Tag Archives: Ferrari

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 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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Pre-Season Testing, Day One: Vettel Quickest For Ferrari

Formula One kicked off 2015 with pre-season testing yesterday, with Sebastian Vettel topping the timesheets for Scuderia Ferrari. Of the seven drivers who completed laps over the space of the day’s running, Vettel’s tally of 60 laps put him fourth overall, but kept him a tenth clear of Marcus Ericsson who took the second fastest time, for Sauber.

“Today was a good start,” reflected Vettel when the day’s action had ended, but kept a grounded attitude and admitted: “I can’t say more than that because this is only the beginning.

“For now lap times aren’t important: I did mine on the medium compound but the comparison has to be made yet again with the Mercedes. They are very quick, let’s just hope they’re not quite as fast as last year…”

While the exact speed of the Mercedes is so far unclear, Nico Rosberg’s incredible count of 157 laps on what is, for some teams, a chance to see how many times the car can break down, was an ominous sign of the Mercedes’ potential strength again this coming season. While half a second slower than Vettel’s quickest lap, Rosberg said the focus of early testing was reliability.

“In the beginning it’s all about reliability and we managed to do a lot of mileage today. The guys in the factories built a complete new car and now we come here and it’s working great, so the team did a fantastic job over the winter.”

On the difference in lap times, Rosberg added: “As a driver, you always want to find out how quick you are compared to the others – but that will have to wait until qualifying in Melbourne.

Marcus Ericsson’s first day of running with his new team also showed positive reliability and he clocked 73 laps overall, tied second with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas. The Swede, formerly of Caterham, was clearly pleased with his first experience of the Sauber on track, and praised the reliability of the car under various set ups.

“I think we have good reasons to be happy. We were able to complete a lot of laps, and we went through quite a few different small tweaks on the set-up and did all the installations needed. There were no major problems with the car, which was really the main thing. Overall it’s been a good day, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week. I hope we can continue like this.”

Bottas also clocked 73 laps over his track time, and like Ericsson, the Finn seemed happy with his first taste of the FW37. Beginning with shorter stints, Williams began to build up to longer runs, and were happy with the car’s reliability, Bottas said. “The day started off a bit slow, but it turned out to be a really good one. After that initial set-back, we didn’t have a single issue with the FW37, which is impressive for the first day with a new car.

“We know we have a lot to learn and improve, but we also know where these gains can come from, and have work to do with the car performance and the power unit. There are a lot of strengths in this car and we’ve made good progress in just one day, so I am very pleased,” the Finn concluded.

Daniel Ricciardo was fourth fastest overall as he gave the RB11 its inaugural running, albeit with a swirly livery, specifically made for testing. In usual fashion, Ricciardo gave his approval of the unique design: “The livery’s cool. It’s a testing specification for us but I think it looks really good. Maybe I need a matching helmet.”

Ricciardo was similarly happy with the performance of the car, saying: “We got going pretty well this morning and I got a few laps under my belt. So the first impressions are good. We’ll get a few more laps over the next few days, but so far everything seems pretty encouraging.

“We didn’t do a whole lot of laps but definitely more than at this test last year! Obviously we had a couple of issues, but once the car is running it’s all going pretty normally. There are some positive signs there.”

Over at Red Bull’s sister team, Carlos Sainz Jr. took the RB10 for a noble 46 laps around the Circuit de Jerez. Although he had run in a filming day already this year, rookie Sainz felt positive about the Toro Rosso’s first proper shakedown.

“We worked well together as a team,” commented the Spaniard. “I felt good in the car today, I was constantly improving, lap after lap. We did some adjustments and I think we have a good starting baseline”.

Sainz’s country-man, Fernando Alonso, had the least successful day of any of the seven drivers, completing a mere six laps on the first day of his return to McLaren. Although alleging to have purposefully run a series of short stints, with the longest run being three laps, McLaren’s day of testing finished at lunchtime when a technical gremlin took the car out of action for the afternoon.

“Given the complexity of modern Formula 1 machinery, the sorts of issues we encountered today weren’t too surprising,” said Alonso of the technical issues. “They’re just the things you experience on the first day of a Formula 1 test.”

“Obviously, I don’t really have a feeling for the car yet – I only did a handful of laps, and most of those were at slow speed, conducting preliminary checks – so I need a bit more time to be able to speak accurately about it. But everything seems to be responding well, and showing us what we expected.”

While McLaren’s day ended early, neither Lotus nor Force India made it to Jerez in time for the beginning of testing. While Lotus’ trucks crawled into the pit lane in the afternoon, Force India’s were nowhere to be seen as it was confirmed that they would not be attending the test. The team have also moved to rubbish rumours that their car, again piloted by Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, will not make it to the grid for the curtain-opening Melbourne Grand Prix on March 15th.

Pre-season testing continues on Monday with Lewis Hamilton, Daniil Kvyat Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button, Max Verstappen and Felipe Nasr all piloting their respective cars.

Image courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari. 

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Vettel Confirmed At Ferrari

The worst kept secret in Formula One has been officially confirmed today, with affirmation from Ferrari that four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel will partner Kimi Raikkonen at the team next year.

Vettel rose up through the junior formulae under the guidance of the Red Bull Young Driver programme, but this year announced his departure from Red Bull. And with Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner announcing that Vettel would be a Ferrari driver at the Japanese Grand Prix in October, the resulting drawn-out wait had an inevitable end: official confirmation from Ferrari.

That confirmation came today with the declaration of a three-year contract alongside Kimi Raikkonen, who currently holds a contract until the end of 2016. Reportedly, Red Bull reserve driver and reigning World Endurance Championship Champion , Sebastian Buemi, will also move to Ferrari as a reserve driver, at the request of Vettel.

“The next stage of my Formula 1 career will be spent with Scuderia Ferrari,” Vettel said in a Ferrari statement this morning. “And for me that means the dream of a lifetime has come true.

“When I was a kid, Michael Schumacher in the red car was my greatest idol and now it’s an incredible honour to finally get the chance to drive a Ferrari. I already got a small taste of what the Ferrari spirit means, when I took my first win at Monza in 2008, with an engine from the Prancing Horse built in Maranello,”

Ferrari Team Principal, Mario Mattiaci, added: “In Formula 1 terms, Sebastian Vettel is a unique combination of youthfulness and experience and he brings with him that sense of team spirit which will prove invaluable when, together with Kimi, they tackle the challenges awaiting us, as we aim to be front runners again as soon as possible.

“With Sebastian, we all share a thirst for victory as well as enthusiasm, a strong work ethic and tenacity; key elements for all the Scuderia members to write together a new winning chapter in the history of Ferrari.”

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso remains tight-lipped over his future. McLaren, the team many expect him to return to, this week decided to prolong their driver announcement until after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and subsequent Young Driver Test. If not returning to McLaren, another suggestion which has gathered air is that Alonso could follow in his friend Mark Webber’s path, and leave F1 for the WEC.

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Vettel Leaving Red Bull, Joining Ferrari

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Sebastian Vettel will drive for Scuderia Ferrari in 2015.

The Red Bull star’s departure was announced at a press conference ahead of Free Practice Three this morning at the Japanese Grand Prix. Vettel broke the news to Team Principal Christian Horner last night.

Of his motivation to leave the team, Horner said: “Obviously Ferrari have made him a very attractive offer. I think the lure of Ferrari, a window has opened there with whatever is going on and he has decided the timing is right for him.

“That is his choice, and he has been around long enough to know his own mind. He doesn’t have a manager and doesn’t have people that surround him. He has made this decision and we respect that.”

Vettel brought Red Bull to the front and helped them secure a string of World Championships since 2010. But this season he has been overshadowed by Daniel Ricciardo who was promoted from sister team Red Bull to fill Mark Webber’s seat after the veteran racer moved to the World Endurance Championship.

Red Bull also announced today that Toro Rosso rookie Daniil Kvyat would follow in Ricciardo’s footsteps and join him in the senior team in 2015. This leaves a vacant seat at Toro Rosso beside Max Verstappen, which looks likely to be filled by Carlos Sainz Jr.

Vettel is expected to partner Kimi Raikkonen at the Prancing Horse next season, with Alonso reportedly returning to McLaren, where he famously fell out with Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh while team-mates with Lewis Hamilton. If Alonso does indeed return to McLaren, Jenson Button will likely get the boot, leaving Alonso to partner impressive rookie Kevin Magnussen.

As of yet, however, Ferrari have yet to comment on the rumours, instead shooting down queries about the morning’s news.

Alonso has been a driver with Ferrari since 2010 but has failed to secure a Championship with the historic team, and he is reportedly dissatisfied with the changes made by new Team Principal Marco Mattiacci. Although Alonso has a contract with Ferrari until the end of 2016, he allegedly asked former Ferrari President, Luca di Montezemolo, to release him as a departing gift.

Another theory floated, although unlikely, is that Alonso will stay at the team, and will partner Vettel and Raikkonen in a three car team, should the three car system be introduced for 2015.

Image courtesy of Red Bull/Getty Images. 

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Still Not Good Enough

Fernando Alonso celebrated his second podium (and best result) of the season today when he crossed the line second behind Daniel Ricciardo. The Spaniard had held the led for most of the race distance, after a wet start and two Safety Car stints threw strategy and order into the air. He lost his lead however, when Daniel Ricciardo breezed past him into turn 1 with three laps remaining. He managed to fend off Hamilton though, which saw him equal his best result since the Singapore Grand Prix last season.

Fair enough, Fernando drove what must have been an exhausting race, particularly towards the end where he fought hard to keep Hamilton and Ricciardo behind him. So celebrate away Fernando and Ferrari – but tomorrow, the fun stops and the work commences. Or at least it should, because there is no real reason to celebrate in Italy.

Looking at the result on face value, one could say that Ferrari are finally getting their act together – Alonso’s last five results read 5th, 6th, 5th, 6th, 2nd. It looks like the Scuderia are on for a strong second half to the season if they can keep their act together. Maybe they could even win their first race under Marco Mattiacci before the season is out.

Wrong.

Today’s result does not signal an improvement for Ferrari, or show that they now posses a race winning car. All today proves is that when a track is very wet, one of the fastest cars on the grid starts from the very back, when two Safety Car periods wipe out huge advantages accumulated by two different leaders and when Ferrari happen to be at the right place, that they can finish second. Not even first!

The reason Ferrari finished on the podium today is a mixture of damned good luck on their part, bad luck on the part of several others, and the fact that Fernando Alonso is such a talented driver. To prove my point, Raikkonen finished only sixth in the same car. I’ve made no secret of my absolute belief that Alonso is the most talented and capable pilot in Formula One, so you’ll have to trust that I’m not being biased when I make these points.

Ferrari still haven’t given him a race winning car. Inheriting the lead, almost accidentally, and then managing to fend off the fierce competition from the cars behind, was down to driver talent, rather than the dog of a Ferrari that Alonso has been given to operate with.

I’m reminded of the scene in Rush where Daniel Bruhl (as Niki Lauda) returns to the pits and promptly says “it’s terrible – it drives like a pig!”, much to the disgust of the Ferrari worker who replies with “you can’t say that – it’s a Ferrari!”. So given the aura around Ferrari, and the team’s history and prestige, it’s with sadness that I write about how bad the Ferrari is. Of course, I should temper that by saying that “bad” for Ferrari means not podium material. “Bad” for another team would mean not points material.

But for a team with the resources that Ferrari have, including the estimated €400 million budget that they have to play with every year, it’s incredible that they can continue to miss out on podiums, never mind wins. Granted, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but even still it seems like Marco Mattiacci has had little effect on the team he was brought in to lead to greatness once again. Then again, having never managed a motorsport team before, his appointment was always going to be questionable.

I think Ferrari need to do several things. Firstly, (if they haven’t already done so), they need to get on the phone to Ross Brawn (the same man who revived Ferrari in the 90s and brought Mercedes to the front) and offer to give him whatever he wants to come out of retirement and rejoin to the outfit. Secondly, they need to offer the same to Adrian Newey. Rumours suggest that they have already reached out to Red Bull’s aerodynamic guru, but their calls have fallen on deaf ears. But with Red Bull supposedly back-benching Newey from next year, however, Ferrari should be pushing with all their might at dragging Newey to their team.

Thirdly, they need a huge overhaul in their aerodynamic department. Ironically it was Jules Bianchi using a Ferrari engine who put his Marussia through to Q2 on Saturday, knocking Raikkonen out in the process. Alright, so it’s not a fair match, rather a cocky strategy call gone wrong, but Marussia are doing wonderful things with their Ferrari unit (on a much lower budget) so surely it’s not a problem with the engines. Finally, they should be putting their next World Champion, Jules Bianchi, in the car next year. Although Kimi has a contract until 2016, and Alonso a contract until even longer, both will have performance clauses in their contracts which mean they can leave if Ferrari are not performing well. Although Fernando will understand the prestige of Ferrari and the huge honour that would come with winning  a Championship with them, for four years running they have failed to give him a Championship winning car. Like I said already, talent on the driver side is not the issue. If one of their drivers does not leave at the end of this year, then they need to push one of them, probably Kimi, and give Bianchi the seat.

What Ferrari really need to do is buy another engine. Abandon their pride and, until they can get the package together in other departments, they should run with a Mercedes or Honda. This won’t happen, however, because of the pure, but admiral, stubbornness of the Scuderia to do it all themselves. And, of course, it would look bad if the most famous car brand in the world needed the help of another brand to win a race….

The bottom line is that, until Newey or Brawn goes to the team, or they can have some other radical reform brought in, they are going to continue to struggle behind Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams in a spectacle which is both embarrassing and painful to watch.

Photo courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari. 

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Ricciardo Victorious In Enthralling Hungarian Grand Prix

Daniel Ricciardo took victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix this afternoon, in a race affected by rain, stopped by two Safety Cars, and with a myriad of race leaders. Ricciardo had gained the lead after the first Safety Car, but lost this lead when a crash for Perez prompted the Safety Car again. Alonso led the race from that point on, but Ricciardo was unstoppable and pulled two late overtakes, on Hamilton and Alonso, to secure his second Grand Prix victory.

The rain that was expected to interrupt the race arrived early, soaking the track about fourty-five minutes before lights out. The track was still wet at 2pm local time for the race start, so all drivers started on the green intermediate tyres. At lights out, Rosberg maintained his lead as the drivers behind him battled through the spray thrown up by the tyres. Valtteri Bottas started well, as per usual, and jumped second-placed Vettel into turn 1. The entire grid emerged unscathed from the first corner while Kevin Magnussen, Lewis Hamilton and Daniil Kvyat set off from the pitlane – Magnussen and Hamilton opting to start from the pit lane following qualifying, and Kvyat starting from the pitlane after getting stranded on the grid.

Nico Rosberg leads at the start (c) Red Bull/Getty Images

Hamilton was keen to start cutting his way through the grid, but with cold brakes on his Mercedes, he spun at turn 3 and dropped behind the grid. Back at the front, Rosberg was leading with a comfortable gap to Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel, who were sliding around in the slippy conditions.

Rosberg’s lead looked solid, and only set to increase dramatically, when Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson spun out of turn 3 and speared the barriers, destroying his car which swiveled to a halt on the side of the track. The Safety Car was deployed for the incident but Rosberg was too far past the pits to act on the news, meaning that those in the top four had to do another lap with reduced speed while the rest of the grid pitted for dry tyres. Thus, Daniel Ricciardo inherited the lead, ahead of Jenson Button on the inters tyres and Felipe Massa. Then, as the Safety Car was preparing to pit Romain Grosjean lost control of his Lotus in the same spot as Ericsson, hitting the barriers and spinning to a halt on the opposite side of the track. The Safety Car subsequently stayed out for longer as the wrecked Lotus was cleared away.

Second time around, Ricciardo led Button on the restart, but with the McLaren driver on the wet tyres, he swept clean past the Aussie and into the lead. But on the very next lap the tables were turned as Button was told that the expected rain would not materialise, and that he would need to pit soon. By the end of the second lap after the restart, his tyres were dead and Ricciardo had regained the lead.

Further down the order, the Force India duo were scrapping for position when Nico Hulkenberg locked up into the final corner and t-boned his team-mate, spinning himself out of the race. At the same time, Maldonado was getting too eager on the brakes and slid into Marussia’s Jules Bianchi, t-boning the Frenchman and spinning himself. Unlike Hulkenberg, however, the Venezuelan recovered his race and lived to fight another day.

Just as Hulkenberg’s car was cleared from turn 14, his team-mate spun out of the same corner and hit the barriers on the start/finish straight, throwing debris all over the track. Although Ricciardo had accumulated an impressive lead to this lead, his advantage was annihilated by the reappearance of the Safety Car. As Kobayashi parked his Caterham on the side of the track, the rest of the grid were led away by Fernando Alonso when the race restarted.

With the mixed-up order from two Safety Cars, Alonso now led the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne who was celebrating his fiftieth Grand Prix. The Frenchman was keen to keep his place on the podium and acted as a rolling roadblock for third placed Nico Rosberg who, incredibly, couldn’t find a way past the slower car. This allowed Sebastian Vettel to close up on the Mercedes, and was soon joined by Hamilton and Ricciardo who slotted in behind. The collection of race winners and Championship contenders behind Vergne didn’t faze him and he continued to lead the duo. Although Vergne didn’t make a mistake, Vettel spun out of the final corner as Rosberg pitted, mirroring Perez’s crash at the same spot. Luckily for Vettel, he missed the pitwall by inches, but unluckily for Rosberg, the spin had freed Hamilton.

Kimi Raikkonen fights with Pastor Maldonado (c) Scuderia Ferrari

Hamilton made short work of Vergne when given the chance, pulling a ballsy move on the Toro Rosso around the outside of turn 4. Meanwhile, Alonso pitted from the lead and Gutierrez became the sixth retirement of the race when he parked in his garage. Hamilton also pitted, and although he maintained his lead over Rosberg, a slow stop had put him behind Alonso. His position wasn’t solidified though, as his team began to radio him to let Rosberg through, as they were on different strategies. He consistently refused to, however, as Rosberg was not close enough behind him, meaning he would lose time to Alonso ahead of him if he slowed to let Nico through. Although Rosberg continued to ask why he wasn’t being let past, Mercedes eventually gave up trying to enforce their team order.

Ricciardo pitted from the lead of the race, and was soon followed in by Rosberg, who had still not passed his team-mate. Rosberg came out further down the order, but Ricciardo was flying on his fresh softer compound tyres and was catching Hamilton at an almost unbelievable pace. He was soon on the back of Hamilton who himself was up the gearbox of a struggling Alonso, but nobody could get past each other and Alonso maintained his lead.

After several laps of shutting down overtake attempts, Hamilton went wide at turn 1 and allowed Ricciardo to challenge him into turn 2. Pushing Ricciardo offline, Hamilton handed him the inside line for turn 3, where Ricciardo squeezed up the inside and up to second. With the faster Mercedes cleared, Daniel set his sights on the Ferrari ahead – breezing past him at the end of the pit straight. Ironically, he took the lead of the race with three laps remaining, as he did at the Canadian Grand Prix earlier this season.

Hamilton failed to get past Alonso, and Rosberg closed up on the rear of the the battle, leaving Alonso, Hamilton and Rosberg to cross the line with the smallest of gaps between them. It was fifth for Massa whose race wasn’t overly exciting, but will come as a welcome relief after three faultless retirements out of four races. Sebastian Vettel finished the race in seventh, but knows he could have placed much higher had he not spun on the straight. Jean-Eric Vergne marked his fiftieth Grand Prix with ninth place, while Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top ten.

As a result of the race, Hamilton has cut Rosberg’s lead in the Championship – an unbelievable feat given their respective qualifying performances. Now, the two must face a month with just their thoughts as F1 enters it’s one-month summer break. The next race is the Belgian Grand Prix on the 24th of August.

Hungarian Grand Prix Race Results:

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

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Hamilton Quickest In Opening Practice

Lewis Hamilton took the top spot during Friday morning’s free practice session ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix. The Briton’s lead from team-mate Nico Rosberg, which was nearly two tenths, is the first step in his mission to win this weekend’s Grand Prix and reel in Championship leader Rosberg. With the two Mercedes men taking up their usual position at the top of the time sheets, it was Kimi Raikkonen who proved to be the best-of-the-rest as he lapped six-tenths shy of Hamilton’s quickest effort, with his Alonso a further four tenths behind, in fourth. Vettel was fifth for Red Bull as Kevin Magnussen finished the session in sixth. Jean-Eric Vergne was seventh, just ahead of former team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who dedicated some of his run plan to drifting around the circuit when his tyres ‘hit the cliff’. Jenson Button complained about a complete lack of rear grip but brought his McLaren to ninth, while Massa rounded out the top ten.

Esteban Gutierrez took eleventh, almost poetically symbolic of the struggle Sauber are having in scoring a point this season, with former Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg in twelfth. Daniil Kvyat lapped in thirteenth, and Maldonado in fourteenth, while Valtteri Bottas was surprisingly down the order in fifteenth. Sergio Perez’s Force India leads the Lotus of Grosjean and the Sauber of Sutil (the latter spinning in the final seconds of practice), with Kamui Kobayashi leading team-mate Marcus Ericsson, and the two Marussias of Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi. Chilton finished ahead of Jules, particulalry impressive as he had time for only one flying lap following a fire on his installation lap saw him park in the pits and walk back to the garage. During the later stages of practice, Marussia tried to get him out, but it wasn’t until the fourth attempt that he successfully got back out.

So, for now, the advantage is held by Hamilton at a circuit where he has enjoyed success before, in comparison to the less successful memories his team-mate has of the track. However, with three consecutive races of botched Qualifying, Hamilton will need to take full advantage of practice to find the perfect set up to ensure he has the edge come Saturday afternoon.

Free Practice One results:

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

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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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