Sunday, June 12, 2011

F1-Geeks Armchair Team Principal Grand Prix de Monaco (Monaco Post Race Recap)

Monaco.  The crown jewel.  The prestige.  The glamour.  The barriers.  Property, cars, scenery, activities and women you can't afford.  Monaco tends to be somewhat of a letdown most of the time.  It's classy and entertaining but rarely an exciting race.   How did this year shape up?  Your humble geeks break it down.

Tim's Take
I love the race at Monaco.  I love it for the same reasons that everyone else does, but there are a couple extras thrown in the mix. I love the fact that the teams have to make a steering rack specifically for the hairpin turn, and it's the slowest of any turn on any circuit.  Regardless of the near impossibility to pass at that corner, it's awesome seeing people try it. I love the fact that the foreign directors will occasionally zoom in to a topless girl sunning herself on a yacht anchored somewhere in the harbor.  I love turn 15 and 16, where if the drivers aren't careful they catch just an inch too much curb and fly into the barrier ending their race.

But more than anything, I love it because it has the best camera location on any circuit, taking the absolute best shot in all of motor racing.  It's that shot looking down into turns 13 and 14 at the swimming pool.  The cars fly through there at an insane speed hitting both curbs, one then the other with their inside tires coming off the ground for just an instance.  Get it wrong and you've screwed your set up into turns 15 and 16 at best, or lose precious time off your lap.  When they get it right, it's sublime.  As a spectator, watching the cars fly through there at impossible speeds, with the drivers throwing their cars around like a red headed step child, is one of the high points of the F1 year.

Even though Monaco is perhaps the most prestigious of all the Formula 1 races, let's face it, there's usually almost no passing and the pole sitter almost always wins.  Kind of like this year.  You'd think that's the formula for a dull race, and in most cases you'd be right.  But anyone who watched this year's Monaco GP certainly knows that wasn't the case.  This year it went from one slice of crazy to another.

We started off with a wild ride through Q3, which saw Vettel set another crazy fast lap, Sergio Perez careen into the barrier at the chicane after the tunnel, and Hamilton get screwed by the resulting red flag.  I think the potential disadvantages of waiting and setting a lap time late in the Q3 session far out weigh any down side for just going out and setting one straight away, early in the session.  Especially on a circuit where one screw up, by one driver can bring out the red flag and stop the session.  I'm sure glad Sergio wasn't seriously hurt.

It was cool seeing Alonso shoot up ahead of Webber at the start of the race.  For those keeping score at home, that makes two races in a row Webber struggled with the start and saw Alonso shoot by.  Leaving the first corner we had Vettel, Button, and then Alonso.   It didn't take long for Hamilton to work his way up from the 9th spot start to being right on the gearbox of Michael Schumacher who started 5th.  I thought he was doomed to follow Schumacher around the track as the rest of the field slowly pulled away.  Instead, Louis pulled off one of the best passes I've seen in quite some time, and maybe one of the coolest I've seen at Monaco, coming down inside Michael when he simply wasn't expecting it at all.

When Webber came in for his first pit stop, the Red Bull pit crew looked like they were caught completely unawares.  They ran about carrying tires this way and that way.  It looked like they were channeling the spirits of the Keystone Kops.  It became clear about 2 minutes later that the RBR team does NOT have a chaplain on the team ready to perform exorcists, as a lap later Vettel came in for his pit stop, and the crew were clearly still possessed.  I don't know if Vettel was coming in too soon, or unannounced, but the crew scrambled to get the right tires for him.  I thought "well there's the chink in the armor McLaren need to sneak past Vettel."

So when Button's stop came up, I thought if they pulled off a good stop, they might make up some time and sneak out ahead of Vettel.  Apparently the McLaren boys have fallen hard into the habit of imitating the RBR team just a little too much, because when Button pulled into his stop, the pit boys were doing there own version of big-top circus clowns.  By now, I was thinking that it must be bring your sons and daughters to work day for all the pit crews, and they'd told all their kids to handle the first stop.  Instead of coming out ahead of Vettel, Button came out behind Alonso.

The race proceeded with a few interesting bits.  Di Resta tried an ill-advised pass on Alguesuari down at the hairpin and was given a drive through penalty for his efforts.  He later said that pass was perhaps a bit "too ambitious."  Then Hamilton decided that it worked so well for De Resta, he'd try out the same move on Massa.  That resulted in the same penalty for Hamilton, but instead of admitting his mistake he offered the second lamest excuse of the race saying that "Massa intentionally turned in on me."  I guess what Louis had in mind was that Massa should have proceeded straight forward into the wall ahead and not try and actually turn his car through the hairpin.

Though the lamest excuse goes to Massa who a short time later ran wide going into the tunnel because Louis came up under him, made him nervous, and he ran up into all the rubber marbles that built up in the off line.  Who can blame him for being nervous when Louis got near him since Hamilton had clearly shown just prior to that, that he held no qualms about ramming the Brazilian if need be.(1)  But instead of saying "I went off line to avoid an insane Englishman, and it cost me" he said something about Hamilton running  into him in that corner and forcing him into the wall (not true), and I think I might have heard something else about some sand being caught in a particularly sensitive area on his person.

By now Alonso is on old tires and catching up to Vettel.  Vettel is on even older tires, and Button is following both of them on a newer set that will have all the grip he needs until the checkers.  It became a race to see if Vettel could hold off Alonso until the end with tires that were clearly going to give out, and for Button a game of patiently wait to see if the two leaders took each other out or ruined their tires racing each other so he could slip in under the wire and take the lead.  What ensued was some awesome racing and fantastic drama.

Soon the leaders caught up to a group of cars ready to be lapped.  While making their way through that group, Petrov and Alguesuari tangled, and Petrov rams the wall and stops moving, both his car and himself.  Not a good sign.  The safety car comes out, and the ambulance takes Vitaly off to the hospital, were we hear later he's OK (big relief).

With only 11 laps remaining there were wrecked cars everywhere and an ambulance on track, so there is no alternative but to red flag the race.  This of course plays right into Vettel's hand because the teams are allowed to put on new tires while sitting waiting for the restart.   When the race restarts, there's little chance that it will be anything but a procession to the finish line.  Since everyone has fresh tires and they're all on an even footing, there's not much chance of anything going on to upset the order.

But the race had one more surprise in store for us when Pastor Maldonado hits the wall just a couple laps after the safety car had come in.  In the end, that had no affect on the outcome, except for a DNF for Pastor.

The podium celebration was nice and all with, with Prince Albert presiding over the proceedings.  But what really cracked me up was something Vettel did.  Clouded by and delirious with joy, he sprays one of the Royal Guards square right in the face with champagne.  I'm sure that violates any number of protocols in the Principality and he risked being tackled by Monaco's finest.  I must have watched that 5 or 6 times, and laughed each time. You have to hand it to that guard though, he didn't flinch one bit, but I bet he was smiling inside. 

Fred's Take
The event this year was just amazing.  This season seems to get better and better and it is the best season so far for introducing people to F1.  Qualifying was interesting not so much for the drama but for some of the strategies that played out.

The crash that brought out the red flag was interesting but unlike Tim, I think it probably wouldn't have made much of a difference as Hamilton seems to be letting things get to him and is making some goofy mistakes.  I'm going to blame it on how incredibly irritating it must be to hang out with Nicole Scherzinger (2).   As I think about it qualifying was as exciting as it has regularly been.  The difference this year is that the races are much more entertaining than they used to be and so qualifying is no longer the best part of the weekend.

The race started with everyone pretty much making it through the first corner.  Well, if you don't count Hamilton who almost immediately radioed into his crew to tell them one of his rear tires was feeling funky. On a related note, Button was complaining about his power steering during the formation lap but his crew questioned his sperm count and he never brought it up again.

Graining started by lap 8 and Hamilton took advantage of that and passed Schumacher at the first corner in pretty damn good move(3) as he was on the harder compound and Michael was on the super softs.

Still it was some pretty clean racing which contrasted nicely with the attempts to enter the smallest radius corner in the entire F1 season two wide.   While confident that F1 drivers need to have a fairly good grasp of physics, the only way some of these moves would have worked would be with some fairly complicated string theory wave applications that I am sure are a bit beyond the consideration of the drivers.

Although Bob Varsha often wildly misuses the word "ironic" he managed to to miss a perfect opportunity to mangle it again when Schumacher stopped short nearly causing Alonso to hit him, on the same corner he did in Q3 a few years ago causing Alonso to blow his lap.

A side note here. I have a problem with the new Acura commercial which likens their new models with what are supposed to be beautiful but aggressive athletes. The message here being that even though they now look all "prettied up" the new Acuras are still awesome performers. A quick note to the ad agency on this one, at least one of the two items (athlete or car) must actually be nice to look at. Don't get me wrong Ashleigh Mcivor is beautiful, but they stick her in a prom dress from the 80s and she ends up looking ridiculous.  Much like the Acura.

The race got better and better and in the end, watching what may be the top three drivers in the world racing and pressuring each other was thrilling.   The red flag at the end of the race seemed to confuse everyone but it all worked out and gave us a very exciting race.
You would think ramming the Brazilian would do enough damage to Hamilton's race but add a drive-through penalty to that and he should have just been counted out,  Well, as much as I get irritated by his whining(4), you can not deny this man's driving,   He finished sixth after all that.  Impressive. 

Vettel wins and I'm happy with that.

(1) I have no idea where I'm going with this, but "ramming the Brazilian" sounds astonishingly suggestive to me, so I wanted to type it again.
(2) Yes, I realize she's attractive but she's no Marilyn Monroe and even Marilyn had trouble keeping the attention of the Kenedys for longer than a few months.  So I'm guessing her looks are slightly outweighing the effort it takes to feign interest in anything she's saying and that's going to last all of about 10 to 12 weeks.  I've never seen anyone master the glassy-eyed soulless smile like that woman.
(3) Hamiltion is this almost years Webber but manages to barely keep himself in the "not-lame".  Well at least for me.  Tim loves him and has asked his wife form an all-girl singing group.
(4) Apparently there is a new 75% rule being proposed specifically to account for this.   While still in draft status the pertinent text reads, "All driver communications consisting of whining, bitching, complaining about other drivers, coming up with excuses, or blaming Ferrari for anything, shall not exceed more than 25% of the total communications from that driver or penalties may  be assessed at the discretion of the stewards.  This includes singing, humming, "Shatner-speaking" or in any way reciting Pussycat Doll songs."

No comments:

Post a Comment

F1 Passions run deep and strong. Vigorous but friendly discussion is something we're shooting for.

Don't be a jerk.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...