August 19, 2014

F1 on TV: Belgium 2014

The Summer Break is over.  The assembled teams of Formula 1 have loaded up the transporters and taken the Circus on the road.  Drivers have come back from their vacation spots, with Switzerland being a favorite in the past.  And this high-tech road show is aimed directly at the Walloon municipality of Stavelot in the east of Belgium.  There, in the vicinity of a small town named Francorchamps, is found a seven kilometer monster, the home of the Grand Prix of Belgium.  Here's the track map:

Of course, the overhead map hardly tells the whole story of Spa-Francopants.  Unlike most circuits on the calendar, Spa is all about elevation change.  From Turn 01, the track heads generally downhill until it reaches Eau Rouge.  From there to Raidillon, the circuit climbs steeply, then levels out until you reach Malmedy. From there until Blanchimont, the track descends, then climbs slightly back to the level of the start finish line.  All of which is raced at high speed; only the Bus Stop chicane could arguably called "slow." 

Unless it rains.  The hoary old gag about Spa is that if it isn't raining, it's getting ready to.  There's precipitation forecast for Quals, but the race is currently supposed to be dry... but this is the Ardennes.  We've seen rain appear out of nowhere before.

Of course, the Legendary Announce Team will have their slickers and bumbershoots ready as they provide their live coverage!  Here's the broadcast schedule:
7a - 830a: Practice 2 live on NBCSN
7a - 830a: Quals live on CNBC
630a - 9a: 2014 Grand Prix of Belgium live on NBCSN

Of course, the good sprouts of F1U! will be all over the weekend.  We'll see ya then!

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July 26, 2014

F1 Quals: Hungary 2014

I can only guess at what Lewis Hamilton is thinking right now.  Here's the provisional grid for the 2014 Grand Prix of Hungary:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:25.227 1:23.310 1:22.715
2 4Time Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:25.662 1:23.606 1:23.201
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:25.690 1:23.776 1:23.354
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:25.495 1:23.676 1:23.391
5 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:26.087 1:24.249 1:23.909
6 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:26.592 1:24.030 1:24.223
7 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:26.612 1:24.502 1:24.294
8 Jules Vergne STR-Renault 1:24.941 1:24.637 1:24.720
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:26.149 1:24.647 1:24.775
10 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:26.578 1:24.585
11 Kid Kvyat STR-Renault 1:25.361 1:24.706
12 Adrian F'n Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:26.027 1:25.136
13 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:25.910 1:25.211
14 Esteban! Sauber-Ferrari 1:25.709 1:25.260
15 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:26.136 1:25.337
16 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:26.728 1:27.419
17 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:26.792

18 Gandalf Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:27.139

19 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:27.819

20 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1:28.643

21 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes No time

22 Crashtor Maldonado Lotus-Renault No time

Maldonado you almost expect to see down at the bottom with some sort of problem, but Hamilton?  What happened there?  Simply put, someone took "Well done, Lewis" as an instruction.

Fuel leak, Mercedes is saying.  "More than just bad luck," Hamilton is saying, and for a wonder I'd have a hard time disagreeing with him... until you remember that this is the first year with a new engine/power unit.  I'm actually rather surprised we're not seeing more engine failures than we have been.  Yes, it's unfortunate for Hamilton that Merc's problems all seem to be happening to his car, but a flat-out conspiracy?  That's Ferrari-level stuff right there.

The rest of the grid is more-or-less what you would expect, save for Kimi Raikkonen down in 17th, not making it out of Q1.  As time expired on the session, Ferrari kept his car in the garage, secure in the knowledge that he had gone fast enough to make it to Q2... and times kept falling, and falling, and falling, and suddenly there wasn't time to go back out and he was bumped.  Ferrari-level stuff right there.

The race is shaping up to be one of the rare good ones that the Hungaroring coughs up every once in a while, because it's supposed to rain.  Heavily.  Between noon and 4pm local, which does a nice job of blanketing the contest... now we need to see it happen.

It'll put out Hamilton's car, if nothing else.  See you then!

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July 21, 2014

F1U Germany Unavoidably Delayed

Something has come up, I'll be doing the writeup later.

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July 19, 2014

F1 Quals: Germany 2014

Nico Rosberg is a German driver, driving for a German team, at a German track.  Yeah, he kinda wants this pole position really badly.  Did he get it?  Let's take a look:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:17.631 1:17.109 1:16.540
2 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:18.215 1:17.353 1:16.759
3 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:18.381 1:17.370 1:17.078
4 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:18.260 1:17.788 1:17.214
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:18.117 1:17.855 1:17.273
6 4Time Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:18.194 1:17.646 1:17.577
7 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:18.389 1:17.866 1:17.649
8 Kid Kvyat STR-Renault 1:18.530 1:18.103 1:17.965
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:18.927 1:18.017 1:18.014
10 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:18.916 1:18.161 1:18.035
11 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:18.425 1:18.193
12 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:18.534 1:18.273
13 Jules Vergne STR-Renault 1:18.496 1:18.285
14 Esteban! Sauber-Ferrari 1:18.739 1:18.787
15 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:18.894 1:18.983
16 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:18.683 No Time

17 Adrian F'n Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:19.142

18 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:19.676

19 Crashtor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1:20.195

20 Gandalf Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:20.408

21 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:20.489

DNS Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault

Q1 107% Time

Yup, sure did.  You may notice, however, that his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, is in 16th place.  This is due to a wreck in Q1.  A previous lap was fast enough to get him into Q2, but Hamilton suffered a right-front brake failure that pitched him into the wall with some force.  As it turns out, there's every chance in the world he'll be starting from the pitlane on Sunday.  Consider: both he and Rosberg use Brembo brakes on their rear tires, but Rosberg uses Carbon Industrie brakes up front.  Hamilton uses Brembo front brakes, and there's some thought that the team will force him to change for Sunday.  If so, that'll mean a start from the pit lane.  Before you ask, no, I have no idea what difference there is between the two companies.

The rest of the field is, more or less, what you would expect.  Another nice job from the Williams boys, and it looks like they'll be well-positioned in case of a failure on Rosberg's car, but otherwise it's clearly the German's race to lose.

Well, we shall see, won't we?  Race is in the morning!

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July 14, 2014

F1 on TV: Germany 2014

Look, I'll be honest.  I'm not entirely excited about doing this post, so instead of half-arsing it, I'm going to make it really brief.  Here's the trackmap:

It's Hockenheim, the neutered version of the real circuit that used to have a huge blast into the trees.  It used to start at where Turn 2 is now, ran to the right side of your screen and about another foot besides, then looped back to where Turn 6 is now.  To say it was fast would be an understatement... and thus it had to go.  Well, that and it would mean that about half the circuit would be out of sight of cameras and fans alike.

Instead, we'll see the Silver Arrows dominating everybody else through the gentle sweep of the Parabolika, with the Legendary Announce Team doing their thing.  Here's the TV times:

130p - 3p: Practice 2 tape delay
7a - 830a: Quals live
630a - 9a: 2014 Grand Prix of Germany live on CNBC

I definitely won't be doing coverage for Practice 2, as I'll be in Milwaukee for a business meeting, then coming back to the store until 9pm or so.  I won't get home until maybe 10p or so... no way I'm gonna watch practice.  Quals and the race, though, yep.  See ya here then.

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July 05, 2014

F1 Quals: Great Britain 2014

Silverstone, the home of the Grand Prix of Great Britain, is found in County Northamptonshire, almost central to most of "southern England."  Terrain is perfect for the location's original purpose, that of a WWII airbase... flat and more flat, with wind and more wind!  It's long been said that Silverstone has its own microclimate, and if you ever needed proof of that, today's Qual session provided all you could ever want.  Let's take a look at the results:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:40.380 1:35.179 1:35.766
2 4Time Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:45.086 1:36.410 1:37.386
3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:44.425 1:36.579 1:38.200
4 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:41.271 1:37.112 1:38.329
5 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:42.507 1:37.370 1:38.417
6 Whiner Hamilton Mercedes 1:41.058 1:34.870 1:39.232
7 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:42.146 1:37.350 1:40.457
8 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:44.710 1:38.166 1:40.606
9 Kid Kvyat STR-Renault 1:41.032 1:36.813 1:40.707
10 Jules Vergne STR-Renault 1:43.040 1:37.800 1:40.855
11 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:43.121 1:38.496
12 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:41.169 1:38.709
13 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:42.082 1:39.800
14 Esteban! Sauber-Ferrari 1:43.285 1:40.912
15 Crashtor Maldozer Lotus-Renault 1:43.892 1:44.018
16 Adrian F'n Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:42.603 No time
17 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:45.318

18 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:45.695

19 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:45.935

20 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:46.684

21 Marcus Ericsson ?-Renault 1:49.421

22 Gandalf Kobayashi ?-Renault 1:49.625

Q1 107% Time

In Q1, the session started on a damp track, which dried out in just the right way to confuse and confound the teams.  Teams that gambled on the call to switch to slicks early managed to turn a hot lap before the rains came back.  Teams that didn't quite change as quickly lost out.  This resulted in Williams and Ferrari, cars that you would expect to see up in the top 10, being eliminated early.  This also gave us the rare occurrence of Marussia making it into Q2.

Q2 also started in the wet but with a drying track.  The difference was that this time, it didn't rain again, nobody was caught by the weather conditions, and the Marussias were three seconds behind the polesitter.  Reality, it is a cruel wench at times.

Finally, Q3 gave us both wet and dry at the same time.  It began to rain over the last sector of the track towards the end of the first hot laps, and didn't look to be getting any better.  Indeed, it got bad enough to force 4Time Vettel to abandon his first run to keep the car in one piece.  So everybody was in the pits, hoping it'd stop raining and get better.  Then late in the session, after the rain had moved one, most did go back out... almost too late for the Mercedes guys.  Rosberg followed provisonal polesitter Hamilton across the timing line for his hot lap with one second left.  He immediately started screaming at his teammate to speed up or get out of the way... Lewis, feeling that the track hadn't improved enough, aborted his lap early, letting Rosberg past.  As it turned out, Hamilton was dead wrong.  Fully five other drivers beat his time across the line, his teammate gaining pole by nearly three seconds.  All this drama gives us a front two rows of Mercedes-Red Bull-McLaren-Force India... not exactly what most would have predicted.

So a scrambled field with fast cars at either end of the grid... should prove interesting for the predicted dry racetrack on Sunday.  We'll see you then!

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June 30, 2014

F1 on TV: Great Britain 2014

There was once a time when I would wax grandiloquent about Silverstone, the home of this week's stop on the F1 calendar, the Grand Prix of Great Britain.  I would praise the Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel complex as my favorite stretch of track in F1.  I would speak warmly about its prior life as a bomber training base in World War II.  I'd even gush over the classic names given to locations on the circuit: the Hangar Straight.  Stowe, Woodcote, Copse, Abbey, and all the rest.  I would then end my gushing by proclaiming that Silverstone is probably my favorite of all F1 tracks.  Oh, and here's the track map:

I suspect I've gotten jaded in my years of F1 watching.  Or it may just be because the changes made to the circuit a few years ago were like covering a pretty girl with ugly tattoos, and probably just as necessary.  What I'm saying is that it's not my favorite anymore.  Oh, I'll always hold a place in my heart for the beautiful circuit of my dreams, but she's been supplanted.  If I'm still doing this gig when we reach the new Favorite Circuit, I'll let y'all know. 

Frightening thought: this is going to be the tenth GPGB I've done here at The Pond.  Just go click on "July 2005" and it's right there... and at 924 words, it's nearly as long as the F1U's I do now.  Funnier, too. 

So, yeah, Silverstone!  This is going to be one of the races that NBC moves around for whatever reason, so this "on TV" bit is particularly important this week... pay attention!
Practice 2: 8am - 930am live on NBCSN
Quals: 7am - 830am live on NBCSN
Grand Prix of Great Britain:  630am - 9am live on CNBC

F1U! will be watching... will you?

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June 21, 2014

F1 Quals: Austria 2014

It's always exciting when the Circus comes to a new racetrack, and so far it seems like everybody and their sister loves the RedBullRing.  At least, not a single driver has said a negative word about it where an ink-stained wretch from the media could hear it, which is not the same thing.  The assembled reportage staff speak of the Media Center in the same hushed, reverent tones that you might hear used when referring to the Sistine Chapel.  In short, Dieter Materschitz has spent his energy-drink money wisely.  But all of that is mere water under the bridge if the race stinks, and the first step to stinky racing is Quals.  So how'd those go today?

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:10.292 1:09.239 1:08.759
2 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:10.356 1:09.096 1:08.846
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:09.695 1:08.974 1:08.944
4 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:10.405 1:09.479 1:09.285
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:10.395 1:09.638 1:09.466
6 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:10.081 1:09.473 1:09.515
7 Kid Kvyat STR-Renault 1:09.678 1:09.490 1:09.619
8 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:10.285 1:09.657 1:10.795
9 Shiv Hamilton Mercedes 1:09.514 1:09.092 No time
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:10.389 1:09.624 No time
11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:10.124 1:09.754
12 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:10.252 1:09.780
13 4Time Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:10.630 1:09.801
14 Crashtor Maldozer Lotus-Renault 1:10.821 1:09.939
15 Jules Vergne STR-Renault 1:10.161 1:10.073
16 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:10.461 1:10.642
17 Adrian F'n Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:10.825

18 Esteban! Sauber-Ferrari 1:11.349

19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:11.412

20 Gandalf Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:11.673

21 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:11.775

22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1:12.673

Q1 107% Time

Last race, we saw Mercedes dream of a clean sweep of wins go by the wayside.  This time around, it's the pole position sweep gone, and from a highly surprising source no less.  It's Williams with the front row lockout, and Felipe Massa taking the honors of place.  You could have knocked me over with a feather.

A lot of the reason for this stunning upset was the FIA putting their foot down and saying "if you run wide at Turn 8, if all four tires cross the white line delineating the border of the track, your lap will be excluded.  No arguments allowed, the track border is the track border."  Reportedly half the field had at least one lap nixed during the Qual sessions today, the primary sufferer being Lewis Hamilton.  His first timed lap in Q3 would have ultimately put him third on the grid, but was disallowed.  His second attempt ended early after a big spin at Turn 2.  Force India's Nico Hulkenberg also had his one flying lap killed by a track violation.

The big shocker, though, has to be 4Time Vettel not even making it to Q3.  His final try to get up into the Top 10 at Red Bull's home race came to a swift end when he ran wide at Turn 3.  Even your sleep-deprived Pond Leader knew this was quite the moment, as I managed a quiet "yay".  But I'm not biased.  I just enjoy knowing that Vettel is going to whine and moan some more, revealing his true colors to the world.  Where's that finger now, Sebby?

But let's step back from the schadenfreude and instead celebrate Felipe Massa's first pole position since 2008.  Yeah, it's not going to mean much once the race starts and the Mercedes cars start their charge, because it's clear that the Silver Arrows are still the class of the field, but there's that brief glimmer of hope, of mechanical insecurity for Mercedes.  Hamilton went off due to his rear brakes locking up... another brake failure like in Montreal could take both him and Rosberg out of contention easily.

And if that happens, we suddenly get the image of Felipe Massa racing against HWMNBN for a race win, this time with no Ferrari team orders getting in the way... and who doesn't want to see THAT?

Race is Sunday, we'll be here!

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June 16, 2014

F1 on NBCSN: Austria 2014

We're slightly giddy around Pond Central today.  Not only did we survive the store visit last Friday, not only did we get a surprise rubber duckie in the post this weekend (more to come about that!), but we've got a brand new race track to enjoy when the F1 Circus makes its way to Spielberg Austria, home of the RedBullRing!  Let's take a look at this n00b:

One thing we can say for sure: it isn't a Tilkedrome! (Though it was the first circuit he redesigned for F1, as it turns out... read on!)  Nor is it really a new circuit, either, as F1 used to race here; most recently from 1997 to 2003, when it was known as the A1-Ring  It was purchased by the team sponsor in 2004, renovated, brought up to F1 standards, and slotted into the calendar when the Grand Prix of Weehawken was postponed (again).  So here we are.  What sort of circuit is it?  It's short, fast, with a pleasant amount of elevation change, but best of all... it flows nicely.  None of this start-stop-start-stop crap we're "treated" to at all the new circuits, oh no.  Actually, here's a (loud) video to give you an idea...

I don't want to scare any of you, because I know how foreign this is going to sound to you all, but... I like it.  A lot.  I suspect this is gonna be a fun one!  The current lap record is from the 2003 race, 1:08.337, set by Slappy Schumacher.

Speaking of Herr Schumacher, there is news.  He was moved today from ICU to a rehab hospital, while his spokesman proclaimed that he's no longer in a coma.  Certainly good news, except it's nothing new: he's been out of the coma since some time in April, when it was reported that he was opening his eyes and having some minor interactions with the world.  That's called "being out of coma."  So today's news... isn't really news at all, except for the being moved to a different hospital bit.  So on one hand, yay, but on the other?  He's still not likely to be able to feed himself, or possibly even breathe for himself, for a very long time to come, if ever.  The weird thing about the brain is that a ridiculously fit man like Slappy may not have a brain that can "rewire" itself around the damage inflicted, while a 46-year old sedentary man who writes about F1, has never driven a manual car in his life, and has only once driven about 100mph, might have a brain eminently suited to rewire itself.  We just don't know until it happens.  If it does.  What I'm saying is, Good Luck, Michael.  You were far from my favorite driver, but I'm pullin' for you now.

This weekend's coverage, brought to you by the Legendary Announce Team, will be as follows:
7a - 830a: Practice 2 live on NBCSN
7a - 830a: Quals live on NBCSN
630a - 9a: 2014 Grand Prix of Austria, live on NBCSN

Of course, the good folks of F1U! will be gathered for their usual hijinks, so why not join us?  So there, hah!

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June 07, 2014

F1 Quals: Canada 2014

Mercedes is the class of the grid this year, clearly.  Between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, they've had every single pole position to date.  They've won every race this season as well, but that's beside the point right now.  Either one of the two could easily win pole... but!  Hamilton loves this circuit.  The best drivers have "their" tracks: Senna owned Monaco.  Schumacher owned... well, everything, but he held Spa dear in his heart.  Prost was France, Jim Clark owned the British GP, and on and on.  Well, Hamilton claims Montreal as his.  So how far ahead of his teammate did he finish in Quals?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2014 Grand Prix of Canada:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Dreamkiller Rosberg Mercedes 1:16.471 1:15.289 1:14.874
2 WTF Hamilton Mercedes 1:15.750 1:15.054 1:14.953
3 4Time Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:17.470 1:16.109 1:15.548
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:16.772 1:15.806 1:15.550
5 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:16.666 1:15.773 1:15.578
6 Hooly Dooly Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:17.113 1:15.897 1:15.589
7 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:17.010 1:16.131 1:15.814
8 Jules Vergne STR-Renault 1:17.178 1:16.255 1:16.162
9 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:16.631 1:16.214 1:16.182
10 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:17.013 1:16.245 1:16.214
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:16.897 1:16.300
12 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:16.446 1:16.310
13 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:18.235 1:16.472
14 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:17.732 1:16.687
15 Kid Kvyat STR-Renault 1:16.938 1:16.713
16 Adrian F'n Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:17.519 1:17.314
17 Crashtor Maldozer Lotus-Renault 1:18.328

18 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:18.348

19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:18.359

20 Gandalf Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:19.278

21 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1:19.820

DNS Esteban! Sauber-Ferrari

Q1 107% Time

There will be blood in the Mercedes mobilehome tonight.  Hamilton must be chewing 10p nails and pissing hate right now.  This can't end well... I just can't see it.  SOMEwhere down this season, there's going to be an explosion.  This business will get out of control.  It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it... because it'll make for GREAT drama!

Really, is there anything else important on the grid?  4Time managed to qualify third, but he's 22nd of 22 when it comes to top speed through the trap.  Guess who's first?  Well, yeah, Nico Hulkenberg, but the two Mercedes are way up the list.  Unless there's a failure, I will NOT bet against the Silver Arrows.

The only reason it isn't as dull as Vettel's domination is that with Mercedes, either driver has a chance.  The past four years, Red Bull put everything behind Vettel, and the devil take Mark Webber.

The race is at 1pm Pond Central Time Sunday on NBC, so everybody can watch it (not owning a TV isn't an excuse)... see ya there!

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June 03, 2014

F1 on TV: Canada 2014

The next stop on the European leg of the Formula 1 calendar is... Montreal?  It must be the whole French-Canadian thing, I suppose.  Mon dieu, those European people are odd.  Still, if they're going to claim a Canadian racecourse for their own, this is the one to choose.  Let's take a look at the map for the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, on the Ile Notre-Dame, in the St Lawrence River, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

It's the anti-Monaco, all fast straights with heavy braking for sharp turns.  It's a fun track, one that's given us such classic moments as the pavement coming up in chunks, the Montreal Marmot Massacre, the 2011 four-hour extravaganza, and the Robert Kubica wreck, still the worst accident I've seen in F1.  We've also seen a lot of great races here, and maybe we'll get one this year.

I'm not holding my breath.  F1 is really the same as the past few years now, just with silver cars instead of purple-blue.  Except that, say, last year, I could imagine someone beating the Red Bulls.  Still, our friends in the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their level best to make it an interesting broadcast, so lets take a look at when they'll be doing their thing!

Practice 2: 1p - 230p live on NBCSN
Quals: 12n - 130p live on NBCSN
2014 Grand Prix of Canada: 1pm - 3pm? live on NBC (the Big Network)

So gather up your Tim Horton's, pour a Labatt's, load up a plate with poutine, and then realize that Canadian cuisine is awful.  Then watch the race!  See ya then!

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May 24, 2014

F1 Quals: Monaco 2014

Sitting on the pole, while sounding painful, is quite important in Formula 1.  If you're on the pole (ow!), or one of the first four places, your chances of winning any race goes up exponentially.  Nowhere is that more true than the small French fishing village that hosts the crown jewel of the F1 calendar, Monaco.  The race is Sunday, so that means Qualifying was today... and how did they end up?  Let's take a look at the (very) provisional grid for the 2014 Grand Prix of Monaco:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:17.678 1:16.465 1:15.989
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:17.823 1:16.354 1:16.048
3 Hooly Dooly Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:17.900 1:17.233 1:16.384
4 4Time Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:18.383 1:17.074 1:16.547
5 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:17.853 1:17.200 1:16.686
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:17.902 1:17.398 1:17.389
7 Jules Vergne STR-Renault 1:17.557 1:17.657 1:17.540
8 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:17.978 1:17.609 1:17.555
9 Kid Kvyat STR-Renault 1:18.616 1:17.594 1:18.090
10 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:18.108 1:17.755 1:18.327
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:18.432 1:17.846
12 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:17.890 1:17.988
13 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:18.407 1:18.082
14 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:18.335 1:18.196
15 Crashtor Maldozer Lotus-Renault 1:18.585 1:18.356
16 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:18.209 No time
17 Esteban! Sauber-Ferrari 1:18.741

18 Adrian F'n Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:18.745

19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:19.332

20 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:19.928

21 Gandalf Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:20.133

22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1:21.732

Q1 107% Time

Well, what a shock, Mercedes with another front-row lockout.  I never would have seen that coming.  Once Q3 began, there wasn't any question that one of the Silver Arrows would be on pole, it was more "which one?"  It turned out to be the guy who was raised and grew up in Monaco.

But.  Nico Rosberg is currently under Steward's Investigation for an incident in the closing moments of Q3.  He had set the fastest lap earlier in the session, but during his last run with about a minute left to go, he lost control of his car and skidded into the run-off area at Mirabeau.  This brought out a local yellow, which meant that everybody had to slow in that section of the track... and all of the challengers for pole were also behind Rosberg on the circuit.  So much for the race for pole!

Rosberg is proclaiming his innocence, and he's almost certainly right.  Doesn't mean he didn't ruin the hot laps of everybody else... including, ohbytheway Lewis Hamilton his teammate... and therefore deserve a penalty.  We'll see what the Stewards say; I'm glad I don't have to make the call on it!  Penalties could range from his fastest lap in Q3 being invalidated to total exclusion from the race.

More as/if it comes in... we might know until raceday.  See ya then!

UPDATE: No action will be taken against Rosberg!

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May 22, 2014

F1 Practice: Monaco 2014

Rain.  Rain is the great equalizer in Formula 1.  Rain takes traction levels and sends them plummeting into the abyss.  Cars with great grip become merely average, and cars with lousy grip become potential race winners... they're not affected as much.  Rain makes any race better, and the right amount of rain can make any race a classic.  Rain is always welcome.

Except this is Monaco, it's Thursday, and the rain hit just before Practice #2 got started.  For the first half-hour, nary an engine was cranked nor a tire turned.  Why?  Because up until then, all a team could discover about their cars would be how fast it could be turned to scrap.  Monaco is something of a low-grip circuit at the best of times, the rain made that even worse... then throw in the 2014 high-torque-low-downforce cars that are twitchy anyway?  There isn't enough carbon fiber in the world. 

Eventually we did have cars on track, running awkwardly careful laps on Intermediate tires that were just barely capable of coping with the amount of water.  It wasn't until about five minutes left in the session that teams started to bolt on the super-soft tires and let the drivers loose.  Even then, we had squirmy slidy squirmyness all over the place.  Even the man who wound up on top of the timesheet, HWMNBN, looked like his Ferrari was this close to trying to sneak into the casino without paying.  Then everybody packed it in, breathed a sigh of relief, and got ready to take Friday off.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  No.  There may not be any scheduled activities on Friday, but rest assured that the teams will be busy working on the cars.  Anything they can do to make the run for pole that much easier, they will.  We'll see which ones are successful on Saturday... come back then to find out!

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May 20, 2014

Racing Stuff On TV!: Memorial Day 2014

This is the weekend F1 fans live for.  The glitz.  The glamour.  The stars.  The circuit.  This is where and when Formula 1 is everything people think of when they think "Formula 1".  Let's take a look at the track map, shall we?
Oh, wait.  That's the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the 2014 Indianapolis 500!  2.5 miles of nothing but speed, speed and more speed.  Ed Carpenter went a shade over 231mph to win his second consecutive pole position at Indy, and this year former F1 drivers Jack Newhouse, The Pope, SeaBass, ~TAKU!~, and... um... Justin... are in the field as well*.  The flag drops on the American Classic at roughly 1212pm Central time on Sunday.  But that's not the track map we're looking for today, no no.  Here's the place:

Whoops, nope!  That's Charlotte Motor Speedway, home of NASCAR's 2014 Coca-Cola 600!  1.5 miles of 24°-banked turns will see a full field of 43 cars,   The longest non-enduro race in America starts at 5pm Central time, and will finish under the lights in one hell of a spectacle!  But even that isn't what we've come here for... this is:

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present to you Monaco, the most insane top-of-the-league circuit in the world.  "But Wonderduck," I hear you ask, and I've really gotta learn how you pull that trick off, "F1 doesn't go 231 mph, or have 43 cars on a banked-oval track, how is THIS insane?"  Because, my sneaky voice-throwing friend, this race involves cars that are worth tens of millions of dollars, using the highest of high-end technology, and they're racing here:

...harborfront of a small French fishing village.  It's the crown jewel of F1 races, and perhaps the only one where high speed really doesn't matter all that much.  I mean, there are places at Monaco where the cars are going substantially slower than the maximum pit-lane speed for either NASCAR or IndyCar.  It's a ridiculously narrow, cramped, bumpy, dangerous, silly place to have a race these days.  But it is the one race most racers in the world would kill to win.

And this weekend, it's going to be live on the big network!  Let's take a look at where and when the Legendary Announce Team will be located during coverage:
P2: 7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Quals: 7a - 830a live on NBCSN
2014 Grand Prix of Monaco: 630a - 9a live on NBC

The Grand Slam of Motor Racing Fandom is this Sunday, folks... Monaco, Indy, the 600, all in one day.  1270 miles of racing... are you fan enough?  I failed last year, missing about 75 miles of the NASCAR race (I was asleep).  I'm not sure if I'm going to give it a shot... what about you?

*That's Jacques Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sebastien Bourdais, Takuma Sato and... um.. Justin Wilson for all of you readers who don't remember my old nicknames for these guys.  Except for Wilson; he drove in 2003, pre-Pond.

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May 10, 2014

F1 Quals: Spain 2014

It was a lovely day in Barcalounger as the cars jumped onto the circuit for Qualifying.  Did anybody have the secret of hunting down the Silver Arrows?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2014 Grand Prix of Spain:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Shiv Hamilton Mercedes 1:27.238 1:26.210 1:25.232
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:26.764 1:26.088 1:25.400
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:28.053 1:26.613 1:26.285
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:28.198 1:27.563 1:26.632
5 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:28.472 1:27.258 1:26.960
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:28.308 1:27.335 1:27.104
7 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:28.329 1:27.602 1:27.140
8 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:28.279 1:27.570 1:27.335
9 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:28.061 1:27.016 1:27.402
10 NotAppearingInYourPicture Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:27.958 1:27.052 No time
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:28.155 1:27.685
12 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:28.469 1:28.002
13 Kid Kvyat STR-Renault 1:28.074 1:28.039
14 Esteban! Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.374 1:28.280
15 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:28.389 No time
16 Jules Vergne STR-Renault 1:28.194 No time
17 Adrian F'n Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.563

18 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:29.586

19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:30.177

20 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1:30.312

21 Gandalf Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:30.375

22 Crashtor Maldozer Lotus-Renault No time

Q1 107% Time

Crashtor brought out a red flag in Q1 when he... you guessed it, crashed!  Even better, since he didn't set a time, he races at the discretion of the Race Stewards.  Oh please oh please don't let him on the track, he's a danger to himself and others.

In Q2, neither Jules Vergne's Toro Rosso nor Kevin Magnussen's McLaren turned a wheel... Vergne because he got distracted by a crater in Snæfell and wound up with a 10-spot grid penalty, and Magnussen because of the depression caused by not equaling his performance in Australia... or a problem with his ERS unit., one of the two.

But then an amazing thing happened: Mr Notappearinginyourpicture Vettel couldn't find second gear out of the pits, then couldn't find his gearbox shortly thereafter.  He's going to take a 5-spot penalty while Red Bull scrapes the remains of his old one out of the chassis... which means he'll really be starting 15th.  In the past, this would mean he'd have a long run up the field and end up in 2nd place, maybe.  Not this year... probably.

Unamazing thing: the two Mercedes locked out the front row.  Please note, however, just how much of a lead polesitter Lewis Hamilton had over third-place Daniel Ricciardo.  Nope, your eyes don't deceive you, it really is over a second.  Ladies and gentlemen, all the paprika in the world isn't going to make this paella taste any better come race day.  Nevertheless, F1Update! will be all over it, even if we've never much cared for paella.  See ya then.

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May 05, 2014

F1 on NBCSN: Spain 2014

The last of the first batch of flyaway races was China, two weeks ago.  Now the season really starts in earnest, because now the F1 Circus gets to begin the European races.  As is usually the case, the first of these all-important stops is the Grand Prix of Spain in Barcalounger!  Here's the track map:

Its when the teams get home to Europe that the various upgraded implements of destruction downforce get bolted to the cars and sent off for their first real runs.  For some teams, this means a return to dominance.  For others, total failure.  And nobody truly knows which is which until the cars begin running.  It's all so exciting.

Okay, I exaggerate slightly.  The thing about Barcalounger is that for many, many years, it was the home of F1 testing.  Once upon a time, teams knew where every crack in the pavement was, how many layers of paint were on the curbs, where the asphalt changed composition, anything you could think of.  As a result, the Grand Prix of Spain was almost always a processional: since everybody knew everything about the circuit, there would never be a surprise.  And there would also never be passing.

DRS changed that, of course.  And now the new tech regs promise to do it again.  As I've said all season, I have no idea what the race will be like: it could be a parade, it could be another one-sided runaway, it could be a close-fought struggle.  Fortunately, we'll have the Legendary Announce Team to describe it all for us on the following schedule:

P2: 7a - 830a live
Quals: 7a - 830a live
Grand Prix of Spain: 630a - 9a live

F1Update! will be all over the race; it's the preliminaries that we're not sure of quite yet: we've got a big registration day on Saturday morning, and Finals begin in a week.  Gonna be a long one for us here.

In any case... see ya here!

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May 04, 2014

mrmrmrbrlrmr mrrmrlrbrlmr mrrlrbrlrnrlrbrrlllrmrmrbr

So why is it that my F1 scribblings always describe Kimi Raikkonen as mumbling his way through interviews?

I don't know if you knew this or not, but English is not his first language.  It's true!

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April 19, 2014

F1 Quals: China 2014

If it's a Quals session, that must mean it's damp out there... only Bahrain this year hasn't had some form of rain during Quals.  So, who'd the rain help, who'd it hurt, and which Venezuelan Lotus driver is literally hated by his team?  Let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2014 Grand Prix of China:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Shiv Hamilton Mercedes 1:55.516 1:54.029 1:53.860
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:56.641 1:55.302 1:54.455
3 4Time Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:55.926 1:54.499 1:54.960
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:56.058 1:55.294 1:55.143
5 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:56.961 1:55.765 1:55.637
6 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:56.850 1:56.757 1:56.147
7 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:56.501 1:56.253 1:56.282
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:55.913 1:56.847 1:56.366
9 Jules Vergne STR-Renault 1:57.477 1:56.584 1:56.773
10 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:58.411 1:56.407 1:57.079
11 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:58.279 1:56.860
12 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:57.783 1:56.963
13 Kid Kvyat STR-Renault 1:57.261 1:57.289
14 Adrian F'n Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:58.138 1:57.393
15 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:57.369 1:57.675
16 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:58.362 1:58.264
17 Esteban! Sauber-Ferrari 1:58.988

18 Gandalf Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:59.260

19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:59.326

20 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 2:00.646

21 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 2:00.865

DNQ Crashtor Maldozer Lotus-Renault No time

Q1 107% Time

 Rosberg was all set to be second, at least, on his final run when the wet pavement reached up and sent him into a spin at the last corner... so surprisingly, Mercedes was hurt by the rain.  It certainly helped the Red Bulls, who are, apparently, 12mph slower than the Merc-powered cars on the long back straight.  The thinking is that they need rain to fight for pole, and it worked this time.  But look at those Williams lurking back there, and imagine them both finishing ahead of the energy drink team.

Meanwhile, who the heck knows what's going to happen with HWMNBN and Ferrari?  Is that the legit pace of the F14T, or is that all down to the Spaniard behind the wheel.  His Finnish counterpart was having problems with his steering and his downshifts, so his 11th might actually be GOOD.

Then there's the sad story of the Lotus mechanics and driver Crashtor Maldozer.  In P1, he nearly drove into a wall as he fiddled with a knob on his steering wheel.  As it was, he managed to only spin and humiliate himself.  In P2, he drove into the pit entry... and directly into the protective barrier on the outside of the pit turn, snapping his suspension like a stale pretzel.  "I crash," he called to the pit wall.  "Oh. (pause)  Okay," came the response like an audible facepalm.  In P3, his engine broke... it was probably his fault.  I don't know how, but it probably was.  I have a feeling that Lotus would be happy to jettison his awful, awful driving arse, but he's got 33 million reasons for them to let him stay.

Since he DNQ'd, he races at the approval of the Stewards.  Alas, they've decided to let him in.

Race in the very early morning... see you then!

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April 15, 2014

F1 on NBCSN: China 2014

Sorry I'm a little late with this, but Pond Central has had internet problems since Saturday night/Sunday morning.  It wasn't completely out, but something even worse: it was really, really slow.  As in, "45 seconds to a minute to load a page."  Just alive enough to make you hope, just dead enough to crush your dreams.  Thankfully, I was able to send my taxes via the Duck U Bookstore's system.

But I digress... you're here to hear about this week's race!  This time, the stop is the Shanghai International Circuit, located in the Jiading District of the world's largest city by population, Shanghai, China.  Despite the incredible number of people living there, somehow the government managed to find enough empty space to build a circuit.  Here's the track map:

Okay, yes, it's a Tilkedrome.  Despite that, China has occasionally coughed up a decent race or two.  Rain is useful for that, of course, and there's a chance on Sunday, but nothing I'd put money on.  So it's down to the track... and the new-formula cars, too.  THAT'S where it all hinges, and the way things are going this year, I'd not bet against this being a good race.

It'll still be a Mercedes HappyFest, though.  Unless something has drastically changed in the past couple of weeks, there's nothing standing in the way of the Mercedes-powered teams to dominate this race.  Except for reliability, of course; it's hard to go fast when your engine is spitting pistons into the stratosphere.  That's not something we can really predict so I'll just ignore it altogether.

Fortunately for everybody, I'M not the person calling the race.  That task falls to the Pros from Dover, the (not as) Legendary Announce Team!  Here's when they'll be doing their usual great coverage:
P2: 1a - 230a live
Quals: 1a - 230a live
Grand Prix of China: 130a - 4a live

Of course, F1Update! will be all over the race like a cheap suit on rice.  See ya then!

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April 13, 2014

USF1 Redux?

A few years ago, there was an attempt to start an American Formula 1 team.  To be called USF1, it was a project from Peter (Smarmy) Windsor, former Williams and Ferrari manager, and Ken Anderson, a former NASCAR technical director.  It failed miserably, never completing a chassis, never turning a wheel, suffering from mismanagement and funding impossibilities. 

But yet, why couldn't there be an American F1 team?  It's not like there's any lack of technical ability here in the States, nor any shortage of cash or driving skill.  What is needed is a competent management staff with active ties to the racing world.

Those of us longing for an American F1 team on the grid may have just had our wishes granted.  NASCAR Sprint Cup team owner Gene Haas, longtime motorsports guy, just had his application to join the F1 grid in 2015 approved by the FIA.  The team, tentatively called Haas Racing Developments, may be based in North Carolina, home of Stewart-Haas Racing, the NASCAR team.

Very few details exist as of yet outside of what I've just mentioned.  As usual, the thought is that there'll be an all-American driver lineup, which while admirable, is also wrong for a new team.  Currently, the number of active American drivers with Formula 1 experience beyond a few testing laps is limited to one: Scott Speed.  What a team needs is someone who knows how a F1 car should feel so the pit wall can make it feel that way.  Scott Speed, while American, was nobody's idea of a testing genius.  No, there should be at least one driver with serious F1 history on the team, and that means foreign... and preferably someone with financial backing of their own, sad to say.  The two things any team needs is skill and money, and a new team needs a lot of both.

I'm not going to get excited yet.  It'll be too easy for this venture to fail the way USF1 did.  I'm much more encouraged by the people involved, but they don't even have an engine lined up yet.  My guess is that they'll have the new Honda powerunit, but who knows?  I'd really like to see this succeed, though.  I'd love to root for a team again.

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