Friday, September 28, 2012

That's All: Schumacher Done?

So now the music has started to stop on the driver's seats for 2013.  Lewis Hamilton will move to Mercedes, Sergio Perez moves to McLaren, and Micheal Schumacher is basically left out in the cold.

When you think about it, of the top six seats, at least four of them were already locked up: Alonso, Button, Vetel and Webber were all locked up.  Hamilton looked like a forgone conclusion, and his move briefly freed his McLaren seat until Perez got tapped.  Only Massa's seat remains in doubt of the top six; and even if Massa isn't retained, it seems extremely unlike Schumacher will get the nod there.

I wonder if Schumacher either decided he was out earlier, granting Mercedes the ability to pursue a replacement.  I somehow think that had Schumacher put his mind to it, he could have re-signed at Mercedes with very little effort.  The fact that he didn't leads one to suspect that either he or the team had approached the other some time ago about 2013 to say it wasn't on; probably him, since if he'd wanted to go elsewhere I'm sure those kinds of inquiries would be impossible to keep quiet.

So I think this means the end of the road -- again -- for Schumacher.  He has been pushing hard in the car, but somehow I don't see him happy toiling away in an even lesser car.  His return hasn't been exactly plated in glory, and his best result of the last three years -- 3rd in Valencia -- came courtesy of extremely abnormal attrition ahead of him on the road.  Yes the Mercedes wasn't up to the task.  But I don't think anyone expected that this would be the limits of his second go-around in Formula 1.  I don't think it has been the embarrassment I feared when he announced his return.  But it isn't the triumphant cap on this career that was envisioned at the time.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Summer Is Over, Back To Racing

Two more races in quick succession.  Comments on Belgium:

  • I called the trigger of the accident at turn 1 -- Grosjean didn't give Hamilton enough room, and they touched.  After that, Sir Issac Newton did all the work.  I didn't think that Grosjean should have been suspended for that move.  It was optimistic, yes; it was dangerous, yes; it was wrong, yes.  But if he'd done it at turn 2 instead of turn 1 and only taken Hamilton off, he'd only have received a grid penalty for Italy instead.  The fact that two championship contending cars were taken off, along with one car being tossed over Alonso's nose a couple of feet from Alonso's head I think played disproportionately highly in the minds of the stewards.
  • That said, I didn't mind Button winning in Belgium.  Alonso escapes his bad luck with his championship lead intact, and one less race remaining for those behind him to catch him.
  • I sure hope that the first turn collision doesn't make enclosed cockpits "inevitable".  Enclosed cockpits would be even harder to see out of, especially during wet races, and potentially would hinder drivers' abilities to get out of the car quickly.
  • Maldonaldo probably should have received a one-race ban.  He's been involved in too many incidents this year and needs to calm the f--k down a bit.  That said, his jumped start made me laugh, recalling previous drivers explaining that their transgressions were not jumped starts, they were just "good anticipation".  And the comments about Ferraris in Italy who's races just happened to start a half second before everyone else's.  Good times, good times.
Quick comments on Italy:

  • TSN didn't start the qualifying coverage with the commentary feed, and frankly I think that would have been an interesting experiment -- just have the noises of the cars for the qualifying session.  Reminded me of that time a few years ago where some labor dispute left CBC broadcasting hockey games with no commentary, only the noises from the rink.  Sometimes the commentary is just blather, with the hosts talking just for the sake of filling air time, not leaving the viewers the time to think about what has happened for themselves.
  • And while we're on the topic of TSN, the lack of proper audio-video synchronization continues to annoy me.  The video was about two-thirds of a second ahead of the audio, you could really tell on the in-car shots where the driver would pull the down-shift lever and the engine note wouldn't immediately adjust.
  • Ferrari's playing with tows down the main straight in qualifying was interesting, but ultimately futile since A) Alonso had mechanical problems on his run, and B) Massa actually managed to go faster at the end when he didn't have a tow.  Monza is probably the only circuit where such playing around might even possibly be productive.
  • I though the aggressive defense that Vettel was putting up against Alonso through turn 3 was probably over the line, but only marginally.  If Alonso had lost control and speared the Red Bull then it would be open and shut... but it wasn't.  It is another data point for wondering where the FIA is going with this crack down.  So between this, Vettel-vs-Button from Germany, and Hulkenberg-vs-Maldonaldo in Hungary, we can predict that had Vettel hung onto the track in Germany and been punted by Button, the stewards would have punished Button for failing to leave sufficient room for Vettel.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.
  • Seems like a strange quirk that there was so much action coming out of turn 3, that the cars would be suitably fast yet not suffer from following so close behind the car ahead.  This is probably just a quirk of the track and the current technical rules.
  • Vettel's falling away with another engine problem was disappointing from a competition standpoint.  I would rather Ferrari beat Red Bull on the road, not because the Red Bull is parked at the side of the road.
  • Button's retirement probably puts his title hopes to bed for this year.  While there's still some of the spin-the-wheel-of-random-results going on, Alonso's Ferrari is consistently near the top of the results sheet race in and race out.  While it is possible someone -- Button or someone else -- could put together a string of race wins and catch him, I don't see it happening unless Alonso suffers another DNF.
  • The Renault powered cars are probably glad to see the back of Italy and Belgium, since they don't seem to be deal well with the requirements for straight line speed over all other considerations.  Webber especially hasn't done well since the summer break ended.
  • This time I'm not as impressed with Perez's results storming through the field at the end of the race.  He showed good tire management to drag his first tires as far as he did, and then had the benefit of exponentially fresher tires over the opposition at the end.  It was a good strategic call, and while Perez had to be competent to pull it off, I don't see it as an exceptional drive.  Plus, of course, it profited from at least Button's early departure, if not Vettel's as well.