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 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.