May 24, 2015

F1 Update: Monaco 2015

A glorious day broke over the Principality, greeting the twenty stars of the F1 Circus as they formed on the grid.  Would the weather stay that way, or would there be rain?  Would the Silver Arrow of polesitter Lewis Hamilton lead the way to victory?  Could his teammate Nico Rosberg earn his third win on the narrow streets?  Or would someone like Ferrari's Seb Vettel or Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo take the win on the shortest circuit on the Formula 1 calendar?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Monaco!

*PREDICTABLE:  When the lights went out and the race began, it went exactly the way everybody expected, with Lewis Hamilton handily beating the rest of the field to Turn 1 and pulling away.  Here at F1U! HQ, eyes rolled like billiard balls on a ship in the North Atlantic... we knew what was about to happen.  And we were mostly right.

*AND OFF HE GOES:  While Rosberg, Vettel and a surprising Daniil Kyvat watched in horror, Hamilton went galloping off over the horizon.  By the end of three laps, he was over two seconds ahead of his teammate.  At a circuit like Monaco, this is as close to insurmountable without technical failure or accident as its possible to get.  The race was going to be for second... and even that seemed to have been locked in place as well.  So, third then?  Nope, Vettel looked to have that nailed down, too.  So, Red Bull fighting amongst themselves for fourth, swell, that's something to look forward to.

*SURE ENOUGH:  Occasionally Monaco will cough up a dramatic race... 2014, for example, when Jules Bianchi earned the points that wound up allowing Marussia/Manor to survive to race in 2015, and hostilities between Rosberg and Hamilton became obvious for the first time.  Usually it requires rain, but that wasn't happening this year... and neither was "a dramatic race."  When the first (and only expected) pitstops cycled through, there had been no major changes: Hamilton led Rosberg by ten seconds, and there was no chance that he was going to be caught.  Vettel was about two seconds behind Rosberg, but there was another 10 second gap back to Ricciardo.  We here at F1U! could be excused for occasionally stopping the DVR and flipping over to watch the Indy 500 (and congratulations to former F1 driver Juan Pablo "The Pope" Montoya for his record-breaking win!  He became the driver with the longest gap between Indy 500 victories, 15 years).  By Lap 60, Hamilton held a 19 second lead over his teammate.

*LEARNER'S PERMIT DENIED:  Toro Rosso's Embryo Verstappen was having himself quite the day.  The 17-year-old's first appearance at the Principality was looking to be triumphant, with a great chance to earn points.  He'd worked himself into 11th place and had the Lotus of Lettuce Grosjean in his sights.  After a lap or two of fencing and dicing, he was close enough to make a move.  On Lap 64, he came down the front straight, tailing the Lotus, then as they approached Ste Devote, he slashed to the inside of the Frenchman... just a moment too late.  His front-left suspension turned itself into carbon fiber flinders on Grosjean's right-rear.  The Toro Rosso, suddenly lacking in front-end grip, speared directly into the Tecpro barriers at Turn 1 in as hard an impact as we've seen in some time.  Fortunately, the youngster was unharmed... but the race was completely changed.

*...THE HELL???:  Berndt Maylander, dozing in the front seat of the Safety Car, was woken up and sent on his way.  A number of teams took advantage of the reduced pace of the race to bring their drivers in for a last minute change to the super-soft Option tires, in preparation for a full-blown balls-to-the-wall divebomb run to improve their positions.  Jenson Button, Felipe Not Nasr Massa, Felipe not Massa Nasr, Sergio Perez all came in, as did Daniel Ricciardo in a last-gasp attempt to move onto the podium; he dropped behind his teammate Kyvat in the process.  Mind you, this is on the single track in Formula 1 where it is almost entirely impossible to pass unless you have a ridiculous speed advantage (and sometimes not even then).

*...THE DOUBLE BLOODY HELL???:  All of which made the next occurrence even more confusing.  Lewis Hamilton, who had lead the entire race handily and was able to make his car practically impassable on wide circuits let alone Monaco, brought his car into the pit lane for new tires.  The entire F1U! crew sat there, jaws on the floor, as the team slapped new boots on the Mercedes and set him back out.  He rejoined the race in third place, behind Rosberg and Vettel.  On Lap 70, the race restarted.

*W... T... F...???:  Rosberg immediately ran away from everybody else, building a two second lead in just a single lap.  Hamilton danced and darted around behind the Ferrari of Vettel, but was totally unable to mount a serious challenge.  Meanwhile, Red Bull told Kid Kyvat to let his teammate Ricciardo past; he was on fresh super-soft tires and could potentially make a move on Hamilton for the podium.  Meanwhile, every F1 announcer on the planet tried to make sense of Mercedes' strategy... and couldn't.  A radio call from Hamilton quickly told the story: "I've lost the race, haven't I?"  As it turned out, the answer was yes.  Ricciardo, unable to catch Hamilton, slowed to let his teammate past for fourth, but otherwise the podium remained the same: Hamilton in third, Vettel in second, and Nico Rosberg was the recipient of a gift victory, his third in a row at Monaco.

*AFTER:  Hamilton seemed right on the edge of doing something unseemly after the race.  He pulled his car over at Portier during the cool-down lap and just sat there for a very long time, like he was contemplating switching off and walking to the apartment he keeps that's a short distance from the track.  He then brought his car to the designated podium spot, just in front of the Prince's Box, and ran over his third-place position panel.  Then came the podium ceremony, where his handshake with his teammate was... um... perfunctory at best.  Then he decided not to show up for the post-race team photograph.  In various interviews afterwards, he seemed calm... not "I'm relaxed" calm, but "I'm about to murder you and your family" calm.  Meanwhile, the team apologized to Hamilton for the call, saying that they made a timing mistake.  They believed that they'd be able to bring him in, change the tires, and get him out before Rosberg went by; they were off by about five seconds.  Team Principal Toto Wolff said that it was done to defend against Vettel changing onto the super-softs, but that inadequate timing information made the decision for them.  See, usually timing is confirmed via GPS locating, but the buildings and tunnels of Monaco prevent GPS from being used.  Thus, the team screwed up their calculations.  Why Hamilton didn't object or ignore the instructions, or nobody pointed out that it's nigh-on impossible to pass at Monaco, will forever remain a mystery.


"What the... really?  Really?  Hahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahaha*snerk*hahahahahaha!" - Nico Rosberg

"Remember Multi 21?  I do." - Seb Vettel

"I'm a champion.  I need to act like one.  After I butcher the pit wall in their sleep." - Lewis Hamilton

The Grand Prix of Canada is the next stop on the European leg of the calendar (wha?) in two weeks... we'll see you there and then!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:18 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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May 10, 2015

F1 Update: Spain 2015

A beautiful sunny day rose over Barcalounger as the F1 Circus began its swing across Europe today.  For the first time in 2015, someone other than Lewis Hamilton led the Blundering Herd to the grid as teammate Nico Rosberg had the honors of fast lap during Quals, and he was desperate for a win.  So what happened?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Spain!

Here is the most excitement we had all day:

This is Turns 1 and 2 of the first lap.  Nico Rosberg leads the Ferrari of Seb Vettel, who took advantage of a poor start by Lewis Hamilton to move into second place. 

From this point in time until the end of the race, the Grand Prix of Spain was one of sheer tedium.  There was almost no passing on track, no real drama despite the best efforts of the Legendary Announce Team to create some late in the race, and the only excitement came when two separate front jack men got run over by their cars (McLaren's HWPMBNSTITF suffered brake failure, and Lotus' Lettuce Grosjean suffered brain failure). 

It was a reversion to the bad old days of the early-to-mid 2000s, when all passing was done in the pit lanes, races were processionals, and the winners could often be named before qualifying based on tire manufacturer.  Back then, refueling was the gimmick that allowed for races to hinge on pit strategy.  Now we have DRS which makes it impossible for the car ahead to defend a legit passing attempt, and bodywork that messes up airflow over the car behind, making it impossible for them to get close enough to make a legit passing attempt.

Now, I'm not going to say that every race is going to be a Spanish Grand Prix, and we knew coming in that this wasn't going to be the most interesting race in the world ("I don't always race cars..."), but this was really not good at all.  Nico Rosberg only ever lost the lead during pit stop rotations, and then only briefly.  Hamilton never had a challenge for him and, as previously mentioned, could not do anything about Ferrari's Seb Vettel on track.  A quick change of plan to a three-stop strategy allowed him to race hard enough to pass him in the pits for second.  Fourth was Valterri Bottas in his Williams, another near-podium yet invisible race for the Martini-striped car.  The Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen overcame his qualifying woes to pull himself up to a complaint-filled fifth.  The other Williams, driven by Felipe Massa ended up in sixth, with just as equally invisible a drive as his teammate's.

Nobody else was on the same lap.

So from a nearly-literal snoozefest in Spain, we head next to the Principality of Monaco and the streets of Monte Carlo.  When one thinks of Monaco, the first thing that leaps to mind is not passing.  However, it's such a visceral experience that one barely notices as the cars race down narrow city streets past fans wearing clothes that cost more than the F1 cars going by, or lounging on yachts in the harbor, or sunbathing next to swimming pools on the roofs of gigamillion-dollar hotels.  With everything else going on to excite the senses, the Monaco Grand Prix can get away with it.  Not so with Spain, a bare circuit with little visual stimulation. 

Monaco is the one place on the calendar where raw grunt is not needed.  Perhaps there we will see another dent in the Mercedes domination.  See you in two weeks!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:56 PM | Comments (11) | Add Comment
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