November 27, 2011

F1 Update!: Brazil 2011

The skies above looked ugly, big black clouds approaching the Autodromo Juan Carlos Pace seemingly from all directions.  It wasn't raining yet, but every driver on the grid and every mechanic in the pit lane had an eye cocked towards the heavens, looking for the first hint of drizzle, downpour or deluge.  Would rain be the deciding factor in this, the last race of the season, or would we get a straight-up run to the checkered flag?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2011 Grand Prix of Brazil!

*LIGHTS OUT:  As we've come to expect, once the race began Seb Vettel streaked away from his pole position to open a 1.1 second lead over his teammate Mark Webber.  After two laps, it was 2.4 seconds and this began to have all the hallmarks of a battle to see who would be the first to finish the race AFTER the Driver's Champion.  But all was not well inside the guts of Seb Vettel's RB7.

*INTERLAGOS HATES GEARBOXES:  Around Lap 14 we first got evidence that this race was not going to be going all Seb Vettel's way.  A radio broadcast from the pit wall said it all: "We need you to short shift into second gear."  A couple of laps later came another call: "We have a gearbox problem.  Short shift for second and third gears."  As the race went on we were treated to more such calls... and Seb Vettel's unintentionally humorous responses.  For example, on Lap 25 the team's message was an audibly more urgent "we have a serious gearbox problem, short shift please."  In response, Vettel ripped off the fastest lap of the race thus far.  Then, finally, the team made it perfectly clear to their World Champion that he had to baby the gearbox if he wanted to finish the race: "Short shift every corner, every lap."  If nothing else though, Vettel wanted to race, impending gearbox failure or no, for he replied the way a racer should: "If I do that, I'll fall behind!"  Alas, the radio was cut at that point, for we suspect the pit wall's response would have done justice to a pissed-off Marine drill sergeant.  While Vettel's situation proved to be the most amusing, his was not the only car to be plagued by a balky gearbox.  McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was warned that he had a dying gearbox and that there was nothing he or the team could do about it.  A few laps later, an ugly grinding noise announced that the ratios had departed this Earth and headed to gearbox heaven.  Force India's Paul diResta and Renault's Red Menace also had gearbox issues but they held together long enough to complete the race with little reduction in speed.

*RAIN.  PRECIPITATION.  MOISTURE.:  As the race began, the FIA's weather prognosticators  reported that it was going to rain, it was just a question of when.  They had good reason to believe this; you could see rain falling in the city of São Paulo just beyond the Autodromo Juan Carlos Pace's walls.  Repeatedly the purveyors of precipitation sent warnings to the teams: "Rain in five minutes." "Rain in 10 minutes." "Rain expected inside of 30 minutes."  On Lap 35, Ferrari tweeted that there was going to be rain in just a few minutes... and immediately brought HWMNBN in for a set of dry weather tires.  Confusion reigned amongst the Legendary Announce Team.  Finally, the masters of moisture gave up, saying that they didn't expect any rain until after the "current checkered flag."  As Bob Varsha said, "what, there are more than one?"  In the end, the expected rain never did fall and the race proceeded apace.

*TOWARDS THE END:  After the Red Bull pit wall blistered the ears of their youthful wunderkind, his Australian teammate began to close in at the rate of a half-second per lap.  On Lap 30, the Driver's Champion pulled aside to let Webber go by.  A good call, as racing a hobbled car against a teammate's healthy vehicle never ends well.  Suddenly everything became much more interesting, for while first place in the Driver's Championship had been locked up a month ago, there was still an active battle for second, third and fourth.  The only hope Webber had to finish second was to win the race and for McLaren's Jenson Button to have a breakdown and for HWMNBN to finish fourth or worse.  If Button got even one point, he'd be second no matter what the Red Bull driver did.  The failure of Hamilton's gearbox gave hope that Button's would suffer a similar fate, but the Ferrari driver seemed to be firmly ensconced in third place.

*AND THEN...:  Going into the final round of pit stops, the order was Webber, Vettel (driving a gritty race), HWMNBN and Button.  All four drivers put on the harder tires and set sail for the end of the race and the season.  It looked like Button would finish second in the Driver's Championship, followed by HWMNBN and Webber... except for one thing.  If there was a single overarching problem with the Ferrari F150° Italia all year, it was that it was terrible on the harder tires.  If there was one thing that Jenson Button had proven again and again this year, it was that he could make his McLaren MP4/26 work well on any tire compound... and today was no exception.  He began to take huge chunks of time out of the Ferrari's lead, leaving no doubt what was about to occur.  On Lap 61, Button simply cruised past HWMNBN for the bottom step of the podium, coincidentally handing third place in the Driver's Championship to Mark Webber.  However, the race was not yet over, for as Button dealt with the Spaniard, Seb Vettel began to show signs that his gearbox was making his life a nightmare.  He completely blew a turn, taking to the asphalt runoff area to continue the race.  If that continued, Button had a slim chance to catch him for second place.

*THE END:  While Button was snipping a half-second off of the gap to Vettel per lap, the lead was much too great.  Mark Webber swept across the line for his first (and only) victory of the year, followed some 17 seconds later by Vettel's limping Red Bull.  Button was next to cross the finish line 11 seconds later, followed by HWMNBN with a similar gap. 

*FINAL DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: Vettel, Button, Webber, HWMNBN, Hamilton, Felipe Massa.  Curiously, Grizzly Nick Heidfeld, who hadn't driven since Round 11 in Hungary, still finished in 11th place.

*FINAL CONSTRUCTOR'S CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault, Force India, Sauber, Toro Rosso, Williams, Lotus, HRT, Virgin.  If you took all the points from third through 12th and added them together, you'd have a total of 772 points.  Red Bull alone had 650.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Seb Vettel.  At one point in the race, he radioed to his pit wall that he felt "like Senna in '91."  In that particular Brazilian Grand Prix, Ayrton Senna won the race despite having only first, second and sixth gears.  Here, Vettel kept his crippled gearbox going well enough to not only finish second, but finish second easily.  While we still don't know exactly how bad his gearbox damage was, the increasingly strident calls from his race engineer suggested it wasn't good.  A sterling drive for the two-time World Champion in difficult circumstances.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Red Bull.  Really, how can you not give it to them?  They finished 1-2, they coaxed an ill car for some 60 laps across the finish line (when their biggest rivals couldn't get one of theirs to last 10 laps from when the problem became apparent), and heck, they just squashed the sport all season long.  Just tip your cap to them and move on to next year.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  In Formula 1, particularly in the age of DRS and KERS, a pass can come at any time two cars are close enough.  There are certain places and times, though, that a pass just doesn't occur.  In the S-Curves at Suzuka, for example, or Turn 1 at Monaco.  It just isn't done.  Another of that sort is Turns 6 and 7 here at Brazil.  Fast right-hand sweepers of decreasing radius, blowing those will ruin the entire middle sector of Interlagos, if it doesn't pitch you off into the Brazilian terrain.  So of course it's ridiculous to expect to be passed there, and it's even more unlikely that you'll have to defend against a pass on the outside of the turns.  So on Lap 11, when HWMNBN closed in on Jenson Button heading down the short chute to Turn 6, Button probably felt pretty good.

...and then the Ferrari, tires apparently covered in stickum, Krazy Glue and honey, swooped to the outside of Button and blew the metaphorical doors off the McLaren.  A heckuva pass in a very unlikely spot!

*MOOOOOOOO-OOOOVE OF THE RACE:  Rule #1 when performing a tire change: tighten down the wheel nut.  Rule #2: make sure you follow rule #1.

Thanks, Virgin Racing.  We knew we could count on you to give us a laugh today, and you didn't disappoint.  The wheel nut's bid for freedom gave us a chuckle during a tense race.  Here's your Mooooo!


"Yeah.  Thanks."  - Mark Webber's response to his race engineer when told of his win

"I don't like to call it 'bad luck.'  It just happens.  Besides, I won the Driver's Championship a month ago, I can toss my teammate a bone." - Seb Vettel

"Back when I first joined McLaren, the media said that Lewis Hamilton would beat me up and take my lunch money.  Who's the bully now, eh?" - Jenson Button

"I had ten podiums this year.  How many did my teammate have?  Oh that's right... none." - HWMNBN

"What do I want from Father Christmas?  I will be writing and asking for a fantastic car right from start to finish in 2012… and that my teammate will take up rallying." - Felipe Massa (note: mostly real quote)

"No way Force India is gonna kick me out now." - Adrian F'n Sutil

"Who's the top German at Mercedes?  Huh?  Is it the old guy?  Hell no, it's me... the one with the hair." - Nico Rosberg

"They said I had a gearbox problem.  More like a gearbox no problem, eh?" - Paul diResta

"Next year, watch out..." - Kamui Kobayashi

"Oh, did I hit Slappy?  Wow, who knew? I have nothing to say that is either relevant or true." - The Red Menace

"I only had five standing points last year, now I've got 26; not bad.  Buy my album!" - DJ Squire

"I don't have an album." - Seb Buemi

"An argument can be made that I'm the rookie of the year." - Sergio Perez

"Will I be back next year?  I dunno, ask Sir Frank." - Rubens Barrichello

"In the old days, I would have The Red Menace Senna killed for what he did.  Rubens, if Williams doesn't bring you back, I can use a chauffeur..." - Slappy Schumacher

"Well, no points this year either, but the team finished 10th... that's worth about a half-billion dollars right there." - Heikki Kovaleinninninninnie

"I'm not my uncle.  Clearly." - Bruno Senna

"Pretty standard race for me: I sucked." - Jarno Trulli

"I beat the HRTs!  I beat the HRTs!  Shoot me now." - Custard d'Ambrosio

"I wonder if GP3 is hiring?" - Daniel Ricciardo

"I wonder if McDonalds is hiring?" - Vitantonio Liuzzi

"Gearbox went 'grmrbrmlkblrlrmrb*gag*gnkrnmmrll!'  That's not a good sound." - Lewis Hamilton

"I had a good race until I crashed." - Pastor Maldonado

"A very disappointing way to end the season.  Hilarious, but disappointing." - Tim O'Glockenspiel

So that's it.  2011 is in the books, and congratulations to Seb Vettel and Red Bull.  Next year, can you let the other kids play?  Please? 

We'll have a Year-End Awards post sometime in the future, then we'll see you for F1 Pr0n!  Thanks for sticking with F1 Update! all season!  See ya!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:13 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
Post contains 2029 words, total size 14 kb.

1 I didn't know about anything happening between Petrov and Schumi. News were that Bruno Senna sliced Schumi's tire.

Posted by: Author at November 27, 2011 10:10 PM (G2mwb)

2 What does "short shift" mean?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at November 27, 2011 10:33 PM (+rSRq)

3 "Short shift" means to shift into the next gear sooner (at a lower rpm) than one normally would.  This reduces strain on the gears but also slows the car down, as it spends more time outside of its optimal torque/power rpm range.

Posted by: flatdarkmars at November 27, 2011 10:42 PM (I55Es)

4 Author, Slappy was passing Senna down the front straight into Turn 1.  The Renault braked* late, doing some damage to both cars.  Out of Turn 1, with Slappy nearly clear of the Renault, The Red Menace attempted to swing to the right of the Mercedes.  Unfortunately, the Silver Arrow was not quite entirely in front of the Renault, resulting in much of the right-hand front wing endplate being turned into carbon fiber toothpicks, and the left-rear tire on Slappy's car being turned into something that distinctly did not hold air pressure.

Senna was given a drive-through penalty.  Slappy said the incident was "unfortunate."  And I must have been taking some serious drugs when I took my notes during the race, because I got Senna and The Red Menace mixed up completely.

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 28, 2011 01:18 AM (2YMZG)

5 *to some obscure definition of "braking" that involves not braking at all.

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 28, 2011 01:31 AM (2YMZG)

6 Ah, yes, of course. They drive the same car. I never was able to track who wears what helmet either, except for a few frontrunners. To make matters worse, the helmet designs change over time.

Posted by: Author at November 28, 2011 08:16 PM (G2mwb)

7 You've probably seen this already, but it's a pretty incredible video.

Posted by: Mauser at December 05, 2011 06:33 AM (cZPoz)

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