March 24, 2007

Ferrari vs Honda... a Battle of the Commercials!

Here's the Ferrari/Shell Oil commercial...

...and here's the Honda spot from a year or so ago.

Ferrari actually shut down streets in major cities around the globe for their commercial (Sao Paolo, Monaco and Shanghai just to name three), while Honda goes out for a jaunt around the English countryside. Ferrari has nothing but engine sounds (turn it up loud, and savor the roar of the V12), Honda has "Dream the Impossible Dream" from Man of LaMancha as the soundtrack for theirs.

Both cool in different ways... but I REALLY dig the Ferrari spot.

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March 19, 2007

A (really) Brief Look At 'The Tire Wars'

In the comments section of F1 UPDATE!: Australia, Steven asks:

"What are you talking about regarding Bridgestone and Michelin?"

Well, I'm not a F1 historian, so I won't be able to go REALLY in-depth on that question, but I'll give answering it a shot anyways.

For the past (insert number here) years, Formula 1 had two tire providers: Michelin and Bridgestone (This is in marked contrast to NASCAR, which has only one exclusive tire maker, Goodyear, or IRL with Firestone).

'So what?' I hear you asking. Well, each tire manufacturer had it's own stable of F1 teams, and desperately wanted to beat the other manufacturer. After all, with F1 being the world's most-watched seasonal sport, having the tire contract for the team that wins the Constructor's Championship or the Driver's Championship could easily mean Multi-Megabucks in improved sales.

So, in striving to beat the other manufacturer, the tire companies poured hundreds of millions of dollars per SEASON into improving such things as grip in dry and wet, wear patterns, rubber compounds and the like.

How much difference can the tires make? By all reports, the 2005 Ferrari was a pretty decent car, but for some reason Bridgestone's tires pretty much stunk up the joint. As a result, Ferrari had the worst season they'd had in years, winning only once. Meanwhile, Michelin had a tire that performed well across the board.

Except for one race. That race? The 2005 US Grand Prix debacle, when only six cars out of 20 cars raced. The Michelin tires for the race were unsuitable for conditions (the final turn at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is the first turn for the Indy 500, is the only banked turn in F1. This causes extreme stress on the tires). As a result, both Toyota cars crashed in practice, with Ralf Schumacher suffering a broken back.

And so Michelin withdrew from the race. Now, that's an extreme example of the differences in tires, to be sure, but it IS a valid one. Usually, though, it's more a question of THIS company's tires having to build up X amount of heat before they get good, where THAT company's tires get best results when the track is at 115 degrees, or whatever.

Sounds minor, right? It's not. I don't think anybody would disagree with me when I say that last year, the Renault and the Ferrari were pretty much identical in all respects regarding speed, handling, braking and aerodynamics... and even the top drivers were identical (Alonso and Slappy had differing styles, but were both still fast and evenly matched).

It really DID come down to which tire manufacturer had the edge for that particular track at that particular time... which, to me, was dull as dishwater.

I know Steve Matchett, the gearhead of the Legendary Announce Team, disagrees with me. He believes that technical innovation is the soul of F1, and having two or more tire makers competing with each other is good for the sport. I can understand that, but to my eyes, they became the deciding factor of the race. And that's NOT exciting.

This season, of course, the battles between Michelin and Bridgestone are gone. Everybody has the same tires for the races, courtesy of Bridgestone, so everybody is (theoretically) even. We could go into how Ferrari has been Bridgestone's main customer for umpty-ump years, so they've got a leg up on the rest, but each car has the same shoes.

So... that answer your question, Steven?

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March 17, 2007

That didn't take long... is reporting that Spyker has filed a protest against RedBull regarding car design.

They are not saying that Toro Rosso or SuperAguri are involved, however, so the old 'grain-of-salt' rule should be applied at the moment. I'm sure we'll hear more about this tonight.

UPDATE:, on the other hand, says the protest is against SuperAguri, not RedBull or Toro Rosso. So who knows what's going on?

In other news, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: is saying that the protest was against all three teams. Spyker officials took the protest to the race stewards, who (correctly) refused to rule on the matter. In effect, they said that it was 'above their paygrade,' and needs to be dealt with via FIA arbtration, since it deals directly with the laws put down by the Concorde Agreement that governs F1. That means that there's NO chance it'll affect the race, unless Spyker withdraws in a fit of spite.

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March 16, 2007

F1 Quals: Australia!

1115pm: Both SuperAguris make it into Q2. Ant was 9th, Suicide was 12th. Rubens Barrichello in the factory Honda was 17th, meaning that he's not advancing to Q2! Jensen Button just barely made it in, he was 16th.

That sound of something sharp cutting into meat would be hundreds of Honda executives killing themselves.

More to come after Q2.

1135pm: TAKUMA SATO IS INTO Q3!!! Ant was 11th, just missing moving on. Jensen Button was 14th, so he's not moving on. Umpty-ump million dollars to make your car 1.5 seconds slower ain't no way to go through life, Honda.

Felipe Massa had a breakdown (gearbox), and he's dead in Q2 as well. Other than him, the usual suspects (Renault, McLaren, the other Ferrari, both Toyotas {which is something of a surprise}, Kubica in the BMW, Webber in the RedBull, and ~TAKU!~)have made it on.

Can you tell that I'm enjoying life right now? More after Q3!

1201am: Was it good for you, too? Okay, SuperSato was last in Q3, which means he'll be starting 10th... ahead of 12 other cars; far and away the best grid position a SuperAguri has ever had.

Felipe Massa has gotta be wondering what could have been. His teammate, Kimi Raikonnen, is on pole (in his first race for Ferrari... the first time since St. Fangio the Quick that a Ferrari driver in his first race with the team is on pole), but Massa is 16th. Fernando Alonso is 2nd, and BMW-Sauber gets its best grid position ever with Nick Heidfeld in 3rd.

Rookie Lewis Hamilton is 4th in his McLaren, then Robert Kubica was 5th in the second BMW-Sauber... that piece of pitlane has got to be rockin' right now. Giancarlo Fisichella pops his head up in 6th, which has got to be a surprise, and not a good one.

7th is RedBull's Mark Webber, giving his home crowd a thrill. 8th and 9th are The Engineer, Jarno Trulli, and The 2nd Best Schumacher still in racing, Ralf.

Did I mention that SuperSato is 10th? The SA pitcrew carried him out on their shoulders after Q3. Too frickin' cool! Of course, Ant is 11th, so they've both got a lot to celebrate tonight.

Other thoughts: Honda is certainly showing their devotion to being eco-friendly... they saved 90kg of fuel by Rubens not advancing out of Q1 and Jensen not getting out of Q2. *rimshot, snark*

Don't be surprised if we find out that the lawyers are out in force in the morning. The Legendary Announce Team said that Williams will be protesting THREE teams: SA, Toro Rosso and RedBull. SA because they're driving a clone of Honda's 2006 car, Toro Rosso because they're in a car not designed by their team, and in a shocker, RedBull because THEY'RE not driving a car designed by themselves either! It seems that Adrian Newey isn't the Team Designer for either company; instead, he's contracted to 'Red Bull Technologies,' which is NOT RedBull Racing F1 or Scuderia Toro Rosso. Oops, someone might have out-cuted themselves.

But all that is in the future, and almost assuredly the legal games will NOT affect tomorrow's race a whit. Y'see, the FIA, where the complaints have got to be filed, is located in Paris... more than a few hours off the time of Melbourne, and on a Sunday to boot.

On with the race! Woo-yay!

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March 15, 2007

Australian GP Friday Practice.

Well, I just had a nice long post eaten by the BlogMonster.

Short version, SuperAguri's 2006 Honda-clone was 11th (Ant) and 13th (Suicide), beating both factory 2007 Hondas quite handily, which can't be going over well.

Ferrari was 1-2 (Massa and Kimi), Hamilton's McLaren was 3rd, Alonso was 7th, Fisichella was 4th before he broke his car.

American Scott Speed was 19th, just ahead of the two Spykers and his own teammate who brought up the rear.

If SA's success carries over to quals, expect the protests to be filed before the race.

BMW showed it's going to have grunt under the 'hood' from day 1 this season, and Man-Mountain Wurz brought his Williams to 6th quickest on the day, which has got to be making a lot of people sigh with relief.

Of course, the thing to remember is that F1 practices are only rough guides to how the teams will do in quals or the races... or, for that matter, how fast the cars really are. Particularly this early, the teams could easily be just shaking down the car. Each team also has their own particular agenda: one might be working on fuel numbers, another on tires, a third on handling, and so forth. Since they're not all doing the same thing, you can't judge them equally, and we don't KNOW what they're doing. So take these results with a big lick of salt...

...but boy, it's good to have F1 back!

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March 11, 2007

F1 on SPEED!: Australia

Thank St. Fangio the Quick, it's that time again!

Can you smell it in the air? It's Spring, when a young fan's thoughts turn to the Formula 1 season! The dulcet tones of The Legendary Announce Team will guide us through 17 races on five continents (and two networks) this year, but it's time to concentrate on just one right not: AUSTRALIA!

Here's the best part of all: everything is going to be LIVE and at a decent hour! Enjoy it while you can, fans, soon we'll have to wake up at 4am to catch quals. But for now... ahh yes, for now we got it good!

The whole thing kicks off with the new extended-length practice session on Thursday, March 15th, from 10pm to 1130pm. No more 60 minute practice sessions, now they're up to 90! Oh, and the 'Friday Drivers' are gone, too: it's gonna be the race drivers only now.

Friday, March 16th, hands us the Qualifying session from 1030pm to Midnight. For once, the FIA has decided to stick with the same qualifying format for two years straight... Slappy is sharpening his ice-skates right now, my friends, for Hell has frozen over!

Then the moment we have all been waiting lo these long months for... The Australian Grand Prix from Albert Park gets going on Saturday, March 17th, from 930pm to Midnight. There's a replay of the race on Sunday, from 9pm to 1130pm, but why watch it then, when you can watch it LIVE?

All times, of course, are Central time zone, since that's where The Pond is located. Subtract two hours for the Pacific zone, Steven (I know you'll be watching). Add one hour for the East Coast, Brickmuppet, if they let you watch that sort of thing at your duty station. Add the square-root of -1 for Pune, if there's anybody reading this in India (other than Narain Kittylitter, of course).

Eleven teams. Twenty-two drivers. And 500 million fans. The spectacle that is F1.

Finally: it's time.

PS- It's come to my attention that Zsolt Baumgartner has a job in 2007! He's officially the test driver and backup for Minardi USA in ChampCar. No more serving Goulash McNuggets through the driveup window at the Budapest McDonalds! We'll be keeping an eye on Our Hero throughout the season.

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March 04, 2007

F1 Driver Lineup Set.

With two weeks to go before the 2007 F1 season gets into gear, the final driver seat filled, and almost all the new-version cars on the track (Super Aguri will debut theirs at Australia), I thought I should take a look at the people I'll be making fun of this year.

1 Fernando Alonso: Winner of the last two Driver's Championships, one of the best drivers out there. Problem is, he won those championships in a Renault. Now that he's in the (ahem) fragile McLaren, it's anybody's guess how he'll do.
2 Lewis Hamilton: Rookie. The '(next) Great British Hope.' First Black driver in F1. No pressure, kid, no pressure.

3 Giancarlo Fisichella: THIS is Renualt's flagship driver? After bitching and moaning for the past two years, he's being given a chance to succeed... or fail, which is what I'M thinking is more likely.
4 Heikki Kovalainen: Rookie. Another Finnish driver, from a long line of talented Finnish drivers. Impossible name to spell correctly. God help me when it comes time to do the F1 UPDATES!

5 Felipe Massa: Schumacher Junior? Or just Junior? Looks like he hasn't ever had to shave.
6 Kimi Raikkonen: Possibly the best driver in the game, now in a car that shouldn't break as often... unless his driving style is why the McLaren's kept failing. The Greatest Interview in F1.

7 Jenson Button: The '(old) Great British Hope.' Won his first race last year at Hungary. His car is the ugliest in F1 history.
8 Rubens Barrichello: Completely overshadowed by Schumacher, then completely overshadowed by his teammate last year. His car, too, is the ugliest in F1 history.

BMW Sauber
9 Nick Heidfeld: His clone is now out of F1. Let's see if he can drive with...
10 Robert Kubica: First Polish driver in F1. Ugliest driver in F1. I SO want him to be fastest in quals once. Just once. The "Pole on Pole" headline just HAS to be used...

11 Ralf Schumacher: Now the 2nd best 'Schumacher' driving racecars.
12 Jarno Trulli: Either the slowest driver, or the fastest. No in-between. The Engineer needs to show SOMETHING, or there'll be Toyota executives disemboweling themselves soon.

Red Bull
14 David Coulthard's Chin: A Man's Man. A Driver's Driver. Loves to sign autographs. Stuck in a lousy car. Next...
15 Mark Webber: Um. Er. Australian. Next...

16 Nico Rosberg: Rookie last year. Prettyboy. Started well last year, then, to be blunt, pretty much blew chunks the rest of the way. His car didn't help much, to be fair. We'll see.
17 Alexander Wurz: Man-Mountain. They had to amputate half his legs to get him to fit in the cockpit, and he's STILL too tall. Been driving forever, and now he'll finally get a full-time drive... in what may possibly be the worst car in F1. Oy.

Toro Rosso
18 Tonio Liuzzi: Fashion victim. Annoying. Drives with an eyebrow piercing under his helmet. Did I mention he's annoying? Go away.
19 American Scott Speed: This is the heir to the Andretti legacy? Oh boy. At least he's got a great name.

20 Christijan Albers: Best off-road driver in F1.
21 Adrian Sutil: Rookie. No idea who he is or what he can do. Yo, Adrian!

Super Aguri
22 Takuma Sato: "Suicide" Sato. F1 UPDATE!'s favorite driver. In theory, the SA car should be pretty competitive, so we may well be seeing repeats of his Honda days, when he earned Michael Schumacher the 'Slappy' nickname. He's scary fast, as well as just flat-out scary.
23 Anthony Davidson: '(another) Great British Hope.' Fastest in practice all last year. Boy, he's in for a surprise.

So that's the lineup... it's gonna be a fun season! And boy, it's just gonna be hard to watch, with the Honda and the Renault trying to out-ugly each other. Yeesh.

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