September 21, 2014

Mini-F1Update!: Singapore 2014

Clear night skies accompanied by oppressive heat and humidity greeted the Thundering Herd as they made their way to the grid, but all was not well for everybody.  What fate befell the drivers, and how did it affect the world driver's championship?  THIS is your Mini-F1Update! for the 2014 Grand Prix of Singapore!

*(NOT QUITE) THE RACE:  Right off the bat, the weather drove a stake through the heart of Gandalf Kobayashi's Caterham steed, a power failure accompanied by smoke and stench preventing him from ever making it to the starting grid.  Meanwhile, Championship points leader Nico Rosberg was experiencing a nightmare of his own.  As he sat there on the pre-recon grid, his electrical system failed.  A switch of steering wheels failed to reboot the car, so with 10 minutes to go before roll-off a swarm of mechanics descended upon his cockpit.  To no avail; when the field headed around, his Mercedes sat sullenly in its grid position, waiting for everybody to go past before it got pushed to the pit lane.  Eventually the mechanics got the bare minimum functional... the car started, Rosberg could shift gears, but DRS and the KERS boost were dead.  He would start from the pit lane, struggle to catch the backmarkers, and retire when it came time for the first pit stops when it wouldn't restart.

*THE RACE:  After all that drama, polesitter Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg's teammate and sitting second in Championship race, had to be grinning from ear to ear.  He had to be the favorite today before Rosberg's problems, now it was a gimme.  Except when the lights went out, it was clear that he wasn't going to have it all his way.  Ferrari's HWMNBN jumped from 5th to 2nd in one turn,  then relinquishing the position to Red Bull's Seb Vettel by Turn 3... and neither of them were in a mood to let the Mercedes run away and hide.

*SAFETY CAR:  On Lap 30, Hamilton had six second lead over HWMNBN.  But then the inevitable occurred: a safety car came out to clean up debris after a surprisingly messy loss of a front wing, scattering carbon fiber shards hither and yon.  It took nearly 20 minutes and seven laps for the clean-up to complete, setting up an interesting situation.  Hamilton at this moment was on barely-used super-soft tires, while his three immediate challengers (HWMNBN, Vettel, and Daniel Ricciardio) were on softs.  The good news for Hamilton was that he would be about two full seconds per lap faster than his opponents.  There were two bits of bad news: 1) the super-softs wouldn't last the rest of the race, and B) he had to stop, by rule, to put on the soft tires anyway.  So to have a chance to pit without losing the lead, he needed to open up a thirty second lead.

*THERE WE GO:   On Lap 37, the race resumed.  By Lap 45, the Merc driver had a 17 second lead over Vettel, who had leapfrogged HWMNBN in the pits.  On Lap 51, he had a 25 second lead, but the super-softs were failing; a radio call to the pit wall made his concern clear as he pointed out wear lines appearing on his rear tires.  Reluctantly, he dove into the pits for a 2.9second stop.  Had it been enough?

*THE END:  It wasn't.  When he returned to the track, he was in second place behind Vettel and with Ricciardio close behind.  But it was Lap 53 of 61, and Hamilton was on new rubber.  By Lap 55 he had retaken the lead, and began to open the gap up once again.  Once the race bumped up against the two hour time limit, ending the contest a lap early, Hamilton had a thirteen second lead again.  He led Vettel and Ricciardio home ahead of HWMNBN, taking the win and the lead in the World Driver's Championship in the process.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Jules Vergne, Toro Rosso.  Huh?  We didn't even mention him during the recap, but here we are.  Vergne, driving for his F1 life, started the race in 12th and during the course of the contest suffered two five-second penalties for leaving the track limits.  Despite this, he still managed to bring his Toro Rosso up through the field to finish in sixth place.  If someone like HWMNBN or Rosberg had done this, eh, whatever, it's the car.  You can't say that about the Toro Rosso.  Great job, Vergne!

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Red Bull.  2-3 on the podium, and if they get a break or two, they still have a shot at the Constructor's Championship to boot.

*MOMENT OF THE RACE:  This doesn't always have to be important to the final outcome.  This time, it was when a Williams mechanic decided to slap a co-worker.  How extraordinary.  The team is claiming it was "banter," but if we "bantered" like that here at F1U! HQ, there'd be lawsuits.

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"Ha ha ha ah ah ahahahah hahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahaaha!" - Lewis Hamilton

"Mmm... cold champagne!" - 4Time Vettel

"My brakes were acting up, KERS and DRS were unhappy, and I still finish third?  Hooly Dooly!" - Daniel Ricciardio

"Damn Safety Car came out at just the wrong time... but then, I shouldn't complain, should I?" - HWMNBN

"Huh.  Fernando really was faster than me." - Felipe Massa

That's enough for today.  Our next race will be in two weeks, at Suzuka Japan!  We'll see you then!

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September 07, 2014

Mini-F1Update!: Italy 2014

Blue skies and hot asphalt greeted the F1 Circus as they cautiously eyed the old intimidating banked oval just beyond the pits at the Autodromo di Monza, home of the Italian Grand Prix.  The usual suspects were stacked at the top of the grid, and it seemed like a parade of epic stature was about to begin.  Did it?  Or did the Ferrari-mad tifosi celebrate a miracle victory by the Red Cars?  THIS is your mini-F1Update! for the 2014 Grand Prix of Italy!

*THE RACE: ...was boring as heck.  We didn't even get the anticipated duel between the Mercedes teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, sitting 1-2 on the grid, as they charged down into the first turn.  Hamilton's electronics got uppity and wouldn't allow him to engage race start settings.  As a result, when the lights went out he immediately dropped to fourth place, swamped by the better starters.  In the process, he bottled Williams' Valterri Bottas up behind him, which saw the Finn drop down to 11th, practically never to be seen again.  However, once the issue cleared up, the superior Mercedes chassis began to work it's way to the front.  By Lap 4, he was in third.  By Lap 10, he was in second and gunning for the leader.  An unexpected excursion by Rosberg into the first chicane's run-off area cut the lead to two seconds, and after the first (and expected to be ONLY) pit stop, another blown first chicane handed Hamilton the lead.  As it turned out, it also handed him the victory, as Rosberg had no way to fight back.  However annoying that may have been to the Championship leader, it's still clear that the Mercedes is the class of the field: third place went to Williams' Felipe Massa, some 22 seconds behind Rosberg, with Massa's teammate Bottas some 15 seconds adrift of him.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE: Daniil "Kid" Kvyat.  Many of you are wondering who the heck this is.  Driving for Toro Rosso, Kvyat began the race 21st due to an engine change after qualifying 11th.  He then managed to haul his Toro Rosso up to 11th by the end of the race after running as high as fourth... a pretty darn good performance when the rest of the field was very much a parade.

*TEAM OF THE RACE
:  Williams.  They finished third and fourth, with Massa getting his first podium.  They're proving to be a serious challenger for 2nd in the constructor's championship.  They've got to make up 95 points in six races, but that's doable.  That'll be an interesting thing to watch the rest of the way.

*MOMENT OF THE RACE:  No question, Rosberg deciding to preserve his tires and taking to the run-off area for the second time.  This handed the win to Lewis Hamilton... and was undoubtedly the right thing to do.  If he had locked up his tires and flat-spotted one or more of them, he'd need to make a second pit stop and could easily have finished third or worse.  He may not be as fast as Hamilton on track, but he's still in the lead in the Driver's Championship.

*SELECTED DRIVERS QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"HELL yeah.  Who's da man?" - Lewis Hamilton

"Second place is still good." - Nico Rosberg

"See?  I can still drive." - Felipe Massa

"I'm happy for Felipe.  Really.  I am." - Valterri Bottas

"(grin)" - Daniel Ricciardo

"Does anybody else think that all that smiling has got to be a put-on?" - 4Time Vettel

"Was I ever on TV today?" - Sergio Perez

"Retire?  Me?  Well, maybe so." - Jenson Button

"Mrmsmdmdfsfdmhl mrlrmrlbrlrbr lrmlrmlrmrbrr." - Kimi Raikkonen

"Me, I'm not so good." - Kevin Magnussen

Two weeks hence, Singapore's street circuit awaits us.  See ya there!

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