Thursday, June 23, 2011

F1-Geeks Armchair Team Principal Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (Canada Post Race Recap)

Ah, Canada. (or Oh Canada depending on your latitude).  My first non-US venue and the first place I actually understood how quickly an F1 car can change direction.  Named after world champion Jacque Villeneuve's father, the course has some of the best coverage and is so popular it's actually broadcast in the US on a major network.  According to to the Internets, it's one of the most popular sporting events in the world.    Did this year's event measure up to the hype?   As we look forward to Valencia this weekend, let's take a look at the most recent F1 spectacle...
Fred's Take
I love this circuit.  The corners, the shape, everything.   It even has a hairpin that doesn't piss me off.  Even the coolness of the hairpin at Monaco is slightly irritating to me.  Maybe it's because the F1 extremes are illustrated here so clearly.  You go from the slowest to the fastest and there is no chicane or any of that nonsense to disturb the flow.  Don't get me wrong, I love turn 10 but really, the whole damn thing is great.   The chicane and increasing radius combo of turn 1 and 2 are always going to get some spins and passing done.  Then a bunch of cool fast and slow bits but the flow feels great.  All of the little elements up through nine are great but it's turn 10 where things get really interesting.    I figured that this is where Hamilton would begin his Ricky Bobby bit.   He started much earlier.  It really is starting to get creepy with how Hamilton is trying to pass where he shouldn't.  I could almost hear Martin Whitmarsh's voice, "It tries to pass outside the line, or it gets the hose again..."

After turn 10 comes one of the best chicanes ever.  I mean this.  Ever.  The Wall of Champions.  Not only have many a Formula One champion left parts of their cars on this wall, those that don't get so close that you experience an intoxicating mix of wonder and tension that is just plain addictive.   If it is raining, it's incredible.
When the race started it became evident there were way to many people who failed F1 physics class.  You just can't fit cars into the amount of space people were trying to fit cars into.  Alonso was doing a great job but ended up beached.   I think he needs to team with Vettel at RedBull.  I just don't think the red suits him.

It was cool to see Schumacher flex his rain muscles.   No matter what the nature of the car he's driving when it rains there is a lot of equalization that goes on chassis-wise.  The only better "in the wet" was Senna.    Massa did a pretty good job but the Brazilians have a natural affinity for driving hard in the wet.(1)

I thought it was cool that Button made the most stops, was last (at least once) and still managed to make the race incredibly exciting.

Some Fun Facts:
Most Pit Stops = Button
Biggest position change = Button
Most Laps = Not Button
Number of Force India cars damaged on lap 43 = 2
First lap where DRS was allowed = 46
Number of laps Force India used DRS = 0
Tim's Take

Is it me, or is this season just crazy good?  Sure you Vettel has gotten every poll but one, and he's won every race but two.  So from that perspective, the season could be considered kind of dull.  But it just hasn't been.

Fresh off his contentious race in Monaco, which was followed by further controversy for what he said, and the subsequently apologies to some drivers, his team, the FIA, a community of nuns, people who love kittens, and the world as a whole, Louis Hamiliton decided that driving a bit more conservatively while at the Canadian GP was simply not for him. (2)  He started off the race by running up under Mark Webber in the first corner, and putting his nose out just a bit too far in a place it shouldn't have been.  The results, slight contact, Webber spins, Hamilton squeaks by.  That really wasn't that big a deal, and arguable not too risky.  However, 7 laps later, he decides to stick his nose in another place it doesn't belong, right along side his team mate on the Start/Finish straight.  Jenson had been moving ever so slightly, but persistently to the left to set up for the coming corner, but Louis thought he should be there instead. Mind you, he had no chance of actually passing Jenson at that point, that late in the straight.  The result, a slight collision, Hamilton goes into the wall, lots of sparks, and the left rear tire comes off the rim. 

A short time later though, Jenson gets a penalty for the strangest reason I've heard, speeding behind the safety car while going into the pits.  Wha..?  I heard it explained a couple times but it still didn't make sense to me.  I just figured the stewards were pissed that Louis wasn't on the track to dish penalties to so they decided to start making stuff up. 

Since the track was sopping wet, and no one had actually run on the wet tires the whole weekend, people were slip/sliding around like coeds in an oil wrestling contest. (3) So, there was passing galore, and tons of carbon fiber shards left on the track from little bumps and love taps the drivers kept giving each other.  Good times.  So when it started raining like mad again, the red flag came out and all the teams lined the cars up on the grid and contemplated turning them into arcs. 

A two hour rain delay left everyone cold and wet, but that had no affect on the action.  Once the green flags waived, things started getting even more exciting.  Button pulls along side Fernando Alonso who moves over and bumps Button's front left tire.  It causes Alonso to spin and he high-centers on the curb.  It cuts Button's tire and he limps around from the first corner all the way around the track for a tire change.  He comes out in dead last.  Meanwhile they show a shot of Alonso watching the field pass from behind the safety wall.  He didn't look pissed, he looked determined somehow.  Like he was evaluating the cars to see which one he should commandeer to finish the race in.  I felt for him.

A short time later, Kobayashi was Massa are fighting for second place while Schumacher is following close behind.  They both go into the corner a little hot and slide a bit off line.  Shumacher seizes the chance, dives under them and moves up to second.  I'll be honest, I haven't been rooting for Michael at all this season (or last), but I was so psyched to see that.  At that point there were 19 laps left to run and I was hoping he'd hold the position. 

In a lame attempt to copy the amazing flight that Petrov took in Malaysia, Heidfeld tries to launch his Renault by running over his front wing but only succeeds in bringing out the safety car.  Mean while, Button is a man on a mission, slowly and methodically moving up the field.  By now he's is up to 4th and the field collapses behind the safety car.  During the safety car, a track worker runs out to grab debris off the track left by Heidfeld's car, and apparently forgets how to walk.  While he's floundering on the ground like he's been tazed, Petrov rounds the corner and the worker is staring straight down the front of the black and gold Renault which is bearing down on him at near 100 mph.  While I have no proof, I'm certain he now had a second problem which would require him finding a new pair of shorts. 

After the safety car pulls in Vettel leads followed by Schumacher, Webber and Button in fourth.  Button had asked earlier how Vettel's tires were, and I remember thinking at the time "that seems a bit optimistic."  But then Jenson pulls off some truly inspired driving, finding his way around Webber then Schumacher and catching up to vettel.  With three laps to go, Webber gets past Schumacher for the 3rd spot on the podium, and I felt truly bad for him.  But I soon forgot about that when Vettel goes a bit wide in one corner on the 69th lap, allowing Button to sneak past him.  Was it worn tires, did he just go offline into the wet too much, or was it a combination of both?  I'm sure Jenson didn't care. 

But the fun didn't stop there.  Massa followed Kobayashi on to the start/finish straight, both heading for the finish line.  Massa pulls up along side him and the race is on for the checkers.  Massa just manages to get his nose in front of Kobayashi for 6th. That was the closest I've ever seen two cars finish.  Of course that was only made possible by the fact that Hamilton was long out of the race and lost his opportunity to pursue his favorite past time, ramming the Brazilian. (4)

I don't know about you, but I was glad to see someone other than Vettel win.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Vettel; he's a great driver with a strong, kind character.  The truth is, that Vettel and Button both seem to be nice guys, cut from the same cloth.  Who says nice guys finish last?

(1) This may, unfortunately, or fortunately, signal a period where F1-Geeks begin to get in touch with our inner 12-year-old.
(2)I do think the penalty he received for colliding with Pastor Maldanado was completely unjustified.  But he so deserved the one for ramming the Massa in the hairpin.
(3) I'm not sure if such a thing exists, but it should.
(4) Yeah, I know I'm childish.

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