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2017 F1 Grand Prix of Belgium — Results & aftermath

Hamilton too quick for Vettel at Spa as title rivals finish 1-2; Ricciardo an opportunistic 3rd

Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton returned from the summer break refreshed and ready to fight for his fourth World Championship. Needing to recapture momentum that had recently swung to his nemesis at Ferrari, points leader Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton threw down the gauntlet with a dominant performance at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Ardennes forest, the first of two back-to-back European classics that kick off the business end of the championship. Starting from his record-tying 68th pole position, a time that also set the track record, Hamilton kept his lead when the lights went out on Sunday and managed to hold off a hard charging Vettel in the opening laps and pull out a DRS-proof lead on the Ferrari. And when the race got bunched up again for a restart after a Safety Car period later Hamilton kept his cool and managed the trick again despite Vettel being on softer, grippier tires. Perhaps Hamilton benefited from the aero disruption in close quarters of this year’s high downforce configuration chassis that seems to somewhat negate tire advantages between otherwise equally matched cars. And in the end Hamilton romped to victory in his 200th Grand Prix, his 3rd career win at Spa and the Englishman’s 58th victory overall. That cut Vettel’s championship lead back down to a mere 7 points. As the two team leaders head into Monza next weekend, which should be a frenzied sea of Ferrari red, it is clear that there is virtually nothing to choose between the Prancing Horses and the Silver Arrows. The key difference maker going forward will be the pilots. And with Hamilton and Vettel proving themselves superior to their teammates it is all but certain one of these superlative drivers will be the champion at season’s end.

Hamilton-BelgianGPSpa_2017

Another standout at Spa was Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who once again showed why he is likely the most opportunistic F1 driver in the paddock. Despite the RB13s lack of pure pace at this very fast and long circuit the Aussie took advantage of the post-Safety Car restart on Lap 34 to jump the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and hold off the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen with a lovely, gutsy pass up the Kemmel Straight. So despite running quietly in P5 for the entirety of the first two thirds of the race Ricciardo’s brave move saw him vault up into a podium spot. He made it stick and kept his pursuers behind for the rest of the race earning that ever-valuable last step on the podium with a sparkling P3 finish. That makes six podium finishes this year for Ricciardo — including that serendipitous win at Baku —  who has displayed the kind of luck in the reliability department his teammate, Max Verstappen, has sorely lacked. Verstappen’s Red Bull mount once again betrayed him, this time on Lap 8 and in front of a huge throng of orange-clad fans from nearby Holland. The Dutch wunderkind has now failed to finish an astonishing 50% of the contests so far in 2017. Will he be looking for the exits and a more reliable ride for next year? Couldn’t blame him if he is.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Ricciardo’s ballsy pass meant Kimi Raikkonen had to settle for P4. But in truth the Iceman probably felt relieved by that result after having incurred an 10-second stop & hold penalty for failing to lift for the yellow flag brought out by Vertappen’s stalled Red Bull. Continue reading

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Belgium — Qualifying results

Mercedes’ Hamilton earns record-tying pole at Spa, Vettel P2 for Ferrari pipping Bottas

Formula 1’s long summer break is over and Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton returned to action in style earning the pole at venerable Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium with a new track record for the current layout of 1:42.553. That impressive pole position also tied him with the great Michael Schumacher for most all time in F1 with 68. All in all it was perfect way for Hamilton to kick off his second half efforts in the quest for his fourth World Championship. As the season enters its pivotal final phase beginning with the two European classics at Spa and then Monza next weekend, the English contender will look to impose his will from the front of the field come  race day in the unpredictable Ardennes.

It was not quite as perfect a day for Hamilton’s Mercedes team, however, as it was for the man himself. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, the current points leader, put in a tremendous effort on his final Q3 lap to overhaul the other Silver Arrow of Valtteri Bottas, wrestling P2 from the Finn. That should make for an extremely interesting start when the lights go out tomorrow with Hamilton & Vettel now side by side at the front of the grid. And with his P3 starting position Bottas finds himself next to Vettel’s Ferrari teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, who muffed his final lap after complaining of vibration all session long but still had a time quick enough for P4. With no love lost between the two Finnish countrymen on the second row or between Hamilton & Vettel at the front watch for potential opening lap Mercedes-Ferrari fireworks as this quartet flies into Eau Rouge.

Best of the rest in quali were Red Bull’s dynamic duo of Dutch wunderkind Max Verstappen and Aussie veteran Daniel Ricciardo, who clocked in at P5 and P6 respectively. Nico Hulkenberg led an impressive qualifying result for Renault with a very solid P7 time and even though teammate Jolyen Palmer suffered gearbox failure early in Q3 he’ll still start from P10. So it ws a good day for the improving factory Renault program. Force India did their usual yeoman’s work even though they were down on downforce with Sergio Perez qualifying in P8 and Esteban Ocon in P9.

Top 10 Qualifiers for the Belgian GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:44.184 1:42.927 1:42.553 18
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:44.275 1:43.987 1:42.795 13
3 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:44.773 1:43.249 1:43.094 19
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:44.729 1:43.700 1:43.270 11
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:44.535 1:43.940 1:43.380 12
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:45.114 1:44.224 1:43.863 12
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:45.280 1:44.988 1:44.982 15
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:45.591 1:44.894 1:45.244 14
9 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:45.277 1:45.006 1:45.369 14
10 30 Jolyon Palmer RENAULT 1:45.447 1:44.685 DNS 10

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live starting at 7:30 Eastern on NBCSN here in the States. Can Hamilton use the momentum of this record-setting pole to get back to his winning ways on the grand old Spa circuit? Or will Vettel spoil those best laid plans and extend his lead in the points? Hope to see you the to find out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Hungary — Results & aftermath

Ferrari rules the ‘Ring — Vettel wins from pole, Raikkonen second; Bottas P3 & Hamilton P4 for Mercedes

Ferrari dominated the last race weekend before the long summer break joyfully watching their ace, Sebastian Vettel, manage niggling problems on his car to somehow stay out in front and win the Hungarian Grand Prix from the pole. In a race that was more fascinating from a pit-wall strategy perspective than for actual on-track action, Vettel was able to maintain enough pace to forestall Ferrari team orders that might have forced him to hand the lead over to his teammate Kimi Raikkonen when it seemed like Vettel might not have the speed. But to their credit Ferrari never made that call and despite some sort of steering woes plaguing the 4-time Champion’s chassis, Vettel rewarded the Scuderia’s confidence and gamely guided his SF70H home to earn the top step of the podium. Despite his fears of being overtaken if he wasn’t let by Vettel Raikkonen was easily able to hold off the best efforts of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton to take P2. And in the end Hamilton did the gentlemanly thing and ceded his third place position back to his Silver Arrows teammate, Valtteri Bottas, who had let the Englishman through earlier in the race to try to hunt down the Prancing Horses when Mercedes did play the team orders card. Hamilton could never manage to catch them despite some nervous moments for Maranello and, coming up short on the last lap, honorably re-payed Bottas by allowing him to finish P3 as the checkered flag flew and slipping back to come home P4. The strong 1-2 result for Ferrari meant that the team closed the deficit to Mercedes to just 39 points in the hunt for the all-important Constructors’ Title. Meanwhile, Vettel also increased his lead over Hamilton 202-188 in the Drivers’ Championship after they had been separated by a single point coming into the weekend. Looking back at their near-perfecr weekend at the tight and twisty Hangaroring Ferrari will be well pleased with the trajectory of their season-long performance improvements going into the break, while Mercedes will know they’ve got work to do to close the gap on other similarly short, tight circuits like upcoming Singapore and Brazil.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen had a very eventful race on his way home to a solid P5 finish. That good result was somewhat tarnished when he and his senior teammate Daniel Ricciardo came together on the opening lap when Vertsappen locked up into Turn 2 while Ricciardo was on the outside of him. Verstappen’s right front wheel clouted Ricciardo’s radiator pod dealing the Aussie’s car terminal damage in the process and causing a multi-lap Safety Car period. The race stewards deemed Verstappen at fault and handed down a 10-second time penalty but the Dutch wunderkind stayed out extraordinarily long on his starting set of Pirelli Supersoft tires and only pitted for fresh rubber on Lap 42, far later than the other contenders. So even with the 10-second penalty he managed to come out just behind the Merc of Bottas. Despite looking very dangerous on fresher Soft tires, Bottas pushed hard and Vertsappen could never make it past the Finn on a track where passing is at a premium. It was another excellent drive by Verstappen and one has to wonder what might have been without the Ricciardo incident. For certain the team will be talking to their talented young charge about the risk-reward benefit of first lap heroics. Whether Ricciardo and Verstappen will be talking much any more is another story.

F1GPHungary-RedBulls_2017

Further back in the field McLaren had their best day of 2017. Veteran Fernando Alonso, who turned 36 on Saturday, drove aggressively all race long, dicing and scrapping with a car finally fast and reliable enough to compete with the other mid-pack runners. Alonso charged home to a P6 finish, which must have felt like a victory to the team and especially Honda, their beleaguered engine supplier. Alonso’s stablemate Stoffel Vandoorne took the last points paying position with a solid P10 marking the first time this year both McLarens finished in the points. Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz also gave maximum effort on his way to an impressive P7 finish. And the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon overcame a lackluster qualifying effort to come home P8 and P9 respectively, another terrific points haul for one of F1’s smallest teams.

Top 10 finishers of the Hungarian GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 70 1:39:46.713 25
2 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 70 +0.908s 18
3 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 70 +12.462s 15
4 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 70 +12.885s 12
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 70 +13.276s 10
6 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 70 +71.223s 8
7 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO 69 +1 lap 6
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 69 +1 lap 4
9 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 69 +1 lap 2
10 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN HONDA 69 +1 lap 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The traditional F1 summer break is now upon us and the next race is a full four weekends away. Hope to see you at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps Circuit in Belgium to kick off the home stretch at the end of August!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Hungary — Qualifying results

Ferrari lock out front row at Hungaroring — Vettel takes blistering pole, Raikkonen P2; Bottas P3 & Hamilton P4 for Mercedes

On the tight and twisty turns of the Hungaroring outside of Budapest, Hungary Rubens Barrichello’s 2004 lap record was bettered early and often during Saturday’s three rounds of knockout qualifying. In the end the fastest of this era’s machines at this tricky circuit were the blood red 2017 SF70H Ferraris. Team leader Sebastian Vettel led the way with an astonishing lap of 1:16.276 to seize the pole for tomorrow’s race. That time more than two seconds faster than Barrichello’s long-held lap record of 1:18.436, which the Brazilian set in the fantastic V10-powered Ferrari F2004. Vettel’s wingman Kimi Raikkonen was right behind him by two-tenths and laid claim to P2. That knocked Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas back to P3 while his Silver Arrows stablemate and championship contender Lewis Hamilton, desperate to tie the great Michael Schumacher’s all-time pole record, suffered from vibration issues and could manage no better than the fourth fastest time. After Ferrari’s bitterly disappointing run at Silverstone two weeks ago when late tire punctures cost Vettel a sure podium and Raikkonen had to scramble for his P3 the Prancing Horses seem to have found something in their downforce package to make them superior to Mercedes, at least on the relatively short and technical Hungaroring. But Hamilton, the victor at Silverstone, and Bottas, who came home P2 there, will both be hoping that their chassis can run better in the race than in the qualifying shootout because they had nothing for the Scuderia’s fine chargers on Saturday. They may also be hoping that perhaps bad luck again strikes Ferrari in what should be a hot & demanding contest come Sunday.

Red Bull was the best of the rest as both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were the only others able to log sub-1:17 laps for P5 and P6 on the grid respectively. Nico Hulkenberg was impressive in his Renault willing it all the way up to the seventh-fastest lap but it looks like he will unfortunately incur a 5-spot grid penalty for parts changes that will push him out of the top 10. McLaren had a rare excellent day and saw both of their drivers make it into Q3 — Fernando Alonso, celebrating his 36th birthday, earned P8 on the grid while his rookie teammate Stoffel Vandoorne will start P9. Carlos Sainz was able to get his Toro Rosso up to P10 though he was significantly slower than the other Q3 combatants.

Williams were forced to draft reserve driver Paul Di Resta as an emergency fill-in when their veteran pilot Felipe Massa came down with what is being loosely described as symptoms of vertigo. The Scottish DTM driver who last raced in F1 in 2013 for Force India got zero laps of practice and had never driven the 2017 car on track. Nevertheless, Di Resta put in a very credible effort out-qualifying Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson for P19 and was only three-quarters of a second slower than his teammate Lance Stroll. Depending on how things go in the race tomorrow, Di Resta may have opened some eyes and perhaps some doors for an opportunity to return to F1 full time.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Hungarian GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:17.244 1:16.802 1:16.276 14
2 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:17.364 1:17.207 1:16.444 14
3 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:18.058 1:17.362 1:16.530 18
4 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:17.492 1:16.693 1:16.707 17
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:17.266 1:17.028 1:16.797 14
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:17.702 1:17.698 1:16.818 14
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:18.137 1:17.655 1:17.468 14
8 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:18.395 1:17.919 1:17.549 17
9 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN HONDA 1:18.479 1:18.000 1:17.894 17
10 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO 1:18.948 1:18.311 1:18.912 19

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live starting at 7:30 AM Eastern on NBC Sports here in the States. Will Ferrari have it all their way in the last contest before the summer break or can Mercedes fight back in race trim for the win? Hope to see you then to find out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Britain — Results & aftermath

Hamilton supreme at Silverstone for 4th consecutive home victory; Bottas fights back for P2 as Ferrari suffers from late tire woes — Raikkonen recovers for P3 but Vettel plummets

After laying down a record time for pole at the British Grand Prix, Mercedes’ ace Lewis Hamilton sailed away at the start of Sunday’s race and never looked back. Badly needing a victory after a run of bad luck & mediocre performance, Silverstone was just the tonic he needed as Hamilton dominated his home Grand Prix yet again, winning for the fourth consecutive time and fifth overall. That tied the talented Englishman with F1 legends Jim Clark and Alain Prost for most British victories all time. After disappointing his countrymen with his inexplicable no-show for Thursday’s F1 London Live fan fest all was forgiven as Hamilton won easily in front of the packed Silverstone grandstands. The expected early race dice with two pursuing Ferrari never materialized. Hamilton’s start was simply so quick and his mastery of this circuit so complete that he never had to worry about falling into the clutches of the Prancing Horses, which wound up having to fend off other competitors of their own instead.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

With the Scuderia’s pilots Kimi Raikkonen starting from P2 and Sebastian Vettel P3 on the grid, Raikkonen got a decent enough getaway to maintain his position but Vettel quickly found himself in a battle with the very game and fired up Red Bull of Max Verstappen. In fact, Verstappen out-hustled Vettel for that P3 position in the opening laps, giving as good as he got in pushing the 4-time world champion wide to maintain his advantage. Vettel finally recovered on pit strategy when his team executed flawlessly to allow him to undercut the Red Bull man, who had a slower service due to a slightly unkempt tire change. So by the time the pit stops were made by the elite group in this nominal one-stop race it all seemed to be setting up to finish just as they had started: Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel. But Hamilton’s wingman Valtteri Bottas had other ideas.

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Starting from back in P9 after a subpar qualifying effort and a 5-spot grid penalty for a gearbox change, Bottas, the winner of the Austrian GP two weeks ago, used an alternate strategy by beginning the race on the harder Soft compound Pirellis, which enabled him to run long into the race with a minimal loss of performance relative to the other Supersoft runners. By the time the Finn came in on Lap 33 he had regained a massive amount of track position. That put him in the hunt for a podium right behind Vettel in P4. He pressed his tire advantage cooly but relentlessly, forcing Vettel to defend fiercely. Vettel had a smoking lock up trying to keep Bottas behind on Lap 42 and on Lap 43 Bottas out-dragged him on the Hanger Straight and made it stick into Stowe. Now Bottas turned his attention to Raikkonen down the road clearly thinking of making it a Mercedes 1-2, however unlikely that might have seemed before the race.

F1GPBritain-Vettel_2017

And with Bottas taking chunks of time off of his fellow Finn, trouble hit the Ferraris with the laps winding down. First Raikkonen’s front left started to delaminate, forcing him to pit on Lap 50 of the 51 lap contest and seemingly destroying his chance at a podium. But then the same misfortune befell his teammate Vettel on the final lap of the race only in more explosive fashion with a major disintegration of his left front. So despite his own misfortune, Raikkonen benefitted from his teammate’s even more ill-timed one, passing him back for that P3 while Vettel’s late emergency stop caused him to plummet down the order. The main beneficiary was Bottas, who had driven a brilliant race to be in position to exploit Ferrari’s double misfortune and therefore inherited a stunning P2. Raikkonen held on for the last podium position at P3 and despite his disappointment was nowhere near as distraught as his teammate Vettel, who plunged all the way down to P7 with his ill-timed tire woes. That finish combined with Hamilton’s overall victory saw Vettel’s lead in the drivers’ Championship dwindle to a single point, 177-176. And with Mercedes unlocking more and more performance out of their F1 W08 chassis to the tune of the last 6 poles in-a-row the storied Scuderia has got to be feeling trepidatious about their chances as the season heads into its second half.

Elsewhere in the race, Red Bull were among the other key beneficiaries of Vettel’s problems. Verstappen, who must have been thrilled to finally see the checkered flag after a string of DNFs this season, came home a solid P4. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo chipped in with an amazing run of his own, fighting back from P19 on the grid after a turbo failure in qualifying to methodically pick off inferior cars and work himself up the order. He eventually came home a remarkable P5 and if he had a bit of luck finishing that high who could begrudge the hard-charging Aussie after such a compelling drive? Also thrilled with his result was Nico Hulkenberg, who qualified P7 in his normally pokey Renault and finished way up in P6. The factory Renault team’s upgrades, most notably a new floor that enables the rest of the aero to work more efficiently, appears to be really paying off even if reliability is still a big bugaboo for the bright yellow cars — Hulkenberg had to nurse his ride home with late-race ERS issues and hard luck teammate Jolyon Palmer was out on the formation lap with hydraulic issues.

Force India had yet another good points haul even if they were never in the mix for glory. Their two cars finished behind Vettel and off the lead lap, with Esteban Ocon pipping his teammate Sergio Perez, P8 to P9. Felipe Massa got the last point paying position with P10, salvaging something out of a tough weekend for the illustrious English Williams F1 team at their home GP.

Top 10 finishers for the British GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 51 1:21:27.430 25
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 51 +14.063s 18
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 51 +36.570s 15
4 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 51 +52.125s 12
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 51 +65.955s 10
6 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 51 +68.109s 8
7 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 51 +93.989s 6
8 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 50 +1 lap 4
9 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 50 +1 lap 2
10 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 50 +1 lap 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next race is in two weeks time from the Hungaroring in Budapest. Can Hamilton keep a good thing going to overhaul Vettel in the Championship at the last race before the summer break? Hope to see you then to find out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Britain — Qualifying results

Hamilton runs to record pole in home Grand Prix; Raikkonen takes P2 besting Vettel in P3

Lewis Hamilton got back in the good graces of his home fans after being the only driver to skip the London F1 Live fan fest earlier this week by setting a blistering record pole time at Silverstone in the UK on Saturday. The Mercedes ace bested his nearest pursuer, Ferrrai’s Kimi Raikkonen by half a second, setting the fastest ever F1 lap at Silverstone and capturing his 5th pole at this venerable airfield circuit, which ties the great Jim Clark for most British GP poles all-time. After his fourth place finish last weekend in Austria, where his ambitions for a win were hampered by grid penalties and poor qualifying, this P1 start in front of his countrymen has to be just the tonic Hamilton needs to improve his chances in the championship fight. He must also have breathed a huge sigh of relief for not getting sanctioned for potentially blocking Haas’ Romain Grosjean in Q3. So it’s all looking good for Lewis to get back to his winning ways come Sunday. And then it will really be all-is-forgiven with the disappointed English fans.

Raikkonen bested his usually superior teammate Sebastian Vettel for only the third time in qualifying this season and will start from P2 on the grid to Vettel’s P3. Vettel was irate at his lack of pace compared to the Mercedes but Ferrari the team will have a decided advantage over the Silver Arrows come race day. This is because despite qualifying P4 Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas will face a 5-spot grid penalty of his own for a gearbox change. So the same bugaboo that bit Hamilton in Austria, a race Bottas went on to win from pole after a miracle start, has hit the other Mercedes car. That means Bottas will have to start P9 and will be hard pressed to make it to the front and be a useful ally to Hamilton against the attacks of two well-placed Prancing Horses.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen had the fifth fastest time but is promoted to P4 after Bottas’ penalty. The hard luck that has often befallen the young Dutchman this season struck his teammate Daniel Ricciardo instead. Ricciardo suffered a turbo failure in Q1 and will have to start from the last row alongside Fernando Alonso, who was levied a ridiculous amount of grid positions this week for changes made to his McLaren. Nico Hulkenberg was very impressive in dragging his pokey factory Renault up to qualify P6 and will start from P5. The two Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon qualified P7 and P8 respectively and will start P6 & P7. McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne was the last to leapfrog the penalized Bottas and will better his P9 time by one to start P8. The unhappy Grosjean, feeling hard done by both Hamilton’s blocking and the stewards’ lack of punishment, will start from P10.

Top 10 qualifiers for the British GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:39.069 1:27.893 1:26.600 25
2 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:40.455 1:28.992 1:27.147 26
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:39.962 1:28.978 1:27.356 24
4 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:39.698 1:28.732 1:27.376 26
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:38.912 1:29.431 1:28.130 23
6 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:39.201 1:29.340 1:28.856 21
7 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:42.009 1:29.824 1:28.902 26
8 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:39.738 1:29.701 1:29.074 25
9 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN HONDA 1:40.011 1:30.105 1:29.418 24
10 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:42.042 1:29.966 1:29.549 26

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live on CNBC at 8AM Eastern here in the States. Can Lewis Hamilton regain momentum in the title chase and defend his home turf against the points-leading Vettel?  Can Mercedes find a way to move Bottas up the order to fend off Ferrari’s Constructors ambitions? And, of course, can the notoriously fickle Midlands weather throw some surprises into play? Hope to see you then find out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Austria — Results & aftermath

Bottas’ stunning start from pole seals victory at Red Bull Ring, hard charging Vettel P2; Ricciardo fends off Hamilton to keep podium streak alive

Mercedes number two driver Valtteri Bottas got a magical start from pole when the lights went out on Sunday at the Red Bull Ring pulling out a race dominating lead that he would never relinquish even in the face of fierce pressure from the hard-charging Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. Despite doubts over wherher the Finn had jumped the start all replays seemed to show that that the first-year factory Mercedes driver simply timed his getaway perfectly. The race stewards also agreed that whatever movement Bottas exhibited pre-start was within allowable limits. Vettel’s emphatic disagreement to the contrary Bottas went on unsanctioned and pulled out an unsurmountable lead running out front to his second career F1 victory and second of the season, holding off the German Ferrari ace’s best efforts in the dying laps of the race. With all the contenders suffering from severe tire deg on long runs during a strict one-stop strategy Bottas did very well to fend off the determined four-time World Champion hunting him down.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Once again Red Bull had a tale of two drivers. Their veteran Aussie Daniel Ricciardo scooted up the order from P5 after first lap chaos and showed his competitive fire by holding off all comers for his 5th consecutive podium with a very strong P3. Those he kept behind included Mercedes championship contender Lewis Hamilton, who was relegated to starting 8th on the grid after a 5-spot grid penalty for a gearbox change. Hamilton battled all race long, pushing his tires to their absolute limit to pull himself up to a respectable P4. But it was mainly about damage control this weekend for the Mercedes ace, who saw not only Vettel gain ground on him in the title chase but also his stoic teammate Bottas move closer, as well. Hamilton now trails Vettel by 20 points and Bottas closed to within 15 points. It should be interesting to see how a more competitive situation effects the two Mercedes drivers’ now cordial relationship. Still, Bottas did keep Vettel from the win and Hamilton made the best of a bad situation so all was not a total disaster for the English triple champion.

F1AustriaGP_2017-2

The same could not be said for Ricciardo’s Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen. After his blazing ascent to the big team last season everything has gone pear shaped for the Dutch wunderkind in 2017. Sunday continued that woeful trend. Verstappen suffered clutch problems on the formation lap and then bogged down at the start when his car kicked into anti-stall mode. That sent him hurtling down through the field where he was tagged in a shunt caused by Toro Roso’s Daniil Kvyat running into the back of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren. Just like that, Verstappen’s car suffered terminal damage before he even got to Turn 1 leaving a host of his orange-clad fans hugely disappointed. That also made it five DNFs out of eight races, a disastrous campaign for young Verstappen. Despite claims to the contrary one wonders if his days with Red Bull are numbered. And yet Ricciardo’s superlative run seems to point some of the blame for this season of failure back at Verstappen. Perhaps he is simply too hard on his equipment. Would changing teams really change that?

Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen had a somewhat desultory effort is Spielberg. Despite qualifying fourth he ceded that position on the opening lap to Ricciardo and then after running a long first stint on Ultrasoft tires he was undercut by Hamilton on his Lap 44 pit stop for P4. The Finn was never really a factor for the podium again, struggling with undisclosed technical issues that cost him torque coming out of low speed corners. Raikkonen finished a distant P5 in the end, hardly changing the mind of Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne who called Raikkonen a “bit of a laggard” before the race. Kimi’s status with Ferrari is the big domino waiting to fall — if he stays with the Scuderia most drivers will have to stay where they are. But if he is not rehired for 2018 we could see a lot of movement in the silly season.

Romain Grosjean had a great day for American team Haas F1 driving smoothly and confidently to keep the Force India of Sergio Perez behind him and finish P6. Perez and his teammate Esteban Ocon finished P7 and P8 respectively, another terrific points haul for little Force India, who must have been relieved that the two teammates were back on their best behavior and brought both cars home safely. And Williams had a very good recovery from a disastrous qualifying effort that saw Felipe Massa start from eighteenth on the grid and Lance Stroll nineteenth. The Williams duo showed much better race pace and were able to fight their way into the points thanks in part to attrition but also generally solid piloting by the drivers. In the end the veteran Massa took P9 and the rookie Stroll came home P10, about as good a result as the team could have hoped for this weekend.

Things were not so sunny for McLaren and Toro Rosso. After Kvyat failed to break in time on Lap 1 and clouted Fernando Alosno from behind both cars were terminally damaged in addition to Verstappen’s Red Bull. Alonso’s McLaren stablemate Stoffel Vandoorne could do no better than P12, while Kvyat’s Toro Rosso teammate Carlos Sainz also had to retire his car on Lap 45. The race’s only other retirement came from Haas’ Kevin Magnussen whose unlucky weekend culminated when his hydraulics failed on Lap 29.

Top 10 finishers at the Austrian GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 71 1:21:48.523 25
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 71 +0.658s 18
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 71 +6.012s 15
4 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 71 +7.430s 12
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 71 +20.370s 10
6 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 71 +73.160s 8
7 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 70 +1 lap 6
8 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 70 +1 lap 4
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 70 +1 lap 2
10 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 70 +1 lap 1

Complete race results amiable via Formula1.com.

The next contest is but a weeks away — the British GP from venerable Silverstone. Can Hamilton get his championship quest untracked or will Vettel retain the upper hand? And what about Bottas — is he a serious contender in his own right? Hope to see you then to find out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Austria — Qualifying results

Bottas claims pole in Austria ahead of Vettel; Raikonnen to start P3 due to Hamilton penalty

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas claimed pole at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria on Saturday, outpacing Ferrai’s Sebastian Vettel by .04 seconds in a truncated Q3. When Romain Grosjean’s Haas came to a halt in Sector 2 and brought out the yellow flag with time running out in that third qualifying session no other drivers had the opportunity to better Bottas’ fast time. That included his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, who slotted in third fastest but was levied a 5-spot grid penalty for a pre-quali gearbox change and will therefore be pushed back to P8 on the grid. That is a blow to Hamilton’s aspirations of overhauling Vettel in the Dirvers’ standings, something he desperately wants to do after Vettel’s out-of-control antics two weeks ago in Azerbaijan. But the Englishman will be the only driver in the top 10 starting on the harder Supersoft Pirelli tires come race day so he and the team should have some strategic cards to play to help push his Silver Arrow back up to the sharp end of the field.

Vettel’s Ferrari stablemate Kimi Raikkonen was fourth quickest and moves up to P3 on the grid after Hamilton’s penalty. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo also gained a spot and will now start P4, as did his teammate Max Verstappen who will now start from P5. Grosjean was boosted to P6 on the grid despite his car conking out late in Q3.But with Grosjean’s teammate Kevin Magnussen suffering a suspension failure during Q1 Team Haas may have some reliability concerns that could come back to bite them in the race at this rigorous, high-curbed circuit.

Rounding out the Top 10, Sergio Perez was Hamilton’s last beneficiary and is bumped up to P7 while his increasingly estranged teammate Esteban Ocon starts P9. Carlos Sainz will start from 10th on the grid for Toro Rosso. Neither McLaren, Williams or Renault could get a car into Q3 so look for a mad scramble from the midfield as those drivers desperately try to make up ground and get into the points paying positions.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Austrian GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:05.760 1:04.316 1:04.251 18
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:05.585 1:04.772 1:04.293 17
3 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:05.064 1:04.800 1:04.424 17
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:05.148 1:05.004 1:04.779 17
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:05.854 1:05.161 1:04.896 22
6 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:05.779 1:04.948 1:04.983 16
7 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:05.902 1:05.319 1:05.480 30
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:05.975 1:05.435 1:05.605 21
9 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:06.033 1:05.550 1:05.674 22
10 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO 1:05.675 1:05.544 1:05.726 23

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race pre-coverage begins at 7:30 AM Eastern and will air live on CNBC here in the States. Watching Hamilton try and force his way to the front to do battle with Vettel, his fierce Ferrari rival, should be worth the price of admission. Hope to see you then!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan — Results & aftermath

Red Bull’s Ricciardo capitalizes on chaos for Baku victory as Hamilton and Vettel clash; Mercedes’ Bottas fights back for gritty P2, Williams’ rookie Stroll scores maiden podium

Sunday’s Azrbaijan Grand Prix on the tight and windy Baku City Circuit was everything last year’s first-ever running was not: exciting, chaotic and unpredictable. In a race disrupted by several long and eventful Safety Car periods and one Red Flag timeout for debris on track, as well as a host of retirements and disabled vehicles, the preferred script of pole-sitter and Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton vs the pursuing Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel did not play out according to plan. Not even close. Instead, what had been a largely respectful rivalry turned sour when, during the second Safety Car period, Vettel ran into the back of Hamilton as the Englishman slowed his Silver Arrow coming out of Turn 16. The surprised German then pulled beside him to make his displeasure known. In a stunning turn of events the Ferrari bashed into the side of the Mercedes. Whether the 4-time World Champion made the move deliberately or merely lost control while yelling at Hamilton we may never know. But in the end intent was not important, as Vettel’s reckless move both lost him respect from Hamilton and also earned the German a 10-second stop & hold penalty.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

The penalty was late in coming, however, and was only issued after a lengthy Red Flag period necessitated by a crash between Force India teammates Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez and the unacceptable accumulation of debris on the track. And there were many who felt that Vettel got off lightly, Hamilton chief amongst them. Nevertheless, he must have been thinking that victory was all but certain when the race restarted and his Merc ran free and clear in first position. But Hamilton soon faced a crushing disappointment of his own when it became apparent that his headrest was not properly re-installed during the Red Flag period and kept popping up, a somewhat inexcusable lapse by the team. Despite his best efforts to secure it while driving 200mph down the straights Hamilton was forced to pit for repairs for that unforced error on Lap 31, an ill-timed extra stop. Hamilton emerged P8 and when Vettel finally took his penalty on Lap 33 his Ferrari still managed to come out ahead of the circulating Mercedes. So despite being the aggrieved party, Hamilton got no revenge on Vettel in this race and was never able to pass him. Vettel finished P4 despite his transgression with Hamilton P5 and the Englishman now trails his newly bitter rival by 14 points. More than that, the seemingly friendly competition is over between the two — it will now be war between Vettel and Hamilton in the fight for the title.

AzerbaijanF1GP-podium_2017

There were many beneficiaries of the contretemps between the two championship aspirants but the biggest and happiest was Daniel Ricciardo. Despite pitting early to clean the break ducts on his Red Bull, Ricciardo was able to work himself back up to a competitive position via the Safety Car periods and attrition in the field, including his unlucky teammate Max Verstappen, who dropped out with engine failure on Lap 13. When the third and final Safety Car period ended on Lap 24 the affable Aussie was all the way back up to P5 and was ready to pounce. And pounce he did, picking off two Williams with one late-breaking power move. That left only Hamilton and Vettel ahead and when they each suffered their respective race-altering issues, Ricciardo inherited the race lead. He never looked back and no one else ever got a sniff as he piloted his Red Bull to his fifth GP win and first since Malaysia in Round 16 of last season. It was also the fourth podium in a row for the surging Ricciardo, much to the chagrin of his podium mates who are more often than not are forced to drink champagne out of his hot, race-worn shoe in a bizarre but endearing ritual.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, also benefitted from the chaos, clawing his way back from a first lap coming together with fellow Finn and Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen that cut down his left front tire and forced him to limp around to the pits and rejoin a lap down after a tire service and a front wing change (Raikonnen would eventually be forced to retire on Lap 47 due to the accrued damage after his team tried valiantly to keep his car in the race). Again, though, the host of Safety Cars worked to Bottas’ advantage, as did the misfortune of his teammate and rivals, and Bottas was not only able to unlap himself but drove steadily up through the field with good pace. As the laps ran down, he had worked his way all the way back up to P3 and was hunting the last surviving Williams of Lance Stroll. Bottas never stopped pushing and slipstreamed Stroll, surging past him right at the line for a hard fought P2. It was an excellent drive for the Finn and a definite bright spot on a rather mixed day for Mercedes.

While Stroll would have loved to have taken P2 he was nonetheless thrilled with his first career F1 podium, which was also Team Williams’ first of the season. The 18-year-old Canadian rookie became the second youngest driver to podium behind Max Verstappen. After scoring his first points in his home Grand Prix two weeks ago Stroll seemed to find his footing and put the rough start to his year behind him. Certainly the field was scrambled in Azerbaijan but Stroll was genuinely fast all weekend on this demanding circuit, out-qualifiying his veteran teammate Felipe Massa P8 to P9. And when the opportunities presented themselves in the race he didn’t miss them, driving flawlessly and avoiding contact with walls and other cars. He kept it throughly tight and clean and in the end the young Canadian was rewarded with a P3, a very significant achievement at the beginning of his F1 career.

The lone surviving Force India of Esteban Ocon took P6 despite damage incurred while dicing with his teammate Sergio Perez coming out of the second Safety Car period (their accident caused that eventful Red Flag). It was the second race in row where the two drivers were at loggerheads after Perez balked Ocon’s progress in Montreal, denying the young Frenchman a potential podium. That ill will is sure to continue, as the collision eventually led to Perez’s retirement and pushed Ocon down the order. Force India were left to wonder what might have been when they could have been the biggest beneficiaries of all the chaos and looked at one point like putting both cars on the podium. The team has got to get control of their two talented and strong-willed drivers lest they continue to let massively valuable points slip through their fingers due to lack of team discipline.

Rounding out the Top 10, Kevin Magnussen drove an excellent race and came home P7 in his Haas, Carlos Sainz recovered from an early spin to bring his Toro Roso home safely in P8 and Fernando Alonso scored McLaren’s first points of the season with a decent P9 despite his Honda engine still being down on pure power. And both McLarens finally ran a full race distance! Pascal Wehrlein took P10 for struggling Sauber, only the team’s second points-scoring finish in 8 rounds this year.

Top 10 finishers of the Azerbaijan GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 51 2:03:55.573 25
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 51 +3.904s 18
3 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 51 +4.009s 15
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 51 +5.976s 12
5 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 51 +6.188s 10
6 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 51 +30.298s 8
7 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 51 +41.753s 6
8 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO 51 +49.400s 4
9 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 51 +59.551s 2
10 94 Pascal Wehrlein SAUBER FERRARI 51 +89.093s 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next race is in two weeks time from the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria. With tempers getting as hot as the summer weather and respect between Vettel and Hamilton, not mention Bottas and Raikonnen, evaporating like the early morning dew it should be a hammer and tongs showdown between Ferrari and Mercedes. Hope to see you then!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan — Qualifying results

Hamilton bests Bottas for pole at Baku in inter-team Mercedes battle; Raikkonen & Vettel 3-4 for Ferrari

Mercedes Lewis Hamilton pipped his teammate Valtteri Bottas for pole in dramatic fashion at the Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan this Saturday. Coming out of a Red Flag period caused by Daniel Ricciardo’s shunt, the drivers were left with only 3:33 to set a faster time than Bottas’ seemingly untouchable provisional pole run around the tight and treacherous turns of Baku. But despite this year’s tire compounds’ problematic and prolonged warm-up period, the cars lighter weight from fuel burn off at the end of the session saw no decrease in performance in that last minute scramble. And in fact Hamilton was able to set a blazer of a lap for his 66th career pole — breaking a tie for second all-time with his idol Ayrton Senna — even as his impressive first year teammate Bottas improved his speed on his way to a solid P2 start and a Mercedes front row lockout. Both Ferrarari’s were also able to jump up the pylon, albeit more than half a second behind the Silver Arrows, with Kimi Raikkonen besting his usually quicker teammate Sebastian Vettel, P3 to P4. In fairness, Vettel was forced to switch to an older power unit prior to quali so he might be a bit down on horsepower to the Finn. Watch for the Vettel and the Scuderia to have some tricks up their sleeves come race day.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was overtaken by both Prancing Horses at the end of the day but after a host of technical issues in the practice sessions he should probably feel well pleased with starting P5. Whether his increasingly fragile Renault power plant and RB13 chassis can make it to the end of Sunday’s race, however, remains to be seen. After his terminal slide into the wall late in Q3 the other Red Bull of Riccardo saw his fastest time, once good enough for P7, eclipsed by all the other runners in the final session and the Aussie will start back in P10. Force India look set to continue their increasingly tense drivers’ dual after their memorable spat in Montreal a fortnight ago, with Sergio Perez desperate to keep the rapidly improving your Estaban Ocon behind him in the team pecking order. Perez was faster than Ocon by a mere .07 and they will line up P6 and P7 respectively. And Williams Lance Stroll seemed to take his first-ever points scoring F1 race at his home Grand Prix in Canada and covert it into much needed confidence at this tricky track, looking quick all weekend and out-qualifying his veteran teammate Felipe Massa for the first time this year, P8 to P9.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Azerbaijan GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:41.983 1:41.275 1:40.593 20
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:43.026 1:41.502 1:41.027 23
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:42.678 1:42.090 1:41.693 23
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:42.952 1:41.911 1:41.841 23
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:42.544 1:41.961 1:41.879 22
6 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:43.162 1:42.467 1:42.111 21
7 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:43.051 1:42.751 1:42.186 21
8 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:43.613 1:42.284 1:42.753 21
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:43.165 1:42.735 1:42.798 22
10 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:42.857 1:42.215 1:43.414 20

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live on NBC Sports starting at 9AM Eastern here in the States. Still a green circuit in only its second running, Baku has all the technical aspects that make for a really good F1 circuit. And with the walls just waiting to catch out the unsuspecting virtually anything could happen to any of the drivers in the race. Hope to see you then to see how it all shakes out!