Mayhem

I have not been blogging about F1 much this year.  I don’t know why really.  I love it just as much as ever, but for whatever reason I am just not writing about it.  Not that I think anybody really cares.

This weekend’s race was at Spa in Belgium.  I hate this race.  It always rains and I hate that.  I worry there will be crashes and people will get hurt.  Well, the good news is, it didn’t rain.  But, see this?

Yeah, the cars are not supposed to look like that.  Four cars got taken out of the race in the first corner thanks to Roman Grosjean.  He tried to pass Lewis Hamilton, and was far too optimistic about his chances.  And as a result we get this:

Alonso was on the bottom of that pile in his Ferrari.  One car ran over the front of his car, another one almost ran over his head.  All I can say is thank goodness I was watching in the evening drinking a beer instead of in the morning drinking coffee.  I fear my heart might have burst right out of my chest.  It was only the Rolling Rock that saved me.

It took Alonso a while to get out of the car.  The medical staff was talking to him and everything.  That is not usually a good sign.  As an experiment during this time I thought I would see how many times I could say ohmygodohmygodohmygod with inhaling.  The answer is really a lot.

Of course the important things here are nobody got hurt, nobody got hurt, and nobody got hurt.

And it just goes to show you that even when it doesn’t rain you can get taken out of the race through no fault of your own.

But I still don’t like it when it rains, and I still hate this track.

 

 

The Australian Grand Prix Report

Or, The Ice Man Returneth.

It’s true.  The Ice Man, also known as Kimi Raikkonen has returned to Formula One after spending 2 years driving rally cars and drinking Red Bull or whatever it is Kimi does when he isn’t racing.  I am happy to see him back.  I like him.  Unfortunately he had to do his returnething from P18 during the race thanks to some sort of communication error or something during Qualifying.

Qually didn’t go much better for your hero and mine, the lovely and talented Fernando Alonso.  His Ferrari got away from him after only 2 laps in Q2 and he beached it.   He ended up starting 12th.  Massa was even further back  He started in 16th place.  The Ferrari’s are not looking all that great.

The Renault team is now called Team Lotus, and their other driver started the race from P3, right behind Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, both from McLaren. Red Bull’s defending world champion Sebastian Vettel was up there too, starting from the 7th spot, behind Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber.

When the race started Button took off like he had been shot out of a cannon and it was basically all over from there.  He won handily, and should be pleased because he drove a very good race.  Vettel ended up coming in second, and Hamilton, who had started on pole, slipped back and finished third.  He didn’t look too happy about it either.

Alonso managed to finish fifth after struggling with the car all afternoon.  That thing looks like a pig to drive.  But it was better than I expected, and hopefully things will improve from here.  Massa was having an okay race until he got into with with Bruno Senna and ended up breaking his car.  That is a DNF for him.

Anyway, I didn’t blog about F1 last year, much to the dismay of my many fans (ha ha ha).  But this year I plan to get back into the habit.  This week’s report is a little short because I have a lot of stuff going on at work right now.  Hopefully I can be more in-depth next week after the Malaysian Grand Prix.

I know mom is counting down the minutes.

Renault, race fixing and judgement day

The World Motor Sport Council met today to decide the fate of the Renault Formula 1 team in the whole Crashgate race fixing scandal.

And the result was a two year suspended race ban.  This is essentially double secret probation.  So they have been suspended, but the suspension has been suspended.  Understand?  Good.  If they keep their noses clean until the end of the 2011 season the whole thing goes away.

The WMSC determined that the Renault team did in fact collude to fix the race, but also concluded that only three people were involved in the scheme.  Those three people were:

  1. Flavio Braitore – Team principal.  He has been handed a lifetime ban from Formula One and all other FIA sanctioned sports.
  2. Pat Symonds – Head Engineer.  He has been handed a five-year ban from the sport, and we can assume he won’t be back.
  3. Nelson Piquet Junior – the driver who spun the car.  He gets away scott free because he was granted immunity by the FIA in exchange for his statement.  This doesn’t exactly sit well with me, but I was not consulted.  And, at the end of the day, I don’t think we will be seeing him in a Formula One car again ever.  That is probably punishment enough.

You will all be happy to know that the council decreed that Alonso didn’t know anything about this.  I know I was.

The sentence seems pretty light to me.   I mean, they fixed a race for crying out loud.  By crashing a car!  People could have been hurt.  I am just disgusted that they would put their own driver at risk like that.  Not to mention all the other drivers, the race marshals, and the spectators.  It makes me sick.  And I am left asking once again what were they thinking?

I was expecting a massive fine along the lines of the $100-million dollar fine McLaren got hit with in 2007.  I was also expecting them to take the win away from Alonso.  But apparently they can’t do that because after November of each race season the results are set in stone and you can’t change them.  Who knew?

Consistency is not the FIA’s strong point.  But what seems to surface at every one of these extraordinary meetings is that it really frosts the FIA if you lie to them.  In 2007 McLaren got caught cheating, and then got caught lying, hence the monster fine.  The same things happened to them after the Australian Grand Prix this year.  They lied to the FIA about what happened during the race and they were punished accordingly.  Renault fixes a race, admits it and apologizes and nothing happens.

So the moral of the story seems to be cheat like crazy, but own up to it if you get caught.  Is it fair?  Probably not.  But this is what happens when you let one man (Max Mosely) run the show.  He more or less gets to pick and choose how to enforce the rules.

For real information look to GP Update, Allen on F1, or Paddock Talk.  There are also plenty of other sites, but those are my favorites.

The Italian Grand Prix report

Monza!  It is one of the oldest and fastest tracks on the calendar.  And the Tifosi are out in force.  This is a fun race to watch.  Someday maybe I can see it live and in person.  But first I have to win the lottery.

There was a new face in the front row after qualifying.  Adrian Sutil in the Force India.  Wow.  That’s twice in two races that FI have landed at the pointy end.  He had pole for a brief shining moment, but then Lewis Hamilton pipped him at the last minute.  I was disappointed. Lewis has been on pole in his shiny McLaren lots of times, it’s boring.  Sutil on pole would have been more interesting.  Kimi Raikkonen started third.  Giancarlo Fisichella started 14th in the second Ferrari.

This was his first race for the Scuderia.  He had been a Force India driver until last week, and Fisi will be pinch-hitting for Massa for the rest of the season.  And Vitantonio Liuzzi stepped into Fisi’s old spot at Force India.

Alonso was eighth on the grid.  He had the KERS system back on the car this weekend, but I wasn’t expecting much.  He ended up finishing fifth, which was a spot higher than I had predicted.

Hamilton and Sutil were both fuelled very light, going for a short first stint.  Funny that when Hamilton starts the race on fumes nobody says a word, but when Alonso starts from the front with a light fuel load it’s all we hear about.  Hmmm.  I wonder why that is.

Kimi got around Sutil at the start.  I knew he would.  Kimi has KERS too, (a sort of push to pass system) and Sutil did not.  Kimi and Hamilton sped off into the distance.  Sutil was third and the Brawn cars filled out the top five.  This was good for the Brawns because they were only planning to pit once, but the top three were all on a two-stop strategy.  If the Brawns could stay close, they might be able to snag the lead.

After the first round of pit stops Hamilton inherited the lead, but Brawn took it over after Hamilton came in for his second stop.  Suddenly the running order was Barrichello, Button, and Hamilton, with Kimi in fourth.

But with just one lap to go in the race Hamilton lost the back end and crashed hard.  He just kind of sat there for minute and I was getting worried.  I hate it when they crash, and I especially hate it when they crash and they sit there not moving.  It makes me nervous.  Especially after what happened to Massa.  That makes two DNF’s in a row for Hamilton and it has mathematically eliminated him from this year’s championship.

On that front, Button retains the lead, but Barrichello inched a little bit closer.  He is only 14 points behind now.  With four races to go there are only four drivers in contention.  Button and Barichello for Brawn (whew! That’s a lot of alliteration) and Vettel and Webber for Red Bull.  Vettel managed to finish 8th for one lonely championship point, but Webber crashed out in lap one.  Poor thing.

Next on the agenda is the WMSC hearing in Paris regarding the whole “Crashgate” Renault scandal.  Then the Singapore Grand Prix on September 27.

As always, please consult a real Formula 1 news website for accurate race information.

And has anybody else noticed that Speed TV’s Peter Windsor have been practically drooly in his comments about Alonso the last few races?  I wonder why the sudden turnaround.  Windsor has done nothing but slag Fernando off since 2007.  Curious.

The Belgian Grand Prix Report

Well, that was interesting.

I would love to tell you about the Belgian Grand Prix, but before I can tell you that story, I have to tell you this story, the story of qualifying from Bizarro-Land.

Luca Badoer, pinch-hitting for the injured Felipe Massa qualified last.  And while it is very unusual to see a Ferrari starting from P20 Badoer was driving it, so that makes sense.

Meanwhile Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton qualified 12th, 13th and 14th respectively.  That’s one defending champion, one two-time former world champion, and this year’s championship leader all starting firmly in the middle.  And ladies and gentlemen, the middle is not where you want to be at Spa.

But who, who was up at the pointy end?  Who, you ask, was on pole?  Giancarlo Fisichella in the Force India.  Force India ladies and gentlemen!  They haven’t had a pole position since 1999 when the team was called Jordan, and Fisi’s last pole position came with Renault in 2006.  It had been a long dry spell.

Jarno Trulli qualified second in his Toyota.  I was predicting a Trulli train at the start as we all watched Fisi roll off into the mists of the Ardennes, but it was not to be.  (It is called the Trulli train because while the Toyota is not very fast, Trulli is notoriously difficult to pass, so all the other cars just kind of line up behind him waiting for a chance to get by).

And so on to the race.  As I predicted there were huge shenanigans.  On lap one Romain Grosjean’s Renault and Jenson Button’s Brawn GP car ran into each other, taking both of them out of the race.  Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile tangled with Jaime Alguesuari on the same lap and both of them retired.  Big Mess!  Safety Car!

Somewhere along the line Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari got around Fisichella and that’s where he stayed for the remainder of the race.  Fisi finished second.  It was a truly miraculous finish for the perennial back marker.

Alonso had to retire from the race.  He had damaged his left front wheel somewhere in all the chaos and at his first pit stop the crew couldn’t get the wheel faring on properly.  They sent him out anyway, but brought him back in a lap later.  Dammit! He had been running third.  I knew there was no way he would finish there, but he would have easily finished in the points.  Grumble grumble grumble.

So it was another dire race for Jenson Button.  Now his lead in the WDC is down to 16 points.  With six races left, that is not insurmountable.  I fear he may lack the race craft and the intestinal fortitude to see this through to a successful conclusion.

I know it was not his fault that Grosjean hit him.  But you could argue that if he hadn’t done so poorly in qualifying he would have been stuck in the middle of the pack where the smash-ups always happen.  I am not trying to criticize Button.  But I am beginning to have my doubts.

The German Grand Prix report

Well, another race has come and gone.  Another race on the Fox network, which means another race with Really Crappy Editing.  Grrr…only one more to go on Fox, and then we can get back to normal with Speed TV.  To be honest the coverage on Fox would be fine if they would just allocate the full two and a half hours the race usually gets on Fox.  But nobody listens to me.  When I am in charge things will be different.

So, on to the race.  It has been three weeks since the last race.  I hate the extra long breaks.  In past years this would have been the summer testing ban, but since there is no in-season testing this year it is just the mid-season break.

Mark Webber was on pole in his Red Bull.  It was his first pole position.  He set a record this week.  He started 130 Grand Prix races before scoring his first pole position.  That’s a lot of races.  He isn’t a bad driver; he has just always been stuck in crappy cars.

So Webber won, and he was very emotional at the end of the race.  I suspect he was crying, and I think his engineer was too.  I am very happy for him.  He also set a record for starting the most Grand Prix races without a win.

He had a bit of an incident in turn one at the start.  Turn one is where most incidents take place.  He kind of ran into Brawn’s Rubens Barrichello, and it looked rather deliberate, so he got slapped with a drive through penalty.  That means you have to drive through the pit lane on one lap.  And you can’t stop for fuel or anything.  It’s very inconvenient, but it didn’t hurt him any in the end.

Sebastian Vettel came in second with his Red Bull.  He had a good race too.  And Ferrari’s Felipe Massa came in third.

This closes the championship up a bit.  Now Jenson button has 68 points to Vettel’s 47.  Not an insurmountable lead by any means.

Alonso meanwhile, spun his car in qualifying and started 12th on the grid.  This was especially horrible because his teammate Nelson Jr. qualified 10th, out qualifying Alonso for the first time ever.  This did not make me happy.

He (Alonso, not Nelson) finished seventh.  That’s pretty impressive.  Why?  I’ll tell you why, because he drove the whole race with a broken clutch.  (I know, it’s in Spanish – use Babel Fish).  He also set the fastest lap of the race.  With a broken clutch.  He’s the man.  He’s the best driver out there, and I am not the only one who thinks so.

Meanwhile something weird was happening with Hamilton.  At one point in the race they played a radio transmission where he said, “we need to save the engine and the gearbox”.  That may not be an exact quote but it’s pretty close.  Then his engineer said something like “It may rain.  Stay out and leave the strategy to us”.  I’m not sure what that was all about.  He may have thought he had a problem, or he may have just wanted to park the car.  He was running a lap down at that point and maybe he just wanted to call it a day.  I haven’t heard anything else about it.  I just thought it was strange.

So there you have it.  As usual, please find a real F1 website for a more accurate account of yesterday’s events.

The Spanish Grand Prix Report

Formula 1 finally returns to Europe!  After a long stretch of flyaway races the F1 circus descended on Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix.  And not a moment too soon.  While I enjoy the Australian Grand Prix, I really hate the races in Malaysia, China and Bahrain, so it’s been a long start to the season for me.

I love the Spanish Grand Prix.  It’s one of my favorites.  The teams are back in Europe (which is where they belong in my humble opinion), it doesn’t usually rain there, and the whole place is chock-a-block full of Alonso fans.  What’s not to like?  I would love to go to this race someday.  Preferably before Alonso retires, but that seems like a long shot.

Anyhoo, on to the race.  Jenson Button was on pole for Brawn GP and his teammate Rubens Barrichello was starting third.  Sebastian Vettel was second in his Red Bull Racing car.  And, in a rare appearance at the pointy end of the grid this year, Felipe Massa’s Ferrari was starting fourth.  Meanwhile, Alonso, our hero, was starting eighth. 

And so it begins!  Barrichello jumps ahead of both Vettel and Button to take the lead!  Go Rubens go!  But not too fast!  We had a big smash-up in the back that took our four cars.  Those four cars are:  Jarno Trulli’s Toyota, Sebastian Buemi’s Torro Rosso, Sebastien Bourdais’ Torro Rosso and Adrian Sutil’s Force India.  Oops.  There was debris all over the track.  As we all know – because the  Speed announcers tell us all the time – those carbon fiber shards are sharp.  They will cut your tires to ribbons, and you don’t even think about what it can do to your car if it gets in the radiator ducts.

The safety car came out while the marshalls cleaned that mess up, and then we were off again.

Button managed to leapfrog his teammate for the win.  Rubens Barrichello was second, and Red Bull’s Mark Webber was third! 

Felipe Massa was running fourth in the closing laps when his engineer got on the radio and told him he was short one lap of fuel and he had to slow down so he would have enough gas to finish the race.  Heartbreaking for Ferrari fans.  And worrying for Alonso fans who are pretty sure their man is Ferrari-bound sometime in the next two years.  Ferrari seems to be making a lot of mistakes on the pit wall lately, and this is not a good thing.

This makes four wins for Our Jense.  He must be very pleased.  It’s a long season, but it definitely looks like he will be a contender for the title.

Alonso came in fifth, passing the crippled Massa on the last lap.  Meanwhile his teammate Nelson Piquet Jr. finished twelfth.  That is not good, not good at all.  Flavio Briatore, the Renault team boss has started making supportive noises about Piquet.  That probably means he’s as good as gone.

The Chinese Grand Prix report

Well, the race didn’t end behind the safety car, so that made a nice change. Instead, it started behind the safety car.

A steady rain and a lot of water on the track meant a standing start was far too dangerous.  Instead they started behind the safety car, and just rolled around in a wet parade for a while. 

Let me just say right now that I HATE wet races.  I know a lot of F1 fans love them, and find them very exciting, but I just find them nerve-wracking.  I spend the whole race yelling “BE CAREFUL” at the TV and worrying that somebody is going to have a crash and get hurt.

Fernando Alonso brought his Renault into the pits on lap seven while the safety car was still out.  He had started the race from P2, which was very exciting, but he was very very light on fuel.  Of course once he was in the pits they announced that the safety car would be coming in on the next lap.  Dammit!  That put Alonso in last place for the restart.  Not a good place to be.

So the safety car came in and the cars started going fast.  Not that you could tell because all the camera lenses were soaking wet and you could hardly see anything.  Sebastian Vettel was leading in his Red Bull.  He has started from pole position.  Red Bull’s first pole I might add, and his teammate Mark Webber was second. 

Meanwhile it continued to rain and rain and rain.  At one time the camera shot showed nothing but grey, there was so much water on the camera lens, and so much spray coming off the cars that you couldn’t see anything.  Now that’s compelling television. 

On lap 17 Robert Kubica’s BMW ran right into the back of Jarno Trulli’s Toyota.  Kubica didn’t just rear end Trulli, his car drove right up the back of the Toyota.  That could have been nasty but thankfully nobody got hurt.  Cue the safety car!

Trulli was done for the day at that point.  His car was totaled.  And Felipe Massa stopped his car on track behind the safety car a couple laps later.  Oh no!  The Ferrari team is having a terrible year.  It’s starting to make me wonder if Alonso going to Ferrari next year or 2011 is such a good idea.

The race seemed like it was taking forever.  I was a bucket of nerves.  Alonso spun his Renault but managed to get it back.  Nelson Piquet Jr lost control of his car a couple laps before that and planted it good.  No safety car but chalk up yet another DNF for old junior.

With 18 laps to go it looked like a dry line was finally forming.  But it didn’t seem to last long and after a couple laps the rain must have picked up again because it disappeared. 

In the end the big winner was Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull.  It was Red Bull’s maiden win.  Last year Vettel got the maiden win for Scuderia Torro Rosso, the Red Bull B team.  His teammate Mark Webber came in second.  I don’t have to tell you it was Red Bull’s best result ever.  Jenson Button came in third for Brawn GP. 

Alonso finished 9th in the end.  Tragic.  If only it hadn’t rained.   I had such high hopes for him this weekend.

Lewis Hamilton spun his McLaren right round baby right round like a record baby right round round round.  I think he spun it five times.  And yet Peter Windsor on speed continued to go on and on about Hamilton’s almost supernatural abilities in the rain.  Hmmm…not so much today huh Peter?  He ended up finishing 6th.  Maybe he was thinking he had to try and score as many points as possible since he is staring down the barrel of a potential race ban after the World Motor Sport Council hearing on April 29.

The Malaysian Grand Prix report

And for the second week in a row your Grand Prix winner is:  the Safety Car! No, not really.  The safety car can’t win.  That would be absurd.  But it was the second race in a row that finished behind the safety car.  

The race was in Malaysia, and it was at 5pm local time again.  Do you know what that means?  Well, let me give you a hint.  Malaysia has a tropical climate and it’s monsoon season.  What happens in the early evenings in tropical climates, especially in monsoon season?  It rains.  Hard.  Way to go Bernie Ecclestone for once again sacrificing driver safety for the convenience of European fans.

But at the beginning everything was going fine.  Jenson Button was on pole for Brawn GP, Jarno Trulli’s Toyota was second and Brawn GP’s Rubens Barrichello rounded out the top three.  Fernando Alonso had spent the weekend sick with a fever and an ear infection, but he managed to qualify 10th.  Then he moved up a spot because Sebastien Vettel had a 10–spot grid penalty that bumped him down to 13th place.

Nelson Piquet Junior qualified 17th, after spending the weekend shooting his mouth off about how he planned to outqualify Alonso.  Shut up and drive Nelson.

Anyway, it was a cracking start.  Alonso went from P9 to P3 in the first corner, but he couldn’t make it stick and spent the rest of the race dropping back.

Everybody was waiting for the rain to start.  The sky looked ugly.  The first cars made their pit stops and stuck with dry weather tires.  All except Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.  He went to full wet tires, but there was no rain!  Did he know something the rest of us didn’t?  I was hoping yes because wet weather tires won’t last long on a dry track.

The rain finally started on about lap 22.  And then oh the confusion!  People were diving into the pits for tires.  How hard is it raining?  Do you go for the intermediate tires or the full wets?  The field seems to be split.  The rain stayed light for a while, and the teams on full wet tires came in for inters.

I had another bad moment coming back from a commercial break.  Once again there is a Renault bounding across the kitty litter.  But this time, oh no!  It’s Alonso!  He managed to hold it together though and get back on track.  I doubt junior would have been able to manage that.

And then all hell broke loose.  The rain started absolutely pouring down.  There was so much water on the track I think boats would have been more appropriate.  Cue the safety car!  The light was awful; I don’t know how the drivers could see a thing. 

They skated around behind the safety car for three laps and then they red flagged the race.  That means everybody stops and lines up on the grid in their race positions. 

Now everybody sits on the track in the pouring rain and waits.  And waits. And waits.  It’s still raining and it’s getting dark.  There is no way they can restart this race.  But I don’t get to make the decision to call the race.

This, ladies and gentlemen is where the TV announcers earn their money.  Sitting around talking about nothing waiting out the rain delay. 

After about 30 minutes of waiting around they called the race.  Button ended up the winner, with BMW’s Nick Heidfeld second and Toyota’s Timo Glock was third.  If I’m not mistaken that was his first podium so congratulations to him and all our podium dwellers. 

I’m sure I missed some very important bits, and I urge you to find more accurate information at a real Formula 1 news site.