MOTORSPORT /// F1 /// 2014 GRAND PRIX OF THE UNITED STATES (31.10.2014 – 2.11.2014) /// UNWANTED COMMENTARY: SHALL WE DO THIS ON DELAY? /// P1…

  • Good morning.
  • And, welcome to Middle America.
  • This…
  • …Is the United States Grand Prix.
  • Music, please…
  • Austin, Texas’ own Black Joe Lewis, folks.
  • And, yes, this is (totally) my party.
  • The United States Grand Prix.
  • …The 44th in the 100 billionth venue, I do believe.
  • …Math, people; math.
  • …For the third (consecutive) year, the USGP is being held at the gorgeous, amazing, freaky as Austin, itself, Circuit of the Americas.
  • …Everything is bigger in Texas.
  • …Where the stars at night are big and bright.
  • (clap-clap-clap-clap)
  • …And, COTA’s 20 sharp, steep twists and turns are no deviation.
  • …COTA is 3.426 mi (5.513km) long.
  • …On race day, it will be lapped 56 times.
  • …Which will bring the total distance to 191.634mi (308.405km).
  • …For those who survive.
  • …Which is a huge question mark, as it has been every race in 2014.
  • …But, with COTA’s 130-ish-foot Turn 1 climb, quick S-turns, the heat of Texas (it’s around 70f and Middle America-sunny, so around 500f on track), the concerns are an angry longhorn in an antique shop this weekend.
  • …By the way, did you see how I did that?
  • …No, not the regional references.
  • …Miles before kilometers, rather than kilometers before miles?
  • …Let’s be honest, our concept of the metric system is (pretty much) limited to running distances and whatever the Canadian speed limit signs tell us to do.
  • …Also, Celsius?
  • …Don’t even bother.
  • …We know freezing is 32f/0c.
  • Anyway…
  • In 2013…
  • …Red Bull’s Vettel celebrated his first USGP win with some doughnuts and a few words of wisdom.
  • …Reminding the world that we have to enjoy this moments.
  • …Because, you never know when it will come to an end.
  • …Which, Red Bull and Vettel’s Championship reigns have in 2014.
  • …No, I have no reason to believe he knew anything.
  • …I think it was all very genuine and generalized.
  • …Second place went to Lotus’ Grosjean.
  • …Who appeared to have some trouble giving up his podium stetson.
  • …Nothing more natural than a very slight, Swiss-born Frenchman in a cowboy hat.
  • …Like Vettel and Red Bull, Lotus’ 2014 car was a serious failure.
  • …With Grosjean earning all of the team’s eight points.
  • …Yes, if you’ve forgotten or not made it that far down the Championship standings, they’ve (only) scored eight points.
  • …But, the cowboy has held onto the malfunctioning mechanical bull and is, actually, finalizing his contract renewal with the team.
  • …Joining teammate Maldonado for a redo when they shift from Renault power to Mercedes in 2015.
  • …Which, honestly, I really do believe is a hugely important factor in success.
  • …(Continuity.)
  • …Third in 2013 was Red Bull’s Mark Webber.
  • …The F1 retiree and current World Endurance Championship driver was spotted, rocking a bottle of Jagermeister in the celebratory wake of the race.
  • …That dude?  Red Bull?  Party.
  • Okay, usually, I wouldn’t be commenting on Practice 1.
  • …I would be reviewing it while commenting on P2.
  • …As P1 is rarely broadcast on TV.
  • …And, although this is being aired a tad after the fact, I’m running with a healthy suspension of disbelief.
  • …Complete with zero knowledge of how P1 went.
  • However, there are a few important notes to be made.
  • First and foremost, there will (only) be nine teams participating.
  • …If you are new to F1, there are 11 teams participating in 2014.
  • …Each team having running two cars per race.
  • …(Generally; exceptions to every rule and circumstances and all.)
  • …Unfortunately, Caterham and Marussia, the mighty underdogs of F1, will be staying back to reassess their financial situations.
  • …Their situations are very-to-a bit shaky.
  • …These long hauls are very expensive.
  • …And, F1 and the FIA are supporting their leave of absences, allowing their time off, penalty-free.
  • …For Caterham…
  • …Oh, man, is that a mess.
  • …Basically, when Caterham was sold (earlier this season), it was never, fully, handed over.
  • …Apparently.
  • …The new owners have (absolutely) had it, thrown the team back at them, and walked away.
  • …And, that was on top of general financial collapse.
  • …Having their assets seized and so on.
  • …Last week, the team was locked out of their headquarters.
  • …With the cars (still) there.
  • …So, there was no way the equipment could have made the weekend shipping deadline to get to the US.
  • …Caught in the mess are rookie Ericsson…
  • …Who just missed points at Monaco and has found some magic in that little Caterham.
  • …And Kobayashi.
  • …Who should have had (deserved) a much better return to F1 after losing his seat in 2013.
  • …As for Marussia…
  • …Marussia isn’t in the trouble Caterham is.
  • …However, they’re not as secure as they want to be and need to be.
  • …And, with Bianchi (still) in “critical but stable” condition, following his collision with a support crane at the typhoon-drowned Japanese Grand Prix, the team just needs a time-out.
  • …Sochi was rough.
  • …You could see it, you could hear it; they just weren’t there.
  • …Chilton, running the lone Marussia (after they opted to hold Bianchi’s fully-prepped seat, rather than run reserve Rossi), really looked like a wreck (with questionable mechanicals, the team retired Chilton early on, calling it a day; they tried, they really tried, and it was clear).
  • …So, I mean, now is the time for them to take a breather.
  • …It (absolutely) kills me when business refuses to consider personal.
  • …So, I’m glad the powers that be are running with it and making sure they’re okay.
  • …Bianchi scored his and Marussia’s first-ever F1 points.
  • …One Constructors’ point in F1 is worth millions.
  • …They have two.
  • …So, I hope that helps.
  • …I really do help both teams can figure something out.
  • …Last year, I predicted that this would be a great year for the little guys, that the new configurations would be an equalizer.
  • …And, if you look back, if you look beyond the end results, they’ve had a tremendous year.
  • …They (really) have.
  • …Bianchi and Ericsson, especially, have figured out a way to make those cars competitive.
  • …And, that is amazing.
  • …Let’s not lose that.
  • …And, by the way, Jules, time to wake up.
  • …Nap time is over.
  • …You have work to do.
  • …And, you are nothing short of irreplaceable.
  • Because there are two fewer teams and four fewer drivers…
  • …Tomorrow’s Qualifying round will be a bit different.
  • …The bottom four will be knocked out of (both) Q1 and Q2.
  • …Rather than six and six.
  • …More on that tomorrow.
  • I feel like I need to drop some good news.
  • So…
  • …Grosjean has announced that he and his wife are expecting their second child.
  • …And, he did it with a photo of their shoes, lined up, a pair of white booties at the end, with “Coming soon”.
  • …Though planning to keep it a private matter, as they did with their first, he made the announcement with the intention of injecting some good news into F1.
  • …Romain Grosjean.
  • …Good guy.
  • …In other good news, The Incredible Hülkenberg has re-signed with Force India.
  • …So, phew!
  • …If you’ve kept up with this commentary over the years, you know my thoughts on Mr Incredible.
  • …And, you know, silly season is (always) a terrifying game of musical chairs.
  • …Lots of talent, not a lot of seats.
  • …Word has it that they are close to finalizing a contract renewal with Perez (as well).
  • …The Force India boys have done very well this season.
  • …Back to continuity.
  • …It’s a good thing.
  • …Making lemons into (kind of bitter, but headed in the right direction) lemonade, F1 has organized their safety commission to look into the Bianchi incident and figure out what the sport can do to try to prevent something like that from happening again.
  • …Which is all anyone can ask.
  • …We can’t go back in time.
  • …So, all anyone can do is move ahead with the knowledge gained from lessons learned the hardest way possible.
  • …It’s something F1 takes very seriously and has been extraordinary at over the years.
  • …Remember that this was the 20th anniversary of the deaths of Senna and Ratzenberger at Imola.
  • …The last deaths in F1.
  • …20 years.
  • …That’s huge.
  • …There hasn’t been an accident of Bianchi’s caliber in years.
  • …And, hopefully, there won’t be one anything like it for many more years to come.
  • …So, I consider this a bright light, leading the way out of a very dark rabbit hole.
  • Hey, how about Practice 1?
  • …With a little over 15 minutes to go.
  • …Any guesses as to who might be leading?
  • …Yep.
  • …The World Champions, Mercedes.
  • …Remember that, though the Championship will not be announced as official until the end of the season, the team did achieve the necessary lead to clinch the title at Sochi.
  • …With Drivers’ Championship leader Hamilton on top.
  • …And, tailgater Rosberg right behind.
  • …McLaren’s Button is running in third.
  • …Toro Rosso’s rookie, Kvyat, in fourth.
  • …And, McLaren’s rookie, Magnussen, has bumped Ferrari’s Alonso for fifth.
  • …Sauber’s Sutil appears to have stopped (on track; safely pulled off, way off, to the side – remember that, after the Bianchi incident, extra precaution is being taken with disabled cars on track until a plan is sorted) with some sort of engine gremlins.
  • …And, I am wearing a black-and-white polka dot cardigan over an orange western-style shirt.
  • …Because, it’s the USGP AND Halloween.
  • …I’ve got this.
  • …Also, I’m scarfing BBQ chips.
  • …Fun Friday F1 Fact: I (usually) eat race-appropriate snacks.
  • …This will be a record chips and pop weekend for (generally healthy) me.
  • …The USGP and Halloween?
  • …Well, it’s been in the 20s and 30s for my morning drives, so, you know, I’m just being practical and insulating.
  • …Yeah, that’s it.
  • A few lineup changes for P1…
  • …Marussia and Caterham, aside.
  • …Toro Rosso has swapped out Vergne for Verstappen.
  • …The 17-year-old will be joining the team next season, so they’re giving him a little seat time.
  • …Vergne will be back in his car for the rest of the weekend.
  • …And, Williams has handed Bottas’ car over to (reserve) Nasr.
  • …Like Vergne, Bottas will be back after P1.
  • …Williams re-signed (both) Bottas and Massa earlier this season, so they’re just taking care of their reserve, making sure he stays in practice and all.
  • Grosjean goes off.
  • …Regains control.
  • …Rejoins the track.
  • Double trouble.
  • …As Maldonado drifts his own Lotus off.
  • Time is up.
  • …Leaving Ferrari’s Räikkönen sitting in the pitlane.
  • …His mechanics retrieve the car, scooting it back to the garage.
  • …On replay, it appears he overshot the garage in a moment of distraction.
  • …”Top Gear”?
  • …If you missed him on “Top Gear” a few seasons ago, while doing his lap in the Reasonably Priced Car, Mr Of Espoo took a moment to point out the trackside plane.
  • …Anyway…
  • …Hamilton, Rosberg, Button, Kvyat, and Magnussen top the sheets.
  • …And, as for those seat-fillers?
  • …Nasr posted eighth.
  • …Verstappen posted 10th.
  • …Okay, I’ve shared my concerns regarding very young drivers over and over.
  • …But, I’m (always) open to the excitement of true talent.
  • …This is the second impressive outing for Verstappen.
  • …Could we be looking at another Kvyat?
  • …I will leave you with that as I wait for P2 to begin.
  • See you in an hour…
  • …Oh, I know you will be waiting.
  • …Kick back and have some chips.
  • …In the fatal words of so many horror classics…
  • …I’ll be back.
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