April 29, 2009
That's it, that's all. Nothing to see here, move along.
April 25, 2009
|1||Jarno Trulli||Toyota||1:32.779 || 1:32.671 ||1:33.431|
|13||Robert Kubica||BMW Sauber||1:33.495||1:33.487|
|14||Nick Heidfeld||BMW Sauber||1:33.377||1:33.562|
|15||Nelson Piquet Jr
|16||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:33.722|
|18||Giancarlo Fisichella||Force India-Mercedes||1:33.910|
Yes, that's right, your eyes are not deceiving you... an all-Toyota front row, a first for the Japanese team. It turns out that both cars are running light on fuel, with nearly 20kgs less than the RB5 of Sebastian Vettel, who has a whisker more than both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. Still, it's a great result for Trulli who, to be frank, stunk in China.
Still, it looks to me like it'll be a battle between Vettel and Button when the lights go out Sunday. One can't count out the Ferraris, however: Raikkonen has more fuel onboard than anybody save Rosberg, and Massa has just a bit less than Kimi.
One thing to watch out for, though, is heat-related failures on race day. The pit walls were constantly telling their drivers to "keep the engine cool, don't push it too hard" all day. That won't be easy to do come the race, and the Toyotas in particular seemed to be having problems. Much of the rear bodywork by their exhausts had gone from bright white to dull brown in a way that suggests scorching. While it's not uncommon for that sort of thing to occur, the amount that it was happening on the TF109 was troublesome.
Throw in two seperate fuel fires on Robert Kubica's BMW in Q2, likely caused by the heat, and you've got what might be a dangerous situation brewing.
In other news, Adrian Sutil was penalized for blocking Mark Webber, and has been dropped to 19th.
This should be quite the exciting race to watch, power-outages and thunderstorms not withstanding. None of this delay would have occured if I hadn't've had to work at the Duck U. Bookstore today, but so it goes... cross your fingers and see you Sunday for the F1U!
So, I'm going to the backup plan and will have the report up this evening. Please, no spoilers!
April 24, 2009
You see, the ambient air temps at the track were pushing 100oF., with no humidity to speak of and also no clouds. As a result, the tarmac was a blistering 120oF., and that was expected to spiral upwards as the day went on. This was affecting the two tire compounds (supersoft and medium) in different ways: the mediums were taking five laps or more to get warm, for no reason that anybody could tell. The supersofts, on the other hand, were at their optimum operational temperature practically before the car reached the end of the pitlane.
So, supersofts look to be the way to go, right? Well, not quite. They heated up quickly, gripped really hard... and then got too hot and lost effectiveness. The Legendary Announce Team mentioned that it's just going to get hotter as the weekend goes on, which doesn't bode well for the lifespan of the supersofts. The other problem for both tires is sand. When the tires gets up to running temp, the rubber becomes very soft and pliant... practically on the verge of melting if you ask David Hobbes, LAT "color guy." However, when a car gets offline (which was happening a lot today), it has to drive through the fine layer of sand that's everywhere in Bahrain... which then sticks and practically bonds to the hot rubber. The result is either like driving on sandpaper (good result) or ice (bad result)... and guess which is more likely.
And on Sunday, they're predicting clear skies, hot temperatures... and high winds. All of which means sandstorms, and lord only knows what'll happen then. Will they race in a sand cloud? Sit in the garages until it blows over? Turn laps on camels? Can we just have a NORMAL race for once? Please?
In other news, Nelson Piquet Jr continued his March To Unemployment today by somehow managing to break his front wing without actually hitting anything or anybody.
This occurred near the pit-in, and his engineer told him to come in. Instead he continued blithely on, paying no heed, la dee dah. Admittedly, he probably couldn't see the sparks (the driver can't actually see his front wing from his spot in the cockpit), but he MUST have noticed the awful grinding sound, right? Or the loss of grip? After getting a new nose, he immediately progressed on to spinning his Renault on what seemed like every lap.
Finally, in their sixty years of Formula 1 running, Ferrari has never opened the season without scoring a point in the first four races. Yet that's what they're looking at this weekend, and to be blunt, they were slow today. You can't trust results in practice, but you CAN trust both drivers saying, in effect, the car is bad in Bahrain. Look for some anti-Ferrari history to be made this weekend.
See you for Quals!
April 21, 2009
I say mostly since a rogue sandstorm or two can cause havoc, as we saw during off-season testing. Still, while nothing will prevent some sand from getting on the circuit, generally it's not much of a problem anymore. Let us take a look at the course, shall we?
Yep, it's another Hermann Tilke circuit, the third in a row. This one, though, isn't quite as bad as the others for passing. It's still not good, mind you, but it's not bad. It IS the safest circuit on the calendar, due to the huge run-off areas (building in a desert does have some advantages... and natural sand traps, too!) and an ultramodern medical station to boot. Like other Tilke designs, there are distinct differences between the high-speed and "technical" sectors, though they aren't quite as dramatic as at his other designs. In fact, if there was ever a course where KERS will make a difference, it's this one. There's enough room between turns in sector two (red) to allow a driver to have free rein over where he can use the boost button.
All in all, a less-bland modern circuit than some others. Assuming we don't have rain (ahem) or sand, I'd expect the Brawns to show their... um... brawn on this track, with the Toyotas and Red Bull not out of the picture.
Still and all, there's every chance in the world that some other team will pop up and make a move this year. That's why they actually hold the race, and why SPEED will be bringing it to us live as usual!
Coverage begins on Friday, April 24th, from 6am to 740am, with live coverage of Practice 2. Saturday brings us Quals from 6am to 730am. Sunday, from 630am to 9am, is the actual Grand Prix of Bahrain, with no replay scheduled. At least it's at a time that, theoretically, one could wake up and catch it live.
Not me, though. F1 Update! will be watching the race via the miracle of a VCR. See you Sunday!
April 19, 2009
If it happens more than once, I will ban the offender cheerfully and happily.
This is common sense, people. "So and so finished third" is as much a spoiler as "So and so won."
Remember everything I said about the tires? Throw it out, it probably won't mean a darn thing today.
UPDATE: They ran the first eight laps behind the safety car, and I'm going to bed.
April 18, 2009
|11||Nick Heidfeld||BMW Sauber||1:36.525||1:35.975|
|17||Nelson Piquet Jr
|18||Robert Kubica||BMW Sauber||1:36.966|
|19||Adrian Sutil||Farce India-Mercedes||1:37.669|
|20||Giancarlo Fisichella||Farce India-Mercedes||1:37.672|
Yes, the Brawn Supremacy has been broken... just not by one of the "Big Three." Nope, Red Bull and Renault both stepped up today and shoved their way to the top of the grid. To be honest, seeing Red Bull up there isn't really a shock. It's been clear all season that the RB5 is probably the best car out there that doesn't have the trick diffuser. Despite that lack, Vettel was in line for a podium in Australia... before that little coming-together with a BMW.
The Adrian Newey-designed chassis should be good: he's probably the best aerodynamicist in F1 history (even if he still uses a drafting table instead of a computer, an attitude I heartily endorse). The question is whether the RB5 will ever have the trick diffuser at all... the chassis' rear was designed so tightly that installing a new diffuser is requiring a complete redesign of the rear. With the testing ban, it might be difficult to get it on the track without crippling the team for multiple races. But I digress.
The huge surprise for the day has to be HWMNBN in the Renault. Where the heck did that come from? The car hasn't shown that sort of speed, and they took the KERS system off to boot. Hmmm... could there be a connection there? Ferrari, plagued by reliability problems with their version of the KERS, has also removed it from their racers. In fact, the only KERS cars this race will be the McLarens and BMWs (both of them this time).
As predicted, we've finally seen a McLaren in Q3. Sure, it's only 9th, but it's a step in the right direction. It's thought that the two McLarens are running different versions of their new diffuser, which isn't a bad idea. Since there's no testing allowed, that's the only way to figure out what's what. Unsurprisingly, Hamilton appears to have gotten the good one, though that might be a reflection of the difference of skill between Lewis and Heikki.
Felipe Massa has got to be mumbling to himself by now.
Unsurprisingly, with the release of running weights for the cars, it's found that the cars in the top three positions are light on fuel. HWMNBN's car weighs 637kg, Vettel 644kg, Webber 646.5kg. By comparison, the Brawns are at 661kg for Barrichello and 659kg for Button. So perhaps it isn't a surprise at all that HWMNBN got up to 2nd: he probably has enough fuel on board to go maybe 15 laps before he needs to pit. I'd expect to see the Brawns in around lap 20-22 or so, by comparison. Maybe Renault is gambling on rain?
In other news, Timo Glockenspiel had to change his gearbox after Saturday's practice... it appears that his Toyota tried to select two gears at once, which is a very bad thing for a gearbox to do. He'll take a five-gridspot penalty.
The race looks to be falling into the laps of the Brawns, but one never knows... that's why they run the race, which occurs on Sunday morning. See ya here for the F1U!
April 17, 2009
So that's the new McLaren diffuser. As predicted, McLaren's fast lap in Friday's first practice didn't carry over to the second, with the best the team could do was Heikki Kovaleininninnie's 9th, almost a second behind... yup, you guessed it, BrawnGP's Jenson Button. Lewis Hamilton could do no better than 13th, 1.262 seconds behind Button.
And, as I said in the last post, we really can't predict anything from practice results. I will venture to say that the McLaren looked much more stable than it did in Australia or Malaysia. In those races, the rear end was slipping out on practically every turn. Today, though, it was... well, not nailed down, but a lot better. I have a feeling we'll see a McLaren in Q3 on Saturday for the first time this season.
One problem that every team is going to have to deal with is the tire selection Bridgestone was told to bring to China. As with Australia, we've got the Medium and Super-soft compounds. To be blunt, the super-softs are going to be crepe. Don't get me wrong, they're blindingly fast... nearly five seconds per lap faster than the medium compound tires. Too bad they only last around four to six laps before they've gone straight into the garbage. There were in-car shots that showed chunks of the tires flying off in the turns after only a couple of laps, and everybody seemed to be suffering terrible graining.
As with Australia, the Brawns seem to be better on their tires than everybody else: this tire lasted about eight laps before it kicked the bucket. It doesn't help that the Shanghai circuit has a rather abrasive surface, either.
However, for those few laps they last, the super-softs are world beaters... which makes them perfect for Quals, which we'll see on Saturday.
April 16, 2009
Then, to make matters worse, they were so sure their appeal to have the Diffuser Three excommunicated would succeed that the team didn't work on their own version, and so will be racing without it. It's gonna be a long weekend for the team from Maranello, I predict. They intend to show up in Spain with a new "b-spec" car, presumably with the trick diffuser and a revamped KERS system... but, perhaps, we shouldn't hold our collective breaths for a huge performance upgrade.
There are some teams that were faster off the mark than Ferrari, however. Renault is said to be running a double-level diffuser like the Diffuser Three have, while McLaren has an interim system on their cars that has a small winglet above the diffuser and below the crash structure, which would put it right below the lights in this picture:
It might have worked. Lewis Hamilton was fastest in the first Friday Practice, by .116 over Jenson Button. As I mentioned in the Australian Practice post, the McLarens seemed to have a problem with the rear of the car stepping out on them, a clear sign of a lack of downforce which leads to a lack of grip and a lack of acceleration (hard to make the car go fast when the wheels won't stick down). If this winglet has done anything to increase the downforce, the car can't help but be improved.
Unlike Steven, however, I'm not entirely convinced that they're going to be better than the Brawns and the Toyotas this race. Improved, yes... but remember, they were almost 1.5 seconds slower in Australia (we can't judge anything with Sepang, due to the completely awful weather there). To think that a small piece of carbon fiber could speed them up by that amount is somewhat implausible. I think it's time to bring out the old chestnut: "you can't judge anything from practice results." It's just too likely that McLaren and Brawn were working on different things to say "aha" quite yet.
After all, due to the testing restrictions, this is the first time the Glare With Wheels has been on track with this new diffuser... and I mean, ever. It only stands to reason that the team was going with a low fuel load and soft tires the entire practice, just to get as much data as possible. That's conductive to low times, obviously. Meanwhile, the Brawns turned fewer laps than the McLarens did... they don't need to tinker and fiddle.
I did some digging, and found out that the McLaren of Hamilton was actually slower than Rubens Barrichello's Brawn (who was third in Prac1) in the first two sectors of the track, but faster in sector three... which is, basically, turn 11 to the start/finish line, also known as the high-speed part of the track, where the diffuser would make the LEAST amount of difference for the most part. It'll help on the exit of 13, so the McLarens can get the power on faster for the long straight, but they're still behind on the rest of the track.
So, again, don't judge anything by practice results. We won't know much until after Quals on Saturday... but it'll be a ball finding out!
April 15, 2009
"The FIA International Court of Appeal has decided to deny the appeals submitted against decisions numbered 16 to 24 taken by the Panel of the Stewards on 26 March at the 2009 Grand Prix of Australia and counting towards the 2009 FIA Formula One World Championship.
Based on the arguments heard and evidence before it, the Court has concluded that the Stewards were correct to find that the cars in question comply with the applicable regulations.
Full reasons for this decision will be provided in due course."So status quo, everybody. BrawnGP still rules the roost, Toyota and Williams get to keep their points, and now the frantic scramble to fit trick diffusers to the other 14 cars begins. I've heard thru the grapevine that Renault will probably have theirs installed in time for the race, but nothing on the others.
More details later if events warrant.
April 14, 2009
Those cold tires mean that the KERS cars may well have to limit their use of the power-boosting system until they heat up. After all, throwing another 80hp through the tires when they aren't gripping well means even less traction as the tires skitter and spin, just like a dragster off the line (though, it must be said, in miniature).
Let's take a look at the track map for the Shanghai International Circuit:
Yes, another Hermann Tilke "Adventure" track, full of great passing locations that are completely ruined by mickey-mousing... turns 6, 11, 13 and 15, I'm looking at you here. Still, I'll give Tilke credit for one thing: the exit of turn 13 actually has some small amount of banking to it, the only one in F1. Ironically, it's called "Indianapolis".
Yeah, I'm not a fan of this track. Okay, bonus points for being shaped like the Chinese character "shang", meaning "ascend", which is the first character in Shanghai, but minus several million for being a pig to race on.
Or, at least, it was. With the new aero rules improving the ability of these cars to actually pass one another, all bets are off. We won't know until they actually get on the track... which the good folks at SPEED will be showing us live!
Starting with Friday's Second Practice on the 17th, from 1am to 240am. Quals are on Saturday the 18th, from 1am to 230am, plausibly live. Will Brawn get their third pole in a row? Or will their diffuser be pulled away? We'll know soon...
Then on Sunday, April 19th, from 130am to 4am, we'll get live coverage of the Grand Prix of China. There's a replay Sunday afternoon from 330pm to 6pm.
See you then!
April 04, 2009
Yup. Here's the provisional grid:
|1||Jenson Button||Brawn-Mercedes||1:35.058 || 1:33.784 ||1:35.181|
|8||Robert Kubica||BMW Sauber||1:35.166||1:34.562||1:36.106|
|11||Nick Heidfeld||BMW Sauber||1:35.110||1:34.769|
|17||Nelson Piquet Jr
|18||Giancarlo Fisichella||Force India-Mercedes||1:35.908|
|19||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:35.951|
Rubens Barrichello had to change a gearbox and will suffer a five-spot grid penalty. Sebastian Vettel, of course, has a 10-spot penalty from last week's wreck with Kubica.
The biggest surprise, however, is down at 16: Felipe Massa. Ferrari and Massa are both guilty of complacency. He did four laps in Q1, and was fourth after 12 minutes... at which point, the team thought "heck, he's in, let's get ready for Q2."
And then the track, which had been washed clean by a monster downpour on Friday night, began to come alive as more and more rubber was laid down. Times began to plummet and Massa's 1:35.642 began to look less and less solid. Yet Ferrari did nothing... it was as if the team didn't even notice. By the time there was any reaction from the team, it was too late to get the Ferrari back on the track and around to start a hot lap. Just like that, Massa was out in Q1, a pathetic 16th.
Other than that, there wasn't much in the way of odd excitement. Don't get me wrong, it was thrilling to watch the back-and-forth between the two Brawns, Jarno Trulli, and Seb Vettel, all of whom were P1 at one time or another, but the strategies and driving were normal F1 level. Nobody jumped above the norm. Which was still pretty cool, and Jarno Trulli is making a bid for the "smoothest driver" award for sure. If he doesn't have a couple of poles and wins this season, it'll be a huge surprise.
Maybe his first will be Sunday... we'll find out then!
April 03, 2009
Ferrari topped the timesheets in the second practice, BMW was down at the bottom, the McLarens were right in the middle.
Except for that last one, pay no attention to the results. Nobody really knows what anybody was trying to do, as is normal during practices.
Two interesting things, though. First, Kimi Raikkonen's KERS-equipped Ferrari had a tiny little problem today...
I'm fairly sure that when thick acrid smoke starts billowing from your cockpit, it's not a good thing. It's likely the batteries overheated... probably terminal for them, but replaceable. Don't be surprised if this happens to someone during the race: it's supposed to be in the high 90s.
Second, the left-rear wheel cover came off of the Williams of Nico Rosberg while he was going around 160mph or so:
...followed just a few moments later by the left-rear wheel cover of the Williams of Kazoo Nakajima, while he was going around 160mph or so:
Y'know, boys, someone just might want to take a look at that. I'm fairly sure that's not supposed to happen.
Unless it's an elaborate belated April Fool's Day joke. "Okay, Nico, Kazoo, press that purple button..."
Oh, and HWMNBN has an ear infection. Gosh. What a shame. Seriously.
April 02, 2009
What the TV cameras saw, and what the stewards based their initial decision on, was Trulli's Toyota spinning behind the safety car, and Hamilton (rightly) passing the stopped Toyota. Trulli then repassed Hamilton, which is against the sporting regs.
What we and the stewards didn't see, but a spectator with a video camera did, was Trulli rejoining the parade behind the safety car, behind Hamilton's McLaren. Hamilton then slows down dramatically and stays at the slower speed, a manuever which led Trulli to believe that the McLaren was broken. Trulli then passes Hamilton, which WOULD be legal if Lewis' car was sick.
So all of that clears Trulli and restores him to third. But that's not why Hamilton was DQ'd. He was excluded for, basically, lying to the stewards after the race about what happened. The FIA's statement reads:
The Stewards having considered the new elements presented to them from the 2009 Australian Formula One Grand Prix, consider that driver No 1 Lewis Hamilton and the competitor Vodafone McLaren Mercedes acted in a manner prejudicial to the conduct of the event by providing evidence deliberately misleading to the Stewards at the hearing on Sunday 29th March 2009, a breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code.
McLaren released a statement in the wake of today's hearing, saying that they do not intend to appeal.
So. McLaren and Ferrari are now dead-even again... with zero points. Trulli's third place adds six points to Toyota's haul.
It's never simple, is it?
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