April 17, 2016

miniF1Update!: China 2016

The sun shone beautifully in the sky as points leader Nico Rosberg brought the Thundering Herd around to the grid at Shanghai International, easily the nicest weather the teams had seen all weekend.  Which is not the unadulterated blessing you may think it is; after all, the cars never ran in sunny conditions in practice, who knows if the teams got their setups right?  Rosberg's main rival, Lewis Hamilton, was starting from last on the grid, deciding not to start from the pit lane.  How would this play out?  And would Ferrari finally make their challenge to the Mercedes domination stick?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of China!

*LIGHTS OUT:  In Formula 1, you can't always count on a good race, but you can always count on a wild and wooly first lap, and China coughed up a good one today.  Our polesitter had the latest in what's becoming a trend of Mercedes crappy starts, allowing the Red Bull of Smiley Ricciardo to take the lead into Turn 1.  Behind them, all was chaos.  The two Ferraris bounced off each other, aided by the Kid Kvyat's Red Bull making a mad dash up the inside of them.  Kimi Raikkonen went sailing off into the hinterlands as a result, his front wing gone away.  Vettel, on the other hand, continued, but with a damaged front wing that would be replaced at the first pit stop.  Farther back, the Haas of Lettuce Grosjean wound up with nose damage as well.  Even further back... okay, look: we here at F1U! have a belief that if a car that is normally up at the front of the grid is starting from the back for whatever reason, it's better and safer to start them from the pit lane.  That way, they avoid the first corner demolition derby and won't lose too much time in the process.  Lewis Hamilton, however, elected to start from 22nd on the grid, stating that he was going to start passing people at the earliest opportunity and go all-out to catch his teammate.  Instead, he was collected by the Sauber of Felipe Not Massa Nasr, his front wing wound up stuck underneath his Mercedes, and he had to limp around to the pits, the first of an incredible five pitstops on the day for the reigning World Champion.

*AND THEN...: On Lap 3, with DRS enabled, Rosberg swung wide to pass the leader Ricciardo.  As he pulled alongside, the left-rear tire of the Red Bull shredded itself on some carbon fiber debris left behind by one car or another.  He limped back to the pits, but any thoughts of a podium for him were left behind with the tire carcass.  A safety car came out a lap or two later, ostensibly for the clearing of debris (and there was a lot of it around the circuit), but as the Legendary Announce Team put it, it would give the drivers a chance to cool off... we here at F1U! had images of someone pulling out a firehose... and get back to calm and collected racing.  Not that it did much for Seb Vettel's mood: as he dove for the pit lane, he discovered two cars ahead of him, with Nico Hulkenberg's Force India moving slowly in front... certainly to open a gap to his teammate, as the team had decided to "double-stack" them, bringing both cars in at once.  So Vettel, in no mood for such things, passed them in the pit-in.  Not only was it perfectly legal, but Hulkenberg got a five-second time penalty for driving slower than warranted and causing a hazard.  This race had everything!

*WOO.  YAY.  WHEE.:  Until it didn't.  After the restart, which Rosberg handled with aplomb, the race wasn't all that much of a much.  The Mercedes went galloping out over the horizon, barely to be seen again.  At one point in the race, he pitted from the lead... the entire pitstop took just over 24 seconds, including the roll in and the roll out... and still had a 12 second lead when he returned to the track.

*SAILING HOME:  Rosberg made it three-for-three for the season, and six out of the last six, winning by nearly 40 seconds over the second-place Ferrari of Seb Vettel.  Some say that Rosberg is still out on track somewhere, gliding around out of sight of the FOM cameras....  Third and fourth places went to the Red Bulls of Kid Kvyat and Smiley Ricciardo,  45 and 52 seconds behind.  The other Ferrari, that of Kimi Raikkonen was fifth, 65 seconds in arrears.  Lewis Hamilton, who before the race said that he was "perfectly situated" in the championship, finished seventh.  And for the first time, both Haas cars finished the race with Esteban! finishing 14th, Lettuce Grosjean 19th.  No points, but just as important in a way.

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"So, how's that championship working out for you, Lewis?  Lewis?  Where are ya, buddy?" - Nico Rosberg

"Um.  Whoops." - Seb Vettel

"Yeah, take that Sebby!  That'll teach you to mess with a Russian!" - Kid Kvyat

"*grin*" - Smiley Ricciardo

"mrmrmdbsldlsm mmrmrrbrmmlm mrmrlrbrrbbbblrlrbm mrmrmrl." - Kimi Raikkonen

"Damn, I'm good... starting from last place, making five pit stops, and still getting in the points?  I'm mega!  Buy my rap album!" - Lewis Hamilton

"It was fun out there today!" - Esteban!  (note: real quote)

"It was a horrific race." - Lettuce Grosjean (note: real quote)

In two weeks, we find ourselves in Russia.  Dosvydanya and see ya then!

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