On Lap 42, the partisan British crowd at Silverstone reacted before the announcers did, a huge cheer coming up from every throat on the front straight: Hannibal Vettel slowed, then stopped, just past the start/finish line.

His gearbox failure brought out the second safety car of the day, sending many of the leaders scrambling for the pit lane again for a new set of tires.  The lone exception was Kimi Raikkonen, who quickly was saying to the Lotus pit box that "they'd made a mistake."  In many ways, Nico Rosberg was the big loser from all this: while gifted first place, he also lost a thirteen second lead.  The standings were Rosberg, Raikkonen, Sutil, Ricciardo, Webber, Perez, Button and HWMNBN.

*GO GO GO OH NO NOT AGAIN: The safety car came in on Lap 45, giving us a seven-lap sprint to the finish.  Mark Webber, he of the Lousy Start back at the beginning of the race, began to gun down those ahead of him: first Ricciardo, then Sutil, putting him in third and hunting himself some Finnish Lotus driver.  And then, on Lap 46, Sergio Perez suffered a failure of his left-rear tire.  Again.  The fourth tire failure of the race didn't bring out a safety car, but the glares at the Pirelli offices had become daggers. 

*THE END:  Webber fought his way past a recalcitrant Raikkonen (and if that looks hard to type, you're right) to take second on Lap 48, and he began to track down Nico Rosberg, a mere 1.37 seconds ahead.  Meanwhile, the Finn's old tires proved to be too much for him to overcome.  First HWMNBN, then Shiv Hamilton, got past him, dropping him to fifth.  Back up at the front, Webber cut the lead to Rosberg down to 0.765 seconds, but could get no closer as the race ended.  HWMNBN finished third, with a charging Hamilton 0.632 seconds behind him.  Both the Aussie and the Brit had to be ruing what had happened at the beginning of the race.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Boy, is this one hard to call.  Webber started 4th, dropped to 15th, and finished 2nd.  HWMNBN started 10th, dropped to 11th, and finished 3rd.  But Mercedes' Shiv  Hamilton started on pole, suffered the first tire failure, dropped to dead last, then worked his way back to fourth place.  That's a pretty decent performance, all told.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Mercedes.  1st - 4th is a pretty good way to finish, particularly given all that went down with Hamilton during the day.  Honorable mention goes to Force India for finishing 7th and 9th, with Sutil holding a podium position for a good chunk of the race.

:  On Lap 49, Shiv Hamilton was behind Adrian F'n Sutil's Force India, and looking to get past in a hurry.  When he made his move, it looked like there was no way he could make it work... he was so far back.  Sutil braked, Hamilton didn't, and he still made it look like the car was on rails as he zipped up the inside and blew the doors off the Force India.  Just an astonishing pass on TV.  After watching it frame-by-frame on my computer, it wasn't as impressive, sure... but at the time, we here at F1U! Central dropped our forks into our deep-dish pizza in amazement.

:  On Lap 31, HWMNBN had come in for new tires.  The 2.8 second stop seemed quite impressive, and the Ferrari lollypop man released him to rejoin the race... right into the path of the incoming Lotus of Lettuce Grosjean.

How he avoided the Lotus, the McLaren pit crew, the Lotus lollypop man, and an unsafe release penalty is entirely beyond me.  Here's to Ferrari's pit lane crew, and here's your Mooooo!



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June 09, 2013

F1 Update!: Canada 2013

Despite prayers from the Williams pitbox and rain dances from Ferrari-hired Mi'kmaq DJs, the skies were sunny and clear when the F1 Circus pulled onto the grid for a race that would be unlike any since 2001.  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2013 Grand Prix of Canada.

*THE BEGINNING: The lights went out, and polesitter Hannibal Vettel did what he always does: ran away and hid.  By the end of the first lap, he had a two second lead.  By the end of Lap 3, when they activated the DRS system, the lead was up to 4.5 seconds and getting larger.  Mercedes driver Shiv Hamilton could do nothing to keep in touch with the Red Bull.  Sadly and as expected, Williams driver Valtterri Bottas dropped like a stone from his third place starting position, ending up in sixth after the first lap and going backwards the whole race. 

*THE BAD OLD DAYS:  By the time the first pitstops came around, it was clear that the race was Vettel's to lose.  When he stopped for the first time on Lap 16, he handed the lead to Hamilton, and immediately began tracking him down again.  Three laps later, Hamilton pitted, relinquishing the lead back to the Red Bull driver.  Those three laps were the only ones Vettel didn't lead all day.  Vettel wouldn't stop again until Lap 50.

*WHAT'S THE POINT?:  When Vettel came in for his second stop, his lead was large enough that he could pit for new tires, get out, use the loo, have some poutine and Tim Hortons, and still rejoin in third.  Instead, he just stopped for tires and came back onto the circuit with 15 seconds still in hand.  He'd go on to cruise to a 14 second victory.

*SECOND PLACE:  Around the same time that Vettel was enjoying a Molsons, Ferrari driver HWMNBN had reached a point where he could legitimately begin to threated Hamilton's second place position.  It took 12 laps of the Mercedes driver making his car quite wide, but the Spaniard finally managed to get past with eight laps remaining.  Unfortunately, the gap to Vettel was 20 seconds.  That it dropped to 14 was simply a case of the three-time World Champion dialing it back a bit to protect the engine.

*AND THEN... TRAGEDY:  On Lap 66, Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez made a late pit stop, exited, and for whatever reason went straight into the wall at the outside of Turn 2.  He hopped out unhurt, and the mobile crane came out to pick up the car.  As the crane brought the car back to the pit lane after the race, escorted by four track marshals.  One of the men apparently dropped his portable radio, bent down to pick it up, lost his balance and fell... directly into the path of the crane.

The man was swiftly attended by F1 medical personnel and taken to the trauma department at Montreal's Sacre-Coeur Hospital, where he tragically passed away a couple of hours later.  The marshal, who's name has yet to be released, is the first death at a F1 event since 2001.  Track workers are the unsung heroes of any race weekend.  Without them, the events we watch with such passion could not take place.  The job is thankless, pressure-filled, dirty, sweaty, and often dangerous... as any job that takes place in the vicinity of high-powered equipment of any sort can be.  Almost all of them are volunteers and fans, wanting to be part of the race.  They are almost always invisible, the backstage workers that let the young men and women in their carbon fiber darts, their steel sleds, their fiberglass missiles, entertain us and thrill us with their speed and skill.  That one of them should die is terrible, and we here at F1Update! bow our heads and extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Paul di Resta started the race 17th on the grid.  He didn't make his first and only pit stop until Lap 56, and the tires that came off his Force India looked like they still had a few more laps left in 'em.  Even with the late-race stop, he still managed to come home in 7th place, a ten grid-spot pickup from the beginning.  Just astounding.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Ferrari.  HWMNBN ended up in second, but Felipe Massa, who started in 16th, ended up in 8th to minimize any point damage they could have suffered at the hands of Red Bull.  Nice job to a team we rarely have anything good to say about.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  By default, this one goes to HWMNBN for his late pass on Shiv Hamilton for 2nd place.  There were few passes to choose from, to be honest.  While the Ferrari's pass was DRS-aided, that he did it on the short, short front straight DRS zone, just past the final chicane, came as something of a surprise, if not just to the F1U! crew perhaps to Hamilton as well.  There have been dozens of better passes this season, however.

*MOOOOOO-OOOOVE OF THE RACE:  We're giving this one to Esteban Gutierrez of Sauber.  When he exited the pits late in the race, he apparently hit a bump going into Turn 2, locked up the outside tire, and just floated himself right into the barrier.  Just a clumsy, clumsy maneuver, one well worth the MoooootR.  (Please note: that a worker died during the clearing of the car has nothing to do with the award.  Gutierrez had nothing to do with that.  The crash really was one that falls into the "what in the world?" category)



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