Friday, May 20, 2016

This Week in Motorsport

Formula Fun!
Formula One World Championship
Round 5
Gran Premio de España
Sunday, 15 May 2016

The most exciting & engaging grand prix since the turbo-hybrid era began in 2014, an era entirely dominated by the Mercedes-Benz factory team, was the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix. That weekend, for reasons that no one yet understands, the Mercedes "Silver Arrows" were uncharacteristically slow; the rest of the field, instead of racing for the third step on the podium (going for the bronze, as it were) were racing for the win. The 2016 Spanish Grand Prix was gifted a similar excitement: the Mercedes duo of reigning triple World Champion Lewis Hamilton ('08, '14, & '15) & Nico Rosberg qualified on the front row of the grid, to no one's surprise, but then collided with each other on the first lap of the race, knocking both cars out of the race! I laughed & laughed & laughed at each replay, watching Rosberg force Hamilton off the track, Hamilton lose control of his car on the slick grass, Hamilton's out-of-control car spin back onto the track into Rosberg, & then both Silver Arrows spin into the gravel trap. Bwa ha ha ha ha!

The race was thereafter dominated by a mighty duel twist Ferrari & Red Bull (T.A.G. Heuer-branded Renault). Quadruple World Champion Sebastian Vettel ('10, '11, '12, & '13) of Ferrari & Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull each made three pit stops for new tires, while '07 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen of Ferrari & Max Verstappen of Red Bull each made only two. Verstappen & Räikkönen raced for the lead, with the Finn just barely unable to pass the young Dutchman. Vettel & Ricciardo diced for third, witht he smiling Australian just barely unable to pass the German, his former Red Bull teammate. Lap after lap Räikkönen tried but just couldn't quite pass Verstappen & lap after lap Ricciardo tried but just couldn't quite pass Vettel. In the end, Verstappen's & Räikkönen's gamble worked, their tired stood the test of the time, & at just eighteen years of age Max Verstappen became the youngest race winner in F1's sixty-six year history. Wow!

Wait, doesn't Verstappen drive for Red Bull's "B-team," Toro Rosso (Ferrari)? Cast your mind back to the Russian Grand Prix, specifically to Daniil Kvyat's antics in this Red Bull: Wayback Machine. Though Kvyat was not given the race ban I advocated, his recklessness—which damaged the car of his teammate, Ricciardo—had consequences within the Red Bull organization. Kvyat, in his second season at Red Bull, was demoted to Toro Rosso, while Verstappen, in his second season at Toro Rosso (& in F1) was promoted to Red Bull. This was not all due to Kvyat's kamikaze racing, but I cannot believe that that did not factor heavily into the timing. The result? Kvyat finished tenth, in the points but behind his Toro Rosso teammate Carlos Sainz Junior in sixth; Verstappen became the sport's youngest grand prix winner, ahead of his race-winning teammate Ricciardo in fourth. Odds are now being taken on how long Kvyat will remain in F1 & how many world championships Verstappen will win in his career.

1st Place: Max Verstappen, Red Bull (Renault)
2nd Place: Kimi Räikkönen, Ferrari
3rd Place: Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari

Next: The Grand Prix de Monaco—"the jewel in the F1 crown" & "the grandest Grand Prix of all"—on 29 May, the Sunday before Memorial Day. Monaco '09 was my first F1 race; I was smitten instantly, falling head over heels in love with the sport at first sight. Monaco! Monaco! Monaco!

Indy Rock
IndyCar Series
Round 5
Grand Prix of Indianapolis
Saturday, 14 May 2016

Simon Pagenaud of Penske (Chevrolet) is on fire, having finished second in the first two races of the year (St. Pete & Phoenix) & first in the two races preceding the G.P of Indy (Long Beach & Alabama); he started the fifth race from the pole & was never seriously challenged on the way to a third consecutive victory. He didn't lead every lap, principally because of the pit stop rotation & some creative strategy by rookie Conor Daly of Coyne (Honda) & fellow Penske driver & triple Indy 500 winner Hélio Castroneves ('01, '02, & '09).

Pagenaud's always been impressive, but this dominance—especially over his august Penske teammates Castroneves, '99 IndyCar Series champion & reigning double Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya ('00 & '15), & '14 IndyCar Series champion Will Power—is staggering.

1st Place: Simon Pagenaud, Penske (Chevrolet)
2nd Place: Hélio Castroneves, Penske (Chevrolet)
3rd Place: James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson (Honda)

Next: The Indianapolis 500-Mile Race on 29 Mary, the Sunday before Memorial Day—& not just the race after which the whole sport is named, but the one hundredth running of the Indy 500, "the greatest spectacle in racing." (The race was first run in 1911, but was suspended for several years during the twentieth century's two World Wars.) The plan is for this to be my last ever oval race.

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