Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix recap

This one is simple...

Vettel's team times his last qualifying lap so he is the last of the active track in Q3 to ensure a pole result.

Come race day, this track is just an expensive parade.  All the excitement of the race was basically done within the first lap.  Vettel's right rear tire failed, his car broke.  Alonso made another multi-car passing start.

Then, they just went around and around for 55 laps.  More cars broke and only 20 cars finished, 9 on the lead lap.

I think it is fitting that Ferrari World is at this track- pretty, superficial, but no real racing.

Alcohol content: not enough (Devil's Canyon Full Boar Scotch Ale)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Coolest In-Car Shot Ever

The Eye of the Tiger
Seriously, while watching practice, I thought this was one of the most awesome in-car shots we've gotten this season.  McLaren has given us some really trick shots throughout the year, with cameras looking through the front wing or back through the rear suspension.  But being able to watch the driver's eyes through the lap was just too nifty.  It was especially great with the addition of the G-force, throttle, brake graphics.  Maybe another one with a track position nit would've clinched it, but still so so cool.

And the full video below.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fuel Load is Important

I really miss refueling.  Anything that added fire to the sport was okay by me.  But I understand the safety concern.  How many crew members needlessly got dragged down the pit lane from an unsafe release in the Ferrari pits?  Too many for sure.  But now pit-stop bogie times are in the low 20s from the previous 30-40 second range.  We now get to watch in wonder as the tire change can get completed in as little as 2.9 second.  And while that is amazing, and truly sometimes the most entertaining part of some races, we lose something without refueling.

One of those missing things is the knowledge of how much fuel is actually in the car at the start of the race.  In the 2009 season each team reported on the fuel load of the car at the start of the race.  This made for some interesting guessing games in terms of strategy and pit-stop timing.  The fix for the truly dull almost no-pitstop race, though, was the quickly degradable Pirelli tire.  Still, I'm fixated on the fuel.  And it's not just because of fire.

Almost all season, we've watched Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull get pole.  Then on race day, he pulls away from the pack and in two or three laps he has a multi-second lead over the rest of the field.  How can he be doing this?  From practice and qualifying we know that the Red Bull is not the fastest in a straight line.  That honor regularly goes to someone running a Ferrari engine, like Torro Rosso.  But straight-line speed isn't everything.  F1 is not a drag-race or even Indy on banked ovals.  Obviously, how fast you get around the corners ends up being more important than pure straight-line speed.

After doing all the engineers can to maintain grip, they also need to overcome inertia.  The faster you are going entering a corner, the more effort you need to put into overcoming the inertia that wants to keep the car going straight.  Weight has a huge influence on inertia.  If you can lower your weight, then you can rotate and change direction more easily.  So, I think Vettel can pull away from the rest of the field because his car starts with a lighter fuel load than most of the rest of the field.

How can Red Bull do this for Vettel?  Probably because 1) the Renault engine is relatively more fuel efficient and 2) with Vettel on pole, if he can get a clean start, he can run in clean air and a clean race line also enhancing his fuel economy.

The backmarker teams have stated that they calculate their fuel load to be able to run one lap short of a full race.  Since they don't have the pace to compete with the front runners and they know they are going to get lapped, they lighten their fuel load as much as they think reasonable so that they can be the fastest of the back-of-the-pack.  So, how can this work if you are in the front?

Don't be afraid, but here comes the bad math...

Since engine design has been frozen, we can reasonably look at the fuel usage numbers from 2009 to get an idea about how things are working in 2011.  Let's look at the Italian GP since Monza is a historic circuit and we can make adjustments between the 2009 results and attempt to correlate them to the 2011 performance.

(Team - Engine)
Performance at Monza
Q3 TimeFastest Race LapTotal Race Time - Pit-Stops
(Red Bull - Renault)
(McLaren - Mercedes) 
(Ferrari - Ferrari)

I tried to take a representative top driver/team combination, but people and teams shifted around quite a bit between 2009 and 2011.  So I'll apologize to Kimi and Fernando as while neither are the same in terms of drivers, they were at the time the No. 1 for Ferrari that year.

The first interesting thing to notice is that in 2009, even through refueling meant much longer pit-stops, the races completed in less time and the Q3 times were much closer to each driver's fastest race lap.  Obviously, the cars are much heavier at race start in 2011, the blown diffusers make a difference, the aero is much different, tires are very different, and driver skill and performance varies from day-to-day, let alone year-to-year.  Regardless, let's press ahead.

The difference in economy per lap of Red Bull and McLaren is actually in McLaren's favor (2.49 kg/lap vs 2.41 kg/lap respectively).  Of the top teams, the real pain is for Ferrari with a 2009 season average consumption of 2.54 kg/lap.

That doesn't seem like much, but F1 is a game of tenths and those differences add up fast.  In the 53 lap, 306.720 km race at Monza, the weight difference because of fuel at race start among the top three teams might have been around 1.59kg (Red Bull) and 6.91kg (Ferrari) in McLaren's favor.  Being almost 7kg heavier sure hasn't helped Ferrari's cause this year.

Weight eats speed and every kg of added weight will penalize the car's performance.  The teams know this (obviously) and have precise calculations for how many additional tenths per lap the car will require per kg of added weight.

I've attempted to guestimate this penalty (P) by taking the Q3 lap time (T), the fastest in-race lap time (C), and estimated the fuel weight (F) for that in-race fastest lap.  This assumes that the Q3 time is the fastest that driver/car combination could go on the track with the lightest fuel load possible and that the in-race fastest lap would be equivalent to the Q3 time except that the car has more fuel onboard.  The formula comes to P = (C - T]) / F.  You get a chart like below:

Monza 2011 Speeds, Times, and Fuel and Time Penalty Estimates
(Team - Engine)
Avg. Speed
Fastest Lap Time
(lap #)
Q3 Time
Est. Initial
 Fuel Load (kg)
Weight Penalty
Lewis Hamilton
(McLaren - Mercedes)
241.97186.187 (52)82.725127.730.7182
Jenson Button
(McLaren - Mercedes)
241.91586.207 (52)82.777127.730.7116
Sebastian Vettel
(Red Bull - Renault)
240.93786.557 (49)82.275129.320.3510
Fernando Alonso
(Ferrari - Ferrari)
239.18587.191 (50)82.841133.560.4315

...or you can take that estimated weight penalty and plot the race lap times for the four drivers like below:
Monza Lap Times (Normlized w/o Pit Stops or Busted Laps)
Notice how much faster Vettel is at the beginning of the race.  What's amazing is how close Alonso is to Vettel's times considering how much extra weight his car is carrying.  I think this has to do with how Monza is fast track with very low downforce.  This is one of the few tracks in the calendar which actually favor the cars with the highest top-end speed.  And the Ferrari engined cars certainly have that.

What's surprising is that the McLaren cars are not closer to Vettel in this race.  I think this is where aerodynamics and chassis balance comes into play.  The McLaren cars were both having control issues that weekend.  So, let's look at a race where they weren't in theory suffering.

At Singapore Jenson Button had a great race moving from 4th at the start to podium second.  He finished a mere 1.7 seconds behind Vettel.  Alonso fought hard, but in the end he was nearly a minute behind at the finish and Hamilton even further behind.  In many respects, how well Alonso is driving the Ferrari in spite of the weight penalty is a testament to his driving skill.  And now I just barfed a little.  Anyway, here's a diagram...
Singapore Lap Times (Normalized w/o Pit Stops or Busted Laps)
Even with pole position, a clean start and clean air for the beginning of the race, Vettel was unable to pull off his normal dominant lead.  Singapore is a much slower track than Monza and the weight penalty ended up being lesser.

But I think it is clear that the combination of the great chassis along with running lighter gives the Red Bull drivers an advantage over the pack.  What would be interesting is if you could shove the more powerful and slight more fuel efficient Mercedes engine into the Red Bull how much faster it would go and how much further would it pull away from the pack?  Or even more ludicrous, let the drivers switch up cars.  Everyone gets 30 laps in Kinky Kylie around some course which Vettel truly whipped all their asses and see if anyone can make a better time.

My guesses are based on the awesome work presented by Making Up The Numbers and their analysis of the 2009 season.

Alcohol content: 0 (penalty 0.9999)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Indian Gran Prix recap

Sebastian Vettel just pulls away when he gets pole and that has pretty much been the theme all year.  I have to wonder, if the plan at Red Bull is to put less fuel in the pole car in order to lower weight and achieve that early lead.  It's worked out time and again for Vettel that he can lap from the start 0.5 to 1 second a lap quicker than everyone else at the start when he is in the lead.  And, on top of that his tires seem to last through the first stint longer than what is expected.
That's a lot of "dust" in the air.
The race start was kind of interesting with Alonso not having his semi-typical rocket launch start.  He did get himself in front of 3rd position Button, but then went long into the first corner.  The two Williams' cars coming together at the corner caused a big chain reaction at the end of the grid- spinning cars and carbon fiber everywhere.  The track certainly was slick, especially off the racing line with so much dust to add to the freshness of the track.  It's a wonder whether Webber missed a shift or just suffered from tire-spin trying to defend by moving off-line when Button passed him so early on the first straight.
Kobayashi wants a refund on his blessing.
Poor Kobayashi had another disappointing race.  He and Glock really losing out the most in the race start pinball accident.  The early fight between Button and Webber was fun to watch, but the Red Bull just didn't have the straight line speed to really take advantage of the DRS zone.  The fight between the McLaren and the number 2 Red Bull sure helped Vettel increase the gap between first and second.

Schumacher made another impressive start and kept his foot on the floor through the rest of the race to move up six places.  Is the veteran driver's form finally coming back to the full?  The Mercedes car seemed to like the Indian track as Rosberg also was able to advance his position.  The long straights of the track were certainly to the advantage of the cars which have such high straight line top speed, like Mercedes and Torro Rosso.

The rookies had a mixed-bag.  Senna drove a car with unreliable KERS, but moved up two places.  Perez move 10 stops up to 10th for a point.  But di Resta lost a place and Maldonado had his transmission grenade itself just a quarter of the way through the race.

Then we get Massa and Hamilton.  For the 5th time this season the two have come together.  This time was clearly Massa's fault.  While Hamilton was not able to complete the pass into the 5th corner, Massa certainly turned into the McLaren.  You could see that Massa was checking the mirrors of his Ferrari, but none the less, he closed that door.  With the dirty line it was doubtful that Hamilton could have braked any harder into that corned to avoid the contact.  It was right that Massa got the drive-thru penalty.  And maybe Hamilton was surprised that he wasn't penalized for a change.  But in the end, Massa's Ferrari let him down even more than his temper.

Just like in practice when his right front suspension gave out after hitting the curbing in a corner, in the race, his left front suspension collapsed in the same way.  Maybe the new front wing's vibrations caused a sympathetic vibration in the suspension to weaken it.  The accident with Hamilton probably didn't help, but it just seems too coincidental to have that flapping wing shaking the entire car and then suddenly the suspension letting go.
Wishes that flapping wing would give him wings.
Just after the accident, Buemi's engine let go.  What a shame as he, like the other Torro Rosso, were having such a great weekend.

After we got through the mid-way point of the race, the top 5 spots were pretty much set and it turned into a parade.  Vettel never had any pressure from Button leading anywhere from 3.4 to 8 seconds.  Amazingly enough, even with the pit-stop dance, Vettel maintained the lead for the entire race.  And after doing fast-lap after fast-lap, he put two laps together at 59 and 60 to ensure he captured the fastest lap of the race.  This hattrick adds another record for the youngest two-time world champion.
This race needed more dance routines.
Hamilton continued to whine on international television.  Not just during the race over the radio, but also in the post-qualifying interview.  His dad was seen at his pit recently.  I wonder if they've reconciled.  Maybe Lewis's dad can get back into the picture and adjust the young racer's attitude.

Some final thoughts-  The horrible pollution is just freakishly bad, just like every time I've visited Noida.  I hope more international attention from events like this will put some more pressure on the Indian government to do something about that.

The attendance at the race was far better than Korea, although, I was worried when the stands were so bare during practice and qualifying.  Not a packed house, but still a good show and good sign for the future.

It's clear that Vettel and Red Bull are going to keep pushing through the end of the season no matter that they've clinched everything and keep tying or breaking records.

The broadcast was pretty good for a change.  We didn't miss anything overly important (except Massa's DNF) during the comercial breaks for a change.  

Did anyone get Delhi belly?

Rowan Atkinson is awesome.

Alcohol content: This is me sober.  (Scary, eh.)

All-grain Brewing in a Single Container

Damn you MoreBeer, damn you to hell.

Ever since I started brewing, I had thought, "if this turns out to be fun and I'm good at brewing, someday I'll move up to all-grain."  But the space required for the extra equipment along with the greater complication had pretty much scared me off.  It's been easy enough to keep learning and tweaking the recipes as that's been a lot of fun and the results have certainly been appreciated by my friends.  Then I saw this:
Damn you, MoreBeer.
A single-container, all-grain, automated, all-electric, brewing system.  No extra hot liquor tank, no extra lauter tun, and the heating element, pumps, temperature probes, and control system are all in one self-contained unit.  It's from Germany, nifty.

A 20L (5.28gal) costs $1950 with free shipping is a price that's nothing to sneeze at.  But compared to other turn-key sculptures, it's pretty cheap.  Mind you, a full sized brew sculpture gives you a bit more flexibility in what you can brew.  With a limit due to size on the grain bill you can use, the theoretical highest starting gravity limit is 1.057.

I bet some ingenious soul could get something higher than that, but that's not a huge limitation.

Oh, I'm saved... at least for now.  It requires a 220V plug and altering the outlet to take the Euro plug.  Not a huge impediment, but enough to hold me off for now.  Still, this looks pretty darned nifty.

Alcohol content: take beer to make beer (2 pints in)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Indian Grand Prix preview

We are now getting our first broadcast pictures from Thursday preparations and Friday practice and the Uttar Pradesh state is present the type of air quality that I would expect.  From my first visit to Delhi and Noida onwards the air has always been in the range of chunky to extra chunky.  My coworkers would tell me that their children draw the sky as grey, but it seems so much more brown to me.  They'd also like to point out with pride that their air is clearer than Beijing.  I'm not sure if that's true or if that is much of an improvement.
A ride through that fresh morning air.
 This chunky air is euphemistically referred to as fog.  It does get that thick, but it's really a huge amount of particulate matter from dust, burning trash, and the auto-rickshaws.  In some of the shots from Friday practice you could not see the end of the straight.  There certainly are days when you can't see further than a block down a street.  Hopefully the race will shed a spotlight on how horrid the environment is in that area.
Kinda like the 'roos jumping on the track during Aussie Super V8 races.
Practice 1 was red flagged for the fellow above who wanted to mark the track as his own.  During that session Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez both earned themselves 3 grid position penalties in the race for speeding during a double-yellow flag.  It's Hamilton's sixth penalty this year, which he whined, "Is that all? It feels like a lot more than that."

New Company Car.
One last thing about the auto-rickshaws and pollution.  The Indian government at least tries to clean things up.  In 2000 and 2001 they had all the buses and auto-rickshaws converted from diesel and gas to CNG.  CNG is great on the diesel conversion front and the buses are way way cleaner.  Sadly, the results are not the same for the auto-rickshaws.  The vehicles are still two-stroke and still require mixing oil with the burned fuel in order to lubricate the moving parts.  Sadly, it was realized in 2010 that this combination of lubricating oil and CNG actually produces are far more polluting engine than oil+gas.  And to make matters worse, the greatest increase is in particulate released in running the engine. 

Alcohol content: It's Friday! (Devil's Canyon Full Boar Scotch Ale)
Images and such from GPNow and Formula 1 OnLive.

Monday, October 24, 2011

New Jersey and a second Indian GP?

The buzz this weekend as we wait for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix in Noida is that Weehawken, New Jersey will get a race in 2013.  Color me surprised, as I thought this was just smoke and mirrors.  The claim is that an official announcement will come Tuesday.  Maybe Governor Chris Christie could be a grid girl.  That would be far preferable than any cast member of a reality show from the Garden State or other related orange wannabes.  WTF is a Snookie anyway?

Before Austin got the nod for 2012, a New York City area event was thrown around as an option.  With Bahrain getting canceled for 2011 and uncertainty for 2012, it makes some sense that Bernie Ecclestone would want to hedge his bets and get more tracks available outside of Europe.  The United State is pretty 3rd World when it comes to Formula 1 (and a whole lot of other things), but the island of Manhattan and its surrounds are a large draw for serious money.

It would've been nice to have Watkins Glen considered.  The venerable track has a storied F1 history that could have been revived.  But, as with so much in racing, it's about the money.  And a New Jersey (Exit 16E) should be able to get the hedge fund and glitterati crowds to cross the Hudson and spend some of their dirty lucre.
Lincoln Tunnel, baby.
Being on the left coast of the Untied States, I'd really like to see F1 come to Laguna Seca.  The elevation changes and the corkscrew with F1 cars would be insane.  But it'll never happen.  Instead, I can just hope that we can limit the orange oompa loompa quotient. 

Instead, we can look forward to whether Mumbai will actually build a track.  Yes, before Delhi (technically, Noida, but it's all sprawl, so how could you tell?) even gets the engines started, rumors are that a plan and money are set to build another track.  Mumbai makes about as much sense as Delhi for an F1 track, though.  From a pure sporting aspect, Chennai (Madras) would make far more sense.  Both Karthikeyan and Chandhok originate from there and that is the heart of Indian motorsport. 

[Update:] Well, it's confirmed with a 10 year contract.  And as I wondered previously after the Korean GP, it could be that Korea gets dropped from the schedule as early as 2013 after hosting on 3 F1 events.  But considering how the local organizers in Korea have no use for the track between F1 GP events and the place just gets put in shrink-wrap as soon as the last car leaves, it's no wonder that there is no excitement for racing in Korea.
Alcohol content: not high enough (no comment)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Korean Grand Prix

I wonder how long Korea will remain on the calendar.  All weekend the stands were far from full and that's kind of sad.  At least this year was mostly dry come quali and race day, but it's obvious this track gets zero use outside of the F1 weekend.  That's a sad thing, but at least not a sad race.

Hamilton... hrmmm, wow, he didn't crash into Massa, or anyone else for that matter.  He pulled off an amazing qualifying run to pole, blowing past his teammate Jenson Button by nearly seven tenths and the pole-meister Vettel by a scratch more than two tenths.  After Suzuka where Vettel beat Button for pole by 0.009seconds, the differences at Korea were gargantuan.  And yet after a season where no one who wasn't driving a Red Bull had scored pole, Hamilton couldn't be happy. 

Can you spot the douche?
Bob Varsha and the gang all thought it had to do with Lewis not meshing with the team and kept rambling on about it all race.  Hell, if I were part of his crew, I might be sticking gum in his brake vents just to give him a reason to whine.  Hamilton probably still had his panties in a bunch after Suzuka, especially since it seems that someone gave him a lecture about his sunglasses from that qualifying session.  Those sunglasses were uncalled for, even if someone made an error a let him out too late to have another lap in Q3.  Even if, in Hamilton's mind it was everyone else's fault, that he couldn't make another lap, there is no excuse.  Me, though, I happily noticed that we hadn't seen the Pussycat Doll in a few races and ventured that maybe they were on the outs.  If I paid attention to regular TV, I might've known she was on some "reality" show.  But thankfully, the Daily Mail has the dirt and claims that the couple are on the rocks and BBC now confirms it officially.  I think that means I win.

After Vettel clinched the world title at Suzuka a lot of folks wondered aloud whether Seb and the team would cruise for the rest of the season.  I guess that idea seems reasonable in light of a only placing 3rd in the race instead of his normal first and sometimes second.  But by making the pass on Hamilton at the fourth corner of the first lap and then pulling away, it should be obvious that Vettel will not stop pushing to dominate formula 1.

Mark Webber, finally, had a decent start and didn't lose a position.  In fact, as Massa (who out qualified Alonso) attacked Button, Webber was able to take advantage of their fight to get by them both and take 3rd early in the race.

Paul di Resta out qualified his teammate, Sutil, and finished ahead of him.  But they both lost a position in the race with the rookie di Resta only holding on to 10th and getting one point.  The Force India cars are nipping at the heels of Renault and di Resta is certainly a fun young driver to watch... or maybe it's just the combination of Italian heritage with a Scottish brogue that makes him so alluring.  I hope they can get more consistent results next season.

This makes two races in a row that the Schumi crashed out.  This time wasn't his fault as Petrov and he came together in somewhat dramatic fashion bringing out the safety car.  After the incident which spun the Mercedes around and nearly removed its rear wing, Schumacher had this to say, "Another unfortunate end to a race which could have been encouraging today.  It's a big pity as the car was again very good in race trim and I had already gained some positions.  It would have been interesting to see what was possible, and I think we could certainly have taken some points.  As for the incident, I didn't see Vitaly coming; I was just suddenly spun into a direction I had not intended to go, and then I saw my rear wing hanging off.  It was unfortunate but these things happen when you fight hard - that's racing."

Are you taking notes, Hamilton?  That's a professional speaking.  And Petrov, also a professional, took all the blame for the accident citing the dirty line he was on while trying to pass Fernando Alonso and very late braking.  Both Fernando and Petrov tried to brake late into that corner and ended up overshooting it.  Alonso was just lucky to run wide of the corner and just miss being part of the accident.
That's going to leave a mark.

Petrov is getting a five spot penalty for the next race.  I'm not sure it's warranted, but was probably given because he and Schumacher have come together three times so far this season and always in dramatic fashion.

It was surprising that Button didn't do a better job during the race.  He lost a position to Webber pretty early and and never really got close enough to take the fight back to him.  In fact it was Webber who was taking the fight to Hamilton.  And in typical SpeedTV fashion, we were in commercial when Webber did make his pass on Hamilton and the McLaren driver took it back.  They were both good passes and we only got to see them in replay.  Kind of a shame, really.  But that's the ongoing theme with SpeedTV coverage of the race- always cutting to commercial at the wrong time.  It's hard enough that the world-feed sometimes decides to ignore multiple pit-stops or mid-pack passing, but then we get that added insult.  At least we don't have to listen to someone say boogity-boogity-boogity.

With Red Bull now clinching the constructor's title as well, is there any more reason to race?  Hell, yeah.  Who is going to take second?  Which of the rookies will come out ahead in the points?  Will Kobayshi get out of his funk and make the daring passes we enjoy him attempting?  Can Vettel reach Mansell's pole record or Schumacher's single season win record?  Actually, watching the mid-pack has been pretty entertaining all year and I hope that doesn't stop.

GT5 on the PS3 got a version update recently.  And huge 1.1GB download.  I think it was worth it.  The menu system seems more responsive and some of the loading is hidden better so at least it seems like the races load faster.  DLC could be huge.  I haven't broken down and downloaded SPA, but having that track will be nice.  Also nice, Red Bull giving everyone a new car in game.  Yup, the "aliens-have-landed" Red Bull X2010 S. Vettel was given to everyone to celebrate Sebastian Vettel's second world championship.

yup.  definitely aliens.
As far as I can tell, this maybe the fastest thing in the game.  I topped out at around 282mph on Mulsanne straight, lapped the Daytona triple oval in 32seconds, and even with multiple offs and crashes lapped the Green Hell in just over 5 minutes. 

Alcohol content: low (post written during conference call)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Japanese Grand Prix

I am so happy that Hamilton didn't podium.  Anything to keep that punk-assed whiny bitch off camera.  Every race weekend it's a non-stop litany of "it's everyone else's fault but mine" excuses.  And again, AGAIN! he makes contact with Massa.  There are folks who think that the back-marker teams are a safety issue in F1.  Yeah, they add a bit of randomness to the field, but Hamilton is a consistent hazard with mass destruction of carbon fiber and debris fields in his wake.  There was a theory floated by Matchett or Varsha that the Hamilton tire puncture was caused by tire wear.  It'd be interesting to find out if that was really the case.  The wife says that Hamilton keeps running into other cars because his mirrors are aimed so he can look at himself and check out his yellow diamond earrings (douche).  She maybe more correct than we imagined: Sorry Hamilton admits mirror visibility problem.  Although, he claims that the mirrors are vibrating too much for him to be able to see.  I kinda find that fallacious since we see from the onboard the mirrors and the reflect seems surprisingly clear to me.  I'm guessing he's just got the full gangsta lean going on with his seat and can't see over the side bolsters.
so low, can't see over the steering wheel
Webber didn't qualify as well, but for the first time in too many races he didn't lose any positions at the start.  That dishonor went to the hometown hero, Kobayashi.  After such a stunning qualifying run it was sad to have him relegated to barely an afterthought.  He seemed to nearly stall off the start and also later in trying to leave the pit.  Maybe the gearbox or clutch were reaching EOL, or just anti-stall software glitching.  Maybe he needed some rain.  The crowds stood and shouted every time he sped passed the stands.  And our mid-pack rookie excitement was also muted this weekend.  Maybe we give some of them a pass as it seems that di Resta and Perez were both experiencing flu-like symptoms all weekend.  I can hardly navigate stairs when I have the flu and these guys were navigating Suzuka in an F1 car at an average speed of over 140mph.

I think there were two factors that made this race kinda dull:
  1. Fuji TV really fell down as the provider of the world feed.  Some of the worst camera work and directing we've seen all season.  We missed so many pit stops and there were at least a couple close calls with release errors leading to near misses.  E.g. Button was released at the first pit cycle almost in Webber as Webber was coming in, but the shot was clipped so it's difficult to be sure.  We saw 1 pass made by Rosberg as he moved up the field.  WTF!  He finished in the points after starting 23rd.
  2. After Vettel's first pit stops took 4.6s and then 3.9s (still slow for Red Bull) leading to Button leap frogging him, I think there was a concerted effort put on by the entire team to make sure that Vettel finished.  Then again, he just didn't seem to be able to pull away like he has done time and again this season.  So maybe they were nursing the car (as much as Vettel will nurse a car).  Regardless, getting "stuck" mid-pack after his third pit at least meant that we saw some nice driving as he made some very smooth passes.
Back to not being able to pull away for Vettel... maybe the McLaren of Button was lighter.  I mean, even with the safety car he nearly ran out of fuel so he didn't do a cool-down lap.  Without the SC, what's the probability that he would've run dry before the end of the race?

Speaking of passes, Webber's made two very cool passes in high speed corners this season.  His pass on the outside of the 130R corner against Sutil was almost as sweet as his pass of Alonso at Eau Rouge at Spa.  No wonder he's 0.5-0.8s slower than Vettel since he's carrying some extra weight with those brass balls.

Someone needs to remind Vettel not to make that dick-move at the start.  He did it a bunch of times last season and not only is the move stupid and possibly dangerous, but most of the time it leads to a slower start.  Last year there were a few times he lost positions from pole because of that dick move.
Don't be a dick, Vettel.
Speaking of dicks.  What was up with Hobbs being a Hamilton sympathizer during the race?  He kept making excuses for the douche.  That might have been just annoying, except he then made the crazy assertion that Alonso's DRS wing opened illegally because he missed the back-marker HRT that Alonso was behind at the activation zone.  Considering the jerky move/pass that Alonso made in order to get around the HRT you would've thought they would've seen that the first time around (or at least noticed the HRT in the background when they did the freeze frame of the open wing).  Instead they had to yap about it for 3 or 4 laps before someone found a replay of the detection zone for the old coot.  This was one of the first non-Fox broadcasts that I can think of where I found it necessary to mute the F1 commentary from the Speed boys.

At least the next time we mentioned a back-marker there was some fist-waving and heart stopping because Vettel nearly rear-ended the Virgin of d'Ambrosio.  That was fun.  Or Button almost ramming an HRT on the last lap.  Or the Lotus-Renaults not getting lapped for the first time all season.  I like the back-markers.  I almost wish they were required to remain on the racing line instead of having to go off-line to allow getting passed.
Using backmarkers for passing.
It will be very interesting to see what the strategy is for Vettel for the rest of the season.  Will he push harder?  Maybe we'll get a blown engine.  I can't imagine he'd hold back and just cruise.  That doesn't seem to be in his nature.  In spite of Vettel's dominance this season and his regular long leads during race day, most of the races have been entertaining.  We just have to focus on the rest of the pack.
Vettel, donuts, Suzuka...awesome!

Alcohol content: medium (drinking homebrew)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Partial-mash versus all-grain brewing

For about four years now I've been doing a partial-mash one kettle setup on the stove.  That's where you use malt-extract (liquid in my case) for most of the sugars and use specialty grains in a mesh bag to soak as the water heats up for added color and flavor.  You get some sugars from the specialty grains, but it's far less involved that going for an all-grain production.  This is a really good place to start learning the brewing arts and you can make some really great beers this way.

In many respects, there is no reason a homebrewer would even have to change their process to all-grain.  Partial-mash requires less equipment, less expense, less prep, and less time in general than all-grain.  It is also significantly less complex a procedure and easier to get right the first time around.  The beer you make with a partial-mash can be just as awesome and varied as anything else out there.  There's no discernible difference in the end products that each process makes.  But doing a partial-mash is just that, a partial process.

With all-grain brewing, you are controlling precisely the entire grain bill and in control (in theory) of how to convert those grains into the various sugars which will then get fermented (or not) into tasty, tasty beer.  By altering the way the starches in the grains break down into different kinds of sugar chains, you determine the mix of sugars in the mash.  Some sugars the yeast can eat and make into alcohol (and CO2), while others will remain as unfermentable sugars giving a sweetness and fuller body to the finished product. 

So it's a question of control... and toys.
All-grain sure has a lot of the cool toys going for it.  And sure that takes up more space and it takes more time and a potential boat-load of money (if you are not plumbing/welding inclined), but it's multiple kettles and computer controls and an opportunity to get even more anal-retentive with your brew recipes.  <twitch>

Yup, after four years of partial-mash brewing I keep thinking to myself, "If you ever want to make the jump from amateur to pro, you'd better learn to go all-grain."  Would I ever make that jump?  It could happen.  I could also win the lottery (which would absolutely facilitate that day-dream).

Are there all-grain brewing methods that can be accomplished in the home with little or no extra equipment over the big kettle partial-mash?   I think I'll have to poke around and find out.

Alcohol content: Enough that I wrote this.  (A few micro-brews down, so many more to go)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Singapore Grand Prix

So bright.  So pretty.
It's a bit embarrassing to admit it, but I have a love-hate relationship with the Singapore GP.  On the one hand, I love the street circuit under the lights.  On the other hand, the race is too long and comes too close to hitting the 2 hour race time limit.  This year Vettel finished the 61 lap race in 1:59:06.757.  Plus, the race is hot, muggy, and this could lead to some dangerous situation in the race.  Still, I look forward to this race all year, because the cars and the special helmets look awesome under the lights.
Taste the rainbow.
Quali was almost a disappointment.  The grid was basically lined up by car number for the first 4 rows with Button out qualifying Hamilton and Rosberg out qualifying Schumacher.  The young rookie di Resta keeps showing good form as the season progresses and for the most part seems to have avoided some of the in-race drama that Perez and Maldonado have experienced.  He might not finish as high in the points as he'd like, but he does finish races.

But at least the race made up for the almost ho-hum qualifying sessions.  Even though Vettel again pulled away at the start and Webber again lost position at the start, there was even some race excitement at the lead positions.  Button put on another quiet show of pushing forward and came close to even challenging Vettel for the lead.  Hamilton again went at Massa this time puncturing the Ferrari driver's rear wheel while knocking off his front wing.  Hamilton's drive-thru penalty will certainly add the the lad's persecution complex.  Maybe he just can't see very well, or worse, he doesn't have a firm grasp of he dimensions of his car.  The former is a bit unsafe, the latter would be downright dangerous.  I hope someone get's Lewis's eyes checked.

As for someone who might need to get their eyes checked, Schumacher is in that camp.  How he misjudged Sergio Perez's Sauber, but it was a very dramatic way to DNF.  At least Schumi wasn't playing tag with Petrov again.

Even without Lewis Hamilton's help, the Ferraris just didn't have the pace during the race.  Massa made up some places after his tire puncture, but Alonso just kept falling back ending up nearly a minute behind Vettel and 26 seconds out from 3rd at the finish.

1 point.  1 point from clinching the 2011 title and having back-to-back driver's championships.  At least there is no question about Vettel's dominance this season.  Last season he won it on the last race, but I think if he hadn't suffered from the reliability issues of the car, he would've taken the title with a much greater margin in 2010.

 Alcohol content: medium (Hendricks and tonic)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Italian Grand Prix (Monza)

The early half of the race really was possibly the most entertaining of the season. 

I'm not sure what to think about Luizzi losing it at the start, other than EEEK!  He wasn't the only driver to get caught out by the tarmac ending on the straight just before turn 1 during the weekend.  It would've been interesting to see how Rosberg compared to Schumi since the old timer had such an awesome race.
A rocket start and then boom goes the rookie!
Schumi's typical good start and then holding of Hamilton for as long as he did was great to watch.  I think I could've watched Hamilton struggle to pass Schumi on the straights all day.  Some people find Schumacher's method of defending to be a violation of the rules on number of moves.  And I'll admit it was probably pretty rude.  But the Mercedes had almost 15km/h on the McLaren on the straights without DRS, while the other would catch up in the corners.  It would've been more entertaining if instead of telling Schumi to move over, Hamilton would've been required to use a backmarker as a pick.  And then Button passed them both (brilliant) during a commercial break (sigh, again).

It's a bit sad to have Webber's accidents (hitting Massa then into the tire wall) corresponded with Vettel's attempt to pass Alonso and then actually passing him.  And amazingly they didn't replay that pass more than once!  Jeebus, the kid started it with one wheel in the dirt!  Then just pulled away with an apparent 10+km/h deficit in top speed compared to the Ferrari's. 
I think I'll watch this on repeat all day.
Is Kobayashi cursed, in a bad car, or reckless?  He's lost a lot of front wings this year.  Alguesuari once again scored when starting from 18th.  di Resta had another nice race and scored more points, as did Senna.  It's fun watching the rookies handle the mid-pack.

Some last thoughts...
Hobbs was well into the sherry today and I swear he was saying Lezbos all day.  The requirement to stay sober is probably why he'll never be the driver's steward.

"Remember when Alonso was evil?"  Yes and he should be buying Hamilton whatever it is he's taking so that Lewis can maintain his high levels of doucheness.

Button is turning out to have a very quiet, stellar year.  It may just be him acting is Whamilton's foil, but his calm nearly calculated racing has certainly given him some really excellent results.

2.9second pit stops?  Really?  Whoa.  During pre-race someone claimed that if each of the workers in the Red Bull pit did their personal best, the stop time would be 2.2seconds.  That's insane and fun to watch, but I still miss refueling.

Alcohol content: medium (Guinness and homebrew)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Belgian Grand Prix (Spa)

Did Webber nearly stall at the start?  Can anything else explain him dropping five places at the start?  It's one thing to handicap yourself against weaker opponents when you have a clear advantage, but this is kind of ridiculous.  He's certainly giving himself plenty of opportunities to practice passing and his move and pass on Alonso on the outside at Eau Rouge was fabulous.  Alonso must have thought he was seeing things went Webber went flying by.

Hamilton's mirrors must be defective, or maybe he's getting glare from his yellow diamond earrings.  Regardless, he is a quite dangerous on the track.  A not one of his accidents are his fault... at least in his mind.  If his situational awareness were as keen as his snap judgements to blame others, he'd be having a much better season.  As it is, his looks reckless and feckless.  He's not a rock star, but apparently there's no one around to remind him of that.  And if he weren't ruining other people's races the whole thing might be funny, but it's frustrating having crashing and accidents take attention away from the actual racing.  If I wanted to see nothing but crashing determine a race I could get a lobotomy and watch NASCAR.
Dramatic, but not racing.
Michael Schumacher had a great race after a horrid qualifying, moving all the way up the field to 5th.  His best finish this season.  Massa and Alonso effectively switch places between Quali and race finish trading 4th with 8th.

Paul di Resta had a nice race moving from 17th to 11th being beaten out of the points by Pastor Maldonado who scored his first F1 point.  It's been fun to watch the rookies this season- to see which ones can rise to the challenge and keep their heads.  The mid-pack is a crowded place and with all that inexperience plus nut-jobs like Hamilton, there is a lot of opportunity to break carbon fiber bits off the car.

Alcohol content: Buzz on (Hendricks and tonic)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Turkish Grand Prix

OMG! Someone forgot to put a watch on Alonso.  A very sad day in Maranello that they so did not expect to be on the podium that they weren't prepared with a watch at race finish for their man.  Although, I have to agree with Vettel who asked Alonso in the hall before the interview section, "Where did you come from?"  He did have a fabulous race, but it was a nice job by Webber to regain his position and finish second after another horrid start for the Aussie.

Okay, now I'll back up a bit.

Amazing work by Red Bull to put Vettel's car back together in time from qualifying.  I was surprised the chassis wasn't damaged, because the way the car was sitting post-crash, it looked torqued.  But I realize that's mostly an illusion due to the suspension being ruined and tires off the car on one side and a carbon fiber tub just wouldn't twist.  Regardless, it's nice to see that so far, Vettel and Kinky Kylie are not suffering from the reliability problems that made last season seem so much closer.
That'll buff right out.
I can't believe Red Bull parked Vettel and Webber with nearly two minutes to go in Q3.  I mean, that's a gutsy decision to make which happened to work for them.  I guess it's all a matter of tires and trying to not end up like Hamilton in the previous race running out of Primes.  It was another impressive race by someone from the back of the grid.

Kobayashi finished in the points after a great drive.  He moved 5 positions on the first lap and then was able to use his tires to pass and hold-off Schumi and Massa.  Even with a bit of bump-and-grind going on in the middle of the pack, I'm surprised by lack of any full-scale accidents or yellow flags.  Other than di Resta's gearbox death at the end of the pit lane, there were no local or full course cautions the entire race.  That's gotta be something of a first.

There sure was a lot of action for the first 10-15 laps.  But it seems to be all about DRS creating a lot of the back-and-forth.  It seemed that every pass which was made prior to the DRS zone led to the passed drivers regaining their position immediate afterwards in the DRS area.  So, were people able to make passes in non-DRS zones because of KERs or does Turkey just have a good set of corners that facilitate passing?  At least for this track, DRS seemed unnecessary in order to facilitate more passes.  I'm thinking its a combo of the two, even though, I think Webber was having KERs issues (hence his crap start and at race end him not apparently using it in his efforts to pass Alonso). 

I think the position fighting between the McLaren boys ended up dragging them down in the end.  Hamilton had the pace and ignoring the horrendous pit stop could've ended up in a much higher position.  And while Schumi looked good in practice and even made into Q3, I'm confused as to how he fell apart to 1) only qualify 8th and 2) not being able to hold off Massa, Kobayahsi, or Buemi.

So Renault is doing a great job this year in continuing their recovery after Crash-gate, but I think they are sorely missing Robert Kubica.  But what's going on with Force India and Torro Rosso?  Both teams seem to be having problems being anywhere as competitive as they were last year.

I am hopeful that Todt will really figure out some way to allow testing back into F1.  The new teams especially need it along with Ferrari who courted some controversy last week by having a "filming session" with Alonso and Massa with all their new kit on track, at speed.  Again, bending the rules just a bit, but the no testing rule is a bit absurd.  Teams will just spend the money in simulation.  So, if we get testing, can we have refueling, too?

Another fun race, even if front row still finished 1 and 2.  So long as the rest of the pack remains so fluid, I see no problem with having qualifying at pole pretty much guaranteeing a race win because we still have a ton of racing for the other positions.

Alcohol content: Feeling mellow (cuba libres for everyone)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chinese Grand Prix

So glad we could compare and contrast a weekday with the factories going full blast versus a "weekend" when they let the workers have a half day.  The "sunny" day air was on par with what I experienced in New Delhi- very chunky.  Surprised the cars could get enough oxygen to burn fuel... or maybe there is some other oxidizer in the particulate that the gas is using to burn.
Or maybe these ladies were helping to rev the engines.
What's the deal with Hobbs, Varsha, et al giving head to McLaren-Mercedes for winning-  "This is why McLaren is such a world class organization blah blah blah."  So you were able to beat Vettel and Red Bull because KERS was malfunctioning, his tires were dead (only 2 stops and still on the podium), and he had no radio communication with his pit for about half the race.  Sounds more like Red Bull was handicapped more than McLaren came back from great adversity to win.  If anything, they should've been gushing more over Webber's drive, who I think probably had no fuel in the car to save weight as it was operating on pure hate.  That was a mean fucking driving.  He really just spanked the car around the track and then went on to pass Button.

If there is a sign of a championship-level team and driving it was Webber's run.  He overcame an obviously crippled (week after week) car, still without reliable KERS, and was able to move up fifteen (15!) positions.  Button and Hamilton made two positions at the start, which Vettel was partially able to over come (wrong pit Button) and then Button overall lost a position from the start (3rd at grid, 4th at finish).  I wonder, if Vettel was able to communicate with his pit would he have gone in for another set of tires at some point earlier and been able to hold off the McLarens?
One of these things is not like the other.
And speaking of crippled cars, poor Nico with the lead in hand and then "fuel critical" radio call.  How much suck was that?  Schumi had a real good drive, too, although, certainly overshadowed by Webber, as he only moved up six positions.

So, will Ferrari get any penalties?  There is video of DRS operating on Alonso's car outside the zone- wtf?  Even the booth drones saw it (which is surprising since they couldn't stop talking about McLaren and how awesome Hamilton was in his drive, which I guess is true since he could find his pit).  And I think it was either Massa or Alonso would couldn't keep the car in the lane on the pit exit.  That's usually been an automatic drive-through or 20 second time penalty.  If it were any other constructor, I'm sure there would be an investigation over the DRS and something.

Overall, a good race, now I have to wait 3 weeks?  I hope that Red Bull can figure out their KERS.  Mind you, if the FIA let  DRS operate whenever then Vettel could almost live without KERs.  During at least one of his quali laps when they had the graphic up, you could see that Vettel just had the DRS going every time he was coming out of a corner.  He must be some serious PS3 button masher.
Chunky, chunky, air.  Can't wait to compare it to Delhi.

Alcohol content: Hardly (home brew hefe)