Sunday, June 10, 2012

F1-Geeks Armchair Team Principal - Spain

The Circuit de Catalunya.  Is it me or does Bob Varsha love to pronounce the name of this track?

Memorable to me for the race where Michael Schumacher, in his early days, started driving very oddly around the course.   Odd lines, weird apexes, I remember thinking he lost his contact lenses.   It turned out his Benetton was stuck in 5th gear the second half of the race and he still managed to take 2nd.  I thought this was pretty cool but had no idea what he would achieve the next decade.

So far this season we've had four races with four different winners, Button, Alonso, Rossberg, Vettel.  Will Spain produce a 5th?

 Tim's take:

If this season has taught us anything so far, it's to expect the unexpected; a different winner for every race, Nico Rosberg's first win, Sergio Perez's terrific 2nd place finish in China, Fernando's remarkable deft at driving a sub-par Ferrari to numerous podium  finishes. And the next surprise that Barcelona had in store for us, Louis Hamilton shooting himself in the foot and losing his pole  position qualifying performance because they didn't put enough fuel in the car.  Oh wait... that's the sort of thing we DO expect from  Louis.  Of course I'm referring to Pastor Maldonado's inaugural Grand Prix win.

From his 2nd place qualifying right through to the checkers, Pastor drove a fast, consistent race.  There was one bone-headed move that had he watched any of the races from the 2010 season, he might have learned was likely not to work out for him.  For nearly every  pole Sebastian Vettel won in 2010, the start of that race featured him cutting across the track, trying to cut off the 2nd place  starter so that he could be first to the corner.  That worked exactly once and failed every other time.  The only time it's likely to  work is if you get a great start on your opponent and are able to get in front of them to hold them back.  But assuming you both have a good start and you're car is only marginally faster, then it's best just to head to the corner in a straight line.

Instead, he cuts over, drives Alonso into the grass and as a result unleashes the collective telekinetic force of every Spaniard on the planet, which then forcibly moves Fernando and his magnificent eyebrows to reach turn one in the lead.  Meanwhile the president of Venezuela could be heard ranting mindlessly about the oppression of his people by the capitalist pigs at Ferrari.

Meanwhile Louis Hamilton, who started from 24th, began his journey up through the field.  Most of the drivers in the back of the pack let him go by out of force of habit, only realizing after they'd let him pass that no one was waving a blue flag at them.  "Oh that's  right, he started behind me!"  He made it all the way up to 4th at one point, but then had to pit.  Once again, the circus that is  McLaren's pit crew put on a good performance.  As Hamilton cuts left to pull out of the box, his left rear tire hits and climbs over  the old tire that had just been taken off, catapulting the car up in the air and causing it to jump sideways about 3 feet.  Hamilton  comes to a stop as everyone stands around wondering what in the hell just happened.  Finally, satisfied that his car was still intact,  Luis heads for the track.  Honestly, these guys just keep getting more and more entertaining.

Eventually Pastor manages to get around Alonso's Ferrari and Fernando is left trying to defend his second place position and simply finish on the podium, which he does to the crowd's never ending joy. 

Though Vettel had a pretty good run through the race he ended up falling back and finishing 6th.  Webber drove pretty well, and the good news is that this was the first race that he didn't finish 4th.  The bad news is that he fell all the way back to 11th, clean out of the points.  It's strange seeing the Red Bull cars among the ranks of the normal, top tier constructors and not sitting on top of them like some sort of nerdy, high tech school yard bully. 

It would be hard to predict anything during a season that has thrown us so many curve balls.  Since all we can expect is the unexpected, I believe we will see at least one race being won by the Spanish Inquisition; aided by fear, surprise and driven by their fanatical devotion to Bernie Ecclestone.

Fred's Take
Tim, as usual, has handily covered all of the good bits.  I'll tackle the lame stuff.  

I'd like to see Maldonado put his money where his mouth is, as they say, giving all of his winnings and all of his wealth and luxury to the people of Venezuela. 

He won't, of course.  He's either a hypocrite or smart enough to know how things run in Venezuela.   I don't know if I can hold that against him, really.  He has only two choices, regardless of what he really believes.   If he sincerely is a socialist and wants to give his winnings away to his country, then he has to support his leader in the hopes that the people of his country will get some benefit.  If he is as morally corrupt as Hugo Chavez, then he is merely protecting his wealth.  Speaking out in favor of keeping it or trying to give it directly to the people would guarantee that all he achieves is giving his wealth to Hugo Chavez and the people get nothing anyway.  Still, until he starts insisting that all the other teams' cars are his to use as he needs, he's a hypocrite.

Regarding McLaren's pit team, I think Tim's criticism, while valid, may have been a bit severe.  These guys have had some crazy problems but it's a high-precision short-window gig with massive consequences if any one of a thousand variables don't go just right.   It's amazing that any of them happen in less than 4 seconds at all.   Of course, they aren't on my fantasy F1 team so, it's a lot easier to be patient with them. I actually encourage them to experiment... a lot.

Either way, I barely retain a lead in the league and we have yet a 5th winner in as many races.  What a season.

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