F1

The Circus Returns: Formula One 2014

The lads are back from the winter off. The 2014 F1 season opens this weekend in Melbourne down under Australian way. But things are different this time. After several years of relative stability in the top teams, there has been all kinds of driver movement. And, of course, there are entirely new specs for the cars and engines. In short the whole snow globe is turned upside down.

Qualifying will be at 2 am EST Saturday morning (11 pm tonight PST) and the race goes off at at the same times one day later, all coverage on NBCSports Network.

Four time defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel is back to defend his title. But no longer will he pair with Mark Webber, who has moved out of F1. Instead, Vettel is partnered with young Daniel Ricciardo for Red Bull. Likewise at Maranello, Fernando Alonso returns for Ferrari, but longtime partner Felipe Massa is gone and replaced by the aging, but still very fast, Kimi Raikkonen. Massa has moved over to Williams, where he will be paired with up and coming hopeful Valtteri Bottas. It is good to see Kamul Kobayashi back in the show, but he is saddled with a back bench team in Caterham. Jenson Button is back at McLaren, and can’t possibly have a worse year than he did last year. Button will be paired with another unknown quantity, Kevin Magnussen. Lewis Hamilton returns again for Mercedes, where he will be paired again with Nico Rosberg. A rundown of all the teams, drivers and principles can be found here. Somewhat sadly, Vitaly Petrov once again could not find a ride, even as a tester.

More importantly, the equipment is vastly changed for 2014. Gone are the naturally aspirated screaming engines of the recent past and in are turbocharged 1.6 litre power units with enhanced energy recovery systems (ERS). An extra gear has been allowed in the gearbox which, combined with the more efficient motors, allows reduced on board fuel load. Aerodynamically, the noses have been substantially lowered and the rear wing architecture tailored. The new lower front wing design makes this year’s car (with the possible exception of the somewhat pug nosed Ferrari) quite a bit more attractive. The tire compounds seem to be overall harder, resulting in longer life, but reduced cornering grip. It also results in less rubber being laid down on the course, which also reduces grip. Bottom line is the cars look a little squirrelly early on.

So, who is fast coming out of winter testing at Jerez and Bahrain? Not Red Bull. Despite having Vettel and Adrian Newey, the airflow design engineering genius, Red Bull is lagging badly. Mercedes powered vehicles are the clear leader so far, and this was borne out in the first practice session in Melbourne. Ferrari and Williams are close but not quite there. But the Renault engines are just flat bad right now, and poor Lotus is behind even Red Bull in the Renault pecking order.

One thing should also be mentioned. The season starts with a bit of a cloud over it as Michael Schumacher still seems to be languishing in a coma. The latest report is Michael is showing “small, encouraging signs” of progress in awaking from the medically induced coma he has been in. That is certainly good news, but it still seems rather bleak. The sport is just better with Michael in it. Wake up Schumi.

There is so much that is different that there has to be a shakeup. Good, things had gotten too predictable the last few years, it was time for a change. One thing I don’t care much for so far is the voice of the new engines. They are quieter and the awe inducing scream is gone. The sound is going to take some getting used to.

Okay, that is it for now. We will check in with the circus at key points as the season progresses. Consider this wide open Trash Talk, all subjects welcome whether sporting, food or political.

Bracket Busters and Odds and Ends Trash Talk

Fairly slow day yesterday on news and events, but the NCAA basketball tournament is in full swing. There are the usual 12-5 upsets that have become tradition, like Oregon over Oklahoma State (not much of an upset if you saw the Ducks play in the Pac-12 tournament), ‘Ole Miss over Wisconsin (now that was an upset) and Cal over UNLV. Three out of four 12-5 games were “upsets. This happens so frequently every year that it is now the expected.

But there have been two more results that were actually shockers. First, on Thursday, Harvard took out Steve Alford’s highly regarded New Mexico Lobos in the 14-3 game in the West regional. First tournament win ever for Harvard. The glory may be short lived however, as the Crimson runs into a much more athletic University of Arizona Wildcat team in the Round of 32. Of course right about the time that was happening, Harvard was showing its real Goldman Sachs like colors by having four years of National Academic Quiz Tournament Championships stripped for cheating.

The even better upset story happened Friday night when little known Florida Gulf Coast University, a 15 seed, demolished the 2nd seeded Georgetown Hoyas. FGCU didn’t even really exist until the mid 90s and is in only its second year of eligibility for the tournament. Wow. And the Eagles have a real shot against their next opponent, San Diego State. The Eagles have real leaders in their guards, Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson. Hot guard play in the tournament will take you a long way, and if last night is any indication, FGCU may have it.

The F1 circus is in Malaysia this week. If there is one thing you expect in Malaysia, it is the wet; and that is exactly what arrived during qualifying at the Sepang Circuit. Sebastian Vettel took pole, with Felipe Massa in P2. Alonso was in P3 and Hamilton beside him in row 2. Kimi Raikkonen qualified back in P7, but came from similarly back on the grid last week in Australia. Button will be beside the finn in P8 and teammate Sergio Perez in P10. Massa has historically been very good at Sepang, can he beat out Vettel and his teammate for the first win of his comeback? Will there be more wet for the race? Coverage starts on NBCSports channel at 4:00 am EST and 1:00 am PST.

In the other set of exciting brackets, our very own @Emptywheel has won her first round in Twitter Fight Club. The second round will be more challenging however, with a formidable opponent in Michael Cohen, aka @Speechboy71.Actual voting does not start until Monday morning, March 25. However, if you are on Twitter, you can help the cause by issuing strong (but good natured) battle tweets in favor of @Emptywheel and against the dreaded opponent @Speechboy71. Say something pithy and substantive. Get in the fight, and don’t forget to vote Monday!

This week’s music is Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress by the Hollies. Great song and nice video. The bonus track is a video by yours truly taken Thursday night on Art Walk in Old Town Scottsdale. The guy pictured was set up in the plaza next to the restaurant where we were eating on the patio, the Barrio Queen. Dude was an amazing showman. He painted the Hendrix canvas to All Along the Watchtower prior to the Stones one in the video.

Formula One Trash Talk: The Circus Comes To Oz Town

Hi there Wheel, Empty, and and otherwise gear heads, it is time for Spring Trash Talk. There is a lot under foot, Spring Training in Major League Baseball, free agency season and pending entry draft in the NFL, the somewhat diminished fortunes of the NBA and, most of all, FORMULA ONE! The Circus season is upon us, and it is starting down under in the Land of Oz.

Appears we are starting off where we left off: there is yet no reason to believe the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber are anything less than the cars to beat. But, that being said, there is also no reason to think that the Ferrari and McLarens are anything less than the threat that they were at the end of last season. Drivers make a difference in F1, and Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button are very, very good drivers. And their cars are not chopped liver either. For the clear superiority of the Red Bulls, and even the McLarens for that matter, Fernando Alonso pulled off one of the greatest performances in the history of F1 with inferior equipment last year. Alonso was only 3 measly points behind Vettel in the final Driver’s standings. Simply astonishing.

The opening two practice sessions for the Australian GP were late last night my time; i.e. between 9 pm and 12 am whatever the heck time AZ is. (Daylight savings time really screws with our heads here, cause we don’t do that). Bottom line…..not much has changed.

Okay, if I were pleading guilty (I would never!) to a heinous offense under truth serum to make sure I was cray cray (yeah, okay, this is some stupid shit too) I MIGHT admit that a lot of this post was written from a series of taco joints in Old Town Scottsdale. It is nowhere near as opulent as it sounds; hell even the mariachi music is piped in like Muzak. And the 60 something threesome at the table next to me looks like their Winnebago may be illegally parked out on Camelback Road.

Where were we? Okay, back to the Australian GP. Here is what Brad Spurgeon thought:

Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel have won all the titles for the last three seasons. Vettel became only the third driver in Formula One history to win three drivers’ titles in a row, after Juan Manuel Fangio in the 1950s and Michael Schumacher last decade. Only Schumacher, Fangio and Alain Prost have won more than three titles, with seven, five and four, respectively. So both Vettel and the team have more pressure on them than ever. Still, Red Bull has the advantage of the consistency of keeping the same two drivers and technical team, and Mark Webber is still pushing for his own final career chances to capture the drivers’ title. With the great designer Adrian Newey leading the way, Red Bull should remain among the strongest.

As a lifelong aficionado of Scuderia Ferrari, I would kill to demur. But, I cannot; I think that is right. Still. As to the beloved Prancing Horse, well, from the lens of the season start, it will take another superhuman drive for the ages by Fernando Alonso to keep Ferrari in the chips.

That leaves McLaren and Mercedes fighting for sloppy thirds. Maybe it will come to be that one will blast out of nowhere to be a contender for King Vettel’s Crown, but it is really hard to see. Lewis Hamilton proved himself to be a self absorbed punk at the more superior team, McLaren; now he will try to do what Michael Schumacher could not at fast, but unreliable, Mercedes. Please. Juan Pablo Montoya performed better and was sent packing to NASCAR.

For all the sturm and drang, for all the off season shuffle, the Championship will still be fought for between Red Bull and Ferrari, with a decided advantage to the former.

Let the Circus games begin!

And, then, there is the NFL free agency merrygoround. Heck, I do not know who are the winners and losers at this point. But, a quick take says the Steelers and Cardinals, the teams of local pricks bmaz and Scribe, did not do well.To be kind. Probably nobody did worse than the Cardinals, who signed an aging punt return specialist that even the Cleveland Browns did not care about anymore, and let go Kevin Kolb, the only even practice squad level NFL quarterback they had. Seriously, what kind of addled mentally challenged assholes are running the Cardinals? Oh, wait, it is still the fucking Bidwell family. Who could have guessed from this level of rank pathetic incompetence??

The Deetroit Kittehs seem to have done very well. If they can keep their peeps healthy and out of the klink, they may have the greatest show on fake turf. The Pats lost Welker’s whining wife (and shitloads of clutch catches in the slot and over the middle) BUT gained a sometimes fragile Danny Amendola. Amendola was the successor in kind at the Pirate attack fun/gun at Texas Tech. Amendola is actually every bit the route runner, and even faster, than Welker. But he ain’t as predictable, nor as reliable, as Welker. This could be a wash, or it could be a loss. Time will tell. The Pat’s defense and, especially, secondary looks to be much improved.

Other than the above, the Squawks got Percy Harvin and some other studs, and the Niners got some too. Whoo weee baybee, the gold rush is on on the left coast.

MLB is in Spring Training; let me tell ya something brother, it is fucking hot here. The NBA is in the stretch run, but the only question of interest I see is what lower seed will the Lakers fill? 8? 7? 6 looks bleak, but not impossible; though I would be shocked. We will return to that in a roundball post later. As we will with the student athletes for March Madness, and very soon.

Rock it, Talk it, Jayhawkit. Get yer sweve on Wheelies. Light it up.

Music by BB King, Bono and the band.

Coming To America: Formula One Is In Austin

It has been a very long week. Time to let loose. For a change, we open up with with the Formula One circus. For the first time since the not much loved race in Indianapolis gave up the Brickyard ghosts in 2007, Grand Prix returns to the United States. The setting is the newly constructed Circuit Of The Americas in Austin Texas.

This is pretty exciting stuff. Grand Prix needs to be in the US, but has not had a venue that felt right since leaving Long Beach due to a tizzie between Bernie Ecclestone and the local promoters over the licensing fee. The US venues since then, including Detroit, Las Vegas, Indianapolis and, yes, even a forgettable three year stint here in Phoenix, just never felt right. But there is a ten year agreement to stage the race at Circuit of the Americas, and the hope is for stability.

The promoters and F1 have trotted out Mario Andretti to rave about the new facility but, from what I saw of it during practice yesterday, it looks butt ugly to me. Coming two weeks after a stop at the opulent and gorgeous Abu Dhabi Yas Marina Circuit, the dustbowl cheap blight of COTA is embarrassing. Austin is a great city, maybe COTA will grow into something worth while with a little age, let’s hope so.

As for the race, so far – as expected – the Red Bulls are fast. Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso, in that order, seem to be ahead of the pack early. The final practice is live on Speed starting at 10 am EST and qualifying starting at 1 pm EST, also on Speed. Coverage of the actual race starts at 1:30 pm Sunday, again on Speed. I will say this much, while the facilities and surrounding land look a little Continue reading

NFL Hard Knocks, Head Injuries and The Monza Rebuttal

Here we are at the real, official, start of the football season in earnest. Yes there were a full slate of college games last weekend, but only a couple of decent ones. and, yes, the NFL officially kicked off wednesday with the Cowboys somewhat surprisingly laying one on the Gents – at the Meadowlands no less. Credit to Tony Romo, Rob Ryan’s defense and the ‘Boys, they fairly earned the win. But now the conventions are over and we start it all in full in the football universe. Also, this weekend is Monza on the Formula One calendar and, as always, it looks to be special. I will return to F1 a little later.

Despite the excitement of the return of football, it is time some dues should be paid to the trauma suffered by the working union members of the NFL who provide the spectacle and entertainment for us manning couches and barstools on Sundays. I wrote about this nearly two years ago in describing the “The Walking Wounded The NFL Treats Like Disposable Trash”. So much has happened since then with focus on repetitive brain injuries and high profile suicides like Dave Duerson and Junior Seau bringing the stark reality of the problem home in a powerful way.

But the Ferengi like single minded profit whores of the NFL have paid mostly lip service to the issue, save for a couple of competition rules that fall far short of a prophylactic redress of the problem. Marcy suggested a piece by Dave Zirin in The Nation to bring it all to a boil. She was right:

Beneath the fireworks, concerts and breathless hype that will mark the start of the 2012 NFL season, is a league that’s haunted. It’s haunted by future Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau who killed himself in May at the age of 43. It’s haunted by the recent suicides of Ray Easterling, Dave Duerson, and OJ Murdock. It’s haunted by the now widespread knowledge that the country’s most popular sport can leave you damaged in ways never before suspected. What a sign of the times that the start of the season wasn’t punctuated today with chest-thumping and military flyovers but with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s announcement that the league’s owners would be donating $30 million to the National Institute of Health to further study the affects of brain injuries.This recognition of the danger inherent in the sport has sparked a high profile debate across the political spectrum. The terms of the debate are simple: Given all we are learning about Continue reading

Laborious Trash Talk

It is Labor Day weekend. Shockingly, my dictation program, Nuance Dictate for Mac, has gone beyond its normal complete worthlessness and now exists in the temporal-intellectual worthlessness of time and space. Seriously, for an application that claims to be useful for efficiency for the normal human, they are total crap. I have fought with them for nearly four years, and I am tired. You want to talk to me Nuance, here I am. Otherwise, go blow a goat.

Okay, now that I have gotten a little preliminary issue setting out of the way, let us get down to Trash Talk mofo’s and……

Oooops! Major power outage at Casa de bmaz! Seriously, I have dick for connection, only 3G on my old iPhone (yes, I have been holding out for iPhone5, even my wife is about to kill me).

I am sorry, I Musta Got Lost. And my gmail tells me Marcy is on the warpath. Rightly so, despite monsoon season here. Oddly, the sky looks mostly clear, I have no reason why my AC, much less my DC, has been taken away from me. You laugh, but when it is 106, you need the juice for the air conditioner. Bad. Somewhere below is a picture of the only light there was for a while, the moon. Vaya con dios Neil Armstrong, I thought well of you in the face of the moon tonight. If there was a measure of the childhood of my generation, it was the Moon Shot.

More Trash content will be on the horizon, like the storm front closing in, but not yet here. In the meantime, I am going to buy you all off with the evidence of my entertainment while I had no electricity. When you suddenly have no cable, no internet, no McIntosh, Adcom and B&W stereo; you have to make do. My daughter Jenna is providing the entertainment while all things I know are down.

UPDATE: Okay, I am back for a little bit. Man, lot of no power tonight and during, and after, then there was the tequila issue. What is a poor boy to do? Sing for a rock n’ roll band?

Okay, South Carolina and Michigan State, both closer than expected but not so by me, both won to start the college football season. Nobody should take anything away from Vanderbilt nor Boise State though. Especially Boise. Sparty is good, and at home to open the season? The BCS should never, ever, dock Boise State because they do not try to play a difficult enough schedule. Previously they opened against the Oregon Ducks in Corvallis. Tell me again why they cannot play for a national championship?

But now, the most interesting game of the first weekend is on tap. Yep, the Wolvereenies versus Crimson Tide at JerryJonesBowl. I’ll take Denard Robinson, seen below in a stirring segment, in an upset over the NickSabanDroids. Granted, I am completely sloshed and sitting on my front patio in a cactus patch, but that is my Karl Rove’s Fathers’ Solid Gold Cock Ring Lead Pipe Lock prediction. [All legal disclaimers imaginable applicable]. But wait! There is more! If you call right now we will double the offer! [Okay, not really].

The NFL has played the 4th and final preseason game, the one season ticket holders pay for, but that nobody understands, already. The Jets, Jets, Jets finally scored a touchdown. Yes that is one. But “yay”. There are interesting things going on in baseball, but the best is the return of the Rocket. Even if it is for the Skeeters. These are the young Pujols’s of the next generation and, through four innings, they can’t hit Rocket. Think the jurors from the trial and Reggie Walton are not watching the Rocket? Oh yeah, you bet your butt they are. Clemens will likely throw one more independent league game, likely against the Long Island Ueckers (not really; that was a little high and outside). And then a start for the Astros. Maybe two. Just cause.

But, far more globally important than football, baseball or that nimrod NASCAR, the Circus is coming back to town. Yep, Formula One. And where the spinning wheel stops is…..at Spa! Yes, the circuit that looks like a woman’s reproductive system. Or a Phaser. Whatever. Unlike those candy asses in left turn NASCARland, they run in the wet in F1.

Yes they do and it is wet at Francorchamps. Qualifying will go off not too long after I post this, and the race coverage o Speed TV begins at 7:30am EST and 4:30am PST on Sunday morning. Despite the safetied up new course at Spa, with a bit of wet, it is still a fast, dangerous and interesting layout. Ought to be fun.

There are certain people that have covered F1 forever. One of the best photographers, Paul Henri-Cahier, has been, and is, a friend to this blog. Paul is the, without question, premier F1 photographer in the world and he is second to his father, the legendary Bernard Cahier.Grand Prix does not get the attention it should here in the States. But one who does cover it up close and personal on track is Brad Spurgeon. Here is Brad’s setup for this weekend:


Formula One began the second part of its season after the long, five week summer break in August, with the practice sessions on Friday at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.

But thanks to the typical Spa weather, and unfortunately for the thousands of spectators who showed up to take a €400 shower, it was as if the holidays had never ended.

The cars may have managed to turn a few laps in the rain in the morning session — although only one car went out during the entire first half of the 1 hour and 30 minute session — but there was no track action at all in the afternoon session until 35 minutes of the same length session remained. And even then, six of the 22 drivers did not take to the track, and of those who did, none drove more than four laps.

Yep. Summer break is over, and it is time to go to Ardennes forest with the lads. With the wet in the picture, Spa will be special.

So, there is Trash Talk for this week. Marcy is probably gonna come along and yammer about Nate Ebner and whatnot. I got one question though. Picture Walt Kowalski talking to an Ikea chair: Should the Cardinals pick up and immediately start Brian Hoyer? Bonus question: Do Watertiger’s precious Jets need Hoyer even worse than the Cardinals?

Boogie the Trash!

Bahrain Drain: Oppressive US Client State Sucks The Life Out Of Formula One

[UPDATE] Qualifying went off without much hitch this morning, at least inside the circuit. Outside the circuit, the body of a protester was found, dead after a night of clashes with government authorities and police. Inside the confines of the circuit, Sebastian Vettel regained qualifying form and took his first pole of the season, followed by Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber and Jenson Button. Schumacher didn’t even manage to get out of Q1. Unlike the desolate practice yesterday, there were at least some fans observable in the main grandstand for qualifying today. But the scene was still as bleak and lifeless as I have ever seen for a F1 Grand Prix. It remains an embarrassment for FIA and the teams (FOTA) to be in Bahrain. And, as I pointed out yesterday, the lie that FIA and Bernie Ecclestone comfort themselves with – that they are being non-political by going and not giving in to international political concerns – is absurd and outrageous. The oppressive Sunni minority and the ruling Khalifa clan are using the mere presence of F1 in Sakhir to paint the picture that everything is okay with the Shia majority in Bahrain. It is not, and F1 looks like a tool. – bmaz 10:30 am EST Sat Apr. 21

Formula One is in Bahrain. There is no good reason, save for greed, that Formula One is in Bahrain this weekend but, nevertheless, there it is. As I write this report, practice is underway. The most expensive and technologically sophisticated racing motorcars in the world are on the track and at speed. The factory Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher are fighting with the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber for the fast times in practice. Ferrari and McLaren are trying to catch up.

The scene is surreal in how vacant and empty it is. There are no people, no crowds, no passenger cars in the surrounding lots, no motorhomes in the infield. There is no party. There is no circus. There are no people. F1 is not lovingly referred to by longtime aficionados as “the circus” for nothing, it is the circus. F1 brings the press, the families, the hangers on, the beautiful women, the beautiful people – and the press that follow them. It is a traveling roadshow party of epic proportions, and always has been.

But not now, not today, not in Bahrain. The cars are there, and there are apparently drivers piloting them, but save for the team engineers and pit hands, there does not appear to be a living sole at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir. It looks like a scene from The Twilight Zone where all the people have been disappeared from the face of the earth.

It might have been like this last year, but Bahrain was yanked from the F1 calendar, with the sport’s godfather like mafia don, Bernie Ecclestone, lamely saying at the time:

“The truth of the matter is we put the calendar together and the teams race on the calendar,” he said. “We were trying to help Bahrain, who have been very helpful to Formula One, and hoping they could get themselves sorted out.

“I don’t know whether there is peace or not. I have no idea. The FIA sent somebody out to check and they said it was all OK. I think the teams had different information and they have the right to say they don’t want to change the calendar.”

The truth of the matter was that it pained Ecclestone greatly to not give Bahrain, and its heavy handed ruling Khalifa family, its cherished F1 race last year, and Bernie and the F1 moneychangers were not about to skip it a second year, so there they are.

I know people whose life it is to follow F1 and document it, it is their profession. It was their father’s profession before them. It is their life. They are not in Bahrain. Presumably, as effectively permanent attachments to the sport, they could have gotten in; they just refused to go. Just having the option is more than most journalists can say. From the AFP:

Bahrain has denied visas to foreign journalists and photographers, including from AFP, to cover this Sunday’s controversial Grand Prix race.

An AFP photographer, accredited by the sport’s governing body, the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile), was informed by Bahrain’s information affairs authority that there has been a “delay to your visa application, so it might not be processed.”

Associated Press said two of its Dubai-based journalists were prevented from covering the Grant Prix because they could not receive entry visas, despite being accredited by the FIA.

Meanwhile, cameramen already in Bahrain were required to keep fluorescent orange stickers on their cameras so that they would be easily recognisable to ensure they do not cover any off-track events, such as ongoing protests.

What might the journalists report on were they allowed in Bahrain? Maybe the petrol bomb attack members of the Force India racing team were caught up in. The incident so shook the team that it Continue reading

Real Fast & Legitimate Trash Talk!

I feel confident you were all as traumatized as I was by the counterfeit Trash Talk appearing recently on these hallowed threads! Apparently, simply because this blog is named “Emptywheel”, people named Emptywheel think they can just stroll in and post up trash. Madness, I tell you, madness!

Hmmmm, speaking of Madness, turns out it is March, and we haz some going on with the student athletes of the roundball variety. Yesterday, not one, BUT TWO, second seeded teams were upset by 15 seeds. Tiny Norfolk State, appropriately led by Kevin O’Quinn on the eve of St. Patricks Day, took out the well regarded Missouri Tigers. Then joy in the hearts of haters everywhere was ignited by Lehigh crushing the Dookies.

For the women, hate to say it, but Obama is right, Brittney Griner and Baylor look unstoppable, though I have a sentimental hope for Pat Summitt. My sleeper to watch are the Delaware Blue Hens, led by maybe the real story of the year, Elena Delle Donne. If you don’t know the story of Elena, you should. The Hens have a shot.

In NFL news and notes, the Arizona Cardinals are left at the altar again. We went through this with Joe Montana, and now again with freaking Peyton. Marcy’s anti-Peyton rap all these years was clearly spot on the money. But, hey, we get to keep Kevin Kolb. Yay. Looked like the Donkos were in the lead, then the Titans, and now the 49ers have pulled even. Who knows. I am probably joining Steve Young and leaning SF because that is the best overall chance for a championship fast, and Peyton needs to catch up to Little Bro. The Bolts have had a decent off season, but losing Vincent Jackson is tough. I still believe Matt Flynn can be a very quality starting QB, and still think he joins his old OC from the Pack, Joe Philbin, at the Fish, but the Squawks are in play. Talk amongst yourselves about all the rest of the ongoing free agency and draft news.

We all wait on pins and needles for Intrepid Emptywheel Roving Reporter Rosalind’s horse racing updates. Assuming she doesn’t get tipsy from St. Paddy’s Day, reportage on the baby shower for Zenyatta’s baby colt and the racing debut of Zenyatta’s little sister, Eblouissante is in the offing.

Of course, the real sports news this weekend is the opening of the 2012 Circus – The Formula One season! We again start down under in Oz, and both the track and the weather have been perfect and hot n’ fast so far. There are six – count em SIX – World Champions in this year’s field and on the grid in Melbourne. They all look fast too, even Michael Schumacher, who has been beleaguered by bad equipment since his comeback. Schuey came up a fast fourth in the factory Mercedes, and will be starting from the second row. McLaren owns the front row, with Lewis Hamilton looking killer on pole and Jenson Button right beside him. Seriously, and uncharacteristically, off the pace are the Red Bull boys back in the third row, Webber in P5 and Vettel in P6. As was, sadly, predicted over the winter, Ferrari is in trouble. Alonso went driveabout in the kitty litter, and bombed out in Q2; Fernando will start from P12. Felipe Massa is even worse, and is all the way back in P16. Best line, by a mile, I have heard of the new Circus season so far:

Two seasons of crashing rally cars has had no adverse impact on [Kimi Räikkönen's] ability to speak Morse code.

If you have ever watched the Flighty Finn in a press conference, you know how spot on that is. Jeebus, I about keeled over laughing in the middle of a courtroom yesterday when I read that.

The official F1 site is here and has boatloads of great stories and helpful coverage, including live scoring if you sign in. It is worth joining for the live scoring. Old friend Brad Spurgeon has moved from the NYT to their international effort, the IHT (International Herald Tribune), but continues with his excellent on scene reportage.

The Australian Grand Prix goes off early Sunday morning/late Saturday night with coverage on Speed Channel starting at 1:30 am EST and 10:30 pm PST.

Music by The Faces. Rod is a little long in the tooth these days, but make no mistake, he, Ronnie Wood and Ian McLagan could really bring it in the day. Lite this joint up people, let there be Trash!

Big Kitty Cats On The Prowl & Talking Trash In Detroit Motor City

[Hi there Kitty Kat fans!! The tigers are tied with the Rangers in the 9th and the Lions coming on soon. Time to Prowl, so Trash has been moved back up to where it can be found - bmaz]

The big cats are on the prowl, and they are growling right on down Woodward Avenue. Los Tigres are Looking For Love and they’re Making Thunderbirds.

And they are not the ever lovely Watertiger kind of kitties either. Nope, these kittehs are big, bad, lean, mean and will Fuck. You. Up.

Detroit Motor City is happenin baybee; seriously happening, and here is hoping there is no Detroit Breakdown.

First on the catwalk are the Tigers. Los Tigres dispatched the evil empire of the NY Yankees. Fittingly, the game, and series, ended with a strikeout by Mighty Casey LeBron Rodriquez, aka “Mr. April”. Congratulations pinstripe pushers, you have 6, count em six, more years of this joy at the low, low price of only $27 million a year. Worry not though, while he has already been through Kate Hudson and Cameron Diaz, you still have the ARoid and Gwyneth Paltrow hookup to look forward to. So you got that going for you, along with you new number one starter, AJ Burnett, after CC Sabathia bails. Red Sawx cognoscenti feast. As to everybody else, ponder whether there is enough Justin Verlander to slow down Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and the Rangers. Say what you will, these are, at this point, the two best teams in the American League.

In the Senior Circuit, my local kids, and they are kids since they are the youngest team in MLB, came up just a bit short tonight against the BrewCrew. Awesome game five, and awesome series. Both teams just had so much personality and good vibe, it was hard to root against either one. But someone had to win, and in extra innings in the win or go home game, Milwaukee did. And Albert Pujols and the Cards shocked the mighty Phillies, in Philly, to make the unlikely advance to the NLCS. This is almost certainly not the NLCS matchup FoxTV hoped for. Too bad, both teams earned it, suck on that Fox.

In the college gridiron type of sporting activity, a couple of has beens like Texas and Oklahoma are playing. If only they both could lose. Then the better and more appealing team, the Boise State Broncos, could move ahead to the rank they deserve in the standings. Especially after dropping 57 points on conference rival Fresno State Friday night. The most exciting team in the country as far as supposed first tier conferences go, the sharp toothed Wisconsin Badgers, have a bye week.

Next on the beautific catwalk are the Deetroit Lions. These too are some slinky cats.

The Chicago Poo Bears are going to mosey into the Lion’s Den at Ford Field, where the Kitties hope to say “Suh you later”. So far, so good, Matt Stafford is still healthy and leading the Lion offense. Stafford’s resume is spotty because of injury, but when healthy, he has clearly demonstrated he is a top-flite quarterback. Javed Best is a nice back, but the Lions might want to invest in another back at some point to insure the future that seems so bright. As good as the Lions’ defense has been so far this season, they have been playing without what many considered the best athlete in the draft, Nick Fairly out of Auburn. Dude has the potential to be another Suh. If he is even close, it is hard to imagine what it will mean to Detroit, and he may make his season debut against Da Bears.

I understand there may be other games of both the student and professional athlete variety, but if they ain’t from Detroit, you will have to supply your own analysis in comments. Because this is Motor City Madness Weekend!

Well, okay, maybe we will get to non-motorcity talk because, if nothing else, there is some shit going down in Suzuka. And if you know squat about F1, you know there is usually wet, and corresponding wild, in Suzuka. That’s just the way it is. Vettel was off pace in practice, but was fast and took pole in qualifying, with Jenson Button of McLaren in P2. Lewis Hamilton hung on for P3 followed by Mass and Alonso in the Ferraris. True to form, qualifying was off schedule due to rain. We will see yet what the conditions are for the actual race, but I have always found the wet to be a good thing at Suzuka as it seems a bit pedestrian of a track without it. The race goes off at 2:00am EST and 11:00pm PST and is being carried in the US by Speed TV. If Vettel finishes anywhere in the points, even with the minimal single point, he clinches the Drivers’ Championship, and that is a pretty safe bet to occur.

As you may have noticed, this is a VERY heavy music Trash post. But, if there is one thing Detroit is known for other than American steel on wheels, it is music. I didn’t roll with the common Motown motif, and I did not fall back on old friends that used to be from Detroit, but now are here in the desert. If you are a music nerd, check out the enantiomer MC5 version of Motor City Is Burning. Not sure exactly what the deal is, but it is clearly, whether intentionally or unintentionally, a reverse print if you look at all the right handed people flipped opposite. Weird. Probably not many people remember the MC5, but they were one of the early foundations of straight up hard rock, and they were dead nuts killer.

So, that is it for the Motown Trash. Burn it down!

Italian Grand Prix 1961-2011: Monza, Death of von Trips & A Yankee Champion

When we started the 2011 Formula One season back in March, I noted that 2011 is the 50th anniversary of the magical 1961 F1 season in which Phil Hill, driving for Ferrari, became the first, and other than Mario Andretti in 1978, only American Formula One Grand Prix World Champion. From our season opening post in March, Circus Starts Anew, 50 Years On From the Yankee Champion:

As starts the 2011 Formula One season, so too started the 1961 F1 season fifty years ago. For all the differences brought by technology and time over five decades, there is much in common. The excitement and anticipation of the drivers, the longing to put the knowledge of the off season testing and tech changes finally to proof in actual race conditions, the first drivers’ meetings of the season, the beautiful people and the eyes of the international sporting world focused. There is nothing like the Formula One circus; that was the case then as much as it is now.

Longtime regulars here at the Emptywheel Trash Talk threads will likely remember that I had the privilege of knowing Phil Hill as I was growing up. Phil was the first, and still one of only two (Mario Andretti), Americans to win the Formula One Grand Prix World Championship and his career was immortalized in the excellent biography Yankee Champion by William Nolan. 2011 is the fiftieth anniversary of his championship season. In honor of that, I will be comparing and remembering the races and excitement of the 1961 season over the course of the current season. See here for some simply superb [Cahier Archive] photos from the 1961 season.

Phil Hill German GP 1961 - Cahier Archive

This will be the last formal installment in the 1961 retrospective series. While there are 19 races in this year’s 2011 F1 schedule, with six remaining after the Italian, there were only eight races on the 1961 docket. The Italian was the seventh and penultimate race, and the one that will not only live in infamy, but in which the Championship was determined. Indeed, with both the Driver’s and Constructor’s Championships decided at Monza in the Italian, and in light of the tragic death of their star factory driver, Count Wolfgang von Trips, the dominant Ferrari team did not even travel the Atlantic to contest the final race, the inaugral United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, NY.

So, in 1961 all the marbles came down to the famed steep banked course at Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Continue reading

Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel @lizzwinstead Get the feeling there was some quick and broad and well-financed coordination on that response.
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emptywheel @JasonLeopold Bingo. Saw that. Need to go back to that one. Timing is very interesting too. And the FoPo withholding.
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emptywheel @JasonLeopold Oh, I remember. So this is CIA White PAper and the other is the DOJ White Paper? Or just that DOJ didn't refer other to CIA?
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emptywheel @JasonLeopold Ah thanks.
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emptywheel RT @TondaMacC: The easiest form of terrorism: no need for sophisticated plots, or training, or financing, by @shephardm: http://t.co/DSQdPF
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emptywheel @JasonLeopold Which one is that on--11/11 or 5/11?
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emptywheel RT @JasonLeopold: JUST FILED: CIA declaration in my #FOIA case re: CIA white ppr turned over to me justifying assassination of Awlaki https…
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emptywheel @maassp Thanks for pointing that out. It has been a largely male celebration of a great career.
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emptywheel @liferstate Not convinced any cohort is succeeding at this point.
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emptywheel @liferstate Good point. But in the meantime our collective pants-peeing will prevent any effort to address climate change.
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emptywheel @maassp I was interested in your comment abt being white male--his tributes are mostly from white men. Bc of the time?
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emptywheel RT @abc7newsBayArea: JUST IN: Dallas nurse Amber Vinson who contracted Ebola from Thomas Duncan is virus-free. http://t.co/mNDQTT1jd3 http:…
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