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Super Seb Victorious In Malaysia

Sebastian Vettel stormed to victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix this afternoon, combining the Scuderia’s strong pace with a peculiar Mercedes strategy to take his fourth victory in Sepang.

The start of Vettel’s victory came with Marcus Ericsson botching an overtake on Romain Grosjean and spinning into the gravel at turn 1. His beached car brought out the Safety Car for several laps, and importantly saw the Mercedes duo dive for the pit lane, but second-placed Vettel staying out.

Several laps later, when the Safety Car came back into the pit lane, Vettel raced away in the front but Hamilton and Rosberg were stuck in traffic. Vettel had Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Sainz and Perez to act as a buffer zone in front of Hamilton, with Rosberg another few cars behind again.

The reigning World Champion struggled more than expected to get past the misplaced midfield, and when he did finally get into free air, Hamilton surprisingly could not close the gap to the leading Ferrari. The gap lingered at the ten second mark until Vettel finally pitted.

Judging by Mercedes’ form last year and so far this year, it could be expected that the race was over with Vettel emerging from the pits in third place. On the contrary, the German sped up to his compatriot Nico Rosberg and took second before beginning his bloodthirsty chase of Hamilton who had a twelve second lead on him.

Within no time though, Vettel was within two seconds of Hamilton as the latter frantically reported that his tyres were degrading rapidly. The Ferrari was drawing even with the Mercedes later on the same lap and Hamilton ducked into the pit lane to adopt a new set of boots.

Vettel stayed out in front until his second stop, by which Hamilton had closed the gap to fifteen seconds. Crucially, Vettel emerged from his final stop ahead of Rosberg while Lewis reported that his tyres felt very bad and soon pitted again.

Emerging from the pits, Hamilton complained that his tyres were the hard compound as opposed to the faster medium tyres, but was told that he had the only fresh tyres available to him. His team-mate also pitted and slotted back into the race in third.

With the top three drivers having completed their final stops for the race, the Grand Prix turned into a procession to the flag, with Vettel unchallenged on his way to the 56th lap where he took the chequered flag. Crossing the line, he secured his 40th victory in Formula One – putting him one behind Ayrton Senna’s tally of wins.

In contrast to his team-mate’s straight-forward day, Raikkonen fought an uphill battle on his way to fourth. The Finn took a stab from Felipe Nasr’s front wing on the first lap and had to endure a full lap with a flailing Pirelli carcass. The rest of his afternoon was spent clawing back from the very back of the grid.

Pastor Maldonado also suffered a puncture this weekend, an innocent victim for the second weekend in a row. He was nudged by the returning Valtteri Bottas and also dropped down the classification. The Venezuelan’s afternoon ended prematurely when he was beckoned into the pit lane to retire the car.

In the other Lotus, Romain Grosjean finished just outside the points, as he crossed the line eleventh. The Frenchman was hit by Force India’s Sergio Perez as he attempted an overtake, but made a fantastic save in an out-of-control spin, which prevented him from ending in a similar fate to that of Ericsson in the earlier part of the race.

Perez was awarded a ten-second penalty for causing the incident, and his team-mate took the same penalty for a similar infringement: he kicked Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull into a spin at the second turn, losing the Russian time and a place to Daniel Ricciardo. The latter suffered throughout with a plume of brake dust shooting from the car at every corner, but survived the race to finish tenth.

Both Red Bull men were behind their sister team. The young and impressive Max Verstappen finished ahead of Carlos Sainz when an out braking incident turned into an impromptu overtake, while Kvyat finished ninth ahead of Ricciardo.

The Williams team-mates were a lap down by the end of the race, which seems to be a step down from their 2014 showing. The Grove-based drivers battled tooth-and-nail over the final stages of the race and it was Bottas who emerged on top, finishing fourth ahead of Massa in fifth.

Roberto Merhi was the sole Manor car driving today after an issue was discovered on Will Steven’s car shortly before the race. Despite losing one car, the team were fairly upbeat as they celebrated getting their car to the end of the race: an impressive feat for a team which didn’t exist two months ago.

Ferrari’s Team Principal Mario Arrivabene said pre-season that the team’s goal for the year was to win two races. With half of the objective met after just two races, it seems hard to imagine them not achieving it. But can Vettel and Ferrari challenge Hamilton for the title?

Full Race Results:

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

Image courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari

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Hamilton Drives To Controlled Australian Victory

Lewis Hamilton began his title defence by claiming his second victory at Albert Park, keeping team-mate Nico Rosberg at arms length from the beginning.

The reigning Champion faced intermittent challenges from Rosberg slipping within a second or two of the sister Mercedes car, but realistically held complete control over the Grand Prix from pole to flag.

While the Mercedes duo cruised predictably up front, the grid behind them was anything but predictable. The Manor drivers had failed to make Qualifying as their team struggled to reinstall software to the cars for the new season, meaning Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi will have to wait until at least Malaysia before turning a wheel in anger.

Kevin Magnussen was one of three other drivers who failed to start the race: the Dane, who was drafted in to replace the injured Fernando Alonso, saw his Honda engine give up on his lap from the pits to the grid pre-race. Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat also ended his race effort on his lap to the grid when a terminal problem with his gearbox was discovered. Williams’ Valtteri Bottas failed to even take his car from the garage today, as he was not given medical permission to race. The Finn injured the small of his back yesterday in Qualifying and failed one of the aspects of the mandatory extraction tests earlier today, meaning he will have to wait until Malaysia to begin his season proper.

These five absences left only fifteen cars on the grid for the race start, but the car number soon dropped to thirteen. Pastor Maldonado was the innocent victim of a jab from Felipe Nasr which sent him into the barriers at turn 2 and deployed the Safety Car. Meanwhile, his Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean suffered a technical fault which sent him out of the race, compounding a dismal weekend for Lotus.

With Maldonado’s stricken Lotus cleared, the Safety Car pitted and Hamilton led the drivers away for the first full racing lap of 2015. Nico Rosberg stuck close to the rear wing of the sister Mercedes, but third placed Felipe Massa soon lost sight of the Silver Arrows, such is the advantage the World Champions hold.

Further down the grid, the eleven other drivers had grouped together into individual battles spaced out along the track. Daniel Ricciardo spent time in front of his home crowd trying to keep Kimi Raikkonen’s slightly damaged prancing horse behind him. Further behind, Sergio Perez and Jenson Button were scrapping for the final places when the Mexican botched an overtake on his former team-mate and spun at turn 3.

The battle for third between Massa and Vettel was going well for the Brazilian until he pitted first and allowed Vettel to stay out in open air for several laps, while Felipe met traffic in the much slower RB11 of Daniel Ricciardo. When Vettel emerged from the pit lane a few laps later, he had promoted himself to third and held a cushion over the Williams.

Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen was doing a good effort of making up for the mistake he made in Qualifying which saw him start twelfth, and he stayed on track on his first set of tyres until lap 33 of 58. When the 17-year-old came out of the pits, however, a puff of smoke acted as a precursor for a full engine failure at Turn 15 a minute later. The heartbroken Dutchman clambered from his cockpit and lamented his bad luck as his former F1 racer father, Jos Verstappen, stormed out of the Toro Rosso garage.

Verstappen’s retirement reduced the number of cars to twelve, but when Kimi Raikkonen’s left-rear tyre came loose after a pit stop four laps later, the Finn was forced to pull over at turn 4 and stomp back to the paddock. As Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene grilled the pit crew as to why the car left the pits without the wheel properly attached, the stewards announced that the unsafe release will be investigated after the race. Raikkonen can expect a ten-place grid penalty for the Malaysian Grand Prix, as is the standard penalty for an infringement of this type.

With the racing drivers now limited to eleven, only Carlos Sainz and Marcus Ericsson gave commentators something to talk about as the latter caught and passed the former in the final laps. Up front though, Hamilton was untouched as he led Rosberg across the line for his 34th victory.

Sebastian Vettel crossed the line to take a podium finish on his debut with Ferrari, while Felipe Massa shadowed the Scuderia over the line. Felipe Nasr finished fifth on his Formula One debut – the highest result for a Brazilian driver in his first F1 race. Daniel Ricciardo finished sixth ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, while Marcus Ericsson scored six points from finishing seventh – meaning Sauber take fourteen points home from the Grand Prix. Having gone scoreless in 2014, this will certainly not go uncelebrated. Carlos Sainz joined Felipe Nasr as a rookie scoring a point on his debut, when the Spaniard finished ninth for Toro Rosso. Sergio Perez was the final points finisher for Force India, while Jenson Button finished dead-last and was the only man to cross the line without scoring a point.

Provisional Race Results:

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Nico Rosberg
  3. Sebastian Vettel
  4. Felipe Massa
  5. Felipe Nasr
  6. Daniel Ricciardo
  7. Nico Hulkenberg
  8. Marcus ericsson
  9. Carlos Sainz
  10. Sergio Perez
  11. Jenson Button
  • Kimi Raikkonen – Loose wheel
  • Max Verstappen – Mechanical failure
  • Romain Grosjean – Mechanical failure
  • Pastor Maldonado – Collision
  • Kevin Magnussen (DNS)
  • Daniil Kvyat (DNS)
  • Valtteri Bottas (DNS)

DNS – Did Not Start

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team. 

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Coulthard Victorious In Race Of Champions

Former F1 driver David Coulthard was victorious at the Race of Champions last weekend, fending off a final challenge from Mercedes reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein.

The Scot, who took thirteen Grands Prix victories over his fifteen seasons in Formula One, was racing for Team Scotland alongside Williams reserve driver Susie Wolff. Team Scotland’s bid for glory ended in the final, however, following defeat from Team Nordic drivers Tom Kristensen and Petter Solberg.

When it came to the individual event, Coulthard fared better and won the first two rounds of his best-of-three battle with Wehrlein in the final, securing his first win in the Championship, which annually pits drivers against each other, in both team and individual matches. While Team Nordic won this year’s Championship, Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher had brought Team Germany to victory each year between 2007 and 2013.

Romain Grosjean won last year’s Champion of Champions trophy, but fared less successfully this year where he raced alongside Esteban Ocon in Team France. Second-placed Wehrlein raced with GP2 Champion Jolyon Palmer in the Young Stars team.

Image courtesy of Red Bull/Getty Images.

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Gutierrez Announced As Ferrari Reserve Driver

Esteban Gutierrez was today announced as Ferrari reserve driver.

In contrast to Sebastian Vettel’s much-anticipated arrival at the team, Gutierrez’s appointment was widely unexpected. The Mexican joined Sauber in 2013 and competed with the team for two years, but was dropped by the team after a dismal season which saw Sauber’s first ever season without scoring a point.

“We are pleased to be able to offer this opportunity to Esteban who, although young, has plenty of experience relating to the new generation of Formula 1 cars,” said Ferrari’s Director General and Team Principal, Maurizio Arrivabene. “I am sure that, with his experience, he will make an important contribution to the development work of the team in the simulator.”

In a Ferrari press release, Gutierrez is quoted as saying: “It is for me the beginning of a new path for my future and I’m going to do my utmost to contribute to the achievement of the targets set by the Scuderia. It is an honour to become part of the Scuderia Ferrari family, a Team with such an exceptional history.”

Gutierrez is the first Mexican driver to race for Ferrari since Pedro Rodriguez in 1969. He will join former Sauber driver Pedro de la Rosa, Ferrari driver Marc Gené and GP2 and WEC driver Davide Rigon in the Ferrari reserve team. Meanwhile, Sauber have signed former Williams reserve driver Felipe Nasr and Caterham driver Marcus Ericsson as their 2015 line-up, dropping Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil.

Image courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari.

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Caterham Rubbishes Factory Seizure Rumours

Caterham have moved to rubbish rumours that their Leafield factory has been seized by bailiffs.

Reports of the seizure broke on Twitter just before 4pm British time, with some accounts claiming that staff were being ordered to disconnect servers and leave the premises, while equipment was being seized by bailiffs.

There was no official word for five hours before Caterham released a statement rubbishing the “unfounded and unsubstantiated rumours” about action against them or 1MRT, Caterham’s owner.

An action was threatened yesterday against a supplier company to 1MRT,” the statement explained. “This company is not owned by 1MRT and it has no influence over the entry of CaterhamF1 or the entrant.” 

Also contrary to uncontrolled rumours, all operations are currently in place at Leafield and the race team is doing its preparation in Japan.” the statement concluded.

However, contrary to the team statement, TheSheriffsOffice.com, a bailiff, has listed Formula One items seized from Caterham to be auctioned away, including:

  • A 2013 test car
  • Car parts due for the upcoming race
  • A full size 6 DOF motion platform F1 simulator
  • Pit lane equipment
  • TVs, monitors and other goods and equipment

Although a genuine company, the verity of the auction is yet to be confirmed.

Caterham was abandoned by founder Tony Fernandes in July, who cut his losses after four years of uncompetitive performances, selling the outfit to a mixture of European and Middle-Eastern investors.

Financial trouble was reported at the team almost immediately and new Team Principal, Christijan Albers, left the team shortly after taking the position. Further trouble was signalled when rumours came to the surface that Pirelli were threatening not to supply the team with tyres for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix unless they received a quick payment from the cash-strapped team.

For now, the team say they will race this weekend, where driver Kamui Kobayashi is to drive in front of his home crowd. While they may drive in this weekend’s race, Caterham’s position in Formula One next season is looking ever less stable.

Image courtesy of Caterham F1 Team. 

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VIDEO: 24 Hours After A Grand Prix

The winner crosses the finishing line, the top three drivers celebrate on the podium and TV crews turn the cameras off an hour or so later. For me and you that’s all she wrote – the end of a Grand Prix weekend. But while we find things to do to occupy the painstaking wait until the next Grand Prix, men and women from every team are still working hard to clear their equipment and mobile homes and move them to the next track or back to the factories. The work never stops for these guys whose focus shifts immediately to the next race.

In this video, Red Bull Racing give us a behind the scenes look at what happens 24 hours after a race, including a really cool insight to the RBR factory in Milton Keynes.

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Van Der Garde Given All-Clear After Testing Shunt

Giedo van der Garde has been given the all clear after a big shunt in the closing minutes of today’s test session at Silverstone.

The two day mid-season test, one of four tests this year, wrapped up today under the red flags which were brought out by Van der Garde’s crash.

The Dutchman crashed heavily at Copse corner, losing control of the car and spinning into the barrier. The G-Force meter on his car, which detects potentially dangerous levels of G’s in an impact, and leads to a mandatory trip to the medical centre, signalled a high impact, meaning that Van der Garde was sent to the track medical centre for inspection. Luckily, he was found to have escaped injury in a crash which, he says, was one of the biggest he has ever had.

Speaking to Autosport, the Sauber test driver said:  “This is really one of the biggest crashes I’ve had. All the [G-Force meter] lights went on on the car so I had to go to the medical centre. They checked everything and I am fine.”

As for the crash, he pins some of the blame on the winds, which caught him as he exited the sheltered International Pit Straight onto the open maggots/becketts section of the historic British circuit.

“It was really strange with the crosswinds. The wind picked up in the afternoon and as I came out of the corner I had a little snap and caught it, but then suddenly it went the other way.

“I lost it completely and I went into the barrier on the outside. It was broken, so that’s why they could not restart the session.”

The barrier repairs took too long to allow the session to be restarted, with only twenty minutes left in the session when the accident happened.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen caused a similar barrier repair to be carried out following a whopping 47G impact with the barriers, when he lost control on the first lap of the British Grand Prix last Sunday. Like Van der Garde, Raikkonen’s G-Force meter signalled a dangerous level of G’s, meaning he was sent to the medical centre while track officials red flagged the race for an hour as they worked to repair the broken Armco barrier where Raikkonen crashed.

Although without any serious injury, the Finn suffered a slight ankle injury in the crash and missed this week’s test as he rests in order to be fit to race at the German Grand Prix on Sunday week. Jules Bianchi replaced him today, Wednesday, and topped the timesheets for Ferrari.

Image courtesy of Sauber Motorsport AG.

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