Tag Archives: Lewis Hamilton

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Spain — Results & aftermath

Hamilton reigns in Spain after besting Vettel in thrilling duel; Riccardo third for Red Bull

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

In the young season’s best race so far, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton gave everything he had to come out on top in a mano-a-mano duel with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain. Hamilton started on pole but made a less than spectacular getaway that saw him quickly passed by Vettel as the lights went out. But Hamilton survived a big bottleneck in Turn 1, which was more than could be said for Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull’s young phenom Max Verstappen. With Mercedes’ second driver Valtteri Bottas looking for an advantage over Raikonnen on the inside at that pivotal first bend, the two cars touched wheels. That sent Raikonnen’s blood red Ferrari across the track and into the ambitious Vestappen’s Red Bull, who had also stuck his nose into the melee on the outside, terminally damaging both vehicles’ suspensions. In less than a lap, two premier runners were out of the race and Vettel had lost a crucial ally.

Nevertheless, Vettel swanned away from the pack and up the road, leaving Hamilton to bide his time and settle in for the chase. Vettel pitted early on Lap 14 for another set of  the better performing soft tires, on which he had started the race, while Mercedes ran both Hamilton and Bottas longer, with Hamilton going to Lap 21 and then switching to the slower but more durable medium compound Pirellis. And with Bottas yet to come in that enabled the Finn to hold up Vettel somewhat when the German Ferrari man was desperate to put as much distance between himself & Hamilton while on the superior soft rubber. That small impedance by the second Silver Arrow may have proved pivotal as Hamilton did not lose as much time as he might have without Bottas’ entirely legal obstructions. Vettel managed to pass the Finn on Lap 25 and Bottas subsequently let his teammate by quickly and then came to the pits for his first stop and his own set of medium tires on Lap 28, indicating that Mercedes were committing to a 2-stop strategy for both their cars while the sole remaining Ferrari’s options remained open.

And then Mercedes, which had been caught flat-footed in the season opener that saw Ferrari outsmart them for a Vettel win in Australia, had the strategic coup of the race. With a Virtual Safety Car deployed for McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne’s off on Lap 36, Hamilton was quickly called into the pits for a switch back to soft tires. When Vettel then pitted under normal race conditions on Lap 38 for his mediatory switch to the medium tires, the German came out of the blend line only just in front of Hamilton’s charging Silver Arrow. The two elites of the field were now neck-and-neck for the next few laps, with the Ferrari ace even forcefully shoving Hamilton over and partially off the track to maintain his lead at one point. Meanwhile Hamilton also lost his teammate, as Bottas’ rebuilt engine blew on Lap 40, making the Mercedes team’s decision not to switch to a new one for the race look questionable. But in the here and now that meant it was down to Vettel versus Hamilton for victory in Spain and no one else.

And on Lap 44 of the 66 lap contest, Hamilton finally seized his opportunity, using his faster rubber and DRS down the start/finish straight to easily pass Vettel’s Ferrari. Now the question was whether Hamilton could muscle his car around the demanding Catalunya circuit for 12 more laps on his more rapidly degrading yellow-banded soft tires. That quandary led Vettel and his race engineers to ponder an extra stop for new soft tires of their own but as the laps dwindled it became clear that they had crunched the numbers and didn’t think such a gamble would work. Despite his audible shortness of breath from the extra G-forces that these new 2017 high-downforce, wide-tire cars generate versus last year’s spec, Hamilton was able to extend the life of his tries while still pulling out his advantage over Vettel as both men fought through lapped traffic. In the end, Hamilton crossed the line over 3 seconds to the good after an exhausting but exhilarating battle that saw him start from pole, lose his lead and then claw it all back for the victory with clever pit strategy, a little bit of luck with the Safety Car and determined driving when it really counted. The Briton’s win also sliced Vettel’s Championship lead down to a mere 6 points. The dual between these two titans of the sport is looking like one for the ages and it should go right down make Monaco even more interesting than usual. One thing’s for sure: if the rest of the races are anything like this battle in Barcelona was we are in for a rare treat.

Top 10 finishers at the Spanish Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 66 1:35:56.497 25
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 66 +3.490s 18
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 66 +75.820s 15
4 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 65 +1 lap 12
5 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 65 +1 lap 10
6 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 65 +1 lap 8
7 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO 65 +1 lap 6
8 94 Pascal Wehrlein SAUBER FERRARI 65 +1 lap 4
9 26 Daniil Kvyat TORO ROSSO 65 +1 lap 2
10 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 65 +1 lap 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next tilt is in two weeks time from the storied Monte Carlo street circuit in Monaco. The perfect appetizer to Memorial Day’s feast of motorsport Monaco is never a Grand Prix to be missed. And with Hamilton versus Vettel heating up as one of the best inter-team rivalries in years, the street fight in the principality could be another pivotal moment in their road to the championship. Hope to see you then!

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2017 F1 Grand Prix of Spain — Qualifying results

Mercedes’ Hamilton takes pole in Barcelona over Ferrari’s Vettel; Bottas P3 in second Silver Arrow

Eager to regain his momentum after a disappointing fourth place finish in Russia two weeks ago, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton stormed to a blisteringly fast pole position on Saturday at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain. With most of the cars sporting significant upgrades entering Round 5 and the beginning of the pivotal European portion of the Championship, Hamilton ran a remarkable 1.19.149 lap during the latter part of Q3. It was good enough to keep him in front of the hard charging Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel on the warm and windy track if only by a scant .05. Hamilton’s Silver Arrows teammate, Valtteri Bottas, who is coming off the high of his first F1 win at Sochi, was not quite as quick as the elite top two despite pushing his ride to the limit. That separated Bottas from his teammate and pushed him onto the second row in P3. Vettel’s Prancing Horse teammate Kimi Raikkonen slotted in alongside Bottas in P4, once again seeming to be very fast in all the practice sessions but then missing that final special something when the real qualifying began.

The two Red Bulls struggled for top end speed and stability somewhat versus their top-flight opposition despite their own upgrades. Max Verstappen once again outpaced his senior teammate Daniel Ricciardo, P5 to P6. McLaren had a surprisingly good day coming off a huge oil leak issue in practice, with Spaniard Fernando Alonso vaulting his troubled chassis all the way up to P7 despite a serious lack of track time. Must have been the home cooking and tennis break on Friday while the mechanics scrambled to fix the Honda-powered car. Spain will be Alonso’s last race before he skips Monaco and takes on the daunting challenge that is the Indianapolis 500 in two weeks. He and the team would dearly love to grab some points before that cross-continetal adventure after a slew of DNFs to start the season.

Rounding out the Top 10, the two Force Indias once again made a very representative showing, with Sergio Perez qualifying P8 and young Esteban Ocon taking P 10 on the grid. Felipe Massa spilt them with his P9 time for Williams.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Spanish Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:20.511 1:20.210 1:19.149 12
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:20.939 1:20.295 1:19.200 16
3 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:20.991 1:20.300 1:19.373 15
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:20.742 1:20.621 1:19.439 14
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:21.430 1:20.722 1:19.706 12
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:21.704 1:20.855 1:20.175 12
7 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:22.015 1:21.251 1:21.048 15
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:21.998 1:21.239 1:21.070 14
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:22.138 1:21.222 1:21.232 15
10 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:21.901 1:21.148 1:21.272 17

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live on NBC Sports at 8AM Eastern here in the States. With Ferrari nipping at Mercedes’ heels and Lewis Hamilton desperate for a win it should be all to play for on a track these drivers all know so well. Hope to se you then!

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2017 F1 Grand Prix of Russia — Results & aftermath

Mercedes’ Bottas holds off Ferrari’s Vettel for maiden F1 win; Raikkonen P3 for the Prancing Horse; Hamilton off the podium in P4

Valtteri Bottas drove a nearly flawless race to score his first-ever Formula 1 win at the Russain Grand Prix on Sunday. Always highly regarded in his years at Williams, the 27-year-old Finn is finally piloting a win-worthy ride with his unexpected elevation to a factory Mercedes drive after outgoing champion Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement at the end of last season. After showing promising pace in the first three rounds of 2017, Bottas put his excellent new equipment to best use at the Sochi Autodrom to claim his maiden F1 victory after 81 races, a great moment for any driver in the sport. Despite Ferrari’s first front row lockout since 2008 Bottas got the jump on the two Prancing Horses of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen as the lights went out, surging from his P3 grid position up through the Ferraris to take the race lead with a fine outbreaking maneuver going into Turn 2. Proving once again that a strong start into clean air is worth its weight in gold in an F1 tilt, Bottas quickly stretched the lead over his two blood red pursuers, as well as his teammate Lewis Hamilton, who remained mired in fourth with mysterious overheating issues.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Despite an early Safety Car due to a collision between the Haas of Romain Grosjean and the Renault of Jolyon Palmer that bunched up the field before one full lap had even been run Bottas sprinted away again when the track went green three laps later, proving that his Silver Arrow had the legs for any and all comers on this day. Vettel’s race engineers gambled on running a longer first stint than Bottas on the Ultra Soft Pirelli tire compound so that his Super Soft set would be fresher at the death of the race. As the laps wound down it looked like the bet might pay off for the Scuderia, with Vettel carving large chunks of time off the anxious Finn so desperate to see the checkered flag. But Bottas mastered his nerves and ran near-perfect laps under that considerable pressure from the 4-time World Champion just behind him. He also took advantage of slower traffic by not only picking them off quickly but also by deploying his DRS when close to the non-contenders to negate Vettel’s own use of the open wing. Bottas came home .6 seconds to the good and after so much promise he will forever finally be known as a Formula 1 race winner. Now the question remains if he can build on this career-defining victory and truly challenge Hamilton for supremacy within the Mercedes team and perhaps even the World Championship.

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Despite their obvious improvement Ferrari must still have been somewhat disappointed at not getting the race victory after qualifying 1-2. But Vettel and Raikkonen did earn valuable points with their respective P2 and P3 podium finishes. Vettel now leads the Drivers’ Championship by 13 points over Lewis Hamilton after four rounds and Ferrari are only one point behind mighty Mercedes in the Constructors’ points. If Raikkonen can find a way to raise his game and take the fight to his teammate Vettel we could even be in for a crazy 4-driver slam bang shootout for the title. Certainly Mercedes and Ferrari have shown themselves to be the class of the manufacturers’ field this season and the battle between the two elite automotive giants now appears to be so close that it could well go down to the final race to decide 2017’s ultimate victor.

Bottas’ Mercedes teammate Hamilton was left wondering how his weekend in Russa went so wrong. After an uncharacteristically poor qualifying effort put the Englishman back in an unfamiliar P4 on the grid his car let him down when the action got hot, literally. Hamilton’s Merc suffered from persistent overheating issues that forced him to baby it rather than go flat out to fight the Ferraris ahead of him. No doubt Lewis will be hectoring his engineers in the two weeks before the next race to try to get his car to perform as well as his race-winning teammate’s did. The disappointing P4 finish also snapped Hamilton’s 8-race podium streak.

In the bigger picture, though, Hamilton did manage to hold off a charging Max Verstappen and secure those valuable extra two P4 points. Verstappen’s sole remaining Red Bull came home P5 with teammate Daniel Ricciardo suffering terminal rear break overheating after only 5 laps. It was Ricciardo’s second DNF out of only four races and Verstappen also DNF’s due to mechanical issues in Bahrain so the early unreliability of the Red Bull chassis this season has to be a concern. Force India once again capitalized on others’ misfortunes and their own solid, consistent performance and saw their two excellent drivers, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, come home P6 and P7 respectively. Once again it looks like Force India could well be the fourth strongest F1 team, quite an accomplishment for such a small, modestly funded stable. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg saved the day for the factory team after Palmer’s first lap shunt by running a marathon 40-lap opening stint on the Ultra Soft tires that paid off with a P8 finish. Hulkenberg was also helped by an unfortunate late puncture to the Williams of Felipe Massa that forced the veteran Brazilian to cede his track position for an unplanned pit stop on Lap 41. The team did well with a quick tire change but by the time he came back out Massa had to settle for finishing P9 and a lap down. Carlos Sainz grabbed the last points paying position with a very good P10 drive for Toro Rosso, outdoing his Russian teammate Daniil Kyat’s P12 at the latter’s home grand prix.

Top 10 finishers of the Russian Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 52 1:28:08.743 25
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 52 +0.617s 18
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 52 +11.000s 15
4 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 52 +36.320s 12
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 52 +60.416s 10
6 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 52 +86.788s 8
7 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 52 +95.004s 6
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 52 +96.188s 4
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 51 +1 lap 2
10 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO 51 +1 lap 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next race will be the Spanish Grand Prix from Barcelona in two weeks time. Hope to see you then to find out if Bottas can build on his stunning success in Sochi and really give his 3-time World Champion teammate something to worry about!

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2017 F1 Grand Prix of Russia — Qualifying results

Ferrari locks out front row at Sochi with Vettel taking pole, Kimi P2; Mercedes on the back foot in quali with Bottas besting Hamilton, P3 to P4

If there were still doubts about Ferrari’s surprisingly strong start to the 2017 season after three strong rounds for the fabled Scuderia they were laid to rest during Saturday qualifying in Sochi, Russia when the two Prancing Horses locked out the front row for an F1 race for the first time since 2008. Sebastian Vettel put in a storming lap with time running out in Q3 to pip his teammate Kimi Raikkonen for the pole by less than half a second. The excellent pace of the two Ferraris knocked both Mercedes Silver Arrows off the front row, an usual sight in the new turbo era to say the least. Even more unusual, Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton was pushed out of the top 3, out-qualified by his new teammate Valtteri Bottas for the second week in a row. Hamilton finds himself starting from fourth position on the grid aside Bottas’ superior P3. Obviously come race day the getaway from the line will be paramount for this contending quartet. But Ferrari have clearly shown that they have an advantage in getting maximum performance out of the new generation of extra wide Pirelli rubber, which has enabled them to seriously challenge Mercedes’ formerly unquestioned dominance. And in Vettel they have a driver with the supreme talent to wring the utmost out of this excellent and much improved new SF70H chassis and compete with a superstar like Hamilton on even terms for victories.

Further back on the grid, Daniel Ricciardo did very well to bank a lap good enough for P5 after the Red Bulls had struggled to find outright pace on the very low abrasion Sochi Autodorm circuit. The veteran Aussie’s time was signifcantly better than his wunderkind teammate Max Verstappen’s, who could do no better than P7. Splitting the Red Bull duo was the Williams of Felipe Massa, who qualified P6 and showed that perhaps the Williams is finally beginning to find some consistent speed after an underwhelming beginning to the season. But rookie teammate Lance Stroll could do no better than P12 and Team Williams will need more from their young Canadian driver if they are to start banking those ever-valuable Constructors’ points on a regular basis. Nico Hulkenberg was excellent once again, pulling his factory Renault within shouting distance of the contenders in P8, his third Top 10 qualifying effort in a row. And overachieving Force India also performed well, with Sergio Perez taking P9 and the impressive young Frenchman Esteban Ocon quick enough for P10.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Russian GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:34.493 1:34.038 1:33.194 20
2 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:34.953 1:33.663 1:33.253 18
3 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:34.041 1:33.264 1:33.289 18
4 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:34.409 1:33.760 1:33.767 19
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:35.560 1:35.483 1:34.905 20
6 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:35.828 1:35.049 1:35.110 20
7 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:35.301 1:35.221 1:35.161 18
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:35.507 1:35.328 1:35.285 21
9 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:36.185 1:35.513 1:35.337 18
10 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:35.372 1:35.729 1:35.430 20

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live starting a 8 AM Eastern on NBC Sports here in the states. Can Ferrari follow up their impressive qualifying with a matching 1-2 when it really counts or will Mercedes find the race pace to deny the Scuderia that fervent wish? Hope to see you then to find out!

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2017 F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain — Qualifying results

Bottas takes first career pole by besting Mercedes’ teammate Lewis Hamilton; Vettel qualifies P3 for Ferrari

Intent on atoning for his inexplicable spin behind a Safety Car last week in China first year Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas scored his first career pole in Bahrain. Bottas pipped his more heralded triple World Champion teammate Lewis Hamilton by a razor thin .023 of a second. The Finn and former Williams driver showed his quality in a hot car under the lights on the cooling track and will be hunting his first F1 victory in tomorrow’s race. But as any F1 fan knows besting Hamilton in race competition will be harder said than done. Then again Bottas has a chance to prove that the real intra-team Mercedes competition did not end with Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement at the end of 2016.

Bottas not only kept his teammate behind him but also finally the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. For the first time in this young season Vettel was unable to get on the front row after splitting the Mercedes duo in the first two fast Saturdays of 2017. Vettel will start from P3 on the grid. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who was a little too vocal with his displeasure for the Scuderia’s liking in China en route to a fourth place finish, was unable to line up next to him and will start in P5. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo bested Raikonnen by sneaking in a fast lap good enough to claim P4, while his exciting young teammate Max Verstappen, who added to his legend with another monster drive in the wet in Shanghai, could do no better than P6 at the ultra-dry Bahrain International Circuit. The Renault factory team had an impressive effort after a frustrating start to the season, showing rapid development to their engine & chassis that enabled Nico Hulkenberg to take a very strong P7 and junior teammate Jolyon Palmer able to make it into Q3 for the first time in his career with a solid P10 time. Now the yellow Renaults have got to try to put it all together in a race and grab some points. Rounding out the Top 10, Williams’ Felipe Massa took P8 and Romain Grosjean will start P9 for Haas.

Big news was also made off-track when McLaren’s Fernando Alonso announced that he will skip Monaco this Memorial Day and race in the Indianapolis 500 for Andretti Autosport instead. The prospect of the 2-time Formula 1 champion racing at the Brickyard has whet the appetite of every race fan around the world and it should be exciting to see how the Spaniard performs in his first-ever oval race at the grandaddy of all American tracks. Jenson Button will come out of retirement to sub for Alonso for a one-off in Monte Carlo in the non-competetive McLaren.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Bahrain Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:31.041 1:29.555 1:28.769 12
2 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:30.814 1:29.535 1:28.792 13
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:31.037 1:29.596 1:29.247 12
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:31.667 1:30.497 1:29.545 12
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:30.988 1:29.843 1:29.567 16
6 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:30.904 1:30.307 1:29.687 12
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:31.057 1:30.169 1:29.842 15
8 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:31.373 1:30.677 1:30.074 12
9 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:31.691 1:30.857 1:30.763 16
10 30 Jolyon Palmer RENAULT 1:31.458 1:30.899 1:31.074 15

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live starting at 10:30 AM Eastern on CNBC here in the States. Can Bottas take his first ever F1 victory? Or will Hamilton and Vettel resume their duel for supremacy? Can a Red Bull get into the mix and make their claim as a serious contender? Hope to see you then to find out!

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2017 F1 Grand Prix of China — Results & aftermath

Hamilton back on top in Shanghai, Vettel a close 2nd; Verstappen P3 after another wonder drive in the wet

Mercedes’ hard-charging ace Lewis Hamilton was back to his winning ways at the Shanghai International Circuit dominating the Chinese Grand Prix from pole and taking his first victory of the year. In the new season’s second contest Hamilton avenged his defeat two weeks ago in Australia by driving a masterfully fast and controlled race and keeping all comers in his rearview mirrors. In the end, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was the closest contender on a damp day following up his victory in Melbourne with a solid P2 some 6.25 seconds adrift of the English Mercedes driver. Vettel proved again that the new Prancing Horse will be a force to be reckoned with and a genuine threat to mighty Mercedes’ recent run of unchallenged dominance. The two most talented drivers from the most competitive F1 factory teams are now tied in Championship points and it looks for all the world that we will be treated to a genuine nip-and-tuck year long chase between teams and star pilots to see who comes out on top.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

As good as Hamilton and Vettel were special mention must be reserved to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. The 19-year-old wunderkind started way back in P16 after mechanical issues ruined his qualifying effort. But just as he put on a passing clinic in the rains of Brazil last year the Dutchman once again excelled in wet conditions in China, making up a ton of positions right after the lights went out to start the race and then carving his way through tougher traffic. After hustling and dicing with essentially all the top contenders including both Ferraris and Hamilton’s Mercedes, Verstappen found himself dueling with his teammate Daniel Ricciardo for the last podium place as the laps wound down. Despite the more experienced Aussie’s pressure tactics and his keen desire to repay his junior partners exception earlier pass on him Verstappen held on for P3, another amazing drive in this talented kid’s growing legend. For Ricciardo the disappointment over missing out on a podium must have been eclipsed by his strong P4 finish and ability to contend with the best drivers in the field after an utterly miserable DNF at his home Grand Prix in Australia a fortnight ago. It should be interesting, however, to see if Red Bull can replicate these strong performances in the perfectly dry conditions that as we are sure to have in Bahrain next weekend, as their Renault power plant still seems down on pure power.

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Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen was again not quite up to speed and complained throughout the race about lack of torque. Unable to stick with the elite pack and bested by Vettel for a second race weekend the Iceman settled for a P5 finish. Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas also had a disappointing day with an inexplicable spin behind the safety car early on costing the Finn big time. Bottas was able to recover somewhat but came home back in P6, a big letdown after qualifying P3. Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz was the only driver to take the big gamble to start on slicks starting the race and with a poor opening lap that saw him lose control several times it looked like a huge mistake. But with no more rain falling and the track drying relatively quickly the Spaniard hung on and was somewhat vindicated, eventually coming home a very solid P7. Haas’ Kevin Magnussen put on an impressive drive displaying impressive passing skills to score the American team’s first points of the season by taking P8 well ahead of his more heralded stablemate Romain Grosjean, who could not overcome his poor starting position and missed out on points at P11. The two Force India’s of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon rounded out the Top 10 by finishing P9 and P10 respectively, a particulary good drive from the young Frenchman Ocon who started dead last from 20th on the grid.

Top 10 finishers in the Chinese Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 56 1:37:36.158 25
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 56 +6.250s 18
3 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 56 +45.192s 15
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 56 +46.035s 12
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 56 +48.076s 10
6 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 56 +48.808s 8
7 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO 56 +72.893s 6
8 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 55 +1 lap 4
9 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 55 +1 lap 2
10 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 55 +1 lap 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

Other race notes: Williams had a terrible weekend and scored no points, once again seeming to lack enough downforce to compete at such a twisty track in such cool conditions. Canadian rookie Lance Stroll was out on Lap 1 after a collision with Perez beached him the gravel and Felipe Massa was easy prey for several mid-pack teams when he simply could not get enough heat in his tires. The veteran Brazilian finished P13 despite qualifying 7th. Honda-powered McLaren also had an awful day despite good pace by Fernando Alonso, as they saw both their cars DNF again for the second race in a row. But perhaps the worst weekend belonged to stand -in rookie Sauber driver Antonio Giovinazzi, who crashed heavily on Lap 4 entering the start-finish straight away in an almost identical fashion to his shunt in Saturday qualifying. It must have been a real punch in the gut for the financially struggling Sauber team after working hard to get the car race ready in the first place and Giovinazzi did his F1 career no favors with his nightmare weekend in Shanghai.

The next race is in but one week’s time as the teams hustle off to ultra-dry Bahrain. It should be quite a contrast from rainy China and with the score 1-1 between Hamilton and Vettel and Mercedes and Ferrari you know the battle for supremacy is only going to get hotter in the desert. Hope to see you then!

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2017 F1 Grand Prix of China — Qualifying results

Mercedes’ Hamilton shatters track record in Shanghai for pole; Vettel again P2 for Ferrari, Bottas P3

Saturday qualifying for the first two races of the season have now produced identical results. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton smashed the 13-year-old track record previously held by the great Michael Schumacher to grab pole position at the Shanghai International Circuit for tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix. But just like two weeks ago in Melbourne Ferrari showed that they are ready to mount a legitimate challenge to mighty Mercedes. With the checkered flag flying in Q3 the Scuderia’s ace Sebastian Vettel, the race winner in Australia, pipped Hamilton’s Mercedes’ teammate Valtteri Bottas by a thousandth of a second for P2. And once again Bottas was superior to Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen, P3 to P4. It seems like there will finally be a genuine two-team chase for the Championship this year because Ferrari’s development during the off season has been a revelation. The Prancing Horse and their new chassis have clearly got the firepower to take the fight to the Silver Arrows, as well as the pilots to execute a winning game plan. And that can only be good for Formula1. All that said, tomorrow’s weather in Shanghai is not looking great and we could have a wet weather start where strategy becomes even more important than race craft. So not only the contending drivers will be feeling the pressure come race day but also the respective Mercedes and Ferrari brain trusts. With Ferrari’s race-winning strategic coup in Melbourne the ball is clearly in Mercedes’ court to prove they can think as fast as their cars drive.

Further down the field Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo recovered from his homeland horror weekend  a fortnight ago to set the fifth fastest time. This despite some technical issues on his car yet again at the start of qualifying and ominous engine problems for his teammate Max Verstappen that saw the wunderkind unable to escape Q1. Verstappen will start way back in P19. But if there is rain we could be treated to another spectacular Rain Meister passing performance by the kid a la his wonder drive through the field in Brazil last year. Either way, Red Bull have got to be seriously concerned about the early signs of unreliability in their Renault power plant.

Rounding out the Top 10 Felipe Massa was P6 for Williams and his rookie teammate, Canadian Lance Stroll, acquitted himself decently with a time good enough for P10. Nico Hulkenberg was P7 for the factory Renault team, while Sergio Perez was P8 for Force India and Daniil Kvyat took P9 on the grid for Toro Rosso.

Sauber rookie Antonio Giovinazzi, subbing for the injured Pascal Wehrlein, was already through to Q2 but still pushing hard on his final Q1 run when he crashed heavily just before the start-finish line as time ran in that first session. The young Italian driver was thankfully unhurt but his misfortune also scrubbed promising laps by Force India’s Esteban Ocon and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, relegating them to the back of the pack. And the Sauber team has a long night of work to get the totalled car race worthy for tomorrow.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Chinese Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:33.333 1:32.406 1:31.678 13
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:33.078 1:32.391 1:31.864 15
3 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:33.684 1:32.552 1:31.865 14
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:33.341 1:32.181 1:32.140 15
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:34.041 1:33.546 1:33.033 12
6 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:34.205 1:33.759 1:33.507 14
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:34.453 1:33.636 1:33.580 16
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:34.657 1:33.920 1:33.706 15
9 26 Daniil Kvyat TORO ROSSO 1:34.440 1:34.034 1:33.719 17
10 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:33.986 1:34.090 1:34.220 18

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race coverage starts at the ungodly hour of 2:00 AM Eastern here in the States and will be broadcast on NBC Sports, so set your DVR or pull an all-nighter. Between the remarkably tight Mercedes-Ferrari competition and the serious threat of rain to throw the cat amongst the pigeons you don’t want to miss this one. Hope to see you then!

Australian F1 Grand Prix

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Australia — Results & aftermath

GAME ON: Ferrari & Vettel surge to stunning season opening win in Oz, Hamilton & Bottas 2nd & 3rd for Mercedes

After suffering three years of Mercedes’ dominance to start this new turbo era of F1, Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari fired a warning shot on Sunday that 2017 could well be different. At the season’s opening round in Melbourne, Australia, Vettel showed that the redesigned Prancing Horse’s blistering pace during the pre-season Spanish tests was no fluke. Vettel charged his blood red mount to a dominant win at the Albert Park circuit, coming home nearly 10 seconds ahead of Hamilton’s previously nonpariel Silver Arrow. Despite a good getaway by Lewis from pole, Vettel had a dominant race once he overtook Hamilton on tire strategy and was barely challenged thereafter. With Hamilton’s super soft Pirelli’s going off after Lap 17, the Englishman was forced to pit for fresh rubber. But Vettel’s sleek new SF70H chassis was able to continue to run effectively until Lap 23 on its fat super softs. Hamilton was further hampered by getting stuck behind the competetive Red Bull of Max Verstappen so that by the time Vettel emerged from a well-executed Ferrari service Hamilton was two places behind the German former 4-time World Champ. While Hamilton would eventually overtake Verstappen the damage was done & Vettel sailed away to the surprisingly easy victory. Obviously it’s only one race but the prospect of a real season-long fight between a newly ascendant Ferrari and the previously imperious Mercedes has got to whet the appetite of every true F1 fan.

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Hamilton’s new teammate Valtteri Bottas made up for a poor start on the super softs by charging hard on his soft tires after his pit stop, where his F1 WO8 seemed to instantly perform better on the relatively harder rubber. Bottas, who has looked nearly a match for Hamilton despite his brand new equipment, even harrased his senior teammate as the laps ran down. In the end Bottas was able to join Lewis on the podium in P3, salvaging a very good points haul for the somewhat stunned Mercedes team. It’s possible that the Merc braintrust will have to re-evaluate both their race strategy in light of Sunday’s dissapointment, as well as just how much downforce they can afford to put on the car in order to get their tires to last longer and perform better.

Vettel’s Ferrari stablemate, Kimi Raikkonen, also had issues with his tires and had nothing to really challenge the top 3. The veteran Finn finished P4. After losing out on his dice with Hamilton, Red Bull’s Verstappen slipped back with brake issues and finished P5. Still the result was much better than his teammate Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian hero had a disastrous weekend at his home Grand Prix, first wiping out in Q3 on Saturday and then suffering an sensor issue where his car was stuck in 6th gear on the formation lap. This required Ricciardo to start from the pits after his team had frantically repaired the issue and by the time he came out he was already 2 laps down. As if to emphasize the futility of the entire weekend’s effort, his RB13  gave up the ghost on Lap 26. The talented and charismatic Aussie will be hoping for better things when the competition moves to China in a fortnight.

Felipe Massa fared much better in his return to F1 racing after an incredibly quick retirement at the end of the 2016 season. The savvy old Brazilian proved he still has what it takes, shepharding his Williams home to a P6 finish. Force India had a nice recovery after poor qulaifying saw both cars staring outside the top 10 on the grid. The ever improving Sergio Perez nabbed a solid P7 and his young wingman Estaban Ocon grabbed a valuable point by coming home P10. The Toro Rossos of Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top 10, finishing P8 and P9 respectively.

McLaren nearly looked competetive with Fernando Alonso driving superbly and dicing with Ocon and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg for the ever-important 10th spot before suspension damage forced his retirement. Alonso’s new teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, taking over from longtime McLaren stalwart Jenson Button, struggled mightily and finished back in P13. Another notable disappointment was Romain Grosjean who qualified his Haas an impressive P7 and looked strong in the early going only to see engine failure end his day prematurely on Lap 13.

Top 10 finishers in Australia:

POS. DRIVER TEAM TIME POINTS
1 SEBASTIAN VETTEL FERRARI 1:24:11.672 25
2 LEWIS HAMILTON MERCEDES +9.975s 18
3 VALTTERI BOTTAS MERCEDES +11.250s 15
4 KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN FERRARI +22.393s 12
5 MAX VERSTAPPEN RED BULL RACING +28.827s 10
6 FELIPE MASSA WILLIAMS +83.386s 8
7 SERGIO PEREZ FORCE INDIA +1 lap 6
8 CARLOS SAINZ TORO ROSSO +1 lap 4
9 DANIIL KVYAT TORO ROSSO +1 lap 2
10 ESTEBAN OCON FORCE INDIA

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next round of the World Championship will be contested from Shanghai, China in two weeks time. Will Ferrari’s first strike prove to be a harbinger of great things to come or an early season fluke? Only one way to find out — hope to see you then!

Australian F1 Grand Prix - Qualifying

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Australia — Qualifying results

It’s the start of another Formula 1 season and it kicks off in earnest with Saturday Qualifying from Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia. After last season’s shocking end, where Nico Rosberg won his hard fought, long sought after first World Championship over his arch-nemesis Lewis Hamilton and then promptly retired, the driver dominos have all fallen and new chassis & tires specs are unveiled in their first action in anger. Will Ferrari’s test pace in Spain really be enough to take on mighty Mercedes and a hungry Hamilton for the Prancing Horse’s first title since 2008? Or will the Silver Arrows reign supreme again as they have done since the start of this new turbo era? There’s only one way to find out when the teams & drivers put it all on the line to start 2017 Down Under!

Hamilton grabs firs pole of the year for Mercedes, new stablemate Bottas P3; Ferrari’s Vettel splits the Silver Arrows with P3; hometown hero Ricciardo crashes in Q3

After finishing runner up to his now-retired teammate Nico Rosberg to end the tumultuous and ultra-competetive 2016 season, Lewis Hamilton looked determined to lay down a marker in Melbourne in his redesigned Mercedes, grabbing pole position late in Q3 to cap off the first race qualifying of the 2017 campaign. Desperate to nab another Driver’s Championship and no longer dogged by his nemesis Rosberg, Hamilton set a fast lap of 1:22.18, besting his new teammate, former Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, by .3 seconds after they had been neck and neck throughout Q3. Ferrari’s Sebatian Vettel was able to split the Silver Arrows on his final quali lap, showing the strides that the Scuderia has made in the offseason with the much more aerodynamic body work of the new chassis forumla, as well as the signifcantly fatter tires. Kimi Raikkonen was again the loyal wingman to Vettel, setting a time good enough for P4. With Mercedes and Ferrari mixing it up in the first two rows, as well as yet another tricky new clutch system, Sunday’s start should be exciting and nerve racking. Also look for possible issues with these new extra-wide front wings possibly taking early race damage and complicating matters for the contenders.

Rounding out the top 10, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen could do no better than P5, while his teammate and Aussie hero Daniel Ricciardo crashed out when he lost the back end midway through Q3. Ricciardo will have to fight his way back from P10 if he’s to make a good showing at his home Grand Prix in front of his countrymen. Romain Grosjean was a very impressive P6 for second year American team Haas, while Felipe Massa, who might have set a record for world’s quickest retirement when Bottas jumped ship and he was pressed back into action for team Williams, took P7. Toro Rosso looked solid, with their two retunring drivers Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat fast enough for P8 and P9 respectively.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Australian GP:

POS. DRIVER TEAM TIME
1 LEWIS HAMILTON MERCEDES 1:22.188
2 SEBASTIAN VETTEL FERRARI 1:22.456
3 VALTTERI BOTTAS MERCEDES 1:22.481
4 KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN FERRARI 1:23.033
5 MAX VERSTAPPEN RED BULL RACING 1:23.485
6 ROMAIN GROSJEAN HAAS 1:24.074
7 FELIPE MASSA WILLIAMS 1:24.443
8 CARLOS SAINZ TORO ROSSO 1:24.487
9 DANIIL KVYAT TORO ROSSO 1:24.512
10 DANIEL RICCIARDO RED BULL RACING DNF

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix airs live at 1 AM on NBC Sports Network  here in the States. With a classic Mercedes-Ferrari duel shaping up as the first story line of the new season you don’t want to miss a thing when the lights go out and the four frontrunners head into Turn 1. Hope to see you then!

rosberg_f1gpabudhabi_2016

2016 F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi — Results & aftermath

Rosberg claims 2016 Divers’ Championship despite Hamilton victory & tactics in Abu Dhabi; Vettel a noble P3 for Ferrari

It all came down to the final race of the season to decide who would emerge victorious in the fierce internecine battle between Mercedes’ teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg for the 2016 Formula 1 Driver’s Championship. Going blow for blow over the course of 21 grueling rounds around the globe, Hamilton sought desperately to come from behind, ring up his 3rd consecutive title and once again prove himself top dog at the Mercedes factory team. But despite starting from pole and leading nearly the entirety of the race en route to victory at the tricky Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, and despite slow rolling to try to push Rosberg back into the clutches of other competitors, Rosberg maintained his poise and managed to come home P2 to earn his first-ever World Championship on overall points. Rosberg rode a dynamite start to his year that saw him reel off 6 straight victories and the supreme reliability of his nonpareil Mercedes chassis to join his father Keke as father-and-son F1 Champions. The great Graham and Damon Hill are the only other duo to earn that rare familial distinction. It was a well-earned payoff to Rosberg’s elusive championship dreams and it must have been extremely satisfying coming at the expense of his ultra-competitive and ruthless archrival after being a heartbroken runner-up to Hamilton the two previous years.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

For Hamilton, the disappointment must have been equally strong. Seeking to join Alain Prost & Sebastian Vettel as members of the 4-time F1 Champions club, the tenacious and talented Englishman did all he could to close out the season with another crown, winning the last four races on the trot. In fact, Hamilton won 10 Grand Prix overall to Rosberg’s 9. But Hamilton also suffered from occasional reliability problems and mystifying poor starts and in the end those few points left on the table doomed him, as Rosberg’s consistency edged him out by a slim 385-380 margin. Hamilton’s final gambit was to cold-bloodedly try to back Rosberg into the clutches of Ferrari’s Vettel and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by running just a bit slowly as the laps wound down, defying explicit team orders to pick up the pace in the process. In that Machiavellian way he hoped to force Rosberg off the podium and seize the title. It didn’t happen as Rosberg had enough pace left in his tires to hold off those other stalwart competitors and come home a hard-fought P2. With that high finish he ascended to the pinnacle of F1 for the first time despite Hamilton’s race win and finally got the better of his more decorated foe in the ultimate season-long contest for the first time as Mercedes teammates.

rosberg_f1gpabudhabi_2016_2

In truth it seemed like Vettel was very kind to Rosberg in those closing laps. With the fastest car in the field after a late pit stop gave him the freshest rubber, Vettel made one good run at Rosberg after getting by the flagging Verstappen. When the Ferrari driver failed to pass he seemed content to come home P3 and not ruin his fellow German’s lifelong dream. Nonetheless, it was probably Vettel’s best drive of the year in what was otherwise a pretty dismal campaign for the Scuderia. It certainly was an honorable way to finish up a season where the 4-time World Champ has often been uncharacteristically impetuous and whiney. Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who outscored him more often than not in the second half of the season, was a distant P6.

For Red Bull’s Verstappen it was another spectaular race. The Dutch teenager spun on the opening lap after coming together with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and then had to fight his way through the field yet again, as he did so magnificently in the rain in Brazil two weeks ago. But this time he had all race long to do it and the team gambled by keeping him on the second softest tire on offer this weekend, the red-banded Super Softs, for an extended stint to recover track position. The bet paid off and set Verstappen up on a one-stop strategy that very nearly resulted in a podium even if it eventually fell short. It certainly did give Rosberg some worried moments late in the contest as the Red bull phenom harassed the eventual champion, causing Rosberg to plead for his pit wall to speed up the recalcitrant Hamilton. In the end Verstappen’s rubber went off after a number of hard fought moments and he came home just off the podium in P4. But 2016 will be remembered as this young man’s breakout season and we can look forward to many more special moments to come from this talented wunderkind.

Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo must have wondered why he was not also left out for a one-stop strategy. Running well on his original Super Soft tires, the team somewhat inexplicably called in the Aussie to switch to the more durable Soft compound, the hardest and theoretically slowest on offer, on only Lap 10. This insured that Ricciardo would have to make another stop and also saw him shuffle back out behind Ferrari’s Raikkonen. That loss of track position proved fatal to any of Ricciardo’s further aspirations. In the end he leapfrogged Raikkonen later in the race but came home a disappointing P5. Nico Hulkenberg survived his first lap clout with Verstappen, taking P7, and his Force India teammate Sergio Perez was P8, ensuring that overachieving team’s emarkable and lucrative fourth place finish in the Constructors’ Championship. That came at the expense of Williams whose disappointing year went out with a whimper, with the retiring Felipe Massa managing some points in his final drive with a P9 finish but stablemate Valtteri Bottas forced out early with suspension damage. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso took the last points paying position with P10 but his teammate Jenson Button went out on Lap 13 with a suspension failure. It was a sad end to the 2009 Champion’s final race and an otherwise superlative F1 career.

To 10 finishers at Abu Dhabi:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 55 1:38:04.013 25
2 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 55 +0.439s 18
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 55 +0.843s 15
4 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 55 +1.685s 12
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 55 +5.315s 10
6 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 55 +18.816s 8
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 55 +50.114s 6
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 55 +58.776s 4
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 55 +59.436s 2
10 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 55 +59.896s 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

Click here for final Drivers’ Standings.

Click here for final Constructors’ Standings.