F1 Spanish Grand Prix: The Other Guy

f1-2015-spain-rosberg-victoryFor all the passion that the Spanish have for motorsports, they really do have a terrible Grand Prix. The Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona has been absolutely dreadful since they put in the Tilke-chicane in the final sector. They can support four MotoGP races but I’d put it down to high ticket prices and terrible racing as to why Spain can seem to barely support one Formula One Grand Prix.

Anyway, there was a race yesterday in Spain. For the first time this season, Nico Rosberg found his way to both the pole and the top step of the podium as he scored his first win of 2015.

For the first time this season, it was Rosberg who claimed the pole. For all those expecting Lewis to put up a fight for the lead like we had seen so many time last season, this is the Circuit de Catalunya. So any chance there was for a fight at the head of the field was dashed when Hamilton spun his tyres off the lights and fell behind Sebastian Vettel.

f1-2015-spain-vettel-hamiltonThanks to the nature of the circuit, the Brit was unable to execute a pass for position on-track. He was, however, able to make his way back forward thanks to the use of a three-stop strategy that minimized his time on the slower hard tyres. That allowed him to get by Vettel on pit strategy and briefly lead the race before losing it when taking his final stop.

Interestingly, on the fresh rubber for the final stint, Hamilton quickly began chasing down his teammate. As F1 teams are wont to do, Mercedes told Hamilton to back it down and hold position rather than chase his teammate home.

f1-2015-spain-podiumThe win was the 9th of Rosberg’s career. Six of those wins have some in the most recent 24 of his 171 Grand Prix starts. Lewis Hamilton has finished in the top two in the last 12 races including yesterday after finishing 2nd. Sebastian Vettel was the Ferrari rounding out the podium this week with his third 3rd of the year.

Valtteri Bottas split the Ferraris for the second race in a row by finishing 4th. Kimi Raikkonen finished in 5th. Felipe Massa came home in 6th. This may come as a surprise but Daniel Ricciardo is one of five drivers to score points in each race this season. This time, he came home in 7th. Romain Grosjean overcame overshooting his pit box and hitting his front jackman to finish 8th. He was also missing fourth gear. Hopefully his jackman wasn’t missing his plums after icing them down on the world feed. Carlos Sainz looked to be in great shape for the race with a 5th place in qualifying but he could only manage 9th in the race. And Daniil Kvyat rounded out the points in 10th.


 

One of the hottest topics in the pitlane at this early point of the season is who will be driving the second Ferrari alongside Sebastian Vettel in 2016. We’re only a quarter of the way into the season but all eyes are on the driver market already.

When Raikkonen signed with Ferrari for 2014, it was expected that he would retire from F1 at the conclusion of his contract. However, that doesn’t seem to be as much a certainty any more. In fact, Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene is open to re-signing the Finn for at least one more year.

f1-2015-spain-bernie-arrivabeneOriginally, it was expected that Raikkonen’s replacement would be Jules Bianchi but that plan won’t come to fruition. Lewis Hamilton is rumoured to be the target of all the teams at the front of the grid but it seems as though everyone also expects Hamilton to re-sign with Mercedes. Fernando Alonso’s name was also linked with a hasty exit from McHonda but Ron Dennis insists that Alonso’s three-year contract has no escape clauses.

The hottest free agent on the market is Williams’ Valtteri Bottas. The young Finn has impressed since Williams jumped to Mercedes power and has looked as good or better than teammate Felipe Massa over the last year-and-a-half. It should be a battle between Williams and Ferrari for Bottas’ services should Ferrari look to make a driver lineup change.


In recent races, FOM have been using an overhead wire cam to film down the front straight. It’s a really cool angle if used correctly, though it seldom has practical uses outside of pitstops (it was a great angle for Alonso’s aborted stop).

I just thought it would be interesting to point out that the fly cam had actually been banned by NASCAR after one of the four cables supporting the camera came loose during the 2013 Coca-Cola 600 and damaged a number of cars after falling on the track. If one of those cables on the track could cause significant damage to a stock car, I shudder to think of the possibilities of what could happen when a cable meets a Formula One car.

I know this is probably a very unlikely scenario in the grand scheme of things but all that needs to happen is for the cable to break one time, even if it falls into the pit lane rather than onto the frontstraight, and a car runs over it.


Lotus had some new sponsorship on the sidepods this weekend as upcoming movie release Mad Max got some branding on the side of the car. Unfortunately for Lotus, their cars decided to live up to their new branding.

f1-2015-spain-lotus-mad-magDuring the race, an early dust-up between the two cars saw one of Pastor Maldonado’s rear wing endplates broken off. That was nothing compared to what happened to Grosjean during Friday practice. Running down the pit straight, Grosjean’s engine cover disintegrated as he was driving along. It’s likely that something wasn’t fastened right which allowed some air in which tore the carbon fibre apart.

Also, WordPress, can we get GFY/HTML5 embed functionality? The lovely folks at /r/Formula1 had a great GFY of Grosjean’s engine cover disintegrating but you won’t let me put it on the blog and I’m not going to embed a 42MB GIF instead of the 1MB GFY. Instead, there’s Pastor in an F1 car with machine guns.


The next round of the 2015 Formula One World Championship is in two weeks’ time. It’s the first part of the motorsports triple-header Sunday before Memorial Day. While the afternoon is occupied by the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race and the evening plays host to NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600, the day starts with the Monaco Grand Prix.

At Monaco, there are three key factors to help you to victory. The first is qualifying. Even with how much the tyres fall off and if someone makes a mistake, it’s very tricky to pass someone on the narrow streets of Monte Carlo. The second factor is downforce. How do you go fast in Monaco? Pin that car to the ground with as much downforce as is possible to put on the car. And the final key to victory is keeping it clean. Those walls are really, really close to the racing line. The key to speed is getting as close to the barrier as possible without hitting it. A couple of millimeters one way is tenths or hundredths lost. A couple of millimeters the other way ends your day.

Given those keys to victory, it’ll be a shootout between the Mercedes drivers. Sorry if I sound like a broken record at this point of the season but it’s still just a glorified battle between two cars. Sure, the Ferraris can intervene when the circumstances are right but they still need Lady Luck on their side. And I don’t rate Williams chances because Monaco is a downforce track and that doesn’t really seem to be where they’re strongest for now.

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