Saturday, August 4, 2012

F1-Geeks Armchair Team Principal - German Grand Prix

Hockenheim.  I think.  Maybe it's just me but I completely lose track of which German track is being raced on every year.  The magic-TV-people say it's Hockenheim this year.   Barren and stripped of its soul, the Hockenheimring always makes me meloncholy.  I know F1 didn't like long laps and low total lap races, and I know that the cost of making the forest bits safe would be astronomical, I know it was put together by track designing legend Hermann Tilke, but to take something with so much character and put some corners and a hairpin in is just sad.

It's not all bad though.  It looks like a woolly mammoth skull and Parabolica is kinda cool.  I guess it has some distinction for being almost completely flat and bland.

Let's get on with it then.

Favorite Track Feature
While I'm temped to indulge in hipster irony and try to claim my favorite feature doesn't exist; I'm getting damn tired of people who are too cool for themselves, so I'll say, I'm pretty happy with Parabolica because it may well be the only corner in F1 that I could actually get up to speed on.

Favorite Quote
Damon Hill discussing the differences between the time of Jim Clark, who lost his life in 1968 at Hockenheim.  "We've gone from a time when making a mistake meant death to now the stewards trying to keep the drivers from intentionally leaving the track."

Favorite Moment
McLaren's 2.31 second pit stop.  Bonus that all the wheel guys were in such perfect unison, you couldn't tell there was more than one of them.
Runner Up: Lewis gets a flat and tells his team to remove his feeding tube and inform his next of kin.  McLaren tells him to put his big-boy underwear on and get back out.

Favorite Easter Egg
Vettel's special helmet with the crest of his home town on it.  Even though he didn't win, it was still a nice gesture to his fans.

Fred's Take
Qualifying started out rather dull with Q1 having no surprises.  Before Q2 gets seriously underway, it starts to rain.  Hard.   Watching the Force Indias twitching around was pretty cool. 

The pre-race starts out with a little drama, The RedBull team was accused of an illegal engine map basically giving them traction control and sneaky tire management and fuel savings, which is illegal, but the stewards rule that while they don't disagree that RedBull is doing something illegal, the engine map follows the rules as written.


The pre-race had a bit of intrigue as the Lotus team tells Kimi's crew not to expose their tires as if they were going to use the lavender-colored Secret Softs and they didn't want anyone to know..

First lap starts out clean with Schumacher all over Vettel but the interesting event was Massa's mystery crash that left his wing debris all over the track. 

Very entertaining wheel to wheel racing in the first set of laps but the best was Raikkonen and di Resta. 

Jenson has a great drive to second.  Well, third, but the stewards decided to make an example of Vettel's pass on the last lap and take the position away from RedBull.  You may infer, correctly, that I disagree.  It looked to me that Vettel was ahead of Jenson when he went off track and if you watch it carefully you can see that Jenson gets two wheels off the track as well.  Where exactly was Vettel supposed to go?  Crashtor Maldonado has taken more drivers out and done way worse things but they just take away his copy of the Communist Manifesto and send him on his way.

Tim's Take

Another good race.  This season has really been terrific.  We saw some good passing.  We saw Massa run up somebodys butt at the start and lose his front wing.  We saw Vettel decide that the white lines demarcating the track are really more a suggestion for where the course should be than a hard and fast rule.  But one thing we didn't see was Pastor Maldonado randomly ram someone.  Perhaps the stewards are getting through his thick Venezuelan skull.  Seriously, the man can drive a car, but he's the most reckless and dangerous driver I've seen in the sport.  I think Perez said it best when he said Maldonado doesn't belong on the grid.  Moving on.

Hockenheim is, compared with Valencia, Shanghai or Malaysia, a narrow track.  Nothing like Monaco or Singapore, but those are street courses.  Hockenheim is a purpose built track, but it's a bit on the narrow side, which I think makes for a great race.  Drivers are forced to make riskier moves to pass and there's a lot of close, wheel-to-wheel racing.  It might be a bit more dangerous, but I'm more concerned with my entertainment and not whether Karthikayan finishes the race.  And while not the most exciting race this season, it had some good points. 

Fernando shot his Ferrari from pole position to take the lead at the first corner and never looked back.  There were some entertaining bits along the way for him, but really, he was never threatened.  I thought it was interesting that he categorized the fact that Hamilton was on his tail for part of the race as "pressure."  At that point, thanks to a tire puncture, Hamilton had been lapped and was simply trying to un-lap himself, much to the annoyance of Sebastian Vettel who was pissed that Lewis had the audacity to be on the track trying to race.  But Alonso wasn't in danger of losing the lead to Lewis.

Hamilton's pass on Vettel was hilarious.  Vettel was caught off guard perhaps, but Hamilton passed him putting him between Alonso and Vettel, who were in first and second at the time.  I've never seen so much waving and gesturing from another driver, just pissed that Hamilton passed him and made him slow and lose pace by 1/10 of a second or so.  But in all fairness, he did pass you Sebastian, which meant he was faster.  Arguably it did slow Vettel down a bit and allow Jenson Button, who was running third and is Lewis' team mate, a chance to close the gap on Vettel a bit.  Sadly, Lewis' car had sustained damage from driving around with a flat tire and he had to retire a short time later.

One of the biggest stories of the race though was Jenson's performance.  I mean he had a pretty good race.  Not outstanding, but pretty good.  The reason that's so surprising, or note worthy is that he hasn't had one of those since the season opener in Australia.  He and the McLaren team have struggled to make the car drivable for him, and they seemed to have got it back.  He wasn't slipping all over the place like he has been the past 8 races.  But even more impressive was the 2.3 second pit stop that McLaren pulled off for him.  It was simply astounding.

Both Force India cars were racing wheel to wheel with the Sauber cars at one point, but in both circumstances it was the Sauber car that got the advantage and gained a spot.  Perhaps the best pass of the race saw DiResta as the victim, as Schumacher squeezed by, and quite unexpectedly, and before Paul could shut the door, Kimi Raikkonen followed Schumacher right on by.  It was so gutsy I don't thing Paul expected it a bit.  It was cool to see the old Kimi back on track.

The race finished with Fernando, Vettel and then Button crossing the line, and they stood on the podium in that order.  But it wasn't until after the podium ceremony that the steward announced that they were handing a 20 second penalty down to Vettel for passing Button off track.  That meant that Kimi moved up to third and Vettel dropped to fifth. 

Based on this race's results, I think it's safe to say that it's official.  Ferrari has managed to pull a chassis, that started the season as below par compared to the rest of the field, up to being one of the better cars on the grid.  While I can't prove it, I think that has got to do with Fernando providing useful feed back and consequently skewing the design to suit his needs.  It's clear that has worked remarkably well.  But of course it's largely due to the fact that if you put Alonso in a soapbox derby car he'd manage to finish in the points.  Damn, that man can drive.

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