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 Turkish Grand Prix report

Istanbul, home of the Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Sophia and a really stonking good racetrack.  Yes, Hermann Tilke designed it but we really can’t hold that against it.  It is an amazing track, one of my favorites in fact.  And it is definitely On The List of races to see live and in person someday.

Mark Webber of Red Bull was on pole yet again.  Really, this is getting tiresome.  But, Lewis Hamilton was second in his McLaren.  Sebastian Vettel lined up third in the other Red Bull.  Meanwhile Fernando Alonso was in p12, and Hamilton’s girlfriend and newly crowned Dancing With the Stars Champion Nicole Scherzinger was in the McLaren garage cheering for her man.

It was a clean start and Vettel got around Hamilton for second in the first turn but Hamilton got it back soon after, and the three of them quickly pulled away from the rest of the pack along with Jenson Button in the second McLaren.

It was a really good race.  There was dicing, there was overtaking up and down the line, and there was just the tiniest bit of rain.  Frankly, I could have lived without the rain but nobody asked me, and besides the drivers never even had to change to the rain tires so it was no big deal.

Of course, the big news, the biggest news of all happened on lap 38.  Mark Webber was leading, and Sebastian Vettel was close behind.  I turned to Tom and asked him hypothetically, “If you were in charge at Red Bull would you let Vettel take a run at passing Webber, or tell him to chill out?”  Tom said he thought you would have to tell Vettel to hold his position.  I agreed.  At just that moment though, Vettel apparently had other plans.  He tried to pass Webber in turn 12 and kablammo!  They collided.  Vettel went spinning off the track!  Webber sustained some damage but managed to limp into the pits and get back out in third place.  Now McLaren were running first and second!  Wow.

One of the first unwritten rules of Formula 1 is don’t take yourself or your teammate out of the race, and that is exactly what Vettel did.  There are, however some differing opinions regarding who is at fault.  Red Bull ‘s powers that be have said Webber should have moved over. Frankly, I don’t think Vettel had the room to make the pass and he shouldn’t have tried it.

Vettel’s actions and Red Bull’s reaction are very interesting.  It looks like the team is backing Vettel, despite the fact that Webber is leading the race for the World Driver’s Championship.  I suspect things are about to get ugly at Red Bull.  This has the potential to make the Alonso vs. Hamilton situation in 2007 look like a playground fight at your local preschool.  The next two weeks are going to be very interesting.  I would love to be a fly on the wall at the Red Bull Racing headquarters.

So Lewis Hamilton won, Jenson Button came in second and Mark Webber managed to salvage third.

The next race is in Montreal.  And I will be there live and in person.  I am so excited I can hardly stand it.

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 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix report

Oh my gosh!  I can’t believe I forgot to write my race report.  Well, actually I can believe I forgot.  The race was really boring and stupid.

This was the last race of the year, and so I tried to keep an open mind.  There won’t be any more racing for a long long time.  I hate winter.

So I should probably tell you about the track.  Yas Marina is built on a man-made island.  The track is built around a marina, hence the name.  It had some fancy grandstands, and a hotel, and the track goes under a hotel walkway, and the paddocks are all air-conditioned.  The facilities are fabulous, everybody said so.  But the whole thing left me cold.  The track has no personality.  Once the sun went down it was like watching a race at an airport.  Yawn.

Lewis Hamilton was on pole.  He was absolutely flying.  It was amazing.  And I don’t even LIKE Lewis Hamilton.  Sadly, during the race he had a brake problem, and brake problems are bad when you are driving over 100 miles an hour. He had to retire the car.  It was too bad.  He was going so fast I was starting to think he might actually become airborne at the end of the long straight.  But he didn’t.

Sebastian Vettel won.  He started second on the grid.  Mark Webber rounded out the top three in the second Red Bull racer.  He ended up finishing second, and our new World Champion, Jenson Button finished third.

Alonso, meanwhile started 15th on the grid, and finished 14th.  Wow.  That Renault was a real steaming pile this year.  If I were giving them a grade I would give them an F-.  I cannot wait until next year when he is driving a Ferrari.  Finally he will have a proper car again.

And so another Formula 1 season comes to an end.  I’m sure my mom will be relieved.  There will be far fewer racing posts in the coming months.

Once again, consult a real racing site for real information.

The Japanese Grand Prix Report

That was not the most interesting race I have ever seen.  But it wasn’t bad either.  Frankly there is no such thing as a bad race, only bad results.

The real story this weekend was qualifying.  It was a train wreck.  When qually began we learned that Mark Webber would not be qualifying in his Red Bull because of a heavy accident in practice.  His car was all banged up and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not get it back together again in time.

So we were already down one driver.  Then we had three red flag sessions (a red flag is when they make all the cars come back into the pits – usually because of an accident on track), and six accidents involving five drivers.  Sebastien Buemi crashed his Torro Rosso in Q1, but made it to the next round anyway.

Torro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari was the next to crash, bringing out the first red flag.  He was followed by BMW’s Timo Glock, McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen, and Sebastien Buemi AGAIN, with his second crash of the day.

Then after qualifying the stewards handed out penalties to Alonso (tragic), both Brawn cars, one of the BMW’s, Buemi and Adrian Sutil.  Complete pandemonium.  I don’t think they actually set the grid until a few hours before the race.  Oy.

After it all shook out Sebastian Vettel was on pole for Red Bull, Toyota’s Jarno Trulli was second and Lewis Hamilton was third for McLaren.  Alonso started 16th.  Horrible.

Well, after all that I was expecting the entire field to end up in a big pile in turn one.  But I was wrong.  After all that Vettel ran away with it.  I was surprised.  He is out of fresh engines (you only get eight this year) so he is using engines that already have at least one race on them.  I was half expecting his car to detonate the entire race.  But, I was wrong.

Jarno Trulli managed to hold off Lewis Hamilton for second place.  Toyota desperately needed a good result this weekend.  It was their home Grand Prix after all.  And Timo Glock ended up sitting the race out.  Remember, he was one of the guys who crashed during qualifying, and he cut his leg.  He will be fine, but it is hard to drive an F1 car with 14 stitches, so he sat this one out.

Alonso, meanwhile, finished tenth.  Not a bad finish, but I was hoping for better.  But next year he will have a pretty car that is also a fast car and he will be back at the front of the grid where he belongs.

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He also seems to have forgotten to pack his razor for this round of fly-away races.  I kind of like it.

Photo from GP Update

As usual find a real F1 site for real information.

The Bahrain Grand Prix report

For the first time this season, we had a race that did not start behind the safety car, end behind the safety car or have a safety car period somewhere in between.  Amazing.  It also didn’t rain.  Of course they were in Bahrain, in the middle of the desert, so that isn’t really all that surprising.

Jarno Trulli was on pole for Toyota.  I spent most of yesterday hoping the race would go better than the last time Trulli was on pole, way back in 2005 at the Indianapolis Grand Prix. (link)

Timo Glock qualified P2 with his Toyota, making it an all Toyota front row for the first time ever!

Both Ferraris made it into Q3 for the first time this season, and after qualifying ended Adiran Sutil of Force India was given a 3 place grid penalty for blocking Mark Webber during Q1. 

With all that said, it was not a terribly exciting race.  It was a relatively clean start for the pointy end of the grid.  Alonso didn’t start well and dropped back to 9th.  More on his lackluster performance later.

Hamilton jumped up to third briefly but then Jenson Button made a very nice move on Hamilton and passed him for third.  It was a very very nice pass.  Later there was another interesting moment when Alonso was trying to pass Trulli who had dropped way down, and the two touched wheels.  Yikes!  I hate when that happens.  But the race proceeded without incident for both of them so all’s well that ends well.

In the end Button won again.  That makes three out of four for our Jense.  I am finding myself rooting for him (well, Alonso first and then him) this season.  This is odd because I have never really liked him much.  Actually, I have never really liked him at all.  He always struck me as kind of whiny and yet smug at the same time. 

Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull was second and Jarno Trulli rounded out the podium in third.  He looked disappointed, I think he had been hoping for more.  I like Trulli, and I suspect this will be his last year in F1.  I would really like to see him win one this season.

Back to Alonso and his sorry finish in 8th place.  It turns out his drinks delivery system wasn’t working for the entire race.  This is bad when the air temperature is a blistering 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the track temperature is somewhere around 112.  Add to that five layers of fireproof clothing and you’ve got a big problem.  The fact that he managed to finish at all is amazing.  He was in pretty rough shape just after the race and almost fainted while he was talking to the press.  He says he is “fine” now though, so that’s a relief.  Renault really should fix that drinking system. It broke in Singapore last year too.  And in Malaysia in 2005 Alonso almost keeled over on the podium with the same problem.

Ferrari finally got some points as Kimi Raikkonen finished sixth.

Nelson Piquet junior finished 10th.  He started 15th so that’s a respectable result.  Of course I still maintain that the only reason he was able to stay close to Alonso was because Alonso was struggling with dehydration.  (I don’t like Junior, have you noticed?)

The next race is in two weeks in Barcelona.  I love that one.

So that’s the race as I saw it.  As usual, I urge to seek out better information from a legitimate F1 news site.