July 26, 2007

StepneyGate resolution!

The FIA's World Motor Sports Council, essentially the grievance committee for every racing body the FIA approves, met today to hear the case of Ferrari v McLaren in the StepneyGate scandal.

For those not in the know, a Ferrari engineer, Nigel Stepney is accused of passing technical drawings to McLaren's chief designer Mike Coughlan. The WMSC, after six hours of hearing arguments and viewing evidence, decided to clear the McLaren team of any wrongdoing. However, they did also say that there is no question that Coughlan had the drawings. There's no proof, however, that McLaren benefitted in any way from that.

So, no penalties for McLaren in either of the two championships. The FIA also said that pursue action against both Coughlan and Stepney, over and above the ongoing legal proceedings in Italy and England. They also said that they reserve the right to recall McLaren if any evidence DOES turn up against them... so it's not really over, but it certainly is going to quiet down for a while.

The scary thing is that this is the RIGHT decision. By the letter of the sporting regulations, McLaren is guilty as hell. They DID have the Ferrari tech drawings in their possession, which is against any number of FIA rules, and, again by the letter of the regs, they should have been punished with anything up to and including exclusion from the season.

But that would also be the WRONG decision. It's pretty clear that McLaren, a team which has a spotless reputation for fair play throughout F1 history, is the victim of a rogue Ferrari employee in this situation, and shouldn't've been penalized.

What's scary about this is that the FIA made the right call. They NEVER do that!

Ferrari, of course, is pissed as hell at the WMSC's decision. After the verdict was announced, they said that McLaren was "found guilty by the FIA World Council," and it's "incomprehensible that violating the fundamental principle of sporting honesty does not have, as a logical and inevitable consequence, the application of a sanction". Ferrari then continued by saying that (the World Council's decision) "legitimises dishonest behaviour in Formula 1 and sets a very serious precedent" and is "highly prejudicial to the credibility of the sport". (emphasis mine)

Mind you, this is FERRARI, historically the dirtiest players in the sport, saying this. The saying is that the "F" in FIA stands for "Ferrari", after all. I'm amazed that they didn't get the ruling in their favor. Amazed, but happy.

So, the next phase of this circus is finding out what'll happen to Coughlin and Stepney. Stepney is gone from F1, probably... suspended forever. Coughlin may get the same treatment, though my guess is something much less. We'll see.

In other news, Spyker has announced the replacement for Marcus Winklehock, who was replacing Christijan Albers: Sakon Yamamoto, who drove for SuperAguri last year.

Only Spyker could replace a good driver with a lousy one.

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July 21, 2007

F1 Quals: The Nurb Jr.

Owtch.

That's the end of Lewis Hamilton's run in Q3. A tiregun appears to be to blame, meaning the locking nut may not have been on tight enough. As a result, the wheel would have been moving ever so slightly on the axle. This caused a failure of either the tire, or the wheel (which immediately led to tire failure). The McLaren careened off the track, got airborne when it hit the gravel trap, bounced, and then hit the tire barrier head-on... just one tire's thickness from clearing the barrier completely.

The car then came to a dead stop immediately, like a dart in a board. It almost seemed to stick in the barrier for a heartbeat, then fell to the ground. It was pretty much a worst-case scenario for an accident: 150mph to zero in nothing flat, no rebound, no explosion of car pieces everywhere (a la Montreal). Dale Earnhart Sr. was killed in a similar style of crash, though he didn't have a HANS device, and the concrete is a lot harder than a tire barrier. Fortunately, the in-car camera immediately showed that Hamilton was moving in a controlled manner, meaning that he was more-or-less okay. He kept pumping his legs, as if testing them for injuries, but it took him quite a long time to get out of the McLaren.

Hamilton DID eventually pull himself (slowly) out of the car, and was helicoptered to the Bundeswehrezentralkrankenhaus for tests and observation for a few hours. He eventually returned to the pit lane, and all reports say that he wants to race, though McLaren still has not said that he will. It's a fair bet that he will, since he seems to be uninjured.

In other qualifying news (*chuckle*), Kimi Raikkonen took pole in his Ferrari, Alonso is second, and Massa is third. The BMW Twins are 4th and 5th, with Mark Webber bringing his Red Bull in in 6th. 7th is Renault's Heikki Koveleainineininnie, with the two Toyotas 8th (Jarno) and 9th (Ralfy). The 10th spot is where Hamilton's McLaren qualifies... we'll find out on Sunday if he'll be the one driving it.

The rest of the field:
11. Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:31.978
12. Alexander Wurz Williams-Toyota 1:31.996
13. Giancarlo Fisichella Renault 1:32.010
14. Rubens Barrichello Honda 1:32.221
15. Anthony Davidson Super Aguri-Honda 1:32.451
16. Takuma Sato Japan Super Aguri-Honda 1:32.838
17. Jenson Button Britain Honda 1:32.983
18. Scott Speed Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:33.038
19. Vitantonio Liuzzi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:33.148
20. David Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 1:33.151
21. Adrian Sutil Germany Spyker-Ferrari 1:34.500
22. Markus Winkelhock Spyker-Ferrari 1:35.940

See you Sunday for the F1 UPDATE!

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July 20, 2007

F1 Practice: Aargh!

So I get home from work, settle in on the nest with a nice bowl of seed and a few slices of rye bread, rewind the videotape, and press play so I can watch today's second practice... and get nothing but a blue screen.

For 100 minutes.

Turns out that The Pond's cable system went out. It's working NOW, of course, but that doesn't help with the F1 Practice recap, now does it?

*ahem*

F1 UPDATE! apologizes, but the report on Practice 2 will be delayed until Saturday afternoon/evening. Until then, please enjoy this:

Wonder if I can get a partnership for my cable company...

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July 18, 2007

F1 ON SPEED!

First, lets welcome Marcus Winklehock to the F1 family! He's taking the place of Christijan Albers in the Spyker team, at least for this race. He's German, the European Grand Prix is at Nurburgring Junior, so it's a shoe-in!

But after this? The rumors say we'll be welcoming back the first Indian F1 driver, Narain Kittylitter! Way to improve your team, Spyker!

Now then, F1 is entirely on SPEED for the rest of the season, and I couldn't be happier. Yes, the FOX races were essentially the same as what we got on SPEED, but I think the Legendary Announce Team were watering down their race call for the Big Network audience.

We'll find out for sure starting Friday from 7am to 830am, with live coverage of Practice 2. At 11pm, until Midnight, we get F1 Debrief. Come see the LAT sit around with no pants on, talking F1. (get it? "Debrief"?)

I'll pass, though I suppose someone might enjoy it.

On Saturday, from 7am to 830am, we get live coverage of Quals for the European Grand Prix. There's a replay beginning at 1230pm, too!

Sunday, our coverage of race day starts with the GP2 feature race at 5am, until 630am.

Then, the Big Boys come out at 630am, until 9am, for the European Grand Prix, LIVE. The race is replayed at 1130am.

Let's see if the home crowd gives BMW any boost... I'm getting bored with seeing Ferrari and McLaren owning the first two rows on the grid.

And remember: Narain Kittylitter!

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July 12, 2007

Son of a BEECHMARTIN!

Say goodbye to the USGP at Indianapolis.

According to Tony George, Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO, he and Darth Ecclestone have mutually agreed to not schedule a Grand Prix at Indy in 2008.

"After several discussions, Bernie Ecclestone and I were unable to agree how to keep Formula 1 in Indianapolis for the near term. However, we have agreed to leave the door open for a potential future date. It has been a pleasure having the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis, and I hope that as we approach our Centennial Era at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, an opportunity might present itself that would allow its return."

The fees charged to allow a F1 race to be run at a location are prohibitive; almost all F1 races are subsidized by the national governments. The two that are not are British and the USGP. Well, the one that isn't; the USGP is dead now... and Darth Ecclestone has been trying to kill Silverstone for years.

Of course, Ecclestone has repeatedly stated that "F1 doesn't need America." Guess he'll find out just how correct his statement is now, won't he?

SONOFABEECHMARTIN!!!

Frickin' moron. He'd be happy with karts going around the block and calling it F1, if it'd bring him more cash.

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July 10, 2007

Spyker Makes A Change

"Well, you won't have Christijan Albers to kick around anymore," yelled the driver as he stormed out of the Spyker offices.

The office staff snickered, and one wag replied by saying "That's right, and our refueling rigs are celebrating as we speak."

Albers walked a short distance from the Spyker building and sat on the curb, head bowed. "I don't understand," he muttered. "It's not MY fault my sponsorship money didn't come through. Did they have to fire me for that? Aren't I the best offroad driver in F1?"

A dark man stood above Albers, silhouetted against the noonday sun. "Csakugyan? Neked van nem sikerul," said the man, who looked vaguely familiar.

"I know you, don't I," asked Albers. "Why do you speak Hungarian?"

"En vagyok kerlelhetetlen halal, ugyel vmire teged. Eljossz?" The dark man extended his hand to Albers.

He took the gloved hand. "You remind me of..."

The dark man raised the visor of his helmet. "Would you like fries with that?"

Albers screamed.

All that was ever found was Albers' driving boots, smoking on the sidewalk, and next to them, the letter Z carved into the concrete.

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July 07, 2007

F1 Quals: Silverstone (and StepneyGate)

Rule Brittania! Britannia, rule the track: Hamilton never will be slow, that's the fact!

Even though he was overdriving his McLaren, pushing too hard and actually going too wide on the last turn, Lewis Hamilton managed to turn in a lap fast enough to bring him pole at his home Grand Prix. And the crowd goes wild. The lads in the McLaren paddock were going crazy, and even the generally staid 'Voice of McLaren' was sounding somewhat excited. Quite the moment for the lad.

And quite the letdown for Kimi Raikkonen, who had pole for about 30 seconds, pulling out a fantastic lap, despite looking like he was destined for row 2 at the beginning of it. Fernando Alonso ended up third, having been aced by Raikkonen at the last instant. Felipe Massa was 4th, completing the 2nd row.

McLaren, Ferrari, McLaren, Ferrari. Hm. Have we seen this before? Maybe this isn't surprising; with the espionage scandal floating around, I wonder if Ferrari had anything to do with the design of the McLaren? (see the extended entry below for an overview)

The rest of the grid:
5. Robert Kubica Poland BMW 1:20.401
6. Ralf Schumacher Germany Toyota 1:20.516
7. Heikki Kovalainen Finland Renault 1:20.721
8. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Renault 1:20.775
9. Nick Heidfeld Germany BMW 1:20.894
10. Jarno Trulli Italy Toyota 1:21.240
11. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault 1:20.235
12. David Coulthard Britain Red Bull-Renault 1:20.329
13. Alexander Wurz Austria Williams-Toyota 1:20.350
14. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Honda 1:20.364
15. Scott Speed United States Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:20.515
16. Vitantonio Liuzzi Italy Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:20.823
17. Nico Rosberg Germany Williams-Toyota 1:21.219
18. Jenson Button Britain Honda 1:21.335
19. Anthony Davidson Britain Super Aguri-Honda 1:21.448
20. Adrian Sutil Germany Spyker-Ferrari 1:22.019
21. Takuma Sato Japan Super Aguri-Honda 1:22.045
22. Christijan Albers Netherlands Spyker-Ferrari 1:22.589

One interesting note on the factory Honda team is that they've gone back to their 2006-spec chassis: the same car SuperAguri has been driving all year. It's amazing that, despite all the money sunk into the 2007, they had to go back to last season's... and that it took them this long to make the call.

Click below for information on the ongoing Espionage Scandal, Stepneygate. more...

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July 06, 2007

F1 Practice: Silverstone.

Usual practice session for a F1 race today. Nothing really worthwhile to mention on the track, nobody setting jaw-dropping times or the like.

Which is not to say there wasn't anything going on...

And we thought Honda's was bad...

Here we see the RedBull of David Coulthard's Chin. Did it...
A) ...Just drive past some diarrhea-suffering pigeons?
B) ...Have some problems at the printers?
C) ...Have a photo-montage for a charity event put on for this race?

Roadbag!

This is the view from American Scott Speed's onboard T-camera. What is happening?
A) Blancmange! (particularly appropriate, given Wimbleton going on and all...)
B) Attack of the plastic bags!
C) I want to believe.

...the hell?

Ferrari had something new on their front wheels today. Was it:
A) Pizza pan?
B) E-Z Lift (tm) Handles?
C) Air Extractor?

Answers and commentary below... more...

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July 04, 2007

F1 ON TV!

Right, after the yawner that was France (goodbye, Mangy-Curs!), we've got MY favorite track, the home track for most of the teams, Silverstone. Converted from a WWII bomber base, Silverstone is the soul of F1, and if Monte Carlo isn't the crown jewel of the season, Silverstone should be.

Of course, we here in the States are fortunate enough to get TV coverage all over the place!

As usual, the festivities kick off on Friday morning, with live coverage of Practice 2 from 8am to 930am.

If you're having problems sleeping, the French GP is being reshown from 1pm to 3pm, too.

Saturday brings us Quals (LIVE) from 7am to 830am, with a replay from 1130am to 1pm.

Sunday is race day, and FOX brings it us "plausibly live" and recorded from 12noon to 2pm. This is also the last time this season that FOX is showing a race, so enjoy it if you can, Vauc!

GP2 races at Silverstone this weekend as well, and the feature race will be shown from 230p to 4p.

Everything but the race is on SPEED, by the way. All times Central, so add one hour for Maine, subtract two for San Francisco, and add X-1 if you're an old-time radio show.

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July 02, 2007

Firesuits

In the F1 UPDATE! comments, Steven asks: "When did pit crews start wearing helmets and firesuits? They must boil in those things on a hot day.

The drivers have to wear that kind of gear, too, but when they're driving they've got airflow to keep them cool."

The pitcrews do it for safety reasons, of course, and it's been standard in F1 for 20+ years. Considering that the pressurized fuel rig spits out 12 liters/second, one little mistake can cause... well, here, look:

Benneton's Jos Verstappen suffered one of the most incredible pitstop fires of all time in the 1994 German Grand Prix. The fire was caused by a mis-seated fuel hose that accidentally discharged (because of this very incident, a change was made to the refuelling rigs that won't allow them to start pumping until they are positively placed). The fuel sprayed out, covering everybody in the pitbox (including the cameraman), the car body, and most damaging, the engine and exhaust pipes. A huge fireball erupts.

The result? Very minor burns only. Why? Because of the flame-retardant suits and helmets. Oddly enough, Steve Matchett, the gearhead member of The Legendary Announce Team, is actually in this event... he's the rear jack man. You can see him around the 31-second mark in the lower-right-hand corner; he's got the rear of the car in the air already, and he's bent over the jackhandle.

He was completely unhurt, if I remember correctly... despite looking like his left leg is entirely ablaze.

Regarding the drivers being cooled by the airflow, it ain't so. Drivers have lost 15 pounds in some races (Bahrain and Malaysia are killers), because their firesuits DON'T allow air to get in: if a breeze can get in, fire can get in. It gets worse, of course... they're sitting in front of a very hot running engine, mere inches above the hot asphalt. Cockpit temps have been measured as high as 140 degrees. When in the garage, you'll often see drivers with a hose running under their helmets; this is an air conditioner, essentially. When sitting on the grid pre-race, there's almost always an umbrella sitting in the cockpit, keeping the area shaded. When it comes to the race, you'll occasionally see drivers rolling the tops of their gloves down, exposing an inch or two of their arms, just so the airflow cools SOME part of their bodies.

That's actually against FIA regulations, by the way.

Remember, everything in a F1 car is built with aerodynamics in mind. Airflow into the cockpit means drag, and drag means slow. Heck, I think it was one of the Red Bull team members that was told to change the maker of their helmet, because the brand they usually wore messed with the airflow, which was designed using a different brand. It gets that finicky. It wouldn't surprise me much to hear that, below the neck, there's NO airflow at all in the cockpit.

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