June 30, 2008

F1 on TV: Britain!

After the snoozefest of Mangy-Curs, we find ourselves in jolly olde England this week, at one of the truly great F1 tracks: Silverstone.  Like many tracks of long history, Silverstone was built at the site of a WWII air base; in this particular case, the home of No 17 Operational Training Unit flying the Vickers Wellington bomber.  In fact, the runways are still extant and can be made out on the track map quite clearly, and Hangar Straight is called such because it used to run along the row of hangars that serviced the airbase.

Silverstone is a very fast track, even after all the attempts to slow it for safety's sake.  As an example, the original track layout did not have turns 8 and 9 (meaning it was a straight run from a gentler Stowe to Club), and turns 12 thru 18 didn't exist either, meaning Woodcote was run at a much higher speed than it is now. 

Silverstone has my favorite complex of turns, the Maggots-Becketts-Chapel sequence.  If you want to see just how nimble your average F1 car is, this is the place to do it.  They run through it as if they were slotcars, zip-zip-zip! 

Unfortunately, Darth Ecclestone wants to do away with Silverstone, and has been threatening moving the British GP to some other location like Brands Hatch (which is a fine track in it's own right... but it's not Silverstone).  Fortunately, his efforts have thus far come to naught, and we'll enjoy this wonderful circuit for a while yet.

As an humorous aside, on Grand Prix race day Silverstone becomes the UK's busiest airport, as many spectators fly helicopters into Silverstone Heliport.  Indeed, for some time it was touted as the World's Busiest Airport on race day, with flights arriving every 15 seconds.

Well, except for our British readers, the rest of us will have to make do with the telly.  Fortunately, the good folks at SPEED and FOX will be bringing us their usual excellent coverage. 

This coverage begins on Friday, July 4th, from 7a to 840a, with SPEED's live coverage of Friday Practice 2.  Will we see a resurgence of BMW this weekend, or will the Red Team and the Glare On Wheels continue their recent dominance?

If you are to race at Silverstone, you first must qualify, and SPEED will bring it all to us.  Saturday, July 5th, from 7a to 830a, we get plausibly live coverage of the Quals session.  Nine out of the past 10 races have been won by Ferrari (five times) or McLaren (four), and it all starts with the quals.

Finally, the race itself will be shown on FOX in tape-delay, Sunday, July 6th from 12n to 2pm.  Will BMW play the part of Renault (the one team to win here in the past 10 years that isn't Ferrari or McLaren)?  Heck, will RENAULT play the part of Renault?  Will it be a Red Car Walkover?  Will the Glare On Wheels rally on their home track?  Will Lewis Hamilton win his biggest race ever?  This is where and when we find out!

If you can't catch the race on FOX, SPEED will replay it in it's entirety Wednesday, July 9th from 1130a to 130p.  Don't miss it!

All times Pond Central; add one hour for East Coast, subtract two for San Francisco, and add 12 kilopascals and a blanket for the South Pole.

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June 21, 2008

NHRA Driver Scott Kalitta Killed.

Story here.

From what I'm hearing from ESPN2, which was televising the qualifying rounds of Sunday's event, the NHRA SuperNationals in New Jersey, the car overran the runoff area (the "kittylitter") at the end of the dragstrip, but I haven't seen it, so I don't know for sure.

Sorry, Steven

UPDATE: Okay, I've seen the video (no, I'm not linking it), and it's not pretty.  Kalitta was just about at the end of his run, and he was timed at 300mph, when, I assume, his engine blows, enveloping the car completely in fire.  It was so bad that when his 'chutes deployed, they were already aflame.  The car goes off the end of the track, through the kittylitter, and into a wall.  For what it's worth, the dust kicked up when the car goes through the gravel prevents the camera from seeing the final crash, but the fireball that results is quite visible. 

Before you wonder, I gather that beyond that wall is a highway or four-lane street.  The runoff  area looks very, very small, way too small considering the speeds funnycars and dragsters can hit.  And whomever thought that having a dragstrip that ends just short of a street might have something to do with this accident.

Not being familiar with other dragstrips, though, I can't really say if the track at Englishtown has a smaller-than-normal runoff area.  I'll bet it is, though.

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F1 Quals: France 2008!

Then there's that whole "I love Formula 1 racing" thing too, I suppose.

With those words echoing in my head, I managed to pee the recording of today's Quals for the French Grand Prix straight down the leg of my firesuit.  No, I didn't set the time on my VCR wrong, I didn't set it at all!  I realized that miserable fact at 805am, in the middle of my morning shower.

I caught the last two minutes of Q3, which was enough to get some impressions from the Legendary Announce Team.  To be specific, there seemed to be no energy whatsoever at Mangy-Curs, as if the matter was never in doubt.  Which seems right, considering the results.  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1Q2Q3
1 Kimi Räikkönen               
2 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:15.024 1:15.041 1:16.490
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:15.634 1:15.293 1:16.693
4 HWMNBN Renault 1:15.754 1:15.483 1:16.840
5 Jarno Trulli Toyota 1:15.521 1:15.362 1:16.920
6 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:15.965 1:15.639 1:16.944
7 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 1:15.687 1:15.723 1:17.037
8 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:16.020 1:15.488 1:17.233
9 David Coulthard's Chin      
Red Bull-Renault 1:15.802 1:15.654 1:17.426
10 Timo Glock Toyota 1:15.727 1:15.558 1:17.596
11 Nelsinho Piquet Renault 1:15.848 1:15.770
12 Grizzly Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:16.006 1:15.786
13 Sebastian Vettel STR-Ferrari 1:15.918 1:15.816
14 SeaBass STR-Ferrari 1:16.072 1:16.045
15 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:16.085 1:16.235
16 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:16.243

17 Jenson Button Honda 1:16.306

18 Rubens Barrichello Honda 1:16.330

19 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Ferrari 1:16.971

20 Adrian Sutil Force India-Ferrari 1:17.053

I have no idea what happened to the BMWs.  Seventh for Kubica is bad enough, but 12th for Heidfeld?  That's awful.  Both Williams are behind the Toro Rossos?  That's embarrassing.  Note that Lewis Hamilton has a 10-spot grid penalty coming for his "ramming speed" manuever in Canada, and Rosberg has a (ridiculous) 5-spot penalty for his bumping of the already dead McLaren in the same incident.

So, there you go.  Quals are in, Ferrari is dominating, this looks like a blowout-in-the-making... unless it rains.

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June 20, 2008

F1 Practice: France 2008!

Over time, I've come to the realization that practices for F1 teams are actually... dull.  The main reasons I watch them is to refamiliarize myself with the circuit (after all, for the most part we only see these tracks once a year), and to make sure that if something horrible or fantastic happens, I know about it (fortunately the bad stuff doesn't occur that often).

Then there's that whole "I love Formula 1 racing" thing too, I suppose.

The main thing I gleaned from today's P2 session was that the race on Sunday has a chance of being interesting.  The removal of traction control from the cars has made this very flat, very smooth track very, very ungrippy.  There were a lot of visits to the kittylitter and runoff areas today as the drivers struggled with the asphalt-like-glass.

I also learned that there's a 60% chance of thunderstorms at Mangy-Curs on Sunday.  That would go a long way towards making the race interesting, all on it's own.

Finally, I discovered that the curbing at Mangy-Curs might have replaced Montreal as "the deadliest curbs in F1."  They're nowhere near as high as they were at the Circuit Gilles Villenueve, but there's an interesting thing going on here.  Since the track in France is so flat and smooth, the teams are running their cars very, very low to the ground.  After all, there's no bumps to worry about, so get the bottom of the car as close as possible to the asphalt and improve the aerodynamics under the car.

But to get a fast lap around Mangy-Curs, you MUST use the curbs.  Do it right, and it's a beautiful display of what the blend of man and machine can do in the quest for speed.  Do it wrong, and... well, you're Adrian Sutil:

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for flying Kingfisher Air.
I'm Adrian Sutil, and I'll be your pilot today.

And just like Montreal in 2007, somehow he didn't break the darn thing on landing.  They build 'em tough down there in the Force India garages!

Not so much in the McLaren pits, though, where both Heikki and Lewis broke bits off their chargers (Hamilton a strake off his diffuser, Heikki the dip on his front wing) by going over curbs and into the kittylitter. 

So until Saturday's Quals, just remember: when all your wheels are on the ground, this is GOOD.  Wheels in air?  BAD.  Can't steer well then.

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June 17, 2008

F1 on TV: France 2008!

From the rip-snortin' good times of Montreal, we find ourselves back in Europe for the French Grand Prix.


Yeah, it hurts for me to read that, too.  Unless it rains, the French GP is usually a really dull, slow-paced parade.  In France.  In rural France.  To give you an idea of where Magny-Cours is in France, it'd be like having a Grand Prix somewhere in eastern Iowa (without the flooding)... with a very very small town hosting.

The good news is that the 2009 French GP is going to be held somewhere else, perhaps in Paris.  No, it won't be at the track used for the 24 Hours of LeMans (which is a real shame; a seven mile course with a straightaway nearly as long as the entire track length of Monaco?  With a F1 car?  Sign me up!), alas.

But, for this year, Magny-Cours is what we've got, so lets look at the track map, shall we?

The predominant feature of Mangy-Curs is slow turns mixed with obscene hairpins.  Just when it seems like there's an opportunity for a passing manuever there's another stinkin' bend in the road.  Turn 1 is the alleged best passing location.

A few years back, the track was reprofiled to add a chicane (turns 16/17) to help increase passing.  While that didn't work at all, it did shorten the pitlane to the point that running a three-stop strategy is actually quite workable at Mangy-Curs, and Slappy Schumacher won in 2004 (I think it was) using an unheard-of four-stop plan. 

So expect lots of red-hot pitlane action.  Whee.  And our friends, the Legendary Announce Team, will be there for all of it.

Friday, from 7am to 830am, we'll have LIVE coverage of Practice 2 on SPEED.

Saturday, from 7am to 830am, there'll be plausibly LIVE coverage of Quals, also on SPEED.  Will Robert Kubica take a second pole?  Will Ferrari and McLaren scrape their jaws up off the floor after BMW's win at Canada?  Will home team Renault actually get on the podium?  It all starts on Saturday!

Sunday, the actual Grand Prix of France will be shown on FOX, from 12n to 2pm.  That's tape-delayed, by the way, but at least it's the SPEED announce team.  For those of you who can't stand the 'Big Four' networks, the race'll be replayed on Wednesday from 11a to 130p on SPEED.

All times, of course, are Central.

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June 08, 2008

F1 Update: Montreal will NOT be delayed!!!

My picture firmed up around lap 20 of the 70 lap race!  Unless is goes to hell again, there WILL be a F1 Update today!

And it's gonna be a doozy!

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F1 Update: Montreal will be delayed.

Okay, here's the story.  There's bad weather around The Pond, and my local Fox affiliate is taking it on the chin.  I've got a weak signal via my satellite-based system (provided by the apartment complex), so about half the time, I'm looking at the race thru a bunch of static and double-images.  The other half of the time, I've got no picture at all.  Unless it strengthens up quickly, I'll be having to watch the race via download or on Wednesday night, after SPEED runs the replay.

Sorry about that.

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June 07, 2008

F1 Quals: Montreal 2008!

Nailbiter time!  The rain never came, though the skies were gray and there was a distinct crosswind that was causing quite the problems for some drivers.  On top of all that, the track, which had been patched and resurfaced in some places during the offseason, was being ripped up by the cars and their incredible levels of grip.  This, combined with the slightly higher-than-expected tire wear, made it seem like it HAD been raining in a few of the turns, simply because of all the rubber "marbles" and loose tiny chunks of asphalt lying around.  The track marshals actually had to sweep the track clean between the Qual sessions.

Of course, they won't be able to do that during the race.  If it DOES rain on top of all that, we'll be lucky to have ANY car take the checkers.

Before we can go racing, though, we have to have qualifying.  Lewis Hamilton's McLaren is sitting on pole, after an astounding lap at the final possible time.  He had been at the top of the charts all throughout Q3, until the BMW of Robert Kubica, late taking to the track for one reason or another, set out and knocked him off pole with a time of 1:18.498.  When Raikkonen and Massa couldn't answer, and Kovalaninninnie couldn't get his McLaren to cooperate, it looked like we'd have another case of "Pole on pole action".  Then Hamilton, who looked like he had done everything he could with his McLaren, set sail on his last run.  And what a run it was!  It was almost like he had traction control running or something, because there were no bobbles, not a tire put wrong, great acceleration out of the hairpin (something Massa's Ferrari had problems with all day, with wheel-spin and a twitchy-looking car under braking), and hitting every corner perfectly.  He wound up his lap over six-tenths of a second better than Kubica, a lifetime in F1 terms.

Raikkonen's Ferrari could do no better than third, right alongside the surprising performance of HWMNBN's Renault.  Nico Rosberg's Williams looked quite quick in getting 5th, ahead of the struggling Massa.  The second McLaren of Heikki Kovaleininninnie was a disappointing seventh.  Whether it was the car or the driver has yet to be determined.  Grizzly Nick Heidfeld is probably wondering just what he's doing wrong, putting his BMW eighth on the grid.  A HUGE disappointment, considering where his teammate is.  The biggest surprise of the day, however, has to be Rubens Barrichello in the Honda.  Ninth may not sound like much, but for Honda F1 this year, it's almost as good as a win, and it's the first time Rubens has made it to Q3 all season.  Mark Webber is 10th, with no time set in Q3; like his teammate, David Coulthard's Chin, in Monaco, Webber spun and damaged his car at the end of Q2 and was unable to take to the track.

The rest of the provisional grid:

Driver Team Q1
1 Lewis Hamilton                

2 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 1:17.471
1:17.679 1:18.498
3 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:17.301
1:17.364 1:18.735
4 HWMNBN Renault 1:17.415
1:17.488 1:18.746
5 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:17.991
1:17.891 1:18.844
6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:17.231
1:17.353 1:19.048
7 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:17.287
1:17.684 1:19.089
8 Grizzly Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:18.082
1:17.781 1:19.633
9 Rubens Barrichello Honda 1:18.256
1:18.020 1:20.848
10 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:17.582
1:17.523 no time
11 Timo Glock Toyota 1:18.321
12 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:17.638
13 David Coulthard's Chin
Red Bull-Renault 1:18.168
14 Jarno Trulli Toyota 1:18.039
15 Nelsinho Piquet Renault 1:18.505
16 SeaBass STR-Ferrari 1:18.916

17 Adrian Sutil Force India-Ferrari 1:19.108

18 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Ferrari 1:19.165

19 Jenson Button Honda 1:23.565

20 Sebastian Vettel STR-Ferrari no time

Sebastian Vettel comprehensively destroyed his Toro Rosso in the Saturday practice with a wreck that had tires flying everywhere.  He did so much damage, as a matter of fact, that the team couldn't even salvage the monocoque, and are currently building a new car around the spare cockpit they are allowed to bring to the track.  This is not a huge thing, they shouldn't have any problem with that, but it does take time.  As a result, he could not take to the track for Quals and will be forced to start from the pit lane.  Jenson Button, 19th on the grid, suffered a gearbox problem and withdrew to the pits with five minutes left in Q1. 

Rain is still in the forecast, the track is breaking up, the top of the grid looks like someone was drawing names out of a hat... I'd say there's a good chance of a heckuva race tomorrow.  If it's anything like the Grand Prix of Canada was last year, it'll be a doozy!

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June 06, 2008

F1 Practice: Montreal 2008!

Men with nerves of steel and lightning reflexes.  Multi-million dollar machines packed full of the highest of high-tech equipment.  Incredibly powerful engines screaming at deafening volume.

But enough about the Duckford AirFest, which began this afternoon (look for USAF Thunderbird pictures tomorrow and Sunday!).  We're here to discuss today's 2nd Practice session at Montreal. 


Well, that about covers it.  I wish I could say there was excitement a-plenty, but there really kinda wasn't.  Sure, I'll mention that Felipe Massa's Ferrari rolled to a stop with a steering wheel flashing enough error messages to look like the legendary blinkenlights, and that Robert Kubica had fast lap until the last minute or so of the session (odd for a BMW to be fast in practice), and that Lewis Hamilton had to dodge a marmot in the Casino Hairpin, but other than that?  Nothing.  Lots of high speed, lots of frantic braking (and loads of brake dust billowing out of the wheels), but... meh.

Quals tomorrow.

Oh, nearly forgot: rain is expected all weekend.  *evil grin*

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June 02, 2008

F1 On TV: Montreal 2008!

This week, the F1 Traveling Circus makes its lone stop in North America for the Grand Prix of Canada.  The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has gotten an off-season facelift in the wake of last season's nightmare crash of Robert Kubica, with a modification of the walls that contributed to the accident.  The towering launch-ramps they called 'curbs' have gone as well, replaced by something more humane.

Houston, we have liftoff...

This is a good thing.

The track is known as the roughest on the calendar on brakes.  A long, relatively narrow circuit, it has some very long runs at high speed, followed by heavy braking, rinse, repeat.

Track-map brought to you by Allianz: "We do things with other people's money."
For the record, Kubica's accident took place roughly around the location of the red arrown between turns 9 and 10, more or less.

Turn 13, the second half of the chicane leading to the start-finish line, is also the location of The Wall of Champions, so-called because of all of the drivers that have gotten the turn wrong and smacked the barrier just beyond it.  Of course, with the curbs reduced, maybe that won't happen as much now.

Either way, we'll get to see it all, thanks to our friends at SPEED and FOX.  Yes, that's right, we're now in the part of the season where coverage will be broadcast on the big network.  Prior to last year, this was when fans across America would be driven to applying ice-picks to their eardrums by the miserable announcers (anybody remember Derek Daly's "crashing" fiasco?); thankfully, Fox is the parent network of SPEED, and therefore The Legendary Announce Team will be doing the call of the race.  The only difference will be that Peter "Smarmy" Windsor won't be doing his usual grid-walk.  What a shame.

SPEED, however, starts us off with LIVE coverage of Friday's second practice session from 1p - 230p.  Let's see if we have another near-thing with marmots throwing themselves at the tires of Toyotas!

Saturday brings us plausably live coverage of the Qualifying Session from 12n - 130p on SPEED.  The track seems custom-made for a Ferrari pole (of course, these days all tracks seem custom-made for a Ferrari pole), but McLaren does seem to be showing signs of life again, so who knows?

Sunday, though, coverage moves to FOX with the Grand Prix of Canada itself, from 12n - 2pm.  SPEED will bring us a replay, complete with pre-race coverage (and Smarmy's gridwalk) on Wednesday, June 11th, from 1130a - 2pm.

So we go from the narrow confines of Monaco to the high-speed racing of Montreal... might be fun!

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