June 30, 2007

F1 Quals: France!

Ferrari returns, half of the McLaren boys coughs up a hairball, and it's going to rain during the race... oh boy, have we got a live one.

As (kinda) predicted, Ferrari has flexed their muscle again (somehow), and Felipe Massa is on pole, his fourth of the season, despite his car jumping all over the place all day. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton is second, only .070 seconds behind, and Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari is third. Completing the first two rows is BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica, returning from his Montreal car demolition.

The two Renaults of Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovelenaineineninnie make up the third row, with Grizzly Nick Heidfeld and Jarno (The Engineer) Trulli the fourth. Considering that Heidfeld's back is really killing him, that's a really good result for the Beemer-Sauber driver.

Nico Rosberg's Williams took 9th.

By now, you're probably wondering "hey, where's Fernando Alonso?" Well, he's here, in 10th. He was unable to complete a lap in Q3 due to what seemed to be an engine problem, but may well be gearbox-related. If it IS an engine, the smoke it belched out pretty much suggests that he'll have to change it, and therefore take a 10-spot grid penalty. Grim news for him, great news for Hamilton's Championship campaign. Heck, just being 10th is bad enough.

The only other bit of info of any worth is that David Coulthard's Chin suffered ANOTHER gearbox problem, and he'll be 16th. It seems, though, that the Red Bull/Toro Rosso cars should be pretty decent IF they get their 'seamless shift' gearbox worked out, but as of now, they just don't know if it'll get them through a race... expect them all to revert back to the 'manual' shifter.

...and then, there's the rain. While it didn't rain during quals, the Legendary Announce Team tells us that it's all but a sure thing for the race. Rain on race day is the great equalizer in F1; last year rain brought us the Hungarian GP, featuring Jenson Button's first win in a wild race. If it DOES rain, throw out everything you know about the cars. It'll all be up for grabs on Sunday.

If it DOESN'T rain, then history suggests that either Massa or Hamilton will win. *shrug* There's a reason why I hate the track at Mangy-Curs, and that's it: this race has never been won from behind the front row (at least, that's what the Legendary Announce Team said).

Wonder how rain'll drain off the new surface of the track?

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June 29, 2007

French GP: Friday Practice (or lack thereof)

No, I don't mean that the F1 Circus didn't practice. To be entirely honest, I don't have the time to watch the cars go 'round and 'round for no reason today. It's 1145pm on Friday night as I write this, and I don't want to stay up until 130am watching the videotape.

It's the first televised F1 event that The Pond has missed since sometime in 2005, when I mis-set the VCR for a practice session.

Here's the news that's come out of practice, though:

1) Ferrari topped the timecharts. I'm guessing the F2007 is really good on the high downforce circuits, and not-so-great on the low downforce ones (please note, this is in comparison to the McLarens only... they're better than the other teams on all tracks). Fortunately for Ferrari, there aren't that many low downforce tracks left for the year: Silverstone, Monza, and Shanghai. I haven't heard what Suzuka Fuji's setup is yet... I wonder if the TEAMS know yet?

2) Toro Rosso had a good time in P2, with American Scott Speed 3rd and Liuzzi 5th. Since Mangy-Curs is about as close to being a test track as there is (with all the excitement that suggests), with it's billiard-table smooth asphalt and unchallenging layout, we may be seeing the Adrian Newey-designed car doing the absolute best it can. Or it may have been down to fuel loading, or the teams (other than Ferrari) working on tire wear, or something. We'll see in Quals.

3) Beemer-Sauber. The good news, and I mean that unsarcastically, is that Robert Kubica is back in the car after he was given the okay by the FIA medical chief. Remember, it was only three weeks ago that he had that incredible wreck in Montreal. The bad news, however, is that Grizzly Nick Heidfeld may NOT be able to take to the track for Quals. It seems he has an unspecified back problem that flared up on him and limited his running. If he can't go, Sebastian Vettel will take his place.

Please note that this doesn't seem to be a Jacques Villeneuve type of back problem, where the driver just doesn't want to be with the team anymore (Hungary 2006, remember?), but a real, actual injury.

4) Comedy of the day was provided by Ant Davidison at the very beginning of P2. He was coming out of his garage and speared directly into the back-left tire of Liuzzi's Toro Rosso. Oops. Someone at SuperAguri's got some 'splainin' to do (this was about all I saw of practice today).

See y'all for the Quals report!

Hmm... y'know, this wasn't a bad practice writeup. Maybe I should not watch practice more often?

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June 27, 2007

F1 ON TV!

It's that time again... time for the F1 Circus to make it's way to glamourous Paris, France!

...and then to drive half-way into the middle of nowhere, until you arrive at Magny-Cours. This is like having a F1 race in Paxton, IL... three hours from Chicago and six from St. Louis. A town where you can stand on the railroad grading at the north end of town and see the city limits to the south... if the glare from the one streetlight doesn't blind you (and please note, it's a flashing red).*

Ah well... here's the lineup for TV coverage:

Friday on SPEED
7a-830a LIVE practice
1130p-1230a F1 Debrief: USGP

Saturday on SPEED
7a-830a LIVE quals

Sunday on FOX
12noon-2pm(?) French Grand Prix (tape delay)

Sunday on SPEED
230p-4p GP2 Feature Race

All times central, of course. Subtract two hours for San Francisco. Add one for NYC. Add 14 for the moon... just because. more...

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June 16, 2007

USGP P3 and Quals!

A rarity on the TV today, something I didn't even know existed until 2005's coverage of the US Grand Prix: Saturday practice! What seemed to be a lot of fine tuning, though with two notable incidents. First, we learned that Lewis Hamilton's McLaren needed an engine change, though since it was before Saturday it was done without penalty... a changing of the rules from last year. Second, more wildlife deaths on the track. Last week, it was a groundhog. This week? Pidgeon. One second it was there with a F1 car bearing down on it, the next, poof. Feathers everywhere.

And then came Quals. Hit the buzzer if you've heard this one before: rookie (bzzz!) sensation (bzzz!) Lewis Hamilton (bzzz!) took pole (bzzz!) by beating his teammate (bzzz!) on a track that he's never been to before (bzzz!). As mentioned, Fernando Alonso was second (bzzz!), making it a McLaren front row (bzzz!).

To continue the theme, the two Ferraris (bzzz!) make up the Row 2 (bzzz!), Massa then Raikkonen (bzzz!).

This really (bzzz!) HEY!

This really (pause) has got to be concerning the boys in red. If any track can be said to be owned by a team, it's the Indy road course, which has been completely dominated by Ferrari over the years. In fact, other than Mika Hakkonen's McLaren winning the first USGP at Indy, no other team has won there. Worse news yet for the Scuderia, they are almost a half-second slower than Hamilton.

Third row is comprised of Grizzly Nick Heidfeld and Heikki Kovalenininneininnie for BMW and Renault, respectively. Rookie (bzzz!) Sebastian Vettel, in his first F1 race ever and filling in for Robert Kubica in the second BMW, is seventh. A sterling performance for the 19-year old, one that's got to have Dr Mario Theissen (BMW Team Principal) grinning happy less stonefaced than usual. Jarno Trulli, continuing his run of good performances in less-than-stellar cars here, is eighth (his teammate, Cora Schumacher's Husband, is 12th somehow... I suspect that both Toyotas are rather short-fueled).

Making up Row 5 is Mark Webber's RedBull and Giancarlo Fisichella's Renault. Webber has had a rather poor weekend so far as he's struggled (like all RedBull sponsored cars at Indy this year) with very low grip. Yes, they're fast in a straight line, but what good is that if you can't actually STOP at the end of said straight line?

The rest of the grid:
11. David Coulthard's Chin Red Bull-Renault 1:12.873
12. Ralf Schumacher Toyota 1:12.920
13. Jenson Button Honda 1:12.998
14. Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:13.060
15. Rubens Barrichello Honda 1:13.201
16. Anthony Davidson Super Aguri-Honda 1:13.259
17. Man-mountain Wurz Williams-Toyota 1:13.441
18. Takuma SuperSato Super Aguri-Honda 1:13.477
19. Vitantonio Liuzzi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:13.484
20. American Scott Speed Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:13.712
21. Adrian Sutil Spyker-Ferrari 1:14.122
22. Christijan Albers Spyker-Ferrari 1:14.597

Should be interesting: will Alonso race his teammate to the first turn, or will he settle in behind? Will the Ferraris try to gang up on the front row? Will half the field wreck in turns 1 & 2 like last year? Will Scott Speed make it past turn 2? Will Spyker even bother showing up? Tune in on Sunday at 12pm central on Fox to find out, then come here for F1 UPDATE!

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June 15, 2007

USGP Friday Practices

"Practices?" Yep! It's a wonderful thing, SPEED's coverage for the US Grand Prix. We got to see both 90-minute practices today, not to mention a fun hour-long bit where the Legendary Announce Team (with 'special' guest Derek "Crashing" Daly) just got to talk about whatever they wanted. That was a lot more interesting than the practices, to be honest.

The cars were pretty closing matched in both practices, with 3 seconds seperating #1 to #20 in P1, and 1.9 seconds in P2. BMW's Sebastian Vettel, who's sitting in for Robert Kubica this race, actually was fourth fastest in P1. He has a decent shot at being the first teenager to score points in his first F1 race ever on Sunday. Pity that old man Lewis Hamilton...

Felipe Massa was less than a second off the track record, which was set back in 2001, when there were no limitations to things like aerodynamics and the engines were larger and more powerful. Amazing stuff, and it makes me wonder where the teams would be if they still had the V10s.

Fastest straight-line speed was set by David Coulthard's Chin and Red Bull, at over 209mph. McLaren was around 204, and Ferrari in between the two. McLaren, though, was consistently the best lappers on the day, which has GOT to be causing team Ferrari some consternation: they own this track.

No real incidents to talk about, unless you want to count Adrian Sutil beaching his Spyker in the kittylitter, then digging himself in deeper by trying to power out... he had nigh on a quarter of his rear tires buried by the time he gave up ("Give it a rest, son. You've embarrassed yourself, don't make worse than it already is," said Steve Matchett).

Lewis Hamilton continued to show no fear of any track, repeatedly bringing his McLaren within "a cigarette paper" of the wall on the exit of Turn 13. He almost looked like an IndyCar driver out there, except they don't get as close. Seriously, at one point the shadow that the tire was casting on the wall was nearly as tall as the tire itself... one teeny twitch, one strong heartbeat, and he would have been in the wall, but no. This is Lewis Hamilton, the Next Michael Schumacher, who was the Next Ayrton Senna, and so on and so forth.

So, 3.5 hours of coverage on Saturday, and I'll give you the scoop on P3 and Quals afterwards! Talk to you then!

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June 14, 2007

F1 Live!

That's what SPEED called their three hour meet & greet session with every driver in the F1 paddock today, and y'know what? It was a better event than I thought we'd get. Almost everybody looked like they were happy to be up there, though the Ferrari boys looked a little dour.

And something came out of today's activities that I didn't expect at all: most of the drivers are funny! I now feel much more comfortable with making light of them during F1 UPDATE!, because it sounded like they do the same thing.

An example... Giancarlo Fisichella and Heiki Kovenlianineneninnie were up there being interviewed, and of course the matter of Montreal came up. To refresh your memories, Fisi was blackflagged for running the pit redlight, and Heiki blew an engine, ruined his chassis, and tore his rear wing off.

When asked about the red light event, Fisi gave a lame answer ("I didn't see the light because I was following Massa."), then quipped, "Hey, I'm from Rome, and we're used to ignoring red lights."

Crowd goes wild.

Heiki later said regarding destroying his rear wing: "Well, I'm from Finland..." (cue audience laughter) "...and in Finland, we're used to 'leaning' on the snowbanks. I tried that in Montreal, and the wall, it's a lot harder than a snowbank."

Crowd goes wild.

But far and away, the biggest cheers went to...

SuperAguri.

Yep, SuperSato and Ant were the darlings of the assembled masses. It's NOT just me! Sato showed off his engaging personality, and when asked by an audience member (in jest) "What lap and turn are you going to pass the World Champion?", he responded with a long explanation of the aerodynamic and grip factors involved with the USGP track, and finished up with "...and I'll pass him at the end of a long straight, going into a tight turn." Crowd pandemonium.

Ant got involved, too, explaining in detail how he didn't see what is now known to have been a groundhog, but the papers back in England are calling it a 'beaver', "...which is a lot funnier to us over the pond, so they (the papers)'ll keep calling it that. It really ruined my race, but it seems to have been entertaining enough." It's odd, but Ant almost looks like the prototypical lower-class Brit, and his accent reinforces that (one almost expected him to have a scuff of dirt on his cheek and say "God Bless Us, Everyone."), but he's got quite the wit.

Fun stuff to start off the USGP weekend... but the real work begins Friday morning!

UPDATE: Almost forgot the funniest part of all! The Spyker guys were represented by Christijan Albers and Marcus Winklehock (their test driver). During part of the interview, it was brought up that the Spykers are, basically, the slowest car on the grid, and that Indy has the longest stretch at flat-out in F1 at 22 seconds, and what are you going to do about that? Albers, on the receiving end of this question, then mimed leaning back in a La-Z-Boy and said "wait for someone to pass me so I can get a tow." (cue crowd laughter)

It takes guts for a driver who's in danger of losing his job to do something like that. It's a shame, too, because Albers really is a good driver... his career in DTM (the German Touring Championship) speaks to that, and considering his history of taking nearly undriveable cars (Minardi, Monza, 2005, and his wild excursion during practice leaps to mind) and keeping them in one piece, I suspect that if he was ever dropped into a halfway decent ride, he'd be fine.

Finally, I've been asked by some people to post the video of Ralf Schumacher's close encounter of the Marmot kind in Montreal. I've finally found it on GoogleVideo, so click HERE and take a look... enjoy!

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June 12, 2007

USGP ON TV!

Wowzers! A whole slew of coverage for the US Grand Prix this weekend! It's a F1 fan's dream... set your VCR/TiVo/whatever for these:

THURSDAY, from 11am to 2pm, SPEED brings us their annual USGP Special! In past years, they've had a handful of drivers on stage for interviews. This year, they've promised ALL TWENTY-TWO! Will Hamilton and Alonso be on stage at the same time? If so, will Alonso be carrying a tire iron? Will the Spyker Boys manage to get up the stairs without hurting themselves? Tune in and find out! Replay from 11pm to 2am, too!

FRIDAY brings us a FOUR HOURS of coverage! From 9am to 1030am, we've got coverage of Practice 1. From Noon to 230pm (yes, 2.5 hours!), we get coverage of Practice 2! All of it live, all of it on SPEED!

Later, from 11pm to 1130pm, we get "Inside Grand Prix", brought to you by Allianz. "Allianz: where we make your money work for us." Then we get all four hours of practice replayed from 1130pm to 330pm. ONLY ON SPEED!!!

SATURDAY, from 10am to 130pm, we get live coverage of Practice 3 and Quals!
Say it with me now: ONLY ON SPEED!!! No replay, though, since Speed is also bringing us coverage of the 24 Hours of LeMans...

SUNDAY will bring us the United States Grand Prix, LIVE on FOX! Check your local listings for times!

All times are central. Add one hour for Eastern, subtract two for San Francisco, Vaucaunson's Duck.

Of course, the F1 UPDATE! crew will be watching all of the coverage, though to be fair, some of it will be viewed on tape... we're not going to spend the entire weekend in front of the tube, after all. Just most of it.

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June 11, 2007

Montreal Thoughts

Some thoughts looking back at Montreal...

1) Lewis Hamilton had to win his first race five times over. First at the actual start when he beat back the assault of his teammate and Felipe Massa's Ferrari, then four more times after the safety cars came out. Despite cold tires each time, he never bobbled, never put a wheel wrong... and deserved the win.

2) Fernando Alonso is running scared. I think he's realized his main competetor for the Driver's Championship isn't in a red car, it's in the other 'glare with wheels' on the track. His graceless comment, "(Hamilton's win was) good, but lucky" isn't tactful, but it is telling. In fact, one could easily point out that 'Nando is fortunate to be only 8 points behind his teammate, as he's really been outdriven by Hamilton four time out of the six races.

3) Montreal Marmot Massacre. I wish I had waited until the driver press conferences were finished to post the F1 UPDATE!. How could I have missed out on Ant Davidson's story?

“It is such a shame about the beaver. It had it in for me for sure! I was running in third place at the time, behind the safety car. I was on a clear, one stop strategy and it damaged the front wing. I couldn’t even see it at high speed and I could not understand why suddenly I locked up the front tyres and so I had to come in to the pitlane. The guys were taken by surprise in the garage when I came in, but they were really on it with the race strategy after that, telling me to overtake the safety car to get my lap back and it was a really enjoyable race at the end.”

Yes, that odd shot of a car sitting in the pitlane with his pitcrew nowhere nearby was Davidson's SuperAguri... his unscheduled stop was because he ran over a 'beaver.' By all reports, his car was rather messy when it pulled in...

4) Robert Kubica Update. From 'dead' to 'broken leg' to 'sprained ankle', he's obviously quite lucky... and now, he might very well be running in the USGP! The decision will be made on Thursday, but he's likely to be cleared to race, medically. Mentally, though...? I dunno, I'd be cautious, and it's not like BMW is in danger of being caught for 3rd in the Constructor's Championship anytime soon. Robert, take the race off.

5) Interesting Statistic. Which car had the highest speed through the speed traps on Sunday? (hint: it wasn't McLaren or Ferrari) Answer below... more...

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June 10, 2007

ROBERT KUBICA UPDATE

The Montreal Grand Prix was an outstanding race, but it was marred by the horrendous crash of Robert Kubica. I'll be honest, at first I thought he was dead.

It wasn't that it was a spectacular accident with pieces flying everywhere: as Steven mentions in the comments, those are the BEST kind of crashes, since the disintigration of the car releases energy that otherwise would go into the driver.

The head-first impact and resulting tumble was what scared me the most. The shedding of pieces was great, but it can also be a danger, and it looked to me like Kubica had a piece of wreckage in the cockpit with him (watch what flips over after the hulk turns back over). I didn't even notice that the BMW clipped Scott Speed's parked Toro Rosso before it first hit the wall, removing Kubica's front-right wheel.

After the car came to a halt, the fact that Kubica was completely motionless except for his limp arms falling to the side of the cockpit, making no attempt to pull himself out of the remains of his vehicle, frightened me perhaps more than anything.

As such, I'm thrilled and happy to report that Robert Kubica has suffered just a concussion and a sprained ankle. The titanium bathtub and the HANS device that keeps the driver's head from bashing around in the cockpit did their jobs. I can't imagine that he'll be cleared to drive in the USGP, but we'll be seeing him again this season.

I still can't believe it.

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Massive Accident in Montreal

Robert Kubica of BMW was just involved in a massive accident during the Canadian Grand Prix. He went off the road at full speed and collided with a concrete barrier, shattering his car.

He was obviously unconcious when the car came to a halt on it's side... or what was left of it's side.

This was far and away the worst accident I've seen as a F1 watcher (though the Rubens Barrichello accident in 1994 may have been worse), and I fear desperately for the health of Kubica.

Stay tuned for updates as they become available.

UPDATE, JUST A MOMENT LATER: It's telling, I think, that the FIA has refused to show the work being done on Kubica. Since the accident occurred, we've not seen one shot of the car's resting place. That's scaring me more than anything, I think.

The Accident.

UPDATE 102pm: Smarmy Windsor reports that a FIA member told him that Kubica is "stable". Windsor would say that, though, being a shill for FIA. I trust him as far as I can spit a rat, so stay tuned.

UPDATE 111pm: Smarmy reports that Kubica's manager has told him that he's spoken to the Pole, that he is responsive, and still "stable". I'm starting to think that we might have dodged a bullet.

UPDATE 156pm: Robert Kubica reportedly (uncofirmed) has escaped his horrendous crash with nothing worse than a broken leg. This is incredibly good news, if true, considering what it looked like. More information will be posted as it comes, and watch for the F1 UPDATE!

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June 09, 2007

F1 QUALS: MONTREAL!

Photo from Cahier Archive

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a shakeup at the top of the grid in Montreal! McLaren's golden boy, Louis Hamilton, has his first pole, by almost a half-second over his teammate Fernando Alonso.

The big surprise, though, has to be Grizzly Nick Heidfeld putting his BMW in P3, ahead of the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen (who almost didn't make it out of Q2) and Felipe Massa, who was almost seven-tenths of a second behind Hamilton's time. It's hard to imagine that Ferrari has lost THAT much speed so quickly, so they must have more fuel on board... unless they've botched their aero package, in which case they're screwed.

Mark Webber took sixth in a fine effort for the RedBull boys. Seventh would be Nico ("Wonderboy") Rosberg in his Williams, and finishing up the 4th row is Robert Kubica's BMW.

Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli (he of the two broken suspensions yesterday, and Toyota telling their drivers to take it easy on the curbs for the rest of the weekend) finish off the top 10. The rest of the qualifiers:

11. Takuma Sato Super Aguri-Honda
12. Vitantonio Liuzzi Toro Rosso-Ferrari
13. Rubens Barrichello Honda
14. David Coulthard Red Bull-Renault
15. Jenson Button Honda
16. Scott Speed Toro Rosso-Ferrari
17. Anthony Davidson Super Aguri-Honda
18. Ralf Schumacher Toyota
19. Heikki Kovalainen Renault
20. Alexander Wurz Williams-Toyota
21. Adrian Sutil Spyker-Ferrari
22. Christijan Albers Spyker-Ferrari

On a final note, I've gotta give the Renault crew a huge amount of credit. In Q1, Heikki Kovaleinieinineinnieenninnie managed to completely blow a turn and crush the rear of his car. It was bad enough that his entire rear wing was missing. He got his crippled vehicle into the pits with about eight minutes left in the session... and the Renault pit team replaced the tail, the entire rear suspension, and the right rear wheel assembly in five minutes. It didn't help much, as he still qualified 19th (and had an engine change in Saturday practice, to boot), but that's still an amazing feat of engineering and mechanical wizardry. Well done, lads.

Now, if only Heikki can make it through the race in one piece... he's really having the race weekend from Hell.

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June 08, 2007

F1 Practice: MONTREAL! (UPDATED W/PHOTOS!)

Well, if practice sessions are anything to go by, Sunday's race should be a doozy! Consider these happenings today:

1) Fernando Alonso going through the chicanes looking like he's auditioning for "The Fast and the Furious: Montreal Drift".
...turn right to go left, son.

2) Heikki Koveleineninnienineinninnie making a tire explode in a fireball by kissing the wall.
AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

3) Mark Webber brakechecking Scott Speed after practice ended, causing Speed to ram into the back of the RedBull... and Webber then blaming the whole incident on Speed while saying "I was going slowly but he probably had his iPod going as well."
Hit from behind.  *snicker*  I said 'behind.'

4) Toyota pulling their cars from the track after Jarno Trulli's car had a suspension failure... on a straightaway, without hitting anything!
A little too much camber there...

5) We nearly had a Montreal Marmot Massacre. One of the fuzzy beasts ran across the width of the back straightway as Ralfy-boy came barrelling down on him at 190mph. Ralf obviously spotted him, as he drifted left. The marmot, on the other hand, never stopped running until it spotted the Toyota flashing by an inch in front of his face.
*SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!!!!!!!*
At which point, it became obvious that marmots, too, have carbon-disc brakes. As the Legendary Announce Team mentioned, it'd be hell cleaning that out of the radiators...

6) Finally, I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention the antics of Adrian Sutil. I thought the Blue Angels were good, but that was NOTHING!
I believe I can flyyyyyyyyyyy...
See what happens when you blow the chicanes? Amazingly, nothing obviously broke upon landing...

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June 06, 2007

F1 On SPEED! Er... FOX! Er... BOTH!

Ladies and gentlemen, the first F1 race of the season LIVE on FOX is this week! But there's STILL plenty of stuff on SPEED, too!

Friday from 1pm to 230pm, we get practice from Montreal, LIVE on Speed!

Saturday, at 12noon, to 130pm, Quals come to us live on Speed!

Sunday, however, from Noon to 2pm, we get the Canadian Grand Prix Live on FOX! Who'd'a thunk it?

All times Central. Add one hour for Eastern, subtract two hours for Oregon.

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