June 28, 2016

F1 on TV: Austria 2016

Ah, Austria.  Home of Mozart, Gustav Klimt, Fritz Lang, World War I, the Venus of Willendorf, Peter Lorre, and Siggy Freud.  Erwin Schrodinger may or may not have lived in Austria.  Wiener schnitzel is eaten in Austria, and Red Bull is an Austrian drink.  Which is appropriate, I suppose, as Austria is also home of the Red Bull Ring, home of the Grand Prix of Austria.  Here's the track map for your enjoyment:

The past two races at this little circuit in the Austrian hills have proven to be... um... less than awe-inspiring.  Or much of anything, really.  The circuit has proven to be that rare creature: a fast circuit that ends up boring.  Still, it's what the F1 circus has to work with this week, and race they shall do.  Allegedly.

Well, the good burghers of the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their level best to keep me from falling asleep during their broadcasts, the times for which are below!
Friday
Practice 2: 7a - 830a  live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals:  7a - 830a  live on CNBC
Sunday
2016 Grand Prix of Austria:  630a - 930a  live on CNBC

All times Pond Central.  Your mileage may vary.  Smoke 'em if you got 'em.  N-e-s-t-l-e-s makes the very best... chaaaaawklate (clack!).   And then there will be a F1Update!, and all will be right with the world.  Because I'm an optimist.

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June 18, 2016

F1 Quals: Europe 2016

An intense interest in the new circuit at Baku gave today's Quals event a beautiful edge.  Good weather and much running over the past few days meant that the track surface was the best it had been.  The problem discovered with curbs cutting the left-rear tires seemed to have been fixed, and there was eagerness from the drivers to get on circuit.  No surprise that Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes had been the fastest all weekend, but would he gather the first pole ever on the new track?  Well, here's the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Europe @ Baku:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:43.685 1:42.520 1:42.758
2 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:44.462 1:43.939 1:43.515
3 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:44.570 1:44.141 1:43.966
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:45.062 1:44.461 1:43.966
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:44.936 1:44.533 1:44.269
6 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams Mercedes 1:45.494 1:44.696 1:44.483
7 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:44.694 1:44.687 1:44.717
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:44.706 1:44.477 1:45.246
9 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:44.939 1:44.387 1:45.570
10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:44.259 1:43.526 2:01.954
11 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:45.507 1:44.755
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:44.860 1:44.824
13 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:44.827 1:45.000
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:45.525 1:45.270
15 Esteban!  Haas Ferrari 1:45.300 1:45.349
16 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:45.549 1:46.048
17 Rio Rainbow Gate MRT Mercedes 1:45.665

18 Pascal Wagers MRT Mercedes 1:45.750

19 Jenson Button McLaren Honda 1:45.804

20 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:46.231

21 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:46.348

22 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:46.394


Hamilton didn't seem 100% contented with his Merc in Q1 or Q2... he was still quick, but not his usual "run away and hide" fast.  But then he just doinked the wall in Turn 10 just past the Castle, and his suspension was broken.  He never had a chance to set his flying lap so he'll be starting 10th tomorrow.

Something of a surprise came in the form of Sergio Perez's Force India.  His 2nd place is 100% valid, no fluke involved anywhere.  Unfortunately, he won't actually be starting next to Nico Rosberg on Sunday... he had a crash in Q3 that required, among other things, a new gearbox, which ccomes with a five-grid-spot penalty. 

Beyond those, however, the grid is pretty standard.  Oh sure, Rio Rainbow Gate barely missed Q2, that's weird, but... well.

Now, let's get to what we all want to know: what does Wonderduck think of the Baku Circut?  To be blunt, this track terrifies me and here's why: it's an unholy union of the tracks at Monaco and Indianapolis.  What little run-off area exists is tiny and the speeds ridiculously high.  Until you get to the "Old Baku" part of the track, at which point it's slower, but also narrow as hell.  Except when it isn't slow, but still narrow, downhill and off-camber.  Valtteri Bottas hit 227mph down the long, long straight this morning, and my heart was in my mouth every time someone came piling down towards the first turn.  What pictures fail to convey is just how bumpy this place is.  Remember, they're just city streets, and while they may have gotten a lick of fresh asphalt for the race, they ain't smooth.  The suspensions are working like I've never seen them before, constantly moving up and down with a range of movement measured in inches instead of millimeters.  Jenson Button says that the track is unnecessarily dangerous, and I have a hard time disagreeing with him.  In some ways, the FIA should be commended for creating such a dramatic, exciting layout... but they seem to have done so by skimping on safety.  Look, there's only been one race on Baku: the GP2 feature race was run before Quals today.  They had four safety cars in fewer than 26 laps.  To be fair, the GP2 gang tends to be more... exuberant... than F1 drivers, but that's excessive even for them.

Whatever happens, it'll be exactly what F1 should be: a spectacle unmatched by any in motorsports.  See you afterwards!

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June 14, 2016

F1 on NBCSN: Europe 2016

A week after Canada, the F1 Circus packs up and takes the 16 hour trip to that great hotbed of racing lore and history, Azerbaijan, for the return of the Grand Prix of Europe.  Let's take a look at the new Baku City Circuit track map, shall we?

The first reaction I had when I saw this layout was wow, that's a long front straight,  using "straight" the same way I would at Monaco.  As it turns out, it's even longer than I thought: somewhere around 2.2km.  The whole thing will be just over 6km in length.  "Yeah, but it's still a modern street circuit," you say, "it's going to be miserable."  To be sure, Valencia blew chunks; it was a street circuit in that it ran on city streets, sure, but other than that it was exactly like running on a purpose-built layout.  Singapore is much the same way.  Rest assured, this one isn't going to be like that.  Hermann Tilke, designer, actually paid attention to the architecture of Baku and worked it into the track layout.  Here, here's the first video of a cautious run on the track:

Prepare yourself for the ridiculousness of F1 cars racing at high speed uphill through Turns 8-12 next to a freakin' castle.

Oh, and you know that narrow portion of the circuit, the straight between Turns 6-7 and Turns 19-20?  Yep, you guessed it: it's the same street, just with a honkin' great divider between the sides.  The sheer spectacle of this circuit will almost be enough to make up for any deficiencies in racing.  Almost.

And that's the problem with new circuits. We just don't know what's going to work or not work, and neither do the teams, nor the tire manufacturer.  Pirelli is bringing the Medium, Soft and Supersoft compounds to the race, but we may find that the Medium is overkill... or that the Supersoft won't last a lap.  Or that it's so fast that fuel might be a problem, or brakes will explode or... we just don't know.  Which means we might have a great race... or a disastrous one.  Time will tell.

Well, time and the Legendary Announce Team!   They'll do their usual level best to bring us all the action, news, and weirdness we've become used to.  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Friday
Practice 2: 8a - 930a  live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 8a - 930a  live on NBCSN
Sunday
Grand Prix of Europe:  7a - 10a live on NBCSN

All times are Pond Central; your mileage may vary.  Of course, F1Update! will cast a gimlet eye upon all proceedings, with a writeup after the race!  See ya then!

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June 12, 2016

F1 MOVED TO NBCSN

Late schedule change, folks.  Due to the awful shootings in Orlando last night, NBC has moved coverage of the race back to NBCSN.  Hope you caught this before the race starts!

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June 11, 2016

F1 Quals: Canada 2016

Icky gray skies hung low over the city of Montreal, and rain seemed to hang just over the racing surface.  But would it ever reach the ground, and what havoc would it cause on Qualifying for the 2016 Grand Prix of Canada?  Here's the provisional grid:

Pos
Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:14.121 1:13.076 1:12.812
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:13.714 1:13.094 1:12.874
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:13.925 1:13.857 1:12.990
4 Frowny Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:14.030 1:13.540 1:13.166
5 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:14.601 1:13.793 1:13.414
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:14.477 1:13.849 1:13.579
7 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:14.389 1:13.791 1:13.670
8 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams Mercedes 1:14.815 1:13.864 1:13.769
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:14.663 1:14.166 1:13.952
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:15.026 1:14.260 1:14.338
11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:14.814 1:14.317
12 Jenson Button McLaren Honda 1:14.755 1:14.437
13 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:14.829 1:14.457
14 Esteban! Haas Ferrari 1:15.148 1:14.571
15 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:15.444 1:14.803
16 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:14.714 1:21.956
17 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:15.459

18 Pascal Wager MRT Mercedes 1:15.599

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:15.635

20 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:16.663

21 Rio Rainbow Gate MRT Mercedes 1:17.052


It never did rain... at least, not in any way that bothered the cars at all.

Sharp-eyed readers will have noted that there are only 21 cars listed.  That's because Kevin Magnussen had a wreck during P3 that actually damaged his Renault's survival cell.  While he was fine, that damage means building up a new car, and while F1 mechanics can do amazing things in a short amount of time, they can't do a whole car from scratch in a couple of hours.  Thus, he sat out Quals and races at the whims of the stewards.

In slightly more important information, while this was the closest Quals result so far this season, it still ended up the way it usually does: Mercedes 1-2, Hamilton over Rosberg.  There was never any doubt in my mind that's how it was going to turn out, and lo it did come to pass.  Not, I admit, that this required any great prognosticational skills on my part.

Possibly the best part of Quals was seeing McLaren get into Q3 via Alonso's efforts... his  "woohoo" on the radio when he was told just made me laugh and laugh.  It's the little things, y'know?

Race is Sunday afternoon on NBC... fire up the Philco, sit down with a can of Schlitz, and watch yourself some o' that European-style racing!

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June 07, 2016

F1 on TV: Canada 2016

Montreal, as I've been told by people who would know these things, is an amazing city.  Of this, I have no doubt.  Along with being the home to the world's largest Jazz festival, numerous escape games, Cirque de Soleil, this is also the place that brought us Youppi!

For that, Montreal will always have a place in my heart.  But Montreal is also considered the most European city in North America, which explains perfectly why Formula 1 drops in this weekend, during the first half of the European leg of the schedule!  Really, it doesn't, but let's just go with it, shall we?  It made more sense when they'd race in Canada, then the next weekend hit Indy for the USGP, but the schedule is what they make of it.  Let's take a look at the track map, shall we?

No changes, really.  Still the same old "go really really fast-stop-go really really fast-stop-go really really fast" layout that's forced by the terrain... remember, the track is on a man-made island in the middle of the St Lawrence River, and it pretty much runs along the edge of the island.  It should still be a brakes killer, too... this is still the only circuit I've ever seen a car's brake discs explode during a race... so that's something to look out for.  In a lot of ways, this is about as "Formula 1y" a track as you'll find.  It's just a grand layout without being too overwrought.  Throw in the lack of run-off area except at certain points (the Horseshoe, mostly), and if you screw up, it's game over, and it becomes a real test of ability.  There's almost always at least one safety car here as a result, sometimes more.

The Legendary Announce Team will be doing it's usual yeoman work this weekend... here's the schedule:
Friday
Practice 2:  1p -230p live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals:  12n - 130p live on NBCSN
Sunday
Grand Prix of Canada:  12n - 330pm  live on NBC

Yep, that's right, once again on NBC... and it's at a decent time, too!  Please note that the race begins at 1pm Pond Central time, but the pre-race coverage is at noon... I just threw it in there for completist's sake.

As is usual, F1Update! will be doing their leaden best to get the writeup done before the day ends.  Stick around, won't you?   See ya then!

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May 24, 2016

F1 on TV: Monaco 2016

I've been in a horrible mood all day.  My apartment's been really hot recently (because it's been hot outside, duh), and doesn't cool off much at night, so sleep was both hard to come by and brief when experienced.  Then I kept trying to doze off at work, which is never a fun experience.  So I'm a grumpy ball of grump right now.

However, this weekend is the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix, and rain is predicted for the race, so that puts a different spin on things!  Here's the map for this legendary track:

Looks a little twisty, but nothing too bad, right?  Well, um... this is MONACO.  We're not talking about Barcalounger with its roomy runoff space, or Singapore with its wide, modern, streets.  No, we're talking about running high-tech racing machines at 180mph through what is, at its heart, a small French fishing village... to the point where the harbor is a major feature of the circuit.

In terms of actual racing, Monaco is usually pretty poor.  The narrow, twisty, decidedly unstraight lap doesn't much lend itself to such things as passing.  Further, the knowledge that a single tiny mistake of any sort will tend to send a car rapidly ping-ponging from barrier to barrier tends to make even the stoutest of drivers break into fits of eye twitching and nervous laughter. 

So the presence of a good chance of rain on raceday makes Wonderduck a giddy, giddy, waterfowl.  The fine folks of the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their usual level best for us, maybe even FROM Monaco itself (they've done that the past couple of years).  Here's the coverage:
Thursday
Practice 2: 7a - 9a live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 7a - 9a live on NBCSN
Sunday
2016 Grand Prix of Monaco: 6a - 9a live on NBC

Nope, no typo there: Practice is on Thursday, not Friday, and the race itself is on NBC-the-mother-network, not any of the junior channels.  This way any of my readers with a TV can watch it!  Then you can make fun of the F1Update! later when it comes out.  As is usual, all times are approximately Pond Central time... check your local listings.  Post no bills.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.   Do not taunt happyfunball. 

And see ya there!

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May 14, 2016

F1 Quals: Spain 2016

A beeee-yootiful day greeted the Circus in Barcalounger, perfect weather to go fast in: sunny and warm.  Throw in the anticipated upgrades to the cars, and excitement was in the air... or are those the smells coming from the Stop 'n' Chicken booth?  Either way, we need to look at the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Spain:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:23.214 1:22.159 1:22.000
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.002 1:22.759 1:22.280
3 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:23.749 1:23.585 1:22.680
4 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:23.578 1:23.178 1:23.087
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:23.796 1:23.504 1:23.113
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:24.124 1:23.688 1:23.334
7 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:24.251 1:24.023 1:23.522
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:24.496 1:24.077 1:23.643
9 Sergio Perez Force India 1:24.698 1:24.003 1:23.782
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:24.578 1:24.192 1:23.981
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:24.463 1:24.203
12 Jenson Button McLaren 1:24.583 1:24.348
13 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:24.696 1:24.445
14 Lettuce Grosjean Haas 1:24.716 1:24.480
15 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:24.669 1:24.625
16 Esteban! Haas 1:24.406 1:24.778
17 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:24.903

18 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:24.941

19 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:25.202

20 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:25.579

21 Pascal's Wager Manor 1:25.745

22 Rio Rainbow Gate Manor 1:25.939


If Lewis Hamilton is going to make a run at points leader Nico Rosberg, this is where he needs to start, and Barcalounger's propensity of giving the win to the polesitter seems to bode well for the Brit.  The surprise isn't that he's on pole, though... it's that Ferrari isn't on the second row.  Instead, it's the new Red Bull combination of Smiley Ricciardo and Embryo Verstappen that poses the nearest "threat" to the Silver Arrows.

And yes, I said Verstappen is driving for Red Bull.  Earlier this week it was announced that Kid Kvyat was being moved to Toro Rosso, with The Embryo moving to the Grownup's Team.  Allegedly this was going to happen in 2017 anyway, but it seems much more likely to be due to Kvyat's ham-fisted mauling of Seb Vettel last race. 

In any case, I have my doubts as to whether Red Bull can mount a legit challenge to the Mercs, but I guess we'll see.  I suspect a Mercedes 1-2 is in the offing... oh wait.  That's almost every race, isn't it?

Haas seems poised for points again, with Lettuce is 14th.  Maybe the biggest shocker is Fernando Alonso dragging his McLaren kicking and screaming into Q3 for the first time since the team took on Honda engines.

Race is in the morning... see ya then!

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May 11, 2016

F1 ON NBCSN: Spain 2016

After four flyaway races that ranged from Melbourne to Sochi (a distance of some 8700 miles as the Speedbird flies, which it doesn't, at least not that route), the happy clowns of the F1 Circus find themselves home.  Well, "home" in that they're now in the European leg of the season and can now drive to the races.  Instead of packing everything tightly into the maw of a DHL 747 (well, multiple 747s if you're talking all the teams), the teams now pack everything tightly into their transporters, hospitality semis, personal cars, and luggage and drive to the track.  The ease of access to their home bases also means that this is where we start to see the upgrades appear... a new wing here, a replacement nose there, a new spec power unit someplace else, it's almost like a new season is beginning.  And where better to begin this new season at the track that everybody knows like the backs of their hands, the Circuit de Barcalounger-Catalunya?  Here's the map for the 2016 Grand Prix of Spain:

It used to be that the teams did so much testing here that they knew where every paint chip was missing on the curbs, where to find every hairline crack in the pavement, where every rise, ease, bump and dip was located.  Since they no longer run tens of thousands of kilometers here every offseason, that's only partially true now, but there's still very few tracks the teams know as well as Barcalounger.  It's as if it's part of the F1 DNA... unravel the double-helix, and you'll find one strand lays itself out as Silverstone, the other strand like Barca.

Because of that, it's rare that a race in Spain is any good: 13 of the past 15 have been won from pole, for instance.  There's just no surprises waiting to catch out an unsuspecting driver, because there's no such thing as an unsuspecting driver at Barca.  It's not even a bad layout, all things being equal, it's just hard to pass here.  Of course, DRS has made that less true than it has been, but 2015's race was notable for being remarkably dull, even by the standards of dull F1 races.  The only real excitement was the running over of two different front jackmen during pit stops (to be fair, brake failure caused one of the incidents... the other was caused by driver failure... to stop!  Ha!  I slay me!).

So why should we watch this race?  Well, reason one is that we're F1 fans and that's what we do.  Reason two is that Nico Rosberg is gunning for his eighth consecutive win and fifth in a row in-season... which, ohbytheway would move him equal to names like Brabham, Clark, Mansell and... oh, will you look at that, Hamilton!  A third reason would be to see how Haas adapts to the equipment upgrades. 

Of course the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their usual excellent work this weekend; here's the broadcast schedule for your edification:
Friday
Practice 2: 7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Sunday
2016 Grand Prix of Spain: 6a - 9a live on NBCSN

As always, all times Central Pond Time.  Doublecheck your schedules, just to be sure.  Subtract two hours for west coast, add one hour for east coast, and if you're onboard the ISS,well, you're on your own.  As is usual, the F1 Update! gang will be along sometime afterwards with their writeup of questionable quality.   See ya then.

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April 30, 2016

F1 Quals: Russia 2016

Choo-choo!  All aboard the Nico Rosberg hype traaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaain!  Here's the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Mother Russia:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:36.119 1:35.337 1:35.417
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:36.555 1:36.623 1:36.123
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:37.746 1:37.140 1:36.536
4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:36.976 1:36.741 1:36.663
5 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:37.753 1:37.230 1:37.016
6 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:38.091 1:37.569 1:37.125
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1:38.006 1:37.282 1:37.212
8 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:38.265 1:37.606 1:37.459
9 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:38.123 1:37.510 1:37.583
10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:36.006 1:35.820 No Time
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:37.784 1:37.652
12 Jenson Button McLaren 1:38.332 1:37.701
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:38.562 1:37.771
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:37.971 1:37.807
15 Lettuce Grosjean Haas 1:38.383 1:38.055
16 Esteban!  Haas 1:38.678 1:38.115
17 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:38.914

18 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:39.009

19 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:39.018

20 Pascal's Wager Manor 1:39.399

21 Rio Rainbow Gate Manor 1:39.463

22 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:39.519


It's not enough that Rosberg is leading the Driver's Championship by a serious amount, no no... now his two most obvious challengers are suffering from technical failures, too!  Seb Vettel, who is nominally second on the grid, will be starting seventh after a gearbox change.  And Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg's teammate, set a comfortable time in Q2, then suffered a drastic loss of power from his engine.  At last report, the team was elbow deep in the back of the car despite it being in parc ferme.  This means that there's a good chance Hamilton will be starting from the back of the grid or the pit lane for the second race in a row... and we know how well that turned out last time.  Oh, as if that wasn't enough he might also get a penalty for not rejoining the track in the correct manner after running wide at one point.

It's difficult to see a scenario where Hamilton can recover from this awful start to the season to come back and win the driver's championship, but stranger things have happened.  However, Rosberg's lead is not a fluke; he's driving very well, and very very fast.  For example, look at the two Merc speeds in Q2: Rosberg 1:35.337, Hamilton 1:35.820.  A half-second faster?  That's no accident.

The rest of the grid is pretty standard.  It's possible that Haas has now found their true pace after the ridiculously wonderful first two races.  It's been expected that as the season rolled on, Haas would be unable to keep up with the march of upgrades, but boy, that happened fast!  Assuming, of course, that's what's going on here.

The McLarens, so miserable last year, are now looking like they've officially taken the next step to getting back to the top.  It can't happen soon enough if you ask me.  Force India is still twitching, which is something of a surprise considering the huge financial and legal problems Vijay Mallya has... he's $1.4billion in debt, a court in Mumbai issued a warrant for his arrest, the Indian government revoked his passport and has asked Britain to deport him.

The race is Sunday morning, F1U! will be along afterwards, and we'll see you then or thereabouts!

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April 26, 2016

F1 on TV: Russia 2016

This time around the F1 Circus finds itself in Sochi, Russia, home of the 2014 Winter Olympics... and of course the Sochi Autodrom.  It's among, around and through the leftover buildings and so-called glory of those Olympics that Our Favorite Form of Motorsports will be racing.  Let's take a look at the track map, shall we?

Nope, no change from 2014 or 2015.  That's unfortunate, because this race has not given us great events in the past.  The first race was run under the shadow of Jules Bianchi's accident, when nobody in particular really wanted to be there.  2015 saw wrecks a-plenty, a dull race, and a track worker nearly run over by Seb Vettel.  Now, one could say that the circuit has yet to get "a fair shake," as it were.  It's still awfully new, the events of the past two years have overshadowed the track, so on and so forth.  One less charitable could say that, because the circuit sucks Siberian Snow Cones, the events of the past occurred.  Go ahead, guess which view I tend towards, I dare you.

Look... it's really quite simple: there are 10 90-degree turns.  If you add in Turns 7 and 8, it becomes an even dozen.  Think those do anything to the flow of the track?  Or do you believe that stopping and starting and stopping and starting make for exciting racing?  Of course it's a Hermann Tilke layout.  I mean, sure, I suppose he did the best he could given the limitations of having to race through the Olympic Park, but... well.  They don't listen to my advice over at the FIA... they don't even reply, except for that one time with the restraining order... so no use in complaining.

The good kulaks of the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their usual coverage at the usual times... but let's check 'em out to make sure we're all on the same page, shall we?
Friday
Practice 2: 6a - 730a live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals: 7a - 830a live on CNBC
Sunday
2016 Grand Prix of Russia: 6a - 930a live on CNBC

Note the long running time for the race on Sunday... I'm assuming that includes both pre-race buildup and "F1 Extra", the post-race coverage.  All times Pond Central, add an hour for those of you in Virginia, take two hours away for y'all in San Francisco, and but one if you're a relative of mine in Albuquerque, NM. 

Actually, anybody in Albuquerque should take one hour off Pond Central time.  Just... y'know what?  Never mind.  Whatever.  Do what you wanna do.  It's yer thang.

We'll be along sometime after the race with the usual F1Update!, except maybe this time with energy and passion.  Or not.  We'll see.

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April 16, 2016

F1 Quals: China 2016

Practice 3 in China was stupidly wet, with heavy rain lasting through the first 15 minutes.  By the time Quals rolled around, the track was... mostly dry.  There were still some damp spots, though.  Would they have any role to play?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of China:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:37.669 1:36.240 1:35.402
2 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:37.672 1:36.815 1:35.917
3 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:37.347 1:36.118 1:35.972
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:37.001 1:36.183 1:36.246
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:37.537 1:36.831 1:36.296
6 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:37.719 1:36.948 1:36.399
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1:38.096 1:37.149 1:36.865
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:37.656 1:37.204 1:36.881
9 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:38.181 1:37.265 1:37.194
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:38.165 1:37.333 No Time
11 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:38.016 1:37.347
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:38.451 1:38.826
13 Jenson Button McLaren 1:37.593 1:39.093
14 Lettuce Grosjean Haas 1:38.425 1:39.830
15 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:38.321 1:40.742
16 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:38.654 1:42.430
17 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:38.673

18 Esteban! Haas 1:38.770

19 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:39.528

20 Rio Rainbow Gate Manor 1:40.264

NC Turbo Pascal Wehrlein Manor DNF

NC Lewis Hamilton Mercedes DNF


On first glance, you might think that Lewis Hamilton was affected by the rain, but you'd be wrong.  He went out for a trial lap on Intermediates, but came right back in complaining of his engine being down on power.  I mean, every driver complains that their engine isn't powerful enough, but this time it was real: a second attempt at a lap later in the session was also a failure as his energy recovery system wasn't working right.  Since he didn't set a time, he technically races at the whims of the stewards.  No worries there, I'd say.

Manor's Turbo Pascal Wehrlein also races at the allowance of the stewards as he wrecked his car just a couple of minutes into Q1... and this is the only time that the wetness of the circuit may have had an effect. 

As you can see, there's two damp strips across the asphalt, separated (and caused) by a bump in the front straight that runs the width of the track.  Wehrlein splashed through the first damp patch, hit the bump, then nailed the second damp patch... and ended up having a tankslapper that dumped him into the outside wall.  You'll note his DRS is open, as well... the combination of water, bump, and reduced downforce ended his day.  A 20 minute red flag while the track workers recovered his car was the result.

Q2 ended early when Force India sent Nico Hulkenberg out for his final hot lap with a tire poorly attached.  He gave it the old college try, but making it all the way around the track without losing the thing proved to be too much.

Oh dear.
This, too, brought out a red flag.  The clock was stopped with about 90 seconds left in the session... nowhere near enough time to get out from the pits, get around the track, and start a flying lap.  Thus were Felipe Not Nasr Massa, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, all of whom were on or were about to start a flying lap when the flag came out, relegated to not making it to Q3.  Alonso was particularly annoyed by this, making sounds on the radio that were... um... interesting

The final session saw a surprise finish when Smiley Ricciardo cranked out a lap from out of nowhere.  Both Ferraris had a great shot at beating him, but both Vettel and Raikkonen screwed up the final hairpin, meaning they could not better the Aussie.  Which left Nico Rosberg up on top of the grid, and his biggest rival at the very far end. 

That promises fireworks.  See ya Sunday!

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April 14, 2016

F1 on NBCSN: China 2016

My internet connection appears to be mildly stable today (edit: not so much), so let's not tempt fate any more than necessary and get to crackin'!  Here's the track map for the Shanghai International Circuit, home for the 2016 Grand Prix of China:

There's nothing new under the smog in Shanghai... it's the same as it's been forever.  Oh, Turn 13, the so-called "Indianapolis", has been reprofiled... again... which is important, I guess, since it's the only banked corner in F1.  Never mind that tracks here in the US with real banked turns laugh at it, you grasp at what you can.

Wow.  A banked turn and smog... what more could you ask for?  How about rain?  They say we're going to be having rain during Quals, which could be fun.  Particularly because Quals is going back to the old "knockout" qualifying method!  No more of that "90second elimination" format, that's gone... officially, this time.  Elimination qualifying was a failure, but looking at it coldly and dispassionately, it really didn't cough up any results that were out of the ordinary: it was just a stupid stupid way to do it.

But that's all water under a duck's butt now.  Now we're concerned with the broadcast schedule, as brought to us by the Legendary Announce Team...
Friday
Practice 2:  1a - 230a live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals:  2a - 330a live on NBCSN
Sunday
2016 Grand Prix of China:  1230a - 3a  live on NBCSN

All times are Pond Central.  Check your local listings for times in your area.  Post no bills.  Past performance is not an indication of future results.  A bird in the hand is likely to crap on you... and you'd deserve it, you beast.  2X2L calling CQ, is anybody there?

As always, F1Update! will be along after the race, so join us, won't you?  Or won't you?

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April 02, 2016

F1 Quals: Bahrain 2016

The circuit changes, the names change, the positions change, but one thing stays inviolate: the new qualifying format still stinks on ice.  Here's a look at the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Bahrain:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:31.391 1:30.039 1:29.493
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:31.325 1:30.535 1:29.570
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:31.636 1:30.409 1:30.012
4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:31.685 1:30.559 1:30.244
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:31.403 1:31.122 1:30.854
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:31.672 1:30.931 1:31.153
7 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:32.045 1:31.374 1:31.155
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:31.987 1:31.604 1:31.620
9 Lettuce Grosjean Haas 1:32.005 1:31.756
10 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:31.888 1:31.772
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:31.716 1:31.816
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:32.472 1:31.934
13 Esteban! Haas 1:32.118 1:31.945
14 Jenson Button McLaren 1:31.976 1:31.998
15 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:32.559 1:32.241
16 Blaise Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:32.806

17 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:32.840

18 Sergio Perez Force India 1:32.911

19 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:33.181

20 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:33.438

21 Rio Rollins Tachibana Manor 1:34.190

22 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:34.388


Once again we saw huge swaths of time with no or few cars on track.  The last five minutes of Q2, for example, saw one car run one lap... and the preceding four minutes was essentially a car on a FIA scale for a mandatory weigh-in.  That was all that was going on.  The last few minutes of Q3 was totally dead.  Any excitement was moved back, when Hamilton jumped himself from fourth to pole... but that happened in the middle of the session, instead of right at the end of a drama-filled Q3.  It's ridiculous.

Lewis Hamilton is on pole, and his lap is nearly a half-second faster than the race lap record set in 2004... and that was set in the V10 era, with practically unlimited aero downforce gizmos and stickier tires.

Haas continues their amazing start to the season, with Lettuce Grosjean ending up in ninth... widely considered the best spot to be if you can't be in the first couple of rows.  In ninth, you get tire choice for the race; eighth and above, you have to use the same tire compound as you had in Q2. 

The rest of Quals went more or less to script.  Renault is having difficulties figuring out the correct way to "stage" their cars for the 90second elimination thing, but otherwise?  Perez got hit by that, too.. .

The Toro Rosso twins are going to pissed at each other all season, aren't they?  That'll be fun!

Race in the mid-morning... see ya then!

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March 30, 2016

F1 on TV: Bahrain 2016 (UPDATED)

From Australia's circuit within a public park, the F1 Circus now finds itself in the middle of a desert. The Sakhir circuit is much the same as it's been in past years... the artillery emplacements are gone, the machinegun nests have been filled in, the tanks no longer use the end of the pit lane to repair their treads... so we should probably just look quickly at the map:

No change, as I said.  Even politically there's been no change, as Bahrain is one of the places where the 'Arab Spring' movement was crushed, with military help from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.  Nowadays, the Bahrani government is still in ham-fisted mode, apparently arresting four US journalists for trying to cover the fifth anniversary marches last month.  And so it goes. 

Other than that, the circuit itself is grippy (thanks to asphalt imported from Wales), fast, and pretty much flat.  Wind can be an issue, as can sand since its in the middle of a desert.  Rain is not something you'd expect, though it did rain on Monday; one of the teams' twitter feeds had pictures of their equipment sitting in a soaked pit lane. 

Before I get into the "this is why I didn't say anything about it" bit, here's the broadcast times for the race weekend, featuring the Legendary Announce Team!  All times Pond Central, of course.
Friday
10am - 1130am: Practice 2 live on NBCSN
Saturday
10am - 1130am: Quals live on CNBC
Sunday
930am - 1230pm: 2016 Grand Prix of Bahrain live on NBCSN

As always, check your local guides for times... I have conflicting information on when the actual race is on-air.

Now then... remember that debacle of a qualifying format from Australia?  And people were saying that F1 would be reverting back to the "old" way of quals?  Yeah, about that... it was wrong.  We've got the same elimination format again for Bahrain and (possibly) beyond... and since the alternative was a "reverse grid" lineup, where the top eight qualifying cars would be moved deep into the grid, we should probably be happy about it.

One thing I've learned over the years of covering F1 in whatever way you call this thing is that if it isn't being said by the FIA, it isn't real yet.  And while the best thing to do with this qualifying format is to take it back behind the barn and shoot it, we're stuck with it for at least one race more.  At least it'll be at a decent time.  See ya soon!


UPDATE: Fernando Alonso is not being allowed to drive in this race.  He failed medical tests today, stemming from a fractured rib suffered in his accident at Australia.  He'll be retested before the next Grand Prix, in China.  Until he passes, McLaren has tabbed Stoffel Vandoorne, the team's reserve driver (and reigning GP2 champion), to take his seat.

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March 19, 2016

F1 Quals: Australia 2016

Disaster.

That's the only way to describe the new qualifying format, unless you want to use words like debacle, awful, failure, or what were they thinking?.  Before we get into why Quals was an unmitigated catastrophe, let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Australia:

Pos. Driver Team Time
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:23.837
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:24.197
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:24.675
4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:25.033
5 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:25.434
6 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:25.458
7 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:25.582
8 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:25.589
9 Sergio Perez Force India 1:25.753
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:25.865
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:25.961
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:26.125
13 Jenson Button McLaren 1:26.304
14 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:27.601
15 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:27.742
16 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:27.435
17 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:27.958
18 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:28.006
19 Lettuce Grosjean Haas 1:28.322
20 Esteban! Haas 1:29.606
21 Rio Rollins Tachibana Manor 1:29.627
22 Turbo Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:29.642

Pretty standard results, more or less.  That Toro Rosso got both of their cars ahead of Red Bull is an interesting twist, but part of that performance has to be credited to Embryo Verstappen, who might be turning into a very skilled driver indeed.  The McLarens showed signs that last year's nightmare is over by actually looking like they deserved to be on the track.

But let's get to the efalump in the room: the new quals elimination format.  It was supposed to make things more exciting, but the exact opposite occurred.  You saw a great rush at the beginning of each session as everybody went out to set a lap time before the elimination timer began ticking down... and then the Mercs and Ferraris, secure in their speeds, disappeared.  It appeared that the teams had some confusion about how the new format worked, too... when the 90-second timer reached zero, whatever car was slowest was eliminated, even if they were on a flying lap.  Previously, when clocks ran out (such as at the end of the session), flying laps counted.  This means that timing is everything now... for example, a lap of Australia takes around 1:26 or so.  Basically if you're not on your lap or about to start one when that 90 second timer begins, you're out of luck.  That's what doomed Kid Kvyat, who was in the pit lane when the timer started on him.  The two Haas cars were also badly hurt by this: Esteban! was on a serious flyer when his time ran out; his time would have bumped him up to eighth on the timesheet, plenty good enough to advance.  Lettuce Grosjean was going even faster for the first two track sectors when the clock struck ":00" on him, much quicker that his teammate.  He decided not to finish the lap at that point.

However, if you're the last one to be under the clock in a session, your final hot lap counts even if time runs out, just like before.  Renault's Jolyon Palmer snuck his way into Q2 that way, relegating the Sauber of Sony Ericsson in the process (and causing confusion and annoyance up and down Pond Central).  Q2 went down much the same way.

All of that was just prelude to the ridiculousness that was Q3.  Basically, the eight cars that advanced to Q3 went out for one lap each, returned to the pits, and for all intents and purposes the session was over; the clock just hadn't run out yet.  Oh, Nico Rosberg moved himself from fourth to second later, but there was nothing going on for the last five or six minutes.  Hamilton busied himself sitting atop of the medical car, fans busied themselves thinking "WTF is going on?" and critics everywhere broke keyboards as they rushed to post scathing diatribes about the new format.

And they've got the right of it.  Drivers, team principals, even Bernie Ecclestone have all come out calling the format "rubbish" and saying that F1 needs to go back to the knockout format again.  At least then you usually had the drama of people being on track at the end of Q3.

Race late tonight... I'm unsure if I'll be able to stay awake for it, however: I coudn't manage the trick for Quals.  We'll see what happens, F1U! tomorrow.

Ducks always get the best seats.
click for bigger


 

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March 14, 2016

F1 on NBCSN: Australia 2016

And we're off!  The 2016 Formula 1 season is just a few days away.  As is traditional, the Circus is Down Under, raising its tents for the first race of the year.  There's a new performer added to the show, and two major rule changes, so this'll be fun and exciting in ways we've not seen in a while!  But first, let's look at the track map for the 2016 Australian Grand Prix:

To me, the track in Melbourne is almost like a security blanket.  It's always been there, it's never changed, and it's just a swell place to have a race.  Fast, but not fast fast.  Twisty turns, but not ridiculously so.  Tough, but fair.  A great way to start the season, both for the fans and for the teams. The only bad thing about it is that it takes place at Inconvenient O'Clock, Pond Central Time, but at least Quals and the race bookend Saturday!  Here's the broadcast schedule, brought to you by the Legendary Announce Team, NBCSN, and F1Update!: ask for it by name!

Wednesday
1030p - 1130p: Haas F1 - America's Return To The Grid,  NBCSN
Thursday
830p - 10p: Practice 1, live on NBCSN
Friday
1230a - 2a: Practice 2, live on NBCSN
Saturday
1a - 230a: Quals, live on NBCSN
11p - 2a: 2016 Grand Prix of Australia, live on NBCSN

Which brings us to the first bullet point of the season.  There's a new team on the grid, and it's American.

Now Haas F1 is American the same way McLaren is British, or Renault is French... that is to say, "nominally."  Every team on the grid is made up of people from around the world.  Team Principal Guenther Steiner is Italian (name sure sounds German, though), the drivers are French and Mexican, and they've got bases of operations in England and North Carolina.  But it's got the American flag on it, Gene Haas (the founder) is American, and that's all that matters.  I'll be paying special attention to HaasF1 all season, and we'll be having a good ol' time with the good ol' boys from Kannapolis.  They've already been impressive in pre-season testing; despite losing a front wing on the first day, and an entire day in second testing due to engine problems, they still turned more laps than McLaren and showed good pace the whole way.  Promising, if nothing you can really hang your helmet on.  Moving on...

There's been a couple of changes to the tire rules for the 2016 season.  The first, and easiest to explain, is the addition of the Ultra-Soft tire compound to the old standbys of Hard, Medium, Soft and Super-Soft.  Back when Pirelli was last providing tires to F1, qualifying was single-car-single-lap, go as fast as possible and damn the torpedoes.  To get the maximum amount of speed, teams had qualifying engines, tuned to (reportedly) give as much as 1500hp at some circuits... at the price of being useless after only a few laps.  Think of them as F1's version of a Top Fuel dragster's motor: one run, then a complete rebuild.  However, those engines would be useless if you couldn't apply the power to the circuit, and thus was born the Qualifying Tire.  If the qualifying engine had a short life, the Quals Tire had one equally as short, if not worse.  Imagine marshmallows covered with velcro and slathered with superglue... lots and lots of grip, but no lifespan to speak of: one race lap was about it.  The new Ultra-Soft tires aren't quite that bad, but only maybe by a few laps before they're scattered to the four winds.

The difficult rule change is how tires are allocated during the weekend.  Before, Pirelli would bring two compounds to the track, and all teams had to use at least one of each during the race.  The rules now state that Pirelli will announce three compounds for each race, and the teams get to choose how many of each compound they want (up to a maximum of 13 sets).  The only catch is that the softest compound must be used during Q3 of Qualifying, and the drivers must have at least one set of the others for the race.  If I'm reading the rules correctly, the drivers don't actually have to use both, just have them available.  Oh, and they have to give back the softest tires before raceday.  I think.  For Australia, the compounds are Medium, Soft, and Super-Soft.  If I've got these rules incorrect, please someone correct me, because they really are a bit vague.

Finally, there's a new Qualifying format.  On the surface, it's quite similar... three Quals periods, knockout elimination, you know the drill.  Except now, Q1 is 16 minutes long, and instead of removing the slowest five all at once, after seven minutes the slowest car will be eliminated, followed every 90 seconds by the slowest car remaining until the session is over.  Thus, seven will be knocked out, and 15 go on to Q2.  Q2 is 15 minutes long, and after six minutes the slowest car is removed, then every 90 seconds thereafter.  That will leave eight cars for the final session.  Q3 will be 14 minutes in duration, and after five minutes the slowest is knocked out.  Again, another car will follow every 90 seconds until there are just two remaining.  Those two will then go until time's up.  Simple, right?  I think the FIA is a little over their skis on this one... it might really be cool, but I have this feeling it's needlessly complex and will be hard to keep track of for the fans.

Well, we'll find out this weekend!  Keep an eye out for the first F1Update! of the season on Sunday!

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November 29, 2015

While We're Waiting For F1U...

People have asked me, "Wonderduck, why do you like LeMans so much?"

THAT right there.  That's why.

That's Audi's entry into the 2016 World Endurance Championship's LMP1 class (or whatever the top prototype class is called these days).  My word, that's quite the looker.  I mean, I love F1 cars, but c'mon, they haven't looked this good in years.  And that livery!  That's poster material right there.

I kinda geeked when I first saw the pictures.

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November 28, 2015

F1 Quals: Abu Dhabi 2015

Here's the provisional grid for the 2015 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi.  Stop me if you've heard this one before:

Pos. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:41.111 1:40.979 1:40.237
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:40.974 1:40.758 1:40.614
3 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:42.500 1:41.612 1:41.051
4 Sergio Perez Force India 1:41.983 1:41.560 1:41.184
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:42.275 1:41.830 1:41.444
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:42.608 1:41.868 1:41.656
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:41.996 1:41.925 1:41.686
8 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams 1:42.303 1:42.349 1:41.759
9 Kid Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:42.540 1:42.328 1:41.933
10 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:42.911 1:42.482 1:42.708
11 Embryo Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:42.889 1:42.521
12 Jenson Button McLaren 1:42.570 1:42.668
13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:42.929 1:42.807
14 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber 1:42.896 1:43.614
15 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus 1:42.585 No Time

16 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:42.941

17 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:43.187

18 Sony Ericsson Sauber 1:43.838

19 Will Stevens Marussia 1:46.297

20 Roberto Merhi Marussia 1:47.434


Yup, it's another Mercedes 1-2, with Rosberg taking his sixth pole in a row.  The big news, though, is that Ferrari's Seb Vettel never made it out of Q1.  The team told him that he had gone fast enough to make it to Q2, so he backed out of his final flying lap to preserve tires... and then Jenson Button's McLaren bumped him.  Oy.

Up at the front, Lewis Hamilton actually was quickest in Q1 and Q2; Rosberg just killed it in Q3, though, and that's the only one that really matters.  There's actually a chance that the nearly .40 sec gap will increase, as Hamilton may have his fastest lap thrown out for violating track limits.  He'd still be in 2nd, though.

Other than all that, however, it was pretty much bog-standard.  Which is what I expect Sunday's race to be as well.  But who knows?  Maybe it'll rain.

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November 23, 2015

F1 on TV: Abu Dhabi 2015

And so we come, not to the end of the beginning, nor the beginning of the end, but just, simply, the end.  The final race of the 2015 Formula 1 season.  A season which started eight months ago in Melbourne.  Along the way, we've seen one of the less-interesting seasons of racing in recent history.  So what does this finishing contest promise?  Let's take a look at the track map for the 2015 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi.

We've been here plenty of times before, and pretty much what we've learned is that this is a awful track to race on.  Fun to drive, yes, but to contest position?  There's one good place to pass, Turn 8/9, with Turns 5-7 being somewhat less swell.  Remember, this is the circuit where they thought it would be a good idea to have the pit exit run underneath the track.  I suspect it's merely luck that we haven't seen that idea backfire horribly.

So what's the point of this race?  Well, Valterri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen in a fight for fourth place in the driver's championship, one point separating them.  Lotus leads Toro Rosso by nine points for sixth in the constructor's championship.  And... um... that's about it, really.  Most teams will probably be using Abu Dhabi as an extended test session... remember, the 2016 season is only four months away!

Oy.

The Legendary Announce Team has the coverage, as usual.  Here's the schedule:
Friday
Practice 2:  7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Saturday
Quals:  7a - 830a live on CNBC
Sunday
2015 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi:  6a - 9a live on NBCSN

We'll be along afterwards, of course, with the usual F1Update!.  Join us, won't you?

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