Only in one of the wildest, most topsy-turvey Formula 1 races you will ever see would Sebastian Vettel’s masterful win for resurgent Ferrari seem like the secondary story of the day. But that’s how it felt on Sunday in Hungary in a Grand Prix featuring shunts, punctures, penalties and mechanical failures galore, as well as a remarkable 2-3 finish by Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo in their previously underwhelming RB11 chassis. It was easy to overlook the remarkable achievement of Vettel and his improved Prancing Horse scoring his first-ever win at the Hungaroring when even woeful McLaren managed to finally score double points in 2015. But the German former four-time World Champion stamped his authority on the race the moment the lights went out for the start, making a power move right on by pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes along the outside going into Turn 1. Vettel’s teammate, beleaguered Finnish veteran Kimi Raikkonen, followed close behind the space Vettel had created and all at once both Ferarris had passed both Mercedes. That left Silver Arrows teammates Hamilton and Nico Rosberg duking it out for 3rd. And then, no doubt frustrated by his ragged start, Hamilton lost his composure. The English championship leader tried to shove his way by Rosberg but had to bail out when he got too close going into a turn, sending him skittering off track into the gravel. While he was never stuck and kept rolling, a gaggle of cars passed him as he extricated himself and unlucky Lewis found himself in P10 before the end of the first lap. That seemed to set the tone for Hamilton’s race, as he proceeded to bull his way around the the Hungaroring in a seemingly futile effort to make up by brute force all the ground he lost on that eventful first lap.
Meanwhile up at the front, the race settled into a false sense of calm that belied the even greater chaos yet to come, with Vettel & Raikkonen running 1-2 and Rosberg 3rd. But right around Lap 40 Raikonnen began to experience ERS issues and dropped several dozen horsepower. The continued bad luck for the Finn left him in the unfortunate position of “blocker” for teammate Vettel and it became inevitable that the rest of the contenders would swamp him, which they soon did. With potentially his best car of the year and badly needing a strong result to stay in Ferrari’s good graces Raikkonen instead was forced to retire on Lap 60. At least no one could say that it was Kimi’s fault this time but that probably won’t help him keep his seat.
Prior to Raikkonen’s dropping out there was an eventful Safety Car period initiated when the Force India of Nico Hulkenburg had front wing failure on Lap 43 and shot straight off into the tire barrier. Continue reading →
If you’re into sad songs I’ve got your fix right here. From 2011’s Ashes & Fire comes Ryan Adams‘ masterpiece of the morose, “Do I Wait”. Beginning in quiet with Adams’ lone guitar and pleading voice, “Do I Wait?” crescendoes by the end of its 4 minutes into a veritable zenith of sadness thanks to guest keyboardist Benmont Tench of The Heartbreakers and his hauntingly beautiful, slowly building wave of sound. Its heartbroke hooks will sink deep into your earhole and keep pulling at you until you play it again.
Adams has become something of a master of melancholy in recent years after starting out as a country rock sensation, essentially following the path that Jeff Tweedy and Wilco blazed circa their A.M. period. But much like Wilco, Adams stubbornly resisted being boxed in stylistically and so wound up giving voice to his inner sorrow as well as his outer rowdy in the grand tradition of rock and country singer-songwriters since the dawn of those genres. First with 2004’s EP compilation Love is Hell and its remarkably stark and downbeat reworking of Oasis’ “Wonderwall”, and then on Ashes & Fire, Adams proved himself an artist who can really let his guts spill on the floor. “Do I Wait?” proved to be the shimmering standout track from a very good if slightly monochromatic album overflowing with what ifs and recriminations.
Formula 1 driver Jules Bianchi has passed away at the age of 25. Bianchi succumbed to the severe head injury he received last October at Suzuka in the waning stages of the Japanese Grand Prix, when his Marussia collided with a recovery vehicle on the track under rainy Yellow Flag conditions. Due to the low profile of F1 cars, his head struck the lower edge of the crane at a high rate of speed dealing him the diffuse axonal injury from which he would never recover. Jules was a highly regarded, up-and-coming pilot with connections to Ferrari and after scoring his and Marussia’s first-ever Championship points at Monaco last year it seemed as if the sky was the limit for his career in motorsport. We send our condolences to his family, friends and colleagues and we mourn his premature passing. It seems profoundly unfair that someone so young and talented should have his life cut short in this fashion. But his chosen vocation was a dangerous one. Despite the fact that there had been no fatalities in F1 in 20 years, we can never loose sight of the fact that these drivers put their lives on the line every time they step into the cockpit despite how “easy” it looks on TV.
Jules Bianchi (FRA), Marussia F1 Team. Suzuka Circuit accident 2014.
It has to be said that the FIA’s report on the incident did not exactly cover the organization in glory. It firmly laid the blame on Jules for not lifting enough with the yellow flags waving, although there were conflicting reports as to where exactly a driver might be able to see the yellows and how much he was required to lift. Continue reading →
No, we don’t usually get into the whole realm of supercars in this feature, as how many of us really have that kind of money? But look at this thing. Ford’s new GT is definitely worth dreaming about… and perhaps cashing out the old 401k a bit early for (I never did say I was a qualified financial advisor). With its pin-up worthy low slung looks a definite homage to the original Ferrari-slaying GT40 prototypes of the 1960s, this is a car that is at once aware of its illustrious heritage and determined to surpass it. Specifically built and marketed for a triumphant return to LeMans in 2016 on the 50th anniversary of the GT40s remarkable 1-2-3 overall finish in 1966, the new iteration will compete in the GTE Pro class of production cars against Corvette Stingrays, Ferrari 458s, Porsche 911s, Audi R8s, and Astin Martin Vantages. Which is maybe a bit unfair since not even those elite rides come close to the estimated 2017 GT’s $400,000 true-supercar price tag. Nonetheless, the Ford Motor Company is shrewdly betting on the historic resonance of their return to Le Mans to motivate a new generation of gearheads to worship at the altar of the Blue Oval. And if they’re not able to afford the GT perhaps they’ll at least pony up for a new Mustang.
With help in racing development from major league motorsport player Chip Gannasi Racing and their all-star lineup of drivers, including the venerable king of sports cars Scott Pruett and the excellent former DTM driver Joey Hand among other potential all-star cameos, preparation will include a twin-track effort in 2016 Tudor Series events in the States and World Endurance Championship races in Europe. Clearly, Ford is aiming to be competitive by the time they roll off the truck for their LeMans debut in mid-June of next year. That may be overly ambitious, as very few Le Mans programs are successful in their first year, and that includes Ford’s rocky early efforts to take it to Ferrari in 1964-5 before breaking through to dominance in ’66. In motorsport, as in all sports and life in general, you’ve very often got to fail before you succeed. But with a pedal-to-the-metal effort fully supported by the factory in Dearborn, the new GT should still get towards the sharp end of the field rather quickly.
As always in endurance racing, the cars’ durability will be key. With an all-carbon fiber monocoque and aluminum front and rear subframes it should be interesting to see how this new GT survives under variable loads at a big, hybrid road-oval course like the 24 Hours of Daytona. Continue reading →
When Rolex introduced the reference 1680 Submariner circa 1969 they did something entirely new for the brand: they created their first-ever dive watch with date function. Now your first reaction might well be: “What took them so long?” Blancpain, Omega and others had long had date divers in their portfolio. But the wheels of change move slowly at Rolex and they are never terribly concerned about following the latest trends. So no doubt the question of whether to make a date version of their iconic Submariner was considered with all due deliberation as the 1960s progressed and then the decision to proceed finally taken at the end of the decade when all the numbers had been crunched and the sales potential gamed out. In the end, it proved to be a very smart if somewhat belated call by the marque of the Coronet.
Using their recently developed caliber 1575 date/chronometer movement, which Rolex had previously reserved for their ubiquitous Datejust and legendary GMT-Master, the first versions of 1680 Submariner had the very interesting quirk of red writing for the model name on the matte dial. There is a great, thorough examination of the different acceptable Red Sub dials and their relative scarcity in the Classics section of the Vintage Rolex Forum for those who are looking for the fine details. But suffice to say what seemed like an eye-catching way to differentiate the date model from its traditional no-date brethren, the all-white refs. 5513 and chronometer-rated 5512, would eventually make the Red 1680 one of the most desirable and collectible vintage Rolex Sports models in the pantheon. And when its big brother the cult classic saturation dive-ready ref. 1665 Sea-Dweller debuted with its signature double lines of red for the initial double model name — “Sea-Dweller/Submariner 2000” — it was only a matter of time for the prime position in the hierarchy for red writing Rolex dials to be cemented in collectors’ psyches. Owning a vintage Red Sub has become the goal of many enthusiasts of the brand and fans of tool watches in general, both novice and expert.
Rolex also had another idea for the 1680 Sub in mind, that of a super exclusive all-gold stunner along the lines of their elite gold GMT-Master, which existed from the very debut of the GMT line back in the mid 1950s. But Rolex had never made a gold Submariner — until they did so in stunning fashion with the debut of a gold 1680 to go along with its more workaday all-steel version. With a list price about five times that of its steel sister when purchased on its heavy 18 karat Oyster Fliplock bracelet with diver’s extension, the Gold Sub was immediately a status symbol of great impact.
The third Western in a sequence of five innovative collaborations between director Anthony Mann and Hollywood legend James Stewart, 1953s The Naked Spur is arguably the leanest of them all if not quite the meanest (that honor goes to the slightly later and still shocking The Man From Laramie). With an excellent supporting cast of only four other players, Spur’s taught plot unwinds in the period directly after the Civil War and finds former Union soldier and rancher-turned-bounty hunter Howard Kemp (Stewart) looking to capture fugitive murderer Ben Vandergroat (a constantly laughing and manipulative Robert Ryan, one of the screen’s great neurotic villains) in order to claim the reward on his head and then buy back his lost ranch. Kemp is helped in his tawdry task first by no-luck prospector Jesse Tate (the always excellent character actor Millard Mitchell) and then a dishonorably discharged soldier-adventurer Roy Anderson (the underrated and wonderfully cynical Ralph Meeker), whose morals are definitely flexible. When the hastily assembled trio corner and capture Vandergroat, they discover he is traveling with the young daughter of one his slain gang, Lina Patch (a very lovely and pixieish Janet Leigh). Tate and Anderson also find out, courtesy of the always-plotting Vandergroat, that Kemp is no lawman and also that the reward on him is a staggering $5000. Confronted with this uncomfortable fact, Kemp reluctantly agrees to deal his other two “partners” in for equal shares of the reward. But shortly after the group heads out for Abilene to turn Vandergroat in, Kemp is shot in a needless confrontation with Blackfoot Indians pursuing the unreliable Anderson, leaving him wounded and ever more at the mercy of his dubious companions and the ever-scheming Vandergroat. With the reward payable dead or alive, and Vandergroat set to hang for his murder, the tension ratchets up as the three “good guys” debate whether they should even bother to keep the fugitive alive, Kemp and Lina begin to fall in love and Vandergroat shrewdly tries to manipulate the others so they will turn on each other and he can make his escape.
The seminal films with Stewart marked a turning point in Mann’s career, his middle period really, as he graduated from very good black & white crime thrillers on tight RKO budgets to expansive location Westerns eventually shot in Technicolor. In his last period, Mann would move on to massive widescreen historical epics such as the remarkable El Cid and the sweeping The Fall of the Roman Empire. But Mann first brought his hard boiled noir sensibilities to the Western and as a result his heroes are much more flawed than John Ford’s prairie Galahads and Howard Hawks’ tough talkers with hearts of gold. Continue reading →
This isn’t the first Black Keys song I’ve posted and it won’t be the last. “These Days” off of 2010’s Brothers is one of their most haunting and downbeat numbers. Maybe that’s why it sticks with you. Triggered by the forlorn lyrics and beautifully morose arrangement, it evokes an instinctual sense of the one-way nature of time and that no, you really can’t go home again.
Suffused with longing and nostalgia for bygone days, as well as a rumination on human frailty (“Watch what you say/The Devil is listening/He’s got ears you wouldn’t believe/And brother once you go to him/It’s your soul you can never retrieve”), “These Days” is more like “Wheels On Fire”-era Dylan in its majestic, chill-inducing sense of foreboding than the Keys usual down and dirty rave-ups. But that’s what makes them one of today’s best bands — just when you think you’ve got them figured out Auerbach and Carney hit you in the gut with something so heartfelt and melancholy that it reminds you that there are many facets to the Blues and that the Black Keys, with their sweeping ambition and technical command, are among its greatest modern practitioners.
With late rain at Slverstone Hamilton times it perfectly to hold off all comers; Rosberg settles for a forlorn 2nd place but Vettel grabs a fortuitous podium
All race weekend the weather at the famed Silverstone circuit had been absolutely perfect with plentiful sun and balmy temperatures. But with 16 laps remaining in the British Grand Prix the skies turned dark and rain began to spatter half of the track in a more typical display of English summer weather. That meant it was judgement time for the pit wall strategists, as well as the contenders for the win at the front of the race. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikonnen was the first to make the call to gamble on Intermediate wet tires on Lap 39 but it proved to be a wager made too soon and the Finn made no ground in mixed conditions. By Lap 43, however, the intensity of the precipitation picked up and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton dove into pits to make the switch after several squirmingly slow laps. By the time he exited after his service, the skies opened up and Hamilton seized the opportunity, building a gap on his teammate Nico Rosberg, who had stayed out on dry tires and only pitted on Lap 45. It all broke right for the Englishman at that moment and the racing gods had smiled on Hamilton once again at his home Grand Prix. In that decisive moment, he had essentially won at Silverstone for the 3rd time, a very exclusive club. And so he marched home to a dominant win amidst the hearty cheers of his countrymen, the beneficiary of good timing and good luck. But then, luck is the residue of design and after blowing a sure win in Monaco it would be hard to argue he wasn’t owed one after all.
It was hardly Hamilton’s and Mercedes’ usual uncontested victory. Team Williams had a storming start to the race with both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas overtaking Hamilton and Rosberg directly off the starting line. For a while it seemed as if Frank Williams’ legendary British team could hold off mighty Mercedes and pull the upset. But it wasn’t to be. With Bottas looking the faster of their drivers team Williams did not issue any team orders to have Massa cede the lead to his junior teammate and that seemed to enable Mercedes to keep close despite their unusual starting hiccup. So when the first round of stops came, Hamilton was ideally poised to leapfrog both of the Williams with a typically sterling Mercedes stop. And that was exactly how it played out. Hamilton had a blistering out lap and was able to come around ahead of both Massa and Rosberg after they pitted simultaneously a lap later, as well as Bottas a lap after that. Even worse for Williams, when the rains did come they stayed out too long on slicks while Ferrari called in Sebastian Vettel to change to Intermediates. While their early call with Raikonnen didn’t pay off, the call for Vettel did in spades. Suddenly, in a race in which the German’s Prancing Horse had been nowhere, Vettel was able to reel in several positions including his teammate and both Williams to practically steal the last step on the podium with a fortuitous P3. The unlucky guinea pig Raikonnen finished P8.
That left Williams asking what might have been and relegated Massa to P4 and Bottas to P5. They have got to be cursing the unwanted rain. But they may also be second-guessing their strategy calls earlier in the race and whether they should have let the racy Bottas scoot on by Massa and try to build a gap against Mercedes that might have held up amidst all the whether-related chaos. Continue reading →
Hamilton grabs historic Pole at Silverstone, Rosberg P2; Massa 3rd fatstest in Quali for Williams
Englishman Lewis Hamilton thrilled the home crowd on Saturday by putting together a blisteringly fast lap at Silverstone to claim Pole for Sunday’s British Grand Prix. The current reigning World Champion and this year’s points leader, who only just turned 30 on July 1st, grabbed his 3rd Silverstone Pole and 46th overall, surpassing Sebastian Vettel for 3rd all-time. Hamilton now trails only Michael Schumacher (68) and Ayrton Senna (65) in the history of F1 Qualifying. Even sweeter, the performance also saw him besting his Mercedes teammate and archrival Nico Rosberg by .12 seconds. After the session the German challenger complained agitatedly of understeer late in Q3, just when he needed the maximum performance out of the car. Whether that was excuse making or an actual technical problem, Rosberg was left hoping for a repeat of his impressive performance in the Austrian Grand Prix two weeks ago where he also started from P2 on the grid but overtook Hamilton on track for the victory. But with Hamilton’s historic dominance in this his home race it’s a bit harder to envision Rosberg duplicating that feat tomorrow.
Team Williams out-performed Ferrari with their qualifying pace on the flat, fast former WWII airfield circuit, with the veteran Felipe Massa edging his Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas, P3 to P4. With the heat on Kimi Raikkonen after a season-long slump and two disastrous efforts in Canada and Austria, the Finnish former world champ was spurred to out-do his usually superior Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel, taking P4 to Vettel’s P5. It remains to be seen if Raikkonen can keep it together in a race, however, and it seems almost certain that his days at Maranello are numbered. Continue reading →