Tag Archives: Max Verstappen

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 Bahrain — Results & aftermath

ADVANTAGE FERRARI: Vettel bests Mercedes’ Hamilton for victory in Bahrain; Bottas P3 in the second Silver Arrow

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel made another emphatic statement that he and his team are up for a season-long championship fight against mighty Mercedes with a sparkling drive to victory under the lights at the Bahrain International Circuit. Once again willing to gamble on tire strategy, Ferrari rolled the dice early on an undercut for Vettel with an early pit stop on Lap 10. It seemed to backfire almost instantly on the Scuderia when a Safety Car emerged on Lap 13 following a collision between Williams’ Lance Stroll and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz. The Mercedes duo then dove for the pits simultaneously under the full course yellow flag along with several other runners, including the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo. But in having to service both Bottas, still leading from pole at that point, and Hamilton at the same time the Mercedes duo were forced to stack up and Hamilton wound up slowing significantly in front of Ricciardo. The pokey pace was deemed egregious by the stewards and Hamilton was levied a tough 5-second time penalty for impeding Ricciardo. That would prove pivotal because while Hamilton worked his way past Ricciardo and his faltering teammate Bottas in his effort to get back up to Vettel he was put irreparably on the back foot by having to spend those 5 extra seconds in the pits to serve the penalty. Despite running significantly faster than Vettel on fresher Soft compound Pirellis as the laps wound down the  gap could not be overcome by the Mercedes ace and in the end Vettel scored his second victory out of three races to start the season, hitting the checkered flag over 6 seconds to the good. It looks to be well and truly game on for a fierce Ferrari versus Mercedes/Vettel vs. Hamilton battle all year long. And that could lead to a very special Formula 1 season.

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Bottas, who scored his first ever pole position on Saturday, struggled with his overall pace in comparison to the top two finishers. While he was able to hold off a charging Vettel in the opening laps the Finn couldn’t maintain his lead for long and wound up shuffled backwards with persistent oversteer after that first controversial pit stop. Good enough to fend off all but Vettel and Hamilton, Bottas came home a distant P3, ceding the question of team leadership unequivocally to Hamilton. Still, it was a solid day after his inexplicable spin behind the Safety Car two weeks ago in China and good for the Mercedes #2’s overall confidence.

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Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen was once again underwhelming, coming home in P4 after never really being in the mix for a podium. Ricciardo was game but his Red Bull was not strong enough to challenge the frontrunners in the cool and dry nighttime desert conditions on this high deg track. The Aussie finished P5 but his talented teammate Max Verstappen unfortunately crashed out on Lap 11 with brake failure. Felipe Massa had a very good drive for Williams showing his car’s outright pace in the straights and staying out of trouble to take a valuable P6. Romain Grosjean got his first points of the year with a P8 for Haas and Nico Hulkenberg made it two races in a row in the top 10 for Renault at P9. Rounding out the Top 10 little Force India placed two drivers in the points for the second consecutive contest with Sergio Perez crossing the finish line in 6th and young Esteban Ocon coming home in P10.

Top 10 finishers at the Bahrain Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 57 1:33:53.374 25
2 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 57 +6.660s 18
3 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 57 +20.397s 15
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 57 +22.475s 12
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 57 +39.346s 10
6 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 57 +54.326s 8
7 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 57 +62.606s 6
8 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 57 +74.865s 4
9 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 57 +80.188s 2
10 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 57 +95.711s 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next race is in two weeks time from Russia at the Sochi Autodrome. With these new cars already scheduled to go through their first in-season development in the interim and Mercedes and Ferrari so closely matched after three races Round 4 should be a key contest to find out who can gain that elusive advantage. Hope to see you then!

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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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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.

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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.

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Brazil — Results & aftermath

Rain plays havoc at Interlagos but Hamilton prevails, Rosberg hangs on for P2; Verstappen puts in wonder drive in the wet for stunning P3

A steady downpour enveloped Autodromo Carlos Pace on Sunday during the Brazilian Grand Prix. On a track better known as Interalgos, veritable rivers and lakes of standing water created havoc from the start to the end of the protracted contest, the penultimate of the year, causing numerous crashes, Safety Car periods and two prolonged Red Flag stoppages. In the end, with the championship one greasy moment away from being decided by an unfortunate incident, both key contenders managed to keep it on the black stuff and finish in their best possible positions. Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg crossed the line 1-2 on this treacherous day, with Hamilton securing the victory he needed to keep his championship dream going into the last race at Abu Dhabi and Rosberg holding on for second to limit the damage. With Hamilton starting from pole and front-running out of the blinding spray for nearly the entire race, Rosberg did well to secure P2. The German looked much less assured than Hamilton for the entirety of the race, seeming to tiptoe around at times. But description proved to be the better part of valor because the Championship is still Rosberg’s to lose and while he might have tried to take risks and gone for the win that would have clinched his first-ever title this was simply not the day for it in rainy Sao Paolo, as car after car spun off and out of the GP. So Roseberg did what he had to do to limit Hamilton’s gains, with the Englishman’s gritty and poised performance good enough for the victory, his third on the trot, and pulling him within 12 points of his archrival Rosberg with all to play for in the final contest. As it is, Rosberg must only finish 3rd or higher in Abu Dhabi to claim his prize in two weeks and vanquish his tormentor. Game on.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

The results might not have been as kind for Rosberg had Red Bull not made the inexplicable decision to pit for Intermediate wet tires for their young phenom, Max Verstappen, on Lap 41 with the rain still bucketing down and a lousy forecast looming. When Williams’ Felipe Massa lost it and crashed out shortly thereafter on Lap 47 and with conditions not improving, Verstappen and his team made the decision to go back to Full Wet tires during the ensuing Safety Car period. This extra change cost the Dutchman valuable track position and shuffled him back to P14 upon the restart. But with the freshest deep-groove rubber in the race and less than 20 laps remaining in the 71-lap contest, Verstappen began a remarkable surge through the field, picking off first his teammate Daniel Ricciardo and then a fleet of other competitors. Using unconventional lines reminiscent of karting, Verstappen passed far off the standard racing line, counterintuitively seeking out the parts of the track where rubber had not been laid down that were actually less slippery in the rain. As the laps wound down, Verstappen made short work of Daniil Kvyat, Estaban Ocon, Felipe Nasr and Nico Hulkenberg. On Lap 67 he confronted Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who tried to defend but was still no match for the hard-charging Red Bull. With the teenage wunderkind executing a power move up the inside to take P4, Vettel was forced wide onto the rumble strips and was left to sputter and gripe on the radio about the unfairness of it all, as the former 4-time World Champ has so often done this disappointing season. On Lap 70, Verstappen completed his amazing ascension to the podium seizing P3 from Force India’s Sergio Perez by holding the inside line over a series of corners until the talented Mexican had to yield. In the end it was a remarkable performance in the trickiest of conditions and validated once again why Verstappen is held in such high regard for his pure driving skills, which are sure to get even better as the 19-year-old matures and gains more experience. One wonders where he might have finished had Red Bull not made that dubious extra tire stop — would he have had something for Rosberg and maybe even Hamilton at the end? But then perhaps we would not have all been treated to one of the great drives in F1 history.

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Perez still did very well to come home P4, while his Force India teammate Nico Hulkenberg finished P7 despite an ill-timed post-Safety Car puncture. Continue reading

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Brazil — Qualifying results

Hamilton takes 60th career pole at Interlagos, Rosberg P2; Raikkonen nabs P3 at the death for Ferrari

Mercedes’ ace Lewis Hamilton blistered the short and tricky Autódromo José Caros Pace circuit in Sao Paolo, Brazil on Saturday en route to a dominant lap good enough for pole position in Sunday’s race. Desperate to keep his championship aspirations alive on a track that has been far from kind to him, Hamilton nonetheless prevailed in slightly damp conditions, beating out his teammate and current points leader, Nico Rosberg, by .10 seconds. It was Hamilton’s 60th career pole and pulled him within 5 of his hero Ayrton Senna for second on the all-time list. More importantly, with only two races remaining it gave the Englishman his best shot at holding off Rosberg in Sunday’s Grand Prix, where the German can clinch his first World Championship with a victory no matter where Hamilton might finish. Even starting from P2 Rosberg’s chances seem decent to pull that off but Hamilton did what he had to do to hopefully start fast, keep Rosberg behind and live to fight it out at the last race in Abu Dhabi.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen had a nice burst on his very last lap in Q3 to vault himself into P3 on the starting grid, relegating Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to P4 with that excellent effort. Raikkonen’s teammate Sebastian Vettel did well to qualify in P5 after his car had hydraulic issues that almost cost him a chance to get onto the track at all, so big kudos to his Ferrari mechanics for getting it resolved in time. Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo ended up behind Vettel in P6 and it should be very interesting to see how those rows 2 and 3, split as they are between Ferrari and Red Bull, get off the line and interact when the lights go out. Haas’ Romain Grosjean had a superb effort with a time good enough for P7, the eye-opening first year American team’s best ever quali rank. Force India ended up with Nico Hulkenberg in P8 and Sergio Perez P9 but scored an extra bonus of sorts when neither of the Williams could break into Q3, despite the crowd’s partisan urgings for their retiring countryman Felipe Massa at his last Brazilian GP. That kept tiny Force India’s chances of beating out storied Williams F1 for a very lucrative fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship looking good. Fernando Alonso rounded out the Top 10 starters on Sunday with a time good enough for P10 in his McLaren.

Top 10 Qualifiers for the Brazilian Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:11.511 1:11.238 1:10.736 12
2 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 1:11.815 1:11.373 1:10.838 12
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:12.100 1:12.301 1:11.404 15
4 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:11.957 1:11.834 1:11.485 12
5 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:12.159 1:12.010 1:11.495 13
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:12.409 1:12.047 1:11.540 12
7 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:12.893 1:12.343 1:11.937 18
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:12.428 1:12.360 1:12.104 20
9 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:12.684 1:12.331 1:12.165 21
10 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:12.700 1:12.312 1:12.266 17

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live at 11AM Eastern on NBC Sports Network here in the States. The penultimate contest in a fast and furious 2016 campaign, Turn 1 on the opening lap could mean everything to the two Mercedes contenders, as contact is common there. Hope to see you then to find out how it all shakes out!

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Mexico — Results & aftermath

Hamilton dominates in Mexico for second win on the trot, Rosberg drives spirited race to secure P2; Ricciardo declared P3 after both Verstappen & Vettel demoted

Lewis Hamilton continued to do the only thing he can do to keep his Championship aspirations alive and the heat on his points-leading Mercedes teammate Nico Roseberg: just win, baby. After dominating last weekend in Austin, Texas at the US Grand Prix, Hamilton continued showing untouchable pace in the thin air of Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City. Starting from pole, the English contender and current two-time consecutive World Champ seems to have put his chronic starting woes well and truly behind him and blazed off the line cleanly. Despite Hamilton’s locking up and running off course briefly, Rosberg was still unable to match Hamilton’s acceleration, probably because the German was duking it out for positions with the two aggressive Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo. But even though Rosberg had every incentive to drive conservatively and perhaps live to fight another day he banged wheels with Verstappen rather than cede second to the precocious Dutchman.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Careening off and then back onto the track ahead of Verstappenan after the contact, it could have been argued that Rosberg gained an unfair advantage but the stewards ruled no action was warranted. So Rosberg’s decision to fight it out paid off and, as it has more than once this season after contact, he managed to escape any significant damage that might have compromised his race. Despite an early Safety Car period that scrambled the contenders’ tire strategies somewhat, the two Mercedes did what they have done 6 times this season: take another dominant 1-2. Hamilton was never really challenged for the victory, his 51st in F1 overall tying Alain Prost for second all-time. And while Rosberg again had to fight off Verstappen again on Lap 49 to secure second, the day still played to Rosberg’s undoubted advantage. With only two contests remaining in 2016 the 31-year-old German leads by 19 points over his bitter rival in the quest for his first Drivers’ Championship. Even if Hamilton takes the final two victories it will require failure from Rosberg or his car to overhaul him. And with the now-impressive combination of skill and determination that Rosberg has more often than not displayed this year, as well as more than a touch of necessary good fortune, it’s hard to see that happening no matter Lewis’ supreme talent.

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Despite being the only real challengers to Mercedes dominance in Mexico the day did not quite play out according to script for team Red Bull. Continue reading

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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 the United States — Qualifying results

Hamilton dominates with blistering lap for pole at COTA, Rosberg P2; Ricciardo P3 for Red Bull

Lewis Hamilton served notice that he is not ready to relinquish his championship just yet with a blistering lap at the Circuit of the Americas good enough not only for pole but also the F1 record at this relatively new circuit. After a string of disappointing results and bad mechanical luck, Hamilton’s stunning 1:34.999 time earned him the top starting spot for Sunday’s Grand Prix and reaffirmed his mastery at a track where he has always seemed to have a special affinity. Remarkably, Hamilton has won three out of the four F1 contests ever held at COTA. His Mercedes teammate, archrival and current points leader Nico Rosberg was just a blink beheind at 1:35.215, proving once again that there is very little to separate this dynamic but disparate duo. Hamilton must, repeat must avoid the clutch-bite issues that have plagued him and ruined so many of his starts this season if he is to regain momentum and get himself back into championship contention. One slip and Rosberg has shown repeatedly that he has what it takes to capitalize and drive perfectly from the front to victory and one step closer to his first-ever and much coveted Drivers’ Championship.

The Red Bulls showed the next best pace in the field, with Daniel Ricciardo pipping his younger teammate Max Verstappen, P3 to P4. Verstappen was nearly 4-tenths faster than the nearest Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen in P5 and the other Prancing Horse of Sebastien Vettel was another 2-tenths behind that. The fabled Scuderia looks to have essentially conceded second in the Constructors’ Championship to surging Red Bull and will probably shift to expending their considerable resources on next season’s much changed specification.

Nico Hulkenberg was very strong for his soon to be former team, Force India. It was announced after the Japanese GP two weeks ago that Hulkenberg will be leaving the overachieving little Indian team for a factory drive with Renault next year. The two Williams had a reasonably encouraging day with both Valtteri Bottas (P8) and Felipe Massa (P9) sneaking into Q3 for a change. And Carlos Sainz finally gave badly underachieving Toro Rosso a small glimmer of hope by taking P10 on the starting grid.

Top 10 qualifiers for the US Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:36.296 1:36.450 1:34.999 13
2 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 1:36.397 1:36.351 1:35.215 13
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:36.759 1:36.255 1:35.509 12
4 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:36.613 1:36.857 1:35.747 12
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:36.985 1:36.584 1:36.131 12
6 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:37.151 1:36.462 1:36.358 13
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:36.950 1:36.626 1:36.628 12
8 77 Valtteri Bottas WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:37.456 1:37.202 1:37.116 12
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:37.402 1:37.214 1:37.269 12
10 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO FERRARI 1:37.744 1:37.175 1:37.326 14

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s US Grand Prix airs live at 3PM Eastern tomorrow on NBC. Can hamilton convert pole into a much needed win to keep his championship hopes alive? Or will Rosberg foil him yet again en route to his his first title? Hope to see you then to find out?