Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day of Racing Part 1: F1 GP of Turkey

Normally on Memorial Day weekend it's the Grand Prix of Monaco, but Monaco is scheduled based on when Easter is, and Easter was a week early this year.  So instead, Formula 1 went to the permanent road course in Istanbul, Turkey, with its massive four apex turn 8.

Qualification saw little difference from the norm, Webber up front, Vettel third instead of second due to a broken sway bar during qualifying, and who else but the McLarens of Hamilton and Button in second and fourth, respectively.  Man, if there's one team that's really good at improving their cars during the season, it's McLaren.

The race itself was pretty ho-hum until close to the end.  There were prospects of rain, radar showed a small storm headed towards the track.  There was moisture on the in-car camera lenses, but it never came down heavily enough to force a tire change.  The first four cars were right together on the track, Webber leading Vettel, with Hamilton and Button a short distance behind.

Vettel got a run down the inside of one of the final corners and tried to pass Webber.  Webber is notoriously difficult to pass, but he left just barely enough room for Vettel.  Vettel clearly had the overtaking speed, but was drawn to the right and into his teammate.  Webber managed to continue on with a drop to third place and a front wing change, but Vettel's race was done.

I say "drawn to the right" because we watched the replays very closely (even replaying them again on the DVR using its slow motion playback) and while his car did indeed move to the right, his in-car camera showed no steering input at the time.  Webber actually slowed down somewhat once he realized Vettel was reasonably past him, but that didn't avert the collision.

I personally think Webber needs to realize that if it's his teammate passing him, and that Vettel has the upper hand in terms of speed and will very likely complete the pass, he needs to give more room than he'd give to another driver from another team.  It's not worth the risk of one or both cars being taken out of the race to fight with your teammate like that.  The championship standings show this clear as day, McLaren is now precisely one point ahead of Red Bull.  Had Webber and Vettel not had their collision, Red Bull would have been much further in the lead.

It's important to note that a few laps later, Hamilton and Button had a pretty good battle for the lead in the same part of the track, ultimately ending in Turn 1.  They both managed to race each other hard, yet fair.  Room was left, no collisions, neither driver dropped out of the race, it was just a good clean fight.

My one complaint about this race is not actually anything that happened on-track, but SPEED's commercials.  They always, without fail, go to commercial right when something interesting is happening on track and then they have to replay it afterwards.  I know they value their advertising revenue or whatever, but delay the commercial for ten seconds and let us see what's happening.  To the viewers, what's happening on the track is vastly more important than your mostly unrelated commercials.  It would also spare us your flashy graphics that fill half the screen showing us the running order, and advertisements for other things on SPEED that we're not even interested in that also take up half the screen.

They could take it a step further and take a page from the BBC's book: go commercial-free for three hours.  That's right, three hours.  Not two and a half.  The races are time-limited to two hours and usually finish in an hour and a half or so, but if the race runs long, two and a half is simply not enough for combined pre- and post-race shows.  Three hours works perfectly.  Of course then they'd need to actually have all of their commentators go to each venue instead of just one guy, but it'd be a higher quality broadcast overall with them all there.

Rants aside, I'll be watching all 1100 remaining miles of racing left in the day, so stay tuned for parts 2 and 3.

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