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Oct 12 2014

Formula One: Sochi

There are 4 big stories heading into today’s race, Bianchi’s accident, Vettel leaving Red Bull and being replaced by Kvyat, Alonso leaving the Scuderia to be replaced by Vettel, and Lotus/Renault dumping Renault power in favor of Mercedes.

In it’s simplest form, Suzuka was a predictable mess.  Formula One cars are good, but they are not boats meant to be driven around in typhoons and all the weather forecasts agreed that at the scheduled race time it was going to be coming down in buckets.  It was race promoters, not the FIA, that insisted on keeping the original start despite the FIA’s greater investment in the global audience.

As a result the bulk of the race took place behind the safety car, nothing much changed from qualifying, and at the end when they started racing a bit during one of the lighter downpours there was a rash of accidents one of which sent Jules Bianchi sliding underneath a crane removing another wreck.  He suffered generalized brain trauma with the neurons literally ripped apart and whether he survives or not he will certainly never drive again.

Automobile racing is inherently dangerous.  For all the hand wringing, lamentations, and proposals for new regulations, Formula One has an exceptional safety record, especially compared with Turn Left Bumper Cars.  I hope Bianchi has a complete and speedy recovery and that any reforms don’t ruin the sport.

The Vettel and Alonso stories are intertwined.  If you ever needed proof that Vettel is unbelievably stupid and arrogant you have it now.  He’s never shown the slightest bit of talent for anything except taking the most superior car on the track and qualifying well enough to get out in front and drive away in clean air.  Faced with the slightest deviation from this scenario he’s a massive failure.

So, after a mere season of disappointment, he petulantly decides to abandon the team that has nurtured him and made him look much better than he really is since he was a mere go-carting teen.

And for what?  He moves from a car that is arguably the 3rd fastest (except Ricciardo makes him look bad by beating him with the same equipment) to a team with a rabid swooning fan base that doesn’t care that for at least 5 or 6 years they’ve been putting bricks with square tires out there.

Priorities.

And what of Alonso?  You know, I hate him, but even I have to admit the man is a genius driver who can take a brick with square tires and make it look like a racer.  Scuderia Marlboro are a bunch of clueless dopes with inferior chassis and power plants and that’s unlikely to change in the near future as the suits from Fiat boot the last of Enzo’s F1 boys.  Fitting that Vettel should spend the rest of his career in hopeless purgatory spiraling the drain.

But Alonso has a problem now too.  There are not many competitive seats out there and while he’d be an ideal replacement for Rosberg (who’s good, but not great), Rosberg has a year left on his contract.  Kvyat has already grabbed the second seat at Red Bull behind Ricciardo (better than Vettel, but who isn’t?) and then…?

Williams is doing better, but that’s not saying much.  McLaren is coasting on the fumes of past greatness which are in shorter supply for them than the Scuderia.  Toro Rossa is looking racy at the end of the season, but they’re saddled with that crappy Ferrari engine, which leaves…?

Lotus?  Used to be called Benneton, then Renualt, then Lotus/Renault, and now they’ve done a deal with Mercedes for their clearly superior power plant.  As noted Alonso has a talent for making cars race better than they should so it might be a good fit.

I’d rather he not have to sit out a year since he might just be the best driver out there (besides Hamilton of course).

Mediums and Softs.  1.5 seconds per lap Delta.  Mediums will last forever but take several laps to warm up.

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