The Malaysian Grand Prix Report

I do so love back to back races.  But before I can tell you about the race, I have one other important piece of news for you.  Fernando Alonso appears to have gotten himself tattooed.  See:

Mmmmm

But I digress.

Hamilton was on pole again, and Button was second.  Michael Schumacher started third, which was very exciting.  Alonso qualified ninth, but Kimi Raikkonen had a grid penalty so he actually started 8th.  This was an improvement over last weekend.  Last weekend he was much farther back.

Here is a quick geography lesson.  What happens in Malaysia late in the afternoon?  Yep, that’s right, it rains.  And yesterday was no exception.  About 8 laps in it started pouring buckets, and the safety car came out.  La la la, we did a few laps behind the safety car and then:  Red Flag.  So for an hour we sat and watched the drivers standing around.  This is not compelling television.  It is my humble opinion that they should change the start time back to it’s original, earlier start time so they can get the race finished before it starts raining.  But the muckety mucks at FOM do not listen to me.

It finally stopped raining and they restarted the race.  All the cars were on wet tires now, and this became tricky as the track dried out and the tires started to get chewed up.  More rain was in the forecast so all the engineers were telling the drivers to take care of the tires and make them last until it started raining again.  But the rain held off and everybody eventually came in for slicks.

Oh, look at that, lightening just beyond the circuit.  Dammit.  (sorry mom).  Well, fortunately the rain stayed away.  Alonso was winning at this point and I was about having a heart attack because Sergio Perez was slowly reeling Alonso in with his Sauber.  Then his engineer came on the radio and told him to preserve the position.  It has been a long time since a Sauber has come in second.

Of course that message has the tin hat brigade up in arms, saying it was team orders, and that Perez was told not to pass Fernando.  Sauber buys their engines from Ferrari, so the conspiracy theory du jour is that Sauber was told to back off.  Not bloody likely.  Reeling Alonso in and passing him are two different things, and as we know Alonso is not easy to pass.

Anyway, Alonso won and that’s the important thing.  He is currently leading the world championship.  Wow.

The next race is in China in three weeks.  That is the only bad part about back to back races. It usually means a long break before the next race.  Sigh.

The Korean Grand Prix Report

Well that was interesting.

 

This was the inaugural Korean Grand Prix and it was a near thing whether it would happen at all.  The track is brand spanking new and it missed deadline after deadline.  The race wasn’t a sure thing until about two weeks before the event.  That is cutting it a bit fine if you ask me, but of course nobody did.

It was pouring down rain when the race was supposed to start.  So they delayed the start by ten minutes and declared the race would start behind the safety car instead of the usual standing start.  Just a few laps later they red flagged the race.  That means they stopped everything, and sent everybody back to the starting grid.  Then they all sat there.  For an hour.  Oh yeah, that’s compelling television.

They did finally get it started again though.  But Red Bull’s Mark Webber probably wishes they hadn’t.  On the very first lap with the green flag (without the safety car) Mark lost control of his car and wrecked it.  That ended his afternoon, and most likely ended his shot at the world championship.  He had been leading the WDC when the race started.

It rained some more, then it stopped.  There was a lot of debate about whether or not the track was dry enough for the intermediate tires or if the full wets were better.  Lewis Hamilton seemed to be having some trouble with the inters but it didn’t seem to hurt him too much.

Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel was leading the way in the other Red Bull with Ferrari’s lovely and talented Fernando Alonso in second place.  And then the racing gods smiled down on Fernando.  Vettel’s engine went kablammo with about 12 laps to go.  Alonso was winning!  AND not only that, but if he could hold on and win, he would be leading in the Driver’s Championship.  Oh.  My.  God!  It was all very nerve-wracking.  I did a lot of hand wringing, and fretting and yelled “be careful!” at the television a lot.  And you have to yell really loud when you are watching the race almost 24 hours after it took place.  I was exhausted by the end.

So Alonso won.  That is his third race win in a row for those of you keeping score at home.  Lewis Hamilton finished second, keeping his championship hopes alive for another race.  And Ferrari’s Felipe Massa came in third.

The next two races will be absolute torture to watch.  I hope I remember to breathe.

He looks pretty happy, don’t you think?

And no, it wasn’t a night race, it was just that dark when they finally finished.

The Japanese Grand Prix Report

The moment has kind of passed for this.  It has been a busy week, and I just never got around to it.  And now, since I don’t really feel like writing a full-on report which nobody wants to read anyway, I will just do a few quick thoughs, odds and ends style.

***

Vettel won, Webber came in second, and Alonso came in third.

***

Alonso is now a mere 14 points behind Webber in the World Drivers Championship with three races to go.  It’s a long shot, but not impossible.  I am trying not to get too excited about this.

***

They had to cancel qualifying because it was raining so hard on Saturday afternoon, they had it on Sunday morning before the race instead.  I love the Japanese Grand Prix, but it always rains.

***

Lewis Hamilton lost third gear on about lap 40.  Oops.  He did manage to finish the race though.

***

Do you think it would be harder to drive a car that didn’t have third gear on a high speed track, or to drive a car without a clutch?  Just wondering.

The Singapore Grand Prix report

Singapore is an interesting race and I have mixed feelings about it.  First of all, it’s a street circuit.  In theory I don’t like street circuits because there isn’t any run-off room and cars hit the walls all the time.  It is also the only Formula One race that is run after dark.  I don’t like that in theory either because I worry that it will be too dark, and the drivers won’t be able to see, or it will rain and all the temporary lights will short out and the drivers won’t be able to see and there will be absolute mayhem.

But in fact I really really like this race.  I’m sure I have said this before, but the cars look so beautiful under the lights, and the track looks amazing in the overhead shots.  See for yourself:

Pretty cool huh?

Photo from GP Update

Fernando Alonso was on pole again for Ferrari.  This is two races in a row!  I’m telling you, that new Alonso t-shirt I bought in San Francisco last month has been so lucky for him.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel started second, Lewis Hamilton was third in his McLaren and his teammate Jenson Button was fourth.  Poor Felipe Massa (Alonso’s teammate) was starting dead last after his engine failed during the first session of qualifying.  I was a little bit nervous about how the start would go since Vettel has been recently christened “Cheating crash boy” by Tom.  I was afraid he would do something stupid and end up taking Alonso out of the race.

But no!  Alonso got a nice clean start and pulled away from Vettel.  Vettel followed, then Hamilton, then Jenson.  Massa did one lap and then pitted to change his tires.   Not because there was anything wrong with them but because F1 has this spectacularly stupid rule saying you have to use two different tire compounds during the race.  By pitting on the first lap Massa got that requirement out of the way early.

Then on lap four Vitantionio Liuzzi’s Force India car stopped on track and the Safety Car came out.  Everybody dove into the pits except the top five runners.

That was pretty much all she wrote until about halfway through the race.  Tom and I were sitting there thinking this race was taking a very long time.  On lap 36 the running order was Alonso, Vettel, and Webber, with Hamilton and Button running fourth and fifth.  Then ka-bam!  Hamilton tried to pass Webber and Webber slammed the door on him. They touched and it ended Hamilton’s race.  That is his second retirement in a row, and it probably effectively ends his chances of winning the WDC.  It’s too bad for Hamilton, but that’s racing.

Meanwhile Alonso and Vettel were duking it out for the lead.  Alonso stayed between a second and two seconds ahead, but it was torture to watch.  I love it when Alonso is winning, and I hate it when Alonso is winning.  But I love it more than I hate it.

With two laps to go Heikki Kovaleinen spun and then his car caught fire.  He kept driving it though, coasting to a stop on the front strait.  While he was still behind the wheel he was motioning to the fire marshals.  I was screaming at him to GET OUT OF THE CAR!  But he wasn’t listening.  I know they are wearing fireproof suits and everything but for crying out loud.  I couldn’t believe how cool and collected he seemed as flames shot from the back of his car.  He calmly climbed out took the fire extinguisher somebody was offering him through the pit wall and proceeded to put the fire out himself.  Now that is one cool customer right there.  Yeesh.

Alonso won.  That puts him second in the fight for the World Driver’s Championship.  It would take a miracle for him to win, so I am trying not to get too excited, but I might not be succeeding.

Look how happy he is, jumping up and down on the podium:

Yay!

Photo from GP Update

The Italian Grand Prix Report

Yes, I am late to the party.  But better late than never right?  So the Italian Grand Prix is held at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, or Monza for short.  It is the fastest track on the Formula One calendar.  Cars here top out at about 212 miles an hour.  212 miles an hour!  In one of these:

I know!  It’s crazy talk.  I love Monza, I really do, but it always makes me nervous.   They all make me nervous.

Fernando Alonso was on pole for Ferrari.  It was the first time a Ferrari had been on pole in a very long time, and Monza is Ferrari’s home race.  The track is not far from Milan, which is not far from Maranello, home of the Ferrari factory.

Tom and I watched qualifying on Saturday night while eating pasta with an excellent Bolognese sauce.  We figured that was close enough to Milanese cuisine.  After I watched Fernando put the car on pole I did the happy dance all night and waited for the race on Sunday.

Sunday dawned and there was no rain in the forecast.  Huzzah.  Alonso was first (as I mentioned) then Jenson Button’s McLaren and Felipe Massa’s Ferrari.  Mark Webber was fourth for Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton was fifth in his McLaren.  Sebastian Vettel, the newly christened Crash Kid was sixth.  I thought that if I were Lewis Hamilton I would be worried about starting next to Vettel because you just never know what he might do these days.

When the race started Alonso tried to move over on Button and squeeze him out of the way.  This was maybe not the smartest thing he could have done because it gave Button an opening to get by when Alonso had to lift to avoid a collision.  And then Massa, forgetting for a moment that he is supposed to be the wingman, tried to get past Alonso too.  Silly Massa.  Meanwhile Hamilton passed Webber and tried to make a move around Massa.  Massa moved over and kersmash.  Hamilton ended up with a broken suspension.  Game over.  It was kind of a shame.  I don’t like him much (okay, I don’t like him at all) but he sounded pretty gutted when he talked to the press.  If he ends up losing the World Driver’s Championship, that mistake could be the reason why.

Meanwhile Button was ahead of Alonso, but Alonso was sticking right with him, sometimes a second behind him, sometimes half a second.  It is very exciting to watch the cars following this closely.  I spent a lot of time yelling at Alonso to be careful.  I think he could hear me through the TV because nothing bad happened.

Finally Button pitted for fresh tires, and Alonso inherited the lead.  He pushed and pushed and pushed that car and then there was a miracle.  When Alonso pitted for fresh tires his pit crew managed to do it in less than four seconds.  Alonso came out of the pits just ahead of Button on the track.  For a minute there it looked like Button would pass him.  Alonso had cold tires, but Fernando managed to hold him off and that was all she wrote.

Alonso wins at Monza.  That is is third win of the year for those of you keeping score at home.  Awesome.

Jenson Button came in second and Massa was third.  A great result for Ferrari.  I was doing the happy dance all day.

The Belgian Grand Prix report

I hate Spa.  It’s in Belgium.  You probably guessed that from the title of this blog post.  I don’t hate Spa because it is in Belgium, but I hate it just the same.  It is a beautiful track, winding through the forest, and it is very historic, but it is fraught with peril.  Do you know why?  I can answer that question in one word.  Rain.

And not just ordinary rain.  Sometimes it rains on the whole track, but sometimes it only rains on part of the track.  This is the worst possible scenario, and that is what happened this weekend.

If it only rains on part of the track you have to decide between wet weather tires and dry weather tires (also called slicks).  I know, it seems like a no-brainer, you should use wet weather tires, right?  Well, maybe not.  Because if most of the track is dry, you will shred your tires in just a few laps.  This is very bad.  But on the other hand, if you stay on dry tires you will slide all over the place when you get to the wet part of the track.  It’s a nightmare.  I hate rain, I hate it when the teams have to make guesses about the tires, and I hate Spa.

So, anyway, Mark Webber was on pole, Lewis Hamilton was second and Sebaistian Vettel was third.  Poor Fernando Alonso, who has no luck at Spa was all the way in tenth place.  Horrible. But, I was cautiously optimistic.  At least I was until Ruben Barrichello, (who by the way was starting his 300th Grand Prix) ran right into him!  Bastard!  Happily Alonso managed to get back to the pits for some quick repairs and got back out into the race.  I can’t say the same for Barrichello.

Cars were sliding all over the place.  It was awful.  And the worst of it was that Alonso ended up wrecking later in the race and retiring.  It was very scary because his car was stopped in the middle of the track.  Other cars were whizzing by him.  I was screaming at the TV “Get out of the car!” and “Be careful!”  It scared me to death.

In the end Lewis Hamilton won and Mark Webber came in second.  Huzzah.  I am rooting for Mark Webber to win the World Driver’s Championship if Alonso can’t win it.  So go Webber!

The German Grand Prix report

Another week, another controversy, and this time it’s Ferrari in the crosshairs.  But, first things first.

Sebastian Vettel was on pole (again) for Red Bull.  But Fernando Alonso was second in his nice red Ferrari and his teammate Felipe Massa was third.  Massa has not had a great year so far so I was happy for him.  And of course, thrilled for Alonso.  Hamilton qualified fourth even though he wrecked his car during practice on Friday.  So props to the McLaren mechanics for getting the thing rebuilt.

When the lights went out Vettel blew the start.  Again.  Somebody really needs to teach that boy how to start from pole.  Anyway, he was so worried about trying (unsuccessfully) to squeeze Alonso off the track that Massa slipped right by both of them into the lead.  Alonso managed to hang onto second place and Vettel slipped back to third.

And that is pretty much the race, folks.  Alonso tried to pass Massa once early in the race but Massa was having none of it.  Alonso had no choice but to settle into second place.  And then, on lap 46(ish) Massa’s race engineer radioed to say Alonso is quicker behind you, please acknowledge you understood this message.  At that point Massa moved aside and let Alonso pass.  He says he did it because he was having trouble managing the hard tires and he made the decision.  The media and pretty much everybody else in F1 besides me is calling foul.

What I just described could be interpreted as team orders.  And in fact, I’m sure that’s what they were.  As we have discussed team orders are illegal in Formula 1 and you are not allowed to ask one teammate to move over for the other.  But it happens all the time.

Now, I know I was incandescent with rage after the German Grand Prix in 2008 when Heikki Kovaleinin got the same message on his radio from McLaren and moved over to let his teammate Lewis Hamilton pass.  But that was Lewis and this is Fernando, and yes I am just that shallow.  At least I’ll admit it.

But really, the order made sense this time.  Alonso still has a chance (however small) at the World Driver’s Championship.  Massa, at 67 points behind the WDC leader does not.  So, the team had the drivers switch places to give themselves their best shot at a WDC.

I am sure Ferrari would have asked Alonso to move over for Massa if the tables had been turned and Massa was within striking distance of the WDC.  That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

The next race is the Hungarian Grand Prix next weekend.  I am not entirely sure I wat to watch it.  Bad things always seem to happen at the Hungaroring.

The Monaco Grand Prix Report

They call it the most glamorous race on the calendar.  I don’t know about that.  But, if you want to attend the race live and in person, I am pretty sure it is the most expensive.  I will admit, it is beautiful, and full of Glamorous and Beautiful people, but I don’t like it much.

The track winds through the streets of the city, which is what gives it its charm.  However, this also makes the track narrow, with no run-off room to speak of.  So, if you wreck, you are going into the barriers and that’s all there is to it.  Just ask Fernando Alonso.  He planted his car in the Armco during the final practice session and ended up missing qualifying completely.  That mean he was starting dead last.  Starting track position is everything at this race because the track is so narrow and there aren’t many good places to try to overtake another car.  As a result, I was prepared for the worst.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber started on Pole, his teammate Sebastian Vettel started second.  A Red Bull driver has had pole at every race.  Really, it is getting tiresome.  I said this last week, but I think it’s time to give somebody else a turn.

Nico Hulkenberg crashed his Williams on the first lap.  That started the first of four, count ‘em, four safety car periods in the race.  On lap 2 (behind the safety car) McLaren’s Jenson Button pulled off the track with an engine fire.  It turns out that one of the mechanics had left something in one of the radiator ducts and the engine overheated.  Oops.  I betting there’s an opening on the McLaren pit crew now.

When the race started again Alonso started picking off the back markers one after the other.  They say you can’t pass in Monaco?  Tell that to Alonso.  Although I will admit every overtaking maneuver had my heart in my throat.

There were a lot of wrecks, and a lot of mechanical retirements and through it all Mark Webber just kept driving along.  He ended up winning, with his teammate second and Renault’s Robert Kubica third.

Alonso meanwhile came in sixth, or wait, maybe that was seventh.  The race ended behind the safety car, but somehow Michael Schumacher passed him.  This is very much not allowed.  After further review, Schumacher was given a 20 second penalty for overtaking behind the safety car.  This bumped Alonso back up to seventh and dropped Shumi down to twelfth.  Not where he wanted to be.

The next race is in Istanbul (not Constantinople) in two weeks.

The Spanish Grand Prix report

I love the Spanish Grand Prix.  Everybody always complains about this track, saying it’s too difficult for cars to pass each other here but I don’t care.  I really like this race.  Why?  I don’t know exactly.  There are a few reasons:

  1. It’s usually the first European race of the season, which means the first round of fly-away races are over.  Now the races are on at about 6:30 in the morning instead of the middle of the night.
  2. It’s in Barcelona, and I have always wanted to go to Barcelona.
  3. Fernando Alonso is Spanish, so this is his home race.  That means he usually gets a lot of face time on TV.  I like that.

On to the race!  Red Bull locked out the front row once again.  Really, guys this is getting kind of selfish and boring.  I think it might be time to give some of the other teams a turn.  This time, it was Mark Webber on pole, and Sebastian Vettel second.  That Lewis Hamilton was third.  Fernando Alonso lined up fourth.  Hamilton’s teammate Jenson Button was fifth and Michael Schumacher was sixth in his new and improved Mercedes racecar, now with longer wheelbase!

It was a real corker of a start.  I love the start of a Formula 1 race.  It’s a standing start.  So all the cars line up and people swarm all over them.  Then after a while the cars roll off to do their formation lap.  While they are gone everybody, all the mechanics and VIPs sprint off the track back to the pit lane.  The cars come back and sit in their starting positions, the engines are whining like crazy; they don’t like to sit still.  You sit and watch, waiting for the series of five lights to turn red.  When all the lights are red you lean very far over in your chair and wonder if this is the time your heart will actually explode out of your chest.  Then the lights go out, the race is on!   The cars surge forward and you scream “GO GO GO!” at the television.   Or at least that’s what I do.

It was a clean start, at least at the front of the grid, and pretty much everybody was still in the same position they had when the race started.  Lewis Hamilton got the jump on Vettel and took second place from him, and Felipe Massa managed to jump from ninth place to seventh.

The race was, even for me, not very exciting.  After the first round of pit stops Michael Schumacher emerged ahead of Jenson Button.  The best part of the race from then on was watching Button try to get around Shumi, and Shumi was having none of it.  He may have taken a three-year break from driving and F1 car, but he still has mad defensive skills.  Or, as F1 fans say, he drives a wide car.

So the Red Bull cars are charging along and aside from watching Button and Schumacher things are not very interesting.  Unless of course like me you think watching these machines hurl themselves around a track at breakneck speeds is always interesting, even without much passing.    Then suddenly, on lap 52 out of 66 Vettel pulls into the pits from third place.  “Oh no!” say the Vettel fans.  “Woo hoo,” say the vast majority of the Spanish crowd and your correspondent.  This put Alonso in third place!  And you know what that means?  It means he will be on the podium and in the post race press conference.  More face time for me!

I felt terrible for Vettel though.  And it gets worse.  He came back out, and managed to limp home in third place, but his brakes were failing and his race engineers were on the radio with him more than once telling him to slow down.

So I was happy.  It looked like Alonso had been handed third place, but it gets even better.  On lap 65, the second to last lap people, Lewis Hamilton has a tire failure and the car is thrown off the track into the tire barrier.  Happily, despite some pretty nasty looking damage to the car, Hamilton was unhurt.  Whew!  I hate it when people get hurt.

Now Alonso was in second place!  Awesome.

Mark Webber won for Red Bull.  Alonso was second and Vettel managed to miraculously hang onto third.

Next up:  Monaco!

As always, please consult a real F1 news site for more accurate and slightly less biased information.

The Chinese Grand Prix Report

It was another wet race yesterday.  I really hate that.  And this time, it kept raining, and then stopping, and then raining some more.  It made for a lot of tire changes.  It was actually very exciting. There was a lot of passing and good racing, but in the rain that always makes me nervous.  I spent a lot of time yelling, “be careful!” at the TV screen.  And you have to yell really loud so the drivers can hear you through the television.  I swear races like this shorten my life ever so slightly.

Red Bull locked out the front row again.  Sebastian Vettel on pole and Mark Webber second.  Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was third.  I was pretty pleased with this result because he started third in Bahrain at the season opener and won.  And also it meant he was in the post-qualifying press conference.  I like that.  Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button rounded out the top five.  That Lewis Hamilton was sixth, and Alonso’s teammate Felipe Massa was 7th.

On to the race:  Alonso got an amazing start!  He passed both Red Bull cars and took the lead.  Woo hoo!  But wait, no, he didn’t get such an amazing start after all.  In fact, he jumped the start, meaning he started going before the race officially stared.  NOOO!  You idiot!  What were you thinking?  I could have smacked him upside the head for that one.  It cost him a drive through penalty, meaning he had to drive through the pit lane.  It wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened, but it didn’t do him any favors either.  Stupid stupid stupid.

There was a four-car pile-up during the first lap and that brought out the safety car.  Many drivers took advantage of this opportunity to dive into the pits and change to the semi-wet weather tires (or inters).  Of course a couple laps later they all came in again to change back to the slick (or dry weather tires).  It was that kind of race.

That Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel exited the pits at the same time and got quite racy, this is not specifically allowed, as there are lots of people in the pits.  I have to admit I wasn’t paying much attention to what happened.  They got side by side somehow and Hamilton went a bit wide, perhaps crossing into the slow lane.  Happily nobody got hurt, but both Vettel and Hamilton got a slap on the wrist from the stewards after the race.  However they were just reprimanded, the stewards did not had out any penalties.

During a later round of pit stops Alonso ended up passing Felipe Massa in the pit entrance.  That’s two bone-headed moves in one race from Fernando.  He did not get reprimanded or penalized for it, but he probably should have been.  And I fear this will have the Massa fans sharpening their knives.

The safety car is deployed again!  This time the culprit was an incident between Jaime Alguersuari and Bruno Senna.  It looks like Jaime ran into the back of Bruno while he was trying to lap Senna’s HRT car.  Oh dear.  The safety car bunches up the field, and somehow now Jenson Button is in the lead.

That Lewis Hamilton is charging through the field.  He takes over second place. The big question now is will he be allowed to race Button for the lead?  Or will he sit back and be happy with second.  Team orders are technically not allowed in Formula 1, but everybody does it.  My big question was this; even if McLaren tells Hamilton not to race Button, will he listen?  It turns out the answer to that question was yes.  He coasted across the line in second place. Nico Rosberg was third.  Yay Nico!  And Alonso finished fourth, even after all that drama.  Massa finished ninth.

The next race is in Barcelona on May 8.  At the moment there is some question about how everybody is going to get there, since the volcano in Iceland has pretty much put a stop to all air travel in Europe.  We will all just have to hope they can get there in time.  I love the Barcelona Grand Prix.  I may even get up and watch it live.

If you want more information about the race, try this handy play-by-play.