November 18, 2018

F1 Backdate: Mexico 2018

Hello, and welcome to the first ever F1 Backdate!  When I'm running stupidly late on coverage of a F1 race, this is going to be the result:  a look back at the most important aspects of the race with benefit of a week's worth of analysis.  Let's get back(date) to it!

*WHAT HAPPENED:  DH Verstappen and False Esteban! had a coming-together on Lap 44.  FE! was in 16th and a lap down on the Dutchman, who was legitimately leading the race and appeared to be cruising to a victory.  However, the Force India driver had only recently emerged from the pits with a brand-new set of tires, while Verstappen was on fairly used rubber.  Thus, False Esteban! was substantially quicker than the Red Bull as they came down the pit straight.  He managed to get alongside the outside of Red Bull, and held that position through Turn 1.  This put him on the inside for Turn 2, and stayed very close to the curb as the two entered the turn.  Verstappen, on the other hand held the normal line.  The result was predictable:
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Not only did Lewis Hamilton, who was trailing Verstappen by a few seconds, take the lead but Verstappen suffered enough damage that he had no chance at all of catching the Mercedes driver.  He still finished second, but his profanity-laced radio calls showed the level of agitation he was suffering.  On the podium, he looked angry enough to spit teeth.  In the interview room, he called the Force India driver "a p*ssy", while Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen had to restrain themselves from laughing out loud.  Verstappen would later get into an altercation with False Esteban! that involved shoving and vituperation.  He would be assigned two days of "public service" by the FIA for that.

*ANALYSIS OR SOMETHING LIKE IT:  So who's to blame for this incident that probably cost Verstappen the victory?  False Esteban! was given a 10-second stop/go penalty during the race, very nearly the stiffest the stewards could hand out, just short of an exclusion.  So no matter what the rules say, the Force India driver was at fault.  That being said, the actual sporting regulations are... contradictory... on this matter.

On one hand, a backmarker is 100% allowed to unlap himself from the leader during a race.  Also, in any passing situation the driver in front must leave at least a one-car gap; clearly Verstappen did not do this, closing down on False Esteban! in Turn 2.  By those rules Verstappen was the cause of the collision.  The rules also say that any pass must be accomplished in a safe and controlled manner, and thus False Esteban! should have backed off and waited, probably making the pass down the back straight with DRS assistance.

But there's also the rules of common sense.  Common sense says that False Esteban! was an idiot to challenge the race leader at that time and place... he was in 16th, for heaven's sake.  What was the point?  He was faster, on fresh tires, and could have waited a couple of turns without costing himself anything... and it's not like the Red Bull wouldn't be passing him again once the Force India's tires wet off.  Common sense also says that DH Verstappen shouldn't have put himself into that position.  He had nothing to gain and everything to lose by futzing about with the backmarker, and should have given him plenty of room.  Think of it like False Esteban! was a drunk fratboy staggering around a party throwing punches.  Anybody with a lick of common sense would move back and avoid the punches.  Verstappen just walked into a punch he could have easily avoided.

I'm inclined to declare this a 'racing incident' and let it go.  False Esteban! was an idiot for trying that move when he did and thus costing the Red Bull driver the win.  DH Verstappen was an idiot for not giving the Force India the room it needed, and thus costing himself the win.  I really want to point at Verstappen and say "you're a fool."  The thing is, could he have really expected the Force India driver to be where he was?  A backmarker isn't supposed to push like that... and that's a failing of the "Blue Flag Mentality" that Formula 1 has.  Slower cars are supposed to get out of the way of the leaders after all.  I don't have an answer for any of that. I'm not sure there is an answer without rewriting the rules.  Both drivers legitimately had a right to be where they were when the accident occurred.

The stewards thought Ocon caused an accident, thus was at fault.  I guess that's the answer we have to go with, but it doesn't overly sit well with me.

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November 05, 2018

F1 Update: Mexico 2018, The Eight Days After Edition

I think doing an actual writeup for the 2018 Grand Prix of Mexico would be somewhat pointless now, so instead let's take a look at the fallout from it, shall we?

*DISPARITY:  For whatever reason, the Mexico track this time around just highlighted the gulf that exists between the Haves and the Have Nots.  Only four cars were on the lead lap at the end: Verstappen, Vettel, Raikkonen and Hamilton, aka Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.  Fifth place was Bottas in the other Mercedes, a lap down.  Then came pretty much everybody else two laps down.  It's been a long time since we've seen that sort of split.  Because it's been such a long time, I'm inclined to not worry too much... things happen like that sometimes.  If it happens again though...

*(THROWS ENERGY DRINK AGAINST WALL):  You'll note that the only driver of the Big Three missing was Smiley Ricciardo.  That's because he DNF'd... again, his eighth of the season, and fourth in the last seven races.  When a clutch problem that began on Lap 5 finally became terminal with 10 laps to go, the Aussie was in second place and under no threat at all from Seb Vettel.  Amusingly, as he walked away from the car, he flipped it off.  It then burst into flames.  Suprisingly, team principal Christian Horner did not burst into flames when Ricciardo later said in an interview that he doesn't "see the point of coming any more, of doing the last two races.  Let Ghastly drive it, I'm done with it."  Of course, he is leaving for Renault next year, and Pierre Ghastly is moving in.  I feel for him, I really do... and also suggest that if Red Bull can get the young Frenchman out of Toro Rosso in time for the next race, they should.  It just seems wrong to have someone that doesn't want to drive in the cockpit... particularly as it won't make any difference: Red Bull is locked into third in the constructor's championship, they cannot gain or lose places.  Neither of their drivers are in any sort of driver's championship points battle, so you may as well put the new kid in the car, get him some practice with the big team.  We love Smiley Ric, but it'd be for the best.

*VERGOIN':  With his win, DH Verstappen became the driver with the most race victories in F1 history never to have gotten a pole position.  He now has five, including Mexico back-to-back years.  I find him to be a sulky brat with a tendency towards self-destruction on the track occasionally, but he's also a talented driver.  And it's not like F1 hasn't seen drivers behaving like children before.  Of course, DH still IS a child, so...

*FIVE: Of course, some guy named Hamilton won his fifth world title with his fourth place finish, joining some fairly exclusive company... St Fangio the Quick and Slappy.  If you're curious, here's the song used in that video.  I don't really have that much to say about Hamilton's championship; he's pretty clearly the best driver in F1 today, he's almost certainly got the best team behind him, and while the car may not be the best on the track anymore, it's not very far behind.  Anybody believe that he couldn't end up with eight Driver's Championships if he feels motivated enough?  It'd be hard to bet against him right now.

*NEXT!:  So what do we have to look forward to in the next two races?  A lot of battles lower down the championship tables, mostly.  Haas shot their chances at being fourth in the constructor's championship in the foot with dual DNFs in Mexico.  They're 30 points behind Renault, while McLaren is 22 points behind them in sixth.  Even if they've only got a third as many points as third place, finishing fourth in the constructor's race in their third year of existence would be quite the thing.  The American team has finished eighth the previous two years.

Brazil is the next race, coming up this weekend... and we all know how much I dearly love Interlagos.  See you soon!

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