July 23, 2016

F1 Quals: Hungary 2016

You know things are weird when the first image for your coverage of qualifying is of the Safety Car getting squirrelly in a straight line.  And then practically disappearing in the deluge that's befallen the circuit.  Yes, it was raining at the Hungaroring, but not the "well that'll be challenging" type of rain we like to see.  No, what we had was more along the lines of "grumpy old man builds a boat while his family herds pairs of animals" apocalyptic-style rainfall.  It was so bad that Q1 was postponed by first 10, then 20 minutes.  Then, just when the cars pulled out on track, the rain apparently ceased but plenty of standing water still around... well, let's take a look at the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Hungary, shall we?

Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.302 1:22.806 1:19.965
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.210 1:24.836 1:20.108
3 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:39.968 1:23.234 1:20.280
4 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:40.424 1:22.660 1:20.557
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:35.718 1:24.082 1:20.874
6 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:36.115 1:24.734 1:21.131
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:35.165 1:23.816 1:21.211
8 Jenson Button McLaren Honda 1:37.983 1:24.456 1:21.597
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:41.471 1:23.901 1:21.823
10 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:42.758 1:24.506 1:22.182
11 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:35.906 1:24.941
12 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:36.714 1:25.301
13 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:41.411 1:25.416
14 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:36.853 1:25.435
15 Esteban!   Haas Ferrari 1:38.959 1:26.189
16 FelipeNot Massa Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:37.772 1:27.063
NC Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:43.965

NC Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams Mercedes 1:43.999

NC Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:44.543

NC Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:46.984

NC Pascal's Wehrlein MRT Mercedes 1:47.343

NC Rio Rainbow Gate MRT Mercedes 1:50.189

So Q1 got started in a track still covered in a significant percentage of the Adriatic Sea and everybody wearing full-wet tires.  It took almost no time at all, however, for the rains to return in a manner to cause jaws to drop up and down the pit lane.  Out came the red flag to stop the session, and somehow everybody made it back to the garage without pranging themselves.  After some terrifying visuals of the Safety Car actually drifting through the turns, the rain let up enough for things to get going again. 

At which point, Sauber's Sony Ericcson buried himself in a tire barrier, resulting in a red flag stoppage.  After the car was cleared, the drivers got the go ahead to continue.  At which point, Felipe Not Nasr Massa, who had gambled on Intermediate tires, immediately stuffed his Williams into the barriers, resulting in a red flag stoppage.  After the delay getting his car off the circuit, the track was definitely ready for Inters, and away the field went again.  At which point, Rio Rainbow Gate buried himself into a tire barrier, resulting in a red flag.  This time, however, there wasn't time remaining in the session for cars to turn any more laps once the green flag was thrown, so it was decided to end Q1 there.  So, for the record: four red flags, and a Q1 session that was nearly an hour long.

Q2 and Q3 were much less "interesting".  In fact, the only excitement came at the end of Q3, when Lewis Hamilton was on a lock-down flying lap, looking for all the world like he was going to blow the doors off his already quick pole time.  A few turns ahead of him, Fernando Alonso's McLaren came a-cropper, resulting in yellow flags and Hamilton having to back off.  However, by the time Nico Rosberg came charging into the area, the yellows had been cleared.  Thus unencumbered, he just barely managed to nip Pole from Hamilton's extant time. 

As if that wasn't enough, technically both Red Bulls, both Force Indias, and Valterri Bottas were outside of the 107% rule in Q1 due to the weather conditions.  They were just unfortunate on their timings and never managed to turn a so-called "quick lap" due to all the red flags.  The strict interpretation of 107% rule would have had those five drivers starting from the back of the grid; the rule has no "inclement weather" addendum: either you're within 107% of the fastest car in Q1 or you're not, and if you're not, its up to the Stewards if you're going to race.  If they do, you start from the back.  It was decided, though, that the day's circumstances were unusual enough to allow some flexibility.

So that's that.  Race is in the morning, F1U!! is along sometime thereafter.  See ya there.

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July 19, 2016

F1 on TV: Hungary 2016

Hungary.  Why did it have to be Hungary?  He's the god-forsaken track map for the god-forsaken Hungarian Grand Prix:

I hate this place with a dull annoying apathy.  It used to be a terrible hate, one that could cause young children to weep in terror and grown men to turn their head in fear.  Now, however, my relationship with the Hungaroring has matured to something much more effective: acedia.  In the 11 years I've been covering F1, I've only missed two races.  Both took place in Hungary, and I don't care.  There's a part of me that wants to unplug the DVR on Saturday night and say "oops, oh well" on Sunday morning, but a thought occurred to me this morning whilst I was prepping myself for work, one that at least briefly blew life to the fires of my loathing for Hungary.

No doubt you remember the story I've told about the Hungaroring, how it was originally to be a street circuit through Budapest but for various reasons it wound up in a natural arena some distance outside the city.   Budapest is thought by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe... and a F1 race through the city itself could easily have looked like the circuit in Baku... which, racing aside, was universally praised for the amazing look of the track.  Hungary could have looked like that, and we would have been enjoying it since 1986.

Instead, we get a track that's "Monaco without the glamour."  THANKS, Hungary!  And so my hate returns to apathetic levels again.  And I am not alone... it appears that NBC, et al, are feeling the same way, even though the Legendary Announce Team love the place.  Here's the broadcast schedule:
Quals: 7a - 830a live on CNBC
2016 Grand Prix of Hungary: 6a - 9a live on NBCSN

No, I didn't forget something, it looks like they won't be providing televised coverage of Practice 2... and I checked.  Unless they've put it on NBC-The-Big-Network (hah!), I couldn't find it.  Ah well, no great loss.

So there you are.  Hungary!  Enjoy, won't you?  And remember, F1U! will be along sometime afterwards to provide our usual stellar post-race coverage.  Look forward to it!  I know I will!  See ya then!

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July 09, 2016

F1 Quals: Great Britain 2016

I took a nap.  During my Quals watch.  Whoops.  Here's the provisional grid:

Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:30.739 1:29.243 1:29.287
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:30.724 1:29.970 1:29.606
3 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:31.305 1:30.697 1:30.313
4 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:31.684 1:31.319 1:30.618
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:31.326 1:31.385 1:30.881
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:31.606 1:30.711 1:31.490
7 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:31.913 1:31.478 1:31.557
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:32.115 1:31.708 1:31.989
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:32.349 1:31.770 1:32.172
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:32.281 1:31.740 1:32.343
11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:32.336 1:31.875
12 FelipeNot Nasr Massa Williams Mercedes 1:32.146 1:32.002
13 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:32.283 1:32.050
14 Esteban! Haas Ferrari 1:32.237 1:32.241
15 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:32.553 1:32.306
16 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:32.729 1:37.060
17 Jenson Button McLaren Honda 1:32.788

18 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:32.905

19 Rio Rainbow Gate MRT Mercedes 1:33.098

20 Points Wehrlein MRT Mercedes 1:33.151

21 FelipeNot Massa Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:33.544

The sharper-eyed among you will notice that there are 21 drivers listed.  Sauber's Sony Ericcson had a massive accident in Practice 3 that wound up with his car totally ruined and the driver taken to hospital for examinations.  He races at the stewards' approval and if the FIA medical delegate allows.  He was reportedly back in the paddock area late after quals, and the team proclaimed him okay, but that's not the same as the race doc giving him the thumbs up.  Since the impact was so bad that he knocked the steering wheel off with his knee during it, I assume they're thinking concussion.

In other news, or not news as the case may be, Hamilton is back on pole.  Again.  It was close, though: he had his fastest lap disallowed for exceeding track limits, going outside the lines.  That happened to a lot of drivers today. 

All in all though?  That stretch of Quals I was awake for was pretty much "Lewis Hamilton and everybody else merely watching."  Which is what I expect the race to be tomorrow.  See ya then!

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July 06, 2016

F1 on TV: Great Britain 2016

They call it the Home of Formula 1.  It was the site of the first ever race for the F1 championship.  It was once a RAF bomber training airfield.  And today, it is called Silverstone, the location of the 2016 Grand Prix of Great Britain.  Here's the track map:

Silverstone used to be my favorite circuit.  Here's what it looked like back in 2008:

I am of a mind to say that the new Sector 1, and moving the pit straight from after Woodcote to after Club, did a fine job of mucking the place up.  Perhaps it's a case of "back in the day", but I don't think so.  But then, I wouldn't, would I?

My favorite sequence (Maggots-Becketts-Chapel) is still around, and the lunatic British fans still show up (and disappear into the mud when it's wet), I reckon it's naught but good manners that I do too.  And if you choose to do the same, the Legendary Announce Team will be doing their usual yeoman's work LIVE from... um... Stamford, CT.  Where they do almost all of their races from.  That's a step up in the world, though... they used to do it from Charlotte, NC, folding tables and all.   Here's the broadcast schedule:
Practice 2:  2p - 330p tape delay on NBCSN
Quals:  7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Grand Prix of Great Britain:  630a -10a live on CNBC

All times Pond Central.  Use at your own risk.  May cause itching.

I know, I know, there's very little preview in this thing anymore.  Yep, you're right.  Know why? 

See ya after Quals!

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July 02, 2016

F1 Quals: Austria 2016

It is uncommon these days for my life to be so busy that I actually forget things like lunch dates or important to-do's.  Yet that is exactly what happened today here at Pond Central.  In fact, it wasn't until I was tucking into my plate of sausage-stuffed giant rigatoni at Olive Garden that I realized: I had completely forgotten about today's Quals!  Reacting immediately, I mentioned to my folks "huh, I forgot about quals," and had myself another spoonful of zuppa toscana and a breadstick.  I eventually made my way home, sat down to watch quals and promptly dozed off in my chair.  Once I woke up a few minutes later, I got myself to the computer desk to write this and found myself getting constantly distracted by things like this, or like this, or particularly like this.  To the point that it's now a very long time indeed since Quals, or even since I came home from lunch.  What I'm trying to say is that here's the provisional grid for the 2016 Grand Prix of Austria:

Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:06.947 1:06.228 1:07.922
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:06.516 1:06.403 1:08.465
3 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 1:07.385 1:07.257 1:09.285
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:06.761 1:06.602 1:09.781
5 Jenson Button McLaren Honda 1:07.653 1:07.572 1:09.900
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:07.240 1:06.940 1:09.901
7 Smiley Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:07.500 1:06.840 1:09.980
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:07.148 1:06.911 1:10.440
9 Embryo Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:07.131 1:06.866 1:11.153
10 Felipe Not Nasr Massa Williams Mercedes 1:07.419 1:07.145 1:11.977
11 Esteban Haas Ferrari 1:07.660 1:07.578
12 Pascal's Wager MRT Mercedes 1:07.565 1:07.700
13 Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:07.662 1:07.850
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:07.671 1:08.154
15 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:07.618 No Time

16 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:07.657 No Time

17 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:07.941

18 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:07.965

19 Rio Rainbow Gate MRT Mercedes 1:08.026

20 Kid Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:08.409

21 Sony Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:08.418

22 Felipe Not Massa Nasr Sauber Ferrari 1:08.446

Well, okay you say, big deal, just another Merc 1 - 2, hey?   Well not so fast there, Binkey!  Both Nico Rosberg and Seb Vettel had to change gearboxes meaning they take five-grid-spot penalties... which ALSO means that Force India's Nico Hulkenberg will be starting second, and Jenson Button's McLaren will be third! 

As the late great Mel Allen used to say, "How about that?"  (oops, got distracted again)

Down towards the bottom, we find Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Kid Kvyat, all three of whom snapped their suspensions like dry twigs running over the... shall we say "aggressive"?... curbs at the Red Bull Ring.  There's been a lot of that this weekend... Rosberg's gearbox change is a result of his left-rear suspension breaking, and I know it happened to a few drivers in Practice 1 as well.

That's Rosberg's suspension at the point of failure.  Pretty clean snappage right there... and that's the thing about carbon fiber: it's remarkably strong right up to the moment it isn't anymore, at which point it breaks like a dry saltine.  Metal may be heavier, but it usually bends before it breaks... which is probably why suspensions were the last thing to change to carbon fiber in a F1 car design.

Well, it should be a race tomorrow.  There's even a chance of rain, which'll throw the ducks amongst the rye bread, that's for sure.  See you then, maybe!

If I remember.

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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!
Practice 2: 7a - 830a  live on NBCSN
Quals:  7a - 830a  live on CNBC
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:

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:
Practice 2: 8a - 930a  live on NBCSN
Quals: 8a - 930a  live on NBCSN
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


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:

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:
Practice 2:  1p -230p live on NBCSN
Quals:  12n - 130p live on NBCSN
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:
Practice 2: 7a - 9a live on NBCSN
Quals: 7a - 9a live on NBCSN
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:
Practice 2: 7a - 830a live on NBCSN
Quals: 7a - 830a live on NBCSN
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?
Practice 2: 6a - 730a live on NBCSN
Quals: 7a - 830a live on CNBC
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...
Practice 2:  1a - 230a live on NBCSN
Quals:  2a - 330a live on NBCSN
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.
10am - 1130am: Practice 2 live on NBCSN
10am - 1130am: Quals live on CNBC
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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