September 26, 2015

F1 Quals: Japan 2015

Well, if you're going to end a session, that's certainly an interesting way to do it!  Here's a look at the provisional grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of Japan:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.015 1:32.632 1:32.584
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:32.844 1:32.789 1:32.660
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:34.326 1:33.416 1:33.024
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:34.431 1:33.844 1:33.245
5 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:34.744 1:33.377 1:33.337
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:34.171 1:33.361 1:33.347
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:34.399 1:34.153 1:33.497
8 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:34.398 1:34.278 1:33.967
9 Sergio Perez Force India 1:35.001 1:34.174 No Time
10 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:34.646 1:34.201 Whee!!!
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:35.328 1:34.390
12 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:34.873 1:34.453
13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:34.796 1:34.497
14 HWIOANFernando Alonso McLaren 1:35.467 1:34.785
15 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:34.522 No Time

16 Jenson Button McLaren 1:35.664

17 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:35.673

18 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:35.760

19 Will Stevens Manor 1:38.783

NC American Alexander Rossi Manor 1:47.114

No huge shock that Mercedes is back on top of the charts.  Only a very, very minor shock that it's Rosberg, not Hamilton that's on pole.  The two of them had a fantastic battle shaping up, trading fast sectors back and forth.  On their penultimate flying laps, Hamilton was slightly scruffy, making it clear that if he could clean up his lap just a little, he'd have pole.  Then, with one minute left in Q3, this happened:

Just short of Turn 10 Kid Kyval dropped a tire onto the grass, hit the wall, and then his Red Bull dug into the kittylitter.  He actually performed a full roll while airborne, then came to rest right-side up.  The driver was totally unhurt.  However, his attempt at a barrel roll (really, closer to an aileron roll) brought out the red flags with about 40 seconds left in the session.  Since that meant that there was no way for someone to exit the pits and cross the starting line in the time remaining once the session restarted, Q3 was deemed complete and Rosberg the polesitter.

Similarly, Embryo Verstappen suffered electrical failure towards the end of Q1.  While that only brought out yellow flags, that still put paid to many attempts to improve lap times, including Manor's American Rossi.  Indeed, his extant time is so slow (some 14 seconds off the pace) that he will race at the discretion of the stewards.  Normally that's a mere formality, but since Rossi is a new driver, it may not be as cut and dried as normal.  We'll find out eventually.

You may have noticed those two McLaren fans in the earlier post.  It naturally almost goes without saying that the DRS feature of those rear wings DOES function, the top wing flap opening and closing.  Oh, those wacky, F1-crazy Japanese fans...

Race coming in about 20 hours.  F1U! sometime thereafter.  See ya then!

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September 22, 2015

F1 on NBCSN: Japan 2015

Right!  From Singapore, it's a mere trifle to get to Japan... just take the daily non-stop to Nagoya, and about seven hours later, voila!  Sushi and... um... stuff... await you!  Oh, and merely my favorite F1 circuit, Suzuka, too.  Let's take a look at the track map:

Nope, no messing around here.  What on some circuits might ruin the flow, instead causes it at Suzuka.  The "S-Curves" are maybe the greatest rhythm section since Neil Peart and Geddy Lee.  You've got Spoon Curve, which has an amazing habit of eating cars and not spitting them back out.  130R is... well, it's fast is what it is, and all of that leads into the Casio Triangle (where old calculators go to die).  It's a lovely mix of fast and slow that rewards both might and nimbleness in nearly equal amounts.  And, hey, it's a Figure-Eight, too! 

Weather at the moment looks rainy for Friday's Practice sessions, but dry the rest of the way.  However, there is a typhoon in the area, so who really knows?  Hopefully it won't be too wet... we don't need that after last year.  What we DO need is the Legendary Announce Team, and they'll be bringin' us the goods followin' the followin' schedule:
Practice 2: 1159pm - 130am live
Quals: 1am - 230am live
2015 Grand Prix of Japan: 1130pm - 2am live

As is usually the case, I'll be along eventually with a F1U! for you... assuming my interwebz allow me to do so.  See ya then, then!

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September 19, 2015

F1 Quals: Singapore 2015

Well, this is new.  Here's the grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of Singapore:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:46.017 1:44.743 1:43.885
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:46.166 1:45.291 1:44.428
3 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:46.467 1:45.140 1:44.667
4 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:45.340 1:44.979 1:44.745
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:45.765 1:45.650 1:45.300
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:46.201 1:45.653 1:45.415
7 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:46.231 1:45.887 1:45.676
8 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:46.483 1:45.635 1:45.798
9 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:46.879 1:45.701 1:46.077
10 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:46.860 1:45.805 1:46.413
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:46.669 1:46.305
12 HWIOAKAFernando Alonso McLaren 1:46.600 1:46.328
13 Sergio Perez Force India 1:46.576 1:46.385
14 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:46.465 1:46.894
15 Jenson Button McLaren 1:46.891 1:47.019
16 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:46.965

17 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:47.088

18 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:47.323

19 Will Stevens Manor 1:51.021

20 American Rossi Manor 1:51.523

It isn't that this is the first time eight races that Lewis Hamilton isn't on pole.  It isn't that this is the first time in over a year that a Mercedes isn't on pole.  It's not even that this is the first Ferrari pole in three years, and their first pole in dry conditions in five.  It is about just how soundly the Silver Arrows were trounced.  It's not like "aw shucks, they just nipped us."  This is serious "we kicked your arse" stuff. 

Why did it happen?  Reports are that it's all down to tires.  Mercedes, for whatever reason, cannot get their rear tires to work around the Marina Bay circuit.  They get too hot too quickly, then cool down too far too fast.  They're never in the right temperature zone to provide any grip and as a result, they're "slow" around this turn-happy circuit.  Understand, the Mercs are still the fastest through the speed trap... it's not like their new engines are letting them down.  They had problems in Singapore last year, too, but still ran away with the race because their opponents were weaker.  With Ferrari's improvements, there probably would have been a fight for pole regardless, but nothing like this.

In other news of note, both McLarens made it to Q2, and HWIOAKAFernando Alonso probably was ticketed for a legitimate Q3 appearance when Carlos Sainz did Bad Things to his Toro Rosso, which brought out the yellow flags, which put paid to the Spaniard's hot lap.

And finally, American Alexander Rossi was a half-second behind teammate Will Stevens in matching Manors.  This doesn't sound good, until you realize that Stevens has been driving the car all season and this is really Rossi's first chance to put some serious laps in with it.  The cockpit is also something of a tight fit for the American... as in, "we need lard and shoehorns, stat!"  Hopefully they'll have that part fixed in time for Japan.  Oh, and Rossi desperately needs to work on his speaking skills.  In an interview with the Legendary Announce Team's Will Buxton right after Q1, the American Driver was less intelligible than Kimi "Mumbles" Raikkonen.  He was talking waaaay too fast.  Maybe adrenaline was to blame.

Race tomorrow.

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September 18, 2015

F1U! Has A Favorite Driver Again!

This past Thursday, it was announced that Manor F1 has signed a new driver for five of the last seven races this season.  His name is Alexander Rossi, and he becomes the first American driver in Formula 1 since Scott Speed got in a fight with Franz Tost in 2007.

We immediately rename him to American Alexander Rossi.  He's about to turn 24 (next Friday, as a matter of fact), and has been competing in open-wheel formulae for about five years.  He's currently second in GP2, with a shot at winning it outright.

He's not totally new to F1, however.  He's been the test driver for either Caterham or Marussa since 2012, and was tabbed to take Jules Bianchi's seat after his devastating injury in Japan last year.  Of course, that fell through when Marussia only ran one car in Russia, then not again for the rest of the season.

He's actually the only American to hold a FIA Superlicense right now, too.  We'll follow his progress closely during the rest of the season, though since he's driving for Manor, we're not expecting a whole heckuvalot.   He's decided that 53 will be his official driver number in F1... why that number?

Herbie rides again!

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September 15, 2015

F1 on TV: Singapore 2015

Once upon a time, there was only one night race in F1.  It was an event, a race to look forward to, because the cars looked amazing under the lights.  Since then, two other spots on the calendar have gone to night (Bahrain and Abu Dhabi), and two have considered going to racing after the sun has set (Russia and Australia) but have been shot down.  Racing at night is no longer such an event as it used to be.  Cars still look great at Singapore, though, much better than at the other two circuits, mostly because the lighting is high-intensity and low-altitude.  Let's take a look at the track map:
Singapore is a street circuit, running through the Marina Bay district of the city/nation.  Unlike Monaco, the streets are wide; it barely feels like a street layout.  Because of the lighting, the cameras don't really see what's off-track.  I mean, we all know what the Casino at Monte Carlo looks like, or the run up the hill from Sainte Devote to Massanet, but there are few city landmarks to be seen around the Singapore circuit.  We do see the legendary Raffles Hotel, yes, but only in "B-Roll" footage, not during the race itself, or at least not usually.  When the most memorable landmark of your street circuit is where the track goes under the seating (the stretch between Turns 18 and 19), you may have an image problem.  Still, could be worse... at least we get photographs like this out of the deal:

It's always very hot and humid at Singapore, even during the night race, and the chance of rain is everpresent.  From all reports, the organizers perform cloud seeding before the race to prevent it from raining while the cars are on track.  So far, either because it's actually accomplished their goal or they've gotten lucky, we've yet to have a wet race.  What we will have is a dense haze.  Apparently farmers in Sumatra are burning the forests to clear land for crops, and the smoke has settled over Singapore like a stereotypical London fog.  Singaporian officials have declared that outdoor strenuous activities should be done as little as possible, the air quality is so poor.  I can't imagine it'll be great for the drivers or the engines.

Well, the legendary announce team will be telling us about it in their usual manner.  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Practice 2: 830a - 1000a live on NBCSN
Quals:  700a - 830a live on CNBC
2015 Grand Prix of Singapore:  630a - 900a live on NBCSN

We will, of course, see you then and after.  With luck.

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September 05, 2015

F1 Quals: Italy 2015

Rain in the morning gave hope for a wet Quals to liven things up at the fastest track on the calendar, but no such luck.   So what happened at Monza?  Here's the provisional grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of Italy:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.251 1:23.383 1:23.397
2 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:24.662 1:23.757 1:23.631
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:24.989 1:23.577 1:23.685
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:24.609 1:23.864 1:23.703
5 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:25.184 1:23.983 1:23.940
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:24.979 1:24.313 1:24.127
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1:24.801 1:24.379 1:24.626
8 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:25.144 1:24.448 1:25.054
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:24.937 1:24.510 1:25.317
10 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:25.122 1:24.457 1:26.214
11 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:25.429 1:24.525
12 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:25.121 1:24.898
13 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:25.410 1:25.618
14 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:25.742 1:25.796
15 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:25.633 No Time

16 Jenson Button McLaren 1:26.058

17 HWIB2BFernando Alonso McLaren 1:26.154

18 Will Stevens Marussia 1:27.731

19 Roberto Merhi Marussia 1:27.912

NC Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso Whoopsie!

At first glance you'd say "well, nothing out of the ordinary", and you'd kind of be right.  Or you'd be very very wrong.  This is going to take a bit to explain, so get something to drink and find a comfy place in your chair...  y'all set? 

Even though the Power Unit rules are locked in stone, every team has a limited ability to change various pieces of it via a "token" system.  See, when the F1 Tech Regs were written, they stated that the power units had to be finalized, or "homologated" for the 2015 season.  After that date, they could no longer be fiddled with, no improvements or new ideas allowed.  There was one teeny tiny little problem.

The FIA never actually wrote a date in the Tech Regs.

It was assumed that the start of the season was the homologation date, but multiple bright sparks pointed out that no, no, as the rules were written, the engines had to be frozen in 2015.  Period.  So much for the alleged cost-saving measures of the new P.U., unlimited development (and unlimited cash spending!) was about to be the rule of the day.  Before chaos could break out, an agreement was reached allowing changes to be made on a 'token' system.  An entire P.U. is broken down into 66 tokens, all with varying "weights" between 1 and 3, depending on the importance of the piece.  Each engine manufacturer was given 32 tokens to play with during the 2015 season, except for Honda.  As a new engine based off of the past few years of experience, they were given nine tokens.  As planned, the three other engine makers used most of their tokens in the pre-season; Mercedes ended up with seven tokens.

While everybody else used theirs here and there, Mercedes didn't touch theirs at all... until the end of Spa.  In the past two weeks, they used all seven of their tokens to upgrade this piece or that chunk.  Their engine is now set, and they say that it is, essentially, the same as their 2016 P.U..  That's ominous, as they now get (in effect) the rest of this season to use as test sessions for next year.  Obviously, they are quite confident in how 2015 will go on track, eh? 

After Practice 1 was over, they had reason to be confident... Lewis Hamilton was 1.4 seconds faster than anybody not in a Silver Arrows.  The domination continued until P3, when Nico Rosberg had some sort of problem and the team reverted him to the Spa-spec engine.

Ferrari was not sitting around after Spa, either: they used either three or four tokens to upgrade their power plant.  So what did all this mean?

It meant that while Hamilton is on pole with is new-spec engine, the Ferrari powerplant now appears to be more powerful than the old-spec Merc engine.  Rosberg never came close to his teammate's pace, even moreso that usual.  This suggests that if it wasn't for the upgrades, Ferrari would be on pole at their home grand prix, and there would be happy rioting going on all over Italy.

Which may still happen.  What happened to Rosberg's P.U. could happen to Hamilton's, whatever it was.  In which case, there may be churchbells ringing all over Maranello tomorrow.

We'll find out then, won't we?  See ya sometime thereafter!

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September 01, 2015

F1 on NBCSN: Italy 2015

Every racing organization has their signature race/track.  In NASCAR, it's the Daytona 500.  In IndyCar, the Indianapolis 500.  Endurance racing has the 24 Hours of LeMans.  Australia's wonderful V8Supercar series has the Bathurst 1000 at the Mt Panorama circuit.  And F1 has... um... Monaco, which isn't this week's race.

It also has its spiritual home, Silverstone... which isn't this week's race either.

No, this week's race is at F1's fastest circuit, the legendary Monza.  Here's the map:

A full 230% of a lap at Monza is spent at full throttle.  Brakes are things put on other teams' cars, not your own.  Downforce is strictly optional, and you'll never see the cars look be polished so hard anywhere else... just in case that last little swipe of a rag is enough to rearrange the surface molecules of carbon fiber into something just .0001sec faster.  Drivers spend the two weeks between Spa and Monza with their head in a giant slow metal press, trying to make their skulls that much more narrow and thus more aerodynamic.  Various pieces of their bodies are surgically removed to save weight, then put back in afterwards.  Jenson Button is well-known for having his left kidney removed.  Former McLaren driver Juan Pablo Montoya routinely had liposuction before Monza.  Current Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado has his entire brain taken out before each race, not just the Grand Prix of Italy. 

As does the entire horde of Ferrari fans that attend.  From all reports, it's a 24/7 party atmosphere at the circuit, and on those occasions that a Ferrari driver stands on the top step?  Bedlam.  In other circumstances, they'd call out the riot squad of the Caribinieri, except here they'd probably be joining in the festivities.  That is to say, Ferrari is most definitely Italy's national team.  Indeed, no other team really is: nobody thinks of Mercedes as "Germany's team," or McLaren as "Team England."

All of the above pretty much means that after 10 years of writing about Monza, I'm out of ideas.  Hopefully the Legendary Announce Team still has flashes of inspiration, for they'll be bringing us their usual coverage!  Here's the broadcast times, all on NBCSN:
Practice 2: 7a - 830a live
Quals: 7a - 830a live
2015 Grand Prix of Italy: 630a - 9a live

As is always the case, I'll have a report up sometime after the race.  Thankfully it's Labor Day weekend, so... yeah.  See ya then.

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