May 15, 2016

F1 Update: Spain 2016

Another perfect day greeted the Thundering Herd as they approached the grid at Barcalounger.  Reigning Champion Lewis Hamilton, desperate for a win, led the field, but his Mercedes teammate and current points leader Nico Rosberg was right next to him on the grid.  It looked like another Merc one-two was in the offing, particularly since Ferrari had managed to relinquish the second row to Red Bull somehow.  So what happened?  Who's speed reigned supreme?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2016 Grand Prix of Spain!

*LIGHTS OUT:  Hamilton had a flawless start and led his hard-charging teammate into Turn 1, a lead that lasted no longer than that.  Rosberg, on the grippy side of the track, managed to keep his speed higher through the turn and passed the Brit.  And then it happened.  Rosberg, his engine apparently in the wrong power setting, dumped power as it began to harvest power for the batteries.  Hamilton suddenly had a 10mph advantage over the leader and dove to the right.  Rosberg moved that way as well in a legal block, but Hamilton, committed continued onwards... and onto the grass.

Traction totally lost, Hamilton went sideways in an uncontrolled slide.  More importantly, he lost almost no speed in this skid, while Rosberg slowed to make the upcoming turn.

Hamilton's car, completely nonresponsive to anything the driver did, collected Rosberg.  Now both Mercedes were sideways, damaged, and headed for the kittylitter.

The two dominant cars of the 2016 season were out of the race.

*TRYING AGAIN:  After the safety car returned to the pit lane, Red Bull's Smiley Ricciardo led his new teammate, former Toro Rosso driver Embryo Verstappen, a hot-starting Carlos Sainz, Seb Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen back to racing.  Within a few laps, Sainz would be passed by both Vettel and Raikkonen, leaving the race to boil down to Ferrari vs Red Bull.

*STRATEGERY:  Soon enough it became apparent that the two teams were evenly matched.  The Red Bulls led, the Ferraris followed, but neither could really gain an advantage on the other.  With the cars and drivers equal, it was going to be a true Team vs Team race: the guys in the pit lanes were going to make a difference, maybe a race-winning one.  The first round of stops went smoothly, but something small occurred on Lap 24 that changed everything.

*TO THE MANOR BORN:  Rio Rainbow Gate! was Manoring his way around the circuit some handful of seconds slower than the leaders, believing himself to be a true F1 driver instead of one that has a seat by dint of Indonesian national funding.  As he pedaled his way through the lap, Smiley Ricciardo had caught up to him.  The problem was, he couldn't get past.  Turbulence from the Manor kept washing out the Red Bull's grip in the turns, and down the long straights, the Mercedes engine gave the backmarker a 7mph speed advantage.  By the time Rio Rainbow Gate! let Ricciardo past, Embryo Verstappen and Seb Vettel had both taken a second off of the leader.  Now all three were covered by less than two seconds, with Raikkonen a bit further back.

*C-C-C-CHANGES
:  At this point, Red Bull made a pit-wall decision, one that had long-reaching consequences for the race: they split the pit stop strategies on the fly.  They moved the leader to a three-stop strategy, counting on fresher tires to allow their man to make up the time lost in the extra stop.  Meanwhile, they kept Embryo Verstappen, in second place, on a two-stop strategy.  The tires needed to pull this off would be slower, but with one fewer stop to make... well.  Ferrari, reacting to Red Bull's move, pitted third-place Seb Vettel early to cover.  The question now became: which strategy would be faster at the finish line?  Two stops or three?

*FOOLED YA:  Vettel only stayed out for eight laps on the soft tires he had put on to mirror Ricciardo.  By pitting early, he managed to undercut the Red Bull driver; by the time Smiley would pit, Vettel had managed to use the pit lane to get past for third.  Ricciardo had gone from the lead to fourth, thanks to a strategy he had no call on.

*ON THE OTHER HAND: Verstappen and Raikkonen, on the two-stop strategies, were now out in front of their teammates... and it quickly became clear that the Ferraris were just a bit quicker than the Red Bulls.  The problem was, as it often is, turbulence.  The Finn couldn't quite get close enough to make a move on the leader, and Vettel was able to keep his Australian rival behind him, though doing so required quite a bit of effort.  And so the four sat, Verstappen - Raikkonen - 10 second gap - Vettel - Ricciardo, for lap after lap.  One error by anybody would allow the others to capitalize instantly... and as the fifth place driver was nearly 40 seconds adrift of Smiley, they were the only ones who would benefit from a mistake.

*IN THE END
:  The error ended up being nobody's fault... and made the least amount of difference possible.  Ricciardo picked up some debris and his left-rear tire let go.  He was able to nurse his car around the last third of the track, make the pits, and return to the race still in fourth, but Vettel was no longer in danger.  Ahead of them, Raikkonen had hovered less than a second behind Embryo Verstappen for lap after lap, trying to pressure the youngest driver in F1 history into a mistake or an opening... and being unable to do so.  Verstappen was flawless, never locking a tire, never missing a line through the turns, never giving the Finn the opening he so desperately needed.  When he took the checkered flag, some .600 seconds ahead of the Ferrari driver, he became the first Dutchman to win a F1 race and the youngest driver ever to win (taking that title from Seb Vettel).  Not bad for someone who had never even driven his F1 car before Friday's practice due to being promoted from Toro Rosso a week earlier.

*OH, THAT:  So what of the man Verstappen had traded teams with, Kid Kvyat?  He finished in 10th, but he did something no Toro Rosso driver had ever done: he turned fast lap of the race.  In other bits and pieces of interest, Haas F1's Esteban! finished his first race of the season, ending up in 11th.  Lettuce Grosjean, the other Haas driver, had to retire with brake failure.

*AFTER-ACTION:  The FIA stewards judged the Mercedes accident to be a racing incident, no penalties to be handed out.  And Embryo Verstappen... well:


We'll leave the writeup with that.

Next race is in two weeks, at the spiritual home of Formula 1: MONACO.  See ya then!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:12 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
Post contains 1141 words, total size 8 kb.

1 So the way to get a reasonably interesting race is to remove the Mercs entirely. Oof.

Good on Verstappen, though! He just earned the hell out of his promotion.

Posted by: GreyDuck at May 16, 2016 07:15 AM (rKFiU)

2 Huh.  Random thought:  What happens if Verstappen is on the podium in Austin?  Isn't he too young to actually drink the champange in the US?

Posted by: ReallyBored at May 16, 2016 03:24 PM (MmkR/)

3 The answer to your question, RB, actually made me laugh out loud.

Texas law states that you have to be 21 to drink legally.  However, if in the visible presence of a parent, guardian or spouse of legal age, a minor may drink legally.

So if his father is on the podium, it'll be all right.  Too bad Jos hasn't been on a F1 podium since 1994...

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 16, 2016 08:57 PM (XQ5ac)

4

Originally I wondered if they would make Hamilton start the next race from the parking lot.

But watching the video of the crash (I watched it three times) it really didn't seem like it was anyone's fault. Hamilton was being really aggressive, of course, and it seemed to me that Rosberg was being a bit of a prick by swerving that way, but the judges said that both of them were within the rules.

And it was just an unfortunately combination of actions leading to disaster. I'm just glad both cars slid cleanly and didn't start tumbling. That could have been really, really bad.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 16, 2016 11:25 PM (+rSRq)

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