June 29, 2013

F1 Quals: Great Britain 2013

British weather didn't happen all over Silverstone today!  It was hardly a beautiful summer day, unless you think gray and cloudy and meh is beautiful, but it wasn't raining.  So what effect did having acceptable climactic conditions have on the F1 Circus?  Here's your provisional grid for the 2013 Grand Prix of Great Britain:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Shiv Hamilton Mercedes 1:30.995 1:31.224 1:29.607
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:31.355 1:31.028 1:30.059
3 Hannibal Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:31.559 1:30.990 1:30.211
4 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:31.605 1:31.002 1:30.220
5 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:32.062 1:31.291 1:30.736
6 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:32.097 1:31.182 1:30.757
7 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:32.002 1:31.097 1:30.908
8 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:31.466 1:31.530 1:30.955
9 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:31.400 1:31.592 1:30.962
10 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:32.266 1:31.387 1:30.979
11 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:31.979 1:31.649
12 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:32.241 1:31.779
13 Jules Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:32.105 1:31.785
14 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:31.953 1:32.082
15 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:32.168 1:32.211
16 Bishop Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:32.512 1:32.359
17 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:32.664

18 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:32.666

19 Charles ToothPic Caterham-Renault 1:33.866

20 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:34.108

21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:35.481

22 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:35.858

Q1 107% Time

Every fiber of my being wants to say that Force India has a chance at a podium tomorrow.  Paul di Resta is driving like the reincarnation of Jackie Stewart (who isn't dead, details details), Adrian F'n Sutil is driving like Adrian F'n Sutil, and the car is proving to be pretty good.  I want it to happen.  I want it to happen so badly I can practically taste it (though I think that's just the chicken tandoori I had for dinner last night). 

I just don't think it'll happen.  I can imagine a lot of scenarios where it DOES occur, but they're all kinda far-fetched: the Red Bull drivers collide with each other, Hamilton runs his tires bald then skids into the kittylitter trying to get to the pits, Raikkonen flatspots a tire and the vibration shatters his suspension, that sort of thing.  No, I just don't think FI is ready as a team to have a serious podium chance.  Soon... very soon, perhaps... but not yet.

I also don't expect to see the Mercedes teammates on the podium, either.  One of them, perhaps... Hamilton seems particularly driven this weekend, and his pole position breaks Rosberg's streak of four in a row.  I expect that the Red Bull Whaaaaaaaaambulance is warming up as we speak, getting ready to complain about how the Silver Arrows gained an unfair advantage with that tire test and the punishment didn't fit the crime and so on and so forth.  I've actually lost a lot of respect for the team recently; they really used to be a model team showing how to do it right.  Then they started to dork over Webber, now they've whined about this Mercedes/Pirelli thing so much that it has become embarrassing.  In the immortal words of just about every fan ever, "shut up and drive."

Which I expect Vettel will do.  Particularly with his chief competitor HWMNBN qualifying in 10th place, the World Champ has a golden opportunity to put the 2013 championship out of reach this weekend.

As an aside, I'm no longer surprised by McLaren's performance.  They just done goofed this year, and I'm assuming they've written off they year and are working towards 2014 and the new rules and engine.  As an another aside, Tooned is coming back this weekend, so we've got that to look forward to.  As an another aside altogether, the race will be shown LIVE on CNBC at 630am on Sunday.  Tune in, and we'll see you then!

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June 28, 2013

F1 Practice: Great Britain 2013

We had lovely British weather today at Silverstone, so you can guess what that means:

Yup!  Rain, and lots of it!  First practice was practically wiped out.  P2 saw teams out and about, but the track was just wet enough that there was something of a feeling of restraint the entire session.  Even that wasn't enough to save Felipe Massa from wrecking again.  Twice at Monaco, once in Canada, now at Silverstone... dude has something against his Ferrari mechanics, I think.  While the teams did try to get some new parts tested on their cars, they probably didn't get accomplished.  So let's skip over practice and talk about the really big news of the day.

Mark Webber announced his retirement from Formula 1, effective at the end of the season.  He's not retiring from racing; he'll be joining Porsche's newly reborn LMP1 program in the World Endurance Championship series, which includes, of course, the 24 Hours of LeMans.  Arguably, this is a step up for the Aussie, as he'll be heading what should be a serious contender right away.  It's also a return to endurance racing for him, as he first came to the attention of the racing world via the long races.

Unfortunately, the loss of Mark Webber means that the man called "The Conscience of Formula 1" will no longer be speaking truth to power.  He's always been outspoken... he stepped out against racing at Bahrain, quite loudly in fact... and he certainly stood his ground against his teammate.  Red Bull's support of Hannibal Vettel has often come at the expense of Webber (consider Helmut Marko's attempt to blame the 2010 incident at Turkey on the Aussie), and at this year's Malaysian Grand Prix, Vettel ignored team orders, took the win from Webber, then got no penalty from the team in return... well.  It was pretty clear at that point that Webber had had enough.

We here at F1U! don't have a favorite driver at the moment... but if we did, we could be convinced that Webber would be worth supporting.  He'll be missed from F1, and I suspect from Red Bull as well... but at least we'll see him during LeMans.

Quals sometime tomorrow!

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June 27, 2013

F1 Swag... From A Small French Fishing Village

Back in May, during the Duck U Bookstore's spring buyback, one of my temp employees announced that she and her husband were to be going on a cruise at the beginning of June.  A pleasant hour was spent looking at the cruise line's history (good), the cost per person (they got a deal), whether a balcony room on the ship would be worth it (it was), and their itinerary.  "Oh, the cruise is going to Rome, Florence, Marseilles, Monaco, then we're also going to spend a week in London, too!"


Yesterday, my temp came back into the store carrying little bags for me and my assistant manager.  The contents of mine were surprising to say the least:

She purchased both the keychain and the rubber duck in a shop in Monaco.  Who would have thought that rubber ducks, even racing rubber ducks, would be for sale in Monaco?  I actually have a remarkably similar duck in The Flock already, but there are differences: the older one has a weighted base and is somewhat smaller, for example.  I've got a Monegasque duckie!

The keychain is quite heavy... too heavy for me to use casually, as a matter of fact.  One gets the feeling you could cause harm to someone with it.  The car is painted in the colors of Monaco, of course, never mind the resemblance to Ferrari.  Body shape is similar to the cars of the '90s... which is good, I prefer those to what's on track today.

My collection of F1 swag is growing.

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June 24, 2013

F1 On NBCSN: Great Britain 2013

I say "...on NBCSN" with the utmost nervousness and caution, as I'm unable to find anything remotely resembling a schedule that I believe for this race.  It's all because of that darn Tour de Pharmacopeia that NBCSN is also covering.  Things are moved all willy-nilly and higglety-pigglety, so much so that I just threw my hands up in the air and went "you're on your own this race."  Having said all that, let's look at the trackmap for this, the grandpappy of all F1 races: the Grand Prix of Great Britain!

Silverstone is not the fastest circuit, nor the slowest, nor the hilliest or the most narrow.  It IS, however, the birthplace of Formula 1 and the home of my favorite complex of turns.  Maggots-Becketts-Chapel isn't really a chicane, and it isn't really a "turn" the way we think of them.  It's more of a series of lateral suggestions that become more and more emphatic the farther into them you go.  I've always said that I'd love to be positioned on the inside of Turn 13, looking towards Maggots, for a race.  Seeing the cars slalom like so many life-sized slotcars would be amazing.

Do any of my readers know what slotcars are?  I wonder.  One of the few good memories I have of the paternal side of my childhood was going to Slot & Wing in Rantoul, a hobby shop that had a couple of  1/24-scale, eight-lane tracks, and running wild on the high-bank.  But I digress.

Tires should either be completely worthless or too good here.  Nobody knows, and Red Bull will be happy to complain about it to anybody who cares to listen.  Speaking of tires, remember how we talked briefly about the "Tiregate" scandal of a few weeks ago?  Pirelli held a tire test and asked Mercedes to run 1000km... which is against F1's in-season testing rules.  The FIA's High Court ruling came down a couple of days ago... and Mercedes is doomed.  DOOMED, I tell you.

They've been banned from the upcoming "young driver test."

Yup, that's it.  That's all.  Oh, and they got a reprimand as well.  Much like the UN's "strongly worded letter," a FIA reprimand has not a lot of teeth behind it.  Any team will tell you that they'd rather test with their REAL drivers than with their up-and-comers, which really does give Mercedes an advantage.  I'm unsure of how they got away with it, but they did.

So that's where we stand going into Friday's practice sessions, Saturday's Quals, and the race on Sunday.  Again, for this one you're on your own as far as when the sessions are televised.  Sorry, but once out of six or seven seasons?  I can be excused.  Of course, F1Update! will be all over this one like white on lice.  See ya then!

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June 08, 2013

F1 Quals: Canada 2013 (UPDATED)

Rain.  Rain changes everything.  One moment of distraction, one millisecond of hesitation, and the lap, the race, the car is lost.  Just because the pavement is so slightly damp that a Ford Mustang wouldn't notice it.  That was what the drivers faced when Q1 began this afternoon at the Ile Notre Dame.  Who got bit?  Qui a vaincu la pluie?  Here's the provisional grid for the 2013 Grand Prix of Canada:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Hannibal Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:22.318 1:28.166 1:25.425
2 Shiv Hamilton Mercedes 1:23.801 1:27.649 1:25.512
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:23.446 1:28.419 1:25.897
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.840 1:28.420 1:26.008
5 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:23.247 1:28.145 1:26.208
6 HWSNBN Ferrari 1:23.224 1:28.788 1:26.504
7 Jules Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:24.159 1:28.527 1:26.543
8 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:24.551 1:28.799 1:27.348
9 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:24.451 1:28.667 1:27.432
10 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:24.770 1:29.359 1:27.946
11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:23.899 1:29.435
12 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:24.176 1:29.761
13 Universalist Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:24.776 1:29.917
14 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:24.021 1:30.068
15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:24.408 1:30.315
16 Crashy Massa Ferrari 1:23.735 1:30.354
17 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:24.908

18 Charles ToothPic Caterham-Renault 1:25.626

19 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:25.716

20 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:26.508

21 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:27.062

22 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:27.110

Q1 107% Time 1:28.080

About five minutes before Q1 began, rain started to fall lightly amongst the trees and marmots of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, prompting the first major decision of the day: do we go out on dry tires and hope to get a good lap in before it gets too wet, or do we go right for the intermediates?  Most of the teams gave the dry tires a go, with a very few staying in the garage.  Those that didn't try the dry rubber made the right call; the first couple of minutes of the session were spent watching multi-million dollar, high-tech, space-age, hand-crafted equipment spin and pirouette like they were driving on ice.  Once everybody got back to the pits and put on drizzleshoes, things began to settle down a tad.  It wasn't until Q2 that things began to get weird.  In the second session, the rain began to fall a little bit harder... nearly enough to switch to full wets, but not quite.  I'm betting Felipe Massa wishes he had changed, as he wound up slamming his Ferrari sideways into a tire barrier, for the fourth time in two races.  As this occurred very near an important piece of run-off area, a red flag was thrown... with two minutes left in the session, and some very unlikely people on the verge of elimination: Raikkonen, Button, Sutil.  When the notification came that the track was about to reopen, we got this scene at the pit-out:

As long as you start your timed lap with one second left on the clock, the lap will count.  So there was time... just... to get out of the pits, get around the circuit, and cross the start/finish line for one last chance at moving on to Q3.  See Kimi and Daniel Ricciardo there on the far right?  They and three others have been summoned to the steward's office for not lining up correctly to re-enter the track.  There could be penalties, but I'd not hold my breath.  The light went green, the Benny Hill Theme began playing, and everybody managed to make it around without doing grave bodily harm to themselves or others.  Some succeeded in their quests to make it to Q3, but Jenson Button couldn't.

In Q3, we had the never-before-seen sight of Valtterri Bottas placing his Williams third on the grid in wet-but-not-as-wet-as-Q2 conditions.  Rain is the great equalizer.  Always has been, always will be.  Vettel, of course, is on pole, while Mr Every-Other-Year-In-Canada, Shiv Hamilton, is next to him.  He's won here three times, every other year.  In the years he hasn't won?  DNF.  He won last last year...

All I'm saying is don't put any money on Shiv.

Race tomorrow afternoon... the F1U! crew is praying for rain.

UPDATE: Kimi and Ricciardo were penalized two grid spots for jumping the line.  The other three got away as they received no benefit.

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June 07, 2013

F1 Practice: Montreal 2013

If we learned anything during today's two practice sessions at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, it is these items:

1) Force India might have actually turned the corner.  I hate to predict results from practice sessions... in fact, I regularly say to avoid doing precisely that.  But the consistent movement of the team up the charts has made it unavoidable.  Paul di Resta headed the timesheet in P1 this morning, albeit on a wet-but-drying track, and Adrian Sutil spent a lot of time in the stratified reaches of the top 10 during P2 on a dry track.  Are they going to be on the podium this weekend?  No, probably not, but I don't believe it would cause any great reaction shot memes to be created if it happened, either.

No, I didn't write that entire paragraph just to post this picture.  Nice one, though.
2)  The FIA's weather forecasters are blind, clueless or incompetent.  Why would I suggest such a thing?  They're claiming that there's no chance of rain on race day... when there's a tropical storm heading up the east coast of the US that's supposed to be in the vicinity of Montreal on Sunday, though heading away.  How can ANYBODY forecast race day to be dry in those circumstances?  Plus, it's Montreal: it may as well be named Spa-Francorchamps West.  Having said that, they are predicting rain during Quals, so they're not totally insane.

3)  This tire thingy isn't going away.  To bring everybody up to speed, immediately after the Spanish Grand Prix, Pirelli ran a tire test with Mercedes.  Normally, this isn't a big deal... there was a test with Ferrari, for example, that nobody is complaining about.  There was one big difference between the two, however: Ferrari used their 2011 car, while Mercedes used their current chassis.  The team got to run 1000km on Pirelli test tires fitted to the same car they used in Monaco... which race, it might be pointed out, they won.  More important than the tire runs, though, data from which will benefit all the teams eventually, was that Mercedes got 600 miles of running where they could bolt on any upgrades they wanted to try.  In-season testing is expressly forbidden by the Sporting Regulations.  So why did Mercedes do it?  Because they were asked to by Pirelli, who can run tests during the season.  Confused yet? 

As you can imagine, the other teams are going slightly apecrap over this.  Not because Mercedes got to run on the new Pirelli tires, no, but because they got to do 1000km of live running with their 2013 car while slapping on whatever upgrades they wanted to test... and the other teams didn't.  Even if they didn't put upgrades on the car, another 600 miles of running with Nico Rosberg and Shiv Hamilton behind the wheel would give the team a LOT of input that the others didn't get the chance to get.  According to Legendary Announce Team member Steve Matchett, everybody up and down the pit lane tends to get somewhat heated when this is mentioned.  Red Bull Tire Guy Jon Gates had a tweet that seems to get right to the heart of the matter: "Last flight in has landed in Montreal, good to see our mates from other teams have arrived safe and sound. Mercedes and Pirelli also here."  Mercedes and Pirelli are being hauled in front of the FIA's International Tribunal on June 20th, the results of which could be staggeringly severe.  I don't think we'll see a repeat of Stepneygate's $100million fine (90% of which was because then-McLaren head honcho Ron Dennis was something of a prat).  But Mercedes excluded from the championship?  Possible.  Their points for Monaco taken away?  Likely.  We'll see, of course.  Just another bump in the road for the team from Germany.

A three-inch speed bump, to be exact.
So that's about it for Friday from Montreal.  Quals in the afternoon... nice to be able to say that for once... with writeup sometime thereafter.  See ya then!

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June 03, 2013

F1 On The NBC Networks: Montreal 2013

After the slow crawl through the narrow streets of a tiny French fishing village, the F1 Circus makes its way across the pond (as opposed to crossing The Pond, which you do at your peril) to Montreal.  Here's a look at the track map for Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, home of the 2013 Grand Prix of Canada:

Oddly, there are many similarities between Montreal and Monaco.  Both speak French, for example, but I was more interested in the tracks.  Both are hard on the brakes; Montreal is the only place I've ever seen a brake disc explode, for example.  Both are relatively narrow with close walls, though Canada has more run-off room in general.  It's still no Abu Dhabi, though, and is quite unforgiving.  Both tracks will have the super-soft tires on hand, though Canada will also have the mediums available (Monaco had softs).

There are plenty of differences, of course.  Where Monaco is a high-downforce circuit, Montreal is just the opposite.  Lots of fast bits broken up by slow, slow turns categorize Canada, which is why the brakes get such a workout here.  You're just stomping on the clampers here.  Also, in Montreal they've got better beer and worse food than in Monaco, unless you like donuts. 

Which is to say, Canada is a fun track, arguably the best in F1 (though I wouldn't vote for it).  There's always safety cars here, the weather often plays a part (2011: two hour rain delay!), and good races are common.  And the Legendary Announce Team will be bringing it to us with their usual je ne sais quoi.  Here's the broadcast schedule:

1p - 230p:  Practice 2 live NBCSN
12noon - 130p:  Quals live NBCSN
1p - 330p: 2013 Grand Prix of Canada, live on NBC

Whaddya know, a race you don't have to get up at 530am for!  Yay us!  Of course, F1Update! will be all over the race, or something like that, so don't move a muscle.  Ever.

See you then.

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