September 29, 2005

Sure, I can see that...

I'm trying to feel sorry for this bloke because of THIS, but I find I can't...

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September 24, 2005

F1 Brazil Quals, or 'How I Threw Away My Chance At The Championship.'

Apparantly, Kimi Raikkonen's instructions for qualifying read something like this:

1) Extend right hand.
2) Apply right hand to neck.
3) Squeeze right hand.

Either that, or those wacky McLaren engineers gave him a trick tire... "Hey, Bob! Lookit what I put on Kimi's car! When he puts the brakes on, it'll start to smoke!"

The Iceman needed to pole. Instead, he created tire flambe and ended up 5th on the grid. Who took the top spot?

Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard looked like he was on rails the whole way around Interlagos, almost no mistakes, very steady... kinda like he's been all season, in other words. He's been brilliant occasionally, and very very good the rest of the time (or, at least, when he's not leaving stray parts of his car behind for David Coulthard's Chin to run into).

Of course, many people seem to think that "very good" is dull. Many people would be right, too, but it also has him poised to become the youngest F1 champion ever.

Over at Planet-F1.com, they ran a poll asking "Does Alonso deserve to be F1 Champion?" 80% of the readers said "no." I think they're full of haggis. He's done a fine job this season, and, hey, at least he's won a few races. Official First Reader Mallory may correct me on this, but didn't NASCAR have a champion a couple years back who never finished higher than 2nd?

Kimi may be the best driver in the fastest car, but it kept breaking on him or he drove it to destruction... and Alonso didn't. It's that simple.

In other qual news, Jensen Button claims that the reason he's not on pole is because he was hit by a windgust that was strong enough to add a quarter-second to his lap time. Apparantly Mr. Button has discovered Brazil's secret weapon: the micro-hurricane. I think it's more a case of the BAR-Honda car being too frickin' slow, Mr. Button, rather than a headwind.

And lets all wish a happy 24th birthday to Robert Doorknob, who celebrated by taking a trip to the run-off area of Interlagos (which means "Between the Lags" in Portugese) on his qual lap. Well done, lad. Now lets give Zsolt another try, eh?

Finally, this site's hero, Takuma 'Suicide' Sato will be starting dead last after not turning an official lap. BAR is testing a new engine, it seems, and they're making him do the heavy lifting on it so it'll be ready for Suzuka.

*sigh*

Did I mention that I despise this track? I do. It's never sunny there, everything seems gray, I've seen gravel roads that are smoother, and they can't even get the remote cameras to run without making me seasick... though, to their credit, the one on the pit wall is pretty flash.

My official position on Interlagos? It'd be better if it was just IN-lagos. Maybe have a unlimited-class hydroplane race there or something.

(hmmm... apparantly, the F1 Update folks are grumpy today...)

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September 21, 2005

BAR-Honda names 2006 lineup!

Wow. I walk away for a few minutes, see what happens? BAR has bought out Jensen Button's contract from Williams; next year, BAR will be Button and Barrichello!

Talks are "continuing" with Takuma 'Suicide' Sato. :-(

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F1 on Speed: Interlagos!

Howdy, y'all! I've got a bit of pep in my step this week, 'cause for one of the few times during the F1 season, I can actually watch the race live, WITHOUT having to get up before the sun does! Ah, the joys of the Americans Continents...

We start with Friday, 9/23, and practice is LIVE from 12 noon to 1pm... imagine that! Later that night, from 11pm to midnight, is F1 Decade, the 1995 GP o' Europe, followed by the repeat of practice from midnight to 1am.

Saturday, the 24th, Quals are LIVE from 11am to 1230pm, followd by Inside F1, starring Mr. Snootyvoiceoverguy. Of course, the Qual session repeats from 1am to 230am.

And then we come to Sunday, the 25th. 1130am to 2pm is the Brazillian Grand Prix LIVE from Interlagos, which means "In The Legs" in Brazilian.

I'm not sure what that has to do with anything.

The race doesn't appear to repeat on Sunday, which is kind of a bummer, but there are worse things in the world.

Like tooth #14 on my upper jaw (that's the back molar that ISN'T the wisdom tooth on the right-hand side for those of you without a tooth diagram in front of you). That bugger is drivin' me nuts! Yarrrr. Tuesday it was helltooth... today, it's been nice and peaceful-like. Tomorrow? Demonspawntooth, probably.

If I'm lucky, it won't be. And if pigs had wings, they'd be Jordans.

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September 15, 2005

A Must-Do.

My readers... no. My FRIENDS... I have been made aware of a very important thing that we, as fans of Formula 1, must do.

I ask you to go here, to ForzaMinardi.com, and sign their petition.

As we know, Red Bull has purchased Minardi from Paul (Guido) Stoddard. They are still deliberating over changing the team name to "Red Bull," completely dropping the legendary Minardi name. It's bad enough that with this purchase, F1 is starting to look more and more like GP2; do we REALLY want the sport we spend so much time with have two teams with the same name? Even if it was Ferrari I and II, I submit that it would not benefit the sport.

Currently we have ten teams, ten different liveries: a visual feast for our eyes. Mind you, the Red Bull car has one of the best paint schemes on the grid (in my opinion, they fall behind only McLaren and Ferrari), but I don't want to see four of them.

Minardi has existed for decades, and been in F1 for 20+ years. Lets do all we can to keep the name alive.

I don't care if you're a Ferrari tifosi, a McLaren McFan, a Renault Rooter, a Sauber Supporter, a Toyota Tooter, a BAR-ista, a Williams Wag, or a Jordan... uhm... a Jordan fan (they've got medication for that now); support the diversity of F1. Sign the petition now.

I admit, I've poked fun at Team Minardi here at my Pond. I do so because I like the team... who doesn't like the underdogs? Will they ever be on pole? Nah, not likely. Will they ever win? Nah, not likely. Their victories are more human in scale, and that's why I like them. Minardi is the emotional opposite of Ferrari, McLaren, and the incoming Team BMW. Can you imagine Guido Stoddard in a lab coat, examining the car in a clean room? Nah. One can almost see the car up on blocks in the front yard (now THAT'S a mental image...).

Now can you imagine team-members from McLaren or Ferrari even SMILING while they work on the car? Have you seen the man that's going to be running Team BMW? He doesn't look like he's capable of smiling!

Minardi races for all of us, in a way. Red Bull? Bah.

Make Mine Minardi!

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September 14, 2005

YOUR F1 Glossary!

So here I am, tired after a long day that began with a dentist visit (note: don't EVER let anybody tell you ducks don't have teeth), and ended with the usual Wednesday night Duck U. Anime Club... all in all, I was away from the Pond for 13+ hours.

Anyway, I fired up the duckputer, and I discovered an e-mail from Official First Reader Mallory, wondering what _______ meant. I started to answer, but decided to turn it into a post (mostly because I didn't have anything better to work with)!

So, without further ado, I present YOUR F1 Glossary!

Tifosi: horde of red-clad, airhorn wielding visigoths that seem to appear at every race, even in places that have never seen a Ferrari ("Oh, sure, there's loads of Enzos in Beijing, aren't there?")

boot:
1) British for watercraft (see "Spa").
2) something a F1 car doesn't have.

nose: piece of F1 equipment that generally falls off in turn one.

Jordan: F1 Team that is destined to be the butt of every joke in this Glossary.

Schumi: (verb) to physically slap someone on the helmet with bare hands. (e.g.: "Did that guy just schumi you?" "Yes. The ambulance will be here in a few minutes." "Moron.")

aero package: a major piece of the car has fallen off. (e.g.: "I ruined the car's aero package when I hit the wall, a Jordan, and three trees.")

Minardi Chicane: what forms when two cars stall on the grid.

grid: full complement of 20 cars for a race (note: six for Indianapolis).

grid girl: what JP Montoya pays attention to, instead of the starting lights.

bodywork: specific parts of a grid girl that JP Montoya looks at.

monocoque: single rooster. Every car has a monocoque as part of the vehicle's body; this is known as the cockpit.

paddles: what the boot uses at Spa.

pole: an item often inserted into the posterior of someone that schumis someone else. This results in the well-known Pole Position.

"Splash and Dash": what drivers do at a bar when they realize they've forgotten their wallet.

ballast:
1) weights carried in a boot.
2) weights carried in a F1 car to reach a defined weight. In Jordan cars, this is also known as a "driver."

Spa: a lake in Belgium, cunningly disguised as a racetrack.

kitty litter: where cars that need to be buried by cats go. See also Jordan.

Parc Ferme: French for "Ferrari Employees Only."

oversteer: why cars end up in the kitty litter.

understeer: something that ruins a car's aero package and often causes it to end up in the kitty litter.

bottoming: what this column has done.

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September 10, 2005

F1 Quals: SPA! (and some Big News)

They finally did it. They've threatened it before, and something has always come up to prevent it, but now they've gone ahead and done it... and the rest of the grid has got to be quaking in their tires over it.

McLaren is 1-2 on the grid.

To make matters worse for everybody not in McLaren black&white, Jarno ("The Engineer") Trulli is third. I doubt that the McLaren boys could have picked someone worse for the other teams to deal with than the Man Who Leads The Train. If Fernando Alonso can't jump from the fourth spot on the grid and get past Jarno by the first couple of turns, this race'll be over fast, and the Constructor's Championship will be tighter than ever.

Oddly, it seemed like Renault and McLaren switched bodies this race. McLaren had the speed and reliability, and Renault had the breakdown, with Giancarlo Fisichella having to change out his engine before qualifying. He actually would have been 3rd, but is instead 13th, making it quite possible that the 8 point difference between Renault and McLaren in the CC race will be gone after Spa-Francopants.

The most interesting news of the day to me, however, wasn't the way the big boys were playing around, it was what happened down in the backmarker area. To whit, both Minardis beat both Jordans. Why is this important?

Both Jordans were the new EJ15b chassis that debuted at Monza last week... and that Tiago Montiero beat both Minardis in. Now, suddenly, both Albers and Doorknob trounced Montiero and Karthekeyan handily... how handily? Try almost TWO SECONDS. In fact, Minardi had a great qualifying run, ending up only around 3 seconds behind the polesitter.

But even THAT wasn't the big news of the day. No, the big news of the day was that the rumored purchase of Minardi by Red Bull took place today. Red Bull is going to set up the squad as a "rookie team," and it WILL compete against the "veteran team." Indeed, they'll be a wholly seperate entity entirely.

What does this mean for the world of F1? Well, lets take a look:
1) American driver Scott Speed will almost certainly have a race ride next year.
2) Paul (Guido Minardi) Stoddard will be out of F1, much to the relief of the Emperor Mosely and Darth Ecclestone.
3) As of right now, nobody is sure if one of the "old guard" teams is going to disappear from the F1 paddock. While the Red Bull Rookie team is going to be based in Italy, the name "Minardi" may well disappear entirely. If so, F1 Update! is going to be very sad.
4) While the two teams are supposed to be seperate *cough cough*, the chances of that happening are somewhere between "slim" and "you're kidding, right?" If so, the most interesting problem that's going to arise is the yowling from the tire manufacturers. See, RedBull is on Michelins, Minardi on Bridgestones. Think they won't swap tire data?
5) Who'll be providing engines? Minardi is scheduled to be Cosworth-powered, Red Bull by Ferrari. Would Ferrari even be able to PROVIDE engines for another team?
6) Will the Rookie team have the same sort of resurgence as the current Red Bull team did this year? Certainly there'll be more money available to the ex-Minardi team.
7) Is it good for the sport? Having two teams run by the same group leads to all sorts of possibilities, few of them good, during the race. Yes, they say the two teams will race as seperate entities, and the two Red Bull GP2 series teams do... but this is the Big Leagues.
8) Zsolt Baumgartner will never be in a F1 seat again. His final hope just went out the window.

If this is the last go-round for Minardi, it seems appropriate to note that it's possible that an ex-Minardi driver will clinch the Driver's Championship this weekend. Fernando Alonso got his start with Minardi back in 2001.

Right. Race is in 8 hours, more or less... lets see what the weather has in store for the assembled masses, and we'll see you back here on Sunday for the official F1 UPDATE!

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September 09, 2005

F1 Practice: SPA!

Or maybe that should read "F1 Swimming Lessons: SPA," since we got an out-and-in from Fernando Alonso, and a half-lap out of Vitantonio Liuzzi before everybody just hid.

Yep, that's right... the rains have come to Spa-Francorchamps. Not just rain, but heavy-break-out-the-pontoons-buckets-o'-rain type rain. Rain that caused visible waves on the track where it was running downhill.

So, yeah, it was a bit damp. Red Bull sent their Friday driver out on four Intermediate tires, and brought it back in with three and two broken suspensions. The Legendary Announce Team think that it just got away when he put on the brakes going into the right-left-right complex at the top of the hill, but I have a different opinion; since this is my Pond, allow me to tell you what I saw.

I have an advantage over the LAT, in that I was able to go back and watch it frame-by-frame. The camera angle was from almost dead ahead. Liuzzi is heading along, and it APPEARS that he hit an isolated local heavy rain spot, either in progress or having just passed.

Frame one: nothing is amiss. Two, and there's a huge increase in the amount of spray coming from the front tires. Three, and there's an increase in the spray coming off the left-rear tire as well... but nothing extra off the RIGHT-rear.

I suggest that the right-rear still had more grip than the other three, which were probably hydroplaning along. That grip was enough to turn the nose of the car in frame four, and by frame five, the car is completely completely gone. Give Liuzzi credit, though: the front wheels are already pointing to the right, trying to steer the car back towards the centerline of the track, and they stay that way until you can't see them anymore because the car has turned around.

The rest, of course, is history. He clouts the barrier a good'un, his right rear tire is shoved back off the wheel and the attendant suspension is broken, as is the right front. It wouldn't've mattered if the car was in one piece, though... the runoff area was grass and earth, a/k/a "really friggin' slippery." Unless he had spiked tires, or perhaps tank treads, there wasn't much he could have done. Still and all, the car looked in remarkably good shape when the crane picked it up: it needed a good eye to see that the right side tires weren't really attached to anything due to the broken suspension (note: I'm not claiming I have that good an eye; I AM claiming to have looked at the car frame-by-frame on the videotape).

I do suggest that it could have been anybody in that position, and it wouldn't've mattered: they would have ended up in the same position; dripping wet, out of the cockpit, with a multi-million dollar lump of scrap dangling from the end of a cable.

I pity the GP2 guys. They were to qualify for their "long race" immediately after F1 practice. I suspect there were a lot of really slow times on that grid.

About the only good thing to come out of practice today was that the SpeedChannel guys showed replays from last year's race... and included a Zsolt sighting! Yep, there's Zsolt, getting speared by Jensen Button's BAR-Honda! Hi, Zsolt!

I miss that big lug.

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September 06, 2005

F1 on SPEED

Spa. Spaaaaaaaaaaaa. It just falls off the tongue and sits there. Not a particularly pretty word. Spa. Clunk. Almost sounds like an invective: "Oh, Spa!"

Thankfully, the racetrack at Spa is a little bit nicer than the town it's named after! Track go up, track go curvy, track come down, track keeps curvy. Fun! And here's when you'll be able to see it on Speed TV!

Friday, from 7a-8a, is LIVE practice coverage (repeated from 6p-7p). Watch an hour of cars going around and around with nothing at stake, while the Legendary Announce Team make us chuckle.

Saturday brings us LIVE coverage of Qualifying from 6a to 730a. Takuma Sato's racing career has only four more races left, make sure you see every lap!

Then, finally, comes Sunday. From 530a-630a, we've got GP2's Sprint Race, which makes me think that they're missing a sure thing as far as sponsorship goes. "Can you pass me now? Good!"

At 630am, the Big Cars come out to race. From 630a to 9a, we have the Belgium Grand Prix, live on Speed! Belgium, man, Belgium!!!

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September 02, 2005

The Magic Track.

Oh, my. Oh my oh my oh my. I forget how much I love Monza. Why does anybody love Monza? One word.

Speed.

Flat-out, pulse-pounding, teeth-clenching, white-knuckled speed. If anybody ever says that F1 cars don't have the same sort of straight-line speed of a ChampCar, even with a V10, just point to what the Williams' boys were doing through the speedtrap during today's practice:

2. 4. 0.

Two Hundred and Forty Miles Per Hour.

AND THEY WERE FIFTH QUICKEST.

Ricardo Zonta's Toyota had the fastest lap, followed by the three McLarens, then the Williams entries.

Oh, how the mighty yadda yadda yadda. Barrichello could barely stay on the track, Mitchell Schumacher COULDN'T stay on the track, going for a backwards ride through Parabolica's sandbox and ending his day with a half-hour left to go.

Meanwhile, BAR-Honda with their highpowered engine perversely couldn't turn a fast lap to save their lives. Nigh on three seconds behind the leaders.

Kimi had some excitement during one lap as we discovered just how much of the curbs you can use on this track. He came off a turn just a smidge wide and got his left rear into the kittylitter. What resulted gave the appearance of the rear of the car jerking savagely to the left, but was more likely the nose going to the right. Spin city coming up, ladies and gentlemen...

...except Raikkonen showed why he's called 'Iceman' by not only preventing the spin from occurring, but TURNING IN FAST LAP TO THAT TIME! That boy's scary.

On the lighter side, we had a squirrel show that in a straight line, he was almost as fast as a F1 racer as he streaked across the back straight, passing both Jordans and a Sauber as it did so.

And the SPEED crew reminded me why I think they're the best announce team in racing when they informed me that when the front tire falls off the rim, "the car's brakes become somewhat ineffective."

I love those guys.

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September 01, 2005

F1 vs CART: the aborted argument.

I was all set to go into a deep discussion on the positives and negatives of each series (note: at Official Overseas Reader Flotsky posited, we've rejoined IRL and ChampCar. It's been 10 years, guys, give it up already!), delving into the minutae betwixt the two and perhaps, finally, coming to a conclusion that would adequately say which should win and why.

But this statistic jumped out at me, and made me just throw up my hands and say "why bother?"

Patrick Friesacher - 1:19.574

Sebastien Bourdais - 1:20.396

What are these times? They're qualifying times for the only track, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, which both ChampCar and F1 race on. "Okay," you might say, "they're really close, so what? Like this proves things?"

Here's the catch: Bourdais was on pole for his race. Friesacher was the slowest qualifier for his (Rubens Barrichello turned no time, so Friesacher wasn't last on the grid).

Friesacher, in one of the slowest cars in F1, was still NEARLY A SECOND FASTER than the fastest car for ChampCar ON THE SAME TRACK!

As everything stands right now, there's no contest: F1 is faster than CART, and it's not really even close. Of course, there's a little thing like "budget" involved, too... Minardi will probably spend around $50 million this season, to end up the worst team in F1. The highest budget in in ChampCar might be $20 million. I'd HOPE F1 was faster.

But it really isn't close right now. Next year, when F1 goes to the smaller engines, lets revisit this.

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