September 09, 2012

F1 Update!: 2012 Grand Prix of Italy

A lovely day awaited the F1 Circus as the McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button led the field to the starting grid.  But would the British pair dominate in Italy, or would the tifosi get to celebrate a Ferrari resurgence?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2012 Grand Prix of Italy!

*LIGHTS OUT:  The beginning of the race saw something of a surprise when Ferrari's Felipe Massa got the jump on a sluggishly-starting Jenson Button, serving notice that he was out to prove something to the fans, his team, and perhaps most importantly, his teammate, HWMNBN, languishing down in 10th place.  However, other than a nearly-brakeless run into the first chicane, Massa could do nothing with Lewis Hamilton, who began to gallop off into the Italian afternoon.

*RELIABILITY I:  Toro Rosso's Jules Vergne was having a Toro Rosso sort of day.  Starting 17th, he was still more or less in that position as he came down the pit straight at 210mph to begin Lap 10.  Entering the braking zone for the first chicane, he pressed down hard on the "whoa" pedal... and felt the back end of his car snap away from him.  It was later found that his rear suspension failed, and there was nothing any driver could have done, cold comfort for a driver approaching the ridiculously high curbing at a still-elevated speed.

Vergne's wheelie nearly turned into a full-fledged tumble when he hit the "sleeping policemen" in the run-off area while somewhat sideways, but Lady Luck smiled upon him, bringing him down on all four tires pointing more-or-less the direction of travel.  It took a lap to clear the remains, but the race continued essentially unimpeded.

*MEANWHILE:  On Lap 19, Jenson Button finally got past Felipe Massa to reclaim 2nd place.  Behind the ailing Ferrari, which had suffered an electrical fault that had rendered the telemetry feed null and void,  Red Bull's Seb Vettel and the red car of HWMNBN pitted at the same time and came out with the reigning world champion inches ahead of the Spaniard.  A few laps later, the faster Ferrari tried to pass the German driver aroudn the outside of the Curva Grande in what looked to be a mirror image of the Move Of The Race from last year.  Except for one thing: Seb Vettel was having none of it.

Despite the Ferrari being alongside him, Vettel kept squeezing, forcing HWMNBN to take to the grass.  How he managed to keep the red car from spearing off into the great unknown is beyond us.  The stewards took a dim view of the young German's actions and slapped him with a drive-through penalty, but not until shortly after HWMNBN managed to pass the Red Bully on his own for 4th place.

*RELIABILITY II:  Jenson Button had reason to feel confident.  He had won last week at Spa, and was sitting in second place, just a few ticks behind his teammate Lewis Hamilton.  He might not win the race, but he had to have been thinking podium (and an improved position in the Driver's Championship ranking, as well).  Then without warning, it all came to an end on Lap 34, when a fuel pickup problem shut his engine off and sent him coasting to a halt on the side of the track.

*SUPER SAUBER STRATEGY:  Sergio Perez started the race 12th on the grid.  After running his hard tires for 32 laps or so, he finally came in for his one and only pit-stop, the last to do so.  He emerged in eighth, and immediately began to show that the Sauber chassis really really liked the softer tire.  Lap after lap, Perez had the fastest car on track.  Eventually he was up in second place, a full second per lap quicker than leader Lewis Hamilton.

*RELIABILITY III and IV:  Earlier in the race weekend, Seb Vettel had an alternator fail on his RB8, ending his practice session early.  Today, a radio call to his teammate Mark Webber was the first indication that there could be a problem: "Seb has a problem that might end his race at any time, be careful."  Indeed, a few minutes later on Lap 48, the world champion was pulling over, his race ended by a truly frantic radio call to 'stop the car and save the engine.' 

Webber got to enjoy his promotion for a few laps until he too ended up withdrawing from the race.  In his case, however, it was less mechanical and more tire-related.  A late spin on worn tires put massive flat spots on all four corners, and he had to crawl back to the pit lane at reduced speed to keep the suspension-threatening vibration down; at speed, Webber said that he couldn't see the track because the vibration was so bad.

This was the first time since Korea 2010 that Red Bull did not earn points in a race.

*THE END:  The only laps Lewis Hamilton did not lead today were the ones Sergio Perez held before he made his very late pit stop.  Fittingly, Perez finished 2nd, a mere four seconds behind Hamilton and closing fast.  Behind him, HWMNBN came in 3rd, nine seconds ahead of his teammate Felipe Massa.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Sergio Perez started 12th, stayed on-track on his first set of tires longer than anybody, then regained six places after he stopped.  He finished second for the second time this season, and now must be considered a dark horse for a win this year.

:  Ferrari.  They finished both cars while their two closest rivals, McLaren and Red Bull, could only get one across the line combined.  In the process, they've made great strides in the constructor's championship.  Not exactly what the tifosi wanted, but it's a decent enough consolation prize.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 37, Sergio Perez tried to pass Kimi Raikkonen at the first chicane for 4th place, and had his hat handed to him.  So on the following lap, he tried it again.

This time it worked, the Sauber slithering around the outside of the first bend, then powering around the second while the Lotus tried everything he could think of short of squeezing the Mexican to prevent the pass.  Nothing worked, and Perez took off after Felipe Massa for third.  A nice pass for the driver of the race, with a pat on the helmet for the Finn for letting it happen safely.

*MOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  On Lap 22, Felipe Massa led Seb Vettel and HWMNBN after all three had made their pit stops.  Coming out, they found themselves behind the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo.  Massa made a speed move just before they entered Variante Della Roggia, followed by Vettel a moment later... a moment too late.

Boop!  In NASCAR, it's called "bump drafting."  In F1, Vettel is lucky he didn't lose his front wing... but, to be fair, it was awfully gentle contact.  There wasn't even much of a mark on the yellow nose cone of the RB8.  But we're talking about the reigning world champion here, so he gets the Mooooo!


"I haven't learned anything from Jenson." - Lewis Hamilton (note: real quote)

"I'm not driving to join Ferrari, I'm driving for my team.  Never mind the red hat." - Sergio Perez

"When I found myself fighting with Vettel I went off the track and, from then on, the car was not right. It wasn't nice." - HWMNBN (note: real quote)

"They told me to manage my tires.  How could they tell my tires were wearing, they had no telemetry!  I'll tell you, that wasn't what they were telling me, they were telling me to let HWMNBN go by." - Felipe Massa (note: doesn't matter, team orders are legal this year)

"mrmrbrlnrmrm  mrmrbrrbqmrmrl rmmrsdjhfkjmrmmr mrlrormmror Eyjafjallajokull." - Kimi Raikkonen

"I kind of ran out of laps this afternoon." - Slappy Schumacher (note: real quote.  For what?)

"It's better than I've finished recently." - Nico Rosberg (note: real quote)

"Y'know, I had better hopes than 8th for this weekend.  Shows how far Force India's come, doesn't it?" - Paul di Resta

"How did he...?  I don't even...?  HOW?" - Gandalf Kobayashi (referring to his teammate)

"I got a point!" - Bruno Senna

"I wasn't a danger to myself or others!" - Sister Maldonado

"I lost 10th and 11th place at the very last moment.  I went into Parabolica ahead of Senna, pressed down on the accelerator to come out... and nothing happened.  I feel sick." - Daniel Ricciardo (note: true story)

"No, it wasn't hard (twitch) to drive (twitch) the Lotus at (twitchtwitch) Monza for my (twitch) first race of (twitch) the season (twitch).  Why do you (hrrrrk) ask?" - Custard d'Ambrosio

"We didn't expect to do all that well here.  We're down on top speed.  Also grip, maneuverability, reliability and groupies." - Heikki Kovaleinninninnie

"Particularly groupies." - The Red Menace

"You think you've got problems?  I drive for a team that used to be called Virgins." - Charles ToothPic

A bitter shame on my side really." - Tim O'Glockenspiel (note: real quote)

"Fine, he outqualified me.  BFD." - Pete Rose

"Every race brings me closer to home." - Narain Kittylitter

"Sod the tires, I've got a life to live." - Mark Webber

"I had the pornstar brakes today... the pedal kept getting longer and longer, until it was dangerous." - Nico Hulkenberg

"Feh." - Seb Vettel

"Double Feh." - Jenson Button


And that wraps it up from Italy and the European leg of the season.  Next we meet, we'll be under the lights in Singapore!  See you then.

Oh, and Episode 05 of McLaren Tooned:

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:38 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 Another interesting race.  I was surprised at how often there where two or even four wheels off into the dirt, though.  My butt and back winced in sympathy when Vergne went flying.  Good write-up, as always!

Posted by: David at September 10, 2012 10:40 AM (+yn5x)

2 He (Perez) finished second for the second time this season, and now must be considered a dark horse for a win this year.

If you look back, after his second place in Montréal, I was saying that Sergio would be a contender if he could keep his performance up. I thought for sure that this race was going to be his race. I still feel like he will get his maiden victory this year.

This has been a great (even if crazy) season. I don't agree with those who are saying that this is a bad thing ("F1 is now a lottery" and the like), because not knowing who is going to win actually makes it fun to watch. It has been fun seeing the smaller teams like Sauber and Force India actually having expectations of doing well! After watching Formula 1 for all these seasons I am glad to see Peter Sauber and his team finally getting back something for Peter's investment. (I  enjoyed what Peter said in an interview with Sky Sports F1 after the race: "We had the fastest car here.") I just wish that Jordan and Minardi could have stuck around. (Wow, I went into a rant... sorry!) To make this shorter, I just hope that the rules will allow the craziness to continue this season and into future seasons.

Posted by: Kyle Gottfried at September 10, 2012 03:30 PM (6EX58)

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