Monday, October 23, 2006

Greetings from Speed Geek HQ! I figured today, being the last big racing day of the year with ChampCar from Australia and the finale of Michael Schumacher’s career, plus rainy and cold outside to boot, would be a great time to co-opt Bill Simmons’ running diary idea. So, here goes, with 5 hours of racing action coming at ya!

First, I’ll be making no apologies to the length or coherence of this post. This blog is meant for my amusement only, so whatever I produce comes with no money-back guarantee for reader satisfaction. I will say, though, that I’m cheating a bit with the “live diary,” since it turns out that Sam’s Club is a terrible idea at 12:00 on a Sunday. I’m starting 80 minutes behind, but thanks to our new Comcast DVR, I’m going to pretend we’re live:

12:30 – Not sure how I feel about Schumacher’s last race. I was a big fan for the first 8 or 9 years of his career, but over the last few years, it has become apparent that he’s actually not all that admirable (Monaco this year was the last straw for me). And, it’ll be better to have four or five top drivers vying for race wins, instead of wondering whether or not anybody can beat Michael every week. But, that said, it won’t be the same without him around.

12:32 – First throw-down to Peter Windsor. A great idea for this year. Dough well-spent to get someone on the ground at the race. Varsha, Hobbs, and Matchett do a great job, given that they’re sitting in a booth in Charlotte with the same TV feed we’re seeing, but it’s nice to have somebody at the race to conduct actual interviews and tell us some of the behind-the-scenes stuff.

12:36 – Apparently there is a “Speedy Award” for “Best Race.” Who gets to put that award on their mantle? Bernie? Max Mosely, for effective rules manipulation? I think the ESPY thing has gone a little too far.

12:37 – Windsor: “Jarno, prospects for the race?”
Trulli: “We’re going straight to the back.” (Maybe that wasn’t the actual answer, but it should have been.)

12:42 – Scott Speed’s best memory of the year is of getting a point in Australia? Something that didn’t actually happen? Yikes. Let’s try to get an actual point today, shall we, Scooter?

12:43 – Windsor: “We look forward to seeing you (Giancarlo Fisichella) as Renault’s team leader net year.” Or at least until you’re fired at mid-season for being the most disappointing #1 driver in F1 history.

12:44 – Windsor: “Misour Todt, can I ask you a quick question.”
Todt shakes head and turns away. Ha! That’s a new one. High comedy.

12:48 – It’s truly too bad that Mikey’s starting in the mid-pack today, but it’ll be fun to watch him march to the front. The only guy who can match his pace is Felipe, but I just can’t see him keeping it together all day to score the home-town victory. How long before Michael’s in second? I say 12 laps.

12:50: Kimi’s best memory of the year? “Ghsouhkduykjhgjh.” Or at least, I think that’s what he said. He kills me. Today’s SAT question: Dikembe Mutubo is to Simmons as __________ is to The Speedgeek. Answer: Kimi Raikkonen. Every interview is a virtual treasure trove of monotone, barely intelligible answers.

12:54 – The official time of the first overly dramatic, but somewhat hilarious Schumacher tribute. Can’t imagine that it’ll be the same in 10 years when Alonso quits with 4 titles and 35-45 race wins (depending on McLaren’s ability to get it together in the next few years).

12:56 – Track analysis by the still-sober Hobbs. I’m just waiting for his first Flavio Briatore impression after about his third gin and tonic in about an hour and 20 minutes. My favorite part of every F1 weekend.

12:58 – There’s no doubt that Alonso brings home the Drivers title today, but I think it’s a mortal lock that Fisi poops the bed and finishes 10th or so to cost Renault the Manufacturer’s title. Lipe might have a botched pitstop or a lurid spin that may cost him the race, but he’s still going to beat Fisi and bring home the necessary points for Ferrari.

1:00 – Hobbs: “Could be Yamamoto’s last race for Aguri today.” You think?

1:02 – Boogity, boogity, boogity, boys! Michael gets both BMWs at the end of the backstraight, and Webber loses his rear wing. Better luck at Red Bull next year, Marky Mark. He deserves better.

1:04 – Ooh, a reference to a good Surfer’s race by Varsha! Yeehaaa!

1:04 – Yikes, a gigantic write-off for Nico. And Mark’s parked. Too bad for Williams. This season was worse than the Supertec days back in 1999 and 2000. Hope the Toyota marriage next year is good for them.

1:07 – Nico took Mark’s wing (and his own front wing) off? Just start walking to the airport now, buddy. You’re better off in hand-to-hand combat with Sao Paulo’s street gangs than facing Patrick Head right now.

1:11 – Heidfeld took the door off the safety car here in 2002? How have I never seen footage of that? I’ll be off to Youtube directly after the race.

1:12 – No way Schu doesn’t slice up Fisi on this restart. I wish I could bet on this stuff. It’s money in the bank.

1:14 – Did Rubens fall asleep during the Safety Car? He was 2+ seconds down to Mikey by the line? I’d think the teams should practice these things during testing. Aren’t restarts more valuable than doing about 200 laps trying to find another 0.05 seconds per lap?

1:17 – Crud. Flat for Michael. That’s a little anticlimactic. A shame, really. Well, a point by Renault will clinch the Constructor’s now. Jean and Ross can have the red guys start packing stuff up now, except that Michael will undoubtedly lower the fastest lap about 25 times before the end of the day.

1:20 – Both Toyotas out at the same time? Unreal. What a hideous season for them. And I can’t see next year being any different with those two drivers. Ralf sucks and Jarno is snakebitten. Bad, bad re-signings there. You’d be better off putting Ryan Briscoe and Franck Montagny in those cars and saving yourself $25 million a year.

1:22 – Scooter in 10th! Nice. This live diary thing is making me miss stuff, though. No way Varsha points that out before I notice it, on any other day.

1:25 – Crazy Dave Coulthard out. Too bad. Disappointing season there. It’ll be fun watching him try to keep up with Marky Mark next year. Oh, and his interview in qualifying was his highlight of the year. “What happened? Don’t know. Car’s slow.”

1:27 – 11 retirements for Webber this year? Yikes. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him with a sniper rifle on top of the press box by the end of the day.

1:29 – I know that it’s an open question as to whether or not Lewis Hamilton is going to race for McLaren next year, but I think it’s a done deal. He kicked ass in GP2 like no body else has for a few years in F3000 (Montoya was probably the last guy who impressed me as much at that level). Sign him, and start testing him tomorrow.

1: 33 – How are Rubens and Fisi drag racing in pit lane for position? Honda shouldn’t be even close to Renault’s pace here. Fisi will be fired before France next year.

1:35 – You’ve got to figure that Lipe is not going to lap Michael here. I don’t care that he’s running quicker, Mike just can’t go down a lap.

1:35 – Lipe is in. Nevermind. Although, if he can keep his head, and nothing befalls him at the next stop, this race is over. Ooh, or might Freddy be on a 1-stopper?

1:39 – Fred’s in. Race’s over, if Lipe can keep the dirty side down.

1:43 – Button goes by Kimi with barely any protest? No way. Kimi must already be trying to decide what topless beach he’s heading to after the race.

1:44 – A vicious chop by Vito Liuzzi on Heidfeld. Rookie mistake by Vito. How ‘bout Bobby Kubica, though? I didn’t see him doing a fraction of what he’s been able to do this year. Maybe there is something to the whole idea of plucking somebody out of Formula Fords, giving him about 40,000 miles of testing laps, then giving him a race drive.

1:47 – Petey DLR up to 2nd driving a silver tanker-trailer on a 1-stop strategy. Not sure how I feel about guys using that strategy. Seems kind of like Max Papis’s wins in ChampCar: sneaking in through the back door. But, I guess it works, and it is a legit strategy, no pay no attention to me.

1:53 – Next year, I’m totally starting the Berkley F1 Crew, so I can get a Varsha shout-out. That’d make my week.

1:54 – Fast lap by Schuey. No surprise there.

1:55 – So, Michael gets to take this car home with him? Do you suppose that he’s going to sit in it on Sunday afternoons with the F1 races on TV and the sound turned all the way up? I would.

1:57 – Disappointing sequence by the Speed guys when they miss Schumacher going slowly for about three corners and letting Kubica back by. He obviously went off, or at least got in the marbles and took a second cleaning the tires off. OK, Matchett has just had that idea. Nevermind, but that was the first misstep by the Speed guys. I wonder if Derek Daly will be able to go almost an hour and a half without making a mistake today? I’ll be happy with a minute and a half.

2:00 – Scooter is behind Taku with the same number of stops? Anyone care to explain how that happened?

2:03: - The 2006 highlight clip for this week includes Takuma Sato hitting Schumacher with his BAR. Uh, I don’t think that happened this year…

2:06 – Michael makes his last stop and comes back out in 8th. This could be interesting to see if he can get up into the podium positions…

2:08 – Heikki Kovaleinen has got to be stoked for next year. You just know he’s going to embarrass Fisichella before the season gets back to Europe next year. Best case scenario for the new guy: great car, subpar team leader. That’s a recipe for unquestioned #1 status for 2008.

2:11 – Lipe’s in! And the upset of the day: no problems in pitlane. Improbable. Look out for Vito Liuzzi, though…

2:14 – Even if Freddy comes out behind Button, there’s no way Jenson keeps him behind for the rest of the race. Fred’s back out of the pits in 2nd.

2:15 – Michael with a rare fist wave at Yamamoto. Fully merited, though. Can we put Anthony Davidson in that car for the rest of the race?

2:18 – Schu vs. Fisi Part 2. Will it be the same as 40 laps ago? Nope, Michael inexplicably slows for two corners and lets Fisi get away. Must have a transmission problem. I don’t buy the explanation that it was bad understeer for one corner. You don’t lose 2 seconds in one corner from understeer.

2:21 – Our first look at Cris Albers…and he’s thrown it off the road. Big surprise.

2:22 – Surprise: Hobbs still sounds sober. Not a surprise: Varsha is busting on Hobbs for being old.

2:24 – Also not a surprise: Fisi folds under the pressure and chucks the car off the road under pressure from Michael. Feeling good about that lineup for next year, Flavio?

2:26 – Someone has obviously gone off…and it’s Quick Nick Heidfeld, with a massive suspension failure at the end of the front straight. Promoting Scooter to 11th. Now, we just need Jenson, Kimi, Freddy and Michael to have a pile up and we’ll have the first point for an American since Monza 1993. It hasn’t been a great time to be an American F1 fan for the last decade and a half.

2:30 – The race director keeps switching from Kimi and Michael to Massa. Which makes sense, since Lipe’s got a 24 second lead and these are the last 5 laps of Michael’s career.

2:31 – Wow. Michael with an absolutely breathtaking pass on Kimi for 4th. And the Ferrari guys are going nuts. As well they should. I’ll miss that kind of stuff next year.

2:34 – Unreal. Michael cuts fastest lap on the next to last lap of his career.

2:35 – Lipe brings home a fantastic flag-to-flag win, Freddy brings home the title, Michael finishes on Jenson’s gearbox, and Fisi is driving straight off the track to the airport, before Flavio can take a swing at him for conning Flav into re-signing his contract for next year.

2: 39 – Gonna be a fun podium, with Lipe and Freddy crying and Jenson Button attempting to chug an entire bottle of champagne.

2:44 – I’ve got my fingers crossed that we can at least get Michael on to the podium for one last leap. It’s become tiresome over the years, the “I just crushed these guys, and I could still run a marathon” leap, but it’s our last chance to see it. That is, until Dale Coyne signs him to drive in ChampCar next year. Or not.

2:49 – A big swig of champagne for Ross Brawn. Gonna miss him next year. There’s no way Ferrari can maintain their level of competitiveness without him.

2:53 – Felipe: “The easiest race of my life.” You can say that again. And Windsor is officially trying as hard as he knows how to make Felipe cry again. No dice, though.

2:55 – Windsor: “Fernando, can you say a few words about Michael today.”
Freddy: “He’s a punk-ass. Smell ya later.” That might have only happened in my head.

2:57 – Gah! Jenson Button is growing a horrible “playoffs beard.” Thank God the season is over, because he looks like a freshman at college who’s come home for Thanksgiving. Shave that thing and get back to dating supermodels already.

3:00 – I’ve gotta say, the championships came out exactly as they should have. Nobody wound up with an inflated points total due to, say, 7 teams sitting out a race or something.

3:03 – Is this the best time for a post-season rundown? Isn’t there a ChampCar race to throw it to? I know it’s tape delay and all, but there’s a 5 month off-season that’s made for stuff like this.
3:04 – Time for a quick bathroom break and a run to the beer fridge to grab a couple of Labatt’s before our descent into Dalydom for two and a half hours. Back in a minute.

1 comment:

Pablo said...

Had to wait on this read until I actually SAW the race! :)

Awesome commentary! Just furthers my point about the podcast! ;)