April 18, 2015

F1 Quals: Bahrain 2015

Pretty night at Sakhir tonight as the F1 Circus gets ready for tomorrow's race, but who's going to be leading the horde towards Turn 1 when the lights go out?  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.928 1:32.669 1:32.571
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:34.919 1:33.623 1:32.982
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:34.398 1:33.878 1:33.129
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:34.568 1:33.540 1:33.227
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:34.161 1:33.897 1:33.381
6 Felipe Massa Williams 1:34.488 1:33.551 1:33.744
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:34.691 1:34.403 1:33.832
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:35.653 1:34.613 1:34.450
9 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:35.371 1:34.641 1:34.462
10 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:35.007 1:34.123 1:34.484
11 Sergio Perez Force India 1:35.451 1:34.704  
12 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:35.310 1:34.737  
13 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:35.438 1:35.034  
14 HWMODBNA McLaren 1:35.205 1:35.039  
15 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:35.611 1:35.103  
16 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:35.677    
17 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:35.800    
18 Will Stevens Manor 1:38.713    
19 Roberto Merhi Manor 1:39.722    
20 Jenson Button McLaren No time    

The same "Big Six" as we've come to expect, just a little scrambled.  Actually, Vettel was the polesitter right up until the very last moment.  Unsurprisingly, Hamilton nailed him on his last attempt, and to be honest there was a sense of inevitability to the proceedings.  Of COURSE Lewis Hamilton was going to be on pole.  No, it doesn't matter than his car is on fire and he's only got two tires, he'll still be faster.

One nice thing to see is that McLaren appears to have begun their long trek out of the darkness, at least kinda.  Jenson Button had an engine failure before he could set an actual qualifying time, and races at the Steward's whim.  However!  HWMODBNA got his valiant steed out of Q1 and firmly into Q2.  Reliability is still an issue obviously, but the signs are there: they're picking up about a second per lap ever race.  Again, this is the easy stuff they're doing.  Analogy time!  When painting a wall, it's a cinch to slather the big areas and cover dozens of square feet at a time.  Things start to slow down, though, when you're painting the baseboards and the moulding and around the electrical outlets.  It's those details that make the wall look good when you're done... and it's the little details that take a F1 car from the midpack to join the big guys.

The race is in the morning, 10am Pond Central time... you bring the bagels, I'll have the cold pizza ready.  See ya then!

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April 13, 2015

F1 on TV: Bahrain

From Shanghai, the F1 Circus now packs up and wings westward.  Across China, over the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, the length of Pakistan, maybe catching a small piece of Afghanistan, winging over southern Iran just to the north of Bandar Abbas, crossing the Persian Gulf, and landing nearly 12 hours later at Bahrain International Airport.  From there, it's a 40 minute drive down the Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Highway to the Bahrain International Circuit, located at Gate 255, Gulf of Bahrain Avenue, Umm Jidar 1062, Sakhir... the home of the 2015 Grand Prix of Bahrain.  Let's take a look at the track map:

Seems like quite the journey for us to end up... here.  It's very much a Tilkedrome, almost totally indistinguishable from Malaysia or China... only the decorations differentiate between locations, really.  Well, that and the sand in Bahrain.  There's a lot of that.  The University of Bahrain is literally right across the street from the Bahrain International Circuit, too... indeed, the bleachers that line the outside of Turns 1 through 3 are called the "University Stands."  See?  You really DO learn things here at The Pond! 

Anyway, the track surface aggregate is very grippy.  Interestingly, it was shipped from Bayston Hill quarry in England, but it should play merry hell with the rubber this race.  There's also the ever-present fear of sand on the track; the adhesive the event organizers spray on the surrounding desert does seem to keep most of it down.  The track is mostly very wide, thus allowing plenty of room for cars to run side-by-side, ha-ha.  It has one of the best medical centers on-site at a racetrack in the world, with perhaps only the Abu Dhabi facility rivaling it.

On the whole, it's not a particularly challenging circuit, but there's one huge change being made to it this year: lights.  That's right, this year the Grand Prix of Bahrain is going to be a night race.  That'll add a whole lot of confusion to the proceedings, since nobody's ever driven here under the lights. 

It's a huge boon for us, the viewers, though!  Let's take a look at the TV schedule...
10am - 1130am: Practice 2 Live on NBCSN
10am - 1130am: Quals Live on CNBC
930a - 12noon: 2015 Grand Prix of Bahrain live on NBCSN

No staying up until 4am, or getting up at 6am, for this one!  For once, I can actually be happy with Formula One Management. 

We'll see ya after!

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April 11, 2015

F1 Quals: China 2015

Before you can race in F1, you must qualify.  This has been duly done by the accumulated Circus, but how did everything end up in Shanghai?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of China:

Pos Name Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:38.285 1:36.423 1:35.782
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:38.496 1:36.747 1:35.824
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:37.502 1:36.957 1:36.687
4 Felipe Massa Williams 1:38.433 1:37.357 1:36.954
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:38.014 1:37.763 1:37.143
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:37.790 1:37.109 1:37.232
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:38.534 1:37.939 1:37.540
8 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:38.209 1:38.063 1:37.905
9 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:38.521 1:38.017 1:38.067
10 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:38.941 1:38.127 1:38.158
11 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:38.563 1:38.134  
12 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:39.051 1:38.209  
13 Zygote Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:38.387 1:38.393  
14 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:38.622 1:38.538  
15 Sergio Perez Force India 1:38.903 1:39.290  
16 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:39.216    
17 Jenson Button McLaren 1:39.276    
18 HWPMBN McLaren 1:39.280    
19 Will Stevens Manor 1:42.091    
20 Roberto Merhi Manor 1:42.842    

Pretty much what we expect these days.  The Mercs have the one lap speed advantage over the Ferraris, but aren't as easy on their tires as the red cars.  The team from Maranello looked quite  good during long runs in practice, suggesting that Vettel and Raikkonen will be bringing it to Hamilton and Rosberg on Sunday.  The Finn's position in sixth is due to, and I quote, "a sh*t lap", where the car misbehaved during his final pole attempt. 

Nobody believes that the Williams are serious contenders for anything more than staying a notch below the Ferraris, and Red Bull is trying desperately to find some way to explain their sudden lack of speed, grip and class.  Their whining coefficient is off the charts, though.

The one thing everybody can hope for is Nico Rosberg's proclamation coming true.  After Quals, he stated that he believed the softer Option tires were going to die quickly during race conditions.  While the Silver Arrows managed to hold an unused set of Options in reserve, their 1.7 seconds per lap advantage over the Prime tires won't matter if they're only good for five or six laps... the extra pit-stop will take longer than the speed advantage saves the team... particularly if Ferrari can repeat last race and make their tires run longer.

Down at the other end of the order, we actually had both Manor chassis on track at the same time, which may have been the first time that's occurred this year.  Both are well within the 107% time of 1:44.something as well.  Meanwhile, McLaren is... improving, something like a second or two a race.  Of course, these are the easy fixes they're applying; its when they reach "average" that they'll start to really have difficulty improving to "good" or "great."

In other news, we had a track invader during Friday practice.

The man, a Chinese citizen, came down out of the stands, scaled the 10' tall catch fence and the interior armco barrier, ran across the front straight and dove over the inside wall.  He then approached the Ferrari pits and stated an interest in "giving one of the cars a try."  He was apprehended by circuit marshals and turned over to the local police.  As one can imagine, the F1 Circus immediately screamed for a larger security presence.  Reports say that the organizers doubled the front grandstand's police force.  I'm only going to say "wow" and leave it at that. 

Race is Sunday morning... see ya after.

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April 07, 2015

F1 on NBCSN: China

After a relatively surprising result in Malaysia, the Formula 1 Circus has bundled itself up and traipsed its way across the South China Sea to find itself in Shanghai, home of the 2015 Grand Prix of China.  Let's take a look at the track map, shall we?  Yes, let's!

Well, one thing's for sure: it hasn't changed.  It's still smoggy, it's still shaped like the Chinese symbol shang, meaning "arise", it's still a Tilkedrome.  It's more likely to cough up a good race than any other Tilkedrome, true, but that's nothing to hang on your wall proudly.  Throw in the perceived dominance of Mercedes and I find myself staring at the schedule and wondering just what I'm doing with my life.   I mean, besides "nothing".

Well, since I'm not doing anything, I may as well watch the race.  Here's NBCSN's planned coverage schedule:
Practice 2: 1am - 230a live
Quals: 2a - 330a live
Grand Prix of China: 1230a - 300a live

All times are Pond Central, of course, but please check your schedule, just to be sure we've got the times listed right.  Seriously, Zap2It is a clumsy, awkward, sloppy little piece of moldy cheese of a TV listing software, and I trust it about as far as I can spit an eatanter.  And for the record, I can't spit an eatanter at all... the tail keeps getting snagged.

In other F1 news, Red Bull has stopped whining about Mercedes' so-called engine domination.  Now team principal Christian Horner is calling for a wind tunnel ban.  Given his track record on this sort of stuff, I can only assume that Red Bull is having technical troubles with their wind tunnel.  Either that or they hate the thought of Haas F1 having the best automotive wind tunnel in the world at their beck and call.  Maybe both, who knows?   I'm not even sure Horner knows.  Red Bull is talking about getting out of the sport altogether, Toro Rosso is on the verge of becoming a Renault tean... maybe we can get a team that's concerned about racing on the track, instead of a team that's a marketing tool first, and then a racing team. 

Rant over.  Everybody back on your heads.

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