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2016 F1 Grand Prix of the United States — Results & aftermath

Hamilton storms to much-needed victory in America, Rosberg limits damage with P2; Ricciardo strong again for Red Bull with 3rd place

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton finally had the end to a race weekend he was looking for at a track he absolutely owns. Facing a victory drought dating back to Round 12 in Germany that also saw his championship lead ceded to his teammate and archrival Nico Rosberg over the course of those five winless Grand Prix, Hamilton was peerless in the USGP at the beautiful Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. After setting a blistering pole time on Saturday, Hamilton finally made a good start when the lights went out, avoiding his chronic clutch-bite problems and warding off his nearest challengers, Rosberg and the two chasing Red Bulls, as they all climbed the iconic hill into Turn 1. The Englishman was never seriously challenged for the rest of the race and flew away to an unsurmountable lead free of any pit dramas or mechanical gremlins that might cost him this certain victory. In the end it was a drama-free and flawless run for Hamilton’s 50th Formula 1 victory, which also put him the exclusive 50-win club that heretofore counted only Alain Prost (51) and Michael Schumacher (91) as members. Even more mind-blowing, it was Hamilton’s astounding 4th victory in five races at COTA and his 5th overall US Grand Prix win in 6 contests dating back to 2012 at Indianapolis. Rarely has driver been so simpatico with a circuit and a country as Hamilton is with COTA and the USA. Truly, racing deep in the heart of Texas was the tonic the Briton needed to get him back on the front foot in his quest to overhaul Rosberg and take his third world title in a row. Hamilton now trails his German teammate by 26 points in the Drivers’ Championship with three races left to be run.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Facing a Hamilton utterly in tune with a track and his car, the day for Nico Rosberg was one of damage limitation. While the current points leader had nothing for his Silver Arrows squad-mate, Rosberg drove a very solid race and avoided problems and contact that might have cost him valuable positions and points. Using matching tire strategies, Mercedes was able to correctly anticipate Red Bull’s plays and match them, using a Virtual Safety Car to quickly pit for fresh rubber and their chassis’ overall superiority to run a very long closing stint on the Medium tires, the hardest compound on offer this weekend. That kept Rosberg safely out of the clutches of Daniel Ricciardo and allowed him to score a valuable P2 that limited Hamilton’s gains and kept Rosberg looking like the favorite for his first-ever title.

Red Bull’s Ricciardo was foiled by that VSC period and must have been doubly flummoxed when he found out it was produced by his teammate Max Verstappen’s on track engine failure on Lap 31. Until then it looked like the smiling Aussie had a decent shot to fight it out with Rosberg for the second step on the podium. But with Mercedes capitalizing to make that quick pit stop and Ricciardo still out circulating at reduced VSC speed Rosberg came out well ahead. Ricciardo would never again have an opportunity to make it close and finished 15 seconds adrift of Rosberg. Still, it was good run for Red Bull’s veteran driver and a solid P3 for the team. Unfortunately, they had to reckon with Verstappen’s DNF and even before that the young phenom had inexplicably pitted without the team calling him in. So the Dutchman’s race would have already been somewhat undone by the time his engine expired, though he almost certainly would have scored points.

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Fortunately for Red Bull and their goal of second place in the Constructors’ Championship, Ferrari had problems of their own. Looking to capitalize on a strong run at Suzuka two weeks ago, the Scuderia instead scored an own goal when the team botched a pit stop for Kimi Raikkonen and failed to properly tighten a wheel nut. The Finn, who had been running very strong and might even have had something for Ricciardo at the end, instead had to stop at pit out on Lap 38 with a loose right rear wheel, backing in ignominiously to retirement after that unsafe release. That left it to Vettel to fly the flag for the Prancing Horse and the former 4-time World Champ was able to manage his tires well enough to take P4.  But with Verstappen already out of the race on Lap 31 this was a golden opportunity to make up ground on Red Bull with a strong double-points finish and Ferrari frankly flubbed it. With only three more contests remaining in the 2016 season Ferrari now trail Red Bull by a seemingly insurmountable 53 points.

McLaren saw some promising glimmers of hope at COTA despite a mostly dismal and desultory year so far. After being shut out of the points at their engine supplier Honda’s home track at Suzuka two weeks ago, Fernando Alonso showed real pace in Texas and was able to dispatch with some competitive cars and capitalize on retirements to take a hard-earned P5. Better yet, Alonso’s teammate Jenson Button clawed his way up from way back in P19 after a frustrating qualifying to come home a remarkable P9. It was only the fourth time this year that both McLarens finished in the points and the strong result gave the team hope that the future could well be brighter than these last two subpar rebuilding years.

Torro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz also got a superb result for both himself and his beleaguered team when he gave a very strong effort to take P6 at the checkered flag. While he was overtaken late by a storming Alonso, Sainz still had to be well pleased at being able to show his quality again on such a big stage and giving the disappointing Toro Rosso team valuable points and a much-needed lift. Meanwhile, Felipe Massa managed to come home P7 in his last USGP but he was the sole Williams to finish in the points, as Valtteri Bottas was undone by a first lap puncture from which he could never recover. The Finn could never really recover and finished a disappointing P16, another poor result for a 2016 campaign that underwhelming Team Williams would like to forget.

Force India’s Sergio Perez was also forced to fly his team’s colors all by his lonesome in the Lone State State, coming home an acceptable P8 after his teammate Nico Hulkenberg was taken out in a Lap 1- Turn 1 melee with Vettel that was also responsible for Bottas’ puncture at the start of the race. The normally steady German has now retired in three consecutive F1 Grand Prix at COTA and has never finished higher than P6 in the US Grand Prix. He’ll be hoping for better things in the USA when he’s driving for the factory Renault team next year. Romain Grosjean took the last points-paying position with P10 in his Haas. It was nice moment for the French driver and his American team, as Haas were able to score in their maiden run at their home GP. It also broke an 8-race scoring drought for the first-year team.

Top 10 finishers in the United States Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 56 1:38:12.618 25
2 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 56 +4.520s 18
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 56 +19.692s 15
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 56 +43.134s 12
5 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 56 +93.953s 10
6 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO FERRARI 56 +96.124s 8
7 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 55 +1 lap 6
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 55 +1 lap 4
9 22 Jenson Button MCLAREN HONDA 55 +1 lap 2
10 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 55 +1 lap 1

Complete race results amiable via Formula1.com.

The next race is but a week away — The Grand Prix of Mexico from the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. Hope to see you then to find out if Hamilton can keep up the pressure on Rosberg and keep his championship dream alive for another week!

2016 F1 Grand Prix of Italy — Qualifying results

Mercedes lockout front row at Monza as Hamilton scores dominant pole, Rosberg P2; Vettel saves Ferrari’s honor with P3 in front of home crowd

The Mercedes Silver Arrows showed their true from at the ultra-fast Monza Autodromo in Italy during Saturday qualifying, with Lewis Hamilton laying down a scorching lap for pole, besting his teammate Nico Rosberg, who qualified P2, by half a second. It was Hamilton’s record-tying fifth pole at Monza, leveling him with F1 legends Juan Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna. After Hamilton’s miracle P3 finish last week at Spa when he carved his way through the field after starting at the back of the pack his pole once again laid down a marker for excellence and sent a clear message of dominance to his teammate and archival. Rosberg is going to have to take the belt from the champ and Hamilton, still leading in the points, ain’t giving it up without a serious fight.

Ferrari was the best of the rest of the teams, with Sebastian Vettel grabbing P3 and bettering his hot teammate Kimi Raikkonen’s P4. The pressure is really on at Ferrari in front of their home fans and in the midst of a disappointing season but it seems unlikely that the Prancing Horses have anything for Mercedes unless the two Silver Arrows teammates once again come to blows.

Williams’ Valtteri Bottas put his Mercedes power to good use to take an impressive P5 on the grid, while the Red Bulls showed their Achilles’ heel, the lack of pure pace at a speedy track like this one, with Daniel Ricciardo only good enough for P6 and Max Verstappen at P7. No doubt, though, the always well-prepared Red Bull team will have some strategic tricks up their sleeves to try to move their men up come race day. Force India continued their recent excellent form with Sergio Perez good enough for P8 and Nico Hulkenberg taking P9. Esteban Gutierrez had an terrific P10 fast lap for first year American Team Hass on the debut of their new rear wing, a very impressive result that saw him out-qualify not only his more experienced teammate Romain Grosjean but also both McLarens and the Williams of Felipe Massa.

And speaking of those latter two teams, both Massa and McLaren’s Jenson Button announced that they would retire from F1 at the end of the 2016 season. The two veteran stalwarts will be sorely missed but a new generation will be racing to take their spots. So it goes in Formula 1 just as in life!

Top 10 qualifiers for the Italian Grand Prix.

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:21.854 1:21.498 1:21.135 16
2 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 1:22.497 1:21.809 1:21.613 15
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:23.077 1:22.275 1:21.972 13
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:23.217 1:22.568 1:22.065 15
5 77 Valtteri Bottas WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:23.264 1:22.499 1:22.388 12
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:23.158 1:22.638 1:22.389 17
7 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:23.229 1:22.857 1:22.411 15
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:23.439 1:22.922 1:22.814 15
9 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:23.259 1:22.951 1:22.836 18
10 21 Esteban Gutierrez  HAAS FERRARI 1:23.386 1:22.856 1:23.184 21

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live on NBC Sports Network here in the States beginning at 8:00 AM Eastern. Hope to see you then to how it all shakes out at the always thrilling cathedral of speed, Monza!

2016 F1 Grand Prix of Russia — Results & aftermath

Rosberg reigns supreme in Russia to continue undefeated 2016 start; Hamilton battles back for 2nd; Raikkonen salvages 3rd for Ferrari after Vettel knocked out in first-lap crash

Nico Rosberg continued a flawless start to his 2016 Formula 1 season with his fourth consecutive victory in four races. The Mercedes driver and championship points leader started from pole in Russia and sped away as the lights went out, never to be touched by the chaos that unfolded behind him. No one could challenge his lead the rest of the race and he solidified his status as this year’s driver to beat. Not coincidental to the supremely confident start to his season, Rosberg’s win in Sochi was his seventh victory overall dating to last season, making him only the fourth driver in F1 history to achieve such a feat. The German contender, who is seeking his first-ever Drivers’ title, now has a daunting 43-point lead over his closest pursuer, teammate and archival Lewis Hamilton.

Pictures via GrandPrix247.com

Pictures via GrandPrix247.com

But Hamilton managed a gritty drive of his own after engine troubles in qualifying relegated him to P10 on the starting grid. The current consecutive World Champ clawed his way through the field, exhibiting just enough patience to leaven his usual aggression and fight toward the front, finishing and impressive P2. Again, however, there were some problems with Hamilton’s engine even amidst his impressive comeback run and he was forced to back off his pursuit of Rosberg with a water pressure issue. If Hamilton can get any luck going his way it’s clear that he is still a match for anyone on track, including his teammate. But with as well as Rosberg is driving and how fortune seems to have turned its favor upon him, Hamilton needs for his team to quickly bulletproof his Silver Arrow if he is to pose any real threat going forward and contend for victories on even footing.

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Ferrari had yet another frustrating, topsy-turvy day. Their ace, Sebastian Vettel, who qualified P2, received a 5-spot grid penalty for a gearbox change, meaning he had to start back in P7. And being pushed into the midfield cost Vettel dearly when the Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat punted his Ferrari from behind not once but twice as they made their way through the opening corners. Continue reading

2016 F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain — Results & aftermath

Rosberg streaks to 5th consecutive win with victory in Bahrain, Hamilton settles for P3 after more problems at start; Raikkonen lifts Ferrari with P2 after Vettel’s engine blows up on formation lap

Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg made the best possible start to his 2016 campaign with a dominant win in Sunday’s GP in Bahrain giving him victories in the first two races of the year. Starting from second on the grid alongside his pole-sitting teammate, Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg had a better getaway than his archival and overtook the reigning World Champion going into Turn 1. Worse yet for Hamilton, Williams’ Vatteri Bottas, who got a blazing start from back in P6 on the grid, tried an over ambitious underneath pass on the Englishman and smashed into the side of his Silver Arrows, sending carbon fiber all over the track and partially spinning Hamilton. Other cars swamped him while he struggled to point the Mercedes in the right direction again and Hamilton’s race was essentially one of damage control from then on out. While Rosberg ran away from the chaos behind him to a dominant lead & eventual victory in the well-lit desert night, Hamilton nursed his injured car to a decent P3 finish. That makes it 5 consecutive Grand Prix wins for Rosberg dating back to the end of last season and the German seems well and truly determined to end his irritating role as Hamilton’s foil and capture a first ever Drivers’ Championship of his own. And if Hamilton can’t figure out how to make better starts from the line when the lights go out he’ll surely be helping Rosberg achieve his dream.

Pictures courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pictures courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Ferrari had another decidedly mixed day despite showing potentially Mercedes-challenging speed over the course of the first two races. Their ace Sebastian Vettel suffered a shocking engine failure on the formation lap, the second DNF for Ferrari to open the season and a troubling display of unreliability for this year’s car. That left Kimi Raikkonen to shoulder the whole load for the legendary Scuderia and the veteran Finn, who had his own race ending turbo failure in Australia, proved up to the task of saving Ferrari’s blushes on the day. Showing excellent pace after recovering from a sub-par getaway of his own, Raikkonen managed to come home with a reasonably comfortable P2, keeping Hamilton securely behind him and with no signs of any further technical trouble on the SF16-H.

Below the top 3, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo drove another strong and smart race showing off the much improved engine and chassis to take P4. And the Cinderella season for first year American F1 team Haas continued when their French veteran leader, Romain Grosjean, made a risky tire strategy work and fought with gusto for a remarkable P5. Coming on the heels of his stunning P6 in Australia, that makes two excellent points scoring fishes in a row for the Frenchman and the debutante Ferrari-powered team from Kannapolis, North Carolina. Now if they can just get Grosjean’s teammate Esteban Gutierrez to finish a race — the young Mexican crashed out after his terrifying tangle with Fernando Alonso in Melbourne and suffered engine failure in Bahrain — the upstart Yanks could put together something that is nearly unprecedented for a team in this most demanding form of motorsport: a successful first year.

Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen recovered from his tantrum in Australia, channeling his aggression into dicing hard with his competitors rather than yelling at his team to come home a solid P6. Continue reading

2016 F1 Grand Prix of Australia — Results & aftermath

Rosberg earns victory in first race of 2016, Hamilton fights back for P2 after poor start; Vettel settles for P3 after early lead

After Saturday’s wet firecracker of a Qualifying, where the new and now-aborted elimination rules left the track empty for long stretches and the majority of the teams unable to strut their stuff, Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix unleashed a corker. Perhaps perversely aided by the limited track time in quali hiding their true performance, Ferrari seemed to sandbag mighty Mercedes as the lights went out for the race start. Front runner Lewis Hamilton, who appeared destined for another victory procession after earning his remarkable 50th career pole, bogged down a bit at the start under the new single-clutch pedal rule and that was all the opening Sebastian Vettel needed. The Ferrari driver shot past not only Hamilton but also his P2 teammate Nico Rosberg, splitting them into turn one and grabbing the race lead out of the gate. Better yet for the Prancing Horse, Kimi Raikkonen also managed to sneak through as the two Mercedes diced to recover, making it a very encouraging Ferrari 1-2 to start the new year. Could the legendary team from Maranello be ready to present a real championship challenge to the heretofore untouchable Silver Arrows?

Pictures via GrandPrix247.com

Pictures via GrandPrix247.com

Before that answer could be known for certain, the race took a very hairy turn on Lap 18 when veterean McLaren driver Fernando Alonso misjudged his pass on young Haas F1’s Esteban Gutierrez, sending the Spanish former champion catapulting through the air over a gravel trap and into a catch fence. Despite the fact that Alonso’s McLaren wound up looking like a balled up piece of aluminum foil both drivers walked away unharmed. That scary shunt led to an extended Red Flag period, which neutralized Vettel’s advantage, as all the cars were able to change tries without costing them time. And while Ferrari chose to keep Vettel on the high-performing, quickly degrading super soft tires, the rest of the field opted for the long running medium compound. Ominously for Ferrari, shortly after the Red Flag restart the highly placed Raikonnen was forced to retire on Lap 22 with a fiery engine failure as he pulled into the pits. That continued the star-crossed Finn’s run of bad luck since rejoining the Scuderia.

Meanwhile, Hamilton found himself stuck in 6th behind the very competitive Toro Rossos of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen. Between pit stops and his typically aggressive driving Hamilton was able to make up ground and work himself up to P4 by Lap 33. At the front Rosberg was catching up to Vettel. And when the Ferrari team had an uncharacteristically poor pit stop while changing Vettel’s tires, the Mercedes driver inherited a lead he would never relinquish. The Ferrari bobble also insured that Hamilton would be able to catch Vettel despite the former 4-time World Champ’s best efforts at holding the Englishman off, albeit with both finishing far behind Rosberg. And so just when it appeared that either Ferrari might take the whole enchilada or Hamilton would once again crush Rosberg’s fragile confidence with a dominant victory, it was Rosberg who flipped the script and left Hamilton chasing him in futile pursuit at the end of the Aussie Grand Prix. Hamilton’s unlikely poor start and Ferrari’s surprising woes gave Rosberg just the leg up he needed to try and wrest the crown from his archival and chief tormentor. We’ll have to see if his momentum, which now includes an impressive four consecutive race wins dating to last season, can give Rosberg the impetus he needs to break Hamilton’s stranglehold on the title and earn the German aspirant his first Championship. Time will tell.

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In other notable results, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo had an excellent run to finish P4 in front of his home fans in his newly “Tag Heuer”-powered chassis (really just a re-badged Renault with improved performance over last year’s woeful power plant). Continue reading