F1: Monaco Grand Prix 2011

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I’m not even sure where to start here! Practices were exciting. Qualifying was crazy. The race was almost a letdown with all the action of the previous runs. Then BBC’s F1 Forum (the post-race wrapup) was freakin’ hilarious and, should you have the appropriate IP or means to fake it, can be seen here. Sure, I’ve thought about how neat it would be to go to Monaco one day, F1 or not, but watching that made me wish I was there right that second, partying on the Red Bull yacht. Granted, I’d go anywhere the Red Bull yacht was were I invited. Seems like a hip place to be and, since we could clearly hear everything on the show, turns out we have similar tastes in music :)

Monaco is a special track. There are a lot of special tracks on the Formula 1 calendar, but this is the one that all the drivers can’t wait to race and win. They’ve been running this race since 1929. It’s a road course, there are next to no run-off areas, and it’s extremely narrow. You need to be perfect to win. Hit the marbles* and you are likely in a heap of trouble.

Before the race, the drivers wanted the rules for DRS activation changed in Moncao. DRS, on the whole, was a non-factor in the race, but a lot of that had to do with the drivers trying to add in a larger safety margin by banning the use of DRS in the tunnel. Lemme add in some background, since I know none of you guys watch ;)

Above, open. Below, closed.

DRS in action. Above, open. Below, closed.

DRS is a passing device. A driver presses a button on his wheel and his rear wing moves to create a gap for air to pass through, which increases his speed for as long as it’s open and going in a straight line. There are strict rules about when and where you can hit that button. There are designated areas on the track and you need to be within 1 second of the vehicle in front. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to pass to gain position or just lapping someone, but you need to be in both of those windows. Overtaking in F1 is extremely hard and this was added in for 2011 to help encourage more of it. It was never meant to be a ‘Free Pass’ button, and I don’t believe it is, but it is definitely having a large effect on the number of overtakes this season so far! I’ll wait until more of the season elapses before I can pass any real judgement on it. It has created many more opportunities — some people call this form of passing ‘artificial racing’ — but I don’t think it’s stolen any points away from the people that rightfully earn them. It’s not going to turn a back car into a contender, but it lets the lead cars lap smoother and presents an extra layer of strategy. Between DRS and Kers (which I’ll go into much greater detail before Montreal in two weeks), it was a recipe for extreme speeds in a very scary tunnel. No safety foam in there. Oh, and the tunnel curves. And it’s dark. And then you come out into bright sun in your eyes. And the road drops out for the downhill. And there’s a chicane. And another wall. At least this one has foam.

Nico Rosberg had an incident in Practice 3. It was an ‘incident’ because announcers are encouraged to avoid saying “HOLY CRAP THAT WAS CLOSE! DID YOU SEE THAT?!?! Lucky little $#%@&*, right there, eh?” It was a matter of centimetres and luck, as clearly seen at around 1:42 below.

Duuuuuuude. Nose first and in the air like that, he would’ve been done ;_;

Amazingly, Mercedes managed to rebuild the whole car in the hours between P3 and Qualifying. Qualifying was a disaster for poor Sergio Perez. The kid was having the run of his life and it could have ended him.

I was watching live (of course) and it just breaks your heart. He didn’t just hop out of the car like Rosberg. Extraction took a while. Replay after replay, you see his hands come up to his helmet. Nothing he could do. As it was said, he’s just a passenger at that point. He was not medically cleared to race the next day, but Sauber kept fans updated on twitter and on their site with assurances that he’s going to be fine. Concussions rarely work out just peachy, but I hope he’ll heal up well and his team will be responsible with his health. Brain damage is getting tons of (justifiable) negative attention in hockey these days and I’m glad that more people are aware that rocking the crap outta brain is not just a small little thing to shake off.

There was 2:35 left in Qualifying when Perez crashed. Q was Red Flagged, stopping the clock and the racing so the marshals and medical crew could attend to him without getting run the heck over. This was not an issue if you had already done a flying lap** and posted a time. However, if you were trying to be sneaky and save some tyres and only fly around at the end of Q to take advantage of low fuel weight and all the rubber everyone left on the road, well, you were screwed. Looking at you, Mr. Hamilton. They did decide to continue with the last 2:35 instead of cancelling for safety reasons, which they would have had to do if they could not repair the foam barrier Perez hit back up to race standards. This didn’t help Lewis since he cut a chicane on his flying lap, which invalidates your time. Oops. He was displeased.

He carried that rage all through the race and threw his car around like a derby driver. I lost all my respect for him through his actions this race. He was blaming everyone else and even, jokingly played the race card when asked about why the stewards had called him up for an explanation in five of the six races. The transcript does not quite convey his tone throughout the interview. I was pretty shocked. Webber is usually known as one of the more outspoken drivers in F1 but I think Hamilton wins by a mile now. He was digging at his team for the Sat Q situation, as if anyone knew there was going to be a crash like that, and then blaming everyone else for the poor showing on race day. Not cool. He was acting like a spoiled child. I wish he got more than a meaningless penalty for some of his actions.

Oh right, the race. It was alright. I actually fell asleep during a big chunk of the middle since I was exhausted from Friday and Saturday’s work. Watching what I missed later, I didn’t miss much. Had Vitaly Petrov not crashed near the end (another near barrier collision out of the tunnel! Phew. His front wing went down one side and he managed to get everything else to the other…), the finale would have been truly amazing. Sebastian Vettel was in the lead and out much too long on tyres about to die, with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button ready to pounce. Wait, nvm, red flag. Everyone went to park on the grid, as per procedure, and every F1 fan learned something new today: you can changes wings and tyres and whatever the heck else you feel like before the restart!! Even the announcers didn’t think that was legal and had to send their guy in the pits to ask the engineers about it. Once Petrov and his car were removed from the track (he’s ok but really needs to watch where he’s going sometimes), the race resumed with everyone on new tyres and nothing really changed except for Mark Webber passing Kamui Kobayashi at the last possible opportunity in order to salvage 4th. The End.

Except for the post-race coverage which was hilarious intelligent and light and fun and I could watch those guys goof around all day! And I loved Coulthard as a driver, too. And on Top Gear ^_^

I also love Nico Rosberg‘s honestly in his post-race video blog. You don’t hear many drivers speak so frankly about their own mistakes

Ok. Now that I’ve scared away all of my fans, I should wrap this up. I did warn everyone on twitter that I’m going to be borderline insane leading up to the Montreal Grand Prix, and having E3 ‘in the way’ beforehand won’t make me any more tolerable. #justsayin

Closing Note: Jenson Button ran a fantastic race. It’s a pity he didn’t get the victory here, but he was sewered by bad timing for a pit stop. He’s probably the classiest guy in racing today. Massive pity his teammate overshadowed his great work with selfish comments.

*As you wear down the tyres, you leave rubber on the road. This increases grip on the racing line as the race progresses, but they also scatter little bit of rubber — ‘marbles’ — around the track off of the line. Running over them to overtake is always risky. Especially on a tight course like Monaco.

After the race, you’ll see cars weaving left and right all over the road. This is partly a celebration, sure, but it’s also to have their tyres pick up as many marbles as possible to increase the weight of the car for the parc fermé measuring (cars need to finish above a certain weight to meet regulations, and they no longer have leftover fuel or driver’s water weight to help with that).

** Standing start means the car hits the gas from a full stop on the grid. Out lap means the car is coming out of the pits to the track (the pit lane has a strict low speed limit, so you can’t just punch it and scare all the other mechanics). Flying lap means that you’ve already done a lap, either from the grid or out lap, and now cross the start/finish line at full speed. This, obviously, makes your next lap time way better :)

2 thoughts on “F1: Monaco Grand Prix 2011

  1. Not to rub it in but as I said over twitter I had the luck to be in Monaco in 2008. I didn’t get to see the race itself but saw the preparations and walked the course. Oh did I mention I was in Monaco. And I staid at the Fairmont hotel which is the hotel that’s built over the tunnel. Did I mention I was in Monaco :)

    The normal street roads seem tiny and claustrophobic. After they add all the guard rails and stuff you lose another 6 feet of road. These streets are tiny. I have no idea how the drivers keep it together. And there is a great change in elevation through the course. The hotel corner is a really tight hairpin but there is also a large change in elevation there.

    BTW why do you keep misspelling tire :D

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