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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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 British Grand Prix report – or Karma’s a bitch

The big news this week is that Red Bull’s Mark Webber won the British Grand Prix despite his team’s best efforts to the contrary.

He qualified second, his teammate Sebastian Vettel qualified first.  I don’t even know why I bother writing about who has pole position anymore since it is always Red Bull.  Very, very boring.  But, on the plus side, Alonso qualified third.  This put him in the post-qually press conference.  But of course TSN did not show the post-qualifying press conference.  Bastards.

But anyway, apparently Red Bull brought an updated front wing for the car this weekend.  In fact, they brought two, one for Vettel and one for Webber.  However, Vettel damaged his in practice, so the Red Bull bosses decided to give Webber’s fancy new front wing to Vettel, and make Webber use the old wing.  Well, as you can imagine Webber was pretty pissed off about that.  Why should he have to suffer because Vettel messed up his new toy?  I’ll tell you why, because Red Bull have decided they want Vettel to win the WDC and that they will do what they have to to make that happen.  This is dirty pool.

Now, I have said this before and (apparently) I will say it again.  I don’t care if a team has a clear number one and number two driver.  It works.  But, what I can’t stand is when a team says they are treating both drivers equally when anybody with half a brain can see otherwise.  That is what happened at Red Bull.

So the Red Bulls lined up, Alonso right behind them and they were off.  Alonso got a horrible start and dropped back.  Webber came up to pass Vettel and Vettel went off the road!  He ended up with a punctured tire.  This led to an unscheduled pit stop that put him dead last.  Yep, that’s right.  Dead last.  Karma’s a bitch isn’t it?  Meanwhile, Massa got into Alonso somehow and Massa ended up pitting for a new tire too.  Massa might want to remember that teammates are not supposed to run into each other.  But it’s been so long since he was anywhere near Alonso during a race he must have forgotten.

Kubica and a couple other people got past Alonso at the start.  Later, when Alonso was trying to get past Kubica again, he ended up cutting a corner and then came out ahead of the Renault.  This is against the rules.  If you gain a position by leaving the track you are supposed to give the position back.  But for some bizarre reason Ferrari didn’t tell Alonso to let Kubica by again.  Apparently they were asking race control if they had to cede the position or if Kubica had forced Alonso off, in which case he might be allowed to stay where he was.

Well, in the meantime Kubica had engine trouble and dropped way back.  He ended up not finishing the race.  Then the stewards decided after about seven laps (don’t quote me on that) to hand Alonso a drive through penalty.  Of course then the safetycar was deployed so the marsals could pick up debris on the track.  One of the Sauber’s rear wings had self destructed.

The safetycar bunched up the field and when Alons came in to serve his penalty he ended up in 16th place.  So you know, that’s fair. It was a cock-sucking call (sorry mom)  That call was the sound of the stewards getting even with Ferrari for kicking up such a fuss about the joke of a penalty Hamilton got in the European Grand Prix two weeks ago.

So Webber won.  As he did his victory lap he came over the team radio and said “not bad for a number two driver”.  I love it.

Oh to be a fly on the wall at Red Bull right now.

The European Grand Prix report

Well, that race pretty much sucked for so many reasons.

First of all, the race was on the Fox network instead of on the Speed Channel.  Fox owns Speed and for four long races a year they show the race on network television instead of cable television.  In theory, this is a good idea.  It exposes more people to the wonders of Formula One, thus creating more American fans.  In practice, however, the coverage is choppy, the announcers act like they are talking to a kindergarten class, and they don’t show the post-race press conferences, not that I cared about that this week.

This is the second reason this race sucked:

FOM is notorious about taking down video clips from F1 races, so if it has been pulled, just google “Mark Webber crash Valencia”.  It was horrible.  He was trying to pass Heikki Kovalienen’s Lotus when their wheels touched.  Webber got launched into the air at about 190 miles an hour.  He went airborn, landed upside down, rolled over and slammed into the tire barrier.  And then, incredibly, he walked away.  He’s fine.  Not even a concussion.  The car did an amazing job of keeping Webber safe.  But let this be a reminder to you, racing is dangerous, and it always will be.

This crash let to the final reason that this race sucked. After the start it was Sebastien Vettel first, that Lewis Hamilton second, and the lovely and talented Fernando Alonso third.  But after Webber’s crash race control deployed the safety car.  Coming out of the pits that Lewis Hamilton passed the safety car right at the line, and trapped Alonso behind it.  So when all was said and done Hamilton was in second place, and Alonso ended up in ninth.  Did I mention that it is very much against the rules to pass the safety car?  It is.

After the safety car and the usual chaos that ensued Kamui Kobayashi ended up in third place in his (rather slow) Sauber car.  Now, the European Grand Prix is on a street track in Valencia, Spain.  It is not easy to pass on this track, and because of this Kobayashi managed to hold up the pack giving Vettel and Hamilton a huge gap on the rest of thei field.

Meanwhile the stewards finally got off their asses and gave Hamilton a drive through penalty for passing the safety car.  But of course, by that time, he had such a huge lead that he served his penalty and still came out in second place.  Disgusting.  It was completely unfair.

Yes, I know sometimes the safety car helps you and sometimes it hurts you, and yes I know he was penalized and served his penalty.  But there is no way he should have been able to retain his position. It was like the stewards were trying to find a way to look like they were penalizing him without actually costing him anything.  This year the unwritten rule in the stewards room seems to be unless somebody actually gets killed (heaven forbid), it’s all good.  Just try not to look like you are breaking the rules.

Oh, and Sebastian Vettel won.  Hooray for him.

Odds and Ends – Montreal Edition

I know I will be busy tonight so I will post this now, while using the free WiFi in the Porter Airlines lounge in Toronto.

My sister successfully completed her first triathlon yesterday.  Hooray for her!

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Just in case you think hanging out at the Grand Prix is glamorous.

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I thought I did very well speaking French this weekend.  Except for one thing.  Every time I go to say “thank you” in French it comes out in Italian.  I don’t understand that at all.  They don’t even sound anything alike.

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Tom at the start/finish line.  Can you believe I am married to a McLaren fan?  I can’t.  (Just kidding honey)

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Me at the Wall of Champions.  Note all the rubber on the wall.

The Canadian Grand Prix report

Taboo love

I was not cold today.  And it did not rain.  Do you know why?  Because I bought a sweatshirt, AND I had rain ponchos with me.  So, to all my fellow race-goers, you’re welcome.

It was hot today.  Indianapolis hot.  The kind of hot where you just sit there and sweat.  Mmm, attractive isn’t it?

I had Poutine for breakfast.

Nouvelle Cuisine

The good thing about having Poutine for breakfast is you are not hungry for lunch.

We decided to sleep in this morning and skip the support races.  We arrived at the track about an hour before the driver’s parade.  I love the driver’s parade.  All the F1 drivers sit on the back of vintage convertibles driven by very lucky individuals who (I assume) happen to own vintage convertibles and live nearby.  The car owners drive around the track and the drivers wave at all their adoring fans.  Some of them even take pictures.

The closest I got to Alonso all weekend

I waved very hard at Alonso and yelled his name really loud.  I still think he should marry me.  Never mind the fact that both of us are already married.  To other people.  Oh well.

It was a very good race.  My favorite part was when Fernando Alonso and that Lewis Hamilton were racing down the pit lane.  Alonso left his pits just a bit before Hamilton, and the McLaren team released Lewis right as Alonso was going by.  I suppose you could make an argument that McLaren did not safely release their driver and penalize them, but why bother?  So both cars are running side by side down the pits.  Yikes!  Technically you are not supposed to do this, but they did not get in trouble.  And Alonso came out ahead of Hamilton when they rejoined the track.  Yay!   It just about killed me, (I was screaming “be careful!” the whole time) but it was really, really cool.

I spent a lot of time yelling “Go!  Go!  Go!” at Alonso as his car went past and trying to ignore the cheering for Hamilton that was coming from my husband.  In the end Hamilton ended up winning, and Button (Hamilton’s teammate) was second.  But Alonso managed to come in third!  Hooray!  This is only the second time he has ever been on the podium at a race I have attended.  But the bad news is they did not show the post race interviews on the Jumbo-Trons.  Bastards.

After the race we climbed over a fence and through the Armco to walk on the track.  We walked around to the start/finish line, and then by the wall of champions (people always crash there) and then on to the hairpin.  I picked up some marbles and Tom found a piece of carbon fiber off one of the cars.  Unfortunately we don’t know whose car but it is still a pretty cool souvenir.  I got to sit down in Alonso’s starting place on the grid, and Tom took my picture, but he must have jiggled the camera because it’s all blurry, so that’s too bad.

Tomorrow we fly home.  And next year we get to do it all again.

Saturday – Qualifying

I was not skinny today.  It was bloody freezing outside when we got to the track and I sat, shivering through the first support race.  The weather made me nostalgic for the races in Indianapolis where it was so hot you broke a sweat just sitting still.  I lasted a whole 45 minutes, and then I had to buy a sweatshirt.  And, of course I had to put my Ferrari t-shirt on over the sweatshirt so people could see it, so I was not skinny, I was lumpy.  Think Michelin man in a red baseball cap.

I felt much better for the last F1 practice session before qualifying.  I was nice and warm.  And Alonso did pretty well in practice too.  I waved at him every time he went by.  I think that helped.

See how not skinny I am? Me and Nola from the F1 forum

After that practice session we went over “Zone Budweiser” to meet one of the guys from the F1 forum I like.  We found each other pretty easily for two people who have never met before and had a beer together.  Here is a picture of us.  It was fun.  Well, at least I thought so.

After our cocktails Tom and I had some poutine for lunch:

Poutine! Poutine! Poutine!

Poutine is my new favorite food.  It is French fries with gravy and cheese.  I think it is kind of like a walking taco, Montreal style.  Oh.  My.  God.  I could eat that every day.  And this was poutine we bought at the race track!  This probably wasn’t even good poutine.  I must have more.  Much more. Fortunately I will have the whole month of July to find the best poutine in the city.

The weather warmed up for qualifying.  Do you know why?  Because I bought a sweatshirt.  Everybody at the track should have been thanking me.  Qualifying in Formula 1 is kind of complicated.  There are three sessions.  The first session is 20 minutes long, and when it is over the bottom seven cars drop out and take the last seven places on the grid.  Then there is a 15 minute session where the remaining 17 cars go out again.  And when that session is over the bottom seven cars drop out again.  Now there are 14 cars out and the final ten cars go for pole in the final 10 minute session.  Did you get all that?  Good.

It is amazing how fast it all goes when you are watching it live.  On television sometimes the first two sessions seem a little boring.

Not much to report from the first session.  Michael Schumacher, who had been quick in all three practice sessions didn’t make it out of Q2, which was kind of a surprise.  And then that Lewis Hamilton got pole position.  I am kind of mad at him because he had last lap of the last qualifying session and before he posted his time Alonso was in third place.  That would have put him in the post-qualifying press conference.  I like that.  But no, Lewis had to go and bump him down to fourth place so no press conference for me.  Boo.

So tomorrow Lewis Hamilton will be on pole, with Mark Webber second in his Red Bull car and Sebastian Vettel third.  Alonso is fourth and after that I don’t really care.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.