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2017 F1 Grand Prix of Monaco — Qualifying results

Raikkonen claims dominant pole in Monte Carlo to lead all-Ferrari front row, Vettel P2; Mercedes’ Bottas P3 but Hamilton bounced out in Q2

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen grabbed his first pole since 2008, dominating his more heralded teammate Sebastian Vettel and leaving both rival Mercedes well in his wake. Vettel was still good enough for P2 .05 behind his Finnish wingman in the excellent Ferrari chassis, scoring the second front row lockout of the year for the Scuderia. Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas was able to muscle his Silver Arrow up to P3 with a spirited challenge but his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, struggled for grip on the iconic street circuit throughout the day and then was fatally balked on his final lap in Q2 by the crashing McLaren of Lance Stroll at the Swimming Pool. That left Hamilton in the unfamiliar position of starting from P14 with all to do to fight his way through the field for points on a street circuit where passing is at a premium.

The two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo seemed well suited to the ultra-tight twists and turns of the principality, qualifying P4 and P5 respectively. They could well be spoilers at Ferrari’s presumptive party, with Ricciardo looking to avenge last year’s bitter disappointment and young Max simply looking to finish his first Monaco GP. Carlos Sainz was able to lift his Toro Rosso up to P6, while Sergio Perez was seventh fastest in his Force India and Haas’ Romain Grosjean took an admirable P8, a solid recovery after numerous spins seemed to spell doom for his efforts. Rounding out ten Top 10, the two McLaren’s were able to thrive on this low speed circuit where their poor Honda power plant was not as exposed as in most venues. The returning veteran and 2009 champ Jenson Button, driving a one-off while Fernando Alonso races the Indianapolis 500 halfway around the world on Sunday, did yeoman’s work to make it through to Q3 with his P9. And his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne was truly quick and might have done better than P10 if he hadn’t binned his McLaren in that fateful shunt at the end of Q2 that brought such grief to both him and Lewis Hamilton.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Monaco Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:13.117 1:12.231 1:12.178 23
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:13.090 1:12.449 1:12.221 23
3 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:13.325 1:12.901 1:12.223 30
4 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:13.078 1:12.697 1:12.496 24
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:13.219 1:13.011 1:12.998 21
6 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO 1:13.526 1:13.397 1:13.162 30
7 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:13.530 1:13.430 1:13.329 23
8 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:13.786 1:13.203 1:13.349 29
9 22 Jenson Button MCLAREN HONDA 1:13.723 1:13.453 1:13.613 27
10 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN HONDA 1:13.476 1:13.249 20

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live at 8 AM Eastern on NBC here in the States. Will Ferrari dominate the day as all signs point to? And can Kimi knock off his championship-leading teammate for once? Or will Mercedes work some strategic magic to pull Hamilton up from the midfield to perhaps help Bottas take the fight to Ferrari? Hope to see you then to find out!

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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!

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia — Results & aftermath

Red Bull 1-2 in Malaysia — Ricciardo wins & Verstappen places; Hamilton undone by late engine failure, Rosberg fights back for P3

After a string of poor results things finally seemed to be going all Lewis Hamilton’s way this race weekend at the Sepang Circuit in Kuala Lumpur. The Mercedes’ driver was the fastest in two out of three practice sessions and then set a blistering lap for pole in Saturday qualifying. Hamilton even made a clean getaway with no hint of the clutch-bite problems that have plagued his starts recently. Better yet, his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was tagged by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel early in the opening lap, spinning the German points leader and dropping him down through the field. After that Hamilton sped away and controlled the race from the front with only the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen & Daniel Ricciardo giving even token pursuit. He appeared on his way to a sure victory.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

But on Lap 41 Hamilton’s luck ran out. Out of nowhere his nearly new Mercedes engine gave up the ghost, coughing out flame and fluid and bringing his usually impervious Silver Arrow to an abrupt stop. As the Englishman held his head in disbelief, his mechanical misfortune gifted the race lead to the twin Red Bulls, with Ricciardo having assumed the dominant position after a side-by-side dice with his precocious junior teammate, Verstappen. Meanwhile, Rosberg’s chassis had survived not only the opening lap belt by Vettel but also a rash challenge into the side of the other Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, earning Rosberg a 10-second time penalty for avoidable contact. Nonetheless, through dint of good fortune and persistence, Rosberg not only fought his way through the field lap after lap at this most sweltering of tracks but pushed clear enough of Raikkonen at the death to negate his penalty. In the end, it was Ricciardo’s victory, the affable Aussie’s first in two years, with Verstappen falling in line after the earlier challenges for an obedient P2. Rosberg came home a remarkable and oh-so-valuable P3 after what could only be described as a Hamilton-esque drive back from adversity. Meanwhile, the man himself could only rue his ill fortune and vent his spleen at such a flukey mechanical failure. Hamilton scored zero points with his DNF after looking like a sure winner and saw his deficit to Rosberg balloon to 23 points. With only 5 contests left in 2016, Hamilton’s task is daunting but not impossible. He can only be hoping that the reliability gods switch sides and bite Rosberg next time.

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All credit to Red Bull despite the somewhat gift-like nature of the win. Since about the first quarter of the season the team have made tremendous improvements to the car and bringing Verstappen over from the junior Toro Rosso team now looks like a stroke of genius. Verstappen’s unbridled ferocity and ambition have pushed Ricciardo to up his game and after coming up just short in Singapore two weeks ago, the talented Australian is showing once again why he is so highly regarded in the paddock. The 1-2 in Malaysia was Red Bull’s first in three years, the amazing Vettel-Mark Webber salad days, and the massive points haul put them 46 points up on Ferrari for second in the all-important Constructors’ standings. With a lot of hard work and clever in-season development, as well as wringing ever more power out of the much-maligned Renault engine, it is Red Bull that have put themselves firmly in position to capitalize on days when things go wrong for Mercedes.

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And that has been at the expense of Ferrari. It was another disastrous day for the Scuderia and another early lap exit for their putative team leader Vettel, as the damage on the front suspension after his first lap clout into Rosberg was instantly terminal. That left it once again in the hands of Raikkonen to fly the colors for Ferrari and the veteran Finn did the best he could to come home P4. Ever since he re-signed with the team, Raikkonen has driven steadily and with poise, salvaging good points and keeping the car out of trouble while his much vaunted teammate has frankly had an erratic campaign. Perhaps the pressure from Maranello has gotten into Vettel’s head somewhat because he has not always been the icy cold killer that he was when he was winning four consecutive titles. On the contrary, the German has often been impetuous and sometimes unlucky, getting caught up in shunts on track that are sometimes his fault and sometimes not. It all points to overdriving a car that has not developed as Ferrari had hoped and has waned as Red Bull has waxed ascendent. While Raikkonen seems to drive within himself, fighting when necessary but bringing the car home safely and in the points, Vettel seems to be trying to manufacture performance from the SF16-H that simply isn’t there. At this late date in the season Ferrari just look like the third best team in F1 and sometimes one has to accept the results. Obviously the team will keep fighting until the end but there’s a fine line between valiant and desperate and Vettel appears to be on the wrong side of that line all too often this year.

Williams got a decent and much-needed result when Valtteri Bottas drove very well to take P5. But after being shutout in Singapore all was still not terrific for the team. Felipe Massa had a disastrous day when his car wouldn’t fire on the reconnaissance lap and then suffered further misfortune after starting from the pits with an early puncture. Needless to say Massa did not finish in the points so Williams’ disappointing season continues. On the flip side, Force India continued to impress with Sergio Perez coming home P6 and Nico Hulkenberg P8, a strong points haul that kept the little team just ahead of mighty Williams for fourth in the Constructors’. Adding further cause for optimism, Force India announced that it had re-signed Sergio Perez for next year, adding welcome stability to the team by holding on to the talented Mexican driver alongside the very good German ace Hulkenberg for much-needed consistency in their driver line-up.

McLaren also had an encouraging day with Fernando Alonso good enough for P7 and Jenson Button finishing P9 in his 300th Fomrula 1 start. That puts Button third all-time amongst divers and sets the Honda-powered team up nicely for next weekend in Japan at the Honda-owned Suzuka circuit. You know McLaren will be wanting a strong showing there at their engine suppliers’ home court, as will Button at what looks to be his final Japanese GP. And after an up and down weekend Jolyon Palmer had a wonderful end to it all with a surprise P10 for beleaguered team Renault. Utilizing a bold one-stop strategy, Palmer drove beautifully, managing his tires until the end and taking the last points-paying position. After suffering a fuel fire on the sister car in Friday practice the team did yeoman’s work to get that Kevin Magnusson chassis ready for quali. And while Magnusson did not finish on Sunday, Palmer’s point seems a just reward for the entirety of the Renault team’s hard efforts this weekend, so kudos to them.

Top 10 finishers in Malaysia:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 56 1:37:12.776 25
2 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 56 +2.443s 18
3 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 56 +25.516s 15
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 56 +28.785s 12
5 77 Valtteri Bottas WILLIAMS MERCEDES 56 +61.582s 10
6 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 56 +63.794s 8
7 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 56 +65.205s 6
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 56 +74.062s 4
9 22 Jenson Button MCLAREN HONDA 56 +81.816s 2
10 30 Jolyon Palmer RENAULT 56 +95.466s 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next race is but a week away from the storied Suzuka course in Japan. Can Hamilton get back on track and cut Rosberg’s lead back down to a manageable size? Will Red Bull continue to thrive on Mercedes’ misfortune? Hope to see you then to find out!

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Germany — Results & aftermath

Hamilton lays down the hammer in Hockenheim, Rosberg relegated to 4th by mistakes; Ricciardo & Verstappen P2 & P3 for ascendent Red Bull

Nico Rosberg desperately needed everything to go right for him at his home Grand Prix in Germany to stanch the hemorrhaging of his once-dominant tally of championship points. Instead the Mercedes driver frittered away a hard-fought pole position with a dreadful start off the line as the lights went out, muffing his clutch bite point and bogging down. He was then overtaken not only by his hard-charging teammate and archrival Lewis Hamilton but also by the two surging Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Once again on the back foot, the would-be contender compounded his difficulties by obviously pushing Vertsappen off track on Lap 29 while attempting to claw back a position and the stewards handed down a 5-second stop-and-hold penalty. With an extra-conservative Mercedes team seeming to hold Rosberg even longer than the penalty demanded, the German’s race was effectively destroyed and he was unable to drag himself any higher than fourth for the rest of the 67-lap race. Despite threatening skies towards the end, no rain fell to shake things up and give Rosberg a chance at redemption. The German will no doubt be mulling over this poor performance — the latest in a recent sequence of disappointments since an aberrant win in Baku — for the entirety of the long upcoming August break.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

For Hamilton, his results and momentum have been the complete opposite, as the English defending World Champ swanned away from the rest of the field in Germany after his excellent getaway and stayed ahead for the rest of the race. In truth the Red Bulls had nothing for Lewis and with his teammate self-destructing behind him, Hamilton was free to fly home for the victory, his fourth win in a row and remarkable sixth victory in the last seven contests. Ever since the two Mercedes took each other out in mid-May in Spain, another incident where the majority of commentators put the blame on Rosberg, Hamilton has seemed to grow in determination while Rosberg has seemed to crumble under the pressure. When push came to shove earlier this month in Austria and the two Silver Arrows came together again in the dying laps it was Rosberg who came off second best in an attempted blocking move trying to hold on to to a win but instead losing a sure podium while Hamilton sailed away unscathed to the victory. And while early in the season Hamilton suffered mightily with his starts now it is Rosberg who seems to have the yips when the lights go out. Continue reading