Category Archives: Race Report

Hamilton takes victory in Montreal as Rosberg’s Championship lead shrinks

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Lewis Hamilton claimed victory at the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday evening, while Sebastian Vettel lost his chance of victory following a poor strategic call and Nico Rosberg had to limit the damage following a first lap bump which sent him down the order.

Hamilton led the Silver Arrows to a front row lock-out on Saturday as he searched for his fifth Canadian victory, but it was Sebastian Vettel who led the pack into the first corner on Sunday following a superb jump on the Mercedes into turn 1. As he watched Vettel steal his lead, Hamilton had to defend against team-mate Nico Rosberg who was eyeing up an overtake around the outside of turn 1. Hamilton understeered and bumped into Rosberg, sending the Championship leader off the track and across the run-off area where he rejoined in ninth place. It was to be a long afternoon for the German.

Rosberg’s compatriot was comfortable in the lead as he maintained a 1.5s gap to second-placed Lewis. But when Jenson Button’s Honda engine gave up on lap 11 and a Virtual Safety Car was deployed, Ferrari took the ambitious move to bring in both Vettel and Raikkonen, putting them on a two stop strategy in contrast to Hamilton’s one-stopper.

Hamilton inherited the lead and held a comfortable advantage over the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, but Vettel was fast charging  on the newer tyres and, although encountering some expertly handled resistance from former team-mate Ricciardo, he soon gave both Red Bulls the slip and promoted himself to second.

By lap 25 Hamilton’s tyres were exhausted and he had a Prancing Horse growing ever larger in his mirrors so he pitted for a set of the harder compound Pirellis. This gave Vettel his lead back while team-mate Kimi Raikkonen began backing up the drivers further down the road to allow Vettel some clear air to rejoin.

He took his second and final pit stop on the fortieth lap which saw him rejoin with thirty laps left and only eight seconds between himself and Hamilton. But what should have been an easy gap to close proved much more difficult for Vettel as he got caught behind backmarkers while Hamilton increased his pace. He had only halved the difference over the next twenty laps, following which he cut the chicane not once or twice, but three times which cost him roughly a second and a half per slip. This ensured Hamilton was left unchallenged at the front of the grid, after a fantastically well-managed race from the three-time World Champion.

Meanwhile, Rosberg looked poor for most of the race as he recovered only two positions from ninth place before the first stops. Although the end of the race brought a much different Nico who made short work of Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen – including a very impressive overtake into the final chicane on the Ferrari – he found his match when trying to pass Max Verstappen for fourth. He found out the hard way that Verstappen can be a fierce opponent, trying to replicate his overtake on Kimi he locked his rear tyres on entry and ended up sliding sideways into the run-off area. He was lucky not to beach his car or to have made a mistake a little later and clouted the barriers for he was able to rejoin the track without losing a position, finishing the race in fifth.

Jolyon Palmer’s bad luck continued in Canada as, after ending his race following a slip on the paint of a Zebra crossing on the Monte Carlo street circuit two weeks ago, he met an early end in Montreal at the hands of a water leak. Massa became the third and final DNF when he too suffered a water issue which caused the temperature to rise, and so retired to protect his brand new power unit.

The other Williams was celebrating a third place, the team’s first podium of the season. Bottas had a rather straightforward race and got everything right, which he post-race claimed demonstrated Williams’ ability to be a strong team who get good results. Just behind him in the standings is Max Verstappen who met his match in Monaco when two single-car crashes into the barriers, including a race DNF, robbed some of the bragging rights he’d acquired from his Spanish GP victory. This time around he was back to the Verstappen we know and love, the impressive racer and steely tough rival (see Rosberg) who kept cool and brought home a nice fourth placed finish for Red Bull, with Danny Ric in 7th.

Kimi was perhaps less impressive as he was outshone once again by his younger team-mate. In typical Ferrari fashion, as one car impressed out the front, a second one lingered further behind. Raikkonen is the Massa to Vettel’s Alonso of the early 2010s Ferrari line-up and it remains to be seen if he will remain with Ferrari, or even in F1 (although I doubt he’ll race for anyone who isn’t the Scuderia) this time next year. I’d imagine Ferrari are far more interested in Kimi’s compatriot who joined Vettel and Hamilton on the podium.

Haas once again showed they’re not backmarkers when they got caught up in a Fernando Alonso-led Trulli train in the earlier part of the race. The two finished in twelfth and thirteenth after a couple of nicely executed overtakes on each other, a strong result for a team who are only seven races into their Formula One career.

Their early form shows their day may come in years to come, but for the moment our attention is focused on the Mercedes and Ferrari outfits, and particularly the rapidly shrinking gap Nico Rosberg holds at the top of the table. His 43 point lead entering the Monaco GP has, in typical Rosberg fashion, been annihilated by a resurgent Lewis Hamilton taking two wins from two. Although he probably has a Ferrari strategy mistake to thank for his Canadian win, and definitely has the Red Bull blunder of two weeks ago to thank for a Monaco victory, the most important thing is that he’s taken fifty points from two races. Rosberg seemed rattled in Monaco and less feisty than one could expect into turn 1 in Montreal. He showed at the end of the Canadian race that he has the pace to retain the Championship lead (eh.. lets gloss over his mistake he made when fighting Verstappen) so needs to make a firm comeback in the upcoming inaugural Baku GP. If he can’t make a stand next week then surely that’s goodbye on his (last?) chance of a World Championship, but I’m glad to see Vettel is now getting himself firmly into the mix, ensuring Hamilton has a fight on his hands to retain his title.

Race Results:

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Sebastian Vettel
  3. Valtteri Bottas
  4. Max Verstappen
  5. Nico Rosberg
  6. Kimi Raikkonen
  7. Daniel Ricciardo
  8. Nico Hulkenberg
  9. Carlos Sainz
  10. Sergio Perez
  11. Fernando Alonso
  12. Daniil Kvyat
  13. Esteban Gutierrez
  14. Romain Grosjean
  15. Marcus Ericsson
  16. Kevin Magnussen
  17. Pascal Wehrlein
  18. Felipe Nasr
  19. Rio Haryanto
  • Felipe Massa – water systems failure
  • Jolyon Palmer – water leak
  • Jenson Button – engine failure

Photo courtesy of Mercedes F1 Team

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Hamilton wins in Monaco as pit mistake costs Ricciardo

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Lewis Hamilton stormed to his first victory of 2016 at the Monaco Grand Prix this afternoon. The Briton started the race in third place but after team-mate Nico Rosberg was ordered to allow Hamilton past and a pit-stop miscommunication delayed race leader Daniel Ricciardo, Hamilton assumed the lead.

Wet weather led to a Safety Car start as a precaution but the rain soon abated and the track began to dry. There was early trouble for Daniil Kvyat whose pit limiter got stuck on and limited his speed. The disheartened Russian was left lamenting his bad luck on the team radio before the issue mysteriously disappeared and he returned to full speed, albeit two laps down on the rest of the grid.

Eventually the Safety Car came into the pits allowing pole man Daniel Ricciardo to begin building a gap between himself and second placed Rosberg. Hamilton’s unease behind his team-mate was obvious but, with their Spanish clash surely in his mind, he stayed level-headed and avoided contact with Rosberg. Renault’s Jolyon Palmer wasn’t as lucky as he was caught out by the slipperiness of the Zebra crossing that runs parallel to the start/finish straight, and smashed into the barriers twice, before coming to a halt in the run-off area.

The Briton wasn’t the only one finding the conditions tough, as veteran racer Kimi Raikkonen clouted the barriers at the hairpin seconds later, before inadvertently blocking Haas’ Romain Grosjean. The Finn attempted to make it back to the pits but after driving through the tunnel with a badly damaged wing, something which would earn him disapproval from the stewards later on, he pulled into the run-off area to retire the car.

Meanwhile, Ricciardo was still increasing his gap to the Mercedes behind him. Rosberg was nearly ten seconds shy of the Aussie when the call was made to move over and give the penned up Hamilton a chance of catching Ricciardo. Rosberg duly obliged and Hamilton gave chase, almost immediately setting a new fastest lap and leaving Rosberg trailing behind him.

There was more trouble for Renault who now tangled with the Toro Rosso of Kvyat. The Russian had attempted to squeeze past Magnussen’s Renault into Rascasse, as Bianchi had done successfully to Kobayashi in 2014, but the door had closed and the two made slight contact. Both pitted and retired from the race.

Also in the pits was race leader Ricciardo who took on a pair of the intermediate tyres, rejoining in second behind Hamilton. Ricciardo’s wait for Hamilton to pit for his own set of intermediate tyres stretched on and it eventually became clear that Hamilton was trying to risk jumping from the full wets to the slick tyres, thus saving himself a pit stop and maintaining the lead of the race.

Hamilton eventually ducked into the pitlane when it seemed that slick tyres might finally be a feasible action. Ricciardo opted to wait until the following lap to change over his own tyres in an attempt to perform the undercut, but when he entered the pits, a miscommunication saw the wrong tyres brought out and he was left sitting in the pits for a long delay as the pit crew fell over themselves and searched for the right tyres. When he eventually rejoined the track he was neck and neck with Hamilton, the latter jumping into the lead as the duo climbed the hill from the first corner.

Ricciardo was clearly the quicker car and stayed right on Hamilton’s gearbox, but the lack of overtaking spots and the backmarkers dotted awkwardly along the road meant he couldn’t manage a solid overtake maneuver on the Mercedes. Ricciardo’s team-mate, who won his first race last time out in Spain, was having a much less fortuitous race this time around: having crashed in Q1 yesterday he started the race from the pitlane and had made it as far as tenth – until he ended his race when he went wide at Massenet and was collected by Monte Carlo’s unforgiving barriers.

Ricciardo nearly ended his race in a similar fashion when Hamilton ran wide at the Nouvelle chicane, rejoining at a strange angle and almost sending the opportunistic Ricciardo into the barriers. Stewards investigated the incident and decided no further action was warranted.

The Sauber boys were less lucky. Felipe Nasr was ahead of team-mate Ericsson on track but was the slower of the two drivers, so the call was made for fifteenth-placed Nasr to move aside for Ericsson. There’s a possibility that Nasr’s radio wasn’t working properly but either way Ericsson became impatient and decided to take matters into his own hands, which brought disaster for the team. Attempting an impossible overtake at Rascasse, Ericsson drove straight into the side of Nasr before hopping into the air in the resulting spin. Both men pitted and rejoined the race but smoke began to spill into Nasr’s cockpit which signaled the of his race. He was followed into the pits a few laps later by Ericsson who had also sustained damage and opted to retire the car.

At this point, rain began to fall in the final three laps of the race but nothing substantial came until the checkered flag was waved. Hamilton maintained his lead right until the end while Ricciardo’s Pirellis eventually went past their best and he began to fall back. Sergio Perez, who was trading fastest laps with Vettel towards the end of the race, fended third place from the Ferrari, while Fernando Alonso managed to bring his McLaren to fifth place. Championship leader Rosberg was in sixth and was passed mere seconds from the end by Hulkenberg. Carlos Sainz, who expertly saved his car during a slide at the Swimming Pool chicane, took eighth, with Button in ninth and Massa rounding out the top ten.

There’s no doubt that his skill in keeping the car on track with badly degraded full wet tyres and his ability to fend off Ricciardo’s relentless attacks helped win Hamilton the race, but their pace after the final pit stops suggest Hamilton has Red Bull’s clumsiness to thank for robbing Ricciardo of victory on the streets of Monte Carlo. Perhaps more important is Rosberg’s self-confessed lack of confidence during the race, which cost him huge amounts of time. One wonders if Rosberg has finally lost his edge on Hamilton. If he has, it’s hard not to see Hamilton claiming a third consecutive Championship this year…

Race Results:

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Daniel Ricciardo
  3. Sergio Perez
  4. Sebastian Vettel
  5. Fernando Alonso
  6. Nico Hulkenberg
  7. Nico Rosberg
  8. Carlos Sainz
  9. Jenson Button
  10. Felipe Massa
  11. Valtteri Bottas
  12. Esteban Gutierrez
  13. Romain Grosjean
  14. Pascal Wehrlein
  15. Rio Haryanto
  • Marcus Ericsson – collision
  • Felipe Nasr – collision
  • Max Verstappen – collision
  • Kevin Magnussen – collision
  • Daniil Kvyat – collision
  • Kimi Raikkonen – collision
  • Jolyon Palmer – collision

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Hamilton wins in Russia as Rosberg retires

Lewis Hamilton cruised to a dominant victory at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday, capitalising on his team-mates early retirement to extend his Championship lead and effectively shut down any potential designs Rosberg may have had on the Championship.

Rosberg had grabbed pole during Qualifying by an impressive three-tenths over Hamilton, having also lead the three practice sessions. In contrast to his embarrassing show at the Japanese Grand Prix two weeks ago when Hamilton robbed him of the lead into the first corner, Rosberg successfully maintained the lead through the first lap. Although Hamilton was looking somewhat dangerous in the German’s mirrors, any threat was neutralised when Nico Hulkenberg spun off at the second corner and collected the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson, throwing debris everywhere and prompting the Safety Car. While the two aforementioned racers clambered for their cockpit, Max Verstappen hobbled back to the pits with a rear right puncture.

With the track cleared the Safety Car pitted and Rosberg led Hamilton across the line. Bottas made a nice move on Raikkonen to reclaim the third place the Finn had taken from him on the first lap, while Hamilton couldn’t pass the Mercedes in front of him. He would not be stuck for long, however, as Rosberg came on the radio to report his throttle was getting stuck open. Losing control of his car through most corners, it was easy for Hamilton to slip past him – as did the rest of the points scoring drivers – before Rosberg crawled into the pits. The team assembled around his car and decided they could do nothing to recover Rosberg’s car and retired him from the race.

While Hamilton settled into the lead, Carlos Sainz – who 24 hours beforehand had been in a hospital bed following his big FP3 shunt – was making progress and passed Button easily to promote himself to eleventh. The next man to attempt to pass Button was Romain Grosjean, whose attempt resulted in him losing control in the slipstream, get onto the marbles on the fringe of the track which curves left and clout the barriers at a mighty rate of knots. His car spun several times out of the barriers and caused big superficial damage to the bodywork – but luckily the driver was completely okay. Nonetheless, a second Safety Car was needed to clear the debris – and some gaffer tape to repair the barrier!

Some drivers took the opportunity to pit for new tyres – but none of the top 8 drivers took this option. Hamilton complained off his tyres going too cold behind the Safety Car but had relatively little hassle from Bottas on the restart. As he stormed into the lead, the Ferraris were battling for P3. Vettel made a move on his team-mate into T2 which left Raikkonen cutting across the run-off area to avoid contact, and retaining his position. He moved aside later in the lap though to allow Vettel up to third, as Kimi had illegally kept the position.

Bottas was provisionally second but once he took his pitstop, he came out in eighth. When Vettel pitted two laps later he had successfully jumped the Finn and moved up to second, while Raikkonen emerged just behind the Williams. The two Finns began scrapping for position – a story which would last for the end of the race and end badly for both men. While Perez had held third place for a large chunk of the race, Bottas was hunting him down. It took him several laps to pass the Mexican but he finally wiggled his way up to the rear wing of the Force India and pulled an impressive overtake on Perez. Raikkonen followed the Williams through and demoted Perez to fifth as the Ferrari driver now targeted the Williams in his sights. With one lap left Raikkonen was closing but he pulled an extremely optimistic and amateurish dive on the inside of Bottas which sent Bottas spinning into the barriers and damaging Raikkonen’s car. While an ecstatic Perez drove through the collision and back into third, Bottas got on the radio to ask “what the f*ck” Raikkonen was doing.

Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz also retired just before the checkered flag. Ricciardo appears to have lost his brakes and pulled safely over, while Sainz also lost his brakes but spun backwards into the barriers – ironically at the same place as his shunt on Saturday – which damaged his car and ultimately proved terminal to his race. A fairly large fragment of his front wing was on the racing line after the incident which a brave marshal chose to clear – but this left him ducking out of the way of Vettel’s Ferrari as the German came around the corner and narrowly missed the volunteer.

Up front there were no real issues for Hamilton as he breezed across the line to secure his 42nd victory. Vettel crossed the line second while Perez gratefully accepted third place. Massa took fourth while Raikkonen finished fifth but will likely be moved down the order when a penalty is applied for his contact with Bottas. Kvyat, Nasr and Maldonado finished sixth, seventh and eighth while the two McLaren drivers secured points with ninth and tenth for Button and Alonso respectively. Verstappen was the first man outside the points while Bottas was classified as twelfth. Merhi and Stevens brought both Manor cars home for thirteenth and fourteenth, the last of the finishing drivers.

Provisional Race Results:

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Sebastian Vettel
  3. Sergio Perez
  4. Felipe Massa
  5. Kimi Raikkonen
  6. Daniil Kvyat
  7. Felipe Nasr
  8. Pastor Maldonado
  9. Jenson Button
  10. Fernando Alonso
  11. Pastor Maldonado
  12. Valtteri Bottas
  13. Roberto Merhi
  14. Will Stevens
  • Daniel Ricciardo
  • Carlos Sainz
  • Romain Grosjean
  • Nico Rosberg
  • Nico Hulkenberg
  • Marcus Ericsson

Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Team

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Hamilton Eases To Victory At Japanese Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton eased to victory at the Japanese Grand Prix, overtaking his team-mate on the start and commanding the race for the remaining 53 laps. After falling several places into the first corners, Rosberg fought back to bring Mercedes a 1-2 finish, but has still lost another crucial 7 points on his team-mate, extending Hamilton’s lead in the Championship to 48 points.

Rosberg had clinched pole on Saturday with Hamilton slotting in behind him to keep the pressure on. But at lights out, Hamilton had a slightly stronger start than the sister Silver Arrows which allowed him to pull alongside into T1. Rosberg’s efforts to snuff the overtake failed miserably as he spilled over the track limits and allowed the Ferrari of Vettel and the Williams of Bottas to slip past him and demote him from first to fourth in the first two corners. Behind them, Ricciardo had been squeezed and knocked into Felipe Massa’s front wing. The ensuing traffic saw Perez get hit and slide into the gravel at a vast rate of knots. Subsequently Massa and Ricciardo had to pit to repair their respective punctures, with Massa also taking on a new front wing.

As Hamilton secured his lead with a new fastest lap helping extend the gap to second placed Vettel, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz began the first of many mid-field squabbles when he slipped past his countryman Alonso, while Button seemed to be reversing as Nasr and Verstappen breezed past him on both sides into T1. Alonso made sure to radio his frustration at the “embarrassing, very embarrassing” ease with which he was passed – at engine developer Honda’s home race.

Nevertheless he managed to fight off the challenge presented by Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull for ten laps. The young Russian himself had to fend off Verstappen at the same time and eventually dove into the pits, leaving the feisty Verstappen to challenge for Alonso’s tenth place. He, again, managed to hold the Toro Rosso off for several laps until a small error on the exit of the final corner allowed the 17-year-old to use DRS to pass the 34-year-old double World Champion.

Ericsson repeated his practice spin at Spoon curve which allowed Grosjean and Nasr to get past him, while Vettel maintained his position over Bottas after the two had completed their first stops. Following his own pit stop Rosberg began to charge after the cars in front of him. His first target was Bottas who he caught with remarkable speed and made short work of the into the final chicane, diving down the inside of the Finn, who didn’t seem to be particularly expecting the move from far behind.

At the same time, Verstappen was trying to make ballsy moves of his own and attempted a pass around the outside of Kvyat on the outside of 130R, although sensibly backed out of it when the Red Bull closed the door. Will Stevens showed the perils of taking 130R for granted later on in the race when he spun through the corner and narrowly avoided a huge impact with team-mate Alexander Rossi.

Vettel ducked into the pits on lap 31, avoiding debris left by Sainz who hit a pitlane bollard and broke his front wing. The German was stationary for less than three seconds as he changed his Pirellis, but when he emerged the much faster Rosberg had successfully utilised the undercut to sweep past him and into second. With Hamilton over ten seconds away, and pulling out half-a-second per lap, Rosberg settled in to maintain his second place from Vettel.

Further down the grid was less settled with everything left to fight for. Sainz scooped past Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso (to another angry radio outburst and scream from the Spaniard) and then Jenson Button into 130R to grab the final spot. Verstappen followed his team-mate through the field and pulled a nice move on Sainz at the final chicane. Kvyat made a similar move, despite running with front-end issues which made his car unstable, on Ericsson on the penultimate lap. The penultimate lap also saw Felipe Nasr pull into the pits and clamber from his cockpit.

With nearly twenty seconds in his pocket Hamilton proved unstoppable as he cruised flawlessly to his 41st Grand Prix victory. The tally puts him on par with his idol, Ayrton Senna, who ironically won his three World Championship titles at the same circuit. He has pushed his title lead to 48 points over Rosberg and with both drivers ringing up 43 points for Mercedes, a 1-2 at the next Grand Prix would seal another Constructor’s Championship for the team.

Provisional Race Results:

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Nico Rosberg
  3. Sebastian Vettel
  4. Kimi Raikkonen
  5. Valtteri Bottas
  6. Nico Hulkenberg
  7. Romain Grosjean
  8. Pastor Maldonado
  9. Max Verstappen
  10. Carlos Sainz
  11. Fernando Alonso
  12. Sergio Perez
  13. Marcus Ericsson
  14. Daniil Kvyat
  15. Daniel Ricciardo
  16. Jenson Button
  17. Felipe Nasr
  18. Felipe Massa
  19. Alexander Rossi
  20. Will Stevens

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team. 

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Vettel Victorious In Singapore

Sebastian Vettel stormed to a dominant victory at the Singapore Grand Prix yesterday, taking advantage of the shock lack of pace from World Championship leaders and season dominator, Mercedes. The German four-time World Champion returned to the extreme levels of dominance he displayed during his peak at Red Bull, leading former team-mate Daniel Ricciardo by over three seconds by the end of the first lap. Meanwhile, Championship leader Hamilton’s fifth place start deteriorated into a DNF – his first since the Belgian Grand Prix last season.

Saturday’s Qualifying session had sprung a surprise when the Mercedes’ true pace was uncovered, showing that the Silver Arrows’ slow pace was not mere sandbagging. Both Ferrari and Red Bull had shown some unexpected pace during practice, and Ricciardo’s optimism about his teams speed proved well founded when he lined up on the front row of the grid, just ahead of fourth placed Daniil Kvyat. But it was Vettel who stole Hamilton’s pre-reserved slot at the front of the grid when he clocked in a lap 6-tenths clear of any opposition with a flawless lap around the tight streets of Singapore. His Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen took third, with Mercedes slotting into fifth and sixth for Hamilton and Rosberg respectively.

On the start, Vettel left the grid far behind him as he sped into the distance, while Raikkonen, the two Red Bulls and two Mercedes jostled through the first corners but essentially retained their qualifying position. Further down the grid, Hulkenberg had made strong gains from eleventh while Verstappen stalled his Toro Rosso on the grid. The Dutchman was left stranded and in need of a push from the marshalls, who returned him to the pits before he rejoined the race a lap later. Further down the lap the drivers, with the exception of the mechanical Vettel, were struggling for grip on the slippy circuit, with a number of close calls including Perez losing control under breaking and narrowly avoiding contact with his Force India team-mate.

Almost immediately the grid settled down into the traditional procession which gave the race it’s ‘Singabore’ nickname, opting to preserve brakes and tyres rather than challenge for position early into the long race. Romain Grosjean was the first man to duck into the pitlane for a new set of boots, spurring the first round of stops in the process. Alonso and Ericsson suffered long delays, McLaren struggling to get Alonso’s front-left tyre off his car, and then both men having to wait until Maldonado and Ericsson breezed past them in the pits before they could be released. Grosjean took advantage of Alonso’s slow stop, the first of many to suffer blunders, to jump the double World Champion on track.

Massa was one such driver who suffered a long pit stop and it proved costly when he emerged from the pitlane into the path of Nico Hulkenberg who, unable to see the Brazilian from his angle, unwittingly closed the door on the Williams and was sent airborne as a result. While the German spun into the barriers and clambered from his cockpit, Massa was able to continue until a gearbox issue would end his race prematurely in the latter stages.

The Safety Car was deployed for several laps to clear the debris from Hulkenberg’s crash which bunched the grid up, and the second time round saw Vettel kept far more honest by the drivers behind him. Indeed, fourth placed Hamilton (having passed Kvyat by pitting before the Safety Car came out) took to his team radio to claim Vettel was purposefully holding Ricciardo up. Ironically, the Briton soon took to the radio to say he was losing power. With the team’s suggestions proving useless for Hamilton, he dropped further down the grid until the team finally told him to retire the car. Not before Alexander Rossi, in his F1 race debut, had the chance to pass the slow car on track, undoubtedly giving the American a smile. Alonso followed Hamilton into the pits to retire with yet another mechanical issue.

As Grosjean spurred the second round of pit stops, the yellow flags came out in Sector 2, and then a Safety Car. A 27-year-old man had somehow gained access to the circuit and was leisurely walking along the track taking photos on his mobile phone while walking against the cars. Eventually the idiotic invader decided to clamber back over the track lining barrier where he was tackled by security and arrested.

The Safety Car eventually pitted, with Rossi tangled up in the top three and holding Kimi Raikkonen up. Further down the order, a slow moving Sainz saw Maldonado hesitate on the restart and drop behind Alonso on the grid. The Lotus driver was subsequently left open for attack and when Jenson Button attempted to pass the Venezuelan, the Lotus inexplicably slowed out of the corner with Button running into the back of him. As his front wing shattered and showered the cars behind, Button hopped on the radio to criticize Maldonado, with the 2009 World Champion eventually retiring. Maldonado subsequently dropped four places with the two Toro Rosso men and two Sauber drivers promoting themselves at his expense.

Up front, Ricciardo had closed Vettel’s lead to only 1.4s but could not close the gap before the maximum race time of 2 hours clocked out, leaving the Aussie bemused and blaming the second Safety Car for missing out on the win. Kimi Raikkonen crossed the line for third to seal a double Ferrari podium, with Nico Rosberg claiming fourth. Valtteri Bottas finished fifth for Williams with Kvyat crossing the line in sixth ahead of Perez. The Toro Rosso drivers crossed the line in front of the two Saubers and the two Lotus’, with the Manor drivers keeping their head down and finishing the race – Rossi beating team-mate Stevens on his debut.

Despite his retirement, Hamilton maintains his grip on the World Championship with 41 points over closest rival Nico Rosberg, and Vettel 49 behind. But the question now is, can Ferrari throw in a last minute challenge for the title?

Race Results: 

  1. Sebastian Vettel
  2. Daniel Ricciardo
  3. Kimi Raikkonen
  4. Nico Rosberg
  5. Valtteri Bottas
  6. Daniil Kvyat
  7. Sergio Perez
  8. Max Verstappen
  9. Carlos Sainz
  10. Felipe Nasr
  11. Marcus Ericsson
  12. Pastor Maldonado
  13. Romain Grosjean
  14. Alexander Rossi
  15. Will Stevens
  • Nico Hulkenberg
  • Felipe Massa
  • Lewis Hamilton
  • Fernando Alonso
  • Jenson Button

Image courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari. 

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Hamilton Takes Victory In Suzuka

Lewis Hamilton took victory at a shortened Japanese Grand Prix today, overtaking team-mate Nico Rosberg mid-way through the Grand Prix to extend his lead in the World Championship fight.

The race began behind the Safety Car as Typhoon Phanfone hit the circuit, as was expected, and made it too dangerous to complete a standing start. However, there were but a lap and a half completed before the race was red flagged due to the rain getting heavier. The FIA had twice asked Honda, the organisers, to start the race four hours earlier to avoid the rain, but Honda twice refused, hence the unnecessary problems in the race.

Finally the race restarted, albeit still behind the Safety Car. Race control left the Safety Car out until lap 9, although drivers were insisting that the track was completely driveable by lap 6. Hamilton, in second, was the main man trying to get the race underway, directly radioing Race Director Charlie Whiting to plead for the race start. Meanwhile, Alonso was trying to warm himself in the garage after retiring on lap three with a car electrics failure.

The Safety Car came in on lap nine and Rosberg led the pack across the start/finish line to begin lap 10, and start the race proper. Hamilton, who was so keen on getting the race started, looked at passing his team-mate, but was unsuccessful and slotted back behind into turn 1. Sebastian Vettel was also on the move and pulled an ambitious overtake on McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, which the Dane managed to fend off. Undeterred, Vettel tried again down the straight into 130R and was successful, moving up the order.

Button was the first man to come into the pits and take on the intermediate tyre compounds, returning to the track far down the order. Although he struggled in the conditions, he soon proved to be faster overall and when a cavalcade of drivers came into the pits at the same time, Button passed them all and moved himself up to third, behind the two Mercedes drivers.

It was Rosberg’s turn to box from the lead next, but as the team tweaked with his front wing, it cost him a small amount of time in the battle to rejoin ahead of Hamilton. It was up to Lewis then to optimise on the delay, but he himself went wide at Spoon corner and lost some time. When he rejoined the track after his pitstop, he was 2.4s behind Rosberg.

As Hamilton began to slowly close the gap to his team-mate in the lead, the two Red Bulls were battling the two Williams’. Vettel was the first to make a move, diving up the inside of Massa’s Williams into the hairpin and getting past. Ricciardo tried to follow his team-mate in the following corners, but the Brazilian was proving to be good competition. Instead, Ricciardo waited until the Dunlop curve, sliding past on the inside in one of the overtakes of the season. In fact, he mirrored it a lap later when he followed Vettel past Valtteri Bottas at the same spot. Impressive racing from all four drivers.

In the meantime, Hamilton had been closing the gap and finally made it within the DRS 1-second gap. His first few attempts at passing Rosberg on the start/finish straight were unsuccessful, but on lap 29 he had a powerful run from the final chicane and pulled an impressive move on the outside of turn 1 and took the lead of the Grand Prix.

Soon afterwards, the rain began to get heavier. Kevin Magnussen, for example, was caught out and spun an impressive 360 before continuing as if nothing had happened, albeit now a place down. Sebastian Vettel was also caught out through the S-curves, skipping across the run-off area before rejoining. Although the rain was coming down harder now, and the DRS was disabled, Ricciardo was still on the charge and moved up the order after a move past Button at the hairpin.

Yellow flags came out during the overtake, as the rain became increasingly heavy, and the threat of a red flag drew nearer. Adrian Sutil had aquaplaned off the track into the barriers at the Dunlop curve, but was unhurt in the collision. However, when the JCB came out to clear the Sauber, Jules Bianchi slid straight off the track and hit the JCB sideways. Bianchi had been hurt. He was unresponsive to the team’s calls on the radio, and the medical car was deployed.

An ambulance was called to the scene and Bianchi was taken to the medical centre before being forwarded to the hospital. He was unconscious leaving the track and was sent by road ambulance, as opposed to the medical helicopter which is kept on scene for this purpose. There are no further details as to his condition, but, of course, we all hope he’s okay.

The race was red flagged as a result and meant that Lewis Hamilton won the race, with 7 laps remaining. Nico Rosberg finished behind in second, meaning the Championship gap increases to second, while Sebastian Vettel finished in third. The subdued celebrations on the podium, on which no champagne was sprayed, showed the concern of drivers for Bianchi’s condition.

Japanese Grand Prix Race Results:

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

Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Team. 

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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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