Thursday, October 31, 2013

What to watch this Weekend (Oct 31st - Nov 6th)

  • WRC. Rally action from Spain. Thursday @ 10pm - 11pm (MAVTV) replay
  • Fifth Gear (UK). Aston Martin 100th Anniversary. Friday @ 10pm - 11pm (VelocityHD) new
  • Formula 1 - Abu Dhabi Gran Prix; from the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi in UAE. Practice. Friday @ 9am- 10:30am (NBCSN(HD)) same-day delayed airing
  • Formula 1 - Abu Dhabi Gran Prix; from the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi in UAE. Qualifying. Saturday @ 1:30pm- 3pm (NBCSN(HD)) same-day delayed airing
  • FIA European Rally Championship. GEKO Ypres Rally from Belgium. Saturday @ 2pm - 3pm (VelocityHD) new
  • Formula 1 - Abu Dhabi Gran Prix; from the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi in UAE. Race. Sunday @ 7:30am - 10am (NBCSN(HD)) live
  • Australian V8 Supercars - The Gold Coast 600. From the Gold Coast street circuit in Queensland, Australia. Saturday @ 11pm - 1am (FS2(HD)) delayed airing from 10/25-10/27
  • Top Gear (UK). Marathon of past episodes. Monday @ 4pm - 3am (BBC America(HD)) great replays
  • Motorweek. 2013 Chevy Cruze Diesel. Tuesday @ 8pm - 8:30pm (VelocityHD) replay
  • Chasing Classic Cars. Back to the Beach. Tuesday @ 10pm - 10:30pm (VelocityHD) new
  • Top Gear America. Season 4 - Episode 7. Fully Charged. Tuesday @ 9pm - 10pm (History Channel(HD)) new
  • Wheeler Dealers. Willy's Jeep. Wednesday @ 9pm - 10pm (VelocityHD) replay
We have a good bit of motorhead action to look forward to with the start of November. But without further adieu, let's recap last weekend's action from F1 GP of India and get the weekend started...

Maldonado has a wheel nut fly off in FP2 (not a whole wheel this time) resulting in a new fine for Williams Renault. Vettel has the fastest time of both FP1 and FP2. Front left tire wear on the soft tire has been the talking point, most notably some blistering being seen as fast as 4 laps in (Hulkenberg's car), but most averaging about 10 laps. The medium tire is lasting more than twice that (20+ laps), so the qualifying strategy will be interesting to see who wants to start the race on the softs. Pirelli's Director tells Will Buxton that FIA didn't want another boring one stop race (like Vettel enjoyed in 12') so softs and mediums have been offered rather than last years mediums and hards. The current rumor is that Massa could be heading to Williams; he has plenty of Brazilian backing for where ever he goes next, which presumably would replace Maldonado's bank roll. Buddh International circuit is off the F1 schedule for 2014 and its future is unclear; we'll see how things work out going forward, but this could be the end of a relatively short era here in India.

In related tire news, Pirelli's Chairman tells the FIA if they don't allow them to perform winter testing before the season begins they're backing out of supplying tires in 2014. This is what happen prior to the beginning of this season and all hell broke loose when it was made known that they had some private testing sessions with one of the teams, as Pirelli wanted to get more data. They want to avoid this problem for 2014 -- especially with the numerous spec changes, from chassis minimum weight to engine configuration to KERS.

Grosjean just misses Q2 in 17th position while Botas takes his 16th spot. It appears that the team misjudged the cutoff time for Q2 and Button went a bit quicker than most accounted for; he was caught out in the pit, but he's quick enough to work from the back as he's done in the past. Massa pulls a flyer to make the cut once again, and Alonso take matters into his own hands earlier in the session, throwing on the softs to ensure a time low enough to make the cut.

Q2 starts much like Q1, Alonso throwing down another hot lap in the softs to ensure Q3 entry. It appears people are using the softs through Q2 at least. The pace quickens and Vettel and Alonso break into the 1:24s after Webber puts down a 125.097. Button starts off high on the lineup but by the end of Q2 he's barely hanging on. The McLaren chassis looks better in India than most previous races and both Perez and Button make Q3. Kimi, Hulkenberg, Perez, Rosberg and Massa make the cut as well.

Q3 starts off with the heavy hitters on softs. this is interesting as if you get your Q3 time on softs you'll be starting with a full tank on them. Vettel throws down a 124.119 with about 5mins n change left. Webber throws down a 125.215 with the mediums. Alonso puts in a 125.826 on softs. Now the other teams react and pit. 4:30 to play and Mercedes puts hams on newer softs. Raikkonen is still out on softs. Vettel pits for another set of new softs, seemingly trying to improve on his time and starting the race on an even newer set of softs, but it doesn't quite work out after going wide on his flyer. Q3 ends with Kimi's 125.248 on softs sticking him into P6. Massa (125.201) pulls off P5, out qualifying Alonso again. Rosberg (124.871) and Hamilton (124.941) take P2 and P3, respectively on softs, Webber (125.047) P4 but will be starting on mediums which could be a serious advantage. Kimi (125.248), Hulkenberg (124.334), Alonso (125.826), Perez (126.153) and Button (126.487) round out the top 10.

The race starts off with a great launch from Hamilton, leap-frogging Rosberg for P2 but unable to pass Vettel. Shortly afterwards, Massa takes off passing both Petronas' and taking P2. Alonso mixes it up in the field and loses elements on the front left when coming into contact with the back of Webber. Webber also gets into Kimi in traffic, but doesn't take on any damage. Vettel gets a 2.5 second gap after lap one, but after lap two he pits quick for the mediums; reason is to avoid the mid-pack traffic he'd be coming out in if he pitted later on. Alonso comes in shortly afterwards as he needs a wing and swaps to mediums while he's in. Massa assumes the lead and tries to put a bigger gap between himself and Vettel. This strategy isn't working as Vettel is going faster than the leaders on softs on the mediums. By lap 6 the softs are done and the pits begin. Rosberg comes in for mediums on 7/70, Massa is in for mediums on 8/70. Vettel is back up to P8 by 9/70 and P5 in 10/70 (his pit cautions him on being too aggressive). Webber now assumes P1 on 10/70, still on the mediums. Oddly enough Perez and Ricciardo are P2 and P3, respectively, all on mediums.

Vettel is up to P4 by 12/70, now chasing the top three down. He passes his 2014 teammate on 13/70. Massa is in 8th by 14/70. Grosjean pits on lap 14 for another set of mediums, coming out in 15th. Webber is still in front, Perez 8secs back and Vettel going purple, 4secs back from Perez. Hamilton is P10.

Rosberg and Hamilton are running P7 & P8 on 21/60. Vettel finally passes Perez and starts chasing down Webber; the gap is 11.8. After some dodgy defensive moves by Gutierrez, Alonso finally passes Esteban Gutierrez. By lap 26 the gap to Webber is 10.8. It appears that since Webber has to run softs still, now would be the time so he could then go onto mediums for this last stop of the race about the same time that Vettel goes in for his last set of tires; this would make for a great shootout. 

Rosberg pits on 28/60 for a set of mediums and it feels he's going to finish the race out on them. He comes out in 13th ahead of Grosjean. On 29/60 Webber comes in for softs to bang in some hot laps; comes out in 2nd behind Vettel. Gutierrez continues his double blocking moves on 29/60, keeping Grosjean behind him in a very unsportsmanlike manner. On 31/60, the runs for the last sets of tires for the other players begin; Massa comes in for mediums, Hamilton and Alonso do the same. A lap later Vettel comes in for his mediums (32/60) as Webber is flying on the softs. Webber comes in and gets his mediums back on to wrap this race up (33/44); he returns to the field in 3rd. 

Meanwhile Daniel Ricciardo is in P2 as he's yet to pit this entire race, but he finally comes in 34/60. Now it appears the RedBull showdown is about to begin, as Vettel is going purple, Webber has a gap of 12.5 seconds to cut down and Vettel's Engineer is telling him to save his tires so he can finish the race out. The only other driver that hasn't pit yet is Adrian Sutil in his Force India, who is currently out on lap 37 with his original mediums; he's running in 3rd, but he'll need to pit some point soon.

Then all of a sudden Webber is told to shut it down due to the now notorious Renault alternator issues affecting the gearbox -- "gearbox Synch". He pulls off after letting his feelings be known, via inflection, over the radio. Vettel's team tells him that Mark has retired for electronic issues and Vettel acknowledges that he's aware. Given the two RedBulls are identical, the RedBull pit looks anxious. Webber gets picked up by a track marshal on a scooter; this has happened to Mark so many times in the last few races it's almost expected his luck will be crap for the rest of 2013. 

Sutil finally pits on 43/60 for his second set of tires. Hamilton is behind Massa and can't get by him; Massa is have another solid outing. Alonso is further back as he's still making up for the damaged from wing from early in the race. Currently it's Vettel, Raikkonen, Rosberg (44/60). Raikkonen's pit tells him to conserve fuel as it appears he's going to stay out for the rest of the race (50/60); trouble is his tires are older than those around him...Rosberg is coming.

Rosberg takes P2 on the straight 52/60. Vettel's pit is telling him not to use the drink bottle in order to take the lightest possible toll on the electrical system; seven laps left and it's getting real. Hulkenberg has to come into the pit on 54/60 for some reason. Alonso is in 11th trying to make lemonade and Grosjean has worked his way into 4th and is aiming for the podium; remember that he started in 17th(!). 

Unfortunately on lap 56/60 Hulkenberg comes into the pit again and retires the car for good; he had a great race, but once again his car has let him down despite his best efforts. Meanwhile Grosjean is up Raikkonen's ass; Kimi's tires are going off. The Iceman doesn't do Roman any favors as they jockey for P3 (56/60). Shortly afterwards the Lotus pit tells Kimi to let Roman through and he makes the pass -- Lotus Renault has a new #1 (57/60). Massa, who was capitalizing on the Lotus battle, passes Kimi also. Then the train of drivers come; Hamilton who's tires are failing him as well is getting reeled in by Perez, who has had an awesome weekend so far. While trying to get around Raikkonen Perez and his happier mediums makes an outside move and takes the position. Hams makes it around Raikkonen as well, but doesn't have the tire to claw the position back from Perez (59/60).

Grosjean takes 3rd and holds onto it through the checkered flag. Rosberg keeps 2nd position for a great result in the battle of Mercedes and Ferrari in the Constructors Championship (Hams in 6th). Perez has his first top 5 finish ever and possibly the best finish for McLaren this year. Vettel goes on to win his 6th race in a row and the drivers title, doin donuts after his victory lap at the start finish line, with standing ovations. There are a lot of things we learned with Vettel taking his fourth Driver's Championship as a 26 year old. For one he's very talented and two he has a great working relationship with his very talented Engineers (arguably the best of all time -- ie, Newey), who have built a car that exploit his driving style (or vice versa). Third, it's clear that Vettel has some of the best luck in motorsport; he hasn't had a significant mechanical failure (well...alternator issues in Spain) all season and no retirements in over a year. All of these things have resulted in a mind boggling run that will not be matched in quite a long time. Vettel is now one of the greats and it'll be interesting to see who, if anyone, can dethrone him (and Horner/Newey) with the start of the V6 Turbo era in 2014.

Current Drivers standings are as follows: Vettel, Alonso(-115), Raikkonen(-139), Hamilton(-153), Webber(-174). Current Constructors standings are as follows: RedBull. Ferrari, Mercedes(-157), Ferrari(-161), Lotus(-185). The race for P2 is still yet to be determined in both departments and I think we'll still see plenty of fight in the remaining three races. This will start tomorrow with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Enjoy your weekends.

Video courtesy of V8Supercars.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Quick Vid: Audi S3 review (2013) (Autoblogger)

Our friends at Autoblogger check out the 2013 Audi S3 (8V). I'm still not sure why Audi won't bring this 3-door to America, but apparently knocking folks over the head (~40k) to get a Golf R, alone, is still better business for VAG than having two similarly priced high-end 3-door hatchbacks.

Video courtesy of Autoblogger.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Quick Vid: The One With The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Wagon! (MotorTrend)

Justin Bell takes the newest E63 AMG Wagon to the track to see what it's made of. I can't think of many other family haulers I'd rather own without a manual transmission. Someone would have to gift it to me though; we're taking donations.

Video courtesy of MotorTrend.

Monday, October 28, 2013