F1 on Speed – minute by minute! Woah!!!

Posted: March 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

Saturday morning. Hannah is finishing up on breakfast. I settle down into the section of our apartment that bears the most evidence that I was here in New York three months before Hannah – the big L-shaped sofa facing the 50” Samsung plasma TV. If I were a lottery winner there would be a highly secured section of my house with a room set up like this. There would be a large screen centrally, with four smaller (I’m thinking 42”) TVs/monitors around it to cover simultaneous live sports coverage, internet, playstation etc. Full surround sound, intruder alarms, beer fridges and a separate outside entrance to cover takeaway deliveries.

The 1st Grand Prix of the 2011 season is in Melbourne, Australia. This means two things to me: One, my sister is there in person. Two, I will not be watching it live. I used to watch every Australian Grand Prix live. When I was little, my parents allowed me to. When I was a little older, my body still allowed me to. Now, it doesn’t matter if I have approval from everyone in my life, I arrived back from Bermuda yesterday and I fly to Costa Rica tomorrow and my body is saying ‘screw you if you think I’m going to let you live if you try not letting me sleep between’. Welcome to old age.

In other news, the bread that is just about to pop-up out of the toaster is good! Hannah got a breadmaker for her birthday. This completes the only void in our New York lives. There is no such thing as good bread one can purchase in New York. You can tell because it all lasts about 3 weeks before going stale. That cannot be right. We wanted a good old English loaf that is exceptional for about 3 hours after purchase before beginning a quick decline into becoming a bad rock cake by the next morning. The stuff you can buy here is mediocre at best from purchase through three weeks later. So I’m excited.

Then I get downright giddy. F1 in HD!!!

There’s an o-so-pretty HD montage of the new cars and all I can say is “Ayche Deeeeeee!!!” over and over. I’m so stupidly happy. Right up until the point…

They speak.

It’s F1 on the SPEED channel once more and we have the same clowns from last year:

Bob Varsha, the American anchor who speaks in catch-phrases and knows nothing.

Brit commentator Steve Matchett who is bland and knows nothing.

Squeaky-yet-somehow-gravelly-voiced colour commentator, David Hobbs, whose job it seemingly is to know even less than the others while providing “Ooooh!” “WOW!” “Ahhhh!” “WOWZER!” sound effects over other people speaking. This drives Hannah nuts.

Will “the pit lane guy” Buxton. Will not only speaks with more clarity, enthusiasm and knowledge than the others combined, but also does so to the extent that he’s one of the best in his role that I’ve ever heard on any channel. Which makes it all the more irritating that he’s the one we hear the least of. Anyway, let’s see how this unfolds.

1 min in: Bob starts us off with dreadful quasi-similes about the chilly Melbourne weather and the chilling performance of Vettel in practice. He says “now, they must qual-if-iiiiiiii!!!” as if he’s auditioning for a movie trailer voiceover job. Hannah sighs as I begin to get frustrated already.

2 mins in: Webber names everyone other than McLaren when asked about potential rivals this year. I immediately reach out to log onto Betfair to bet on Lewis and Jenson for the race before remembering that I’m not allowed to in the US. Two things I don’t have here. Good F1 coverage and the ability to make money out of other people’s lack of sports knowledge.

5 mins in: Bob tries to explain the 107% qualifying rule, gets it wrong, tries to correct through clarification and gets it wrong again. Steve helps by chipping in and getting it wrong in a whole new, third way.

6 mins in: Ad break. Breakfast (poached eggs, bacon and good-bread toast) is great.

Q1 20mins: Bob reads the qualifying rules from a script. He then mentions the cool temperatures for the third time.

Q1 17mins: Petrov is the only one out on track in the black and gold (and red, but we don’t talk about that) Renault. He looks good – smooth, tidy and deliberate. Bob calls it a “Ren-OH” and I grate my teeth.

Q1 15 mins: Will brings up the DRS moveable rear wing. I hate the DRS because it falls foul of the ‘Carbon Brakes Rule’. This is the rule that says things should only be allowed in F1 if they will be remotely useful for road cars in the future. It’s so named (by me) because carbon brakes need to be heated to about 1000 degrees before they work – meaning they do not work on road cars. They also, by virtue of the fact they single handedly halved braking distances and took away a huge margin of error (or skill), did more to kill overtaking in F1 than anything else including the deliberate messing up of the airflow out of the back of the car which doesn’t allow the car behind to get close through corners. The stupid DRS (“Drag Reduction System”) involves the driver pressing a button on the steering wheel to flatten part of the rear wing. In qualifying this reduces drag in a straight line allowing the cars to be faster, but reduces downforce in the corners giving them less grip. Allowing the drivers to change this as they are going around the circuit means that every time they get on a straight they press the button to flatten the rear wing, which they then release as they break for a corner. There is no rocket science about when to apply it – they will all do it at exactly the same points around the track. In a race, you are only allowed to engage it if you are less than 1 second behind the car in front. The car in front is not allowed to engage it, giving you an advantage and better enabling you to overtake. I want to see more overtaking in F1, but I want to see it because the better driver/car combination is overtaking the not-so-good driver/car combination not because the car behind has a clear advantage simply because it is behind!  Stop meddling and sort out the real problem. Take away carbon brakes and clean up the airflow coming off the back of the cars. If you don’t believe me please see every form of bike racing, non-oval Indycars and Nascars, sportscars, single seaters in F3 or below, rallycross, karting, errr… every other form of motorsport with no carbon brakes.

Q1 5mins: Perez goes fourth in car that my mother could get through Q1. The commentators go inappropriately yet predictably nuts.

Q1 4 mins: Way too early to tell but Sauber look quicker than Mercedes. Things that make you go hmmm.

Q1 3 mins: Kobayshi runs a little wide onto the kerb and gets it a little sideways. David reacts by shouting “HEY – GOOD OLE’ BOY THAT’S IT MY BOY GIVE IT SOME WELLY!!!” as if young Kamul had deliberately done a power slide coming out of the corner for our benefit. I’m sure Kobayshi will be delighted that The Hobster celebrated him losing 2 tenths of a second on a hot lap. Ladies and gentlemen, David Hobbs.

Q1 Checkered Flag: Quick thought – do Ferrari still pay Felipe Massa?

Q1 Checkered Flag: Petrov finishes 3rd among 16 cars to have made it through Q1, 10 of which were cruising. “What a development!” exclaims Bob. “Please stop grinding your teeth honey” asks Hannah.

Q1 Checkered Flag: Bob: “We’ll take a break and do the numbers”. I have no idea what this means.

Q2 Back from the ad break: Karthikeyan walks into his pit having got within 9 seconds of Vettel and clearly outside of the new 107% rule. “He gave it he best shot. You could argue he did very well under the circumstances” says Bob. Did he Bob? Could you Bob? Is there anything else you would like to share that you can know nothing about Bob?

Q2 14mins: Steve says that if Massa is not confident then it affects his performance. Allow me to save you five minutes of your life by not typing my response.

Q2 13 mins: Dannii Minogue is there. Apparently, says Hannah, this will please Madi. Dannii looks awful – she appears to have (if this is even possible) a botoxed nose. Bob: “Is that Kylie Minogue?” Steve: “Dannii, possibly Dannii”.  Hannah: “Ohhh noooo…  really??”

Q2 13mins: Vettel has apparently named his new car “Kinky Kylie”. The reason for this, Bob explains, is not repeatable for an American broadcast. I bet Brundle would have said it.

Q2 12mins: “Wooooaaaahhhh!” shout Steve and Dave in unison as Barrichello gently spins into the gravel trap. They then shout over each other to try and get across that he may not be able to get out of it – something which is already evident from the fact his wheels are spinning and he’s going nowhere.  SPEED’s F1 commentary team – we do anything but add value!

Q2 12 mins: The replay arrives and it’s immediately evident that Rubens got his left wheels onto the grass as he was braking and turning in and spun the car. End of discussion.

Q2 11 mins: Bob starts to talk about the harder compound tyres that Rubens had on being harder to get heat (and therefore grip) into. This is all fine, but irrelevant as he had two wheels on the grass which caused the accident.

Q2 11mins: No, now Bob is actually claiming that cold tyres were a factor. HE HAD TWO WHEELS ON THE GRASS.

Q2 10 mins:  F1 is HD is pretty. Bernie – where was this 3 years ago?

Q2 9 mins: Oh no. Now Steve is claiming that Barrichello’s crash was caused him releasing the DRS button on his steering wheel. They show the in-car camera of Barrichello making a mistake by letting the car continue onto the grass as he is braking (with no evidence whatsoever of a suddenly change in trajectory) and Steve claims that the DRS unsettled the car. Dave to Steve “You have eyes like the rat that lives… (a full three second pause) under the ground.”

Q2 8 mins: Bob: “Look how quickly the engines rev!”

Q2 7 mins: Hamilton locks up his right front under braking and clearly flat spots it.  You can clearly see the patch of darker, chewed up tyre as it begins to rotate again on the slow motion replay. Steve: “Hamilton has terrific reactions and manages to avoid flat spots.”

Q2 6 mins: Steve: “This is a wild guess, but I wonder if the electronics on Barrichello’s car were operating the wing in the wrong way, causing the accident?”  Me: “AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!  He got two wheels on the grass! It was a mistake!” Steve: “Just putting it out there” Me: “Don’t. Ever.”

Q2 5mins: Australia looks cold.

Q2 4 mins: Alonso, 2nd favorite for the championship behind Vettel puts in a lap that’s a full 1.1 secs slower than the shabby-haired German’s Q2 best, putting him into 4th at the moment. Dave “Nice time from Alonso there – 4th”. Yes Davey-boy, I’m sure he’s delighted being 3 grid slots and over a second behind the front-runner. It’s not like he’s a double world champion driving a Ferrari with a zombie teammate and a highly realistic goal of becoming world champion this year, is it?

Q2 4 mins: In car with Massa. It looks messy, un-committed and, well… plain un-coordinated. It looks kinda like someone driving on a Playstation game for the first time when they don’t know what they’re doing yet.

Q2 2 mins: Will gets hold of Barrichello in the pits and asks him what happened. Rubens: “I put a foot wrong going into the corner, got on the grass and turned it around, unfortunately.” I punch my own head.

Q2 2 mins:  Rubens adds that the pace of his car (the Williams) was quicker than the team had expected in qualifying, so they’re hopeful for the race. Back in the knowledge-vacuum that is the SPEED commentary box, Dave adds: “That’s interesting eh? The pace of the car in qualifying is quicker than we thought it would be? Those Red Bull guys (laughs) have been playing their cards close to their chest all day yesterday.” Now, was he simply not listening to what Barrichello said and did not understand it, or he thinks Barrichello drives for Red Bull? Either way, he is a muppet.

Q2 1 min: Sutil gets up onto the kerb coming onto the main straight, loses it, overcorrects and spins 360 degrees. I swear this is an accurate transcript of the commentary (they do not stop speaking over each other at any point):

Steve: “Ohhh!” He’s going to be out.. ohhh! I… oh… no he’s not…  woah… and there he is… wow!  Ha ha ha! Woah!”

David: “Woah! Ohhh! Woah! Ooooooo! Ha ha ha! Jammy devil!! Ha ha ha! Woah!”

Bob then adds what sounds like: “Kick, save and a beauty!”

Hannah looks up at the TV: “What?!”

Bob then adds: “Just the way the coach drew it up on the blackboard!”

Q2 Checkered flag: In car with Schumacher who is fighting what is clearly a badly handling Mercedes and trying to get into the top 10 for Q3. Some of SPEED’s best analysis coming up once more… over to you David and Steve: “Ooooh he’s trying hard! Ooooh! Push it! Oooooh!” Look, he is! Here it comes! (onto the main straight) Go on son! Come on my boy! Get over there!

Q2 Checkered flag: Schumacher fails to reach the top 10. Steve adds “The car is not fast enough”. We cut to the results showing Schumacher’s teammate Rosberg in 8th.

Q3 10 min: Hannah is right, you do not expect Paul Di Resta to be Scottish.

Q3 6 min: David: “Hamilton has the quickest hands in the business.”

Q3 5 min: Vettel looks so, so quick, so, so committed and so, so comfortable. This is really fun to watch in-car.

Q3 3 min: We get to see a minute or so of Buemi looking really solid. Very accurate, using all the road and keeping extremely smooth.

Q3 2 mins: Massa spins coming out of the pits. Trick question: Who is more overpaid, Massa or the SPEED commentary team?

Q3 Checkered flag: Hamilton somehow bumps Webber into 3rd. This is either amazing from Lewis or completely pony from Webber. I cannot make up my mind which.

Interviews: Vettel somehow manages to contain his justified smugness. Lewis does the same by doing the thanking-the-guys-back-in-the-factory thing. Webber looks and sounds beaten already. Quick thought – Vettel is tiny.

Last thoughts: Faster than expected: McLaren and Renault. Petrov, Rosberg and Di Resta. Slower than expected: Ferrari and Mercedes. Webber, Schumacher, Sutil and Heidfeld. Massa should still not have a job in F1. I will watch live races with radio commentary this year.

Latest pre-race odds from Betfair:

Vettel 20/21 – way too short. At the first race of the season with reliability issues etc no one should be odds-on.

Hamilton 11/2 – about right

Webber 13/2 – should be 2nd favorite as he’s in what is clearly the best car at his home grand prix.

Button 10/1 – good value for 4th on the grid at the first race of the season.  He has won here before.

Alonso 15/1 – good value because of Ferrari reliability.

Petrov / Rosberg 69/1 – good value

Massa 79/1 – way too short…

Other good value, 1/3 for there to be a safety car – it will happen. 3/1 for a McLaren to win. Hamilton 4/1 to finish the 1st lap in the lead – he’s on the front row!?! Best value of all – 3/1 for Massa not to finish in the top 6 .

  1. carol murphy says:

    Thank you for the vote of confidence – I’m currently in negotiation with Sauber but disappointingly they seem to be quite happy with Perez. Enjoyed the race, though didn’t spot Madi – with her Red Bull cap (signed by Vettel!). xxx

  2. LaMurph says:

    Some thoughts:

    1) At least your F1 coverage sounds funny. The Australian coverage is just Webber-this, Webber-that, oh no it looks like we’ve watched more than two minutes of racing so we’d better have another seven-minute ad break…..
    Oh, and I don’t even get TV coverage of qualifying AT ALL. So quit yer whining.

    2) The best thing about the Drag Reduction System is my hope that one day someone will get Nick Heidfeld to say it.

    3) By the way, I love this blog. It’s great. Please update it for future grands prix. But I’m going to have to insist that you learn to spell Kobayashi.

    4) Rubens Barrichello is a dickwad and his failure to qualify properly was a pleasure to witness.

    5) You think it looked cold? You have no idea. It was effing FREEZING. I haven’t been that cold since I’ve lived in this country. It was horrible. Then on race day the sun came out and I sweated like a pig and got a bit sunburnt. Melbourne’s a fickle bitch.

    6) Sutil’s donut occurred just as Zoe was lamenting that the problem with pit-straight grandstand seats is that nothing exciting ever happens on the main straight. Trust Super Adrian to put on a show.

    7) Schumacher’s general rubbishness was a particular highlight of my weekend. RESPECT THE ROSBERG.

    8) Seb is a speed demon and a god among men. If you think it’s fun to watch via an onboard camera, you should see how fun it is when his car goes zooming past in front of your face.

    9) Vettel is categorically not tiny. He’s no giant but for an F1 driver he’s actually pretty tall, about 5’9 or 5’10, certainly taller than Lewis. I think maybe you just think he looks tiny because he has the face of a little boy. Resisting the urge to grab his cheek between thumb and forefinger and give it a good shake is incredibly difficult when he’s standing right in front of you. Trust me, I’ve been in this position a few times now. Next time (whenever that may be) I fully envisage myself saying “Haven’t you grown!” and possibly spitting on a tissue then wiping his face with it.

    10) I can’t believe you thought McLaren were faster than expected. I was expecting them to be super fast, because they were shit in testing and then miraculously came up with an octopus exhaust system which sounds like something from Austin Powers, but it was quite obvious they were foxing all along. That Whitmarsh is a tricky sort.

    11) The race was ace and the curse is lifted – it turns out I can go to Albert Park and not necessarily have to endure a Button victory. Not before time.

    12) At least Australia has excellent bread.

  3. LaMurph says:

    My 8 got turned into a smiley face. This makes me hate wordpress a little bit.

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