Monday, August 25, 2008

F1: Shoreline drive - 2008 edition

Well, we’re back at it once again, with the Formula 1 circus returning from its three week hiatus... Of which I think the teams personnel deserved their short lived Holiday.

And I think that the new Valencia street circuit is very cool! Albeit it seems to have an overabundance of corners, as in a total of 25, yet it seems to be the first F1 race course that incorporates a working swing bridge...

But first a few quick thoughts about the previous race in Budapest, as once again, Friday’s practice times and Saturday’s qualifying results didn’t show the final outcome, as Ferrari’s Felipe Massa made a brilliant start from P3, vaulting into the lead and looking set to storm away to his fourth victory of the season. If only his Ferrari lump hadn’t gone “KABLAMOE!” With three laps remaining, eh? But, I digress...

And thus, back to this weekend’s event as I found Friday’s second practice session to be fairly nondescript, if such a thing can be said about these magnificent pieces of Engineering! As it was fun to see the camera’s high shot from above showing the cars screaming across the swing bridge. And with Valencia hoping to be considered a modern Monaco-esce circuit, minus the swimming pool complex(?) I had to wonder if they have scuba divers on station alongside the bridge. As recall in the brilliant movie Grand Prix, leading man James Gardner plunges into the harbour, of which has happened twice at Monte Carlo; First in 1955 with double World Champion Alberto Ascari aboard a Lancia and ten years later with Paul Hawkins at the wheel of his Privateer Lotus. As ironically, although both drivers emerged unhurt after swimming to safety, they’d lose their lives in other racing incidents.

Yet the SPEED TV crew spent a considerable amount of time discussing how drivers get acclimatized to brand new racing circuits and how long this takes? With David Hobbs offering it’s usually just a handful of laps and certainly they’d be up to speed within a half hours running... While Professor Matchett prattled on about how all of the teams receive three dimensional virtual circuit maps from the FOM/FIA, to witch the engineers can simulate an expected lap, yet Bob Varsha noted how Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and David Coulthard said they got nothing out of their team’s simulators since they were only utilizing 2D. But Varsha noted how Nick Wirth, former team principal of the failed Simtek Formula 1 team has been developing a 3D race chassis simulator, which utilizes hydraulic rams, a la aeroplane cockpit simulators and several teams have tested it, including McLaren’s golden boy Hamilton.

And speaking of the young Louise, Peter Winsor noted how ridiculous it was that the young Brit was fined $5,000 Euros for being two minutes late to Thursday’s press conference, especially since it had four drivers and they hadn’t even gotten to “Jaguar” before he arrived! (But I suppose rules a rule a rule, eh?)

Even more surprising was that Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel was the fastest runner in the very first ever practice session on the debutant street circuit, besting the Scuderia’s Massa by one tenth of a second, with Hamilton winding up third. Meanwhile, in the days final practice session, The Iceman ruined Homeboy Fredrico Suave’s party... With Raikkonen besting Alonso by two 1/100th’s of a second for the day’s top honours, while Jense surprised everyone by claiming P3 for Honda ahead of Massa, with Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen next, while Toyota’s Timo Glock was the seventh and final driver with a lap time in the 1:39 bracket.

And adding insult to injury was the fact that Alonso was slapped a $10,000 Euros fine and reprimand for brazenly crossing the yellow line denoting the pit entrance, which was shown in multiple replays when it was announced that car number five was under investigation... Yet, reportedly it was Alonso who talked the FIA into having a minute of silence at the track to honour the stricken passenger’s of the recent airliner crash in Madrid...

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the wayward spectator moseying across the track during practice yesterday... Who was promptly escorted off the grounds by the Polica.

And SPEED’s opening monologue was fairly interesting as Bob Varsha read from the teleprompter, how crucial pole position has been since the inception of knock out qualifying in 2006; as in the debut season the pole sitter won the accompanying race 56% of the time. In 2007 the amount increased to 65%, but in the topsy, turvy season of twenty-oh-eight... The pole sitter has gone onto win only 36% of the time... So, will the stereotypical notion of street circuits being nothing less then a parade once again occur, making P1 very important or will something else happen?

Interestingly, the majority of the Q1 “Heavy Hitters” opted to run on the “Prime” (harder) tire instead of using up their allotment of soft option tires... With the end of “Qualy One seeing the grids most experienced drivers not making the cut, as both Honda’s, and Force India’s plus Red Bull’s elder statesman failed to advance, with Varsha saying; “Welcome to the new world order!” As Barrichello; (261) Coulthard; (240) Fisichella; (206) Button (147) and Sutil (29) have an average of 176 starts between them...

Mark Webber seemed pretty blunt when Peter Winsor asked him why the Scuderia Toro Rosso’s were ahead of the Renault powered squads. “Yeah, we’re getting our ASSES KICKED! But we know where 60-70% of the problems from... They’ve got more power then us! We’re good under braking, but it just seems to be taking a little longer to get out of the corners...” Hum? The customer Ferrari powered Toro Rosso’s are quicker then the “Reggie” powered Red Bulls? What’s that slogan, eh? Somme-then ‘bout having’ wings... Perhaps they need to top off with a few quarts of Deeter Majestic’s high octane energy drink? (Oh yeah, that’s right, Mikey Waltrip already tried that trick, eh?)

And speaking of Maranello derived lumps, the four fastest cars in a straight line were reported to be the two factory Scuderia chassis followed by the Toro Rosso’s, with both Massa and Raikkonen hitting a top velocity of 315kph. (196mph and NOT the 185 Varsha kept calling out during the broadcast... Since I’d expect him to know that the once “magic” 300kph barrier = 186mph) as David Hobbs so rightly pointed out how bleepin’ fast the new street circuit was, with an average lap speed of 123mph!

And even more impressive was Toro Rosso’s Vettel laying down the fastest lap in Q2, while The Hamburgular, a.k.a. Sebastian Bourdais made his way into Q3 final qualifying for the very first time, while local hero Fernando could only muster P12, as the Spaniard had admitted to getting lost on the track, confusing turns 10-12 with 12-17, as Hamilton had noted they’re all blind corners.

It was also noted how Michael Schumacher was on hand in the pits, with Matchett denoting how his sleeves were rolled-up and “I think he’s working boys.” Most likely helping Massa, who it’s claimed he has a strong repor with...

Ah, time for one of the best parts of the show... The House of Winsor’s now traditional grid walk, of which he first interviewed Jarno Truli about the days heat, with Nico Rosberg being too busy listening to Three Doors Down to be bothered... But the most humourous interview was with Nick Heidfeld, who said they get paid to drive in the heat, so it’s not a problem and everybody knows that “Jarno works like an Animal!”

And then it was time to turn up the volume, as the lights went green, with the start being fairly straightforward, as pole winner Massa burst off once again like an arrow, with the rest of the grid in close pursuit, albeit there wasn’t the big collision Hobbs had been blathering on about at the Turn 2-3 complex... Although Raikkonen fell behind, losing a position to his fellow Finn, while once again Massa was steadily pulling away from Hamilton.

But the races biggest moments came in the pits, as first there was the potential collision between race leader Massa and Sutil’s Force India, as the Scuderia are currently the only team using a new pit lane light system vs. the traditional brakes-on lollipop, which has a sensor in the refueling nozzle that automatically tells the driver to go once its uncoupled, supposedly worth 0.3 second over the traditional method, while the two cars almost collided... As Massa would later describe that the concrete wall was coming up fast and he thought he’d back off to be safe, although this drew a Stewards investigation query.

Yet, mayhem would once again break out in the Ferrari pits, when apparently Raikkonen made a mistake, trying to leave before the refueling was done, although Matchett noted how Kimi was pointing at the light system... Before clipping three crew members, ultimately giving the refueler a broken foot. But the damage wasn’t over as suddenly the camera’s show Kimi’s car smoking before going KABLAMOE! And that was the end of another very poor outing for The Iceman, while it was repeatedly remarked how he currently earns a million per week!

But, it was Massa’s turn to shine, as unbeknownst to me it was the Brazilian’s 100th start, of which have all been Ferrari powered... As Felipe won the pole, led wire to wire and also recorded the race’s fastest lap! Not too shabby, eh? As for that inquiry, of which Ferrari was deemed releasing Massa in an unsafe condition, the team was fined $10,000 Euros and no further punishments were issued...

Qualifying Results
Pole: F. Massa; 2. L. Hamilton; 3. R. Kubica; 4. K. Raikkonen;
5. H. Kovalainen; 6. S. Vettel; 7. J. Trulli; 8. N. Heidfeld; 9. n. Rosberg;
10. S. Bourdais

Race Results
Winner: F. Massa; 2.; L. Hamilton; 3. R. Kubica; 4. H. Kovalainen;
5. J. Trulli; 6. S. Vettel; 7. T. Glock; 8. N. Rosberg

2008 F1 Point Standings
(Round 12 of 18)

L. Hamilton 70
F. Massa 64
K. Raikkonen 57
R. Kubica 55
H. Kovalainen 43


Ferrari 121
McLaren 113
BMW Sauber 96
Toyota 41
Renault 33