March 30, 2015

F1 Update: Malaysia 2015

We here at F1Update! want to try something new.  Our usual "bullet point style" of coverage has gotten pretty darn tiring to us since it really feels like we're just saying the same things over and over again each race.  So instead, we're going to be a little more... chatty, shall we say?  Possibly less informative, too, but nobody says we're going to stick with this style.  So THIS is your F1Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Malaysia... relaxed version!

As we put this together, the race was over more than a half-day ago.  Many of you will have already learned that, for the first time since Spain in May of 2013, a Ferrari driver stood on the top step of the podium.  Sebastian Vettel, in only his second race for the team from Maranello, beat the twin Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg by roughly nine and 13 seconds, respectively.  The other Red Car didn't do too badly either as Kimi Raikkonen brought his Ferrari across the finish line in fourth after an incident-plagued race.  This was Vettel's first race win since Brazil in 2013.

Many pundits are saying that Ferrari's performance today means that they'll be challenging the Silver Arrows for the rest of the season, and that's entirely possible.  There are a few indicators that suggest that this may not be the case.  First off, the nature of Sepang International Circuit itself.  Malaysia is incredibly hot and humid when it's not raining (then it's hot, humid and raining).  At one point during race weekend the surface temperature of the track was over 160°F. (that's nearly £85 for those of you overseas readers!), much hotter than anybody could have possibly expected.  As a result, the Pirelli tires were suffering from blisters and higher-than-normal degradation.  There was no reason to complain, as it wasn't overly bad and everybody had the same situation anyway.  When it came to the race, Ferrari made their tires work better longer than anybody else.  It seems that the SF15-T is gentle on its tires... or gentler, at least.  Perhaps having Vettel behind the wheel helps as well.  In any case, the Red Car of the four-time world champion was able to run the race on two pit stops, while the two Mercedes had to make three... and that's the difference, right there.

Of course, there's always more to the story.  One could also say that Mercedes lost the race during Q1 and Q2 on Saturday.  With heavy rains bearing down on the circuit, the German team decided to do something they almost never do: burn a set of the softer, Option, tires during Q1 to make sure they got through to Q2.  They stayed on the Option tire again in the few laps they were able to turn before le deluge came down.  Arguably, Mercedes could have stayed true to form and run the harder Prime tire in Q1 and still progressed to the next phase of Qualifying.  Why is this important?  Because for Hamilton's last stint, when he was going to have fresher tires than Vettel and thus had the best chance to catch him, the team was forced to put him on the Prime tires because the Options they had remaining would never have lasted until the end of the race.  The Options were somewhere around 1.0 to 1.5 seconds/lap faster than the Primes, and he pitted on Lap 40 of a 56 lap race.  Hamilton finished just over 8.6 second behind... you do the math.


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March 15, 2015

F1 Update: Australia 2015

Some might call what happened in Melbourne a farce.  Others could characterize it as an example of everything that's wrong with Formula 1.  We here at F1U! look at it and wonder what an Australian hot dog would have for toppings.  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Australia!

*SECOND VERSE:  Stop us if you've heard this one before.  Lights go out, Lewis Hamilton runs away and is next seen by TV cameras with two laps left as the announcers wax rhapsodic about the level of domination both he and Mercedes displayed during the race.  Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg ran a race just as good as Hamilton's, only blemished by not being able to catch the reigning World Champion despite similar equipment.  That Rosberg was over 35 seconds ahead of the third place finisher should tell you everything you need to know about how the race went.

*THAT WAS UNEXPECTED:  Okay, first and second were pretty much locks.  But what about the rest of the race?  From all appearances, if it wasn't for Mercedes we might have a helluva season on our hands.  The five spots from third through seventh were claimed by five different teams... in order: Ferrari, Williams, Sauber (!), Red Bull, and Force India.  The first team to double up was Sauber (!!) in 8th, followed by a sixth team, Toro Rosso in 9th.  That's a great distribution, and one that's unfortunately not going to repeat itself. 

*WHAT?  WHY NOT?:  Because you don't often have races that end with 11 cars running, that's why.  Bad enough that Manor DNQ'd and we were beginning the race with 18 cars.  Then news came down that Williams' Valterri Bottas had a back injury and couldn't race, dropping us to 17.  As if that wasn't enough, McLaren's HWMNBN'DSI had his engine grenade itself on the sedate drive to the pre-race grid.  A minute later, the Red Bull of Daniil Kyvat rolled to a stop, his gearbox transformed from a precisely tuned instrument to a handful of metal shavings and hate.  We were down to 15.  By the end of the first lap, Lotus' Pastor Maldonado was in the wall, aided in his destruction by Sauber's Felipe Nasr.  The other Lotus driver, Lettuce Grosjean, pitted at the end of Lap 1, his engine performing like the team installed the turbocharger backwards, and the fans in Melbourne were watching 13 cars race.  On Lap 34, Junior Verstappen's debut race came to an end with a high-pitched report of "smoke in the cockpit" and a plume behind him, and then there were 12.  A few laps later, Ferrari let Mumbles Raikkonen leave the pits with one of his tires attached incompletely, ending his day just a few turns out of the pit lane.  Eleven.  The slowest car on the grid, Jenson Button's McLaren, very nearly earned a point by not failing, despite ending the race two laps down.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Felipe Nasr, Sauber.  Last year, Sauber had the worst season in their history, scoring zero points and nearly having to pack it in for lack of funds.  This year, they're racing two rookies because they brought huge checkbooks to the table.  Well, one of the rookies showed he's not afraid to hang with the big names of the sport, finishing fifth ahead of Daniel Riccardo and just behind Felipe Massa.  Oh, and coincidentally earning 10 points for Sauber.  Not bad, kid... now do it again!

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Well, Mercedes of course.  I could give it to Sauber for getting both drivers in the points after last year's debacle, or McLaren for getting one car to the end of the race (the longest they've managed to have a car survive in 2015), but Merc made it clear that this is their season to lose.

*MOMENT OF THE RACE: After Pastor Maldonado's Lotus was installed into the wall between Turns 1 and 2 on the first lap, the Safety Car was summoned for a few laps.  On the restart, leader Lewis Hamilton was granted a boon from the Restart Gods.  It only felt like he had a three second head-start as they crossed the line; in reality it took him the entire rest of the lap to open up a 2-1/2 second lead over his teammate.  If there was any question that Hamilton wanted the win today, that perfectly timed restart dispelled it.


"It's nice to see Ferrari back on the podium, we'll have a good scrap with them the rest of the way... hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahaahahahahahaahahah!" - Lewis Hamilton

"It's a long season with lots of races to go.  I can still beat Lewis." - Nico Rosberg (note: hahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahaa!)

"I drank the champagne on the podium and I saved some for the guys in the team, because they told me they like it a lot." - Seb Vettel (note: real quote)

"I believe that Mercedes isn't giving us the same engine they have in their car.  They're doing it to help Ferrari.  Why?  Aliens.  I'm not wearing any pants.  There are no grapes in grapefruit." - Felipe Massa

"I am very happy with fifth position in my first Formula 1 race.  And that I'm single, young and a F1 driver.  My life is perfect right now." - Felipe Nasr

"Meat pies, vegemite and tim-tams for everybody!" - Daniel Riccardo

"I said something boring and generic to commemorate my 7th place finish." - Nico Hulkenberg

"Bet Giedo van de Garde wishes he coughed up more money now, huh?" - Marcus Ericsson

"It's 'Carlos Sainz', not 'Horatio Sanz.'  I just want to make that clear." - Horatio Sanz

"I was faster than Button." - Sergio Perez

"Today was a good day.  No, really!  We got a lot of data, we didn't explode or electrocute anybody, so it's a good day.  And we were almost in the points." - Jenson Button

Two weeks from now is Malaysia... see you then!

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March 14, 2015

Australia 2015 Runup UPDATED

This is ridiculous.

First came the news that Valterri Bottas is out.  As mentioned earlier, he had a back injury that was probably suffered during Q2 when he ran wide out of a turn and hit a rough patch in the grass.  News from the track is that the injury has limited his flexibility that he cannot get out of the car under the FIA-mandated time.  For example, if he was in a crash and the car caught on fire, he'd be unable to get out before his firesuit would be compromised.  Well, that makes sense, safety first.

Then just a few minutes ago we saw the McLaren of HWMNBN'DSI die on the side of the track on its way to the grid, vast amounts of smoke emanating from the Honda lump in the back.  So slow and unreliable, great combination that!

As if that wasn't enough, Daniil Kvyat's Red Bull rolled to a stop on his way out, though without the mosquito repellant.  It looked like it just shut off, though we're now hearing that it's a gearbox problem.

So this means that we'll be beginning the 2015 Australian Grand Prix with fifteen cars.  Joy.

More if events warrant.

One lap in, and we're down to thirteen cars, as both Lotuses are out... one to accident, one apparently down to a trashed transmission.  McLaren might still get a point... only three to go!

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