Friday, May 27, 2011

F1-Geeks Armchair Team Principal Gran Premio de España (Spain Post Race Recap)

Moved to the Circuit de Catalunya in 1991, this Formula One event is usually not usual.  While the weather is usually good, the wind, regulation changes, and temperature changes can lead to a surprising qualifying which can lead to a surprising race .  Unsurprisingly, this year's event had some surprises.   Let's jump in.

Fred's Take
First, all that needs to be said about qualifying is that Webber got pole.  You lovely peeps know I am not a Webber fan but I had to hand it to him for the upset.(1)  It was an impressive time.  He did the exact same thing last year.  If I were going to be petty I'd mention that he had KERS and Vettel didn't.  However, since I'm only theorizing about what I'd say, it doesn't count as petty.

As far as things that don't need to be said, at the top of the list is Schumacher's 10th place.  Saving tires by not going out wasn't a bad move since he ended up in 6th.(2) 

The race was a good time.  Not as much passing as Turkey, there was plenty of excitement.  Everyone knows I loves me some Alonso.  So it was very cool to see him remind the Red Bulls that there's still magic in those eyebrows yet.(3)  I would have been totally OK with an Alonso win with Vettel in 2nd but eventually the crowd's mental focus lapsed and even their willpower could not keep Alonso in front.

I need to give some respect to Jenson who mangled the start but then fought back and used his mutant power to save his tires, keep his car out of the pits much longer and make third by saving his soft tires until everyone else was struggling.  Passing Alonso and Webber in the same lap helped.  Scruffy Bastard.

Helmet images shamefully stolen from The Lowdown Blog
a man's man if ever there was one and he's hip to F1.
 The scene stealer of the day was Hamilton, who fought hard and provided some good excitement as he closed the gap with Vettel.  Vettel's win was cool but it wasn't the walk in the park that Nostradamus was predicting.(4)

Some may have predicted Alonso finishing in 5th.   Nobody predicted that would be a lapped position.   A solid race.  Up next Monaco.

Tim's Take
The Spanish Grand Prix, another good race, but one with some strange events.

How does one have an amazing start, moving from 4th to 1st on the grid, lead for 20 laps, and then finish 5th having been lapped by the top two finishers?  Especially considering that he never went off track, had a botched pit stop, or suffered any other bad luck that often befalls GP drivers.  It was so cool seeing the Spanish racing fans cheering on Alonso when he took the lead at the first corner.  They were going nuts, and we were loving it.(5) 

But his lead wouldn't last.  In what seemed to be an odd tactic for the Red Bull team at the time, they brought Vettel back in having only put 9 laps on a set of option tires, only to send him back out on another set of options.  Ferrari realized that Fernando's car was going to start loosing grip long before Sebastian's, and even though Sebastian was further back in the pack after the stop, he was going to be closing that time gap up like a mad man.  When Fernando finally HAD to pit, he'd inevitably come out behind Sebastian.  To avoid that, and answer Red Bull's challenge, they called Fernando in for a pit on the very next lap and did the very same tire swap.  But alas, it was not to be.  While Alonso was coming out of the pits, Vettel had managed to make up enough time, in one lap mind you, to slip past.  Fernando never saw the lead again.

I don't know about you, but I find it fascinating that a team as technologically gifted as Red Bull racing just can't seem to get a handle of building a reliable KERS.  Through out the race, they're telling the drivers "use it", "dont' use it," "use it only if Hamilton is getting close."  Apparently it had over heating problems with the battery. And anyone with a lap top that doesn't use a chill pad knows how fast heat kills batteries.  But the whole on-again-off-again situation left the drivers having to compensate with all kinds of adjustments to the car, both for KERS and brake bias.  That couldn't have been fun.

It's great to see the Lotus-Renault team (Green car) working their way up the grid.  From floundering in the back 6 spots last year, they've steadily worked their way up.  Trulli qualified in 18th, but Kovalainen made it to a respectable 15th spot on the grid.  That's up near the Force India cars!  On the flip side, I guess we could be saying "what the hell is going on at Force India?"  Both were out qualified by Kovalainen, and smack dab between the Lotus-renault guys.

Speaking of Force India, di Resta is still out driving Sutil.  I'd mentioned early on in the season how well he was doing and how I thought he was going to give Sutil a run for his money, and he's doing just that.  I hope Vijay Mallya can put a better chassis under his drivers as the season progresses because I'd love to see what those two can do when the car is up to snuff.

Of course it won't make much difference to Sutil if he's not around.  I don't know all the details (only a few people do), but the mood killer around the Force India garage is the law suit brought against Sutil by Eric Lux, a chief executive at Genii Capital, owners of the Renault GP team.  Obviously, the illustrious staff at F1-Geeks is not privy to all the information surrounding this event, but let me just say this...  Being a Formual 1 driver is cool enough, but getting into a broken bottle slash fight in a seedy bar in Shanghai China earns Sutil quite a number of points toward "The Most Interesting Man In the World."  Apparently Lux is reserving the right to file a lawsuit against everyone who was there at the time, which includes Louis Hamilton.  For the record, Louis has no points in that contest.  This whole thing could get quite ugly.

Heidfeld didn't manage to set a time at all in Q3, so he started at the back.  A great drive, Nick managed to get all the way up in the points positions to 8th.  This is the second race in a row where someone has started from 24th because they couldn't get the car out for qualifying; Kobayashi did it in Turkey.  That got me wondering, what is the provision for this in the F1 rules, how does the 107% rule play into it.  After all, they didn't have a time, how can they have fallen within 107% of the fastest time?  Fred and I both wondered how they get around that, but couldn't find anything when looking at the time.  But as it turns out, the official Formula 1 site lists the rule at the bottom of the Race Results page. "Note - Heidfeld failed to set a Q1 time within the 107% requirement but permitted to race due to setting a suitable lap time during free practice."  Mystery solved!

(1) I use this as both a noun and a verb here.  Did you see Vettel's face?  Man he was upset about that for sure.
(2) As irritatingly boring his prior dominance was, I will admit I'd like to see Schumacher fighting with the Big 3. (Vettel, Alonso, and Hamilton)
(3) One should never discount the power of the fanatical Spanish who somehow fail to cast Power Word: Kill on every driver in front of Alonso.   If you don't know what Power Word: Kill is, consider the title of our little web presense.
(4) There is some scholarly debate about this as the ancient text can be translated as either "He will walk as in park and the contestants will run obscured to his vision." or using the new method, "Eyebrows rocks it. Vettel rocks it.  Vegemite tastes of ass.  Salty ass."
(5) I predict that in the not too distant future, the people of Spain will wear prosthetic eyebrows, akin to the Groucho glasses and nose apparatus, to show their support for Fernando.

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