Thursday, November 29, 2012

F1-Geeks Armchair Team Principal - Round 15 - The Japanese Grand Prix - Suzuka

11 World Championships have been decided at Suzuka over the years.  It's a classic challenging track where you get a sense that mistakes will not be brooked .  Suzuka is one of the tracks I really want to see in person.  I remember Senna winning a world championship here and a dramatic win for Alonso when Schumacher retired about 3/4 of way through resulting in a massive championship point swing,

I used to be ambivalent about this track but I've grown to really enjoy it.  Narrow and technically challenging it has a classic feel to it.   Particularly for the gravel traps.  I used to hate them everywhere but now, in Suzuka, they are awesome.  Drive a bit too crazy, what do you get?  Stuck in the gravel is what you get, son.

McLaren have 4 pole positions in a row.  Can they make it five?

Whoa.   That's really the thought for me here.   I am honestly surprised with the driver changes that were announced at the beginning of the weekend here. Not a lot but enough.

Announced his retirement at the end of the season.  This one shouldn't have been a surprise to me but I was surprised at his lack of patience with the development of the team.  Of course we don't know the real story but one could easily imagine Michael getting pushed out in favor of Hamilton.  Which would make it similar to his last retirement when it seemed he got pushed out in favor of Alonso.

Moving to Mercedes from the team that walked him through his career since practically before his teens seems a bit of a jerky move. I'll admit I'm surprised that he didn't take the easy way out and stay with McLaren.  Then when I think of how Hamilton will be the uncontested number 1 one the team, I can see that appealing to his delusional sense of self importance.  I don't care, he whines too much for me.  On the other hand, this is not the road well traveled and he gains a bit of credit for putting his contract where his mouth is.  And yes, if he decided he wanted to do an interview with F1-Geeks, I'd buy him a first class ticket and fawn all over him because the truth is, he is very good at what he does. 

Does that make us hypocrites at F1-Geeks?  No.  Unless we pretended to like him to get page views.
Lewis Hamilton is the best diver ever.

Get's the big break moving to McLaren.  This will make him amazing or will destroy him.  We'll see.  It is the opportunity of a lifetime.

Favorite Track Feature
The "S-curves".  A fast blend of entrances and exits at the beginning of the lap that are tied so closely that you have to get them all perfect or you ruin your entire lap.

Favorite Easter Egg
The nod on the back of the rear wing, to the McLaren based animated cartoon on Sky Sports.

A typical Suzuka session.  Traffic and surprises.

Q1 was all Schumacher providing the drama.  He somehow managed to blow every lap he attempted until the last that started just before the timer for Q1 ended.  So he had one and only one lap.  Caught in traffic, he was not fast enough until the last sector but he managed a miracle reminiscent of his older days and made it through to the next session.

Senna gets blocked and then throws a tantrum about it and wastes even more time than the block cost him.  Ridiculous.  When you start driving like your uncle then you can pull crap like that.

Q2 Enjoyable, as Perez makes it through and Maldonado doesn't.  No real surprise from the rest.

Q3 RedBull shows up and shows up good.  Front row lock out.  There is a chance it could have played out differently but Raikkonen spun and everyone had to make sure not to kill him.   Vettel gets his 4th consecutive pole here.

I fully expect a RedBull 1-2 but Suzuka can be full of surprises. 

The Race
Whoa... again.
Lights out
Vettel in front and Kobyoshi makes a great start, and moves past webber. Button does the Button thing. Calm and cool moving up to 3rd.  Commotion ensues in the 1st corner.   Alonso has Raikkonen on his left and Button makes a sudden move toward Alonso.  Alonso makes a small adjustment but it is enough to drive his left rear into Kimi's front wing and it goes flat and as does Alonso's race.

High drama here as Alonso needs all the points he can get with this closest rival leading the race this DNF drastically changes the season from on where it is Alonso's to where it seems unlikely he'll be able to keep it.

Rosberg is caught up in the chaos and he gets to chat with Alonso all the way back to the pits.

Vettel manages the restart masterfully and Kobyashi keeps his 2nd place to the delight of his hometown fans but we all know that's not going to last.  Chances are he'll be lucky to stay in the top 5.

Perez is looking confident after his announcement and makes some daring moves.   Then he tries on Raikkonen.  Raikkonen's not going to take any business from Perez.  You can almost hear him thinking, "I am not caring about you."  Perez tries anyway and he pays for it by being run wide and loses some spots.  They don't call him Iceman for nothing.

Perez regains himself and eventually makes my favorite move of the race.  Outbreaking Hamilton into the hairpin, he actually uses the hairpin to help keep him from sliding into Hamilton and makes a clean brilliant move.

The race stewards assign grossjean a 10 second stop-and-go penalty for being scruffy and French but much like F1-Geeks, they had no issue with him slamming into Webber.

Button starts to close in on Kobyashi and it looks like the Japanese driver is going to lose the podium but some freaky transmission problems hold him back.

For the first time since 1990 a Japanese driver makes the podium and the crowd cheers so loud the Tifosi would be impressed.   Good job Kamui on your first F1 podium.  It could not have come on a better track, well done.

Favorite Quote
A two-way tie.
Raikkonen when a Sky Sports reporter, hoping for some interesting commentary asked him about his spin on the last lap of Q3,
"Kimi, what happened?"
"I spun"
"And a bit of a disaster for you and some others..."
"I don't care what happened to the others."

I am glad he's back.

Mark Webber commenting on being torpedoed in turn two.
"First Lap Nutcase again, Grosjean.  Maybe he needs another holiday."

Favorite Moment
The normally very reserved Japanese crowd chanting, "Ka-mu-i, Ka-mu-i, Ka-mu-i"
Runner-up: Vettel congratulating Kamui on his podium

Once again Japan is pivotal in the championship contest and Alonso's lead is cut to only 4 points.  Next up Korea.  Shaped like a leprous Pac-Man, it's a modern track and has some cool elements.  See you there.

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