May 28, 2011

F1 Quals: Monaco 2011 (UPDATED)

We got a big dose of the reality of motorsport today during Quals for the 2011 Grand Prix of Monaco.  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:15.606 1:14.277 1:13.556
2 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:15.397 1:14.545 1:13.997
3 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:16.087 1:14.742 1:14.019
4 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:16.051 1:14.569 1:14.483
5 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:16.092 1:14.981 1:14.682
6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:16.309 1:14.648 1:14.877
7 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:15.207 1:14.275 1:15.280
8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:15.858 1:14.741 1:15.766
9 Jathedar Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1:15.819 1:15.545 1:16.528
10 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:15.918 1:15.482 No Time
11 The Red Menace
Renault 1:16.378 1:15.815
12 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:16.616 1:15.826
13 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:16.513 1:15.973
14 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:16.813 1:16.118
15 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:16.600 1:16.121
16 Grizzly Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:16.681 1:16.214
17 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:16.358 1:16.300
18 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Renault 1:17.343

19 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1:17.381

20 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:17.820

21 Timo Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:17.914

22 Custard d'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:18.736

23 Narain Kittylitter HRT-Cosworth No Time


24 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth No Time



Q1 107% Time
1:20.471

Sauber driver Sergio Perez suffered a massive wreck on his first hot lap in Q3.  He came out of the tunnel wide, which put him on a piece of track that has a small dip in it.  The rear of his car lost traction and snapped him across the track and into the armco, tearing the tires off the right side of his car.  Sliding off the wall, he then slammed broadside into the TecPro barriers at the Harbor Chicane. 

Q3 was immediately red-flagged, as the accident moved the padded tire barrier onto the track itself.  Marshals were at the accident site quickly, and almost as fast it was clear that Perez was hurt.  An ambulance was summoned and arrived shortly, followed by the FIA medical car.  It took some 20 minutes to extricate Perez from the ruined Sauber, while marshals stood around the car, holding a tarp above it to prevent spectators from seeing what was going on.  The television director did not help our growing unease, staying on the very-long view; a sure sign that something serious has occurred.  It got even worse when the Legendary Announce Team reported that the Sauber pit wall had called Perez immediately after the accident... and got no response.  Just to ramp the fears up to greater heights, he was loaded into the ambulance, which event we could not see due to the preponderance of marshals surrounding him.  The ambulance then drove off... slowly.  He was taken to Princess Grace Hospital in Monaco, which is actually just off the main straight, and at last report was conscious and aware and complaining of pain in his legs.

To be frank, I expected the worst.  F1 cars are very sturdy, and the monocoque is exquisitely protected, but nothing about the accident felt right.  Even the incongruous 'flumpf' sound the car made when it hit the padded barrier was out of place.  The only good thing about the crash was that Nico Rosberg had a similar wreck in P3, except that he missed the barrier by about two inches.  That incident led the organizers to remove the speed bumps from the inside of the chicane which prevented Perez from getting airborne, unlike Rosberg.

One driver walks away, one driver doesn't.  I surely hope Perez is all right, though I doubt he'll be in the car for tomorrow's race.  More as this develops.

The rest of the Quals pales in comparison to Perez's crash.  Neither HRT car took part in the session, and as they were substantially off the pace in all three practices, they will probably not be allowed to race on Sunday.  Seb Vettel is on pole, but didn't exactly look dominant.  Expect a decent race on Sunday.  We'll see you then!

UPDATE:  Sauber has put out a press release detailing Sergio Perez's condition.  "It was with great relief the Sauber F1 Team received the news that Sergio Perez has no serious injuries after his heavy accident in the closing minutes of the final part of qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix.  The doctors said Perez had suffered concussion and a sprained thigh, but no broken bones and, following a scan, they could find no further injuries."  He'll be kept in hospital overnight for observation and the concussion pretty much guarantees that he'll not be racing on Sunday, but wow!  What a relief.

Also breaking, the stewards have decided to allow both HRTs to run in Sunday's race.  This despite never making the 107% time in any of the practice sessions.  Their pace in P3 would have made the 107% time in Q1 however, which must be what the stewards are looking at.  Good for HRT, I guess.

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May 26, 2011

F1 Practice: Monaco 2011

The only thing to talk about from today's practice sessions in Monaco are the tires.  Of course, one could say that about every race, every session at every track, but Monaco is different.  There's never any testing here, since the circuit is 100% public streets.  Bridgestone and Michelin, longtime tire makers to F1, never quite got the hang of how their rubber would react on the pavement of the Principality and publicly admitted it.  There's just too many variables that change every year.  Think about the streets where you live, the route you take to work every day... how many different patches of asphalt and concrete do you drive upon?  Just off the top of my head, there are eight distinct stretches in the three mile drive from Pond Central to Duck U, all of them laid down in the past five or six years.  Of course each of them seems the same to our cars, but what about to a highly-strung F1 car going at 150mph and braking at 3g's? 

That's why Pirelli, the sport's new tire manufacturer, had such a daunting task ahead of them this year.  But then, just to make things even more "exciting," the city streets of Monaco demand all the traction a car can find.  Every wing on the cars are cranked as high as possible, the suspension is as soft as the teams can make it, and the tires?  For the previous five races, Pirelli brought their Hard and Soft compounds to the track.  Here?  The "hard" tire is actually the soft compound.  The "soft" tire is the season debut of the super-soft rubber.  Earlier in the week, Pirelli thought the super-soft compound would last about 10 laps, which doesn't sound too horrible.  It's hardly great, but it seems workable.

Until you realize that Monaco is the shortest track in F1, just a hair over two miles long.  By way of comparison, the Turkish Grand Prix is run on a 3.3 mile circuit.  THEN you think "how many laps comprise a race at Monaco?"  The answer is 78.  If your stomach just got a little queasy at that revelation, congratulations!  You too could be a strategist for a F1 team!

As it turned out, the super-soft tires might have a little more life in them than anybody thought.  Towards the end of P2, Seb Vettel went out with a full load of fuel and the red-lettered shoes and managed to keep them on the car for 22+ laps.  Again, that doesn't sound too bad... until you look at the timesheets and see that his last laps were over three full seconds slower than the first laps.  This at a time when he should have been faster simply because of fuel burning off!  Feeling a little more nauseous?

The super-soft tires are approximately one second faster than the softs, which are about twice as durable.  Pirelli claims that it's theoretically possible that someone do the race on two stops.  I think three is probably more likely, and maybe someone will go for a four-stopper.

To get a good lap around Monaco, a driver has to be 100% committed, 100% of the time.  At every other circuit on the calendar, there's at least one place where a driver can relax, even if it's only for a few seconds: Abu Dhabi leaps immediately to mind, with its nigh-on 3000ft long back straight.  Nothing like that at Monaco... even the front "straight" bends to the right.  Felipe Massa showed just how focused you have to be around the Principality on one hot lap in P2.  Through the Swimming Pool complex, he was actually turning while airborne over a curb.  He then drifted around Rascasse and fishtailed through Anthony Noghes.  There, he looked like he was going to permanently embed his left-rear wheel in the armco barriers, but the curbing there kicked him away... and right towards the armco on the INSIDE of the turn.  A quick flip of the wrists kept him clear of those, and he crossed the line with the third fastest time of the session up until then.  Breathtaking!  Heck, the Legendary Announce Team was actually laughing about it.

Yes, should be a fun race weekend... the way it's going, we just might see someone in the harbor.  See you Saturday for Quals!

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May 21, 2011

F1 Quals: Spain 2011

Interesting strategies were on display today in the quals for the 2011 Grand Prix of Spain... very interesting indeed.  First, let's take a look at the provisional grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:23.619 1:21.773 1:20.981
2 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:24.142 1:21.540 1:21.181
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:24.370 1:22.148 1:21.961
4 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:23.485 1:22.813 1:21.964
5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:24.428 1:22.050 1:21.996
6 The Red Menace
Renault 1:23.069 1:22.948 1:22.471
7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.507 1:22.569 1:22.599
8 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:23.506 1:23.026 1:22.888
9 Archmandrite Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1:23.406 1:22.854 1:22.952
10 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:22.960 1:22.671
11 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:23.962 1:23.231
12 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:24.209 1:23.367
13 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:24.049 1:23.694
14 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:23.656 1:23.702
15 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Renault 1:25.874 1:25.403
16 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:24.332 1:26.126
17 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:24.648 1:26.571
18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1:26.521

19 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:26.910

20 Timo Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:27.315

21 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1:27.809

22 Narain Kittylitter HRT-Cosworth 1:27.908

23 Custard d'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:28.556


Grizzly Nick Heidfeld Renault no time


Q1 107% Time
1:28.767


The streak is dead!  Mark Webber beat teammate Seb Vettel for pole position, the first time all season that Vettel isn't on pole.  The Driver's Champion may have had a problem with his KERS unit, which would account for the difference easily.

The "interesting strategies" I mentioned earlier were in Q3, when the McLarens and Red Bulls went out just as the session started, did one hot lap, then parked themselves in the pitlane.  Then... we waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  Until the 2:00 mark, it was looking like nobody else would head out on track, content to preserve their tires and take their place on the grid from where they stood in Q2.  That just might have worked, truth be told.  Having said that, it's a horrible precedent; the whole point of the Knockout Qualifying format is to get cars out on the track, not to have them sit in the garage.  Something needs to be fixed, and quick. 

You may note that Grizzly Nick Heidfeld has a big fat "no time" next to his name in Q1.  He never actually made it out on track, due to a little incident he had in Saturday morning's P3. 

Renault says that there was a crack in the ducting that runs the exhaust to the front of the car, and that let 1000°F. gases flow into the sidepod.  As you can imagine, there's a lot of stuff in there that can burn.  Heidfeld escaped without injury, but the car was not so lucky.  However, this gives Grizzly Nick a chance to earn Driver of the Race tomorrow, just like Gandalf and Webber before him, both of whom started from waaaaaaay back, and both wound up ending up in the points.  Good luck, Griz!

The Renault Flambé allowed Heikki Kovaleinninninninnie to get his Lotus into Q2, the first time the "new" team has accomplished that feat.  Before one says "eh, it was just because Grizzly got a deal on marshmallows", however, please note that he beat out both Force Indias and Rubens Barrichello with his 15th place on the grid.  Not just a gimmie, this. 

What is it with Finns and 15th place?  First it was Kimi Raikkonen taking his #15 Perky Jerky Toyota Tundra to 15th place in last night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, and today it's Heikki getting 15th on the grid... I think there's something going on here.

Finally, if you're a betting person, you should drop a big wad of cash on Mark Webber to win on Sunday. You have to go back to 2000 to find a polesitter that didn't win, and 19 of the past 20 races have been won from the front row.  The lone exception was when Slappy Schumacher won a wet race in 1996... from third.  Of course, that was before DRS and KERS, but it still looks pretty favorable for Webber...

Race tomorrow, see you then!

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May 20, 2011

F1 Practice: Spain 2011 (UPDATED)

Interesting news bits from Spain today, so lets get right to it.

First off, as the first real stop on the European leg of the F1 season (Turkey doesn't really count, since it's still pretty far from the team factories), every team has introduced a ton of new modifications to their chassis.  None of them were major... a tweak to the front wing here, a clip to the rear bodywork there, that sort of thing... but McLaren introduced "between 10 and 12" mods for this race, as an example.  That's not out of the ordinary; I'm sure most of the teams put the same amount of changes on their cars.  so what will all these changes mean?  I haven't the faintest idea, but here's the thing: neither does anybody else, including the teams. 

Next up, the FIA issued a command on Wednesday that made the teams scream.  One of the new technical developments that many of the teams have implemented is a neat trick with the exhaust.  As you know, when you push down on the accelerator in a car, the engine goes and exhaust is pushed out the... um... exhaust... at various speeds.  The harder the engine works, the higher velocity the exhaust is blown out.  Logical, right?  Well, most of the teams have repositioned their tailpipes so that the gas from the exhaust is blown over the rear diffuser, increasing the downforce generated.  Again, perfectly logical.  Well, the neat trick is that some of the teams have done something to their engines that, even when the accelerator isn't being pressed, the velocity of the exhaust gases is kept at a constant.  Now that's cool!  You can hear it during the races, a weird flatulence as they go through a corner or shift down.  Getting back to the FIA's fatwa, they decided to ban the constant velocity exhaust, effective for the Spanish Grand Prix.  Their rationale?  Because the exhaust flow is being used to improve the aerodynamics of the car, a part of the exhaust system violates the rule against "movable aerodynamic devices" (never mind DRS).  What part of the exhaust system breaks the rule?  The engine!  After all, the pistons move...  Of course, the teams immediately protested.  Not because they couldn't do the modifications in time, I'm sure they could.  The teams are saying the removal of the constant exhaust will ruin the stability of the cars, as they've been designed to have that additional airflow over the diffuser.  Remove that, they say, and the cars will be too dangerous to drive.  The matter has been referred to the F1 Working Group and a final decision will be issued "soon." 

Third, Pirelli has made a change to their hard compound tire and has debuted it here at Spain.  The short version is that it's now a SUPER-hard tire, and is predicted to last maybe 24 or 25 laps, instead of 16 or 12.  The tradeoff, of course, is that they have the grip of a newborn baby.  As a result, they are two seconds per lap slower than the soft tires.  Should make things interesting towards the end of the race, particularly if someone gambles by going off-sequence with their tire choices, like Mark Webber did at China.  Unsurprisingly, the drivers are united in their hatred for the new tire.  Lewis Hamilton calls them "disastrous."  Gandalf Kobayashi said "The new superhard compound gives you the feeling you are driving a totally different car. They are so slow."  To which I suggest, "shut up and drive."

Fourth up, the Circuit de Catalunya did something interesting during the offseason.  They excavated all the graveltraps at the track and replaced the kittylitter with larger-diameter stones.  This was in reaction to Lewis Hamilton's accident last year, and Heikki Kovaleinninninnie's crash in 2008, both of which were caused by a piece of gravel getting caught in the the front-left wheel and milling through the metal.  The larger gravel should prevent the stones from getting stuck in the first place, though it'd be even better if the drivers could keep their cars out of the kittylitter...

Finally, Kimi Raikkonen, former World Driving Champion and current rallycar driver, is making his debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series tonight, driving the #15 Perky Jerky Toyota Tundra.

Perky Jerky.  A legendary marque, the equal to Ferrari or McLaren, for sure.  I'll be watching the race tonight, just to see how Mumbles does... of course, I'll pass along information afterwards!

UPDATE:  Kimi ended up 15th in his first truck series race.  He bumped the wall a couple of times, but so did just about everybody else at one time or another.  The Charlotte Motor Speedway was apparently quite the vicious beast today, never quite settling down and never, ever, generating much in the way of traction.  Everybody was loose during the race.  That Kimi made it through the whole thing without wrecking or spinning was impressive as heck.  He showed a lot of the car handling skills that made him the 2007 F1 World Champion, making some passes, avoiding two or three wrecks that happened dead ahead of him, just driving a solid race.  For his first time in a NASCAR truck with other racers around him, he did a helluva job.  However, some things will never change:

"Mrmmmrmrrmrmbl mrmrblbbmmrblmrmmm mrmrblbmmrmrmr.  Mmrmmrb mrmrbrmmllbrr mrmmrmr." - Kimi Raikkonen (note: real quote from post-race interview... man I've missed that)

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May 16, 2011

F1 on SPEED!: Spain 2011

Some tracks are bad because they've got a horrible design (Hungary).  Some tracks are bad because time has passed them by (Monaco).  Some tracks are bad because they were neutered in the name of safety (Hockenheimring). 

And then there's the Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, home of the 2011 Grand Prix of Spain.  Let's take a look at the track map:

On first blush, there's nothing particularly wrong with the layout.  Nice long front straight, some interesting turns in the technical portions, decent back straight, both slow and fast curves.  So what's the problem?  Well, there are three.

The first problem is that... there isn't any problem at all.  It's a perfectly acceptable circuit.  But there's nothing about the track that stands out in any way.  There's no one aspect of the layout that would make a driver quake with fear or quiver in anticipation.  Not even any elevation change to break up the monotony.  It's just there

The second problem relates to the first.  Because the track is so sedate and the weather in Barcelona so benign, the teams do a lot of offseason testing here, and have since the circuit opened in 1991.  As a result, there is hardly anything for the drivers to learn about the track.  Every bump, every crack, every bit of flaking paint on the curbs is known to the men on the pit wall.  In the past, this has led to a series of processionals to rival the Parade of Roses.  This may change this season, what with KERS and the DRS being in play, but if ever there was a circuit where the influence of these things could be minimized, this is the one.

The third problem is that this is the home track for HWMNBN, and therefore should be anathema to all right-thinking fans of Formula 1. 

Of course, the good people of SPEED will be on-the-spot with their coverage of the race weekend, beginning with streaming coverage of Friday's first practice session, which goes from 3am to 430am.  Practice 2 will be live on SPEED from 7am to 840am that same day.  Saturday brings us Practice 3, streaming from 4am to 5am.  Live coverage of Quals will be on SPEED from 7am to 830am.

Finally, the 2011 Grand Prix of Spain will be LIVE on Sunday, from 630am to 9am on SPEED.  There will be a replay from 3pm to 630pm that same day.

As usual, the F1 Update! crew will be more than pleased to bring you our usual sterling commentary, replete with trenchant wit, all weekend long.  We'll see you then!

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May 07, 2011

F1 Quals: Turkey 2011

Uh-oh.  Let's look at the provisional grid for the 2011 Grand Prix of Turkey:

Pos Driver Team Q1Q2Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:27.039 1:25.610 1:25.049
2 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:27.090 1:26.075 1:25.454
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:27.514 1:25.801 1:25.574
4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:27.091 1:26.066 1:25.595
5 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:27.349 1:26.152 1:25.851
6 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:27.374 1:26.485 1:25.982
7 The Red Menace
Renault 1:27.475 1:26.654 1:26.296
8 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:27.697 1:26.121 1:26.646
9 Grizzly Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:27.901 1:26.740 1:26.659
10 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:27.013 1:26.395
11 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:28.246 1:26.764
12 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:27.392 1:27.027
13 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:27.625 1:27.145
14 Purohit Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1:27.396 1:27.236
15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:27.778 1:27.244
16 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:27.620 1:27.255
17 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:28.055 1:27.572
18 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Renault 1:28.780

19 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1:29.673

20 Custard d'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:30.445

21 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1:30.692

22 Timo Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:30.813

23 Narain Kittylitter HRT-Cosworth 1:31.564


Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari No time


Q1 107% Time
1:33.103


Yep, our first Red Bull front-row lockout for 2011, but that's not what prompted the "uh-oh."  No, that was brought on by how they accomplished the feat.  Both Seb Vettel and Mark Webber did one run in Q3, looked at their times and said, "Nah, we're done.  Come and get us."  So while everybody else went out and burned another set of their allotment of soft tires trying to catch up to the Bullies, Vettel and Webber sat in the pits, sipping tea in the Red Bull motor home.  I suspect they could have gone even faster, but just didn't bother.  Pray for rain, race fans, pray for rain... otherwise this one could be really, really ugly.  I mean, Nico Rosberg had the qualifying session of his life today, is sitting third on the grid, and he's still a half-second behind our polesitter, with one less set of fresh soft tires.

At the other end of the grid, we may have our first Steward's Decision coming, as Gandalf Kobayashi's fuel pump died on his out lap for Q1.  He needed help to make it back to pits, being pushed by track marshals the last couple hundred yards, and obviously never made it back out.  With no time set, he obviously didn't meet the 107% time, and is therefore prohibited from starting the race.  However, Sauber can (and certainly will) go to the Stewards, say "technical difficulties, you know what our pace has been all weekend, let us in."  I fully expect the Stewards to agree, but you never know.

So there we are.  Race on Sunday, F1U! sometime thereafter.  See you then!

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May 06, 2011

F1 Practice: Turkey 2011

The big news from today's practices at the Istanbul Otodrom was... the weather.  We had rain throughout P1, and it made a huge impact on our World Champion.  Or, rather, his Red Bull made a huge impact on the wall because of the weather.  He got a little too wide on the exit of Quad-8, putting his right-side tires went over the back of the curb.  This had the effect of skating the underside of the Red Bull over the curb, ruining the aerodynamics completely.  The car spun back across the track and slammed into the barriers, deranging all four tires, breaking the nose, and jamming a couple dozen cubic yards of dirt and turf into the intakes in the process.  It came back to the pit lane on the flatbed truck, went into the garage and never came back.  Seb Vettel missed P2 as a result.  Speculation from the Legendary Announce Team was that the chassis was damaged, which basically means it would be a writeoff and the mechanics would have to build up another car before P3 and Quals.  We'll see how that affects Vettel on Saturday.

Other that that, there was no rain for P2, though the grass off-track was still soggy.  This allowed Imam Maldonado to wreck his car three times during the two sessions... that takes skill.  Can't imagine that Williams is too thrilled with him, but hey, $30million in sponsorship makes a big difference om a team's reaction when you bend the car.

HWMNBN had a grim-looking moment, when his Ferrari came coasting into the pit lane.  A quick cut to the in-car camera replay allowed us the hear the problem: something on the Ferrari began to sound like an elephant with gastric distress after eating bad burritos for a week.  Shift gears down, blaaaaaaaaaaaaat.  Probably an exhaust problem (which does nothing to dispel the notion of the elephant), HWMNBN was back out after a few minutes, though driving gingerly.  Understandable considering the... quality... of the sound.  I would never want to hear that sound, ever, no matter the cause.

Finally, get well wishes go out to The Varsha, lead talker of the Legendary Announce Team.  It appears that he's under the weather, and Lee Diffy will be filling in.  Feel better soon!

Quals in the morning!

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May 02, 2011

F1 on SPEED!: Turkey 2011

Okay, vacation's over... everybody back on your heads.  The F1 Circus trundles its way to the Istanbul Otodrom for what might be the last Grand Prix of Turkey.  Let's take a look at the track map:

Yes, with a planned lineup of 19 races in 2012, and two new tracks debuting next year, three existing circuits are going to have to go away.  Considering that Turkey's contract is up after this race, and Darth Bernie is saying that F1's fees for the race are going to double, it's a good bet that this will be the last we see of Hermann Tilke's magnum opus.

That this is Tilke's best circuit speaks poorly of the designer, but not the track.  All in all, Turkey is a decent enough layout with one outstanding turn.  I speak of Quad-8, of course.  An increasing-radius four apex turn, it might just be the most exciting turn in F1's modern tracks, and it can at least stand in the same room with the classics without being made fun of. 

Other than that, the rest of the circuit is decent, nothing amazing.  Turns 2, 8 and 11 are quite hard on tires, as is the asphalt that makes up the track surface, so we should have a good ol' time trying to keep track of the pit stops on race day.  Fortunately, the F1 Update! crew will have an intern for this race, as the Official First Friend of The Pond, Vaucaunson's Duck, will be visiting.

SPEED will be providing its usual sterling coverage of the weekend, of course.  It all begins with streaming coverage of P1 on Friday, from 2am to 330am.  P2 will be shown LIVE on SPEED from 6am to 740am on Friday as well.  On Saturday, P3 will be streaming from 3am to 4am.  Quals will be LIVE on SPEED from 6am to 730am.

Finally, the 2011 Grand Prix of Turkey will be shown LIVE from 630am to 9am on Sunday, with a replay from 1230pm to 3pm.

F1U! will be all over the race weekend, as usual.  We'll see you here for all the festivities!

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