Hamilton Edges Out Rosberg For Pole

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Lewis Hamilton took pole at the Singapore Grand Prix, mere miliseconds ahead of his team-mate, and front row companion, Nico Rosberg.

Suffering a time loss due to a lock-up at turn 1 on his flying lap, Hamilton was behind Rosberg after the second sector, leaving it to a strong third sector to secure his sixth pole position of the season. Rosberg, who felt that he had done enough to start from the front, responded only with “dammit” when his team informed him of the qualifying results.

But although they started from the front of the grid (for the seventh time in fourteenth Grands Prix), their early-season dominance was nowhere to be seen as they fought off challenges from Daniel Ricciardo who was looking to take his first pole position in front of huge numbers of Australian ticket holders in Singapore. The cheer from the crowd when Ricciardo took provisional crowd was so loud, it blocked out the sound of the cars and goes to show the popularity of the two-time race winner.

His team-mate, the four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel continued what has now become the norm as he qualified behind the other Red Bull car. Fernando Alonso will start tomorrow’s race from fifth on the grid, a position he has occupied thirty-four times in his career, more times than anyone else. Although Alonso stood as Mr Singapore for several years due to his apparent stronghold over the circuit, he could not challenge the Mercedes or Red Bull drivers, all of whom start ahead of him.

Meanwhile, Alonso’s team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen, was looking particularly strong and topped the opening qualifying session. Looking threatening to Mercedes, he went out in Q3 only to lose power mid-lap and crawl back to the pits, meaning he will start the race from seventh.

Massa and Bottas also looked like they could put in a genuine challenge for the front row, but, although Massa was the fastest driver after the first flying laps, they finished down the order; Massa sixth and Bottas eighth.

Jenson Button missed out on Q3 by only .017s and admitted to locking up during his lap. Romain Grosjean put no foot wrong but still missed out, qualifying twelfth and venting his frustration with the team after climbing from his cockpit. Sutil blamed an apparent lack of power for being knocked out in Q1 while Pastor Maldonado offered no excuses for not making it out of the first session.

Provisional Qualifying Positions:

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Nico Rosberg
  3. Daniel Ricciardo
  4. Sebastian Vettel
  5. Fernando Alonso
  6. Felipe Massa
  7. Kimi Raikkonen
  8. Valtteri Bottas
  9. Kevin Magnussen
  10. Daniil Kvyat
  11. Jenson Button
  12. Jean-Eric Vergne
  13. Nico Hulkenberg
  14. Esteban Gutierrez
  15. Sergio Perez
  16. Romain Grosjean
  17. Adrian Sutil
  18. Pastor Maldonado
  19. Jules Bianchi
  20. Kamui Kobyashi
  21. Max Chilton
  22. Marcus Ericsson

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

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Wehrlein Appointed As Mercedes Reserve Driver

DTM driver Pascal Wehrlein has been appointed as the reserve driver for Mercedes, the team announced today.

The 19-year-old German became the youngest race winner in DTM history yesterday when he drove to victory from pole position in a rain-affected race at the Lausitzring.

His appointment does not come without F1 experience, however, as he has clocked up an impressive 12,000km in the Mercedes simulator, the equivalent of roughly fourty Grands Prix. He also drove Mercedes’ 2012 challenger, the W03, at a test drive at the Autodromo Internacional Algarve last Thursday. He drove over 500km during the test which surpasses the 300km minimum experience a driver must have before being eligible for the FIA Super License, a mandatory racing license to compete in a Formula One race.

“It’s a dream come true to have completed this test and now to take on my new role,” Wehrlein was quoted as saying in a Mercedes press release. “All my life, I have worked hard to get the opportunity to drive an F1 car. And it was always my goal to do it with Mercedes-Benz.”

“Pascal has a bright future ahead of him,” Toto Wolff, the Head of Mercedes Motorsport said. “And we are excited to have him onboard for what will be an intense conclusion to the Formula One season.

“He has worked hard behind the scenes this year in our simulator, playing a very important role in our pre-race preparations. Aside from Nico and Lewis, he is the driver most familiar with all the procedures of our F1 W05 Hybrid and therefore the right choice for the role of reserve driver.”

Wehrlein’s appointment will inevitably give fire to rumours that one of Mercedes’ drivers, most likely Lewis Hamilton, will leave the team at the end of the season. There has been tension between the Mercedes drivers since their fight at the Bahrain Grand Prix and subsequent falling out which peaked at the Belgian Grand Prix where Rosberg hit Hamilton during an over-ambitious overtake attempt and caused the Briton’s retirement from the race lead.

Hamilton took victory two weeks later at the Italian Grand Prix following a mistake by Nico Rosberg which saw him go off-track at turn 1 and lose the lead, although he still holds a 22 point lead over Hamilton with six Grands Prix remaining.

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Ricciardo Takes Red Bull’s 50th Victory As Mercedes Trip Each Other Up

Daniel Ricciardo drove to victory at the Belgian Grand Prix this afternoon, taking advantage of an early crash between the leading Mercedes drivers which resulted in a puncture for Hamilton and front wing damage for Rosberg.

Hamilton had taken the jump on Rosberg into turn 1 and sped into the distance as Sebastian Vettel followed him past the Championship leader. In a mirror image of last year’s race, Vettel took a slingshot from Eau Rouge and gained rapidly on Hamilton, although it proved to be too little to successfully pass the Mercedes for the lead. In fact Vettel got squeezed at the end of the Kemmel straight and was forced to take to the run-off area where he skipped over several kerbs and lost his position to Nico Rosberg.

With the meddling Red Bull cleared, the Mercedes men were free to bolt away to battle each other, but that battle never materialised as Rosberg challenged Hamilton into turn 7, hit his front wing against Hamilton’s rear left and gave his team-mate a puncture. Hamilton rushed back to the pitlane, dropping down the order and causing damage to his car as his tyre carcus flailed and whipped the body work. He returned to the pits and was sent back out to the race, while Jules Bianchi also pitted with a puncture following a first lap incident which left Maldonado out of the race. Another driver dropping out of the race on lap 1 was German rookie Andre Lotterer who, after outqualifying his team-mate by a second, lost engine power at the end of lap 1 and had to abandon his car. Kobayashi is expected to return to the cockpit in Monza.

Back at the front Ricciardo had moved past Vettel and set his sights on new leader Rosberg, eventually taking the lead of the Grand Prix when Rosberg pitted for a new set of boots on lap 9. Rosberg had lost time changing his front wing in the pitlane and lost more time when Force India’s Perez ducked ahead of him in the run to Eau Rouge. Rosberg’s superior pace saw him getting back ahead of the Mexican but on the next lap round, some debris was thrown from the Sauber ahead of him and caught itself on his antenna, swinging across Rosberg’s field of vision and refusing to dislodge as he pulled at it.

Rosberg eventually managed to clear the object and latched onto the Bottas and Vettel fight ahead of him. Challenging Vettel into the bus stop chicane, he suffered a huge lock-up and went wide, letting Vettel get ahead and falling into the clutches of the Williams behind him. Bottas used Rosberg’s mistake to get past the Mercedes on the Kemmel straight and set his sights on the third place occupied by Vettel, a task which should be easy given Williams’ usual straight line advantage. As it turned out, Vettel’s aerodynamic changes for the weekend worked a treat and he managed to keep the feisty Finn behind him for an impressively long time.

Out of the public eye, Hamilton was trudging around the back of the grid with a damaged car and a downbeat mood, asking the team to allow him to retire the car so as to save the tyres. His team thought otherwise and repeatedly insisted on keeping him on track, fobbing him off with the excuse “we’re discussing that, Lewis”. Bizarrely then, after refusing to allow him to retire, they radioed him to order his retirement with four laps left in the race.

His team-mate had come into the pits with nine laps left and adopted a set of the softer, quicker Pirellis in a bid to catch the Red Bull ahead of him, but this proved fruitless as he emerged twenty-seven seconds behind. He did, however, catch Bottas and pulled a ballsy move around the outside of Blanchimont and moved up the order into the bus stop chicane.

Behind them, the two McLarens, Alonso and Vettel were fighting tooth and nail for position. Button got slightly out of shape which opened the door for his team-mate on the Kemmel straight. Alonso tried to hop on the overtaking bandwagon and got on the grass, losing his place to Vettel and slotting in behind. The two McLarens went two abreast through Les Combes and into turn 10 where they tried to get four abreast in their fight. Their collective skill was on show as they all made it through the battle unscathed. Eventually Vettel won the battle with Magnussen, Button and Alonso slotting in behind.

But while Vettel won his own little battle, it was Ricciardo crowned the overall winner as he crossed the line 3.3 seconds ahead of Rosberg. Bottas won a late battle with Kimi to take the final spot on the podium to mark his fourth podium appearance.

Belgian Grand Prix Race Results:

  1. Daniel Ricciardo
  2. Nico Rosberg
  3. Valtteri Bottas
  4. Kimi Raikkonen
  5. Sebastian Vettel
  6. Kevin Magnussen
  7. Jenson Button
  8. Fernando Alonso
  9. Sergio Perez
  10. Daniil Kvyat
  11. Nico Hulkenberg
  12. Jean-Eric Vergne
  13. Felipe Massa
  14. Adrian Sutil
  15. Esteban Gutierrez
  16. Max Chilton
  17. Marcus Ericsson
  • Jules Bianchi
  • Lewis Hamilton
  • Romain Grosjean
  • Pastor Maldonado
  • Andre Lotterer

Image courtesy of Red Bull/Getty Images.

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Rosberg Beats Hamilton In Mixed Conditions Qualifying

Nico Rosberg beat Lewis Hamilton to pole at the Belgian Grand Prix this afternoon, marking his fourth consecutive pole position. This time around Hamilton had no mechanical failures to blame or excuses to make as to why he couldn’t beat his team-mate, giving Rosberg fodder in the series of mind-games that Hamilton started in May. Sebastian Vettel was the best of the rest behind the Mercedes front-row, with Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo flanking him.

The Marussia men were the first to brave the track this afternoon and were followed out by the Caterham and Toro Rosso drivers. Following a heavy hail storm fourty minutes before Qualifying the track was wet and the drivers fitted the Intermediate compound to their cars. The surface water proved too much for the lighter wet weather tyres and drivers struggled for the first few laps as Hamilton, Magnussen, Bottas and Vettel all went off track at the bus stop chicane, while Felipe Massa skipped over the kerbs following a lock up at turn 7. Impressively, Hamilton went off track at the last corner but still managed to set the fastest lap. Esteban Gutierrez had no issues in the wet but he was helpless as his car gave up and forced him to pull over at turn 15 halfway through Q1. The track was relatively dry by the time the first part of Qualifying drew to an end, but Maldonado was still caught out by the conditions and spun under breaking at the bus stop chicane, forcing Vettel to take evasive action. Maldonado recovered under yellow flags but his second attempt was not enough to clear him from the drop-out zone and he qualified seventeenth. Nico Hulkenberg was a surprising drop-out in eighteenth, ahead of Max Chilton and Esteban Gutierrez. Kobayashi stand-in Andre Lotterer outqualified full-time driver Marcus Ericsson by a full second on his F1 debut.

Jules Bianchi made it through to Q2 but was in no rush to get out on track, while Romain Grosjean lead Adrian Sutil out. Perez came out and was warned that, as rain was expected, his first lap could be his quickest. As such, all the opening laps were important, but both Romain Grosjean and Jules Bianchi spun at turn 1 on their first attempts. Nico Rosberg headed Fernando Alonso and FP3 leader Valtteri Bottas after their respective first laps, but when Hamilton came around on his second attempt, he was quicker by a full second. The Toro Rosso drivers gambled by delaying going out but this proved fruitless as both drivers failed to make it through to Q3, Kvyat qualifying eleventh ahead of Vergne in second. Jenson Button narrowly slipped into the top ten in the final seconds, and Perez’s quest to promote himself and knock Button out failed as the Mexican couldn’t better thirteenth. Adrian Sutil made it out of Q1 and qualified fourteenth while Romain Grosjean finished just ahead of Jules Bianchi who will start tomorrow’s Grand Prix in sixteenth.

Q3 begun and brought the fight for pole. Hamilton was the first driver to start a flying lap but immediately went wide at Saint Devote and caused a loss of 1.6s over team-mate Nico Rosberg who was behind him. Rosberg crossed the line three seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who took provisional second, while Hamilton backed off to save his tyres and recorded a lap six seconds slower than Rosberg. Alonso’s first lap brought him to third, Bottas’ gave him fourth and Massa went fifth after his first effort, although Ricciardo, Button and Magnussen all jumped him in the following minute. Raikkonen was the last man to record a lap and went fifth, behind Alonso. Hamilton came around for his second attempt at securing provisional pole but could only go second, 0.7s behind Rosberg.

Vettel was the first man to set a lap on a second set of tyres and improved slightly but stayed third. The track was now drying, suggesting that the last man across the line could have an advantage. Hamilton was one of the last to start his lap but lost temperature in his brakes in his efforts to give himself some free space and subsequently went slightly wide at turn 1. Hamilton improved his time by four tenths but couldn’t get near to Rosberg who also improved him time, qualifying three tenths ahead of his team-mate. Daniel Ricciardo had a very close call after going wide at turn 19 and saving himself from a huge accident while flying over the kerbs, but his commitment was only rewarded with fifth. His team-mate Vettel was the best-of-the-rest behind the Mercedes men while Fernando Alonso finished fourth. Valtteri Bottas was sixth, a disappointing result from the Finn who tends to shine in wet conditions, while Magnussen fended off Raikkonen for seventh. Felipe Massa qualified ninth while Jenson Button rounded out the top ten – another disappointing result for a driver who excels in mixed conditions.

Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying results:

  1. Nico Rosberg
  2. Lewis Hamilton
  3. Sebastian Vettel
  4. Fernando Alonso
  5. Daniel Ricciardo
  6. Valtteri Bottas
  7. Kevin Magnussen
  8. Kimi Raikkonen
  9. Felipe Massa
  10. Jenson Button
  11. Daniil Kvyat
  12. Jean-Eric Vergne
  13. Sergio Perez
  14. Adrian Sutil
  15. Romain Grosjean
  16. Jules Bianchi
  17. Pastor Maldonado
  18. Nico Hulkenberg
  19. Max Chilton
  20. Esteban Gutierrez
  21. Andre Lotterer
  22. Marcus Ericsson

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team. 

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Bottas Quickest In Final Practice Session

Valtteri Bottas was the quickest man around Spa-Francorchamps this morning, putting himself two tenths clear of the next fastest man, race winner last-time-out Daniel Ricciardo. Following the pre-session rain, Bottas, like the rest of the grid, stayed in the shelter of his garage and willed others to go out to dry the wet track surface, a task which would essentially lead to wasted laps. The two Marussias and Kobayashi stand-in Andre Lotterer were the only three people to go out in the first half of the session, each setting a slow lap time before returning to the pits.

Eventually Esteban Gutierrez came out for Sauber following a long stint of track silence, and showed the others that the track had dried sufficiently, prompting the remaining drivers to emerge from their shelters. Following their first few flying laps, the usual suspects (Hamilton, Rosberg and Alonso) were near the top, but it was Bottas who held the top time provisionally. He traded the honour with the two Mercedes drivers and Fernando Alonso several times before putting in a session topping 1.49.465. As a reference, Jenson Button’s pole lap from 2012 was a 1.47.573.

Behind Bottas was Ricciardo who hopes to repeat his Hungarian Grand Prix victory this weekend and was himself followed by Championship leader Nico Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Daniil Kvyat, who was one of the session’s leaders briefly, continued his impressive form and ended his session in seventh, only four tenths off the fastest time. Jenson Button was eighth while Felipe Massa and Jean-Eric Vergne rounded out the top ten. Sebastian Vettel finished thirteenth while Pastor Maldonado, who was hospitalised following a shunt during yesterday’s FP2 session, finished seventeenth. The Caterham duo filled out the bottom of the timesheets, nearly two tenths off the Marussias ahead of them.

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Verstappen To Drive For Toro Rosso In 2015

Max Verstappen will race for Toro Rosso in 2015, it was confirmed this week.

The Dutchman, son of former Benetton, Simtek, Arrows, Tyrell, Stewart, Honda and Minardi driver, Jos Verstappen, will become Formula One’s youngest ever driver next March when he lines up on the grid in Australia. He will replace Jean-Eric Vergne.

Vergne, 24, has raced with Toro Rosso since 2012 but was ignored during the search for Mark Webber’s replacement at sister team Red Bull, where his then team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was subsequently appointed. Following the news that Verstappen would be racing with the team in 2015, it was then confirmed that he would replace Vergne, following the Frenchman’s unimpressive performance when compared to rookie team-mate Daniil Kvyat.

“I would like to thank Dr. Helmut Marko and Red Bull for all their trust and giving me the chance to make my Formula debut in 2015 with Scuderia Toro Rosso,” Verstappen said in a Toro Rosso press release. ” Ever since I was seven years old, Formula 1 has been my career goal, so this opportunity is truly a dream come true.”

Toro Rosso Team Principal Franz Tost added: “We are happy to welcome Max into the Toro Rosso family. It’s great to see how the Red Bull Junior Programme continues to find talented young drivers and gives them the opportunity to come into Formula 1. We consider Max to be as one of the most skilled young drivers of the new generation and we believe he has the necessary maturity and mental strength to take on this challenge successfully.”

Verstappen’s team-mate to-be, Daniil Kvyat, was also a surprising appointment when Red Bull pulled him straight from GP3 to Formula One, where he has proved himself to any doubters by scoring points in his first race and overshadowing his more experienced team-mate.

Verstappen’s appointment means he will break the record as the youngest driver ever to race in Formula One, at the age of 17 years and 166 days, beating Jaime Alguersuari’s record by almost two years. Alguersuari was a Toro Rosso driver between 2009 and 2011, losing his seat to allow the aforementioned Ricciardo and Vergne into the team, and failing to secure a drive for the following year. He tweeted cryptic tweets before the 2013 season, hinting that he had secured a drive, although this later turned out to be false.

Image courtesy of Red Bull/Getty Images.

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Lotterer To Replace Kobayashi At Spa

Just days before the Belgian Grand Prix, Caterham has announced that André Lotterer will replace Kamui Kobayashi for this Sunday’s race.

Speculation that the German would replace Kobayashi began to build this week and was confirmed through a press release by the team this morning. Kobayashi yesterday tweeted that he was preparing for the Belgium GP, but today tweeted his disappointment at the news.

“I will not drive this week Belgium GP,” Kobayashi said. “It’s shame not to drive spa. And [I] feel sorry for all my supporter but this is Motersports! I hope not!”

The motive behind the decision to replace Kobayashi seems unclear as the former Sauber driver will be back in the cockpit at the Italian Grand Prix. In their press release Caterham offered some explanation to Lotterer’s one-race appointment, saying: “The weather also plays a big role at Spa-Francorchamps and Lotterer is one of the most experienced drivers racing under mixed conditions.”

“The team will benefit from having another experienced driver at the wheel of the car throughout the weekend and the German’s feedback will contribute to improve the performance of the car,” the press release continued, before stressing that “The Japanese driver still remains part of the team.”

Thirty-two year old Lotterer was Jaguar’s test driver in 2002, and has competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Nurburgring. He currently competes in the FIA World Endurance Championship alongside former F1 racers such as Mark Webber, Anthony Davidson, Nick Heidfeld and Sebastien Buemi.

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