June 30, 2006

USGP Friday Practice 2

Gee, what a surprise: Ant Davidson is still the fastest. What WAS a surprise was Midland MF1's Friday driver, Georgio Mondini, sitting at 5th! Not only that, but giving Parky Schumacher an angry hand gesture as he blew by him... because the Seven Time World Champion (tm) was slowing him down!

The mind boggles.

Things settled down for the SuperAguri team, with The Barber ending up beached in turn 4 after a couple of minutes of practice went by. Some things never change.

What might be the most frightening news of the day, however, came with about 20 minutes left in the practice. A set of Toyota's tires were scurried back to the Michelin stronghold for "undisclosed reasons." A quick scan of the usual F1 websites don't show any breaking news, so hopefully there won't be any problems. Ralf was way down in speed, hanging out with the SA boys. Boy, Toyota's all screwed up nowadays.

The usual suspects were near the top of the charts, but Fernando Alonso couldn't do any better than seventh. Babying his engine, which is on it's second race weekend? Or do they have setup problems.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Tomorrow, we get to see the Saturday practice for once, followed thereafter by the Knockout Quals. See ya here then!

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USGP Friday Practice 1

Well, first practice is over, and as you'd expect there wasn't too much going on. The Friday drivers turned most of the laps as usual. Christijan Albers had two spins within a couple of minutes, and you could almost see the embarrassment radiating off the car as it skulked into the pits.

The big news was Parky Schumacher landing in a graveltrap, just a few turns after setting 2nd fastest lap of the session. Well and truly stuck, he wound up helping load his car onto the flatbed for the trip back to the pits. The Legendary Announce Team then told us it wasn't because he wanted to lighten the load on the marshals, but to keep the underside hidden! Diffuser secrets, apparently.

We just saw a quick look at the engine of the RB2. It's about half the size of the 4-cylinder engine I've got in my Toyota, but of course it puts out nigh on 1000hp at 20K RPMs. Yeesh!

So, Ant Davidson had fast lap, Parky had 2nd, and Franck "The Barber" Montagnie (!) had highest speed down The Straight, at nigh on 204mph. In the SuperAguri! Good lord, what's this world coming to?

Practice 2 later.

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June 29, 2006

USGP Predictions

Here on the verge of the US Grand Prix, I figure it's time for myself and the rest of the F1 UPDATE! crew to do some prognostication. So here goes:

Ralf Schumacher will crash for the third year in a row. He will then swear off Indianapolis forever.

Michael Schumacher will not win.

Neither will Fernando Alonso.

Kimi Raikkonen will.

The Race will have more than six cars participating. Even if there's a tire problem again. PARTICULARLY if there's a tire problem.

It will not rain. It will not rain. It will not rain. Click HERE for the up-to-date forecast in the Indy area.

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June 28, 2006

Why Isn't There An American Team in F1?

Today at GrandPrix.com, they had an interesting article on why there wasn't an American team in F1. I've mulled this over before, and I think there are three major reasons: Winners, Action, and NASCAR.

Winners. America loves a winner. Always have, always will. Individual AMERICANS might pull for an underdog (see: Wonderduck, Minardi, SuperAguri), but as a whole, we love the big dogs. More importantly, though, we ALWAYS pull for American winners... this country didn't care about Women's Soccer until they won in the Olympics, for example.

America hasn't had a winner in F1 for decades. If Scott Speed, for example, wins a race or two, or even suddenly he'll be the subject of Sports Illustrated covers, he'd be on Letterman, he'd be elevated to "local hero" status. But until then, the American People (note caps) won't adopt F1, ever.

Action. As a people, Americans want action from their sports. They want to see the baseball fly 500 feet. They want to see the bone-crushing hits in football. They want to see cars going side-by-side for lap upon lap, and F1 just isn't like that. I fully believe that if Americans watched a few races with the Legendary Announce Team, they'd be hooked (particularly the gearheads who love technology. I'd think that computer geeks would really go for F1 racing), but the way to ge them to watch would be more action. If a Formula 1 race had, say, 20 laps of action like we get on the first lap of a race, people would be ADDICTED.

NASCAR. NASCAR is everything F1 isn't. It's got the personalities, it has the action, it has the good guys and bad guys, it's a uniquely American style of racing (much like drag racing... right, Steven?). As long as NASCAR markets themselves as well as they currently do, F1 will stand no chance of having a huge fanbase in the US.

So why do these things preclude an American team in F1? Really, it all comes down to money. Without fans to buy sponsored products, an American F1 team will constantly be a money-losing proposition. It's easier to slap sponsorship on a NASCAR team and get immediate exposure to the wallets of the US viewer than it would be to sponsor a F1 car/team/whatever (obviously, multinational corporations don't quite have this problem. Intel, AMD and Marlboro, for example, are all US-based companies that sponsor F1, but their products are in huge demand world-wide).

A Ford-based team with sponsorship from Fram oilfilters, Valvoline oil, Goodyear tires, ACDelco sparkplugs and so forth would really only be of interest to AMERICAN viewers, as those are American companies, with limited market penetration anywhere else in the world.

The first step is to get a good American driver in F1, and here's where I'm going to invoke the name Danica Patrick. Drop her in a Williams, lets say, and suddenly her every move in F1 will be covered like a blanket.

It'll never happen, of course, while Darth Ecclestone (who honestly seems to believe that F1 doesn't need the US, and is below the level of 'neanderthal' when it comes to women) is in charge, but it'd be a great step.

A great PR move would be for a NASCAR driver to turn some laps in a F1 car. Dale Jr, Tony Stewart, or Jeff Gordon would make an instant impact. This, too, would never happen.

But we can hope.

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June 27, 2006

USGP on SPEED!

Slightly different title than normal, but I figured "hey, it's my home race, so why not?" I mean, other than the fact that I'm a traditionalist.

This being SPEED Channel's home race, as well as the biggest event they cover every year, they're going all-out to bring us, the hungry F1 fan, a smorgasbord of coverage! Lets look at the menu, shall we?

Friday, June 30th
Formula 1 may not be big here in the states, but that's sure not for lack of effort on SPEED's part. Their coverage today is a case in point. The fun kicks off at 10am, with a full FOUR HOURS(!!!) of Friday Practice on tap. Yep, we'll see both sessions, plus the activites in between.

Immediately following this behemoth broadcasting block, we'll be treated to Inside Grand Prix, brought to us by Allianz: Forgive Us Father, For We Know Not What We Do.

Then, as if that wasn't enough, they show it all again at 630pm... just in case your VCR dies.

Saturday, July 1st.
Most broadcasters would be happy with that. Not SPEED, oh no. We get coverage of Saturday's Unseen Practice Session from 9a to 10a.

Then the usual Qualifying Session hits at 12noon, followed by a repeat of Inside Grand Prix at 130p.

But the real kicker for the day is from 7p to 9p. The Legendary Announce Team does "Live From Indy," the USGP Special. Last year's show was chock full of racer interviews, behind-the-scene-looks at technology, and (best of all) smarter conversation than you'll ever hear at any other racing event.

But wait, there's more! If you're a glutton for punishment, they've got just the thing for you! SPEED is replaying the entire day's events in one mammoth block, beginning at 11p, and ending at 4am!

Sunday, July 2nd
And we haven't even gotten to the race yet! Coverage of the US Grand Prix begins at 1130am, and we'll get the whole thing LIVE.

Wind Tunnel, at 8pm, will have Peter Windsor on recapping the event.

Then the replay of the race begins at 10pm.

*whew* By my count, that's 12 hours of live broadcasting over three days, and the same amount of replays, for a cool 24 hours of F1.

Not too shabby, SPEED! I only wish they were doing the Sunday morning 'Beginners Guide to F1' program, like they did last year. I assume that'll be worked into the "Live At Indy" show, though.

THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is going to be a fun weekend!

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June 22, 2006

On The Eve.

So the Canadian GP weekend starts tomorrow, and there's a bunch of 'backstage' stuff going on... but very little actual, y'know, racing.

For example, the subject of the homogenous engine plans for 2008 came up at a general meeting of the teams today. The teams voted against it 8-4, which was enough to put paid to the idea. Except the Emperor Mosely and Darth Bernie, through their mouthpiece, the Grand Moff Whiting, decreed that the teams would get no say in the matter. "Oh. This is different."

Michelin announced today that they will not bid to be the sole provider of tires next year. "F1 is about technological advancement, and this won't allow for that," said the Michelin rep (I'm paraphrasing). Michelin's next win will be their 100th in F1, behind only Goodyear.

There's more, but it's all just noise right now... we want racing, durnit!

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June 21, 2006

Big Shakeup At Honda

Geoff Willis, the Technical Director at Honda, has been sacked. Or he was "resigned." Meanwhile, Gil de Feren, Sporting Director at Honda, was quick to give Willis accolades.

"It's not the driver's fault," said de Feren. "They're an important part of the puzzle, but they're not the whole thing."

I wonder what the underside of a bus looks like... maybe I should ask Willis.

In truth, Honda's car has truly blown chunks this season, so SOMEONE had to go... and Willis was the obvious candidate. Wonder if he'll have a career after this?

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June 20, 2006

F1 on SPEED!: Canada

Bienvenue du Canada! Last year, Fernando Alonso got a big closeup look at that slogan, painted as it is on The Wall Of Champions. Interestingly, that was also the last time he didn't win a race.

Or, at least, that's how it feels.

In other Canadian news, Jacques Villeneuve will soon be releasing a CD of acoustic rock music. The first single, "Accepterais-tu?" (or "I Can't Drive My Way Out Of A Paper Bag, Eh?" in Canadian), is available HERE now.

I'd pay a lot more for a Kimi Raikkonen single.

In other news, Jacques Villeneuve has a MySpace page.

For some reason, this all feels very surreal...

Anyway. Canadian GP coverage begins on SPEED with LIVE coverage of Friday Practice at 1pm, June 24th. Let's see if American Scott Speed (who's first name is NOT "American.") can manage to high-center himself on a curb again!

Saturday, June 25th, brings us LIVE coverage of F1 Quals at noon, followed immediately thereafter by Inside Grand Prix (Sponsored by Allianz: "Even We Don't Know What We Do, But We Do It With A Snooty-voiced Guy.") at 130pm.

Finally, on Sunday, June 26th, we get the Canadian Grand Prix, LIVE from Montreal. Coverage begins at 1130am. The race will be replayed at 10pm that same night.

...and then, we begin the runup to the US Grand Prix!

Jacques Villeneuve?

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June 19, 2006

Pack It Up, Move It Out...

So, I wondered to myself, just how DOES a F1 team get from Silverstone to Montreal? Do they just run their trailers onto a ship? Do they take just some of the stuff on an airplane? Wrap the car in bubblewrap and send it FedEx?

So I did some searching. Turns out the answer is "yes." It's all about speed and priorities (figures, huh?). Many of the spares needed to run a F1 team are loaded onto a cargo ship (for the Montreal race, they were sent out after Imola!). The cars are palletized and stacked on top of each other, then loaded into a jet transport. Engines, most of the 80 people on a team, and the complex computer systems they use for telemetry, etc, are also carried via jet.

The teams arrive the Monday before the race, and run their own computer cabling, hook up their own tools, and so forth. They unpack the cars, reattach the bodywork, stick engines in the things, and off they go. According to one website, each team moves roughly 40 tons of material in up to 100 crates per race.

Last year after Canada, the Williams team tried shipping most of their gear to Indy via truck... which is substantially cheaper than air freight. It's also substantially slower, which is why they'll be flying everything in after Sunday's race.

The money doesn't all go to driver's salaries and R&D, folks.

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June 18, 2006

Did I Mention...

...that Giancarlo Fisichella has signed a contract to race for Renault in 2007?

...that reportedly his teammate for next year is Finnish?

...that his teammate isn't Kimi Raikonnen?

...that SuperAguri has a Friday driver that is Japanese, and that he has F1 experience? His name is Sakon Yamamoto, and he was a test driver for Midland. Expect him behind the wheel in France.

...that Franck 'The Barber' Montagnie is the only Frenchman in F1?

...that Franck's team came in 2nd in class in the 24 Hours of Lemans?

...that you can get an official F1 mousepad for $460.11?

...that if you do, be sure not to drop it.

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June 10, 2006

British GP Quals: What The Heck Was THAT?!?

Okay, we know Jensen Button's having a crappy year. We know the Honda isn't as quick as everybody was expecting.

But for Honda to not make it out of the 1st round of quals in their HOME RACE? That's just a frickin' disaster for them... and it didn't look like there was something broken.

Mark Webber not making it out of the 1st round is confusing as well; I'm assuming there was SOME mechanical problem there.

Alonso takes his fourth consecutive pole; no surprise there. Kimi Raikkonen, though, took second, and that WAS a surprise. The McLarens seemed to have been struggling with grip and twitchyness, but Kimi turned a brilliant lap to shove "Stoppy" Schumacher into third.

The amazing thing about Silverstone is just how fast the corners are now that the V8s are in the cars. Nobody's lifting unless they make a big mistake! They just go in flat-out and come out the same way.

If there's going to be a big, car-shattering wreck this year in F1, it's going to be on Sunday at Silverstone.

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June 07, 2006

F1 on SPEED! Let's not talk about the other network...

If Monte Carlo is the "face of F1," then Silverstone is the "brain of F1." This is the home race for so many teams, I can't even keep track of 'em. It's certainly one of the better tracks to show off the combination of grace and power that is a F1 car. PLUS, you get turn names like "Becketts," "Copse," and probably my all-time favorite, "Maggots."

AND it's just down the road from Official Overseas Reader Flotsky's home... I'm assuming you're going this year, Flotsky ol' boy? We want an on-site report!

Right. Starting on Friday at 8am, we get live coverage of the 2nd practice session. Wave, Flotsky! Set the VCR or TiVO it, 'cause it ain't bein' replayed!

Saturday brings us the Quals, live from 630a to 8a. SPEED will replay it on...

Sunday, from 2am to 330am.

And that's it. We get CBS coverage of the race on Sunday. Aren't we lucky?

Hopefully we'll have Danny Sullivan on the mic again... he wasn't (crashing!)NEARLY as (crashing!) bad as (crashing!) the (crashing!) other (crashing!) guy is.

I assume that Speed Channel will do the usual replay of the race with the Legendary Announce Team behind the mics a week later.

Warm beer and boiled meat. Enjoy!

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June 06, 2006

Little Known Facts About F1...

Did you know...

...that Silverstone was named for it's founder, Mr. Andrew Airport?

...that the UN coats used F1 tires in sugar, then transports them to hungry nations? Reportedly, they taste like doughnuts.

...that American Scott Speed's real first name is not "American" as the people at Speed Channel would have you believe, but is instead "Scott."

...that Kimi Raikkonen actually spoke his first coherent sentence in English in the Monaco Grand Prix's post-race press conference?

...that Takuma Sato has yet to take out another car this season?

...that I actually thought this post was a good idea?

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June 03, 2006

Well, THAT didn't take long...

It's been a slow week for F1 news. Other than the whole "Michael Parks His Car" fiasco, there's not been much going on of any real substance.

About the only interesting bit that's come out is that the Midland MF1 team might be sold. It appears that Lost Boys, the Dutch company that is one of MF1's sponsors, has made an $125 million offer to Alex Shnaider. That's about four times what he reportedly paid for Jordan in 2004. A nice little profit for him, and a deeper set of pockets for the team.

Shnaider has discovered what other privateers before him knew: it costs a LOT of money just to run a F1 team. To run a competitive team takes a lot MORE money on top of that, and Midland just can't afford to fork it out for no gain. It's not like a steel company would get much in the way of advertising benefit from an F1 sponsorship, yet that's essentially what Midland did when they acquired the team.

Car manufacturers like Renault, Honda, Toyota, BMW and Mercedes, it's obvious what the attraction is, however, which is why we've entered a period of factory teams. A side effect of that is the loss of players like Guido Minardi, Eddie Jordan, and other privateer teams.

Weird to think of a steel company as being a privateer, but there you are.

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