August 31, 2005

Nanotech coming to F1?

nano–
pref.
Extremely small: nanoid.
One-billionth (10^-9): nanometer.

Formula One. The birthplace of automotive ideas. The home of the newest and most cutting-edge technologies on the track. Where the cars are more closely akin to fighter jets and the aerospace industry than they are to the automotive world. A realm where steel is considered too heavy and too weak to use. A world where an engine turning at 17,000 RPM is thought to be too slow. Where engineers look to shave off not pounds nor ounces, but fractions of an ounce, all in the name of the almighty god Speed.

The logical place for nanotechnology.

And it's coming, as early as 2006. A process that creates sheets of "Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes" that are 100 times as strong as steel at only a sixth of the weight, has been produced at Rice University and the University of Texas, according to an article in the Tucson Citizen newspaper.

This material could be used for flat surfaces such as the front and rear wings almost immediately, providing a stronger form at less weight than the "plain old everyday" carbon fiber being used now. One result of this might be a reduction in nose replacements occuring from the nudging that often occurs in the first turn (such as what happened at Hungary this year, where Fernando Alonso's entire nosecone came off and David Coulthard ran over it, ending his day).

Eventually, one could imagine entire car bodies being made of this material, with a huge improvement in safety (fewer carbon fiber shards lying around on the track after an accident, resulting in fewer tire punctures later, for example) and an equal reduction in weight, always a good thing in the racing world.

While Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosely might want to "dumb down" the FIA regulations in the future, the rest of the sport should be looking long and hard at these developments. It'd go a long way towards showing the world that F1 is still the preeminent high-tech motorsport.

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August 30, 2005

F1 on SPEED

Ah, Italy... wine, pasta and Monza... bring on the pizza, here comes Formula 1!

We start on Friday, from 7a-8a, as they show the usual Practice session, live. That gets repeated at midnight, in case you can't wake up that early (me) or can't stick around that late (Official First Reader Mallory).

Saturday we get a whole snootful of F1 goodness. 6a-730a, we get live Qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix. Come see Ferrari desperatly try to outpace the Minardis on the grid! From 630pm to 7pm is "Inside Grand Prix," starring your host, Stuffy McBritishVoice. Immediately following is Formula One Decade, this week covering the 1995 Portugese Grand Prix. Should be interesting seeing a dead track...

They repeat quals at 1am Saturday night, in case you slept in or your VCR is blinking "12:00", by the way.

Then Sunday... MONZA! Yaaaaaay! 530a to 630a, we get the GP2 puppies romping around on the track... watch and see what sort of messes they make on the rug! Then at 630am, the training wheels come off the cars and the big guys come out and drive.

Vroooooom!

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August 26, 2005

Oho, he says!

Ever wonder why something that seems curious happens, only later to have something occur that clears everything up?

Something curious: Robert Doorknob takes Minardi's second seat.

On the face of it, this only makes sense if Guido & Ethel were so strapped for cash that they took the first offer. He's hardly a stellar prospect, with one win historically to his name in Formula 3000 during the 2004 season (third in the championship standings); indeed, he's only driven since 1999, after he went from being a pro tennis player-wannabe to a F1 driver-wannabe. His family IS rich and well-connected, though, so the 'deep pockets' ability was there, and Guido Minardi COULD have been cash poor... even at the time, blinded as I was by Zsolt-lust, I thought it odd that they picked Doorknob, Jordan's test driver.

However, when I saw this headline at grandprix.com, all became clear: Dutch Investors To Buy Minardi?

Yup, that clears it all up. "Daddy, I want to drive F1. Buy me a team." Or, conversely, Guido thought having two Dutch drivers would make the team more attractive to Dutch investors. Either way, the naming of Doorknob as the 2nd driver for Minardi now makes perfect sense, no?

Okay, maybe that's going too far, but at least it's good to see that Guido had a REASON for picking Doorknob.

In other silly season news, things have gotten REALLY silly with the latest round of rumors. If you listen to the lads in the trenchcoats, the newest thing is that Mitchell Schumacher will be leaving Ferrari after the 2006 season to drive for McLaren... and will be replaced by Kimi Raikkonnen.

Lets see... McLaren spends a ton of money to sign a 40 year old driver; Ferrari gets one of the fastest young'uns around.

Tell me WHY this is good for McLaren?

*crickets*

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August 22, 2005

A Move Missed.

Yesterday, the good folks of F1 Update! gave the award for the "Move of the Race" to the lads of McLaren and Renault for their first laps' dicing around, and it's a fine choice.

I fear, however, that they may have overlooked a very pretty pass that we all got to see coming, and got to watch a driver set up his quarry in every way. I'm referring, of course, to Jensen Button's pass of Fernando Alonso on Lap 20. Unlike his teammate, Takuma "Suicide" Sato, Button took his time in executing his pass; one might say that he had to because the BAR-Honda didn't quite have all the oomph it needed, but what happened AFTER the pass puts the lie to that arguement: Button was able to run away and hide from Alonso until he had to go into the pits.

Button worked Alonso for an error. Alonso, who held off Mitchell Schumacher for... what? 10 laps?... for a win earlier in the year, may have made a little tiny mistake, and that allowed Button to bury the throttle and just swarm past the points leader and, legitimately, leave him eating dust.

To be fair to 'Nando, he was heavy on fuel and Button was exactly the opposite, meaning that a Minardi might have been able to pull off that pass under the circumstances, but it was still a very pretty move, and one that, I think, the boys at F1 Update! should have awarded the "Move Of The Race".

I have no idea what they were thinking! *rolling eyes*

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August 20, 2005

F1 Turkey: Practice & Quals!

I. LOVE. THIS. TRACK.

The Autodrom is just a fabulous layout. That quad-apex turn (#8 on your scorecard) will become a classic if the Turkish GP lasts more than a few years (and I can't imagine why it wouldn't).

I've been looking forward to this race for a while... originally because it's been three long weeks since the last tilt in Hungary, but now because of the track. That qual session was termed "sloppy" there at the end, and it surely was, but that's because none of the drivers had more than 30 laps or so practice time in on the course, and that's a tough track. I'll agree with the "mickey mouse" aspect of the last three turns, but even that doesn't do much to make me unhappy.

That's one sweet slab of asphalt they got there in Istanbul.

Of course, Mitchell Schumacher might disagree with me. Seven spins in two days, including one that led to a no-time in qualifying, did a fine job of deep-sixing my "front three rows" prediction for him. He really didn't seem comfortable out there.

But then nobody did, and that includes Kimi. Of course, it's hard to tell when he's uncomfortable out there being so still in the cockpit, but he did wind up sawing at the wheel for a moment there. Didn't matter; he still ended up on pole.

Giancarlo Fisichella came from out of nowhere to end up 2nd. PREDICTION SURE TO GO WRONG: by the end of the first lap, Fisi will be fifth. His teammate, Fernando Alonso, is 3rd, right behind Kimi on the clean side of the track. The Pope is 4th.

Lets think about this: the only four cars to have a realistic chance of winning this race are 1-2-3-4, alternating positions inside-to-out. This is gonna be one heckuva start if nothing else!

Jarno "The Engineer" Trulli is 5th, and will be somewhere around 12th or 13th by the time the 10th lap goes by. Nick Heidfeld is 6th after a very nice lap for the Williams team.

Which brings us to the frustration that must be Mark Webber's life right now. I don't think anybody would disagree that he would have AT LEAST been 6th, and maybe 5th, if it wasn't for Takuma Sato doing... I don't even know what Taku was doing out there. Taking a nap? Sightseeing? For his sake, it had better be something like figuring out how to get another 20mph out of his BAR, because he got his qual time thrown out and will start from the very back from the pack. Which doesn't do much for Mark Webber, but it DOES effectively put a stake thru the career of 'Suicide' Sato. Felipe Massa turned in another of his patented "stare into the depths of space" lap (so-called because that what he makes me do when he's turning laps) to end up 8th.

Cora Schumacher's husband ended up 9th, Christian Klein 10th (which was pretty good, considering that he's in the running for Mooooo-ve of the Week). Rubens BARrichello is 11th, and David Coulthard wound up 12th.

Jensen Button had one of the more exciting qual laps of the day, with his slip'n'slide in the quad-apex turn 8... which leads me to my next PREDICTION SURE TO GO WRONG: Someone will blow that/those turns so badly during the race that they'll find the blue kittylitter. At speed. Maybe sideways. Tiago Montiero is 14th; his Jordan didn't look any twitchier than usual. In fact, since everybody else was having handling problems today, he looked quite normal. Maybe his pit crew isn't trying to kill him this week.

Christijan Albers was the last person to successfully turn in a lap time, in 15th. 16th thru 19th will be Doorknob, Villeneuve, Karthekain, and Mitchell Schumacher, in some order that I can't figure out. Doorknob gave us our little bit of humor for the day, with his Minardi flambe. It seems typical of Guido & Ethel's team that they were telling him to bring it in, don't shift, don't touch the brakes, and he's on the radio saying "why not," oblivious to the smoke billowing from behind him. The Track Marshall telling the Minardi crew to "move that flaming pile out of the way" was another moment of light humor. Schumacher and Villeneuve lost their way on the track. We never did find out why Karthekain pulled in before he even bothered to take a lap.

Then we've got 'Suicide' Sato. Dead last, after trying to keep Webber from passing him. That's fine during the race, not so good during quals. "What was Sato doing?" "We know, Mark, we know." Classic team radio.

So, that's it. We've gots ourselves a race! Get your pogaca and beyaz peynir, grab a cup of deeply vile coffee, and settle in for a true Turkish delight.

F1 Update sometime in the afternoon, central time.

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August 19, 2005

F1 Turkey Viewing... DELAYED!

Ugh. I believe this day should count for me after I'm dead... I'm going right to Heaven, 'cause I've just spent the day in Purgatory.

What could have been a really good day turned icky. Remember that friend I mentioned a few days back? He and I went out to lunch today. Was gonna take an hour, no biggie, right?

Except his truck blew a coolant hose on the way back to work. As a result, I wound up having a 2.5 hour lunch, half of which was spent waiting for his wife to come pick us up.

Outside.

Did I mention that it was 95 degrees (Fahrenheit, of course. That's 207 Quatloos for you European readers) and really REALLY humid?

Did I mention that such weather does a REALLY good job of making me sweat like a stuck pig ("sweat like a gulled choker" to the overseas readers)? And I want NO Deliverance jokes here.

And I just got home from work at 7pm, after spending 11-1/2 hours away from home. I'm tired, I'm sweaty, I'm a lil' grumpy, so I'm going to take a nap, watch some light entertainment that I don't really have to pay attention to (as opposed to F1), and...

...get ready for work on Saturday. Ugh.

Yeah, I'm bitchin'. Guilty.

*update @ 735pm*
...and don't ANYBODY say anything about practice or tomorrow's quals until I post aboot them here. Or I'll be right peeved.

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August 18, 2005

F1 Turkey Predictions Sure To Go Wrong!

All right. Since nobody's ever actually raced on the new track in Istanbul, I'm going to pull out the crystal ball and make some Predictions Sure To Go Wrong!

Prediction 1: One and maybe both Renaults will DNF. The Otodrom looks like it's gonna be murder on brakes, and the Renault cars haven't had the best braking history in the world. As a result, one of them will end up in the kitty litter with dead brakes.

Prediction 2: Mitchell Schumacher will not be on the pole. He WILL be within the top 6, though, and maybe top 4. It looks like a high-level technical course, and nobody is as good at that sort of driving as Mitchell.

Prediction 3: Pedro de la Rosa will put in more laps than ANYbody on Friday, and maybe more than any TWO drivers. McLaren will test the crepe out of the track, since nobody has any data to work with, and nobody pushes harder than them.

Prediction 4: Turkey will be the most exciting race of the season. Lots of passing, lots of action. I know that Mitchell / Fernando battle from Imola will be hard to top, but overall, we'll be amazed.

Prediction 5: Jean Todt will remove his sweater. They're predicting this to be the hottest F1 race EVER... maybe over 100 degrees Fahrenheit air temps and humid. If he doesn't take it off, it's only going to be because it's actually part of his skin now.

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August 17, 2005

Hot Laps about F1

HOT LAPS... where we take a few runs around my brain.

Well, it's official: BAR-Honda has Rubens Barrichello inked for 2006 and 2007. Ant Davidson is probably wondering what he has to do to get a ride in this business. Takuma Sato is probably thinking that driving with Minardi would be pretty good next year (no, no rumors... considering that he's probably out of a job with BAR after this year).

Williams confirmed that they'll be using Cosworth engines next year, almost certainly as a temporary measure intil Toyota can handle supplying another team in 2007.

Speaking of BAR and Williams, Grandprix.com reports that BAR has some sort of option with Nick Heidfeld where he could, in theory, wind up driving for them if Williams decides they don't want him anymore. That probably won't happen anytime soon, but it's just more grist for the rumor mill.

I'll admit that I'm a little surprised that BMW hasn't announced at least ONE driver for next year yet. Maybe it's unrealistic to think that, but they're a major manufacturer, about to pour gobs of money into their team, and a huge splash seems like a logical thing to me. In that same grandprix.com article, they report that Heidfeld very well may NOT be driving for BMW, as he apparantly views it as a step DOWN from Williams.

I can see that, sure, but at the same time I have to ask: IS HE FRICKIN' NUTS? I mean, c'mon! German company, German driver, NEW TEAM... it's not a step down if he's got ANY talent at all. Mitchell Schumacher will always be the #1 driver for Germany (and rightly so), but he could be a national hero if the team does mildly well.

I was thinking a few days ago, what manufacturer would I like to see in F1? After rejecting a Volkswagen as being too much too easy to make fun of (would the car have a bud vase on the dashboard? Would they figure out some way to put the engine in the front of the car? Would it stall whenever it rained?), and Lexus (Toyota already runs in the series), it came down to two US companies and two European companies.

I'd love to see Panoz take a shot at F1. They already run ChampCar, so they've got high-end racing experience, and amongst gearheads in the US, they've got that 'whoo!' factor that'd make for a built-in fanbase.

Ford is the other US company that I'd like to see get into F1. Certainly they've got a foot in the door with Cosworth already; why not pull the trigger and get their own team? Think that'd draw US fans to the sport? Maybe pull a NASCAR driver or two to sit in the cockpit? (Official First Reader Mallory and I have discussed this at length in the past... I think we decided that Jeff Gordon would be a good fit, and Junior would, um, certainly make an impression on the sport).

Why in the world isn't Porsche in F1, anyway? They've been in F1 before, as an engine manufacturer (TAG in the 80s, March in the 90s, and disasterously, Footwork most recently). It's high time they became a full-fledged competitor.

Finally, the company I'd most love to see in F1: Zil, the Russian automotive 'giant.' Just because. Besides, it'd be fun to see cars that looked like they were from the '80s racing again today...

This has been HOT LAPS!!! Now you know what I live with every day...

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August 13, 2005

Back to F1... finally.

Why in the world do they put a three-week break in the season like this? Seems just long enough to make people forget there's such a thing as "F1" in the first place.

Oh well, so it goes. We're now a week away from the debut of the new track in Istanbul (not Constantinople). The Otodrom was designed by the same man who designed Sepang, Shanghai and Bahrain, Herman Tilke; like those, it's a purpose-built track. UNLIKE those, however, it doesn't feature what was previously a Tilke hallmark, two long straights divided by a tight hairpin, which made for a great passing location.

Instead, Istanbul's main feature is what works out to be a long sweeping right-hander, comprising turns 10 thru 12... the trackmap makes it out to be roughly 2km of the overall 5.34km length. They're predicting that the car'll hit around 200mph just before having to brake down to 60mph for a tight left-right-left sequence that takes the cars back to the start-finish line. My neck hurts just thinking about it.

Also unusual for a Tilke design, perhaps making up for the lack of hugelong straights, is the fact that the track has four different elevations, making for some blind corners perhaps.

Having looked at the official website for the track, the main seating grandstands look for all the world like... a shopping mall. Oh dear, this may not be good.

Finally, there has been a rash of bombs going off in and around Istanbul; local terrorists have said they'll try to disrupt the race. Joy, just what we need.

Still, get your fez on, it's F1 time again!!!

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