The Ratto Report – FCLV 2017 Biannual Review 1

The Ratto Report
FCLV 2017 Biannual Review 1


Opening Commentary

Starting virtually immediately after the election, the stock market took a strong turn upward, likely in anticipation of a more business and tax friendly team in power at the capital. Then, some strange accusations began floating around concerning Russian interference in the election, Russian influence on Trump aides, wire-taps at Trump Tower, etc., etc. Six months later, and the news still centers on these issues. Oh well, discord seems to be the flavor of the day because…

Our Club was also ravished by strife and animosity during early 2017. We were at loggerheads with former president and owner of our original website, Jeff Wenger. As a result, some very nasty e-mails were transmitted by both sides, the types of e-mails that only further feuds rather than resolving them. I am happy to report that all now seems to be peacefully resolved, and everyone is playing nice once more. Perhaps Washington should follow in our example? Given all that, I can only once again remind you to visit our NEW! IMPROVED! website at

As for Formula 1: My source at the Barcelona test sessions reveals that he sees little to choose between the Ferraris, Red Bulls, and Mercedes Benzes. To me, this says that our team will be more competitive than it was last year. He says ALL the cars are MUCH faster than last year (probably due to being wider, having bigger wings, and having much wider tires). He further said the cars look better. He indicated that the Williams and Toro Rosso cars were the best of the rest, and that only the McLaren-Hondas were significantly off the pace.

Ferrari values are something that interests most of us. From what I see, values for the older, collectible cars seem to have stabilized at a level about 20% less than they were 2 years ago, but still far higher than they were say 5 years ago. No collectible experiences consistently increasing prices, so a slight down turn followed by a period of price stability should be viewed as a positive, at least in my opinion. Meanwhile, prices for the late model, bread-and-butter cars continues to decline gradually as newer, more advanced (and under warranty) models are introduced. This has always been the case. The trick is to identify when a depreciating model will become an appreciating collectible. 328s and Testarossas did that not long ago, which will be next?

Here is a recap of what transpired in the first half of 2017. We sincerely hope you can attend at least a few events over the next few months.

January 17: Board Meeting at the home of Elda and Dave Fanucchi

The Board gives many thanks to Elda and Dave for hosting this meeting in their home. The turnout was quite good, with President Chuck Damus, Treasurer Scott Howard, Stephane Pedaggi, Dan Fogle, Ted Schlazer, and yours truly in attendance. Items discussed included the Club’s financial health (so-so), the new President of the Desert Region (Rod Biddle in an upset victory – your vote counts!), and our own Board elections (with both Chuck and Ted being re-elected). Then, the new website was reviewed, and progress was noted. Please visit it: Stephane and Cindy brought some new club merchandise for inspection and it was deemed nice stuff…and bought quickly. Check the website to purchase your own items; more are being added as we speak.

January 25: Social at Brio

The turnout (about 14) was less than stellar, but hey, it was the first social of the New Year held on a cold winter’s night. The atmosphere was warm and jovial, however, and the food was up to Brio’s normal high standards. In the end, a good time was had by all.

February 23: Social at Mastrioni’s

Despite another relatively small turnout – perhaps due to the nasty cold that has been going around (at least a few people ‘called in sick’ at the last minute), everyone seemed to have a wonderful time. This restaurant has very good Italian food and it is easy to get to, but the parking situation is poor. Oh well, you can’t have everything.

March 14: Board Meeting at Settebello Pizzeria

It was a beautiful evening to dine al-fresco, so that is exactly what we did. The turnout was good, with all Board members present except Scott Howard and Michael O’B. The good news is that we have a new member, Juan Valdes (be sure to greet him warmly if you should meet him at a future event), and the so-so news is that the Club’s bank balance hasn’t changed much. Publishing a calendar to generate income was discussed, as was the new website and the merchandise offered on it. Please visit: to get up to date. Future events, socials, and drives were also discussed. At a subsequent special, double-secret board meeting held on March 22, it was decided to move forward with publishing a calendar Ted Schlazer will be the organizer of this effort, and we applaud his willingness to take on the task.

March 23: Social at the Bootlegger Bistro

A few relatively new faces (hello Al and Lorene Lindahl, owners a divine 458) and a few faces not seen lately (hello Paul and Shawna) were present to join some stalwarts, and a lively conversation ensued. It almost felt more like a board meeting than a social to be honest. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food prepared by this long standing Vegas institution and some even ordered desert.

April 9: Drive and Breakfast at Lake Mead

This drive was postponed from Saturday to Sunday due to weather concerns. As a result, some who were originally scheduled to attend dropped out, while others joined in. In any case, we had 6 cars making the jaunt, which is not a bad turn out, especially considering that each car was full (read 2). And what a great drive it turned out to be. The weather was superb. And there was virtually no traffic either coming or going, and not a constable was spied. As a result, the pace was pretty quick, and we were eating breakfast (not bad food) and taking in the spectacular views of Lake Mead before we knew it, and we were all back home before 1 pm. Good day.

April 27: Social at Bonefish Grill – Summerlin

Although attendance was sparse, where is everybody these days?, rumor has it the food was great and the conversation even better. Reports say our group was so animated that they had to be evicted at closing time. You all missed a great evening!

May 16: Board Meeting at the home of Chuck Damus and Kerri Howard

The core group (Damus, Fanucchi, Ratto, Scott Howard, and Schlazer) was present, while Mike O and Stephane P were not. The financials were reviewed quickly, as nothing has changed. Then the website issue was discussed. It seems that peace, or at least détente, has been negotiated with Jeff Wenger, and I say hallelujah to that. However, the notifications Jeff promised to add to his website have been delayed. In any case, the barrage of nasty letters has ceased, and the Board asks your forgiveness for being exposed to the vitriol. Meanwhile, ownership of our new website was discussed and the matter was resolved to the satisfaction of all. Events, past and future, were next on our agenda. The calendar shoot has been postponed due to lack of perceived interest. What’s wrong with you people? We are offering hot models combined with hot cars (a combination that never goes out of style), and the opportunity to have photos of your car in an upscale calendar. Seems like a no-brainer to me. The tentative date for the Holiday Party is December 2.

May 25: Social at Table 34

Despite a rash of no-shows, the turn-out was decent…and the food was great. Those that had the halibut seemed especially pleased. Once again, the conversation was animated, and extended long after the last plates were cleared from the table. Overall, it was a quite pleasant evening. Other than the no-shows, the only negative was that the winds prevented us from enjoying our food out on the deck.

Early June: Death of Rocky LaBriola

The Club was informed that one of our members passed to the great race track in the sky. Rocky was a long time Ferrari enthusiast and a current member of the Board of Directors of the Las Vegas Chapter. Our condolences and prayers go to Bianca, Rocky’s wife, and we all wish that he may rest in Peace.

June 22: Social at Vintner Grill

We had a strong turn-out, as we usually do, for our annual trek to this popular spot. After being ‘at sea’ for extended period, Michael and Karen Obradovich were in attendance to get their land legs back. The food was a bit hit-and-miss this visit, with some dishes being spectacular, others just OK. But the thing about VG is that the eye candy there will give you diabetes, and I say what a way to go.


The blazing hot months of summer are usually down-time for the Club. Socials and drives are generally less often, if ever, scheduled during this period. So, we ask all of you to bide your time, save up your energy, and then be ready and raring to go when the action resumes in September. Significant events in the fall include Italian Sports Car and Motorcycle Day at Siena Restaurant in early October. The next Board meeting is scheduled for July 11 at Bravo Cucina Italiana in the Galleria Mall. Socials will also resume in September, and they will usually be scheduled for the third Thursday of the month, so try to keep those evenings open. Meanwhile, be sure to visit our new website for the latest information.


March through June: F1 Viewing at Siena and other venues

Overview as of March 2017

As a new season begins, hope spring eternal for Ferrari once again being at the front of the grid. Can it really be 10 years since Ferrari’s last championship (with Kimi Raikkonen at the helm)? Based upon what I have heard of the testing in Barcelona, things are looking up for our red chargers, and a good year lies ahead. As mentioned above, they look to be seriously quick, and right on the pace of the Mercedes-Benzes that have dominated for the past 3 years. Maybe 2017 will be the ‘next year’ we have been waiting for.

As for other F1 news, the dust has settled since Rosberg won the championship last year, and then promptly retired. In response, M-B poached Valtteri Bottas from Williams to fill the empty seat. Talk about being in the right place at the right time, this should be a career defining move for the Finn. The big question is whether he can match the pace of team leader Lewis Hamilton. Bottas’ exit meant that Williams, which had already engaged newcomer Lance Stroll to fill the spot left by the retirement of Felipe Massa, had another position to fill, and they responded by bringing Massa out of retirement. Great! The Brazilian is a competitive driver, a nice guy, and a willing interviewee. The retirement of Jensen Button opened a spot at McLaren-Honda, which was filled by last year’s tyro, Stoffel Vandoorne. Good luck to him with that difficult beast of a car, and in trying to keep up with teammate Fernando Alonso.

Personally, I have been quite impressed by another youngster (not quite a rookie, though), Esteban Ocon, who is French despite his given name. This kid looks to be the next Max Verstappen, but perhaps with a bit of caution thrown into the blend. The Force India team also looks to be quite competitive, especially considering their relatively small capitalization.

So, it is with hope and a prayer that we welcome a new season. GO FERRARI!! We hope to see some of you at Siena Trattoria for race viewing, where prayers are sometimes answered

March 19: GP of Australia (1)

As usual, the first race of the season was held ‘down under,’ where our winter is summer. Pirelli supplied the ultra-soft, super-soft, and (plain old) soft tires for the 57 lap race at Albert Park, and all of the fast qualifiers chose the ultra-softs for qualifying and to (therefore) start the race. The experts predicted that these tires would last about 20 laps, and that most teams would opt for a one stop strategy. The top 5 qualifiers were no surprise: Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas (new in the M-B), Raikkonen, and Verstappen (Red Bull). After that, though, there were quite a few surprises, with Grosjean (Haas!) 6th, Massa 7th, and Sainz (Toro Rosso) 8th. Ricciardo (Red Bull) spun and crashed in Q3, and was relegated to 10th.

The start was relatively uneventful, with Vettel making a move for the lead that was rebuffed by Hamilton; then everyone settling down to the business at hand. In the early laps, Vettel lost little ground, and it was clear that Hamilton was pushing hard to stay ahead of the Ferrari. Perhaps because of this, Hamilton seemed to be having tire wear issues, which was confirmed when he pitted for new rubber on lap 17, earlier than anticipated. Now in undisturbed air, Vettel laid down some really fast laps in an attempt to pad his margin over Hamilton, and hopefully be able to retain the lead after he stopped for tires. Meanwhile, after his stop, Hamilton came out behind Verstappen, who, as usual, proved to be very difficult to pass even though Hamilton was on fresh (soft compound) tires. All of this led to Vettel being able to make his stop on lap 23 and then being able to rejoin the fray barely ahead of Hamilton. Ferrari in the lead! Then something truly surprising happened, Vettel increased that lead (to about 10 seconds) throughout the remaining laps of the race, probably because Hamilton had used up his new tires while trying to pass Verstappen. Most of the remainder of the race was relatively uneventful. Bottas managed to make the tires on his Mercedes last until lap 26, when he pitted and subsequently finished 3rd. Raikkonen pitted on lap 27, and finished 4th. Verstappen was 5th, Massa 6th, and Sergio Perez once again drove a savvy race to bring his Force India to 7th. Both Haas cars failed to finish.

April 10: GP of China (2)

Friday practice was wet and cold, and not many laps were turned. Saturday morning practice was better, and it brought big hopes: The Ferraris were fastest of all, with the Mercedes close behind.

Pirelli supplied the super soft, soft, and medium tires for the 56 lap race, and all qualified and (planned) to start on the super softs. Verstappen had engine problems in Q1 and was relegated to 16th on the grid. Throughout Qualifying, times were close, and when the dust settled the order was Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, and Ricciardo.

Sunday was misty and cold, and the track was wet as race time neared. Given the circumstances, virtually all opted to start on the intermediate wet tires. With the sun popping out and the track drying fast, this proved to be ill-advised. Vettel stopped virtually immediately (lap 2) for dry weather tires, which also proved ill-advised as a couple of accidents and safety car periods in the next few laps allowed everyone else to stop under safety car controlled conditions. When things had settled down (by lap 7), everyone was on dry tires and the running order was Hamilton, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Verstappen, and Vettel, with everyone bunched up at the front. How did Verstappen manage to climb from the rear of the pack to 4th you may ask…with some of the best and bravest driving I have ever witnessed. He simply ‘went for it’ and succeeded in blowing by everyone in the iffy damp conditions. He went from 16th to 7th after only 1 lap! By lap 15 he had passed – spectacularly, I might add – Raikkonen and Ricciardo as well, and was running second. Meanwhile, Vettel was clawing his way back towards the front. He was 3rd by lap 23 (with an epic pass on Ricciardo) and second by lap 28 (with a pass on Verstappen who had worn his tires with so much vigor) and soon was dogging Hamilton in the lead. But, victory was not to be. Although everyone stopped once more for fresh tires, Hamilton managed to control the gap from the lead and take the victory, with Vettel a close second, Verstappen 3rd, Ricciardo 4th, and Raikkonen 5th.

This, my friends, is getting interesting.

April 16: GP of Bahrain (3)

Free Practice 2 (Friday) saw the Ferraris, M-Bs, and Red Bulls trading fast times throughout, engendering hopes that it would be a competitive race. The times were again very close during Qualifying, but in the end the M-Bs ruled, with a big surprise: Bottas, not Hamilton, was on pole. Vettel managed 3rd, Ricciardo 4th, Raikkonen 5th, and Verstappen 6th. Less than 1 second covered the top 6. Pirelli supplied the super soft, soft, and medium (no one seemed to use these) for the 57 lap race. All the front runners qualified and started on the super-softs.

Vettel made a good start and was able to pass Hamilton at the first turn, and then push Bottas throughout the early laps. In fact, the opening laps were all very exciting, with passing throughout the field. After the dust had settled, the order at the front was Bottas, Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Massa, and Raikkonen. By lap 8, Bottas seemed to be having tire issues and was slowing down, thereby bunching the field. On lap 11, Vettel, on Bottas’ tail but unable to pass, was the first to stop (choosing another set of super soft tires, meaning that at least one more stop would be required). He was followed shortly thereafter by virtually everyone else when the safety car was deployed due to the failure of Verstappen’s Red Bull. Interestingly, the M-Bs switched to the soft tires, thereby threatening to go to the end without another stop. Bottas’ stop for tires was very slow, which then delayed Hamilton who was waiting his turn behind him. Seeing the pit box occupied, Hamilton dawdled on pit entry to prevent those behind from gaining an advantage, which caused the marshals to assess him a 5 second penalty. In any case, the running order behind the safety car was now Vettel, Bottas, Ricciardo, Hamilton (still to serve his penalty), Massa, and Raikkonen.

When the safety car pulled off, Bottas tried several moves to pass Vettel, but all were rebuffed in exciting fashion. Then, Vettel, on the faster super-soft tires, began to pull away from the field, while some good passing was happening in his wake, with both Hamilton and Raikkonen forcing their way past Ricciardo, and Alonso-Kvyat-Palmer battling tooth-and-nail for 13th. Hamilton passed Bottas on lap 27, and Vettel pitted for a second time on lap 34, fitting the required softs. He returned behind Hamilton, and on lap 36 the running order was Hamilton (still not having served his penalty), Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, and Bottas. Now on fresh tires, Vettel began to track down Hamilton, forcing him to stop for a second time, on lap 42. Hamilton served his 5 second penalty in the pits, and returned about 18 seconds behind Vettel and 9 seconds behind Bottas. On new tires, Hamilton put ‘the pedal to the metal’ and began setting fast laps in hopes of making it back to the front. He caught and passed Bottas on lap 46, when the gap to Vettel had been reduced to 10 seconds. In the remaining laps, Hamilton cut Vettel’s lead to about 6 seconds, but was not able to mount a serious threat to the Ferrari’s supremacy. The final order was Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas, Raikkonen, and Ricciardo, with Grosjean in the Hass 8th.


April 30: GP of Russia (4)

The weather was cool and perfect all weekend; the racing was a bit hotter. Pirelli supplied the ultra-soft, super-soft, and soft tires for the 52 lap race on the 3.5 mile circuit. Given that the surface at Sochi is not abrasive, everyone planned a one stop race and started on the softest, and fastest, ultra-soft rubber. With the top guys trading fastest laps at the very end of Q3, the starting order was undetermined until the final seconds, but in the end the Ferraris (!) prevailed: Vettel, Raikkonen, Bottas, Hamilton, Ricciardo, and Massa. This was significant, as it showed the Ferraris were equal to the Mercedes in qualifying trim, which had not previously been the case.

The Ferraris made a good start from the front of the grid, but Bottas made a great one from 3rd; he passed both red cars to take the lead. Farther down the grid, there was the usual crash heading into turn two, and the safety car was then deployed for a couple of laps. When racing resumed, the running order was Bottas, Vettel, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Verstappen, and Massa. Ricciardo, who was falling off the pace due to brake problems, retired on lap 5. While some stopped for new tires as early as lap 22, others postponed their stops until lap 35; all switched to the mandatory super-softs and were good to go to the end. Bottas, losing ground on worn tires, was the first of the leaders to stop (lap 28), followed by Raikkonen (lap 30) and Hamilton (lap 31). Vettel, still running competitive times on his worn tires, postponed his stop to lap 35, hoping to have the freshest tires for a hard run in the late laps. He rejoined the fray in second place, about 5 seconds behind Bottas. Then Vettel began to slowly reel the Finn in, reducing the gap to about 1.4 seconds by lap 43. But catching Bottas was easy compared to passing him. Although Vettel was nipping at his tail, managed to cut the lead to less than 1 second several times (and was thus able to activate his DRS), and had the fresher tires, Bottas’ determination and race traffic thwarted Vettel’s attempts to take the ultimate prize. The final order was Bottas (first career win), Vettel (less than a second in arrears), Raikkonen, Hamilton (who was far off the pace, perhaps due to overheating problems when running in dirty air), Verstappen (never a factor in this contest), and the Force India duo of Perez and Ocon.

This was another exciting race and another excellent (if not perfect) result for Ferrari. Vettel now leads the drivers’ standings by 13 points, while Ferrari and M-B are virtually deadlocked at the top of the manufacturers’ scoreboard.

May 14: GP of Spain (5)

The big news centered on the updated engine and aero packages most of the teams debuted for this race. While it seemed that all the cars improved marginally, the Red Bulls and the Force Indias seemed to improve the most. Meanwhile, out on the track, the M-Bs were fastest in Free Practice 1 and 2, while the Ferraris topped FP 3. The Red Bulls were close behind.

Pirelli supplied the soft, medium, and hard tires for the 66 lap race; but the soft tires were clearly the fastest by a significant margin. Everyone qualified and started the race on them. After a competitive, but uneventful, qualifying session, the starting order was Hamilton, Vettel (5/100 second behind), Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Ricciardo, and Alonso (surprise!).

Race day was sunny and nice, but quite windy, so much so that the cars were affected on the track. Competitive racing and Ferraris near the front must be a tonic for enthusiasm: Siena’s deli was packed with viewers on Sunday morning, Mothers’ Day be damned. When the lights went out, the top two got off clean with Vettel snatching the lead (!), but behind them all hell broke loose. Raikkonen, Verstappen, and Bottas tried to go through turn 2 three-abreast…it didn’t work…crash. When the dust had settled, Vettel was pulling away from second place Hamilton with Bottas significantly farther back, Ricciardo was 4th, and the Force Indias were 5th and 6th. Both Raikkonen and Verstappen were out. With the cars so evenly matched this year, there were exciting battles throughout the race and throughout the field. Of special note was a virtually race-long, wheel-to-wheel, tussle between Magnussen (Haas) and Sainz (Toro Rosso).

On lap 15, which seemed early, Vettel was the first of the leaders to stop for tires. He opted for another set of soft tires, all of which hinted of a possible 3 stop strategy. He returned to the fray behind Bottas (now second), and was trapped there for several laps, unable to use his fresh rubber to full advantage, and thereby ruining whatever strategy was contemplated. Hamilton, meanwhile, held out to lap 22 for his first stop, and switched to the longer lived but slower medium rubber, hinting of a possible one stop strategy. He returned in third place, but, clear of traffic, he began catching the leaders. At this point, Vettel made a spectacular pass on Bottas and stabilized his lead over Hamilton at about 6 seconds. Hamilton, clearly unhappy on the medium tires, stopped again on lap 37 to switch to the faster soft rubber. Vettel responded with his second stop on the following lap; he switched to the mandatory mediums. He rejoined the race side-by-side with Hamilton and the two duked it out for several hundred yards before Vettel snared the lead. This was nail biting. But the Ferrari lead was short lived, utilizing his DRS and soft tires, Hamilton managed to pass Vettel for the lead on lap 44, and to fight Vettel off to the end and take the victory. The finishing order was Hamilton, Vettel, Ricciardo (who seemed to run the entire race by himself), and then the Force India duo of Perez and Ocon (BTW this youngster bears watching – he is consistent, doesn’t crash, and is FAST).

This was another exciting race. If you aren’t watching F1 in 2017, you are missing out.

May 28: GP of Monaco (6)

The Ferraris looked to be fastest of all during the three Practice sessions, which was significant because Monaco is narrow and chock full of turns, making passing very difficult. Meanwhile, the Mercedes were a bit off the pace.

Pirelli supplied the ultra-soft, super-soft, and soft tires for the 78 lap race, but all the teams seemed to feel that even the ultra-softs were too hard for the conditions. Everyone qualified and started on the ultra-soft tires, and it looked as if only one stop would be required. Hamilton experienced lack of grip in Qualifying and was fighting the car throughout; he was lucky not to have hit a wall and failed to get to Q3. The Brit was relegated to starting in 14th place, highly unusual for him. Meanwhile, the fast guys qualified as follows: Raikkonen, Vettel, Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo, and Sainz (Toro Rosso).

After an uneventful start (unusual at Monaco), the starting order was pretty much maintained during the early laps, with the two leading Ferraris slowly pulling away from the rest of the field. At first, Vettel seemed satisfied to follow 3 or 4 seconds behind Raikkonen, but by lap 17 the German was close behind his teammate and threatening to pass. But, passing at Monaco is very difficult, and the status quo was maintained to lap 26, when the leaders began catching the slowest backmarkers, and passing even them proved to be difficult. Was it time to make a pit stop? After a few laps in slow traffic, the leaders began to pit for fresh tires; Verstappen was first (lap 33), Bottas second (lap 34) and Raikkonen followed on lap 35. All switched to the mandatory super-softs. But, when several backmarkers stopped for tires, Vettel was suddenly in clear air and opted to delay his stop to lap 40. Running on the still viable ultra-softs and with no one ahead to block his path, the German laid down some scorching laps, and was able to pit and return to the race just ahead of Raikkonen; he then proceeded to build a nice lead in the laps that followed. After all the front runners had pitted and resumed racing, the order was Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Bottas, Verstappen, and Hamilton, who had delayed his first stop to lap 47 while working his way through most of the field. Several accidents and safety car periods in the closing laps bunched up the field, but no one at the front was able to pass for position. The final finishing order was Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Bottas, and Verstappen. Hamilton was 7th, and both Haas cars finished in the points.

This was Ferrari’s first win at Monaco in 16 years – a significant event. Of note was the obvious displeasure Raikkonen displayed on the podium; he apparently felt that Ferrari shafted him with the pit stop strategy to benefit Vettel. There can be no question that things worked out badly for Kimi who could have easily won this race, but he was hit by a perfect storm rather than a planned assassination. It could not have been predicted when the backmarkers would pit, or that the ultra-soft tires still had so many fast laps in them. Vettel took a chance and it paid off. Moreover, once Vettel was ahead of Raikkonen, with both were on equal rubber, he easily built a significant lead, so the victory was not undeserved.

BTW: McLaren driver Fernando Alonso qualified 5th at the Indianapolis 500 and was fighting for the win when his engine blew in the final laps. Well done Senor!

June 11: Grand Prix of Canada (7)

The talk during Practice was of Fernando Alonso, and his stated desire to either start winning (unlikely) or leave McLaren-Honda. Thus the ‘silly season’ has officially begun. Meanwhile, out on the track, the Force Indias and Mercedes looked quite strong in Practice, while the Red Bulls struggled with engine issues.

Pirelli supplied the ultra-soft, super-soft, and soft tires for the 70 lap race, and all agreed that once again even the softest compound was too hard for the task at hand. Everyone complained of lack of grip, and qualified on the ultra-softs. Keeping even them warm proved difficult. In the end, Qualifying was relatively uneventful, and the starting order was Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, and Ricciardo. The Force India pair was 8th and 9th.

Verstappen made an astonishing start from 5th, and immediately catapulted to second; unfortunately, he clipped Vettel’s front wing in the process. Meanwhile, a bit farther back in the field, Massa, Sainz, and Grosjean came together, bringing out the safety car and relegating both Massa and Sainz to the scrap heap. Once racing resumed on lap 4, Vettel realized he needed a new hose, and pitted. He resumed in 18th on the super-soft tires, seemingly prepared to run until the end. A few laps later, Verstappen got his comeuppance, as his engine failed, putting him out of the contest. On lap 15, the leaders were Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Perez (Force India), Raikkonen, and Ocon (FI). Raikkonen was the first of this group to stop (lap 18) for new tires, opting for the super-softs. Ricciardo was next to stop, but he chose the soft rubber. Meanwhile, Vettel, on the super-soft tires while everyone ahead of him was on the ultra-soft rubber, was having difficulty working his way back to the front. He was 13th by lap 15 and 10th by lap 20. The last two to stop for new tires were Hamilton and Ocon (both on lap 33). After the dust had settled, the running order was Hamilton (with a substantial lead), Bottas, Ricciardo, Perez, Raikkonen, Ocon, and Vettel.

On aging tires and with little to lose at this point, both Ferraris made second stops for ultra-soft tires in hopes of running down the cars ahead in the remaining laps. Soon thereafter, however, Raikkonen began to experience brake problems, and he slowed down to assure finishing the race. By lap 55, Hamilton and Bottas were off in the distance, but a heated battle was being waged for 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th. Ricciardo, heading this group, was clearly holding up the rest, while 4th place Perez (Force India) was preventing his teammate (Ocon, 5th and on much fresher tires) from passing him to challenge the Red Bull. Vettel was bringing up the rear, obviously waiting for something to go wrong ahead so he could pounce. When nothing transpired over the next 10 laps, Ocon made a desperate move on Perez, which was rebuffed, but which allowed Vettel to make a daring pass on Ocon. Two laps later Vettel passed Perez, but time ran out before he could catch Ricciardo for a podium finish. The final finishing order was Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Vettel, Perez, Ocon, and Raikkonen.

So, it was not the best of results for Ferrari. But, given the obstacles that were overcome, it was the best that could be expected.

June 25: GP of Azerbaijan (8)

This street circuit clearly illustrates the dichotomy (and challenge) of Formula 1: It has a massively long (nearly 1.5 mile) straight, and 2 miles of tight, narrow corners. In fact, the straight is so long that the tires lose temperature there, so when the cars enter the turns they have less grip than the drivers anticipate. Given these circumstances, it was no surprise to see virtually every driver be repeatedly forced to take the escape roads (or clip barriers) when entering a corner too fast. Nevertheless, Qualifying proceeded, producing the following somewhat standard starting order: Hamilton, Bottas, Raikkonen, Vettel, and Verstappen. The Force India duo claimed 6th and 7th, while Ricciardo, who clipped a barrier a bit too forcefully in Q3, was relegated to 10th.

Pirelli supplied the super soft (all qualified and started on these), soft (but still too hard), and medium (no one wanted any part of these rocks) for the 51 lap race over the long 3.5 mile circuit. Everyone also seemed to be planning a one stop strategy.

Sunday morning saw a huge turnout for race viewing at Siena. The joke was that grandstands would need to be built if the crowd grew any larger. The opening lap saw two collisions. Vettel’s nose was clipped, and in a more serious accident Bottas and Raikkonen came together. While the two Ferraris fortunately experienced only minor damage, Bottas suffered a puncture and had to limp around the long circuit before entering the pits for new rubber. He rejoined in last place, lapped by most of the field. After the dust had settled, the top runners were Hamilton, Vettel, Perez (Force India), Verstappen, and Raikkonen. Around lap 12, Verstappen suffered an engine failure and Kvyat hit a wall, bringing out the safety car and initiating pit stops for new tires by virtually everyone. When the safety car exited on lap 16, a rash of accidents occurred immediately, most likely due to the bunched conditions and cold tires. In response, the safety car was deployed again.

Just prior to the restart that followed, a strange occurrence between Hamilton and Vettel transpired. Rather than speeding up in anticipation of the restart, Hamilton virtually came to a halt…right in front of Vettel, who inadvertently ran into the back of the Mercedes and damaged his front wing in the process. Hamilton’s action and its result seemed to incense Vettel, who then came abreast of the Mercedes and banged wheels with it. Despite all of this happening at maybe 30 mph, it was a dangerous move and the announcers all felt that a penalty (on Vettel), or even perhaps a double penalty (Vettel and Hamilton) was deserved. Then, a few seconds later when racing resumed, even more carnage ensued in the field, prompting the marshals to red-flag the race so the track could be cleared of the myriad debris that was splayed over it. This also permitted a manic rush to repair damaged cars. When the race resumed 20 minutes later (lap 21), the running order was Hamilton, Vettel, Ricciardo, Stroll (the teen Canadian rookie in a Williams), and Massa (also Williams).

The bunched field then produced a period of great racing, as the fast cars in the rear slowly worked their way back to the front. This was a series of side-by-side battles that represented the very best of F1. After about 10 laps of this engaging racing, it became apparent that Hamilton, still at the front, was having problems with the bodywork of his car: the cowl around the driver’s compartment was not properly attached, and it was getting looser by the lap. The Brit was finally forced to stop on lap 32 to rectify the issue, which gifted the lead to Vettel. But, just a few (suspiciously) short seconds later, it was announced that Vettel had been assessed a 10 second stop-and-go penalty for banging wheels with Hamilton many laps earlier during the safety car period. Vettel served the penalty on lap 34, and was able to rejoin the race immediately ahead of Hamilton. But, these two were now in 7th and 8th places respectively, while the leaders were Ricciardo, Stroll, Magnussen (Haas), Ocon, Alonso (of all people – demonstrating just how strangely this race had evolved), and Bottas, who had benefitted greatly from all that had transpired.

As the race continued, Bottas, Vettel, and Hamilton charged up through the field, each looking to make the best possible result from the strange set of circumstances that had occurred. By lap 40 (of 51), the front runners were Ricciardo, Stroll (hanging on for what would be the best result of his young career), Ocon (in the Force India), Bottas, Vettel, and Hamilton. By lap 45, all the leaders (now Ricciardo, Stroll, Bottas, Vettel, Hamilton, and Ocon) were running within view of the driver immediately ahead and behind…it was going to be a close one at the end. In the final 100 yards down the long straight heading to the checkered flag, Bottas managed to pip Stroll for 2nd. So the final result was Ricciardo, Bottas, Stroll, Vettel, and Hamilton. Raikkonen’s Ferrari expired on lap 46, the victim of one too many collisions.

So, once again it was not the best result for Ferrari. Mercedes padded its lead in the constructors’ standings, while Vettel managed to extend his lead over Hamilton by a few points in the drivers’ competition.

To call this race eventful would be the understatement of the year. It was exhausting to simply watch it. Looking back, there were an awful lot of ifs…Would Hamilton have won if his car had not experienced the bodywork issue? Would Vettel have won if he had kept his temper in check after rear-ending Hamilton during the safety car period? Where would Raikkonen have finished if his Ferrari were not bled dry by a thousand paper cuts? And there was one big question: Why didn’t Hamilton try to pass Vettel while following in his wake for the last 16 laps of the race. This is simply not like Hamilton. Was Hamilton having problems with his car? Was the Ferrari simply faster? This is important because it holds the future of the season.

Recap of the 2017 F1 Season through June

So, as of the end of June, with 8 races (nearly half of the season) in the books, things are close…really close. Mercedes leads Ferrari by 250 points to 226 in the constructors’ standings, with Red Bull (137) and Force India (yea for the underdogs – 79) the best of the rest. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari!) leads Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) by 153 points to 139 in the drivers’ championship race, with Valtteri Bottas (111 – Mercedes), Daniel Ricciardo (92 – Red Bull), and Kimi Raikkonen (73 – Ferrari) trailing.

As of now, it looks as if it will be a battle to the end. Finally, a really exciting and really competitive season, with Ferrari smack dab in the middle of the fray. We encourage you to visit Siena Italian Restaurant some Sunday race morning to pay homage at the church of Formula 1 in Las Vegas, and have a nice breakfast to boot. The grandstands are under construction.

John Ratto