September 30, 2013

F1 on NBCSN: Korea 2013

It's hard to believe that this will be the fourth race at Korea.  It feels like just... um... four years ago... since that first deluge-filled race.  Arguably, that first race, which ended with Hannibal Vettel blowing his engine as night fell around the circuit, was the only one worth watching.  Now they're talking about ending the Korean experiment.  Let's take a look at the track map for this maybe soon-to-be-gone racetrack:

The sad thing is that there's no reason for this track to be a lousy runner.  The designer just got a little carried away with all the fiddlybits on the back half.  Instead, what we've got is half a circuit where you can't pass because you're too busy making turns, and another half where you can't pass because you're all right around the same speed anyway.  This is not conductive to good racing.

Unless it rains, of course, in which case everybody is open to anything that happens.  Oh by the way, there are storms predicted for race day... just sayin'.  Oh, and that yellow dot up there?  That's not only the location of the speedtrap, but it's also the approximate location of The Elephant.

NBCSN will be providing coverage, as usual... and it's all over the darn map as to when things are being shown.  Here's the schedule as I know it:
12mid - 130a: P2 live?
6p - 730p: Quals, surely not live
1230a - 3a: 2013 Grand Prix of Korea, live.

Doesn't look like I'll be liveblogging P1, like I've done before... I can't get NBCSN's streaming thingy to work.  Oh well, ces't la vie.  I'll be around for the rest of it... if it rains, I might write more than 400 words for the F1U!, even.  We'll see!

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September 26, 2013

The OTHER Six-Wheeled F1 Cars

Mauser mentioned that Instypundito was linkin' to a six-wheeled F1 car, and asks what the deal was.  Well, I'm not gonna go look to see which one he's talking about because what's the fun in that?  Instead, I'm going to talk about the THREE different six-wheelers that were built for F1 purposes that aren't the famous Tyrrell P34 (aka "Wonderduck's favorite F1 car").

THREE???  Yuppers, three.  Teams saw the possibilities of the P34 and, as is normal in Formula 1, decided to steal the idea and... "improve"... it.  Needless to say, none of the teams in question ever actually raced their cars, just tested them.  Probably the best of them was the March 2-4-0.

The idea behind the 2-4-0 is the exact opposite of the P34.  The P34 had two small tires on either side up front to improve aerodynamics by lessening drag, which the March designer thought was kinda dumb, because the normal-sized rear tires were still huge sources of drag.  Instead, March went with normal tires (which, it might be pointed out, weren't going to cause Goodyear headaches in developing...), but had four driven wheels in the back.  The drag would be counteracted by the immense improvement in grip.  It worked like a charm, except for two problems.  First, it chewed up gearboxes like nobody's business.  Second, the car was horribly overweight.  If the team could have gotten the gearbox problem solved and put the chassis on a diet, both of which could have been accomplished eventually, there's nothing inherently wrong with the idea and no reason that it wouldn't have been successful.  It was a good enough idea that Williams copied the concept a few years later for their FW08B.

Like the 2-4-0, the FW08B never actually raced, and will go down in history as the car that drove the FIA to define a F1 car as having four wheels, with only the two rear ones being powered.  Williams' designer Patrick Head said that the main reason that the FW08B was never raced was that it would have caused nightmares during pitstops.  I suppose that's true, but it's more likely that the FIA just hated the idea.

Finally, we come to the really weird chassis, the Ferrari 312T6

Yup, four rear wheels on one axle.  I'm not sure what Ferrari thought they'd get out of this layout, particularly since it was too wide to fit the Technical Regulations.  In testing, it was found to be something of a pig, handling-wise, and had a tendency to have rear-end problems.  In other words, it broke easily and caught fire once.  Considering that they had a double-championship season in 1977 with the normal 312T, Ferrari didn't really need to be playing around, and it was condemned to the ash pit.

And that's the story of the other Six-Wheelers.

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September 21, 2013

F1 Quals: Singapore 2013

If the teams were smart, they'd all just start working on 2014's new spec of cars and concede the various championships to Red Bull now.  I say this because of the results of today's Quals session for the 2013 Grand Prix of Singapore... let's take a look, shall we?

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Hannibal Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:45.376 1:42.905 1:42.841
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:45.208 1:43.892 1:42.932
3 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:45.851 1:43.957 1:43.058
4 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:45.271 1:43.727 1:43.152
5 Shiv Hamilton Mercedes 1:44.196 1:43.920 1:43.254
6 Unemployed Massa Ferrari 1:45.658 1:44.376 1:43.890
7 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:45.115 1:44.153 1:43.938
8 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:45.009 1:44.497 1:44.282
9 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:45.379 1:44.407 1:44.439
10 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:45.483 1:44.245 no time
11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:45.381 1:44.555
12 Jules Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:45.657 1:44.588
13 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:45.522 1:44.658
14 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:45.164 1:44.752
15 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:45.960 1:45.185
16 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:45.982 1:45.388
17 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:46.121

18 Litterer Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:46.619

19 Charles ToothPic Caterham-Renault 1:48.111

20 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:48.320

21 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:48.830

22 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:48.930

"So Vettel's on pole again," I hear you saying, "so what?  What makes this time so much different?"  I'm glad you asked!  First, look at his time in Q2... he was, quite literally, nearly a full second faster than anybody else.  "Yeah, but that's Q2... in Q3 he was only a tenth faster," you exclaim.  Indeed, this is true... but Vettel set his time at the beginning of the final session, then parked his car and let everybody else shoot at him.

Think about that for a second.  He was confident enough in the time he set that he never bothered to try and improve it... and nobody could catch him. Oh, and it should go without saying that his super-soft tires will be at least a few laps fresher than those of everybody else during the first stint of the race.

There are 61 laps scheduled for Sunday's race.  While I don't think we'll see Vettel win by one second per lap, if he wanted to at this track, he probably could.  I suspect it's going to be a loooooong race.

Unless it rains, like it's predicted to do... of course, it's ALWAYS been predicted to rain during the Singapore Grand Prix, and I don't think it ever has.

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September 17, 2013

F1 On NBCSN: Singapore 2013

Once upon a time, not that long ago, Singapore was an eagerly awaited destination for the F1 Circus.  Imagine, the first ever Formula 1 race at night, under a multi-gazillion-watt lighting system that would make the cars look frickin' sweet!  And they'd race over bridges, and under the seating area, and past the historic Raffles Hotel, and the course layout looked great, and all that jazz.  Except, as we've learned, looks can be deceiving.  It's not that great a track, the night racing is a gimmick (but it does look nice), you can't tell when they're on the bridges, yadda yadda yadda.  There has been a change this year though... let's take a look at the track map for the 2013 Grand Prix of Singapore!

It was notorious as "the worst corner in Formula 1."  Turn 10, aka "The Singapore Sling," used to be a quick left-right-left mini-chicane with high curbs that would launch unsuspecting cars into low-earth-orbit if you got too much of them.  Nobody liked it, except for those amongst us who also enjoy watching NASCAR for "the Big One."  Please note, this does include your humble scribe to a certain extent, and seeing a multi-million dollar F1 car catch air like a F-18 Super Hornet launched off the deck of an aircraft carrier was one of my guilty pleasures.

Well, no more.  The FIA did away with The Launching Pad, and instead put a fast left-hand sweeper in it's place.  Borrrrrrrrrinnnnnng.  Safe, but boring.  I exaggerate, but only for effect.  Still, at least the turn had some cachet to it.  Negative cachet, sure, but it was there. 

So this is where we're treated to this weekend.  I'd like to say that NBCSN is going to be all over it, but I can't seem to find any coverage of Quals until Midnight Sunday morning, so maybe not.  Here's what I DO know:
Practice 2: 830a - 10a live
Grand Prix of Singapore: 630a - 9a live

We should be F1U!'g all over the place, so keep an eye out and we'll see ya then!

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September 11, 2013

Silly Season Goes Nuclear

The annual Formula 1 Driver Relocation Program, better known as "the silly season", had a very early start this year when Mark Webber announced his retirement from the sport.  This led to rumors that Kimi Raikkonen would be leaving Lotus and moving to Red Bull... rumors that proved to be incorrect when the team announced that Daniel Ricciardo would become Hannibal Vettel's plaything teammate next year.

But things got really interesting a couple of days ago when Felipe Massa received the long-discussed axe from Ferrari.  To be fair, the team has stuck by him through quite a few down years, years where a points-scoring teammate to HWMNBN might well have won the team a lot more in the Constructor's Championship.  As it is, the only driver that's started more races for Ferrari in their history was Slappy Schumacher.  No idea where Massa is going to end up, but he's already said that he won't be a pay driver and that he intends to be in F1 in 2014.

So now the question became, who would team with HWMNBN at Ferrari?  Clearly, the driver would have to be one of two things: totally subservient and willing to be an obvious #2 driver ("Fernando is faster than you..."), or someone able to stand toe-to-toe with the Spaniard in driving ability.

Unlike Red Bull, Ferrari dealt with the matter quickly... and went the toe-to-toe route, announcing that Kimi Raikkonen would be leaving Lotus and rejoining the Red team in 2014, five years after his last stint with them.  He's also the Scuderia's most recent Driver's Champion, oddly enough.  It's obviously a great addition to the team, but one wonders just how HWMNBN will react.  He was on record as wanting Massa to be resigned, and the last time he was teamed with a driver as skilled as himself, he went on to earn the nickname "HWMNBN" by throwing temper tantrums and leaking information to the FIA, leading to McLaren being slapped with a $100million fine.

One suspects that Ferrari won't let him play that game... and that their chances for a Constructor's Championship just went up exponentially.

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September 07, 2013

So, About That F1 Quals: Italy 2013 Post...

I've decided that Labor Day weekend is great when you're, y'know, labor.  When you're management it just means you have four days to do what you normally do in five.  Throw in some other things and I pulled another "week" of 13-hour days.  I also went in on Labor Day for a couple of hours, not to mention today!

And that's where the F1 Quals post went: in to work.  I've not watched Quals for Monza yet, but from what I've read, the grid looks like this:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Hannibal Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:24.319 1:23.977 1:23.755
2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:24.923 1:24.263 1:23.968
3 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:24.776 1:24.305 1:24.065
4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:24.950 1:24.479 1:24.132
5 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:24.661 1:24.227 1:24.142
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:24.527 1:24.393 1:24.192
7 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:24.655 1:24.290 1:24.209
8 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:24.635 1:24.592 1:24.502
9 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:24.739 1:24.563 1:24.515
10 Jules Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:24.630 1:24.575 1:28.050
11 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:24.819 1:24.610
12 Shiv Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.589 1:24.803
13 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:24.737 1:24.848
14 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:25.030 1:24.932
15 Papa Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:24.905 1:25.011
16 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:25.009 1:25.077
17 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:25.226

18 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:25.291

19 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:26.406

20 Charles ToothPic Caterham-Renault 1:26.563

21 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:27.085

22 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:27.480

Hamilton had two hot runs in Q2, from reports.  The first ended when he slid off-track in Parabolica, and on the second he was impeded by Force India's Adrian F'n Sutil, who received a three-spot grid penalty and will start 17th.  Cold comfort for the Mercedes man, though it's not like they like each other.

Speaking of Force India, I'm going to use them to illustrate the amount of downforce cars run at Monza.  In this picture, please look at the rear wing.

As you can see, it's very shallow.  This, of course, makes sense, as a shallow wing provides less downforce and thus less drag.  Downforce is great when you're trying to turn: it pushes you onto the pavement, giving you more grip.  But this is MONZA, where drag is the last thing you could possibly want, so you crank off as much wing as possible... resulting in the paper-thin beast you see here.  When DRS is activated, it becomes even thinner.  Having said that, Force India might have more wing than anybody this year: they were the slowest cars through the speed trap, some 7mph behind the fastest.  By comparison, let's look at Force India's wing at Hungary:

Yeah, 'nuff said.

But why would FI be running wing at Monza?  Because it's supposed to rain.  Forecasts are calling for thunderstorms in the morning, and then again somewhere around race time.  Interesting fact: it almost never rains at Monza.  In fact, the last time it did was 2008, when some young kid won his first race.  Before that?  1985.

See you tomorrow!

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September 02, 2013

F1 On NBCSN: Italy 2013

Every Formula 1 track on the calendar is different from every other.  That's something we don't see much of here in the US, to be honest.  Oh, to be sure, the ovals that NASCAR races on have differences (only a EuroSnob would think that Pocono, Michigan, Indianapolis, Bristol and Daytona are the same), but having said that, there is something to the "go fast, turn left" cliche.  Well, this week the F1 Circus comes to a legendary circuit that most NASCAR fans would identify with, for this week, we come to Monza.

Back in the day before the Chicane Blight hit F1, Monza was about nothing but speed.  Speed, speed, speed.  Handling barely mattered: with only five turns, why waste time thinking about anything but going fast?  Now, though, cars actually need a small amount of grip to make it through the evil Variante del Rettifilo at the end of the front straight, or the three-way Variante Ascari halfway through the back.  But having said all that, Monza is still about speed, in a way no other circuit on the calendar is.  La Pista Magica is the closest F1 comes to the grunting, knuckle-dragging image of a NASCAR track mindless EuroSnobs have, and they don't realize it.  However, it is the Italian fans that turn Monza into The Magic Track, particularly when the Red Cars are running well.  The way the tifosi mob the circuit after the race is over is truly an experience unlike any other in F1.  Why, it's almost... NASCAR-ish.

Of course, F1 can only DREAM of attendance like this...

Well, dream or not, our Legendary Announce Team will be bringing us all the usual coverage from Italy.  Here's the lineup:
7a - 830a Practice 2 live
7a - 830a Quals live
630a - 9a  2013 Grand Prix of Italy live

I've just discovered that I can watch my television, reflected in the frontplate of my new computer.  It's almost good enough to liveblog from it! 


See you this weekend!

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