Sunday, April 15, 2012

F1-Geeks Armchair Team Principal - Malaysia

Malaysia.  In its current incarnation, its been around since 1999.  It seems much more recent than that.  Juan Pablo Montoya holds the lap record here and Tim holds a position that luck is definitely a factor here.

Is he right?  Is it all a roll of the dice?  This season's results seem to support his stance.

Tim's Take
The Malaysian Grand Prix strikes me as similar to a game of Yahtzee.  Sure there's some skill involved, don't choose 5's when you have only one 5 and four 6's.  But largely, it's a game of chance, or luck.  Not too dissimilar from Malaysia really.  Sure you have to make sure you're not on slicks when there are running rivers of water on the course.  But largely, the winner is determined by who didn't screw up, or get caught up in something unfortunate.  It's raining one minute, dry the next, half the track is underwater, the other is dry.  You get the idea

Such was the case with this race.  Don't misunderstand me, I thought the race was hugely entertaining.  And while the drivers that did well are all very skilled and drove an excellent race, the ones that percolated to the front of the grid were the ones that didn't fall victim to a bad roll of the dice. 

That said, Alonso drove an absolutely brilliant race.  To be able to push that Ferrari chassis, which here-to-fore has looked wildly unstable, all the way to the front of the pack, and keep it there in spite of the always changing and god-awful conditions, shows just how brilliant a driver Fernando is.  Of course, it's unfortunate for Massa that he should fall victim to some of those random acts of craziness and finish the race in 15th.  Let's not forget to mention the fact that he really has no idea how to handle this car.  They talk about the magical match up of an awesome car that's characteristics seem perfectly suited to an equally awesome driver and the joy that comes with watching that driver push the car beyond what anyone could have conceived.  Well, it looks like Massa and this Ferrari are not that.  Pretty much the antithesis of that, really.  I wonder how much longer he'll be casting his short shadow in Marinello.

Perez did an equally amazing job.  Perez is a truly gifted driver.  Last year he was in the Sauber chassis that looked like it was always going to be firmly in the middle of the pack.  In the brief amount of time since the season opener, the Sauber team have looked like they've stepped it up a notch.  Perez started off in 9th and pitted on the opening lap in 17th position, presumably because he had damage the car.  He worked his way up as the craziness that is Malaysia unfolded and by the time the 15th lap rolled around, he was in 2nd spot and never gave it up.

Though McLaren qualified 1 and 2 for the second race in a row, they looked like they couldn't quite get their act together.  A screw up with the rear jack on one of Lewis' early pits cost him several seconds that arguably could have been the difference between third and second.  Then Button had his own slow pit stop after his run in with Karthikeyan. 

There were some other noteworthy items in the race.  The Force India boys raced pretty much wheel to wheel through the entire race, putting on an impressive show, all the while managing not to hit each other (take note Mr. Webber).  Ultimately Di Resta worked his way ahead of Hulkenberg, but they did a great job.  Roman Grosjean, who qualified well again, failed to finish the race again (this time with no help from Maldonado), spinning out on lap two.  Raikkonen pushed up from 10th to finish 5th and Bruno Senna moved from his 13th qualifying spot to finish 6th.  Most impressive. 

But again, I don't think you can look at Malaysia as a data point that supports a trend.  It's more of a statistical anomaly.  I don't think we're going to see a Ferrari finish on the podium again anytime soon.  I don't think we'll see Perez quite so high up in the field.  I don't think were going to see so many middle of the pack teams finish in the points again.  And I also don't think we're going to see Massa wearing scarlet red much longer. 

Fred's Take
Drama at the start, well technically before the start, due to the rain's Hokey-Pokey and it seemed to stress Charlie Whiting out. A note here about coverage. The guys at Sky took this one as the BBC couldn't afford to carry all 20 races this year. I like Damon Hill's commentary quite a lot. The rest of the team and even the production seemed somewhat awkward but their "cut-scenes" and vignettes were top quality.

Am I bummed out about Kimi getting penalized for a gearbox change? Yes. Am I going to enjoy the points I get for his passing? Absolutely.

Everyone starts out on intermediates. Everyone except HRT who started on full wets. Big gamble.
Schumacher spins on turn four and ends up way in the back. Watching I figured he must have been bumped. Frenchie Le French, who I'm starting to warm up to by the way, bumped him. Back in his Ferrari days, I would have celebrated Schumacher's misfortune, now, I 'd really like him to win some.

While I thought they made a mistake going with intermediates, it was because I thought the track would dry out. I was wrong and I paid for my ignorance as Frenchie le French spins out and gets stuck in the gravel. Maybe Tim knows, but I think there are some rules about pushing a car back into contention once it is "disabled". I'm torn on this because I'd like to see as many cars on the track as possible, but on the other hand, if you blow it, it's blown. Get out and move on.

Luck or misfortune aside. having this race at the beginning of the season means the teams are all trying out crazy stuff and adding the weather into the mix means anything can happen.
I loved Button catching up to Hamilton and applying pressure. Hamilton doesn't get a chance to cave as lightning hits the press booth as the Sky guys pee themselves, the safety car comes out everyone starts to bunch up. Red flag 3 laps later. The gazebos come out and everyone gets to rest. This makes HRT look like geniuses.

The race restarts with barely controlled chaos. Button hits one of the HRTs and makes a rare mistake which blows the lead and suddenly Ol' Eyebrows is up front and Perez in second. Lots of amazing racing from the backmarkers and even Senna makes me nostalgic, but Perez cutting into Alonso's time and setting fast lap after fast lap amps up the excitement factor. Surprise of surprises, Alonso pits and Perez stays out. What craziness is this? Sauber in first?

Even though it didn't last, it was great to see and to have Sauber finish second was great.

You know what else was great? I got a lot of points on my Fantasy F1 team.
Perez did me well as well as Kimi moving up to 5th.

The results?
Team Fred
Kimi Raikkonen 39
Sergio Perez 49
Bruno Senna 19
Kamui Koybashi 19
Red Bull Racing 27
Force India 24
Team Fred Total 177

Still in the lead but barely.

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