July 20, 2006

The SuperAguri SA06

It's finally here.

Months after it was originally scheduled to roll out, the brand spankin' new SuperAguri chassis hit the track for the first time yesterday, sporting a new paint scheme and MUCH more fluid, "swoopy" look in comparison to the 2002 Arrows body they'd been running.

Actually, the FULL SA06 package won't be on the track until Turkey, but the new design is complete enough to run with the big boys now. Midlands has got to be afraid; there's reason enough to think that this chassis will be at least as quick as them, and how will that make them look? Upstaged by a team that didn't exist nine months ago... eesh.

Could this finally bring Aguri Suzuki's team his first Grand Prix point? Stay tuned...

(thanks to Crash.net for the picture)

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July 17, 2006

In Reply...

See, here's the problem, Steven. By the time the daughter (or, for that matter, son) in question would be old enough to drive in F1, the father would be too old to be any good.

Guess that's the difference between going in a straight line and, y'know, having to actually DRIVE.

Actually, their haven't been that many good sons of F1 dads, now that I think of it. Jacques Villeneuve (Jack Newtown) won a world championship, something Gilles never managed. Damon Hill won a championship (his dad Graham* won one).

Also on the scene is Nico (Wonderboy) Rosberg, son of Keke, who's in his first year. We'll be seeing Nelson Piquet Jr. soon. It's way too early to tell with either of them how good they'll be. Mathias Lauda, Nicki's son, may never make it to F1 (particularly after finishing 21st in 2005's GP2 series).

I'd put Vanina Ickx up against any of John Force's girls, though.

*changed to correct 'father'. Thanks, Don!

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July 15, 2006

French GP: QUALS!

Okay, not that I'm upset or anything, but what in the world has gotten into Parky and 'Nando? They weren't qualifying, they were RACING. Two or three passes, one of which looked like it was going to end with both cars on the crane.

That just ain't right!

But it IS pretty cool.

After Indy, some people figured that it was a fluke, that Renault would be right back on top. Nuh-uh. Schumi-Massa, 1-2 on the grid. 'Nando is third, and then the big surprise: The Engineer and Cora's Husband fourth and fifth! Raikonnen is 6th, Fisichella is 7th (in what has got to be a disappointing performance), and Pete Rose in the other McLaren is 8th.

Nico (Wonderboy) Rosberg qual'd out at 9th, but is apparantly going to have an engine change, so he'll be 19th if that does occur. David Coulthard's Chin rounds out the top 10.

If anybody could be said to have a bad quals, Jensen Button and Jack Newtown have to be them. Neither made it out of Q1, with Button 19th, Newtown 18th. This is particularly surprising for Newtown, as the BMW-Saubers (vertical stabilizers and all) were the fastest cars in all practices.

Newtown, after his failed Q1 excursion, was saying that their race strategy is completely blown. Normally starting towards the back, you'd top the fuel tank off and run as long as you could. Problem is, BMW-Sauber decided to go with the ultra-soft tire compound, and they're going to have to stop to change tires before they need to get gas. Ergo, they can't DO the long run, and they're screwed.

There's some thought that Schumi and Massa might be on four-stop strategies... it worked in 2004, will it work again? Should be interesting finding out tomorrow!

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July 14, 2006

Tradin' Paint: Montoya/Gordon

Tonight, SPEED reran their show "Tradin' Paint", where Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Gordon switched cars for a few laps around the Indianapolis F1 course. Quite the eye-opener for both guys, it seems, and for the viewer as well.

The first thought I had while watching was how ungainly the NASCAR racer was in comparison to the 2002 Williams F1 car. That's to be expected, of course, considering that the Gordon's NASCAR racer weighs in at close to 4000lbs, and a F1 car comes in at a smidge over 1300lbs. The Chevy was also running on a track it wasn't particularly designed for; while NASCAR does do the occasional road course, none of them have turns as tight as the Indy infield's. The height difference is another eye-opener. Yes, you KNOW that the F1 car is lower to the ground, but until you actually see the two side-by-side, it's hard to understand. Jeff Gordon is a relatively small man, so it almost looked like he had troubles looking over the cockpit edge.

The F1 car was, obviously, in its element, and Gordon did a pretty decent job behind the wheel. The car had a VERY tame setup, in deference to the driver's lack of experience, but Gordon was turning laps that would have gotten him into the field using the old 107% rule. His best lap was still something like eight seconds off of Michael Schumacher's record of 1:11 and change. He did have one off, when he tried to brake all the way through a turn and the rear got away from him. He eventually figured out you can't do that and other than a few bobbles, did some nice laps.

Montoya, on the other hand, had problems all day with turn one, blowing it completely once. He continually locked up his front right brakes, to the point that he didn't just flat-spot the tire, he got down to the grain. Almost no rubber left on that thing at all... pretty impressive, actually. His laps were in the 1:40 range, which is about what you'd expect for that car with an ultra-conservative setup. It was hard to tell if he ever got the Chrysler up to full-throttle; the thing just didn't LOOK fast in comparison to the F1. Again, that's the size difference.

Both cars had roughly the same horsepower; 850hp at 9000rpm for the NASCAR V8, 900 at 19000rpm for the F1. Both cars also had roughly the same downforce: right around 1600lbs. The difference is the size factor again... 1600lbs is enough to stick the F1 car to the ceiling, but is less than half of the total weight of the NASCAR vehicle. It looked like Montoya was working harder behind the wheel.

Both drivers were beaming the whole time. It was pretty cool to see, actually. I got the impression that Montoya thought he'd be able to run NASCAR pretty easily. Gordon, on the other hand, KNEW he wouldn't be able to jump into a F1 race without a lot of practice. The way his helmet was bouncing around inside the cockpit was actually frightening... much much more than you normally see. Afterwards, he described how it felt like his face was coming off under braking, and how he actually got light-headed from the G-loads.

Pretty fun stuff, though disappointing in one aspect: I wanted to see Montoya take a few laps of the oval. Obviously not possible; the car was set up for the road track. Guess we'll get a chance to see that next year, though.

...and a fun time was had by all. Even the pit crews were having a blast.

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French GP: Friday Practice.

Well, the news of the day really comes out of the BMW-Sauber garage, as they debuted the new aerodynamic package I mentioned earlier.

Except... um... well, here. Just take a look.

The 'viking horns,' okay, we've seen those before on the McLaren. But what in the name of St. Fangio The Quick are they THINKING with those monstrosities? The Legendary Announce Team seems to think it's to control airflow back around the roll 'oop and maybe influence the air over the rear wing, but for heaven's sake, it looks like a catamaran capsized under the nose!

But, then again, Kubica (seen in the photo) DID set fast lap of the practice, so maybe there's something to it.

Lets hope not... then everybody'd have them! We'd start looking like the ugly cars of the 70s again, THEN where would we be?

...you kids, get off of my lawn!

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July 13, 2006

If Anything In F1 Can Be Considered 'Slow'...

...today would be it. Nothing's really going on, even though the French GP practice is in a few hours. No real news to report, other than that David Coulthard's Chin should be signed to a new contract with Red Bull in a few weeks, the SuperAguri SA06 will be debuting in Germany, and I started a new BATracer league (finally with a good car, the McLaren).

Other than that? Pffffffft.

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July 12, 2006

F1 on SPEED

Bonjour! The F1 Circus goes to the most obscure, out of the way spot of the season this week, the French GP at Magny-Cours. It's about 2.5 hours away from anything, and reportedly there's one hotel nearby.

Yeesh.

Fortunately for us, SPEED Channel will be doing their usual grand job of covering the festivities. Let's take a look, shall we?

FRIDAY
Not much going on, with live coverage of practice from 7a to 8a. Enjoy it while it lasts, as next year the FIA is planning on doing away with the "Friday Driver" position, so as to 'drive up the excitement level' by forcing the main team drivers to get out on the track for longer periods of time. Meh.

SATURDAY
Quals will be from 7a to 830a, again live. The FIA in their finite wisdom has decided to tinker with the qualy format (again), shortening the third session from 20 minutes to 15. "More action, faster." Uh huh.

SUNDAY
From 2a to 330a we get a replay of Quals. Whee.
Then the real stuff gets going at 5a, with the GP2 Feature Race. Come watch the nobodies of today trying to become the... um... nobodies of tomorrow?
The big boys come out to play at 630a until 9a, with the French GP, LIVE.
The replay is at 1230pm.

All times are central; subtract two hours for the West Coast (Steven, that means you... I know you watch), add 11-1/2 hours for my reader in Mumbai... well, Pune, but it's the same time zone. Glad you're okay, Philduck!

You had me worried there.

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July 11, 2006

Bye, JP.

It's official. Juan Pablo Montoya has been let go by McLaren, and Pedro de la Rosa (Pete Rose) is taking over his seat.

JP is off to the US, where he has a home in Florida, soon to begin testing. Pete Rose, on the other hand, will begin driving ASAP. He's been McLaren's tester all season, so it's not like he's inexperienced, and indeed, he had a couple of races last year when Montoya suffered his 750cc Tennis Injury.

In other news, Franck Montagnie will be racing for SuperAguri this week in France, at the request of Darth Bernie. "We've got a Frenchman, I want him in the car in France" seems to be the prevailing sentiment. He will become the third driver immediately afterwards, and is guaranteed a race seat next year with SA.

Finally, look for some interesting bodywork from BMW-Sauber in France. They've got a new nose, which includes what would be called canards on an airplane; a pair of winglets up near the cockpit. They've been testing it for a few months, now they're about to unleash it upon an unsuspecting public.

And that's a wrap. Tomorrow, the race schedule on SPEED.

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July 10, 2006

*grumble grumble*

I had a fairly long post on Montoya's history in F1 eaten by The Blogmonster, and it's too late for me to try and retype it.

What it came down to is that JP has managed to burn every bridge he's had behind him when he's left a team, he's pissed off a lot of other drivers, and because of those factors, he had no place to go next year.

Oh, and he might very well be leaving F1 early. A Spanish media outlet is saying that it's possible that Pedro de la Rosa (Pete Rose) will be taking over JP's seat in the near future, with JP coming to America to drive in the Busch series, so as to get practice for next year.

He'll be driving a Dodge when he gets to NASCAR. Dodge is owned by DaimlerChrysler. DaimlerChrysler is also part-owner of McLaren, so it's not impossible they want him to cut his F1 season short. After all, there's no future in it for him, and Pete Rose could use the experience.

Keep your eyes open.

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July 09, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: MONTOYA TO NASCAR!

It's Sunday, 1112am, and it's just been announced by Chip Ganassi that Juan Pablo Montoya will be driving for his NASCAR team in 2007.

Montoya and Ganassi have a happy past. Montoya raced in CART* under Chip in 2001, where he had quite a bit of success, before moving on to Formula 1.

Obviously the kerfluffle over McLaren's drivers next year caused this; it was... what, a month or so ago that the 'rumor' came out that Montoya wasn't needed by McLaren, and it seems that nobody picked him up. Somewhat astonishing to my eyes.

I wonder... how many drivers have done well in THREE different car styles?

More as the story warrants. To see ABC (US)'s story on this, click here.

Tip o' the helmet to Official First Reader Mallory for bringing this to my attention.

*Update: Thanks to commentor Ed Flinn for the correction on Montoya's Indy-style car racing history!

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July 02, 2006

An USGP Note...

The F1 Update! for the US Grand Prix will be delayed. Vaucanson's Duck and I are just about to get dinner and then watch the race; maybe around 9pm Central time?

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July 01, 2006

USGP Saturday Events

This morning's Practice session was dull as dishwater. The teams didn't get onto the track until 15 minutes had gone by (and we discovered that approximately half the crowd brought airhorns. The other half discovered that they were going prematurely deaf about 1 second later), and after that, the action came slow and spurious.

The high points both came from Parky. He set the fast lap at 1:10.8xx, which was only something like a half-second off the lap record, set with a 3.0L V10. Amazing what they can do with aerodynamics... really helps hold the car to the road, no matter what.

Except when they don't, as Parky wound up flooping about in turn 7. *shaking head* Perhaps the best driver in the history of F1, and he's spinning as much at Fast Yuji. Weird.

Quals were amazingly anticlimactic. Ferrari dominated all three sessions, ending up Parky and Massa, 1-2. Jarno Trulli gave us the laugh of the day, breaking something minor in the rear suspension as he went into the turn 12-13 complex. This resulted in him dragging the legality plank all the way through those turns AND halfway down the straightaway, and as Official First Reader Mallory mentioned to me in an e-mail, "It looked like the Toyota was throwing up." The Legendary Announce Team described it as "not dragging the plank, but running it through a lumbermill." Alas, he went back to the pits and never re-emerged.

The positive surprises of the day would have to be Rubens Barrichello, sitting 4th on the grid; Jack Newtown at 6th; Ralfy-boy rediscovering that the right-hand pedal makes the car go faster and ending up 7th; and American Scott Speed making it out of the 1st session and ending up 13th, a fine result considering the handicaps the Toro Rosso runs under.

The negative surprises, however, are much more... well... surprising. Fernando Alonso in 5th? Kimi Raikkonen 9th? JP Montoya not making it out of the 2nd session? Takuma Sato outqualifying both Trulli AND Glamourboy Rosberg?

They say this track is schizophrenic. After watching quals, I believe it. Should make for a REALLY fun race on Sunday. See ya here then!

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