July 29, 2017

F1 Quals: Hungary 2017

A bright sunny day greeted the F1 Circus, the pleasant atmosphere belying the fact that they were in Hungary.  Still, while they were there, they may as well go racing, right?  And before you race, you have to qualify, and they did.  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:17.244 1:16.802 1:16.276
2 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:17.364 1:17.207 1:16.444
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:18.058 1:17.362 1:16.530
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:17.492 1:16.693 1:16.707
5 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:17.266 1:17.028 1:16.797
6 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:17.702 1:17.698 1:16.818
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:18.137 1:17.655 1:17.468
8 Indy Alonso McLaren Honda 1:18.395 1:17.919 1:17.549
9 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Honda 1:18.479 1:18.000 1:17.894
10 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:18.948 1:18.311 1:18.912
11 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:18.699 1:18.415
12 False Esteban! Force India Mercedes 1:18.843 1:18.495
13 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:18.702 1:18.538
14 Sergio Leone Force India Mercedes 1:19.095 1:18.639
15 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:19.085 1:18.771
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:19.095

17 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:19.102

18 Herelein Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:19.839

19 Paul di Resta Williams Mercedes 1:19.868

20 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:19.972


Sharp-eyed readers may notice a name is missing.  Felipe Not Retired Massa felt light-headed and dizzy during P2 on Friday.  FIA medical personnel gave him a clean bill of health today before Practice 3, but during the session the dizziness returned and Massa removed himself from the car for the rest of the weekend.  Thus it fell to Williams reserve driver Paul di Resta, who hadn't actually run the FW40 at all, just sim work, to get in the cockpit for the first time since 2013 and not suck.  He wasn't last, so mission accomplished: he didn't suck.  

Oh, and Ferrari locked out the first row, with Seb Vettel setting the fastest lap ever around the Hungaroring in the process.  Probably no surprise, this is the sort of track that suits the Ferrari quite nicely... it needs more nimbleness than grunt, and it has both.  Meanwhile, the Mercs have a longer wheelbase and the best power ensemble.  This is great for fast tracks but it's not rewarded around here.  The Red Bulls have historically been great in the turns as well, and with them locking out the third row it's clear nothing has changed.  The best example, however, of how much Hungary rewards the ability to turn and weave has to be the McLarens, both of which made Q3.  We're talking about a car that has been as much as 15mph slower down a straightaway this year, remember.  

So if nothing else, Vettel has stolen a march on Hamilton and Bottas, capturing pole on a track where it's... difficult... to pass.  I'm thinking the Ferraris will have a win tomorrow, but it won't be overly easy, and Raikkonen will end up fourth or fifth along the way.

Not that I'm predicting or anything.  Race is Sunday morning, see ya then!

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July 26, 2017

F1 on NBCSN: Hungary 2017

Hungary.  I'm not even going to try to pretend to be enthused about this race.  For years, Formula 1's annual visit to the Hungaroring has been my least favorite stop on the calendar.  I've only missed two races in the past 12 years, and both of them were Hungarians Grand Prix (weather problems).  And y'know what?  I'm totally okay with that.  Here's the trackmap:


It's been called "Monaco without the buildings."  That gives it too much credit, I'm afraid.  I gather it's a wonderful place to actually watch a race, built as it is into a natural bowl.  However, that bowl also makes it ridiculously hot and humid: no breeze, don'tchaknow?  Actually, it's a lot like Duckford in that regard, at least today.  It was 83° when I left the job, and according to one weather website or another, 95% humidity.  But I digress.

It's bumpy, even with last year's resurfacing, it's abrasive, and it's nearly impossible to pass on.  Other than that, it's a fantastic track... grmblgrmblgrmbl.

The best thing that can be said about the Hungarian Grand Prix is that after it's over, F1 will be taking a four-week summer break.

Well, that and we get another race covered by the Legendary Announce Team!  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Friday
Practice 2: 7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Hungary: 630a - 9a live on NBCSN

All times Pond Central.  All opinions are those of The Pond, and should not be taken internally.  Check your local listings for whatever you feel like checking.

I'm going to bed now.

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July 15, 2017

F1 Quals: Britian 2017

Ah, to be in England in the summertime... to feel the warm sun shining down upon me, the gentle breezes, to enjoy England's mountains green.  To view the bluebirds over the cliffs of Dover, though it may be a long way to Tipperary. 


Or, more likely, to suffer the pissing rain and chill winds whipping in over the microclimate that made RAF Silverstone such a great location for a Wellington bomber training base.  It doesn't do much for a F1 car's traction, though, which is why it looked to be an entertaining qualifying session when the tv cameras came on.  It had begun raining about 15 minutes before the session, and had just continued on... not heavy enough to stop the proceedings, not light enough to use dry tires.  The sort of weather that could easily mix up a grid in other words!  So what was the result?  Here's the provisional grid for the 2017 Grand Prix of Britain:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:39.069 1:27.893 1:26.600
2 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:40.455 1:28.992 1:27.147
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:39.962 1:28.978 1:27.356
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:39.698 1:28.732 1:27.376
5 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:38.912 1:29.431 1:28.130
6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:39.201 1:29.340 1:28.856
7 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:42.009 1:29.824 1:28.902
8 False Esteban! Force India Mercedes 1:39.738 1:29.701 1:29.074
9 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Honda 1:40.011 1:30.105 1:29.418
10 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:42.042 1:29.966 1:29.549
11 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:41.404 1:30.193
12 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:41.726 1:30.355
13 Indy Alonso McLaren Honda 1:37.598 1:30.600
14 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:41.114 1:31.368
15 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:41.874 1:31.482
16 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:42.573

17 K-Mag Haas Ferrari 1:42.577

18 Hereline Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:42.593

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:42.633

20 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:42.966


The rain more or less stopped during Q1 and a dry-ish line formed around the track right at the end when Indy Alonso made one final desperate dash to get out of the dead zone... and ended up being fastest of the session.  Not to worry, he has a 30-grid spot penalty for an engine change so he'll be last anyways tomorrow.  Red Bull's Smiley Ricciardo never made it out of Q1, his turbo making a sound like it had ingested a guineapig

The rest of Quals went like it usually does... the track dried out, Hamilton went full ham on the place and set the fastest ever lap around Silverstone in the process.  He's over a half-second ahead of the nearest Ferrari.

Barring weather, I'd say it's a fairly good guess that Ham'n'cheese will win tomorrow, but that's why they run the races.  Tune in to F1U! afterwards to find out what went down.

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July 12, 2017

F1 on CNBC: Great Britain 2017!

If Monaco is the heart of Formula 1, and Monza the throbbing adrenal glands, and Hungary whatever earwax is, this weekend's track is the very soul of the sport.  It was here that the F1 championship was born, most of the teams are located within a short drive from the circuit (and one literally across the street from the front gates), and it's been the home track for many of the greatest names in the sport's history.  Thus it should come as no surprise to veteran watchers of F1 or readers of The Pond that there's a very good chance indeed that next year will be the last British Grand Prix to be held at Silverstone for a while.  Here's the track map:


The British Racing Drivers' Club, the owning body of Silverstone, activated an escape clause in their current contract with Formula One Management... or Liberty Media, whatever the powers that be in F1 are now...citing ruinous fees to host the event.  They say they've lost £7million over the last two years, and expect to be another four million in the hole this year.  So suddenly we no longer have a track for the British Grand Prix.  The BRDC will, of course, immediately begin renegotiating with The Powers That Be, going for lower fees, and who can blame them?  By the end of the contract they just got out of, 2026, they would be paying £25million just to host a F1 race... never mind upkeep, improvements, so on and so forth.  

Which makes what happened today in London so interesting.  See, F1 put on a little show in the heart of the city, meaning we got the spectacle of modern and classic F1 cars prancing around Trafalgar Square.  It may not be coincidence that there's a serious push for a race in London. Gotta admit, that'd be really freakin' cool.
19 of the current drivers appeared at the event, the lone no-show being Brit Lewis Hamilton.  Gotta say, that's awfully stupid of him, but hell, it's not like I'm a fan anyway.

One thing we know for sure: the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their usual stalwart coverage... hopefully David Hobbs will have recovered from the bug that bit him.  Here's the times:
Friday
Practice 2: somewhere between hither and yon.
Saturday
Quals: 7a - 830a, live on CNBC
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Britain: 630a - 9a, live on CNBC

All times Pond Central.  Accept no substitutes!

F1U! will be along sometime thereafter... see ya then!

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July 08, 2017

F1 Quals: Austria 2017

Well folks, they can't all be gems... my Austria/Australia post proved that one definitively.  And so too went today's Qualifying session for the 2017 Grand Prix of Australia Austria.  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:05.760 1:04.316 1:04.251
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:05.585 1:04.772 1:04.293
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:05.064 1:04.800 1:04.424
4 mrmbrmrlb Räikkönen Ferrari 1:05.148 1:05.004 1:04.779
5 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:05.854 1:05.161 1:04.896
6 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:05.779 1:04.948 1:04.983
7 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:05.902 1:05.319 1:05.480
8 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:05.975 1:05.435 1:05.605
9 False Esteban Force India Mercedes 1:06.033 1:05.550 1:05.674
10 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:05.675 1:05.544 1:05.726
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:06.174 1:05.597
12 Indy Alonso McLaren Honda 1:06.158 1:05.602
13 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Honda 1:06.316 1:05.741
14 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:05.990 1:05.884
15 K- Mag Haas Ferrari 1:06.143 No Time

16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:06.345

17 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:06.534

18 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:06.608

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:06.857

20 Thereline Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:07.011


So yeah, not much exciting today.  We didn't even get the usual shootout for pole, the drivers making one last desperate dash in an attempt to best the leader's time.  Lettuce Grosjean's Haas turned into an immobile piece of carbon fiber sculpture on the racing surface towards the end of the session.  That brought out the yellow flags, meaning that drivers couldn't improve their times (by rule).  And thus we did see Valterri Bottas take pole by a scant .042 seconds over Sebby Vettel.  Lewis Hamilton qualified third, but he's going to starting from the eighth spot after an unscheduled gearbox change.  Whoopsie!  However, he's taken advantage of that by doing his runs in Q2 on the harder "super-soft" tires while everyone else of consequence used the "ultra-softs".  In theory, this'll lead to him doing a long first stint and running the faster tires at the end... strategery!

Except all of that skullsweat might go right out the window.  There's a good chance of rain for tomorrow's race, and it's almost guaranteed to be raining before the race session.  Damp track?  Rain race?  I'm up for that!  Cross your wingtips, lads and lasses, and keep 'em crossed.

Race on Sunday morning, we'll be along with the F1U! sometime after that.  See ya then!

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July 05, 2017

F1 on TV: Austria 2017

Y'know, for the life of me I can't understand just why in the middle of the European leg of the F1 calendar we jump back overseas for a single race.  I mean, sure, it's a great track, the fans are wonderful, a local boy is driving for a contending team, all that's fantastic, but do we really need to race in Melbourne twice a year?  Do the teams like Fosters that much???


What?

Austria?  Not... oh.  Well then.  That would explain the track map.

Doesn't look a darn thing like Albert Park.  What it is, though, is the fastest lap on the F1 calendar, taking around 1:07 to complete.  It's not the shortest lap, that's Monaco, but as a 2.7mile long track that's awfully fast with essentially nothing in the way of turns, it's over awful quick.  And this year, the potential is there for an sub-one-minute lap.  Probably won't happen, but with the cars being ~5seconds/lap faster over last year, it's not out of the question.

One thing that should be a thing here in Australia AUSTRIA  is that everything is trying to kill you the track surface is abrasive as a peeved drop bear sheet of 2-grit sandpaper.  We should actually get tire wear this race as a result.  Tire strategery might be a thing!

Something I learned just this morning: would you believe this is a Hermann Tilke track?  If you squint, you can see the seeds of what would become the circuits in Malaysia and Bahrain, but much simpler.  And, to be fair, the circuit was whelped from the old Osterreichring, so he wasn't the only designer involved...

All this is interesting, of course, but the important stuff is when the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their gig!  Here's the schedule:
Friday
Practice 2: got me hoppin'.
Saturday
Quals: 7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Australia Austria:  630a - 9a live on CNBC

All times Pond Central.  The Tour de France is on NBCSN all weekend if it isn't on NBC itself, so that's why the race is on CNBC.  Yay.

See ya afterwards with the fromage and the shrimp from the barbie!

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June 24, 2017

F1 Quals: Azerbaijan 2017

Just for the record?  "Azerbaijan" does not in fact flow smoothly from the fingertips when typing.  But you're not here to hear me whine about typing "Azerbaijan", you're here to find out who went the fastest around the track in preparation for the 2017 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan, and by how much Lewis Hamilton is on pole by.  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:41.983 1:41.275 1:40.593
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:43.026 1:41.502 1:41.027
3 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:42.678 1:42.090 1:41.693
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:42.952 1:41.911 1:41.841
5 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:42.544 1:41.961 1:41.879
6 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:43.162 1:42.467 1:42.111
7 False Esteban Force India Mercedes 1:43.051 1:42.751 1:42.186
8 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:43.613 1:42.284 1:42.753
9 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:43.165 1:42.735 1:42.798
10 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:42.857 1:42.215 1:43.414
11 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:42.927 1:43.186
12 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:43.489 1:43.347
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:44.029 1:43.796
14 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:43.930 1:44.267
15 Pascal's Wager Sauber Ferrari 1:44.317 1:44.603
16 Indy Alonso McLaren Honda 1:44.334

17 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:44.468

18 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:44.795

19 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Honda 1:45.030


It was actually a little tense in Q3, at least for a little while.  It was looking like Bottas had managed the trick against his teammate, particularly when one considered that the session had been stopped for 10 minutes or so after Smiley Ricciardo stuffed his car into the walls at Turn 6.  The session was red flagged, which meant all the tire heat went away... and it's notoriously difficult for the Mercedes chassis to get them warm in the first place.  Didn't matter.  Hamilton pulled out a lap around Baku that will probably go down as one of the most impressive pole runs ever.  He ended up with nearly a half-second advantage to his teammate in second, and over a full second to Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari in third place.  Insane.  This pole also moves Hamilton to second place all-time in career poles with 66... one ahead of Ayrton Senna, and only two behind Slappy Schumacher.

In other exciting news, the two McLaren boys have engine and gearbox change penalties totaling 70 spots between them.  No, that's not a typo: seventy.  Seven-Zero.   Too many power units used, unscheduled engine change, yadda yadda.  In effect, this means nothing but it points out the current stupidity involved in the penalty system.

Also, you may have noticed there were only 19 cars listed.  Missing was Jolyon Palmer and his Renault, which suffered an engine fire (and subsequent marshal bukkaking the entire thing with extinguisher foam... seriously, it was just silly) in P3 and could not be repaired in time for Quals.  He races at the Stewards' whim tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, we'll see you after the race tomorrow!

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June 20, 2017

F1 on TV: Azerbaijan 2017

BIG NEWS!!!  They changed the name of this race!  Last year, it was the European Grand Prix!  How exciting can you get?  (sigh)  It's kind of a fascinating track, this street circuit at Baku, a mix of Monaco and drag racing track.  Here's the map:


Sector two runs through Baku Oldtown, through ridiculously narrow streets and zipping past a friggin' castle (actually a curtain wall, but who's counting?).  But see, here's the thing... as interesting as that can be, the whole rest of the track is a whole lot of nothing.  The whole of Sector three, from Turn 16 to Turn 1, is essentially one long straight.  Oh, sure, there's a little whoopsie at Turn 18, but last year the cars weren't slowing down for it.  What do you think this year's chassis, with it's higher grip levels and wider tires, are going to do?  And then there's Sector one.  It's no breaking news that I'm not fond of 90° turns since they guarantee that any sort of flow that might arise is immediately mugged, stuffed in a canvas bag, and thrown into the ocean with weights attached.  Look at the old circuits like Spa or Monza or Suzuka or Silverstone... they look like they were designed freehand, no drafting triangles or protractors allowed.  In fact, the only right-angled turns on those circuits are new additions, generally a chicane to slow the cars down before a blast to the finish line (note: Monza is exactly the opposite, a chicane to slow the cars down after the front straight).  Those places have a rhythm to them, rhythms that a good driver can meld into.  Monaco is a special case, of course, as Monaco always has been.

So Baku has a terrible reputation, even after just one race.  Last year, the teams were cautious unto death, tiptoeing their way around the place like... um... I can't think of a good metaphor.  This year, as mentioned earlier, wider tires and a wider car altogether is going to make the Oldtown section even more terrifying, probably.  That's not a good thing.  I would be interested in seeing how the place races in the wet, but as Baku averages 8mm of rainfall in the month of June, I'm not holding my breath.

Neither are the Legendary Announce Team members, probably.  Here's the broadcast schedule for the weekend:
Friday 
Practice 2: 1p - 230p tape delay on NBCSN (they're showing the Royal Ascot instead)
Saturday
Quals: 8a - 930a live on CNBC
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan: 7a - 10a live on NBCSN

All times Pond Central, check your local listings if you don't trust me.

With any luck, there will be something interesting to write about afterwards... or maybe I'll get to rant again, who knows?  See ya then!

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June 10, 2017

F1 Quals: Canada 2017

Everything was just about perfect for the fast running of F1 cars today at Montreal: minimal wind, a bright sun bringing the track surface to temperature warm enough to melt the everpresent snow, and everywhere, constantly, the mingled smells of poutine, Tim Horton's, and Labatts.  So what did this all total up to?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2017 Grand Prix of Canada, eh?


Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:12.692 1:12.496 1:11.459
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:13.046 1:12.749 1:11.789
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:12.685 1:12.563 1:12.177
4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:13.548 1:12.580 1:12.252
5 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:13.177 1:12.751 1:12.403
6 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:13.543 1:12.810 1:12.557
7 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:13.435 1:13.012 1:12.858
8 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:13.470 1:13.262 1:13.018
9 False Esteban Force India Mercedes 1:13.520 1:13.320 1:13.135
10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:13.804 1:13.406 1:13.271
11 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:13.802 1:13.690
12 Indy Alonso McLaren Honda 1:13.669 1:13.693
13 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:14.051 1:13.756
14 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:13.780 1:13.839
15 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:13.990 1:14.293
16 Stoffewaffle McLaren Honda 1:14.182

17 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:14.209

18 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:14.318

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:14.495

20 Tipsy Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:14.810


Q1 and Q2 were essentially uneventful.  Everything played out exactly as you'd expect them to, and only the discovery that Pleasant Stroll is in real life a true-blue dyed in the wool Canadian.  And he has a pet moose named Archimedes.  That plays hockey.  Defenseman.  Moose.  Whatever.  Defensemoose.

In Q3, though... we got what amounts to a declaration of war for the championship when Lewis Hamilton became the first ever to break the 1:11 barrier.  A moment later, Seb Vettel brought his Ferrari across the line, fimishing a mere +.004 seconds behind.  In-car footage showed that somewhere near the beginning of the lap, he had to jerk the steering wheel to catch a spin... it actually takes longer to read the description than it did for it to happen... and one little twitch was enough to cost him pole.  Obviously we were gonna have a fun second run... and we did.  Hamilton drove what could be called The Perfect Lap, lowering his track record even farther.  Vettel had no answer and finished just under +.400 seconds behind.  All of which suggests a dramatic race tomorrow... let's hoping!

And no marmots.

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June 07, 2017

F1 on TV: Canada 2017

If Suzuka didn't exist, there's a very good chance that the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal would be my favorite track on the F1 calendar.  Of course, in this world Suzuka does exist, but at least Montreal has poutine, right?  Why do I bother saying that?  Because this week, the Noisy Circus is in Montreal for the 2017 Grand Prix of Canada!  Here's the track map:


You want fast?  Canada can do fast; that back stretch from the Hairpin to the final chicane is as fast a run as you can find in F1.  You want slow?  That Hairpin I just mentioned is pretty darn slow, particularly as you're coming off a full-speed blast from the first chicane.  You want marmots?  Boy, does Montreal have marmots!  And every now and again, you get a four-hour rain delay!  You can't beat fun north of the border, you betcha.

And here's the schedule for the Legendary Announce Team's broadcasts!  Take a close look at the networks, we're all over the darn place this weekend!
Friday
Practice 2: 1p - 230p  live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 12p - 130p  live on CNBC
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Canada: 1p - 3p  live on NBC

All times Pond Central.  Accept no substitutes!  Sometime afterwards of course there will be the usual F1Update!, so ask for it by name.

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May 28, 2017

GANBATTE ~TAKU~!!!

The last "favorite driver of The Pond", Takuma Sato, won the Indy 500!


He had to get past former F1 driver Max Chilton, then keep Helio Castroneves, who was looking for his fourth Indy 500 win, behind him for a handful of laps. 

In 2012's Indy 500, Sato was in second place behind Scotland's Dario Franchitti with one lap to go.  He tried to go under Franchitti into Turn 1 and wound up in the wall instead.  He'd never been so close before or since.  Until today.

We here at F1U! aren't afraid to say we were cheering for "Super" Sato loudly in the final few laps.  We're also not afraid to say that the Indy 500 was a damnsight more interesting than Monaco was.

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May 27, 2017

F1 Quals: Monaco 2017

When you take high-tech high-speed race cars, put most of the best drivers in the world behind the wheels, and drop them into the streets of a small French fishing village, weird things can happen.  When those weird things occur during Quals, you get some very interesting prospects for the biggest race on the Formula 1 calendar indeed.  Here's the provisional grid for the 2017 Grand Prix of Monaco:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:13.117 1:12.231 1:12.178
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:13.090 1:12.449 1:12.221
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:13.325 1:12.901 1:12.223
4 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:13.078 1:12.697 1:12.496
5 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:13.219 1:13.011 1:12.998
6 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:13.526 1:13.397 1:13.162
7 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:13.530 1:13.430 1:13.329
8 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:13.786 1:13.203 1:13.349
9 Jenson I'm Back Button McLaren Honda 1:13.723 1:13.453 1:13.613
10 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Honda 1:13.476 1:13.249 No Time
11 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:13.899 1:13.516
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:13.787 1:13.628
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:13.531 1:13.959
14 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:13.640 1:14.106
15 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:13.796 1:20.529
16 False Esteban Force India Mercedes 1:14.101

17 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:14.696

18 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:14.893

19 Pascal's Wager Sauber Ferrari 1:15.159

20 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:15.276


Okay, let's deal with the elephant in the room first.  Lewis Hamilton had been complaining ever since Thursday's practice sessions that he was having trouble getting heat into his tires, particularly the rears.  This means a loss of grip, and around Monaco a loss of grip basically means your car is a mass of carbon fiber shards waiting to happen.  While he notably didn't have a wreck, he was only 10th in Q1, over a half-second behind the leader.  In Q2, he very nearly threw his Merc into the barriers at Massanet after a lurid twitch that would have left a lesser driver sitting in a chassis missing half of its suspension, much of a sidepod, and perhaps a wing or two.  After that, he went back to the pits for some adjustments and got randomly selected for a weighing by the FIA.  He didn't lose that much time there, but what was lost would never come back.  With time running out on the session, he returned to the track for a hot lap.  Through the first two sectors it looked like the team and driver had finally figured it all out.  True, it wouldn't have been the fastest time ever, but it was almost certainly going to get him into Q3.  But then, ahead of him at the Swimming Pool, the McLaren of Stoffelwaffle had kissed the armco and was on the side of the track in a bad state.  Marshals immediately threw the waved double-yellows, which meant that everybody coming upon the scene had to abandon their lap... like Lewis Hamilton.  And there was no time for another attempt.

In other interesting bits, RAIKKONEN'S ON POLE!  Amazingly, this was his first pole position since 2008, some 128 races ago.  His Ferrari teammate, Seb Vettel, is right next to him, just .004 of a second ahead of the remaining Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.  And if we needed any more evidence that Monaco is a place where weird things can occur, both McLarens with their wind-up motors made it into Q3... though neither will start in their provisional positions.  Jenson I'm Back Button will have to take a 15-spot penalty for changing out his MGU-H and his turbocharger overnight.  And Stoffelwaffle has a three-spot penalty from the last race for his accident with Felipe Not Retired Massa.  It also shows that this is a place where sheer grunt is not as important as maneuverability, because let's face it, the Honda engine in the McLaren is a dog.  The chassis, however... that's another story.

The race is in the morning on NBC... see ya then!

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May 23, 2017

Motorsports on TV: Memorial Day Sunday

The race fan's holiday!  If you're completely insane, it's possible to go from 630am until 930pm on the couch watching 1260 miles of live auto racing in three major categories.  We're only going to concentrate on two of them, however: the Grand Prix of Monaco and the Indianapolis 500.  Here's the track maps:




Two more dissimilar tracks you cannot find in motorsports.  Monaco, with its two mile long course, is actually a shorter lap than the one at Indy (2.50 miles).  It's also somewhat more narrow, and a little bit slower.  None of which detracts from the race one bit... in fact, that's exactly what makes Monaco so special: modern, high-tech, multi-million dollar F1 cars racing through the streets of a small French fishing village.  Meanwhile, over in America, you've got lower-tech open-wheel cars blasting around a superspeedway at 230mph making four turns per lap and almost never touching the brakes.  If one was that sort of person, one could suggest that the two tracks are perfect analogues for Europe and America.  Fortunately for all involved, I am not that sort of person.

This year, of course, there's a particularly interesting reason to watch the Indy 500, in that McLaren F1 driver Fernando Alonso has decided to forego Monaco to compete in The Greatest Spectacle In Racing.  He's taken to the format quite well, qualifying fifth and even holding pole for a short time.  To be sure, qualifying position means little at Indy, but it's still quite the accomplishment for a rookie, particularly one that's never driven an indycar before.  Alonso is hardly your run-of-the-mill rookie, it must be said, and veteran watchers of the series say that the Spaniard has a legitimate shot at winning.

Of the 33 cars in the Indy field, there are (or were) six former (or current) F1 drivers involved.  Alexander Rossi, last year's winner, drove for Manor in 2015.  Takuma Sato drove for Jordan, BAR-Honda and SuperAguri in a seven year career.  Alonso is considered one of the best drivers in the world.  Max Chilton drove for Marussia in 2013-2014.  Juan Pablo (The Pope) Montoya had a six year career in F1.  And Sebastian Bourdais, who will not be making the race due to a massive crash in qualifying that broke his leg and pelvis, drove for Toro Rosso in 2007 and 2008.

In any case, the NBCSN's Legendary Announce Team will be live at Monaco for the race... here's the broadcast schedules:
Thursday
Practice 2: 7am - 830am  live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 7am - 830am  live on NBCSN
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Monaco: 630am - 9am live on NBC
2017 Indanapolis 500: 11am - 3pm  live on ABC
2017 Coca-Cola 600: 5pm - 930pm  live on FOX

All times Pond Central.  Please note that Practice 2 is, indeed, on Thursday, not Friday.  Monaco tradition and all that.  Also note the inclusion of NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 on the schedule.  I did something like 1100 miles of the three races one year... I don't recommend it.  However, if you want to try the triple-header, you now know when the third race is.  F1 Update! will come along sometime afterwards... see ya there!

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May 13, 2017

F1 Quals: Spain 2017

A lovely if breezy day greeted the F1 Circus as they took to the track in Barcalounger for go-fast day.  There were some differences to be seen however: upgrades could be spotted everywhere you looked.  Mercedes had the best of them, a pair of bargeboards with titanium-tipped claws on their ends:

Kiss any pushy Ferrari's tires goodbye!  Mercedes looked like they had recovered their teamwide mojo through the practice sessions, leading people to believe Quals would be an arse-kicking of historic proportions.  On the other hand, the Red Team had to perform a near-literal miracle just to get Seb Vettel on track, as they had to do a full engine change in the two hours between the end of P3 and the start of Q1.  Meanwhile, one of Red Bull's drivers was on record saying they could win... if both Mercedes and both Ferraris wrecked.  So just how badly did the Silver Arrows trounce the rest of the field?  Here's the provisional grid for the 2017 Grand Prix of Spain:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:20.511 1:20.210 1:19.149
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:20.939 1:20.295 1:19.200
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:20.991 1:20.300 1:19.373
4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:20.742 1:20.621 1:19.439
5 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:21.430 1:20.722 1:19.706
6 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:21.704 1:20.855 1:20.175
7 Indy Alonso McLaren Ho_da 1:22.015 1:21.251 1:21.048
8 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:21.998 1:21.239 1:21.070
9 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:22.138 1:21.222 1:21.232
10 False Esteban Force India Mercedes 1:21.901 1:21.148 1:21.272
11 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:21.945 1:21.329
12 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:21.941 1:21.371
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:22.091 1:21.397
14 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:21.822 1:21.517
15 Pascal Triangle Sauber Ferrari 1:22.327 1:21.803
16 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:22.332

17 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:22.401

18 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:22.411

19 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Hon_a 1:22.532

20 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:22.746


Oh.  Sure, Mercedes got pole, but it was only by .051 seconds and needed Vettel to completely bollix the final chicane to get that.  The top four cars are covered by less than .300 seconds.  So much for Merc Upgrade Domination.

In what has to be the most unimaginable result thus far, Indy Alonso dragged his McLaren, powered by the execrable H_nda "power" unit, into Q3 and seventh on the grid.  At the moment, for McLaren this is akin to the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series... long spoken of, but never occuring.  Some may scoff at a mere seventh place, but considering that Alonso's teammate Stoffelwaffle was saved by a last-place start only by a Toro Rosso whose driver said "the car was not driven by me today, it was driving on its own" after being knocked out of Q1, seventh has got to feel amazing.  Let's just see if Alonso can make it to the grid this week...

Race Sunday morning... see ya then!

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May 10, 2017

F1 on TV: Spain 2017

Short on time, but I didn't want to leave y'all hanging this weekend!  We've got Barcalounger this week, here's the track map for the 2017 Grand Prix of Spain:

Last year, Spain gave us the sight of the two Mercedes taking themselves out and the youngest F1 winner ever.  This year is... slightly less likely to give us such enthusiasm, but we can only hope!  The big reason to watch Barcalounger is that, as the first stop on the European leg of the F1 calendar, this is where the teams bring their first batch of big upgrades.  We already know that Red Bull is going to sport a bigger dorsal fin, and that McLaren is going to replace their Honda Fit engines with ones from an Accord, but what else will we see?

Whatever it is, the Legendary Announce Team will tell us about it!  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Friday
Practice 2: 7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 7a - 830a live on CNBC
Sunday
2016 Grand Prix of Spain: 6a - 9a live on NBCSN

All times nominally Pond Central.  Of course, as per usual, another sterling installment of F1Update! will follow along eventually.  See ya then!

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April 29, 2017

F1 Quals: Russia 2017

2008.

We haven't seen this result since 2008.  Think about how long it's been since then.  Go on, think about it.  Okay, that's enough.  Now what am I talking about?  Let's look at the provisional grid for the 2017 Grand Prix of Mother Russia:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Seb Vettel Ferrari 1:34.493 1:34.038 1:33.194
2 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:34.953 1:33.663 1:33.253
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:34.041 1:33.264 1:33.289
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.409 1:33.760 1:33.767
5 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:35.560 1:35.483 1:34.905
6 Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:35.828 1:35.049 1:35.110
7 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:35.301 1:35.221 1:35.161
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:35.507 1:35.328 1:35.285
9 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:36.185 1:35.513 1:35.337
10 False Esteban Force India Mercedes 1:35.372 1:35.729 1:35.430
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:35.827 1:35.948
12 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:36.279 1:35.964
13 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:35.984 1:35.968
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:36.408 1:36.017
15 Indy Alonso McLaren Honda 1:36.353 1:36.660
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:36.462

17 Stoffelwaffel McLaren Honda 1:37.070

18 Pascal's Wager Sauber Ferrari 1:37.332

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:37.507

20 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:37.620


It's Ferraris' first front-row lockout since Raikkonen and Massa did it for Ferrari at Mangy-Curs  in 2008, and the first time since Singapore 2015 that there isn't a Mercedes on the front row at all.  And know what?  It wasn't even particularly close.  Sure, Bottas made it look good, but Hamilton couldn't even manage one of his patented 'fast-lap-out-of-his-arse' laps, let alone a pole lap.  One never got the impression that the red cars weren't going to have run of the place at the end of the day, not after only being a half-second off the pace in Q1... while on the super-soft tires when everybody else was on the faster ultra-softs.  That's a Mercedes thing, being quicker on the harder rubber in quals, and they had it turned on them.  Feels good, man.

Race in the morning, see ya then!

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April 25, 2017

F1 on TV: Russia 2017

Russia.  Sochi.  Боже мой.

Trackmap:

What's there to say about Sochi?  It looks like it should be fun, but it's proven to be a dog in reality.  2016's race lasted exactly two turns before Nico Rosberg ran away with it.  2015 went to Lewis Hamilton, but only after Seb Vettel nearly killed a track marshal that had run out in front of him.  2014 was the first race after Jules Bianchi's accident, and nobody wanted to be there.  Too many right-angle turns ruins the flow of the circuit, never letting the drivers get into a groove.  It's also proven to be remarkably gentle on tires, though of course we've got new compounds this year.  I expect the new aero packages to not be of much importance here... it helps on turns, yes, but not stupid-slow ones like Turns 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18.  Which is most of them.

Well, the proud tartars of the Legendary Announce Team will do their level best to cover the race, lest the gulag beckon.  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Friday
Practice 2: 7a - 830a  live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals:  7a - 9a  live on CNBC
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Russia: 7a - 10a live on NBCSN

All times are Pond Central.  Make your adjustments accordingly.  Afterwards, F1Update! will be along eventually.  I'm sure you're thrilled by this announcement.  See you then!

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April 16, 2017

Bahrain 2017 Gonna Be Delayed

This has been one of those days where you start out behind the clock when you wake up and just fall farther and farther behind the longer the day goes on.  But I got my taxes done, and thanks again to H&R Block for their wonderful website... they've made the unpleasant chore of doing your federal taxes easy, and the downright evil chore of doing Illinois' taxes even easier.  After that, though, there were little glitches here and there throughout the day that, in the end, saw me not watching Bahrain until late afternoon.  A much needed nap didn't end until 1030pm this evening, and dammit, I want to watch some anime this week.

So the F1U for Bahrain is going to be delayed for a day.  While you wait, here's the Easter Bunny just destroying Teddy Roosevelt for your enjoyment and here's the sequel to last year's greatest baseball commercial.

Thanks for waiting.

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April 15, 2017

F1 Quals: Bahrain 2017

Of all the results I imagined I'd see when I got home from work/lunch today, I gotta admit, I didn't expect this one.  Here's the provisional grid for the 2017 Grand Prix of Bahrain:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:31.041 1:29.555 1:28.769
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:30.814 1:29.535 1:28.792
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:31.037 1:29.596 1:29.247
4 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:31.667 1:30.497 1:29.545
5 Mumbles Räikkönen Ferrari 1:30.988 1:29.843 1:29.567
6 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:30.904 1:30.307 1:29.687
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:31.057 1:30.169 1:29.842
8 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:31.373 1:30.677 1:30.074
9 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:31.691 1:30.857 1:30.763
10 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:31.458 1:30.899 1:31.074
11 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:31.531 1:30.923
12 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:31.748 1:31.168
13 Pascal's Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:31.995 1:31.414
14 False Esteban Force India Mercedes 1:31.774 1:31.684
15 Indy Alonso McLaren Honda 1:32.054 DNF
16 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:32.118

17 Snuffy Vandoorne McLaren Honda 1:32.313

18 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:32.318

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:32.543

20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:32.900


This is Valtteri Bottas' first career pole, and it's his own damn bad luck it had to come at Bahrain, where starting second is actually better.  That's the clean side of the track, as it turns out.  Still, you gotta hand it to him... it isn't everybody that can say they beat Hamilton to the pole anywhere!

There's nothing particularly shocking in the rest of the grid.  However, we do now know who will be replacing Indy Alonso when he comes to America instead of going to Moncao:  Jenson "I'm Not Retired Yet Either" Button.

Race at a normal time tomorrow morning... F1U! sometime afterwards!  See ya then.

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Quals will be late...

Just to give y'all a head's-up... I'm back on mandatory overtime at work, 10 hours minimum.  When quals is going on, I'll be at work, trying to get four or five of those hours on the clock.  Then I'm having a late lunch with Ph.Duck and his wife, RN(ret).Duck... I don't expect to be home until 4pm at the earliest, probably closer to 5pm.  I'll get the grid up asap.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em...

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