Tag Archives: 2014

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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Rosberg Steals British GP Pole From Hamilton

Nico Rosberg took pole from under Lewis Hamilton’s nose at the British Grand Prix, after Hamilton abandoned his last lap, believing that a wet track would stop everyone from improving, and would secure his provisional pole position.

A dark cloud lingered over Silverstone as Q1 got underway, which brought a serious threat of rain and led the drivers to rush out onto the circuit to try to get some banker laps down while the track was still relatively dry.

The backmarkers were the first ones to set a lap, and were six seconds faster than the fastest time in the wet morning practice session. After all had drivers set a lap, it was Hamilton leading from Ricciardo and Rosberg.

The clock ticked down and, with three minutes left, Jenson Button, the Saubers and the backmarkers went out on the dry compound tyres, which would then prompt everyone to come back out. Gutierrez went top and was followed by Chilton then Button, who went nearly three seconds quicker, but had his time deleted as he exceeded track limits at the final corner.

Drivers were given the hurry up and needed to get the perfect lap to ensure that they made it through to the next stage of Qualifying – but a perfectly timed yellow flag caused by Adrian Sutil’s spinning Sauber ruined the final chance for Felipe Massa, Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen to make it through, while Fernando Alonso went wide at Brooklands and lost his chance – meaning both Williams drivers and both Ferrari drivers joined the Caterham duo in the drop-zone.

With the Ferrari and Williams story fresh in their minds, the teams were eager to get straight out on track when Q2 began. Hamilton went quickest ahead of Rosberg, while Grosjean, Gutierrez, Bianchi, Vettel, Chilton and Sutil were stranded in the drop-zone. Those in the bottom six were given the hurry-up and Vettel jumped from fourteenth to first, five-tenths clear of Hamilton’s – but this was lap time subsequently deleted after it was found that Vettel has exceeded track limits at turn 9, putting him back in the drop-zone. In the meantime, Ricciardo got within two tenths of Hamilton’s fastest time as he took the top time.

The conditions improved and the drivers swapped over to the dry tyres. Jules Bianchi was the first to improve and he went to the top of the times, although Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel weren’t long getting back to the top spots.

Gutierrez was pushing to make it into Q3 – but pushed too hard and spun backwards into the barriers at Luffield, ending his session prematurely and resigning himself to fourteenth. Meanwhile, the Marussia duo recorded an impressive twelfth and thirteenth, although Chilton will be five places down due to a grid penalty, while Pastor Maldonado was told to pull over with a loss of oil pressure and subsequently finished fifteenth.

The fastest ten drivers progressed to Q3 and, again, there was no hesitation on getting out on track. The rain had cleared but it could not be guaranteed that it would stay away, and it was important that everyone got a good first lap in – both Q1 and Q2 had ended under yellow flags. A similar end to Q3 could throw up a surprise pole position.

The Toro Rosso duo tip-toed around and put down their banker laps, while Perez beat Ricciardo to third – behind Hamilton and Rosberg respectively. The McLaren duo filled out the bottom two places with their first laps, but was then split by Hulkenberg. Rain was still falling lightly, with Hamilton on provisional pole.

Sebastian Vettel abandoned his first attempt in the hopes of saving tyres and reaping the rewards of going out after the track had had the chance to dry. The gamble surprisingly worked, and the final sector proved to be the driest section of the track. Hamilton, originally trying to slow his team-mate, safe in the knowledge that he had pole, came into the pits, and watched, helplessly, as Hulkenberg took the top time, followed by Vettel, then Button and finally, Rosberg – who took pole. As a result of the surprise dry sector, Hamilton was bumped down to sixth.

Qualifying results:

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

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team. 

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Buemi: Formula One Needs To Be More Accessible

Sebastien Buemi says that Formula One needs to be more accessible to people if it wishes to attract new fans.

When asked what part of current Formula One he would like to see changed, Buemi told me:  “Maybe to make it a little bit more accessible to some of the people, because in many countries you now have pay TV where you have to pay to watch F1, and the tickets are quite expensive for people who want to watch.

“I think it’s very important that the new generation and new fans really have access and can have easy access to Formula One. I think if you get the young guys to watch, they’re going to keep watching. If you don’t give them the opportunity, they may never watch F1.

“So I think we have to be careful between the money people want to make out of that and also keeping in mind that we need new people to watch if we want to have a bright future”.

Pay-for-view TV has been highlighted as a probable cause in the drop of TV ratings in Formula One, particularly in parts of the world like China and France.

Image courtesy of Red Bull/Getty Images.

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Thoughts On The Safety Car Restart Rule

A recent meeting of the F1 Committee threw up some good rule changes for 2015: pre-season testing limited to Europe, two in-season tests instead of the four scheduled for this year, both to save money, and the proposed ban on tyre warmers has been temporarily thrown out. However, in keeping with Formula One tradition (see the double points rule for more), a completely silly idea was floated and then ratified.

Someone in the F1 Committee came up with the not-so-clever idea of changing the Safety Car restart from a rolling one into a grid start. So, instead of bunching up and shooting away when the Safety Car comes in after an incident, the grid will roll onto the start/finish straight and stop, wait for the five red lights to come on and go out, and then race away as if at the beginning of a race.

It’s a stupid rule.

First of all, it completely defeats the purpose of having a Safety Car. The idea of the Safety Car is to neutralise the race: to slow the drivers down and keep them bunched up so that the marshals can come on track and clear away cars, pick up debris, put down cement dust or whatever work needs  to be done, without having to interrupt the race. That sounds like a good idea. It’s both safe and practical.

Now, however, the plan is to have the drivers weave around for several laps while the marshals work only to then stop the race and restart it again. It seems like only in F1 can such idiotic ideas become a reality. Essentially, we’re going to waste time behind a Safety Car before adopting a restart you’d see after a red flag. Common sense? No, not here.

I can see why it would seem like a good idea: the race start can be the most exciting part of a Grand Prix (especially at Grands Prix like Korea and India, both of which were particularly stale, but have since been abandoned by F1). A bit like Christmas, standing starts are better when spread out – one per race will do just nicely.

Of course, Safety must also be considered. Admittedly, there have been some close calls behind the Safety Car (see Sebastian Vettel’s fake re-start behind the Safety Car in Singapore, 2012). On the other hand, the chance of a crash behind the Safety Car is infinitely less than the probability of a shunt on the first corner after a standing start. Think of Monaco, Monza or Spa – all tracks where it’s almost guaranteed that there’ll be a first corner crash. A Safety Car would only go to increase the chances of crashes, where Formula One has spent the last twenty years working incredibly hard to reduce that number.

Reportedly, though, in the interest of safety, the race director can pick and choose when he wishes to do a rolling restart or a standing restart. It’s getting sillier by the sentence, isn’t it?

If Formula One really needed this rule, it would be in place constantly. The fact of the matter is that Formula One does not need the rule. It seems to me that the F1 Committee are simply trying to flex their muscles: prove that they’re not a useless organisation, and be able to brag that they brought around this rule and that rule etc. It’s a power trip rather than a genuine effort to make F1 better.

So, for me, this is a rule which should not have been even considered, never mind ratified by the World Motorsport Council. Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo – race winners this season – have come out in criticism of the rule-to-be. The proposal adds nothing to the sport but only serves to agitate the fans and break up the racing. Scrap it, please.

Image courtesy of Pirelli/Andrew Hone.

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“My Best Race Of The Season” – Alonso

Fernando Alonso has labelled the Austrian Grand Prix as his “best race of the season”, due to the limited distance to race winners Mercedes in a Safety Car-free race.

The Spaniard was speaking a day after Qualifying fourth, the best Quali result for Ferrari so far this season. Starting fourth, Alonso lost the place to Hamilton on the first lap, but managed to maintain fifth to finish the best of the rest – behind the Mercedes and Williams drivers.

“I think that I can consider this to be my best race of the season,” Alonso said “Because finishing eighteen seconds off the Mercedes in a race without a Safety Car or any particular incidents, is a good result.

“It was impossible to keep Hamilton behind me and fifth place is really the best we could do today, because the first four cars were quicker and therefore deserved to finish ahead of us.

“We pushed hard all race without any problems, which means that little by little, we are improving. Sure, there’s still a long way to go but the aim is still to do well and score points. Each track is a different story and we will always try our best.”

Alonso’s words come as Ferrari have reportedly offered him an extension to his contract which expires at the end of 2016. Since Alonso joined the team, they have won no titles due to the dominance of Red Bull and then Mercedes, but Alonso was a close challenger in both 2010 and 2012.

Image courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari. 

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Rosberg Thanks Team For A “Great Car And A Perfect Strategy”

Nico Rosberg has thanked his team for providing him with a “great car and a perfect strategy”, after taking victory at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The German started third behind the Williams duo – who took the first Williams front row lockout since 2003 – but although poleman Felipe Massa and his team-mate Valtteri Bottas initially held control of the Grand Prix, an “aggressive” strategy saw Rosberg get the undercut on the two.

“I have to thank the team for a great car and a perfect strategy,” Rosberg said after the race. “We chose the aggressive way to pit earlier and to overtake the Williams that way and that worked out quite well.

“That was an amazing weekend for us here. It was so great to be back again in Austria – for me, it felt almost like being at my home race in Germany! This is a great track, with amazing fans and at the end also with a great result for us.”

It was not as smooth a task as it appeared to have been however, and Rosberg admitted that he struggled to look after his brake temperatures: “We had to look after our brakes, which was a big job for the whole race. Also this worked out perfectly for me.

“Before the weekend, my target was to extend the lead in the championship, which I achieved. So I can be quite confident before the next home race for our team in Silverstone.”

Rosberg also congratulated Williams who finished third and fourth, and celebrated Valtteri Bottas’ first podium: “A great job also from Williams, they were the second force today. Congratulations to them.”

Rosberg’s team-mate Lewis Hamilton recovered from two mistakes in Qualifying, which saw him start the race in ninth, to finish second. Although he finished painstakingly close behind Rosberg and the chance to reel in Rosberg’s lead in the Driver’s Championship, Hamilton said he was happy with the result in a race which he labelled as “damage limitation”.

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team. 

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