May 28, 2017

GANBATTE ~TAKU~!!!

The last "favorite driver of The Pond", Takuma Sato, won the Indy 500!


He had to get past former F1 driver Max Chilton, then keep Helio Castroneves, who was looking for his fourth Indy 500 win, behind him for a handful of laps. 

In 2012's Indy 500, Sato was in second place behind Scotland's Dario Franchitti with one lap to go.  He tried to go under Franchitti into Turn 1 and wound up in the wall instead.  He'd never been so close before or since.  Until today.

We here at F1U! aren't afraid to say we were cheering for "Super" Sato loudly in the final few laps.  We're also not afraid to say that the Indy 500 was a damnsight more interesting than Monaco was.

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May 27, 2017

F1 Quals: Monaco 2017

When you take high-tech high-speed race cars, put most of the best drivers in the world behind the wheels, and drop them into the streets of a small French fishing village, weird things can happen.  When those weird things occur during Quals, you get some very interesting prospects for the biggest race on the Formula 1 calendar indeed.  Here's the provisional grid for the 2017 Grand Prix of Monaco:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:13.117 1:12.231 1:12.178
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:13.090 1:12.449 1:12.221
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:13.325 1:12.901 1:12.223
4 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:13.078 1:12.697 1:12.496
5 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:13.219 1:13.011 1:12.998
6 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:13.526 1:13.397 1:13.162
7 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:13.530 1:13.430 1:13.329
8 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:13.786 1:13.203 1:13.349
9 Jenson I'm Back Button McLaren Honda 1:13.723 1:13.453 1:13.613
10 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Honda 1:13.476 1:13.249 No Time
11 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:13.899 1:13.516
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:13.787 1:13.628
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:13.531 1:13.959
14 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:13.640 1:14.106
15 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:13.796 1:20.529
16 False Esteban Force India Mercedes 1:14.101

17 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:14.696

18 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:14.893

19 Pascal's Wager Sauber Ferrari 1:15.159

20 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:15.276


Okay, let's deal with the elephant in the room first.  Lewis Hamilton had been complaining ever since Thursday's practice sessions that he was having trouble getting heat into his tires, particularly the rears.  This means a loss of grip, and around Monaco a loss of grip basically means your car is a mass of carbon fiber shards waiting to happen.  While he notably didn't have a wreck, he was only 10th in Q1, over a half-second behind the leader.  In Q2, he very nearly threw his Merc into the barriers at Massanet after a lurid twitch that would have left a lesser driver sitting in a chassis missing half of its suspension, much of a sidepod, and perhaps a wing or two.  After that, he went back to the pits for some adjustments and got randomly selected for a weighing by the FIA.  He didn't lose that much time there, but what was lost would never come back.  With time running out on the session, he returned to the track for a hot lap.  Through the first two sectors it looked like the team and driver had finally figured it all out.  True, it wouldn't have been the fastest time ever, but it was almost certainly going to get him into Q3.  But then, ahead of him at the Swimming Pool, the McLaren of Stoffelwaffle had kissed the armco and was on the side of the track in a bad state.  Marshals immediately threw the waved double-yellows, which meant that everybody coming upon the scene had to abandon their lap... like Lewis Hamilton.  And there was no time for another attempt.

In other interesting bits, RAIKKONEN'S ON POLE!  Amazingly, this was his first pole position since 2008, some 128 races ago.  His Ferrari teammate, Seb Vettel, is right next to him, just .004 of a second ahead of the remaining Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.  And if we needed any more evidence that Monaco is a place where weird things can occur, both McLarens with their wind-up motors made it into Q3... though neither will start in their provisional positions.  Jenson I'm Back Button will have to take a 15-spot penalty for changing out his MGU-H and his turbocharger overnight.  And Stoffelwaffle has a three-spot penalty from the last race for his accident with Felipe Not Retired Massa.  It also shows that this is a place where sheer grunt is not as important as maneuverability, because let's face it, the Honda engine in the McLaren is a dog.  The chassis, however... that's another story.

The race is in the morning on NBC... see ya then!

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May 23, 2017

Motorsports on TV: Memorial Day Sunday

The race fan's holiday!  If you're completely insane, it's possible to go from 630am until 930pm on the couch watching 1260 miles of live auto racing in three major categories.  We're only going to concentrate on two of them, however: the Grand Prix of Monaco and the Indianapolis 500.  Here's the track maps:




Two more dissimilar tracks you cannot find in motorsports.  Monaco, with its two mile long course, is actually a shorter lap than the one at Indy (2.50 miles).  It's also somewhat more narrow, and a little bit slower.  None of which detracts from the race one bit... in fact, that's exactly what makes Monaco so special: modern, high-tech, multi-million dollar F1 cars racing through the streets of a small French fishing village.  Meanwhile, over in America, you've got lower-tech open-wheel cars blasting around a superspeedway at 230mph making four turns per lap and almost never touching the brakes.  If one was that sort of person, one could suggest that the two tracks are perfect analogues for Europe and America.  Fortunately for all involved, I am not that sort of person.

This year, of course, there's a particularly interesting reason to watch the Indy 500, in that McLaren F1 driver Fernando Alonso has decided to forego Monaco to compete in The Greatest Spectacle In Racing.  He's taken to the format quite well, qualifying fifth and even holding pole for a short time.  To be sure, qualifying position means little at Indy, but it's still quite the accomplishment for a rookie, particularly one that's never driven an indycar before.  Alonso is hardly your run-of-the-mill rookie, it must be said, and veteran watchers of the series say that the Spaniard has a legitimate shot at winning.

Of the 33 cars in the Indy field, there are (or were) six former (or current) F1 drivers involved.  Alexander Rossi, last year's winner, drove for Manor in 2015.  Takuma Sato drove for Jordan, BAR-Honda and SuperAguri in a seven year career.  Alonso is considered one of the best drivers in the world.  Max Chilton drove for Marussia in 2013-2014.  Juan Pablo (The Pope) Montoya had a six year career in F1.  And Sebastian Bourdais, who will not be making the race due to a massive crash in qualifying that broke his leg and pelvis, drove for Toro Rosso in 2007 and 2008.

In any case, the NBCSN's Legendary Announce Team will be live at Monaco for the race... here's the broadcast schedules:
Thursday
Practice 2: 7am - 830am  live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 7am - 830am  live on NBCSN
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Monaco: 630am - 9am live on NBC
2017 Indanapolis 500: 11am - 3pm  live on ABC
2017 Coca-Cola 600: 5pm - 930pm  live on FOX

All times Pond Central.  Please note that Practice 2 is, indeed, on Thursday, not Friday.  Monaco tradition and all that.  Also note the inclusion of NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 on the schedule.  I did something like 1100 miles of the three races one year... I don't recommend it.  However, if you want to try the triple-header, you now know when the third race is.  F1 Update! will come along sometime afterwards... see ya there!

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May 13, 2017

F1 Quals: Spain 2017

A lovely if breezy day greeted the F1 Circus as they took to the track in Barcalounger for go-fast day.  There were some differences to be seen however: upgrades could be spotted everywhere you looked.  Mercedes had the best of them, a pair of bargeboards with titanium-tipped claws on their ends:

Kiss any pushy Ferrari's tires goodbye!  Mercedes looked like they had recovered their teamwide mojo through the practice sessions, leading people to believe Quals would be an arse-kicking of historic proportions.  On the other hand, the Red Team had to perform a near-literal miracle just to get Seb Vettel on track, as they had to do a full engine change in the two hours between the end of P3 and the start of Q1.  Meanwhile, one of Red Bull's drivers was on record saying they could win... if both Mercedes and both Ferraris wrecked.  So just how badly did the Silver Arrows trounce the rest of the field?  Here's the provisional grid for the 2017 Grand Prix of Spain:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:20.511 1:20.210 1:19.149
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:20.939 1:20.295 1:19.200
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:20.991 1:20.300 1:19.373
4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:20.742 1:20.621 1:19.439
5 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:21.430 1:20.722 1:19.706
6 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:21.704 1:20.855 1:20.175
7 Indy Alonso McLaren Ho_da 1:22.015 1:21.251 1:21.048
8 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:21.998 1:21.239 1:21.070
9 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:22.138 1:21.222 1:21.232
10 False Esteban Force India Mercedes 1:21.901 1:21.148 1:21.272
11 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:21.945 1:21.329
12 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:21.941 1:21.371
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:22.091 1:21.397
14 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:21.822 1:21.517
15 Pascal Triangle Sauber Ferrari 1:22.327 1:21.803
16 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:22.332

17 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:22.401

18 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:22.411

19 Stoffelwaffle McLaren Hon_a 1:22.532

20 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:22.746


Oh.  Sure, Mercedes got pole, but it was only by .051 seconds and needed Vettel to completely bollix the final chicane to get that.  The top four cars are covered by less than .300 seconds.  So much for Merc Upgrade Domination.

In what has to be the most unimaginable result thus far, Indy Alonso dragged his McLaren, powered by the execrable H_nda "power" unit, into Q3 and seventh on the grid.  At the moment, for McLaren this is akin to the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series... long spoken of, but never occuring.  Some may scoff at a mere seventh place, but considering that Alonso's teammate Stoffelwaffle was saved by a last-place start only by a Toro Rosso whose driver said "the car was not driven by me today, it was driving on its own" after being knocked out of Q1, seventh has got to feel amazing.  Let's just see if Alonso can make it to the grid this week...

Race Sunday morning... see ya then!

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May 10, 2017

F1 on TV: Spain 2017

Short on time, but I didn't want to leave y'all hanging this weekend!  We've got Barcalounger this week, here's the track map for the 2017 Grand Prix of Spain:

Last year, Spain gave us the sight of the two Mercedes taking themselves out and the youngest F1 winner ever.  This year is... slightly less likely to give us such enthusiasm, but we can only hope!  The big reason to watch Barcalounger is that, as the first stop on the European leg of the F1 calendar, this is where the teams bring their first batch of big upgrades.  We already know that Red Bull is going to sport a bigger dorsal fin, and that McLaren is going to replace their Honda Fit engines with ones from an Accord, but what else will we see?

Whatever it is, the Legendary Announce Team will tell us about it!  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Friday
Practice 2: 7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 7a - 830a live on CNBC
Sunday
2016 Grand Prix of Spain: 6a - 9a live on NBCSN

All times nominally Pond Central.  Of course, as per usual, another sterling installment of F1Update! will follow along eventually.  See ya then!

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April 29, 2017

F1 Quals: Russia 2017

2008.

We haven't seen this result since 2008.  Think about how long it's been since then.  Go on, think about it.  Okay, that's enough.  Now what am I talking about?  Let's look at the provisional grid for the 2017 Grand Prix of Mother Russia:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Seb Vettel Ferrari 1:34.493 1:34.038 1:33.194
2 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:34.953 1:33.663 1:33.253
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:34.041 1:33.264 1:33.289
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.409 1:33.760 1:33.767
5 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:35.560 1:35.483 1:34.905
6 Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:35.828 1:35.049 1:35.110
7 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:35.301 1:35.221 1:35.161
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:35.507 1:35.328 1:35.285
9 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:36.185 1:35.513 1:35.337
10 False Esteban Force India Mercedes 1:35.372 1:35.729 1:35.430
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:35.827 1:35.948
12 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:36.279 1:35.964
13 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:35.984 1:35.968
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:36.408 1:36.017
15 Indy Alonso McLaren Honda 1:36.353 1:36.660
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:36.462

17 Stoffelwaffel McLaren Honda 1:37.070

18 Pascal's Wager Sauber Ferrari 1:37.332

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:37.507

20 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:37.620


It's Ferraris' first front-row lockout since Raikkonen and Massa did it for Ferrari at Mangy-Curs  in 2008, and the first time since Singapore 2015 that there isn't a Mercedes on the front row at all.  And know what?  It wasn't even particularly close.  Sure, Bottas made it look good, but Hamilton couldn't even manage one of his patented 'fast-lap-out-of-his-arse' laps, let alone a pole lap.  One never got the impression that the red cars weren't going to have run of the place at the end of the day, not after only being a half-second off the pace in Q1... while on the super-soft tires when everybody else was on the faster ultra-softs.  That's a Mercedes thing, being quicker on the harder rubber in quals, and they had it turned on them.  Feels good, man.

Race in the morning, see ya then!

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April 25, 2017

F1 on TV: Russia 2017

Russia.  Sochi.  Боже мой.

Trackmap:

What's there to say about Sochi?  It looks like it should be fun, but it's proven to be a dog in reality.  2016's race lasted exactly two turns before Nico Rosberg ran away with it.  2015 went to Lewis Hamilton, but only after Seb Vettel nearly killed a track marshal that had run out in front of him.  2014 was the first race after Jules Bianchi's accident, and nobody wanted to be there.  Too many right-angle turns ruins the flow of the circuit, never letting the drivers get into a groove.  It's also proven to be remarkably gentle on tires, though of course we've got new compounds this year.  I expect the new aero packages to not be of much importance here... it helps on turns, yes, but not stupid-slow ones like Turns 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18.  Which is most of them.

Well, the proud tartars of the Legendary Announce Team will do their level best to cover the race, lest the gulag beckon.  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Friday
Practice 2: 7a - 830a  live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals:  7a - 9a  live on CNBC
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Russia: 7a - 10a live on NBCSN

All times are Pond Central.  Make your adjustments accordingly.  Afterwards, F1Update! will be along eventually.  I'm sure you're thrilled by this announcement.  See you then!

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April 16, 2017

Bahrain 2017 Gonna Be Delayed

This has been one of those days where you start out behind the clock when you wake up and just fall farther and farther behind the longer the day goes on.  But I got my taxes done, and thanks again to H&R Block for their wonderful website... they've made the unpleasant chore of doing your federal taxes easy, and the downright evil chore of doing Illinois' taxes even easier.  After that, though, there were little glitches here and there throughout the day that, in the end, saw me not watching Bahrain until late afternoon.  A much needed nap didn't end until 1030pm this evening, and dammit, I want to watch some anime this week.

So the F1U for Bahrain is going to be delayed for a day.  While you wait, here's the Easter Bunny just destroying Teddy Roosevelt for your enjoyment and here's the sequel to last year's greatest baseball commercial.

Thanks for waiting.

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April 15, 2017

F1 Quals: Bahrain 2017

Of all the results I imagined I'd see when I got home from work/lunch today, I gotta admit, I didn't expect this one.  Here's the provisional grid for the 2017 Grand Prix of Bahrain:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:31.041 1:29.555 1:28.769
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:30.814 1:29.535 1:28.792
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:31.037 1:29.596 1:29.247
4 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:31.667 1:30.497 1:29.545
5 Mumbles Räikkönen Ferrari 1:30.988 1:29.843 1:29.567
6 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:30.904 1:30.307 1:29.687
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:31.057 1:30.169 1:29.842
8 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:31.373 1:30.677 1:30.074
9 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:31.691 1:30.857 1:30.763
10 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:31.458 1:30.899 1:31.074
11 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:31.531 1:30.923
12 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:31.748 1:31.168
13 Pascal's Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:31.995 1:31.414
14 False Esteban Force India Mercedes 1:31.774 1:31.684
15 Indy Alonso McLaren Honda 1:32.054 DNF
16 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:32.118

17 Snuffy Vandoorne McLaren Honda 1:32.313

18 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:32.318

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:32.543

20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:32.900


This is Valtteri Bottas' first career pole, and it's his own damn bad luck it had to come at Bahrain, where starting second is actually better.  That's the clean side of the track, as it turns out.  Still, you gotta hand it to him... it isn't everybody that can say they beat Hamilton to the pole anywhere!

There's nothing particularly shocking in the rest of the grid.  However, we do now know who will be replacing Indy Alonso when he comes to America instead of going to Moncao:  Jenson "I'm Not Retired Yet Either" Button.

Race at a normal time tomorrow morning... F1U! sometime afterwards!  See ya then.

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Quals will be late...

Just to give y'all a head's-up... I'm back on mandatory overtime at work, 10 hours minimum.  When quals is going on, I'll be at work, trying to get four or five of those hours on the clock.  Then I'm having a late lunch with Ph.Duck and his wife, RN(ret).Duck... I don't expect to be home until 4pm at the earliest, probably closer to 5pm.  I'll get the grid up asap.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em...

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April 13, 2017

F1 on TV: Bahrain 2017

Okay, let's get this out of the way quickly to get to the big news.  Here's the track map for the Grand Prix of Bahrain:

Here's the broadcast schedule, courtesy of the Legendary Announce Team:

Friday
Practice 2: 10a - 1130a  live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 1130a - 1p  live on NBCSN
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Bahrain:  10a - 1230p  live on CNBC

All times Pond Central.  Make sure you pay attention to the race being on CNBC.

Now, for the big news:

Fernando Alonso is going to miss Monaco.  Turns out he's got another gig that day.

You may have heard of it.  It's not been much of a secret that Alonso is frustrated as hell with the way his return to McLaren has gone, what with the car and engine sucking and all.  He's making a push for Racing's Triple Crown: wins at Monaco, Indy, and LeMans.  He'll be driving with the backing of McLaren-Honda, as part of the Andretti Motorsport stable.  Alonso says he'll only miss the one race, and will retake his seat in Canada a few weeks later.  We'll see.

The IndyCar world is stoked about this, too:

This is just f****** awesome. Welcome! - JR Hildebrand

Woo. I get to race against Fernando Alonso now that is cool. - Sage Karam

Obviously you need some balls to do it. I think that Alonso will handle it well. - Mikhail Aleshin

Welcome to the fastest motor race in the world Fernando Alonso! Great to have a world champion on the grid. - Max Chilton, former F1 driver

We’ll see how he comes up to speed and stuff like that but I’m sure he’ll be fine. Alex (Rossi) won it, it’s a decent comparison, I think, to him. - Marco Andretti, making this the first time Alexander Rossi has been compared in any way to Fernando Alonso.

If I were to give Fernando Alonso some advice into really getting ingrained in the Andretti Autosport team, I think it’s actually going to be pretty easy. He already knows Takuma Sato and Alexander Rossi from their stints in F1. So that’s done and dusted.  I don’t know if he’s a fisherman but he maybe should brush up on that a little bit because all Ryan Hunter-Reay really talks about is boats. Other than that I think it’s going to be pretty easy for him. - James Hinchcliffe

Indy just became a must-watch.

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April 08, 2017

F1 Quals: China 2017

For a wonder, it didn't rain!  In many ways, that's great!  Fantastic!  Wonderful!  In other ways, though, it means that there weren't going to be any monkey wrenches thrown into the works and thing'll go the way they have for the past few years.  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.333 1:32.406 1:31.678
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:33.078 1:32.391 1:31.864
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:33.684 1:32.552 1:31.865
4 Mumbles Räikkönen Ferrari 1:33.341 1:32.181 1:32.140
5 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:34.041 1:33.546 1:33.033
6 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:34.205 1:33.759 1:33.507
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:34.453 1:33.636 1:33.580
8 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:34.657 1:33.920 1:33.706
9 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:34.440 1:34.034 1:33.719
10 Pleasant Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:33.986 1:34.090 1:34.220
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:34.567 1:34.150
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:34.942 1:34.164
13 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:34.499 1:34.372
14 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:34.892 1:35.046
15 Tony Snazzy Sauber Ferrari 1:34.963 DNP

16 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 1:35.023

17 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:35.223

18 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:35.279

19 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:35.433

20 False Esteban Force India Mercedes 1:35.496


Okay, yes Lewis Hamilton is on pole... again... but the gap back to Vettel's Ferrari is less than .200 of a second.  Which means essentially nothing, as it appears that the Red Cars have better race pace than single-lap.  I'm personally amazed that Bottas is .001 seconds behind... how can two cars be so closely matched?  Did the Finn turn a little too hard at one place?  Did he not get on the gas fast enough?  What???

The first four cars on the grid broke the all-time track record, set by Slappy Schumacher in 2004, of 1:32.238.  Again, that was the V10 era with practically no limits on what sort of aero protuberances you could have...

In other performances of note, Embryo Verstappen was dealing with an engine software issue when Sauber's Tony Snazzy did bad things to his car and the track barriers.  All he could manage was 19th as a result.  Haas's Lettuce Grosjean spun, suffered a puncture, then was dinged for not slowing down in the waved-double-yellow area caused by Snazzy's wreck.  He'll be starting from the back.

Everything else was pretty standard, which is pretty impressive considering the near-total lack of practice time on Friday.  All of this means we should be in for an exciting race on Sunday when the rains come... and yes, rain is predicted.  Buckle them there seatbelts!

F1U! will be along sometime on Sunday.  See ya then-ish!

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April 05, 2017

F1 on NBCSN: China 2017

Shanghai... The Pearl of the Orient.  The showpiece of the Chinese economy.  The most populous city proper in the world.  So why the hell can't it sell out the Formula 1 Grand Prix of China???  Here's the trackmap:

Same as it's been since 2004.  Longest straightaway in F1.  I love that Turns 1-4 complex, for whatever reason.  It just looks like Hermann Tilke threw a french curve on his drafting table and said "yep, that's good."  Or his cat got involved.  Whatever, it's not my favorite circuit on the calendar, but it's hardly my least favorite.  It's just... there.  And while you would think that the new aero rules will turn this circuit on its ear, I've seen a report that estimates that the cars are going to be something like three kilograms short on fuel.  With the increased drag and higher engine output guzzling petrol, they think the cars can't legally have enough gas on board to finish the race!  They can carry 105kg, but will need 108.  Lift and coast, lift and coast... and hope for safety cars and rain.  Well, there's a slight chance of rain at least for race day.  That'll keep down the smog at least.

Speaking of race day, the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their level best to make everything exciting!  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Friday
Practice 2: 1am - 230am live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 2am - 330am  live on NBCSN
Sunday
Grand Prix of China: 1230a - 330am  live on NBCSN

...of course, all times are Pond Central.  Sometime after the race, the F1Update! team will get off their lazy kiesters and do their usual writeup.  Or something.  We'll see you then, then!

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March 25, 2017

F1 Quals: Australia 2017

It is a before one can race, you must qualify, and that's why the F1 Circus found themselves in Melbourne this afternoon... to begin the 2017 Formula 1 season! Here's the provisional grid for the Grand Prix of Australia!

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.191 1:23.251 1:22.188
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:25.210 1:23.401 1:22.456
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:24.514 1:23.215 1:22.481
4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:24.352 1:23.376 1:23.033
5 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:24.482 1:24.092 1:23.485
6 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:25.419 1:24.718 1:24.074
7 Felipe Not Retired Massa Williams Mercedes 1:25.099 1:24.597 1:24.443
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:25.542 1:24.997 1:24.487
9 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:25.970 1:24.864 1:24.512
10 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
1:25.383 1:23.989 DNF
11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:25.064 1:25.081
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:24.975 1:25.091
13 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:25.872 1:25.425
14 False Esteban! Force India Mercedes 1:26.009 1:25.568
15 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:26.236 1:26.465
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Sauber Ferrari 1:26.419

17 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:26.847

18 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 1:26.858

19 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:27.143

20 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:28.244


The more things change, the more they don't change.  Or something like that.  Is anybody really surprised that Lewis Hamilton is on pole?  What might be surprising is that the top three cars would break the track lap record if they turned it during the race.  These cars are fast.  We saw a lot of fishtailing and/or spins during the practice sessions and quals, and in most of those cases it looked like the grip just went away for no reason.  It may be more sinister than that... new compound tires and faster cars?  Hmm... I wonder.

I think the biggest surprise was the difference in performance between Haas teammates Lettuce Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.  Lettuce is a good'un, we know that, but KMag is a useful driver too.  Nearly 1.5 seconds difference in ostensibly the same car?  That's huge, and the difference between Q1 and Q3.

Please note the name at #16, Antonio Giovinazzi, who is pushin' to be called Tony Snazzy.  He's the reserve driver for both Ferrari and Sauber, and is filling in for Pascal Wehrlein.  Wehrlein injured his back during preseason testing, and while he's okay, he wasn't able to work on his fitness during that time.  After driving in the first two practice sessions, he said to the team "I can't do it... the g-forces are beating the hell out of my soft flabby body."  Probably.  In any case, he took himself out of the seat for the race and Tony Snazzy stepped in on zero notice.  He ran in P3, then went right into Quals... and only just missed out on Q2 at the last moment.  Not bad.

So, race late tonight/early morning!  See ya afterwards!

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March 20, 2017

F1 on NBCSN: Australia 2017

Oh, hey!  Hiya, thanks for droppin' by!  What can I do you for this fine day?  F1?  What, is it that time already?  Okay, gimme half a second, be right back.  Gotta get dressed...

Yes, much better.  Hello there my loyal and true!  We are mere days from the start of the 2017 season of Formula 1, and there's been a lot of changes made everywhere!  The cars are different, the tires are different, the engine rules are different, the grid is different... heck, even the overall management of F1 is different!  It's been a busy offseason, but one thing hasn't changed: if it's the first race, it must be Australia!  Here's the track map:

Yep, no changes there... still the same mix of fast and slow, straight and curvy (but not too curvy) that's proven to be the perfect debut track for a new car.  The circuit provides a little bit of everything to the teams, the drivers, the car... it's challenging without being abusive, tough but not overly hard.  Which is not to say it won't bite your face off if you give it half a chance... just ask Fernando Alonso about that.  The walls are close, except at the end of straights, but the track is wide.  You can bounce off them, but you really have to work at it.  All in all, a better place to start the season probably doesn't exist. 

And as always, the good fellows of the Legendary Announce Team will be bringing us their lovely job of coverage.  However, since it's the first race of the year, there's some extras thrown into the mix!  Let's have a look, shall we?
Thursday
Practice 1: 11pm - 12mid, tape delay on NBCSN
Friday
Practice 2: 12mid - 2am, live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 1am - 3am, live on NBCSN
Sunday
2017 Grand Prix of Australia: 12mid - 230am, live on NBCSN

All time are Pond Central, add or subtract as needed for your local time.

Now then.  I intend to have one post covering the cars on Tuesday, and another covering the assorted rules changes and et cetera on Wednesday.  Perfect way to lead into the weekend, dontchathink?  We all cool with those plans?  Yeah?  Excellent!  Then we will see you here tomorrow for more F1 stuff!

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February 21, 2017

F1 Pr0n: First Look

Okay friends, here's the deal.  The first of the 2017 F1 cars rolled out today, with Sauber and Renault going all jamonit and stuff.  Normally this would be cause for celebrations and my calling for the finest of meats and cheeses.  But not tonight, for tonight my knee hurts, my head hurts, I'm stupidly tired, and work is bad.

Which doesn't mean I'm going to leave y'all empty-handed.  Oh no, no indeed, because the cars look bloody wonderful this year thanks to the new aero rules.  Wide tires, every wing swept like a late '60s jet fighter, a return to the low wide rear wing... the cars look like Matchbox designed 'em.  And before you ask, yes, this is a great thing!  So while I go and get myself out of this funk*, here's a picture of the new Sauber C36!

I need both a cigarette and a cold shower.  Maybe at the same time.



* That Parliament video was actually shot during a Red Bull design meeting.

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February 06, 2017

F1 News: To The Manor Born


Manor F1, the last of the four "Class of 2010" teams, has pulled down the garage doors for the last time.  The cash-strapped team, running on a shoestring and a prayer for the past couple of years, has been desperately looking for a buyer since the end of the 2016 season.  There was no white knight to be found, and the active staff was apparently let go on the last day of January.  Interestingly, while the team is gone, the company that holds Manor's rights to race in F1 is still alive.  In theory, they could field a team or sell the rights off to another (approved) race group.  In practice, it's a moot point as there currently aren't any approved applicants out there.

Manor lasted for seven seasons, scoring a total of three points: two in 2014 and 2016.  Sadly, the team had two of its drivers suffer major head injuries and pass away: Maria DeVillota during testing and Jules Bianchi during the 2014 Grand Prix of Japan.  This team was supposed to be the one that changed how F1 cars were designed; under the Virgin F1 banner, the VR01 and MVR02 chassis were created and tested solely via computer.  No wind tunnel tests were needed, they said.  Computational Fluid Dynamic testing dominated the designs for the first four years, with the best result being a freak 13th place at the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix after many cars retired from that race.  The next design, the MR03 in 2014 and the MR03b in 2015, showed some promise with a 9th place finish at Monaco in 2014.  But then money issues reared their ugly head and 2016s MRT05 was a legitimate disappointment; it scored but a single point despite running the dominating Mercedes engine.  This failure put the team 11th for the season, where they received no championship payout from the FIA and ultimately doomed the team.

In the end, it was hard not to root for Manor.  They legitimately tried very hard to make a go of it and were obviously quite devoted racers.  They outlasted HRT and Lotus/Caterham (and USF1, but that's another story) by a few years... with a bit of luck, they could have become as much a fixture on the grid as any team.  In a few years, people will be looking back at their final car and realize just how gorgeous it was.

Pre-season rollouts are just a couple of weeks away.  Sadly, Manor will not be one of them.

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January 24, 2017

In Formula 1, "Retirement" Means Never Having To Say "I'm Sorry." (UPDATED)

So!  Formula 1 stuff, huh?  Believe it or not, yeppers!  There's been some important news bit percolating up from the coffeepot that is winter break.

First up, remember that whole Nico Rosberg wins the Driver's Championship, then retired thing?  Well, he's still retired.  Mercedes, trying to get the best driver they could to take over his seat, nabbed Valterri Bottas from Williams.  Helluva pickup that, and short of signing someone like Fernando Alonso, probably the best pick they could have made.  But that left one loose end floating about: who was going to fill the seat at Williams vacated by Bottas?  The team couldn't just pick up a kid, because they've already got one in Spear Saunter Lance Stroll, who was filling the seat left vacant by the retirement of Felipe Not Nasr Massa.  So who to pick up?  I hear Jenson Button was available... heh.  No, no, he's taking a year off.  Really, Williams was in a quandry.  Except for drivers like Esteban! or Pastor Maldodo, there wasn't much left on the F1 Driver's Tree.  And then, in a little English town called Wantage just east of Swindon, a small dark man stepped off the Stagecoach Lines bus from Oxford via Faringdon.  He then strolled two or three miles up the A338, past Simply Potty, a charming little pottery shop, then steering clear of the local Vauxhall dealer, he eventually made his way to an unprepossessing roundabout, seemingly in the middle of a field.  From there, he walked up a tree-lined drive to a security office in front of a large, modern-looking building of some sort.  "Hello," said the small dark man, "my name is Felipe Not Retired Massa.  I hear you are looking for a F1 driver, yes?"  Retiring for two months... that's gotta be a record of some sort.

In other retirement news, this one is just beginning to shake out, but it looks like Bernie Ecclestone, longtime CEO and puppetmaster of Formula 1, has been gently edged out of the picture by the incoming Liberty Media Group, the new owner/operators of the sport.  In his place, Ross Brawn, last seen in F1 when he sold his BrawnF1 team to an incoming Mercedes team, has been named the Managing Director of Motor Sports.  The commercial side of Ecclestone's position has been taken by Sean Bratches, a former ESPN executive and arguably the most important figure in the adoption of HD television in the US.  So the little troll is finally, finally gone.  He was probably the most important figure in F1 history, but jeez, enough with him already.

Two months until Melbourne!

UPDATE: So GD asks in comments just what effect Ecclestone's departure will mean to F1 in the short run.  First, I expect that the United States is going to enjoy a Formula 1 Renaissance of sorts.  The Eccletroll made it quite clear that F1 didn't need the United States and the repeated failures here proved that point (in his mind, at least).  That the "failures" came from his lack of interest in promoting anything here in the States would never cross his mind.  Liberty Media is actually an American company, and F1's new CEO, Chase Carey of the Splendid Mustache, is on record saying that he believes the US is an untapped goldmine for F1.

The other near-term thing that'll happen is that we'll see F1 become huge on the web.  The one thing Bernie never "got" was how important the internet is.  As a result, you won't find legal streams of a race or practice anywhere but NBCSN here in America... F1's own website doesn't even have streaming.  There is no legal way to watch a race except through your home provider's network... and NBCSN's feed is fair to awful, usually.  Much the same is true in Europe.  It's actually very hard to find much in the way of highlights on Youtube, and most of them are official F1.com clips.  Those that aren't are either trackside shots, stolen from the Lithuanian broadcast, or on-screen-mirrored and shrunken in quality.  The key word in the new company's name is "MEDIA".  It wouldn't surprise me at all if in the next year or two there's either an official online subscription service for the season, or a PPV-like arrangement for a race weekend.

Longer term, I expect that we'll see a reduction in races at places like Baku or Bahrain... tracks that exist only because people were willing to throw cash at Bernie and have no racing heritage at all.  Along that same vein, places like Silverstone or Monza will not have to deal with the annual jabs from Bernie, about how if they can't pony up the doubloons, F1 won't race there anymore.  Which is like saying baseball won't play at Fenway or Wrigley.  A lot of badmouthing of teams, drivers, and tracks spewed from Bernie, and having that go away is worth the price of admission alone.

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January 11, 2017

Ten Weeks To Go

Two and a half months to Australia and the start of the 2017 F1 season.  Of course we'll all anticipatory and stuff, but there are others who feel somewhat more... invested, shall we say?

Ten weeks to go.  Ten long weeks to go.  For some, ten VERY long weeks to go.

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December 26, 2016

A Merc Christmas

I just found this... a little late, but still fresh as it were:

Wacky Mercedes... who'da thunk it?

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