Formula 1 British Grand Prix 2018

Sebastian Vettel celebrating his British Grand Prix victory

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took an impressive victory at Silverstone to extend his world championship lead over title rival Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton by a further seven points to lead the drivers championship by eight points going into the German’s home Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring in two weeks time.

The race started off with a bang, Vettel made a stonking start from second on the grid while polesitter Hamilton made a terrible start, dropping back to third by turn 1, losing out to Vettel and Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton’s bad start was compounded at turn 3 when Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen made contact tipping him into a spin, dropping the Briton to the back of the pack.

I’d like to quickly talk about the disparity in performance between the top two teams, Mercedes and Ferrari and the rest of the field. For Hamilton to come from dead last to finish second is crazy, even if he was helped in this quest by his teammate moving aside for him in the closing laps. I remember in days of old, getting spun around and battling from the back meant a low points haul, but not today.

Hamilton was inside the top six by lap 11 for heaven’s sake, and this was with a supposed damaged car, according to his team radio messages. Raikkonen was also rapidly carving his way through the top 10 after serving his 10 second time penalty during his first pit stop, which is another point, inconsistent race stewardship, Vettel was given a five second time penalty in Austria for a very similar infraction.

Back to the race, the field was bunched up on lap 33 when the safety car was deployed to recover Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber. Ferrari elected to pit both Vettel and Raikkonen to switch to the softer yellow marked tire, while both Mercedes continued on with their medium tires, which really cost, race leader, Bottas in the closing stages as he succumbed to both Ferrari’s and had to yield 2nd place to teammate Hamilton.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was outperforming his car, running at high as 3rd, having an epic battle with Raikkonen for what was fifth place at the time, ended his race six laps from the chequered flag, spinning out in front of his teammate, Ricciardo who was closing on the Dutchman. Despite speculation from the commentators, there was no contact between the Red Bull drivers, instead, it was a brake issue for Max.

Overall, it was a bad weekend for Red Bull, they found themselves in a very distant fifth place, being really slow down the straights in comparison to Mercedes and Ferrari, something I alluded to earlier in this write-up. I heard some say that Red Bull was, even with DRS enabled, the same speed as Mercedes/Ferrari without DRS, meaning there was zero chance of defending against the top two teams.

After the race, Hamilton was being somewhat of a dick, in my view, walking away from the post-race interviews, I find this disgraceful, especially in front of the British crowd that adores him. Hamilton alluded to Ferrari using Raikkonen to try to compromise his race, using the term “interesting tactics”, squarely pointing the finger at Ferrari, when Martin Brundle caught up with him on the podium.

Is it possible that Ferrari tried to use “interesting tactics” in the race, yes, however, I think it’s unlikely, but the conspiracy nuts will be all over this, although I will end it there, you can make your own mind up?

British Grand Prix 2018 Results

1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1:27:29.784
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +2.264
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +3.652
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +8.883
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +9.500
6. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +28.220
7. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +29.930
8. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +31.115
9. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +33.188
10. Sergio Perez (Force India) +34.708

Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix 2018

Red Bull claimed an unlikely victory at the Austrian Grand Prix, which bares its name, the Red Bull Ring in a race that was, in modern terms a race of attrition with only 14 drivers taking the chequered flag.

Straight to the start of the race, polesitter, Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas made a terrible start, finding himself in fourth place exiting turn 1 as Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen dove in between Bottas and teammate, Lewis Hamilton, while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took advantage to also move ahead of Bottas.

The race turned on its head again with Raikkonen challenging Hamilton for the lead into turn 3, getting it all wrong and going wide, which allowed Bottas to come back at him to claim back 2nd place, seconds later, Raikkonen lost the 3rd place to Verstappen through turns 6 and 7 after the two banged wheels.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who also made a poor start, dropping back to eighth place had recovered to fifth place by lap 14, courtesy of Bottas’ Mercedes gearbox suffering a hydraulic failure, which put him out of the race while running in second place behind teammate Hamilton. You really have to feel for Valtteri, he has had exceptionally crappy luck during the 2018 season thus far through no fault of his own.

The Virtual Safety Car (VSC) was deployed and Red Bull, ever the opportunists stacked their drivers in the pits to switch onto the yellow marked soft tires under VSC conditions, as did Ferrari. Mercedes failed to react to the VSC and allowed Hamilton to go around again, eventually pitting the Briton 11 laps later, where he lost the lead to Verstappen and Red Bull was running 1 – 2 after Ricciardo passed Raikkonen.

As the race headed towards the final third, Ricciardo was suffering from significant blistering of his rear tires due to the exceptionally high track temperatures allowing Raikkonen to regain second place. Ricciardo immediately pitted for fresh tires, a set of red marked super-soft tires, after being overtaken.

Soon it was time for Hamilton to suffer from blistered rubber, losing third place to Vettel. Hamilton pitted for the third set of tires on lap 53, losing another place to Ricciardo in the pits, Hamilton now back to fifth place, but just one lap later, regained fourth place, not due to an overtake, but another gearbox issue, this time for Ricciardo, in his third retirement of 2018, two technical and one crash, with his teammate.

10 laps later, just eight laps from the chequered flag, Hamilton pulled off the track with an engine issue, so no points for Mercedes after taking a 1 – 2 in qualifying. This gifted third place to his main title rival, Sebastian Vettel, who, followed teammate Raikkonen home. Many expected Ferrari to switch the two drivers, to maximize the points haul for the team leader, but, thankfully, no such team order came.

Although Raikkonen did close the gap to the race leader, Verstappen, I feel that Max had it under control, managing the gap and his tires, Raikkonen finished the race just 1.5 seconds behind the race winner.

With Hamilton failing to finish the race, Vettel’s third place moves him ahead of Hamilton in the World Drivers Championship by just one point. And with Ferrari finishing 2 – 3 and Mercedes failing to score, that gives Ferrari a 10 point lead over Mercedes in the World Constructors Championship.

It was kinda nice to see cars retiring from the race, especially the normally bulletproof top three teams, reminding me of the past, where the envelope was constantly being pushed and engines expired in spectacular style, much like the Renault engine of Nico Hulkenberg did in the Austrian Grand Prix 2018.

Amazingly, only three cars finished on the lead lap, but due to the high attrition rate, we saw some new names high up the classification, props to HAAS, who scored a 4 – 5 finish with Grosjean scoring his first points of the season, and Force India scoring a 6 – 7 finish, even Sauber claimed a double points haul, finishing the race in 9th and 10th, while Alonso scored 4 points for himself and McLaren for 8th place.

Austrian Grand Prix 2018 Results

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:21:56.024
2. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +1.504
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrrari) +3.181
4. Romain Grosjean (HAAS) +1 LAP
5. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +1 LAP
6. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +1 LAP
7. Sergio Perez (Force India) +1 LAP
8. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +1 LAP
9. Charle Leclerc (Sauber) +1 LAP
10. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) +1 LAP

Formula 1 French Grand Prix 2018

French Grand Prix 2018

The French Grand Prix is back on the F1 calendar for the first time in 10 years, and it turned out to be a half decent race after the snore-fest that was the Canadian Grand Prix two weeks ago.

We started the race with an immediate safety car period after Sebastian Vettel rear-ended Valtteri Bottas going into turn 1, tipping Bottas into a spin and causing a puncture, while Vettel suffered front wing damage, forcing both drivers to pit at the end of lap 1, dropping them to the back of the pack.

Still on lap 1, at turn 3, Pierre Gasly tried to dive up the inside of Esteban Ocon with the pair making contact, putting both drivers out of the race. This is what brought out the safety car to clear up the debris, in the meantime, Bottas and Vettel pitted for running repairs, also switching onto the yellow soft tires.

The race restarted on lap 6 and, nothing changed, not even a challenge for position, let alone a change of position. However, Daniel Ricciardo did move past Renault’s Carlos Sainz in the run down to the turn 8 chicane for third place four laps later, which was expected with Sainz running higher than Renault’s form.

Vettel and Bottas were recovering from the back of the grid, by lap 11, the German had moved into the top 10 while the Finn was up to 12th place. However, it took Bottas a further nine laps to break into the top 10, Mercedes later confirmed that Bottas had floor damage, which was hindering his pace.

Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton was quietly getting on with it out in front, Hamilton had led from pole position, managing the gap in a flawless drive. Followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who benefitted from Vettel’s mistake which took both himself and Bottas out of contention for the French win.

Clearly, after the first lap incident that relegated them to the back, Vettel and Bottas switched to the hardest of the available tire compounds with view of running 98% of the race distance without stopping again, which, didn’t work out for either driver, both drivers having to pit again 10 laps from the end.

Vettel was running in 3rd place, but lost out to Ricciardo and teammate Kimi Raikkonen as his tires were going off, which triggered a stop, but only after Bottas stopped for the same reason. Ferrari was going to do the same as Mercedes to cover off Bottas, who ended up behind the HAAS of Kevin Magnussen in seventh place, while Vettel finished in fifth place, handing the championship lead back to Hamilton.

Ricciardo, who was running in third place was suffering from a lack of front end grip in the closing laps due to debris getting stuck in his front wing, which allowed Raikkonen to close in and pass the Australian with just four laps remaining. Ricciardo put up a robust defense, but could not stay ahead of the Finn.

Sebastian Vettel now has a 14 point deficit to Lewis Hamilton in the world drivers championship, which you have to say, like last season, Vettel is making errors, costing himself valuable championship points.

Finally, conspiracy theory time, Paul Ricard is one of the three circuits where the reduced trend Pirelli tires are used, which are deemed to benefit Mercedes more than other teams. Mercedes won in Barcelona, now Paul Ricard, will it be a slam dunk in Silverstone for a trio of wins with the reduced tread tires?

French Grand Prix 2018 Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:30:11.385
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +7.090s
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +25.888s
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +34.736s
5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +61.935s
6. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +79.364s
7. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +80.632s
8. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +87.184s
9. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +91.989s
10. Charles Leclerc (Sauber) +93.873s

Financial Woes, Part (I Don’t Know, I’ve Lost Count)

Keeping Our Heads Above Water, Barely

Eight months ago, we were in dire financial trouble, to the point of defaulting on a car loan, personal loan and four credit cards with a total of $65,000 in balances. At that time, it was impossible for me to enjoy life, every waking thought was about the dire financial situation we were in, wondering where the money to make the minimum credit card/loan payments were coming from, to the point of making myself sick.

That issue was solved in the nick of time by a $107,000 inheritance payment from my late father’s estate. I paid off $70,000 in debts, $65,000 in personal/car loans and credit cards plus another $5,000 paying back loans from family members that kept us afloat. We spent $10,000 on better camera gear for my wife’s new photography business, $6,000 deposit, which is half of the cost of a new(er) car for my wife.

This brings us up to $86,000, leaving $21,000 in savings, which has mostly been used to pay off fresh credit card balances, and a whole host of unexpected expenses, like a new lawn mower after ours went up in a cloud of smoke, and we have to spend $1,250 getting treated for bed bugs, for the third time in 3 years, our best guess is the kids are bringing them home from school, the kids don’t go anywhere else.

I let my wife spend $5 – $6,000 on ‘things’, I’m not even sure what, 8 – 10 live music events booked, some still upcoming, which I guess would come to around, maybe $1,500, plus using savings to cover the shortfall on monthly bills, now we are looking at having $1,850 remaining in savings after paying the latest round of credit card balances. We have plans on spending a long weekend in Arkansas next month, which is in jeopardy as the money earmarked for the trip has been wiped out by the bed bugs treatment.

Outside of the normal monthly utilities, I have a $140/mo car payment, $125/mo for a payment for a new washer and dryer we purchased a few months back and $46/mo for insurance for the aforementioned camera equipment. I need to look at all the money we have coming in and come up with a financial plan moving forward, which almost certainly will mean cuts in services we consume every month.

Now, I am here, back with all the financial burden on my shoulders, I can feel the stress and tension building up. I’m getting that sick feeling in my stomach as I know as things stand, our income is not enough to pay all our bills and buy groceries. I do not want to go down the road of using credit cards to make up the shortfall again as that is how we ended up in $65,000 in debt in just 3 years to start with.

Unfortunately, my wife’s businesses including photography and real estate have flopped thus far, we are about minus $13,000 on the photography side and roughly minus $2,500 on the real estate side. My wife works part-time which allows her to concentrate on her business projects, that part-time work brings in about $800/mo on top of my full-time income of about $2,100/mo net salary and $450 of other income.

I don’t want to tell my wife to give up on her business dreams, but it’s not working out, and the financial buffer of the savings is dwindling fast. It’s soon going to be time for her to find full-time work, we cannot continue to keep spending on a loss-making venture, the real estate venture has yielded just $1,000 in 3 years and only $200 in 7 months for the photography business, which is obviously not sustainable.

This all makes me feel depressed and like a failure, I am unable to provide for all my family’s needs.

A New Low For Trump / Separating Immigrant Children From Parents

Immigrant Children Separated From Their Parents and Caged Up In Detention Centers

I don’t often write about our elected president, not because I agree with anything he has done or tried to do, but, because I don’t have enough time to write about all the stupid and diabolical things he has done. But, I feel I need to express my feelings about his latest actions in regard to separating illegal immigrant children from their parents, for no reason other than crossing into the US illegally for a better life.

On April 6, 2018, Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions sent out a zero tolerance order for people crossing the US/Mexico border illegally. This order includes separating children from their parents at the border, the parents are sent for criminal prosecution while the children, who cannot be held criminally responsible are taken, distraught, screaming and crying to separate holding locations around the US.

Let’s be clear, anyone that believes causing children, immigrant or otherwise unnecessary emotional distress, which often has long-lasting effects is acceptable has a cold black heart. And, those in the Trump administration that consistently lie to defend the administration’s policies, Jeff Sessions, Sarah Sanders, and Kirstjen Nielsen, well, as Madeline Albright said “there’s a special place in hell” for these people.

Now, this is where it gets really dark, Trump, all but admitted, that this ‘zero tolerance’ policy was a way to force Democrats in Congress to vote in favor of giving Trump $25 billion for his border wall, which, of course, was one of his campaign promises, albeit without Mexico footing the bill as Trump promised over and over again on the campaign trail. Trump is literally holding these children hostage, blaming the whole situation on a non-existent Democratic ‘loopholes’, which Trump’s base laps up enthusiastically.

Obviously, there has been a massive backlash, the majority of Americans can’t watch and listen to children crying as they are being ripped away from their parents and accept it, which forced Trump to sign an executive order, which allows children to stay with their parents, but this does not affect the over 2,300 children that have already been separated, probably because of the reasons in the paragraph below.

Some reports have suggested that some immigrant parents have already been deported without their children. It has also been reported by some that there is no solid plan for reuniting families when the parents are inevitably deported, which does not surprise me in the slightest, Donald J Trump and his cronies have no clue, they literally could not successfully organize a piss-up in a brewery.

We should also note that the administration has tried to justify the separation of children by claiming that a lot of illegal immigrants are trafficking children, and that the adults are not the true parents of the removed children. Something that the administration has provided no real evidence of being true.

Bottom line here is that the powers that be in the United States of America are using blackmail to get their way, basically holding children hostage, in this immigration crisis and while the GOP were pushing their spending bill and tax ‘reform’, holding CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) and Dreamers hostage. It’s disgraceful that our leaders are using hostage-taking tactics to pass their self-serving bills.

Then, to add insult to injury, Trump’s wife, Melania, decided it would be a good idea to wear a jacket with the words “I really don’t care, do u?” emblazoned on the back as she boarded a plane on her way to a compassionate visit to one of the centers where immigrant children are being held. Melania’s spokesperson said “it’s a jacket, there was no hidden message”, only to be contradicted by her husband, the idiot and chief, saying it was an attack on the fake news media, which, came in the form of a tweet.

To conclude, we live in a time where our politicians are a law unto themselves, there is zero accountability, at least if you play for team red. This is why it’s massively important that we flip the house and senate blue in November, so we can put a stop to the open corruption before it is too late, There are self-serving assholes on the Democrat side too, but it’s far worse on the Republican side of Congress.

Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix 2018

Sebasitan Vettel Wins The 2018 Canadian Grand Prix

The best way to describe the 2018 Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix is forgettable, with the main talking point of the race being the premature waving of the chequered flag by Winnie Harlow, causing the race result to be classified on lap 68 instead of the scheduled 70, due to an obscure FIA sporting rule. Luckily, despite the flag mishap, it had no effect on the result, other than Daniel Ricciardo losing his fastest lap.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen made the start somewhat exciting, getting alongside Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas going into the left-hander at turn 1, and despite hanging on around the outside of turn 2, ultimately lost out, having to settle for third. Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo also made a good start, getting ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen at turn 1 into 2, meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel disappeared into the distance.

A few moments later, Toro Rosso’s Brendan Hartley was attempting an overtake of Williams’ Lance Stroll on the outside of turn 5 into 6, when stroll had an oversteer moment forcing Hartley into the wall at turn 5, which caused both driver’s races to end just 30 seconds into the race at the runoff area of turn 6.

Predictably, being Canada, this prompted the safety car to neutralize the race while the two cars were recovered. The race restarted on lap five and a big nothing happened, everyone maintained their position, with the exception of Force India’s Sergio Perez, who tangled with Renault’s Carlos Sainz going into turn 1, with the former losing half dozen positions as a result, much to the chagrin of the Mexican.

During the first round of pitstops, Daniel Ricciardo leapfrogged Lewis Hamilton for 4th place, Hamilton was down on power, according to Mercedes after their planned engine change for Montreal was scrapped due to reliability issues with the new power unit. Speaking of reliability issues, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso suffered another retirement with a broken exhaust causing engine overheating issues.

That’s about all she wrote for the 2018 Canadian Grand Prix, next to no on-track overtaking, a few crashes and a procession at the front after the first round of stops. Race winner, Vettel never looked challenged in his lights to flag (twice) victory, there was some potential drama in the closing stages of the race with Hamilton seemingly closing on Ricciardo for 4th, but it fizzled out with Ricciardo faster out of the hairpin.

This Canadian Grand Prix has really highlighted the issues with the current F1 regulations, with drivers lifting and coasting to preserve fuel and running at a slower ultimate pace to save tires. Even with 3 DRS zones, overtaking was a virtual no-go, I’m not sure how many, if any overtakes were made, I don’t remember a single on-track overtake during the entire Canadian GP, making for an extremely dull race.

If nothing else, the Canadian GP has set up the European leg of the season nicely with Vettel taking a 1 point lead over Hamilton in the world drivers championship with Mercedes seemingly on the back foot. I believe that 2018 could be Ferrari’s championship to lose with Mercedes nowhere near their ultimate performance, but, like last season, Ferrari could be their own worst enemy with unforced blunders.

Canadian Grand Prix 2018 Results

1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1:28:31.377
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +7.376
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +8.360
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +20.892
5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +21.559
6. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +27.184
7. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +1 LAP
8. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +1 LAP
9. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +1 LAP
10. Charles Leclerc (Sauber) +1 LAP

Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix 2018

Daniel Ricciardo celebrates his hard fought victory at the Monaco Grand Prix 2018

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo got ‘redemption’ for the Monaco victory that was stolen away from him in 2016 by a Red Bull pitlane blunder. But, it was not an easy victory for Ricciardo, who lost his battery boost on lap 18, having to race 77% of the race with 160 less horsepower than his rivals, and as a result of the MGU-K failure, his rear brakes were overheating and effectively had two fewer gears than his rivals.

Ultimately, it was still Monaco, which, I believe is the dullest, most processional race of the entire season, an opinion that I have held since I started watching F1 back in 1992. So, there isn’t much to write about, despite the battle Ricciardo had with his own car as much as Vettel, who couldn’t take advantage of the ailing car of Ricciardo, despite a significant power advantage over the Australian’s Red Bull RB14.

Williams had a nightmare race in Monaco, which started before a wheel was turned in anger. The Williams crew failed to have all four wheels on Sergey Sirotkin’s car by the 3-minute warning on the grid, which triggered a 10 second stop/go penalty. And, when the penalty was served on lap 8, Williams found themselves under investigation for working on the car in the pit box during the penalty period. Which, Williams were later found innocent, they only used cooling fans to keep the car cool while stationary.

I really wonder what has gone wrong at Williams? Which, if you force me to pick a team, would be my favorite. Seriously, not having the wheels on the car on the grid in time, the complete lack of pace, qualifying near or at the back of the grid often, with two pay drivers, who clearly are not good at developing the car. It truly saddens me to see how the formerly great F1 team have fallen from grace.

At the midpoint of the Grand Prix, it looked like the hardest of the available tire compounds, the super soft tire was the race tire to be on, the mid-pack was running faster lap times than the leaders, running the ultra-soft tire. Which turned on its head, later in the race, as drivers who started on the ultra-soft tires, then switched to the hyper-soft tires about 30 laps from the chequered flag were the cars on the move.

This saw Carlos Sainz drop back from eighth to 10th place as Renault teammate, Nico Hulkenberg, and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who was recovering from 20th place, overtook the Spaniard using the softer, stickier hyper-soft tire. But, then the challenge fizzled out as the pair cruised up to the back of Pierre Gasly, despite Gasly being on the slower super-soft tire, Monaco’s famous lack of overtaking struck again.

Other events of note were Fernando Alonso’s retirement from 7th place on lap 52 with a gearbox issue, which I presume is doing nothing to convince the Spaniard to stay with McLaren or maybe, even F1. And, Charles Leclerc suffering a total brake failure coming out of the tunnel going into the chicane, and, despite trying his best to avoid a collision, he plowed into the back of Brendan Hartley’s Toro Rosso.

As much as I am happy to see Daniel Ricciardo get his ‘redemption’, it only happened because of the nature of Monaco, if it was a dedicated race track, there would be no way that Ricciardo would have been able to hold onto the victory being 160bhp down. Not, that this will happen, but I feel it’s time to reevaluate the principality’s place on the Formula 1 calendar, I for one, won’t miss it if it gets canned.

Monaco Grand Prix 2018 Results

1. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 1:42:54.807
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +7.336
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +17.013
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +18.127
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +18.822
6. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +23.667
7. Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) +24.331
8. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +24.839
9. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +25.317
10. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +69.013

Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix 2018

Second Vettel/Ferrari Pit Stop, Spanish GP, 2018

The Spanish Grand Prix started out with a bang with Grosjean’s orchestrated carnage, before immediately declining into a bore-fest. The 2018 Spanish, or “Spainish” GP will immediately be forgotten in my mind.

Lewis Hamilton made an excellent start from pole position to lead the pack into turn 1, while title rival, Sebastian Vettel picked up a tow from Hamilton to sweep around the outside of Valtteri Bottas to move into second position. This was before, the turn 3 carnage caused by Romain Grosjean spinning out in a cloud of tire smoke through the turn 3 right-hand sweeper, taking out, not only himself but also Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and STR’s Pierre Gasly, bringing out the safety car while marshals cleared the track.

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso clean drove around the outside of Force India’s Esteban Ocon at turn 3 after the restart to move into the points, meanwhile Hamilton was quietly building his lead, which was more than 10 seconds by lap 18. At which time, Vettel pitted for fresh rubber, moving onto the medium tire, but got held up by Kevin Magnussen for two laps. The German had to make a late dive past Magnussen to maintain his second position ahead of Bottas as the Finn had stopped and was exiting the pit lane.

On lap 25, the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen seemed to make a move towards the pit lane, then suddenly aborted, allowing Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to slip by at the final corner. But, it was race over for Raikkonen as he failed to accelerate down the straight, also being passed by the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo. Raikkonen was left to limp back to the Ferrari pits and into retirement from the race.

Hamilton pitted from the lead on the next lap, also switching to the white marked medium tire, to rejoin the track in 2nd place behind Verstappen, who had not stopped yet. Verstappen finally pitted nine laps later, relinquishing the lead back to Hamilton, where the Englishman stayed until the end of the race in what has to be considered a dominant performance. Verstappen rejoined the track in 4th place ahead of his Red Bull teammate, a few laps before Ocon stopped on the side of the road, causing a VSC period.

During this VSC period, Vettel unexpectedly pitted to put on fresh medium tires while everyone else, bar Force India’s Sergio Perez continued on track under the VSC delta times. This cost Vettel and Ferrari big time, not only losing out to Bottas, but also, Verstappen, rejoining the track in 4th place after a slow stop, which Maranello blamed on Perez pitting at the same time, and not wanting to risk an unsafe release. In my view, it was a poor strategic call, that cost them two places, blaming Force India is a BS excuse.

Meanwhile, during the VSC period, Verstappen had his fifth collision in five races, driving into the back of Williams’ Lance Stroll. The Dutchman damaged his front wing, which, luckily for him, didn’t seem to hinder his pace, managing to maintain a gap to Vettel to claim his first podium of the 2018 season. The final action of the race was Fernando Alonso claiming 8th place from the restart after the VSC, the Spaniard caught Charles Leclerc down the start/finish straight to complete the move into turn one.

As ever with the 2018 season so far, we have some controversy in regard to the -0.4mm change of tire tread, which many see as an advantage for Mercedes who benefitted from a major change of fortune using the new Pirelli rubber. Of course, Mercedes have rubbished these claims, as you would expect, but many Ferrari fans have been pushing the conspiracy theory that Pirelli, The FIA and Mercedes colluded on this change to advantage the silver arrows. I’m not convinced by the narrative myself, what do you think?

Spanish Grand Prix 2018 Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:35:29.972
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +20.593s
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +26.873s
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +27.584s
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +50.058s
6. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +1 LAP
7. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +1 LAP
8. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +1 LAP
9. Sergio Perez (Force India) +2 LAPS
10. Charles Leclerc (Sauber) +2 LAPS

F1.TV Pro: Initial Impressions

F1.TV Pro Screenshot, May 12, 2018

At the beginning of the year, it was announced that Liberty Media would be launching an enhanced F1 streaming service, and it went live this race weekend, five races into the season at the Spanish Grand Prix.

My initial impression is that the service is just OK, it’s comparable in quality to that of ESPN on PlayStation VUE. I’m hoping that the service gets better over time, they have a year before I have to pay again for the service. If it does not improve by the time my year-long subscription expires, I will not be renewing.

Down to the nitty-gritty, the video streaming quality is sub-par in this day and age, although I can’t say for sure as there is no indication of quality on the stream, I would estimate that video quality is around 720p. I would have expected at least 1080p for the money. And it’s definitely not an internet connection issue, I have a 1Gbps symmetrical fiber Internet connection, which could handle multiple 4K streams with ease.

Sound, although high enough quality has issues with sync with video; from what I could see and hear, the audio is 2 – 3 second behind the video. The English commentary team was abruptly cut off mid-sentence on a number of occasions with 5 – 10 seconds of silence before resuming commentary. The sync issues were apparent as drivers crossed the line to set their time, with the commentators reacting seconds later.

There were more issues with the audio feed between the qualifying sessions. Ant Davidson could be heard at the Sky Pad, while the world feed continued on, showing video unrelated to the audio. Liberty Media needs to either cut the commentary feed during these breaks or do some sort of deal to show the video accompanying the audio that is being streamed, instead of the current disjointed presentation.

The option to view a selectable driver onboard camera does not have audio, except for the team radio communications. Frankly, it feels weird watching an F1 car racing around the track in silence, the car camera feeds need to have the audio from the car to make it feel like you are riding with the driver.

A couple of other niggly things, the timeline/scrubbing overlay remains onscreen at all times, sometimes obscuring graphics. The other player controls disappear, but the timeline remains, which I find distracting. I understand that this is a brand new service, but some of these issues seem like rookie mistakes, other streaming services don’t have these issues. F1.TV need to make improvements quickly.

Finally, it would be nice to have more payment options, currently F1.TV Pro only accepts VISA, Mastercard, and Maestro (UK) cards. I would have preferred to use my Discover over my VISA, and I don’t have a Mastercard. A PayPal option would solve this as PayPal accepts all major credit cards.

Full disclosure: I am watching the qualifying replay using Microsoft’s Edge browser, which I find to be the best browser for streaming. I’m running a Ryzen 1800X with 32GB of DDR4 3000mhz and all solid-state storage with a symmetrical 1Gbit Internet connection. I have not, as yet, tested the Android or Apple apps for F1.TV, I prefer to watch F1 on a larger screen, 5 to 10-inch phones and tablets just don’t cut it for me.

Update [May, 17 2018, 16:09]: Since I wrote my initial impression of F1.TV Pro last Saturday, improvements have been made, the archives have filled out considerably and the commentary/FX on archives and on car cameras are now selectable, at least in Chrome, still not working in Edge as I write this. Also, the scrubbing/timeline bar now disappears on Chrome, but remain in Edge. So improvements are being made, but it still seems your experience depends on which browser you elect to use.

Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2018

Ricciardo Rear Ends Verstappen At Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2018

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton wins a chaotic Azerbaijan F1 Grand Prix, from what looked like a third-place finish four laps from the end of the race, to say Hamilton was “lucky” is the understatement of the year.

The chaos started immediately, everyone seemed to get through turn 1 cleanly, but, that all changed in the run out of turn 2, Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin was squeezed into Fernando Alonso’s McLaren by the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg, Alonso suffering a double puncture, but limped back to the pits and continued. More carnage ensued at turn 3, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen dived down the inside, only for Force India’s Esteban Ocon for turn in on the Ferrari driver, by turn 3, Sirotkin and Ocon were already out.

All this meant the safety car was deployed to clear up the debris from the track, meanwhile, in addition to Alonso’s unplanned pit stop, Raikkonen joined him in the pits for a set of fresh yellow marked soft tires and a new front wing, thanks to the safety car period, neither driver were out of contention in the race.

On the lap six restart, there was no change for the podium positions, but the ever opportunistic Max Verstappen dived down the inside of his Red Bull teammate, Daniel Ricciardo for fourth place, and as a result of giving Verstappen space, Ricciardo also lost 5th place to Carlos Sainz in the Renault.

Over the next five laps, The Renault duo, Sainz, and Hulkenberg took advantage of their faster purple ultra-soft tires to move past both Red Bulls to run in fourth and fifth places. Then disaster struck for Hulkenberg, the German clouted the barrier coming out of turn 4 and retired the car down the escape road at turn 5. Shortly after, we saw the Red Bull’s battling for fifth place, Ricciardo, twice getting a run on his younger teammate on the main straight, only for Verstappen to stoutly defend his fifth-place position.

The Red Bulls regained 4th and 5th positions as Sainz’ ultra-soft tires gave up, forcing the Spaniard to pit for the yellow marked soft tire. Hamilton pitted for fresh soft tires on lap 23 after having a massive lock-up going into turn 1, returning to the track in third place behind his Mercedes team-mate, Valtteri Bottas.

The Red Bull battle resumed on lap 27, Ricciardo was ahead around the outside of turn 1, only for Verstappen to come back at the Australian, who again lost out to his 20-year-old teammate. Ricciardo finally made the move stick on lap 35 with one of his trademark, last of the late brakers moves around the outside of turn 1; only to find himself behind his teammate after their only round of pitstops.

Race leader, Vettel dived into the pits for a change of tires, electing to run the yellow soft tire, while Bottas took the lead of the race, still setting good lap times on the red super-soft tires he started on. Vettel slotted into a Mercedes sandwich, returning to the track in second place, between Bottas and Hamilton.

Disaster struck for Red Bull on lap 40 with both drivers down the escape lane and out of the race. Ricciardo crashed into the back of Verstappen after the Dutchman had made two distinct moves in the braking zone to block his teammate. Both Red Bull drivers were reprimanded by the FIA, although I would say that it was Verstappen’s fault as his weaving in front of Ricciardo is what caused the incident.

This incident meant the safety car was deployed for a second time to recover the Red Bull’s, meanwhile, Romain Grosjean managed to crash all by himself while following the safety car, which extended the safety car period while marshalls recovered his HAAS. As the safety car was leading the pack through the pitlane, Bottas made his only stop of the race, putting on a set of ultrasoft boots, with Vettel following suit.

When the race restarted on lap 48; Bottas bolted, only to be caught by the end of the straight by Vettel, who made a massive dive down the inside of Bottas into turn 1, ultimately lost not only second to Hamilton but third to Sergio Perez as well as he had badly flat-spotted his left front tire. You’d have to say it was a terrible tactical decision by Vettel, the move was uber-ambitious at best from that far back.

It looked like Bottas was going to get his first win of 2018 leading a Mercedes 1 – 2, but that hope was dashed as the Finn ran over a piece of debris coming out of the final corner causing a high-speed blowout, ending his race with two laps remaining. After Vettel’s mistake and Bottas’ misfortune, Hamilton was gifted an unlikely last-gasp race victory to conclude a manic Azerbaijan Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Due to the carnage up front, we saw some new points scorers in the race classifications, Charles Leclerc scoring 8 points for sixth place and Brendon Hartley scoring a solitary point for finishing in 10th place. Alonso, managed to score 6 points for seventh place despite his earlier double puncture, running almost the entire race distance on a single set of soft tires with teammate Stoffel Vandoorne finishing in ninth.

Lewis Hamilton took the world championship lead for the first time in 2018, sitting four points ahead of Sebastian Vettel. I’m now thinking that this might be a turning point of the season, it was a clear mistake by Vettel that had cost him the championship lead, if he had just bided his time, he could have had a race victory by default, but no, he decided to go for glory and paid the price, a bad tactical choice I’d say.

A final word on Max Verstappen, clearly he is a very quick driver, but you have to question his race craft after being involved in four incidents in the first four races of 2018, to add to his tally of incidents in 2017. I understand that he is still a very young driver, but that, in my view is negated by his four seasons in F1.

Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2018 Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:43:44.291
2. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +2.460s
3. Sergio Perez (Force India) +4.024s
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +5.329s
5. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +7.515s
6. Charles Leclerc (Sauber) +9.158s
7. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +10.931s
8. Lance Stroll (Williams) +12.546s
9. Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) +14.152s
10. Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) +18.030s