August 28, 2010

F1 Quals: Belgium 2010

The best thing about Spa is that you can never really be comfortable with your car's setup, simply because you never know exactly what the weather is going to do.  But did it play hob with today's qualifying?  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1Q2Q3
1 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:57.352 1:47.253 1:45.778
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:56.706 1:46.211 1:45.863
3 Robert Kubica Renault 1:56.041 1:47.320 1:46.100
4 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:58.487 1:47.245 1:46.127
5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:57.981 1:46.790 1:46.206
6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:58.323 1:47.322 1:46.314
7 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:55.757 1:47.797 1:46.602
8 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:58.730 1:47.292 1:46.659
9 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:55.442 1:47.821 1:47.053
10 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:57.023 1:47.544 1:47.441
11 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:56.313 1:47.874
12 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:54.826 1:47.885
13 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:58.944 1:48.267
14 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 2:01.102 1:48.680
15 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 2:00.386 1:49.209
16 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Cosworth 2:01.343 1:50.980
17 Timo Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 2:01.316 1:52.049
18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 2:01.491

19 Gandalf Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 2:02.284

20 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 2:03.612

HRT-Cosworth 2:03.941

22 Pete Rose
BMW Sauber-Ferrari 2:05.294

23 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 2:18.754

24 Vitaly Petrov Renault No time

As the Legendary Announce Team went to their first commercial break just before Q1 started, they said that there was no chance of rain for the session.  When they came back, we were treated to a sight not often seen in Q1: practically the entire pit lane jammed with cars lined up, waiting for the track to go green.  A radio transmission from Renaut explained it all: "Rain in 10 minutes."  Since there'd be no chance to go fast once the rain began, everybody was trying to get on track and turn a hot lap on the soft tires.  Once the light at the end of the pit lane turned green, everybody acted as if it was race day.  Nose to tail driving, passing, the works, all to get a clear smidgen of track so to get that best time... but all that effort went to naught when Renault's Vitaly Petrov discovered that the curbs were still wet from the morning's rain.  He wound up pronging his car at Turn 14, one of the few places where an immobile vehicle can't easily be extracted, as everybody was on their out-lap.  A red flag was thrown, sending everybody back into the pits.  Again we had the traffic jam when we came back from commercial, this time with only a couple of minutes before the rain was schedule to arrive, and again we had a swarm of cars on track hoping to get a fast lap in.  It was not to be however, as it began to rain.

One of the odd quirks of Spa-Francorchamps is that it's a very long track.  At just over four miles in length, it's quite possible for it to be dry in the pit lane, but pouring somewhere else.  In this case, the second sector of the circuit, or roughly from Les Combes to Fagnes, was soaking wet while the rest of the layout was more-or-less dry.  Wisely, everybody went to rain tires for the remainder of Q1 but not before Lucas di Grassi, Jarno Trulli and others caused a schmozzle that nearly collected Slappy Schumacher.  Slappy did a great job threading his Mercedes through a rather narrow gap between pirouetting cars.

In the end, however, the usual suspects ended up on top.  Red Bull got their 12th pole in thirteen races, McLaren was 2nd.  The big surprise was the demise of Ferrari, seemingly resurgent in the past few contests.  HWMNBN ended up in 10th, while his teammate Felipe Massa, a notoriously bad driver in the wet, outqualified him in 6th.  Either the Red team is set up for a dry race on Sunday, or they just stunk up the joint. 

A congrats has to go out to Virgin and Lotus, both of whom managed to get a car through to Q2.  Sure the weather played a part, but it still counts.  Spare a moment for Mercedes.  Not only did neither of their cars make it to Q3, but both drivers are taking grid-spot penalties: Slappy a 10-spot for his attempted murder of Rubens Barrichello a month ago and a 5-spotter for Nico Rosberg, as he had to change his gearbox.  Ross Brawn has probably designated Belgium as a "test race" now.

The Grand Prix is Sunday morning... we'll see you afterwards with F1U!

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August 27, 2010

F1 Practice: Belgium 2010

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... SPA!  It's a lovely thing to have F1 back after a month layoff, and what better way to come back than to race at the best road course in the world?  But with the wonderful track comes not so wonderful weather, and today's practice sessions proved to be no exception to the general rule.  Yes, it rained... a lot, particularly in the first session.

In the second practice session, it rained for about the first 15 minutes or so.  The track then slowly began to dry, so that by the last 20 minutes or so everybody was using their slick tires.  Then came the strangest message I've ever seen from Race Control: "Red Flag Conditions: Spectators in potentially dangerous area."

It appears that some fans may have been spotted inside the fences somewhere around the circuit, so the little-seen Race Control Car came out on track to make a couple of leisurely laps, just to make sure there wasn't anybody traipsing around the asphalt.  While there's a red flag, all action stops but the session clock keeps running.  When the track was finally "cleared", there were only three minutes left.  Mark Webber's radio communication said it all: "We've been waiting all day for some dry laps.  Now that we've got it, they stop us..."

Eventually HWMNBN turned the fastest lap of the session, kicking Adrian Sutil and his Force India off the top spot for practically the first time all session.  Could we see another Force India on pole tomorrow?  Let's just hope so!

Other than that, though, the session was a little dull.  While I did watch the whole thing, it was more for the novelty of seeing F1 again than for the action.  Tomorrow though, the action is for real with qualifying... and it's predicted to be raining.  See you then!

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August 22, 2010

F1 on SPEED!: Belgium 2010

It's been nearly a month since the last appearance of the F1 Circus here on this site, but finally... finally... we can get on with it.  And where better to come back to than arguably the best track on the calendar, Spa-Francorchamps.  Let's take a look at the track map:

Spa is the longest circuit on the calendar at just over 4.3 miles and a lap time of around 1m49sec or so.  It's also one of the fastest, it has the largest amount of changes of altitude, the least predictable weather, and practically no slow spots.  It's a video-game sort of track, to be honest, but damn is it fun! 

It also used to be the most dangerous course in F1, back in the old nine mile long "triangle track" days.  Trees, ditches, and houses lined the public roads the cars used to race on, but it's been nearly 40 years since a F1 race ran on that circuit.  Just because Spa-Francopants is safer now doesn't mean it's less exciting.  Eau Rouge-Raidillon may be the best turn complex in the sport with its steep flat-out climb to a whip-cracking style of right-left corner.  There's been some startling accidents here, including last year's incident that took both McLarens out at the same time on the first lap.  From Rivage to around Blanchimont is all downhill.  In good weather it's all fast sweeping curves on the very edge of adhesion.  In poor weather?  Heh heh heh heh heh... and early predictions are for rain all weekend. 

The past couple of years have seen Spa give us the most interesting races of the season.  In 2009 we had Giancarlo Fisichella's Force India on pole and finishing second.  In 2008, there was the Hamilton-Raikkonen Incident at the Chicane.  What will the big track in the Ardennes Forest bring us in 2010?

We'll find out beginning on Friday morning from 7am to 840am with LIVE coverage of the 2nd Practice session on SPEED.  It'll be good to hear the Legendary Announce Team again.  Saturday we'll get plausibly live coverage of Quals from 7am to 830am.

Sunday, of course, we'll see the live broadcast of the 2010 Belgian Grand Prix on SPEED from 630am to 9am, with a replay from 1130am to 2pm.  All times, of course, are are Pond Central.  Add one hour for the East Coast, subtract two for the West, and add around 4.3 years for Alpha Centauri.

And if there's any doubt that F1U! will be all over the broadcasts, we must ask "what are you smoking?"  See ya then!

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August 01, 2010

Rubens Is A Happy Man

No, not because Slappy got hit with a penalty for his ridiculous blocking maneuver in the Hungarian Grand Prix.  No, it's because he was the fastest F1 driver around Top Gear's test track in the "F1 Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment a couple of weeks ago.

How happy is he?  He went out and had a t-shirt made.

That's cool enough right there, but it gets better.  He also had t-shirts made for all the other F1 drivers who have been on Top Gear.  Drivers like Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Jenson Button, and I presume Michael Schumacher all got their t-shirt:

Laughter all around.

Jeremy Clarkson, one of the three hosts for Top Gear, had the line of the night.  "What do you think HWMNBN's t-shirt says?  'I made Felipe Massa give me this t-shirt'?"

Bravo, that.

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