November 23, 2014

Mini-F1Update!: Abu Dhabi 2014

The evening was clear and warm as the F1 Carnival took to the grid for its final performance of the season.  The final showdown between teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg for the Driver's Championship was at hand with the young German needing a victory and help to score enough points to take it from the Brit.  Would he get it?  THIS is your mini-F1Update! for the 2014 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi!

*LIGHTS OUT:  Rosberg's hopes for the Driver's Championship essentially lasted just long enough for the cars to roll 100meters or so.  By that point, Hamilton had perhaps the greatest start of all time, already passed Rosberg, and was working on opening a lead as they ran into Turn 1.  Indeed, Williams' Felipe Massa was hard on the German's wing in third, an ominous sign.  While Massa slipped away soon enough, Rosberg had no real answer for Hamilton.  Even through the first round of pit stops, the lead was around three seconds, but you never got the feeling that Rosberg could really cut into it.

*WORST FEAR: On Lap 23, Rosberg had a fairly substantial tire lock-up, but it seemed very much like any other such event.  Until you realized that suddenly the gap from Hamilton was over seven seconds, not the three it'd been all race.  Then came the call to the pit lane: "I'm losing engine power."  A whole lap passed before we heard the response from the Mercedes mechanics... Rosberg's KERS unit had packed up and gone home for the night.  As a result, Rosberg was going to be down some 200hp on power for the rest of the race, and his braking was going to suffer as well.  By Lap 27, Massa had caught and passed Rosberg for second place.

*AND THEN:  Rosberg's pleas for something to do... anything... to keep him in the top five went unanswered.  He fell to seventh after his next pit stop, something of an adventure with his electronics beginning to get wonky.  Meanwhile, the Mercedes pit wall was telling Hamilton that his teammate "was no longer a threat."  In response, he dialed back his engine just a bit... choosing reliability over speed, in the hope that his power unit wouldn't cough up a lung as well.  This allowed Felipe Massa an opportunity to close the gap as he headed into his last stop.

*FINALLY:  On Lap 43, Massa pitted for the last time, putting on the super-soft tires and returning some 10 seconds behind Hamilton with 10 laps to go.  The Williams driver immediately began taking a second or two off the lead every lap.  Eventually, Hamilton's racing instinct got the better of him and he turned his engine back up to full power, putting paid to Massa's charge.  Even with that, he only led the Brazilian by 2.5 seconds when he crossed the finish line to win both the 2014 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi and the 2014 World Driver's Championship.  Valterri Bottas, Massa's teammate at Williams, came along in third, giving Williams their first double podium since Monaco in 2005.  Nico Rosberg finished in 14th, after refusing a request from the pit lane to retire the car. 

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Daniel Ricciardo was forced to start the race from the pit lane, thanks to Red Bull's front-wing chicanery.  He finished the race in fourth place, a full forty seconds ahead of his Ferrari-bound teammate 4Time Vettel in eighth.  Not too shabby.

*TEAM OF THE RACE
:  Last year, Williams scored five points and finished 9th in the Constructor's Championship.  This season, they finished with 320 points, third in the Constructor's Championship, and a double podium to put a gold star on the whole proceedings.  Not too bad.

*MOMENT OF THE RACE:


*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"It's the greatest day of my life." - Lewis Hamilton

"It was close at the end, who would have thought?" - Felipe Massa

"Speak for yourself." - Valterri Bottas

"Vettel who?" - Daniel Riccardio

"If I'm now done with Formula 1, this is as good a way as any to go out, I suppose." - Jenson Button

"Don't mind me, just passing through." - Nico Hulkenberg

"I swear to you, I really was in the race today." - Sergio Perez

"Maranello, here I come!  My favorite color is now red." - 4Time Vettel

"What the king says I cannot go against. The king is the king. He is always right." - HWMNBN (note: King Juan Carlos of Spain said that he'd been told that HWMNBN would be driving for McLaren in 2015.  Actually, he abdicated in favor of his son earlier this year, so once he was the King of Spain.)

"mrmmrmrmbl mrlmlbbl mrmbblllmlbr mrmrmrrmrmlbl mmmmblbph." - Kimi Raikkonen

"He’s done an amazing year, an amazing job and he was the best driver on the grid this year, for sure." - Nico Rosberg (speaking of Hamilton).

So.  That's it for the 2014 season.  Congratulations to Mercedes for just completely dominating the entire year.  The next race will be in Australia, March 15th, 2015.  Thanks to all the F1U! readers for following along for another year, and we'll see you soon.

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November 09, 2014

Mini-F1Update!: Brazil 2014

Blue skies were above Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace as the Thundering Herd made its way to the grid in São Paulo.  Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, #2 in the Driver's Championship, led the way, with his teammate Lewis Hamilton, leader in the Championship, right next to him and local boy Felipe Massa, driving for Williams, in third.  What would this volatile combination do when the lights went out?  THIS is your mini-F1Update! for the 2014 Grand Prix of Brazil!

*LIGHTS OUT:  A mostly clean start saw Lewis Hamilton make a blinder of a start from second... and his teammate Nico Rosberg make an even better one.  As a result, the two led the field into the first turn and immediately begin to pull away.  However, Rosberg couldn't open much of a lead on his Silver Arrows compatriot, and with the slippery tarmac and hot track temperatures butchering the Soft tires, this was clearly going to be a sprint to the first pit stop.  We didn't have long to wait; the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado stopped on Lap 4, and most of the rest of the field followed along the next few laps.  When leader Rosberg came in on Lap 8, Hamilton had his first chance to jump into the lead via the pits.

*DID IT WORK?:  The pit crew did its best for Hamilton when he stopped on the next lap, but to no avail; he had closed the gap somewhat, but was still behind his championship rival.  Both were on the Medium tires now, however, and Hamilton had plenty of time.  Protecting the rubber, Hamilton lagged back, the gap to the leader opening to as much as two seconds.  As the second round of stops approached, Hamilton put the hammer down and the gap began to fall.  The lead was down to under one second when Rosberg hit the pit lane..

*DID IT WORK THIS TIME?:  On Lap 27, Rosberg pitted.  Hamilton immediately set the fast lap of the race... and stayed out for another lap.  After the race, he said that he had been expecting to be called in on Lap 28, so he burned his tires to the ground.  Being told to stay out took him by surprise, and his tortured tires protested.  Going into Turn 4 on Lap 28, Hamilton wound up leaving the track in a lurid slide that sent him off towards the barriers.  While no physical damage was done, save to tires that were already begging for mercy, Hamilton lost over seven seconds to his rival. 

*REALLY?:  After making his stop, Hamilton drove away apologizing to the pit wall for his screwup.  He was immediately told that the race wasn't over and he could catch Rosberg.  With that encouragement ringing in his ears, the leader in the Driver's Championship metaphorically cocked his cap, rolled up his sleeves and went back to work.  By Lap 40, the lead had been halved to 3.5 seconds.  Nine laps later, the lead was under two seconds.

*DASH TO THE END:  Rosberg came in for his final set of tires on Lap 50, and Hamilton again burned his tires off in preparation for his final stop.  This time, however, he came in as expected... and his pit crew provided him with new rubber in under 2.5 seconds.  As he made his way back onto the track, he had to be mentally willing his teammate to make some sort of bobble.  That didn't occur, and he was forced to slot in less than a second behind Rosberg.  For the next twenty laps, the lead was less than a second, Hamilton looking for some way past his teammate.  There's no doubt, however, that the pit wall was reminding him that he didn't have to win this race and turning both cars into fragments of carbon fiber would be A Bad Thing... or worse, breaking HIS car and leaving Rosberg unscathed.  Hamilton, wisely, didn't push the issue.  Make no mistake, he was still looking for an opportunity to pass, he just didn't do anything rash.  Rosberg never gave him the opening, and led his teammate across the finish line, setting us up for the Double-Points Showdown in Abu Dhabi in two weeks.

*ALSO:  São Paulo's own Felipe Massa had quite the adventuresome day.  He started in third, got a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane, dropped to 13th after serving it on his second stop, worked his way back up the field, tried to get McLaren to change his tires during his third stop, and held off a game Jenson Button for the final podium position to the jubilant reactions of his fellow Brazilians.  Busy day, that.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Nico Rosberg.  He didn't have to win today to still have a chance at the Driver's Championship, but cutting the lead to 17 points gives him a better shot at it.  For example, if he wins at Abu Dhabi, Hamilton must finish second to win the Championship.  He could have broken today, made a mistake that let Hamilton by... and didn't.  Stout drive.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Williams.  While Valterri Bottas had his race ruined by seat belts working their way loose, Massa had a solid podium, setting up a tense struggle with Ferrari next race for third in the Constructor's Championship.  Williams leads 254 - 210 with 86 points in play.

*MOMENT OF THE RACE:  When Hamilton went for his ride on Lap 28, the race was basically over right there.  Hamilton says it wasn't, and he should have passed his teammate anyway.  Rosberg says that even if Hamilton hadn't gone afield, he would have kept him behind.  Don't believe it.  Both drivers know that the race was decided on Hamilton's goof... and that Rosberg had no answer when he came back.

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"Fastest in Practice 1, 2, and 3.  Fastest in all three Quals sessions.  Won the race.  My weekend." - Nico Rosberg

"I let you win.  You know it.  I know it.  THEY know it." - Lewis Hamilton

"Ha ha I nearly stopped in McLaren's pits.  Oh, Felipe, I'm such a joker." - Felipe Massa

"Can I please have a drive next year?  I'm clearly not washed up." - Jenson Button

"One more race, then Ferrari." - 4Time Button

"One more race, then... that's a secret.  Even to me." - HWMNBN

"mrmrmmrbrlrm mrmrlrlrbrlrmrmr mrmrlrbrlrnlrmrlmr rrrrr." - Kimi Raikkonen

"Did I get any TV time?" - Nico Hulkenberg

"Fourth is really impressive for such an old guy, I'm happy for him." - Kevin Magnussen

"If you told me I'd have a problem with my engine, I'd believe you.  Tire failure?  Sure, makes sense.  Gimpy brakes?  You bet.  Hydraulics, oil, batteries, KERS, even electronics, fine.  But seat belt problems???  REALLY?" - Valterri Bottas.

So that's that.  The last race of the year is two weeks from now in Abu Dhabi.  We'll get our first champion not named Sebastian Vettel in five years there, too!  See ya then.

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November 02, 2014

Mini-F1Update!: United States 2014

A beautiful day, the type you only get in the American West, greeted the F1 Rancheros as they brought their steers to market steeds to the lights.  As has become the norm, the two Mercedes drivers led the rest of the pack to the grid... which would get home first?  THIS is your Mini-F1Update! for the 2014 United States Grand Prix!

*LIGHTS OUT SAFETY CAR:  It wasn't really that fast, but close.  Roughly half-way around the first lap, the Force India of Sergio Perez bonked the rear of Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari, then did unspeakable things to the Sauber of Adrian Sutil.  While the Red Car was undamaged, Perez suffered a nose removal and suspension damage, and Sutil came to a halt sideways on the racing line.  Immediately a Safety Car was called out, one that lasted four laps as sweepers manned their brooms to clean up the immense amount of carbon fiber shards.

*BACK WE GO:  Once the safety car went away, Rosberg held the lead easily through the first round of pitstops.  Once the two Mercs were on fresh rubber, however, things changed.  For whatever reason, the new tires sat better on Hamilton's car.  He immediately began to whittle away at Rosberg's lead, passing him on Lap 24.  While his lead would never get much higher than three seconds, it also was never under any sort of threat, either  Hamilton would win the race by a couple of seconds over his teammate, opening his driver's championship lead to 24 points with 75 points available.

*IN OTHER NEWS:  Lotus' Pastor Maldonado earned his first point of the year today, bringing the team's total to nine.  Last year, they scored 315.  It's impossible to imagine any team having a more desperate season than that.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  4Time Vettel.  Starting from the pit lane due to an engine change, he wound up enduring four pit stops.  The last came with eight laps to go, and dropped him to 13th.  By the end of the race, the fresh rubber had allowed him to go insane, jumping up to 7th... and with one more lap, he may have caught HWMNBN for 6th.  Not too shabby, that.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  If I could find any other team to give it to, I would... but there isn't one, so Mercedes, here ya go.  Another 1-2 lockout, ho-hum.

*MOMENT OF THE RACE: Hamilton's pass of Rosberg on Lap 24.  Under normal rules, it would have almost guaranteed him his second world championship.  As it is, he's still in good shape, but one mechanical glitch could cost him everything... despite having won 10 races to Rosberg's four.

*SELECTED QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"Yeeeeeeee-hawwwww!  Get along, lil' dogies!" - Lewis Hamilton

"I don't know him." - Nico Rosberg

"Did you know that the Australian version of the 'cowboy' is a stockman?" - Daniel Ricciardo

"In Brazil, they're called 'gauchos'." - Felipe Massa

"Which is also the name of an album by Steely Dan.  Finland doesn't have cowboys, unless you count the ones that watch the reindeer herds." - Valterri Bottas

"The cowboy tradition originated in Spain, leading to the vaquero of Mexico." - HWMNBN

"There's a certain subset of Germany that's obsessed with the American Old West.  An author named Karl May who wrote dozens of German Westerns, despite never having visited America, is to blame." - 4Time Vettel

"The Jutland region of Denmark has a very 'Old West' feel to it, even today." - Kevin Magnussen

"Venezuela is nigh-on the birthplace of cowboys, except we call them llaneros." - Pastor Maldonado

"In France, we have gardians, who herd cattle in Provence." - Jules Vergne

Next weekend, we're in Brazil!  See ya then.

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