July 25, 2015

F1 Quals: Hungary 2015

Hungary.  Joy.  Here's the provisional grid for the 2015 Magyar Nagydíj:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:22.890 1:22.285 1:22.020
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:22.979 1:22.775 1:22.595
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:23.312 1:23.168 1:22.739
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:24.408 1:23.230 1:22.774
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:23.596 1:23.460 1:23.020
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:23.649 1:23.555 1:23.222
7 Kid Kvyat Red Bull 1:23.587 1:23.597 1:23.332
8 Felipe Not NasrMassa Williams 1:23.895 1:23.598 1:23.537
9 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:24.032 1:23.781 1:23.679
10 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:24.242 1:23.805 1:24.181
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:24.115 1:23.826
12 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:24.623 1:23.869
13 Sergio Perez Force India 1:24.444 1:24.461
14 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:23.895 1:24.609
15 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:24.563 No Time

16 Jenson Button McLaren 1:24.739

17 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:24.843

18 Felipe Not Massa  Nasr Sauber 1:24.997

19 Roberto Merhi Manor 1:27.416

20 Will Stevens Manor 1:27.949

For what seemed the first time all season, the Mercedes were actually forced to use their soft tires in Q1, lest they be bumped from quals altogether.  There's a huge performance gap between the soft and hards this time, two seconds or so... it's usually half that.  Other than that, though, nothing particularly exciting went on.  Oh sure, Red Bull seems to have made good use of the past three weeks, looking awfully racy as a result, but with Merc domination it all seems somewhat futile.

Probably the highlight of the session was Fernando Alonso's car failing towards the start of Q2.  Feeling like he had a chance to make it to Q3, it took his lame car as far as it could go... just short of the pit-in.  When it stopped?  He hopped out and pushed.  Soon, he had an entourage.

Yes, that's Alonso waving to the fans while steering his car with one hand while at a fast jog in a firesuit on a 95 degree day with high humidity.  Yes, that's also a cheeky trackworker waving to the crowd, too.  It almost pains me to point out that the second his car came to a halt on-track it was ineligible to continue the session, but that's just me.

So.  Race tomorrow morning.  F1U! sometime after.  Then the summer break, one month until the next race.  See ya then!

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July 20, 2015

F1 on TV: Hungary 2015

So.  Not only do we next travel to Hungary, my least favorite track on the Formula 1 calendar, it's going to be the site various Bianchi tributes.  It's going to be a long, sad race weekend.  Here's the track map:

"Monaco without the glamor", they call it.  Originally designed to be a street circuit running through Budapest, when that fell through the promoters reportedly just took planned circuit's layout and moved it to a natural bowl nearby.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, a street circuit without any streets doesn't, in fact, work all that well.  It's usually hot, often dusty, the track is boring, and it only coughs up a good race when it rains.  It's even better when it rains heavily here at Pond Central, because then there's a chance my satellite feed will go out.

Here's the alleged TV schedule for the coverage of the race.  I say "alleged" because I'm having problems figuring out just what's going on with it...
Practice 2: 6pm - 730pm on NBCSN.  No, that's not a typo, I really do mean "PM".
Quals: 7am - 830am live on CNBC
2015 Grand Prix of Hungary: 630am - 9am live on CNBC

Check your local listings; all times Pond Central.

The FIA has announced that they'll be retiring car number 17 from consideration of future use, in honor of Jules Bianchi.  As you may or not be aware, as I've tended not to mention it much, F1 drivers now get to choose their car number when they join the sport; it then sticks with them until they retire.  So if you choose, say "23" when you're a Sauber driver, you're still 23 when you move to Ferrari.  The only variant to this is the reigning World Driver's Champion... he has the option of using number "1", and while traditional, it isn't mandatory; Lewis Hamilton, for example, is NOT using it this year.  Instead, he's using his #44.

There's a rumor that the paddock will do a minute's silence on race day in honor of their fallen comrade.  I'm sure that will happen; I'm wondering what else will be done.  The race after that Awful Weekend in 1994, the first two spots on the grid were painted in the national flags of Senna and Ratzenberger, and pole position was really #3 on the grid.  I like that idea, to be honest. 

Speculation is flying around what Ferrari will do.  In times of mourning, such as the death of Pope John Paul II, the team has raced a red car with no logos of any sort and a black nose.  As a member of their Young Driver's program and tapped to drive for the team a lot sooner, rather than later, I wonder if they'll do that again.  The black stripe on the nose is quite understated and classy, I think.  I'm sure the rest of the field will have the #17 on their cars, or some other similar tribute to Bianchi.  Manor, on the other hand, has been tight-lipped.  The team that owes its very existence to his driving, what will they do?  Guess we'll find out on Sunday.  See yo then.

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July 18, 2015

Jules Bianchi 1989 - 2015

Somewhat inevitable news from the Formula 1 community as Jules Bianchi, driver for Marussia last year, passed away at Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Nice, France, today.  He was 25. 

As we all remember, he suffered massive head trauma in his terrible accident at Suzuka this past October.  He never regained consciousness after the crash.  In the months that followed, there had been some positive signs: taken off the respirator, breathing on his own, squeezing of hands, that sort of thing, but even the most optimistic thoughts on his recovery made for grim reading.

He was a better driver than the car he was given.  After being a karting champion, he won the French Formula Renault series in 2007, finished third in Formula 3 Euroseries in 2008, and in 2009 won nine out of 20 races to take the F3 championship.  When Felipe Massa had his accident, Ferrari considered having him fill the seat; instead, he wound up signing with their Young Drivers program and became a test driver.  In 2010 and 2011, Bianchi would finish third in GP2, while in 2012 he got his break in F1 as a Friday driver for Force India.  In 2013, Marussia picked him up and gave him a drive, for which act he repaid them with a 13th place finish that secured the team a 10th place finish in the Constructor's Championship and the prize money that came with it.
It was in 2014, however, that Bianchi showed his talent level.  Taking a lackluster car from 19th on the grid at Monaco, he wound up surviving the twisty, narrow streets and despite a penalty, finshed eighth.  Alas, another penalty wound up dropping him to ninth.  Either way, he still managed to do something nobody else had managed or has yet to duplicate: score points for Marussia.  These points would ultimately provide the team with enough prize money to continue into 2015.  Drivers that score points for backmarkers usually turn out to be something special, and there's no question that Jules Bianchi was destined to drive for Ferrari, possibly as soon as 2016.  Instead, he becomes the first Formula 1 driver to die from race-related injuries since Ayrton Senna in 1994.

We here at Wonderduck's Pond send our condolences to the Bianchi family, his friends, and the F1 paddock as a whole.  Next week's race in Hungary should be a somber one, to say the least.

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July 04, 2015

F1 Quals: Great Britain 2015

About as perfect of a summer's day as you could ever hope for in England welcomed the Blundering Herd to Silverstone today.  Low 70s and brilliant sunshine made for perfect track conditions.  The only fly in the ointment was a rather stiff and gusting breeze that made for interesting handling problems for these cars, delicately balanced between grip and control... or kittylitter and tears.  Here's the provisional grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of Great Britain:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.796 1:33.068 1:32.248
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.475 1:32.737 1:32.361
3 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:34.542 1:33.707 1:33.085
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:34.171 1:33.020 1:33.149
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:33.426 1:33.911 1:33.379
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:33.562 1:33.641 1:33.547
7 Kid Kvyat Red Bull 1:34.422 1:33.520 1:33.636
8 Edward James Olmos Toro Rosso 1:34.641 1:34.071 1:33.649
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:34.594 1:33.693 1:33.673
10 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:34.272 1:33.749 1:33.943
11 Sergio Aragones Force India 1:34.250 1:34.268
12 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:34.646 1:34.430
13 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:34.819 1:34.502
14 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:34.877 1:34.511
15 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:34.643 1:34.868
16 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:34.888

17 OFTDHWRHN McLaren 1:34.959

18 Jenson Button McLaren 1:35.207

19 Will Stevens Marussia 1:37.364

20 Roberto Merhi Marussia 1:39.377

We had a rash of qualifying laps thrown out all day, thanks to the Stewards cracking down on exceeding the track limits.  Turns 9 and 18 were the main sources of offense, and it came close to costing Seb Vettel progression to Q2.  Something like 11 drivers had lap times disallowed, some multiple times (Pastor Maldonado, we're looking at you...).

Other than that, however, it was very close to being a bog-standard Quals session.  Only the mild surprise of having Williams lock out Row Two is somewhat different.  This really is the sort of track that fits the Williams chassis to a T: medium downforce with fast, fast sweeping corners.  As the FW37 appears to have a problem with downforce acquisition, not being limited in comparison to the other teams at this track plays right into their hands.  Throw in the Mercedes power unit, and you've got the recipe for a nice finish tomorrow.

Not "race winning", but nice.  Ain't nobody beating the Mercs tomorrow, and my guess is that only a RPG is going to stop Lewis Hamilton from winning his home race again.

Race on Sunday morning... we'll see you sometime thereafter with the F1U!

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