Tag Archives: Fernando Alonso

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi — Results & aftermath

Bottas wins last race of season going away, Hamitlon P2; Vettel a distant P3

Mercedes #2 Valtteri Bottas finished out the season in style by winning the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi from the pole. His recently crowned 4-time World Champion teammate Lewis Hamilton came home a comfortable second and never seemed to push his Finnish wingman too hard for the victory, having secured the ultimate individual prize in Mexico some weeks back. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished a distant P3, a fitting end to a fleetingly promising season for the fabled Scuderia from Maranello. Their once robust challenge to Mercedes supremacy all began to fall apart in the second half when a first lap shunt between teammates in Singapore started a death spiral of unreliability that ended any realistic chance of a genuine title run. Vettel’s stablemate Kimi Raikkonen finished P4 after a lackluster campaign, once again begging the question of just why Ferrari have re-signed the aging Iceman for next season when there is so much hot young talent out there.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen came home a decent P5, flying the flag for the team after Daniel Ricciardo suffered hydraulic failure on Lap 21. It was an unfortunate bookend to the affable Aussie’s season — he also DNF’d in the first race of the year way back in March at his home Grand Prix in Melbourne — and it seeded fourth in the Drivers’ points to Raikkonen. With better reliability Red Bull really would have challenged Ferrari for second overall and they’ll be hoping for just that next season, Further back in the pack Nico Hulkenberg overcame a 5-second time penalty for cutting a corner while passing his old Force India sparring partner Sergio Perez early in the race to take P6 for Renault. The result was doubly excellent for the veteran German in his first year with the squad, as it netted enough points to lift the factory Renault team into 6th in the Constructors’ standings ahead of struggling Toro Rosso. It was a very lucrative last race promotion that also bodes well for the French automotive giant’s chances next year.

Perez, whose incessant complaining about Hulkenberg’s unfair pass guaranteed the penalty from the stewards, could nevertheless not capitalize and finished P7. His Force India teammate Esteban Ocon was right behind in P8, wrapping up another excellent points haul for the little team from Silverstone and proving with that season-long consistency that their fourth place in the Constructors’ was no fluke. Two veterans rounded out the Top 10. Fernando Alonso took P9 for McLaren and will be looking forward to next year not only for a new Renault power unit but also for his double duty in sports cars at The Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona and in the WEC Championship for Toyota. And Felipe Massa finished up his 269th and final F1 race in the points in P10, capping a sterling 15-year career with crowd pleasing burnouts alongside the top two Mercedes as a massive fireworks display exploded around the dazzling Yas Marina circuit. It was a memorable and fittingly celebratory end to the little Brazilian’s outstanding Formula 1 career.

Top 10 finishers of the Abu Dhabi GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 55 1:34:14.062 25
2 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 55 +3.899s 18
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 55 +19.330s 15
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 55 +45.386s 12
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 55 +46.269s 10
6 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 55 +85.713s 8
7 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 55 +92.062s 6
8 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 55 +98.911s 4
9 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 54 +1 lap 2
10 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 54 +1 lap 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

Final 2017 Drivers Standings are here.

Final 2017 Constructors Standings are here.

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Brazil — Results & aftermath

Vettel victorious in Brazil, Bottas P2; Raikkonen finishes third while Hamilton roars back from the rear for P4

Sebastian Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari got a measure of redemption in Brazil on Sunday after coming up short in their quest for the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships. In the penultimate race of the season Vettel made a blinding start from P2, slipping past Mercedes pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas on the inside of Turn 1 and quickly pulling out a gap. Even after a multi-car melee behind the leaders led to a first-lap Safety Car Vettel was able to re-establish his advantage after the restart and control the race from the front, showing that for this weekend at least his Prancing Horse had the legs on the Silver Arrows. It all lead to a seemingly easy victory for the German 4-time World Champion, although Vettel claimed he had to be picture perfect in the middle sector all race long to hold Bottas off. It was also a much needed morale boost for the legendary team from Maranello after their second half swoon, which was fueled equally by unforced errors by drivers and engineering and ultimately resulted in their disappointing runner-up status. The victory at Interlagos also helped solidify Vettel’s number two position in the Drivers’ competition with his lead over Bottas ballooning to a very nearly insurmountable 22 points.

Despite a terrific qualifying effort that snatched pole from Ferrari on Saturday, Bottas’ Mercedes could not match Vettel’s race pace. The Finn made one or two vague challenges but essentially lost it at the start and had to settle for a relatively disappointing if comfortable P2. Likewise Vettel’s stablemate Kimi Raikkonen could never quite catch up to Bottas but drove a solid race to finish P3. Meanwhile Bottas’ teammate, newly-crowned 2017 champion Lewis Hamilton, had an amazing race to finish just off the podium in P4. Starting from pit lane after he shockingly binned his Merc early in the first round of qualifying, the team was able to break parc firmé and make several changes to the Englishman’s F1 W08. As well as aero tweaks Mercedes also installed a new power unit, which probably would have required grid penalties in the next race, the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Instead, despite his profound positional disadvantage, Hamilton tore through the field like a man possessed, slicing through back markers like a hot knife through butter. On an uncharacteristically sunny day in Sao Paolo with no aide from rain-induced strategy calls, Hamilton simply mustered the will to make it happen all on his own. In the end it showed once again why Lewis Hamilton is one of the all-time great F1 talents and truly deserving of his four world titles. Though Hamilton’s Super Soft Pirelli tires gave up at the end after a monster stint and he could not quite overtake Raikkonen for a podium his astounding fourth place must have felt nearly like a victory.

Behind the top four, Red Bull’s Max Vertsappen faded somewhat after a strong start where it looked like the young Dutch phenom might make the post-race champagne celebration. But the limits of his Renault power plant seemed to show themselves over the long run as the greater horsepower of the Ferraris and Mercedes pushed them out of his grasp. Verstappen had to settle for a distant P5, while his teammate Daniel Ricciardo did well to fight back after a first-lap spin to claim P6. Williams’ Felipe Massa earned an emotional P7 in his final home Grand Prix to the delight of the masses of his countrymen in the stands. The veteran Brazilian exited Sao Paolo with a clean and classy drive after tearfully crashing out during his rain-soaked false alarm last year.

Fernando Alonso continued McLaren’s upward ascent with a strong P8. Although next year will be extremely intriguing and demanding for the Spaniard with his plans to run not only the 24-Hours of Daytona in January but also at least a partial campaign for Toyota in the Prototype class of the World Endurance Championship, the two-time F1 champion has got to be looking forward to the switch to Renault engines to power what is seemingly a very competitive chassis. Unfortunately for McLaren, however, their second driver Stoffel Vanfoorne crashed out on the opening lap after getting tagged by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, who also had to retire. Sergio Perez brought his Force India home to a P9 finish after his teammate Esteban Ocon had his race-finishing streak snapped via a collision with Romain Grojean of Haas, also on the opening lap. Grosjean got a 10-second penalty for the accident but was able to complete the race, albeit out of the points in P15. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg landed the last points-paying position in P10 just getting the better of his teammate Carlos Sainz, who finished P11.

Top 10 finishers of the Brazilian GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 71 1:31:26.262 25
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 71 +2.762s 18
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 71 +4.600s 15
4 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 71 +5.468s 12
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 71 +32.940s 10
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 71 +48.691s 8
7 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 71 +68.882s 6
8 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 71 +69.363s 4
9 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 71 +69.500s 2
10 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 70 +1 lap 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next & final race is in two weeks time, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the gorgeous day-into-night Yas Marina Circuit. Hope to see you then to find out how the season ends!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Brazil — Qualifying results

Bottas snatches pole from Vettel while Hamilton crashes out in Q1 during unpredictable quali at Interlagos; Raikkonen P3

In a stunning qualifying session for the penultimate race of the 2017 campaign in Brazil on Saturday newly crowned World Champion Lewis Hamilton crashed out on his opening lap in Q1. The Mercedes ace lost it speeding into Turn 7 at Interlagos, bashing his Silver Arrow heavily into the barriers sideways. While the Englishman was unhurt his pride probably wasn’t by the unforced error just two weeks after he claimed his fourth F1 title in Mexico City. It only proved that it can happen to the best of drivers but it opened up the chase for pole to his only true rivals this season, his teammate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. And while Vettel looked like the favorite after laying down a track record lap relatively early in Q3, Bottas showed his mettle by besting that seemingly supreme time even though a light drizzle was falling and the checkered flag was waving. The Finn lifted Mercedes’ pride across the line with him at the death with a remarkable 1:08.322, good enough to take the pole and break Ferrari’s hearts. Vettel will start beside Bottas in P2 and his teammate Kimi Raikkonen will be right behind the Mercedes in P3. Hamilton, on the other hand, will have to start towards the back of the grid and will have to battle his way to the front, although other drivers facing grid spot penalties may move him up a spot or two by the time Sunday rolls around. Right now, however, the current F1 champ is starting from a lonely and lowly P20 after his very uncharacteristic cock up. (In fact it has just been announced that Hamilton will start from pit lane tomorrow, as Mercedes have decided to make changes to the car after the crash.)

The two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo qualified P4 and P5 respectively but that success was somewhat illusory for the team. Ricciardo is one of the drivers facing engine-change penalties, 10 spots in his case, and so the affable Aussie was pushed back to P15 on the grid. And though Verstappen was spared any such FIA demerits the young Dutchman, winner of the last Grand Prix in Mexico two weeks ago, was forced to retrofit old components onto his ailing Renault engine. Verstappen could be heard complaining about shifting issues during qualifying and can only hope that his bad luck, so frequent in the earlier part of the season, doesn’t return in the form of yet more mechanical failures costing him a race finish. Sergio Perez was the lone Force India to make it into Q3 and had the 6th fastest time, while McLaren’s Fernando Alonso continued the team’s late season upward trajectory by qualifying an impressive P7 at this very fast circuit. The yellow factory Renaults of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz were back-to-back with the 8th and 9th fastest times respectively. And Felipe Massa set the 10th quickest lap in what should really be his final Brazilian GP after last year’s tearful false alarm. It looks like the fine Brazilian veteran, who has the 6th most starts in Formula 1 history, will actually hang it up for good after being drafted back into Williams when Bottas made the unexpected leap to Mercedes following Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement at the end of 2016. We can only wish Massa, a classy and plucky competitor with 15 F1 campaigns to his credit, the very best at his final home race as he heads for the exits at season’s end after a superb career.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Brazilian Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:09.452 1:08.638 1:08.322 22
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:09.643 1:08.494 1:08.360 21
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:09.405 1:09.116 1:08.538 18
4 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:09.820 1:09.050 1:08.925 18
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:09.828 1:09.533 1:09.330 19
6 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:10.145 1:09.760 1:09.598 21
7 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:10.172 1:09.593 1:09.617 17
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:10.078 1:09.726 1:09.703 21
9 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 1:10.227 1:09.768 1:09.805 17
10 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:09.789 1:09.612 1:09.841 16

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live on NBC Sports starting at 11:00 AM Eastern here in the States. With wet weather always the wild card at Interlagos it could once again be the factor that shakes up the field and produces an unexpected result. Hope to see you then to find out how it all shakes out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Mexico — Results & aftermath

Hamilton & Vettel collide on opening lap but Hamilton still earns 4th World Title with P9 finish; Verstappen class of the field to win Mexican GP going away

With Sebastian Vettel stubbornly clinging to a mathematical improbability to keep his championship hopes on life support and Lewis Hamilton vowing to win the Mexican GP outright and seal his fourth career Drivers’ title something had to give on Sunday. Sure enough, both supremely talented drivers refused to compromise their hard-charging styles when the lights went out at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. Starting from pole, Ferrari’s lead man faced an instant challenge from Red Bull’s upstart wunderkind Max Verstappen, who Vettel had just pipped in qualifying, as they streaked down the long front straight heading into Turn 1. Not content to play it conservatively and bide his time for the simple fifth-place or higher finish that would guarantee his championship no matter where Vettel finished, Hamilton shoved the nose of his Mercedes right in amongst the front two runners. The somewhat predictable result was 3-into-2 won’t go — when Verstappen made a power move to ward off Vettel’s Prancing Horse, damaging the German’s front wing as a result, Hamilton thought he saw an overtaking opportunity. But instead Vettel bounced back to the outside and sliced down Hamilton’s rear right tire with the now razor sharp remains of his wing endplate. In an instant the top two contenders had compromised their race and had to make first-lap pit stops. Hamilton’s fate was more severe, perhaps a just reward for tempting the racing gods with his ambitious hubris, as the Englishman had to limp his Merc around the length of the circuit at low speed with his deflated tire. After emergency service for both combatants Vettel rejoined in P18 and Hamilton dead last in P20.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

It also seemed the injuries to Hamilton’s car were more severe than Vettel’s simple wing change, perhaps due to damage to the Mercedes’ floor, as the former had a lot more trouble picking off back markers and making his way through the field than the Ferrari. While the situation must have seemed desperate to Lewis, who even asked at one point whether Vettel had hit him deliberately (which could be forgiven after Baku), it soon became clear that the biggest possible threat to Hamilton’s desire to wrap up the Championship in Mexico was the reliability of Verstppen’s power unit at the front of the field. Red Bull had to be quite nervous as they saw first Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo’s brand new Renault engine (which necessitated a penalty that saw the Aussie start from the back of the grid) suffer turbo failure on just Lap 5. Then other Renault-powered runners Nico Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso’s new man Brendon Hartley also suffer terminal issues (Hulkenberg’s Renault teammate also retired but this was due to steering issues). If Verstappen’s engine also failed late in the race, Hamilton’s Mercedes wingman Valtteri Bottas would inherit the lead but more significantly Vettel’s Ferrari stablemate Kimi Raikkonen would be elevated to P2. That would certainly lead to the Iceman being given team orders to let Vettel through and provide the German contender the desperately needed position to keep his championship hunt alive for the next race in Brazil.

It didn’t happen. Verstappen’s lead over Bottas was so commanding that he was able to minimize the stresses on his Renault power plant and make it to the checkered flag unchallenged and without drama. In the end, the superlative Dutchman won the race by nearly 20 seconds. Bottas held his second for the honor of Constructors’ Champion Mercedes and Raikkonen salvaged third on a day that seemed to encapsulate the squandered promise of 2017 for the fabled Scuderia from Maranello. Vettel roared back for a valiant P4 but it wasn’t enough to prevent seeing his title hopes extinguished. Hamilton finished P9 and joined Vettel in the ultra-exclusive 4-time World Champions club alongside the great Alain Prost. Only Michael Schumacher with 7 and Juan Manual Fangio with 5 have more championships than Hamilton now. If it wasn’t quite the way he pictured himself taking the title in the end that will be a pure footnote. Hamilton did what he set out to do at the beginning of the season following his disappointment over coming second best to his now retired teammate Nico Rosberg last year. He has now won his fourth crown and has clearly marked himself as one of the top drivers of this or any other generation. Simply put, Lewis Hamilton is a Hall of Fame Formula 1 driver.

The rest of the field was pleasantly shuffled due to so many retirements (5 DNFs in all): Force India had another fantastic day, their best of the season in fact, that saw their talented young Frenchman Esteban Ocon come home an impressive P5 and local hero Sergio Perez take P7 in front of his adoring countrymen in the grandstands. That secured fourth in the Constructors’ points for the little team from Silverstone, a massive — and massively lucrative — achievement for this low budget team. Lance Stroll was back in the points for Williams, driving a smart and well-composed race to finish P6. That it came on his 19th birthday must have been all the sweeter. Kevin Magnussen also excelled for Haas at a track where the team really struggled because of the high altitude. Magnussen was able to bring his chassis home in the points in P8. And Fernando Alonso grabbed the last points-paying position for McLaren in P10, although the Woking-based team had to be a bit concerned by all of Renault’s unreliability in this race, as they are jumping to that engine manufacturer next year while ditching the increasingly steady Honda.

Top 10 finishers of the Mexican GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 71 1:36:26.552 25
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 71 +19.678s 18
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 71 +54.007s 15
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 71 +70.078s 12
5 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 70 +1 lap 10
6 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 70 +1 lap 8
7 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 70 +1 lap 6
8 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 70 +1 lap 4
9 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 70 +1 lap 2
10 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 70 +1 lap 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next race is in but two weeks time — the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, the penultimate contest on the 2017 F1 calendar. The big prizes may have already been awarded but with only two races left before the long, cold winter break best to tide yourself over with some more great Formula1 memories to carry you through those long, dark nights ahead. Hope to see you then!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of the United States — Qualifying results

Hamilton fastest at COTA pipping Vettel for pole; Bottas P3

In just completed qualifying at the fantastic purpose-built F1 track Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, Mercedes’ ace Lewis Hamilton pipped Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel for pole by a mere 0.24 seconds. Hamilton had been looking the strongest by far in all three qualifying sessions setting track record after track record. But Vettel managed to show the Ferrari’s true pace in his final opportunity. The German 4-time world champ put it all together with time running out in Q3 to vault up to P2 on the grid and give himself a chance to take the fight to Hamilton and keep his own championship aspirations on life support. After Ferrari’s wretched three-race run of self-induced bad luck all Hamilton has to do is win the race and see Vettel finish 6th or lower and the Englishman will win his own fourth F1 title. Vettel showed on Saturday that he intends to make that as difficult as possible.

Vettel’s superb last-minute effort pushed Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas back to P3, while the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen qualified P4 and P6 respectively. Unfortunately for Verstappen, the young Dutchman will have to start from the back of the grid due to a host of penalties for equipment changes on his car. Vettel’s Ferrari stablemate Kimi Raikkonen seemed to regress a bit as qualifying entered its crucial phase, dropping from a front row contender down to no better than a P5 time. The Force Indias of Esteban Ococn and Sergio Perez qualified P7 and P10 respectively and Carlos Sainz willed his factory Renault all the way up to P8 in his maiden drive for the team after making the leap from Toro Rosso. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was the 9th fastest qualifier, making best use of some new aero upgrades added to his car for this weekend at COTA.

Top 10 qualifiers for then United States GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:34.822 1:33.437 1:33.108 18
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:35.420 1:34.103 1:33.347 18
3 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:35.309 1:33.769 1:33.568 17
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:35.991 1:34.495 1:33.577 14
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:35.649 1:33.840 1:33.577 17
6 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:34.899 1:34.716 1:33.658 13
7 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:35.849 1:35.113 1:34.647 17
8 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 1:35.517 1:34.899 1:34.852 17
9 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:35.712 1:35.046 1:35.007 15
10 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:36.358 1:34.789 1:35.148 19

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

In other F1 news, endurance racer and this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans overall winner Brendon Hartley came in to replace Sainz at Toro Rosso and put in a creditable effort in his first time back in a single seater in about 6 years. The New Zealander ran P18 in qualifying and will be partnered by a returning Daniil Kvyat for Sunday’s GP, though whether the out-of-favor Russian remains with the team for the next race in Mexico remains highly doubtful.

Tomorrow’s US GP airs live on NBC at 3PM Eastern here in the States. Hope to see you then to find out whether Hamilton can wrap up his fourth world title or if Vettel can extend the championship hunt for at least one more contest!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Japan — Qualifying results

Hamilton blisters track record for pole at Suzuka, Bottas back on form in P2; Vettel third quickest as grid shuffled by penalties

Making emphatic amends for never having scored a pole at the legendary Suzuka circuit, Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton shattered Michael Schumacher’s 11-year-old lap record by over 1.6 seconds en route to the 71st pole of the Englishman’s sparkling career. Better yet for the Silver Arrows, Hamilton’s wingman Valtteri Bottas returned to form after a run of mediocre qualifying results and qualified P2. That stout effort by Bottas pipped the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton’s only real competition for the Drivers’ title, but the Mercedes #2 has a gearbox penalty to serve and so was pushed back to P6 with Vettel inheriting the second spot on the grid beside Hamilton. After Vettel’s wonder drive in Malaysia a week ago where he came from last to finish a remarkable fourth the German 4-time World Champion must be salivating at the prospect of starting from P2 and being able to go mano a mano with Hamilton right from then get go.

However, Vettel may have to go it alone, as his Scuderia teammate Kimi Raikkonen had another difficult day a week after his car failed to start the Malaysian GP due to turbo problems. The Finnish vet got it wrong in free practice 3, smashing into the armco at the Degner curves and damaging his suspension and gearbox in the process. His mechanics did yeoman’s work to get the car ready for qualifying but Raikkonen couldn’t find the speed and ended up a lowly P7. With his and others’ penalties factored in Raikkonen got pushed back to P10. He’ll just be hoping that his car can get to race after last week’s disaster at Sepang Circuit. But when you start mid-pack the chances of bad things happening on the opening lap increase exponentially so I think it’s even money whether the sometimes accident prone Raikkonen can make it to the finish.

The two Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Vertstappen qualified P4 and P5 respectively but both will move up one spot and line up side by side on the second row. With their strong performance in Malaysia fresh in their minds where Verstappen got the win and Ricciardo was P3 they could once again be better in race trim. So watch out for at least one of the Red Bull duo to perhaps challenge the front runners for victory tomorrow. Esteban Ocon out-qualified his Force India teammate and arch rival Sergio Perez P7 to P8 and Ocon will start P5 come Sunday due to Bottas’ demotion. Williams Felipe Massa set the 9th fastest time and will move up to P8 on the grid, while Fernando Alonso got his McLaren into Q3 at Honda’shome track. But the Spaniard also faces a host of penalties for parts changes on his car that will drop him all the way to last position. That ironically benefitted his slower teammate, Stoffel Vandoorne, who could only muster the 11th fastest time in Q2 but will see himself elevated all the way up to P9 on the grid come race day.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Japanese GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:29.047 1:27.819 1:27.319 18
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:29.332 1:28.543 1:27.651 17
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:29.352 1:28.225 1:27.791 19
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:29.475 1:28.935 1:28.306 13
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:29.181 1:28.747 1:28.332 12
6 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:29.163 1:29.079 1:28.498 15
7 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:30.115 1:29.199 1:29.111 16
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:29.696 1:29.343 1:29.260 17
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:30.352 1:29.687 1:29.480 16
10 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:30.525 1:29.749 1:30.687 13

And the adjusted front grid after all penalties are factored in:

POS DRIVER CAR TIME GAP
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m27.319s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m27.791s 0.472s
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m28.306s 0.987s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m28.332s 1.013s
5 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m29.111s 1.792s
6 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m27.651s 0.332s
7 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m29.260s 1.941s
8 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1m29.480s 2.161s
9 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Honda 1m29.778s 2.459s
10 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m28.498s 1.179s

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix airs live on NBC Sports starting at 1AM here in the States. So stay up late singing karaoke and then enjoy the race with a cold glass of sake to see if anyone has anything for Hamilton or if he will simply leave them all in his dust. Hope to see you then to find out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia — Qualifying results

Hamilton speeds to pole in Malaysia, Raikkonen P2 for Ferrari; Verstappen P3 as Vettel suffers engine failure in Q1, will start last

After a disastrous Singapore Grand Prix two weeks ago that saw both Ferarris crash out on the opening lap, Maranello showed tremendous speed in practice at the Sepang circuit and were surely hoping to be rewarded in qualifying on Saturday. Instead, the Scuderia’s bad luck continued when their lead driver Sebastian Vettel suffered engine problems in Q1 to his newly installed power plant. Despite frantic efforts by the team it proved unrepairable to be able to get the car out and set a timed lap and Vettel will face the monumental challenge of starting from last on the grid come Sunday. That opened the door to Mercedes and their championship-leading driver Lewis Hamilton. Despite looking like lacking the pace up against Ferrari and even Red Bull in all three practice sessions, Hamilton laid down a flyer good enough for a new all-time track record as well as a dominant pole. After lucking into the win at rainy Singapore despite starting back in P5 Hamilton now finds himself in his more accustomed front row perch where he will be very hard to beat. Vettel and Ferrari have got be hopimg for a typical torrential Malaysian downpour to shake up the contest and give them some extra strategy options to pick up positions.

On the other side of their garage, however, Kimi Raikkonen did well to fly the flag and give Ferrari some hope, lifting his Prancing Horse up to P2 with a very representative lap a mere .05 behind Hamilton’s streaking Silver Arrow. It looks like the Iceman will be Lewis’ key competition when the lights go out so look for Kimi to try and ambush the lead Mercedes early in Lap 1. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who turned 20 on Saturday, was also very quick and pipped his teammate for P3, with Daniel Ricciardo having to settle for P4. If something goes down between the first two competing cars look for the Red Bulls to try and take advantage at a track where they were 1-2 last year. Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was once again off the pace in quali and could do no better than P5. Esteban Ocon was the lead Force India, besting his stablemate and arch-rival Sergio Perez P6 to P9 respectively. And both McLarens were once agin in the top 10 with young Stoffel Vandoorne P7 and veteran Fernando Alonso P10. Nico Hulkenberg was a solid P8 for the improving factory Renault team.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Malysian Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:31.605 1:30.977 1:30.076 18
2 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:32.259 1:30.926 1:30.121 14
3 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:31.920 1:30.931 1:30.541 12
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:32.416 1:31.061 1:30.595 16
5 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:32.254 1:30.803 1:30.758 17
6 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:32.527 1:31.651 1:31.478 17
7 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN HONDA 1:32.838 1:31.848 1:31.582 18
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:32.586 1:31.778 1:31.607 17
9 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:32.768 1:31.484 1:31.658 18
10 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:33.049 1:32.010 1:31.704 17

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com

In other news it seems this will be the Malaysian Grand Prix’s last time on the F1 calendar for the foreseeable future, ending a 19-year run. And reigning GP2 champion Pierre Gasly made his Formula 1 debut this weekend, stepping into the Toro Rosso for a few races and relegating the erratic Daniil Kvyat to reserve status. Gasly qualified just behind his teammate Carlos Sainz in P15 and may get a permanent seat with the team when Sainz jumps to Renault next year.

Tomorrow’s race airs live on NBC Sports at the ungodly hour of 3AM here in the States. So set the DVR or brew an extra pot of coffee to pull an all-nighter because watching Sebastian Vettel try to carve his way through the field in pursuit of Hamilton should be worth the price of admission. Hope to see you then!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Singapore — Qualifying results

Vettel seizes pole for Ferrari in Singapore; Verstappen P2 & Ricciardo P3 for Red Bull; Mercedes struggle

After showing subpar speed during all three practice sessions, Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari shone brightest under the beautiful lights of the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore when it mattered most. The German 4-time champion earned a dominant pole for tomorrow’s race with a blistering track record quali lap of 1:39.491. Vettel’s heroics came at Red Bull’s expense, as it seemed for a while that their wunderkind Max Verstappen might become the youngest F1 driver to earn a pole position. But Vettel, the man who set that record when he earned his first pole at the age of 21 years, 72 days in 2008 at Monza, spoiled the 19-year-old Vertstappen’s potential party on that count. Nevertheless Red Bull must be well pleased with their slippery chassis’ starting positions with Verstappen on the front row alongside Vettel in P2 and teammate Daniel Ricciardo right behind in P3. Vettel’s Ferrari stablemate Kimi Raikkonen came home fourth fastest so it should make for a very interesting opening lap in anger with the first two rows a combative Ferrari-Red Bull mix.

Further behind were the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, who qualified P5 and P6 respectively. Though potentially damaging to Hamilton’s championship pursuit on a track where it is notoriously hard to overtake the subpar result was not altogether a surprise for the Silver Arrows. Mercedes even struggled at Singapore last year when they had no true competition in the Constructors’ fight. It is simply a track where their usual straight line speed advantage is nullified by the Marina Bay’s twisty nature and lack of long flat out sections and the fact that they are just not quite nimble enough without that power edge to make up the difference to their main rivals. Their best hope for tomorrow is to run clean and hope there is a damaging tangle between the Ferraris and Red Bulls up front. As unpredictable as Verstappen and Raikkonen can be that is not that bad a bet.

Nico Hulkenberg qualified a very solid P7 for Renault, while besieged McLaren had a rare bright moment with both of their cars getting into the top 10. Fernando Alonso was P8 while Stoffel Vandoorne was P9. Ironically it came on the same weekend that McLaren announced that they were divorcing their engine supplier Honda and switching to Renault power for 2018. But again horsepower is not the main thing in Singapore so it’s the McLaren chassis that really deserves the credit in this instance. Carlos Sainz had the tenth fastest time for Toro Roso and he also made news when it was announced that he will be loaned out to the Renault factory team for next season to partner Hulkenberg and replace Jolyon Palmer. Bringing the game of musical chairs full circle Toro Roso will switch to Honda power in place of their current Renault engines for 2018.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Singapore GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:43.336 1:40.529 1:39.491 19
2 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:42.010 1:40.332 1:39.814 18
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:42.063 1:40.385 1:39.840 18
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:43.328 1:40.525 1:40.069 18
5 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:42.455 1:40.577 1:40.126 17
6 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:43.137 1:41.409 1:40.810 16
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:42.586 1:41.277 1:41.013 18
8 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:42.086 1:41.442 1:41.179 20
9 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN HONDA 1:42.222 1:41.227 1:41.398 19
10 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO 1:42.176 1:41.826 1:42.056 20

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live starting 8AM Eastern on NBC Sports here in the States. Can Mercedes battle back to relevance at their own personal bogey track? Will Ferrari and Vettel rule the day? Or will Red Bull come up aces under the lights? Hope to see you then 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!