November 13, 2016

F1 Update!: Brazil 2016

Rain.  Rain and Formula 1 go together like pasta and tomato sauce.  It levels the playing field between cars and makes driver skill paramount.  But just like anything else that's good, too much rain is a bad thing.  The dividing line between "good" and "bad" can be razor thin, and both the track and the tires have a lot to do with where the line can be found.  It often rains in Brazil.  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of Brazil.

*UH-OH:  It had been raining and drizzling all day.  As the cars rolled out for their pre-race recon laps, the decision had already been made to delay the start by 10 minutes, apparently expecting a break in the weather.  The wisdom of that unusual decision was underscored a few moments later when the Haas of Lettuce Grosjean lost traction on one side of the car and smacked into the outside wall of the last turn going backwards.  The driver was unharmed, but the car could not say the same and was out of the race before the race even began.  This may have influenced the decision that came down a few minutes later to begin the race behind the Safety Car.

*AW, JEEZ:  Because of the Safety Car start, everybody was required to begin on the full wet tires.  Pirelli likes to trumpet that the full wet tires "pump 65 liters of water off the track every second at full speed".  That's great, sounds really impressive, but there are two problems with that.  First, with the cars behind the Safety Car they aren't going at full speed, and second, according to both the drivers and the teams, the full wet tires don't work well in the rain.  They aquaplane too easily when they are cold, and the track temperature today was 68°F... and crawling behind the Safety Car doesn't give them enough energy to warm them up.  The amount of spray from the cars was amazing... even polesitter Lewis Hamilton was unable to see from the rooster tail thrown up by the Safety Car.  Somehow, the field survived seven laps of this before Berndt Maylander took the Mercedes-AMG GT-S into the pit lane and the race began in earnest.

*REALLY?  REALLY?:  Immediately we saw cars diving for the pit lane, desperate to get off the full wets and onto the Intermediate rain tires.  This seeming case of mass idiocy lasted for all of six laps until Sony Ericsson, one of the first drivers to put on the Inters, slipped off the track in much the same place as Lettuce Grosjean.  Instead of ending up against the outside wall though, Ericsson's Sauber ended up in the middle of the pit-lane entry.  The FIA quickly threw up the "Pit Lane Closed" warning, which didn't prevent the Red Bull of Smiley Ricciardo from swerving around the Sauber to put on Inters.  He would later be penalized for that, by the way.  Because of the debris strewn across the circuit, the Safety Car was again summoned... with all the problems that would cause to the tires.

:  At this point, half the cars were on Inters, the other half on the full wets, and there was no real indication which was better for the conditions.  The Safety Car came in after four laps and the race once again restarted.  Lewis Hamilton got a great jump over his teammate, who was followed by the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen... for a few moments.  While accelerating in a straight line down the front straight, the Ferrari snapped hard to the right, slammed into the outside wall, then pirouetted back across the circuit to the inside wall.  In the process, he nearly collected the fourth place Red Bull of Embryo Verstappen, who managed to avoid the car, but did hit the damaged front wing left lying on the track.  As Raikkonen extricated himself from the cockpit of his shattered Ferrari, Berndt Maylander was again summoned... and moments later, the Red Flag was thrown.

*RIDICULOUS.  STUPID.:  A half-hour stoppage was followed by a Safety Car restart just as the rain, which had slowed down a bit, came back heavier than we'd seen all race.  After five laps trundling along behind the GT-S, we had seen the Renault of Jolyon Palmer run into the side of Kid Kyvat's Toro Rosso, invisible in the spray, and a Force India having to pit for a flat tire, and Seb Vettel reporting that it was "quite bad."  Another lap, and The Powers That Be said "nope."  Red Flag II: Electric Boogaloo was displayed, and the Brazilian fans (that's a lot of fans!) began to boo.  Leader Hamilton reported that "it isn't even that bad, it isn't wet at all."  As the cars stopped in the pit lane once again and the gazebos re-erected, the rain began coming down harder than ever.  One was forced to wonder if the race would ever restart.

*RACE ON:  15 minutes later, the cars were back on track.  Two laps later, on Lap 31, the Safety Car ducked in and we were racing again... and very quickly, Embryo Verstappen passed Nico Rosberg around the outside of Turn 1 for second place.  For the championship leader, this was horrible... not only was his rival leading, but now he was losing even more of his point gap to boot.  On the other hand, it looked like Verstappen was ready to challenge for the lead soon enough.

*SPIN SPIN SPIN:  The Red Bull driver managed to get to about two seconds behind the leader (and eight seconds ahead of Rosberg) when his car attempted to emulate the actions of Raikkonen's Ferrari by throwing itself at the inside wall.  The young driver not only managed to keep that from happening, but he didn't even lose the place to the trailing Mercedes!  A remarkable bit of handling, that.  A few laps later, after the Red Bull had pitted for new tires, Rosberg's Mercedes went squirrely in the same place Grosjean and Ericsson had, but he too managed to save it.  But then the saddest moment of the day occurred, when Brazilian Felipe Massa, participating in the final home race of his long career, spun and crashed heavily, losing it roughly where Grosjean, Ericsson and Rosberg had. 

*HAT TIP:  But Brazil wasn't finished with Felipe Massa quite yet.  As he walked back to the Williams pit box, the crowd cheered their hero loudly and energetically.  Despite the rain, he was clearly crying from the emotion of the moment, tears that became more prominent when his wife and son met him in a strong embrace.  After a while, he restarted his walk to his pit box.  This took him past the Mercedes box, where the entire compliment of their team had turned out to applaud.  A nice gesture from a team he had raced against.  But a few yards beyond Mercedes was the Ferrari pit box, and they too turned out... and Massa raced for them for eight years, 11 victories, and, for 25 seconds, a World Driver's Championship... and many of the people on the team had been there when Massa was.  All in all, a wonderful scene, and a nice tribute to a long-time driver.

*SWIM TO THE END:  The Safety Car stayed out for eight laps and saw Verstappen brought in for full wet tires.  He would rejoin in 16th place on Lap 55, the same lap the SC came in.  As Hamilton and Rosberg pulled away from the rest of the field, the Red Bull driver was going nuts.  By Lap 60, he passed his teammate for 10th.  Four more laps saw Verstappen in 6th place with 11 laps to go.  It took two laps and a physical (but clean) move to get past Seb Vettel, but only two more turns to pass Carlos Sainz for fourth.  By Lap 69, he got by the struggling Force India of Sergio Perez for third.  To review: in 14 laps, Max Verstappen gained 13 positions.  Alas, by this time second was out of reach, and the race ended with Lewis Hamilton leading Nico Rosberg by nearly 12 seconds, who was 10 seconds up on Verstappen.

And that does it for Brazil.  The final race of the year is Abu Dhabi in two weeks, with the driver's championship up for grabs.  We'll see you then for the grand finale!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:51 PM | Comments (13) | Add Comment
Post contains 1403 words, total size 9 kb.

1 Go, Verstappen!

Posted by: Suburbanbanshee at November 14, 2016 08:29 AM (JDV7u)

2 One wonders if there will be some investigation of That Spot On The Circuit to see if anything can be done, or if that will become one of those "hey, yeah, watch out for that bit" things that new drivers are(n't) warned about.

Posted by: GreyDuck at November 14, 2016 08:37 AM (rKFiU)

3 GD, the one thing the trackmaps don't show is elevation.  That particular spot on the circuit is near the crest of a hill, so water flows down the track in rivers (the same thing happens from Turns 1 to 3, though not as badly).

Short of dynamiting the track into a smoking crater, which I am fully in support of, there's not much that can be done.

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 14, 2016 02:35 PM (vZvpB)

4 I'm wondering if Verstappen will be able to overtake Vettel in the overall standings. I think he is only a few points behind, so he could, right?
Still think it was a dumb move to give up second for the tire swap, but without that, we wouldn't have gotten to see him go from P16 to P3 in a dozen laps, so there's that. That was pretty wild!

Posted by: Mrs. Will at November 14, 2016 03:51 PM (D6ny+)

5 "Short of dynamiting the track into a smoking crater, which I am fully in support of, there's not much thatcanbe done."
Surely they have heard of gutters in Brazil.

(I want to point out that I did copy/paste to get Wonderduck's quoted text, and thus I'm not the one that mangled the spaces around his italics.  Pixy, if the people who wrote the editor widget aren't aware of that little bug, you might want to mention it to them.  Chrome 54.0.2840.87 m on Windows 10 64-bit, if it matters.)

Posted by: RickC at November 14, 2016 04:45 PM (ECH2/)

6 Surely they have heard of gutters in Brazil.

I'm sure they have!  But what do you think would happen if a F1 car ran over a gutter in the track at 130mph? 

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 14, 2016 10:07 PM (vZvpB)

7 Well, presumably the road-builders would've been smart enough to use a grate, rather than a simple hole, and presumably the cars aren't so fragile as that would be a problem.

Posted by: Rick C at November 15, 2016 11:56 AM (ITnFO)

8 @RickC...

That brings another set of problems, though... and in many ways, yes, F1 cars ARE that fragile.

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 15, 2016 07:52 PM (vZvpB)

9 Aha, fair enough. Thanks for the explanation!

Posted by: GreyDuck at November 16, 2016 08:38 AM (rKFiU)

10 "Drain cover worked its way loose".
The town I grew up in, drain covers were heavy things that probably weighed 50 pounds; the idea of one working its way loose is ridiculous.  So I'll grant you the point but it sounds like in that case, the chosen method was inadequate.

Posted by: Rick C at November 16, 2016 04:32 PM (ECH2/)

11 @RickC

Welcome to Monaco!

And again in 2010... this has pictures of Monaco's covers, which look fairly substantial.

Gotta remember: F1 cars have a lot of downforce, and that downforce also creates suction under the car.  Remember the whole "F1 car on the ceiling of a tunnel" thing?

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 16, 2016 08:18 PM (vZvpB)

12 Hm.  Well, I did believe you that it could happen, just seemed weird.  I've lifted those covers, and they're really frickin' heavy.
Also, I hadn't heard of the "F1 car on the ceiling of a tunnel" thing, although Googling it just now, I found a video of Jeremy Clarkson managing to sort of almost do it for a fraction of  a second.
I mean, I'd think that much downforce would push a grate down, not throw it up, but not enough to argue about it.  To get back to the original point, they could probably do something to keep the water down if they really put their minds to it, and, of course, didn't mind the expense.

Posted by: Rick C at November 17, 2016 02:04 PM (ECH2/)

13 Downforce is the exact opposite of the lift seen on an airplane wing, and it works the exact same way.  The car's wings deflect the air upwards, pushing the car down.

And with that comes a difference in air pressure.  The pressure underneath the car is less than that above, so the car is pushed down... but that same lower air pressure works on everything, not just the car itself.  And that's why you get a tug (or really, a jerk) on a drain cover when a F1 car goes over it... well, that, and sticky tires.  And sometimes, bad things happen.

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 17, 2016 07:56 PM (vZvpB)

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