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Slipstream Saturday: Formula 1 Returns to Action

And we’re back.  

Formula 1 returns from its self-imposed summer shutdown to emerge in Belgium. This respite in the calendar encourages everyone to take a moment and get away from the pressure cooker world of the sport. During this time the team factories are shut down and everyone scatters. Lewis Hamilton provided the headlines with his jaunts with Rihanna, but everyone else seemed to spend their time quietly – save Jenson Button (more on him below).

With no on-track action these past few weeks, everyone can now resume with renewed enthusiasm and vigor. The question will be whether or not there’ll be the semblance of change regarding the results. Mercedes continues to hold their position at the top of the standings and there’s nothing to make it seem like things will change, as the only two races they’ve lost, Malaysia and Hungary, could be argued to be giveaways by them.

The result in Hungary did showcase that something in the Mercedes launch might not match others. But the big aspect is that there’s more focus on limiting the interaction between the driver and crew in terms of the information that can be shared. More and more the sport is focusing on making the driver being the one determining how to manage tires, how to run the car, and how to deal with teammates.  

This part of the sport is intriguing. For as much technology as involved, why not share as much as possible in the hopes of putting together a winning strategy. The argument against it would be that the drivers need to be a more integral part of the race, as they have seemingly been mitigated by all of the information the teams have at their disposal and the overall engineering of the cars.

This issue will continue and will draw criticism and applause. Maybe it will be the one thing that slows the Silver Arrow.  

Odds & Sods

  • The boys over at McLaren will be enjoying grid penalties to start the race on Sunday. Button and Fernando Alonso were handed 25-place and 30-place penalties, respectively, for their cars featuring a new turbocharger, MGU-H, ICE and MGU-K, while Alonso will also be sporting a new CE. The funny thing is that neither driver suspects they will gain much in the way of advantages from any of these upgrades, which has so far been borne out with their results from the practices with them hovering in the late teens. For those of you who don’t speak F1, here goes. The MGU-H is the Motor Generator Unit-Heat, which basically takes the heat coming from the exhaust and turns it into electrical power.  The ICE is rather straightforward, as it’s the engine (Internal Combustion Engine). To follow that is the Motor Generator Unit Kinetic, which pulls energy from the rotations of the rear axle. Then there’s the CE, which is easy enough and known as the Control Electronics. Let’s remember that the powerplant in the current car consists of six different aspects, making it quite intricate – and possibly overwrought. But hey, progress is progress.  
  • Ferrari extended Kimi Raikkonen’s driving the prancing pony for another year, as he’ll continue there through the 2016 season. Valterri Bottas had been rumored to take the seat, but Ferrari stuck with the former world champion. Though Raikkonen has not matched the results of his teammate Sebastian Vettel, much like he failed to do when Alonso partnered with him, he’s still a more-than-competent driver and with a little luck his results wouldn’t appear so bad.  The move makes one believe that Ferrari has a plan in place because unless Raikkonen demonstrates that he’s the number one driver for the team, they’ll likely look to part ways after next season. Let the whispers and rumors get going for who that may be. Knowing the Italian press, they’re likely to write far too many words covering the topic.  
  • Another former champion who continues to be in the news is Button. By this time the scary robbery he endured isn’t quite news, but it still must linger. Of course, getting back in the car might be a perfect remedy for Button after there’s been speculation that he, his wife, and the company in his house had been gassed during the robbery. As for his life on the track, there’s questions as to whether he’ll be with McLaren next year. There’s a chance he’ll be dropped by McLaren, there’s a possibility he’ll be with another team, at one point there was a chance he’d race rally cars, and then there’s the fun rumor that he might join the new iteration of Top Gear. That’s quite a laundry list of options.
  • Nico Rosberg suffered a bizarre tire failure during the second practice. The resulting spin could have been disastrous but somehow he managed to keep the car on the track and minimize the damage to a car that had paced the first two practices.  
  • Max Verstappen will be enjoying a view from the back of the grid due to Toro Rosso changing the engine in his Red Bull. The junior Red Bull team has performed beyond expectations for much of the year but penalties like this one have to be all too frustrating as they don’t have the outright speed to race through the field like Mercedes or Ferrari.  
  • As for the marquee Red Bull team, Daniil Kvyat endured a reprimand for an unsafe release on pit road. Though the team got fined €10,000, Kvyat will not be pushed back on the grid – something that must make the team smile considering that he and his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, posted the fourth and third fastest times, respectively, in the second practice.  

The Track

This weekend F1 is spending its time at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. The track first came to life in 1925, and has held a consistent presence on the calendar since, though not without periodic interruptions. The track has gone through four different layouts but not stands at almost 4.4 miles in length, featuring 20 turns. The tremendous elevation changes provide one of notable challenges as does the treacherous turn 1. Michael Schumacher leads the way with six wins while Raikkonen, with four wins, leads active drivers.  

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