MOTORSPORT /// F1 /// 2014 GRAND PRIX OF RUSSIA (10.10.2014 – 12.10.2014) /// UNWANTED COMMENTARY: SHALL WE DO THIS ON DELAY? /// QUALIFYING…

  • Good evening.
  • This is the Russian Grand Prix.
  • This is Qualifying.
  • And I am on delay.
  • Qualifying ran this morning.
  • …I have the results.
  • …But, what is an end without a story?
  • …And, that is why I do this delayed babbling.
  • …Plus, there is (always) a lot of information through the entirety of a grand prix weekend.
  • So, the Russian Grand Prix.
  • …This is the very first Formula 1 round in Russia.
  • …Though, there were grands prix held in 1913 and 1914.
  • …Which is pre-F1.
  • …So, welcome to Sochi.
  • …And, all its palm trees and sun.
  • …Yes, this is Russia.
  • …Stupid Cold War propaganda, leading the world to believe Russia was in a constant state of shuffling down grey streets in snowy wind, shielding their sad faces with scarves.
  • …Oh, you know that’s what’s in your head.
  • …Anyway…
  • …The Sochi Autodrom
  • …A street circuit, taking drivers through the heart of Olympic Park.
  • …It is one of the longer circuits of the season.
  • …It is 5.848km (3.634mi) long.
  • …On race day, there will be 53 laps.
  • …Which brings the total length to 309.745km (192.467mi).
  • …And, it will be run clockwise.
  • …Weather-wise, sunny and 70s (Fahrenheit).
  • …A much-needed far cry from last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
  • …Which I’m just going to leave out of this round of commentary.
  • …There’s a lot to say, but there’s a lot to say about these three rounds of Qualifying.
  • …That’s all there is to that.
  • …Cool?
  • …Cool.
  • Yes, this is Qualifying.
  • …Three rounds.
  • …The first two are elimination.
  • …All of it, deciding who starts where on the grid (tomorrow).
  • …Q1 is winding down.
  • …Williams’ Massa, uncharacteristically lagging behind, has radioed in with fuel pressure problems.
  • …Concerned looks from Williams’ Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams.
  • …And, more importantly, Massa’s brother, Dudu.
  • …But, Dudu’s there, so it’s a party.
  • …Massa fails to advance as Q1 wraps.
  • …At the front are the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Rosberg.
  • …Shocking as that might be.
  • …They are followed by Massa’s teammate, Bottas.
  • …And, McLaren’s Button.
  • …Who has been on some sort of rampage as of late.
  • …I don’t know if McLaren has sorted some of their car issues or if the tracks just happen to be working with the McLaren and its drivers.
  • …But, it’s been fantastic to see.
  • Prior to Qualifying, F1 runs a third Practice session.
  • …The results of that session saw that very same top three.
  • …Swapping out Red Bull’s Ricciardo for Button.
  • …Which is interesting, as Red Bull had concluded that their cars would not be very effective on this track.
  • …No huge drama.
  • …But, the car of McLaren’s Magnussen did die on track.
  • …Not to undo anything I said about the McLarens (earlier).
  • …It happens and it happens to everyone and it happens all the time.
  • …Especially, this season, with the new technology that was implemented.
  • …The whole season has been a long, hard learning curve for everyone.
  • …Even Mercedes.
  • Two notes on this track…
  • …1) Because it’s brand new, it’s an equalizer.
  • …It’s a new experience for everyone.
  • …No one has a record there and no one knows (exactly) what to expect.
  • …2) Because the surface is new, it’s slippery.
  • …Think of it like any other sealed surface you’ve encountered.
  • …It needs to be broken in a bit.
  • …So, with every lap run by every car in every session, more and more tire rubber is laid down as the surface is beaten into F1 shape.
  • …However, a bit more slipping and sliding than usual can be expected.
  • …Though, like any other race, it will not be tolerated.
  • …As usual, there will be repercussions for putting all four wheels over the lines.
  • …And, while I’m babbling about rules…
  • …Just a reminder that radio contact is limited to mechanical matters.
  • …Zero coaching.
  • …A transition which has been a lot smoother than expected.
  • …Since its implementation, just a few races back.
  • …Yes, drivers can, in fact, drive.
  • …Cool, eh?
  • Q2 ends.
  • …Final laps, flying in.
  • …Red Bull’s reigning four-time World Champion Vettel is knocked out.
  • …Again, Hamilton, Rosberg, and Bottas take the lead.
  • …As a little McLaren switcharoo goes down behind them.
  • …With Magnussen taking fourth.
  • Going into Q3…
  • …Both Force Indias are out.
  • …Both Saubers are out.
  • …Both Lotuses are out.
  • …Both Caterhams are out.
  • …And, the lone Marussia is out.
  • …Remember that Marussia has opted to run one car this weekend, out of respect for Jules Bianchi, who remains hospitalized following a collision with a removal crane during last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
  • …Reserve Rossi was on the entry list and did the track walk.
  • …But, in the end, no one was comfortable with the situation.
  • …So, Rossi won’t have to start his F1 career under a dark cloud.
  • …And, Marussia has assembled Bianchi’s car, which sits in ready position in the garage, waiting for its driver.
  • …Should he spring up, hop on a plane, ready to go.
  • …Weirder things have happened.
  • …I’m just saying.
  • …For the record, I have zero doubt that Bianchi could, in fact, bounce back in and make the more powerful cars work for their positions.
  • …The dude figured out how to drive a Marussia competitively.
  • …He got the team (and, himself) their first (ever) points at…
  • …Of all impossible places…
  • …Monaco.
  • …I mean, come on.
  • …On that note…
  • …At that same race, Caterham’s rookie Ericsson just missed getting their first point, bork-bork-borking his way to 11th.
  • …He just missed moving onto Q2 today.
  • …File these guys under “magical dudes who can drive riding lawnmowers”.
  • …Also, I told you this would be a good year for Caterham and Marussia.
  • …It’s been incredibly exciting.
  • …Let’s hope it continues.
  • Q3…
  • …The final push, under a backdrop of the Caucasus Mountains.
  • …The cars, gaining speed as the track shows (visible) signs of (necessary) wear.
  • …Interesting fact…
  • …So, if you weren’t aware, Pirelli nominates specific tire choices for each race.
  • …For this race, despite a warm, clear forecast, they’ve ruled out supersofts and gone with softs and mediums.
  • …Why?
  • …Because, no one had any idea what the surface would (actually) be like.
  • …Had it been (unusually) rough, cars would have blown through supersofts.
  • …Honestly, in the grand scheme of things, with a track new to everyone and everyone with the same tire options, it doesn’t matter.
  • …But, for anyone who may have been wondering, there you go.
  • …Droppin’ some science, there.
  • …Oh, and, yes, Vettel did do an exhibition run at this track.
  • …But, the key word there is “exhibition”.
  • …Putting it on par with simulator work.
  • Q3 wraps…
  • …Pole for Hamilton.
  • …Rosberg will be next to his teammate.
  • …Behind them will be Bottas and Button.
  • …Who, I’m becoming more and more certain, purposely come in together so often, just to screw with everyone’s eyes.
  • …BOT BUT.
  • …Bottas came close to ousting the Merc shutout, but lost it on the final corner.
  • …So!  Close!
  • …Behind BOT BUT are Toro Rosso’s Kvyat and Red Bull’s Ricciardo.
  • …Who will be Red Bull teammates in 2015.
  • …Kvyat, thinking globally and acting globally.
  • …Fun fact: a block of grandstands (at Sochi) has been named for the Russian rookie.
  • …Behind all those guys are the Ferrari duo of World Champions Alonso and Räikkönen.
  • …And, behind them…
  • …Toro Rosso’s Vergne.
  • …Who is (always) a solid driver, (always) giving everyone a run for their money.
  • …But, has been especially on fire since being informed that he would be replaced by a 17-year-old (Verstappen) next season.
  • …However, last weekend, it was announced that Vettel would be leaving Red Bull and that Kvyat would be taking his place.
  • …So, what appeared to be a series of “screw it/screw you” drives could, in fact, give him his seat back.
  • …Hopefully.
  • …In my opinion.
  • …Which counts for nothing.
  • …But, really, it would be such a waste of talent to let Vergne slip away like that.
  • …Plus, he’s tremendously amusing.
  • …A little odd.
  • …F1 can (always) use some weirdness.
  • …If you’ve noticed, all the drivers are wearing decals, reading “Tous avec Jules” (“All with Jules”), on their helmets this weekend.
  • …That was the work of Vergne.
  • …Who has stated that he is “driving for Jules” this weekend.
  • …Total stand-up guy.
  • …Just saying.
  • …Also, if you want to see Vergne touring the Sochi track on a Segway, you’re in luck.
  • …Formula1.com – Gallery – Russia – Wednesday
  • You know…
  • …After such a horrible week, following an indescribably horrendous weekend, it (really) is just wonderful to see everyone starting to loosen up a bit.
  • …More and more smiling as the weekend rolls on.
  • …Massa has referred to last weekend as the worst of his life.
  • …Including the one in which he took a spring to the head and suffered his own head injury time loss, which he’s written off, as he can’t remember it.
  • …But, after much hesitation, everyone has remembered why they do it, why they’re (all) here.
  • …Pure joy.
  • …A love and passion for the sport.
  • …And, really, what better tribute to and support for Bianchi is there than going out, having a great time, and kicking some ass.
  • …Otherwise, what is it all, what was it all, and what has it all been for, right?
  • And, that seems like a good note to end this on.
  • For those in the US…
  • …Russian Grand Prix coverage starts on NBCSN at 6:30am (ET).
  • …They will be airing “Off the Grid: Budapest” beforehand, if you want to catch the “no regrets” interview with Bianchi.
  • …Who I’ve always (well, as long as he’s been present in F1) thought was exactly what the perfect F1 driver should be.
  • …Well-spoken (if not a bit quiet), polite, good attitude, and he even looks like one might picture an F1 driver to look like in their head.
  • …Watch it (or, look it or him up).  You’ll see what I mean.
  • …(Plus, it’s a really cool show and the Budapest one is especially interesting, given Hungary’s history.)
  • Kvyat and Ricciardo, next to one another on the grid.
  • …Kvyat, out-placing his future teammate (his best Qualifying result to date).
  • …Just as Ricciardo has been doing to (teammate) Vettel all season.
  • …Both are smiling about it.
  • …Admit it, you are, too.
  • Toodles!
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