Tag Archives: McLaren

FernandoAlonsoSpanishF1GPQual-2017

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

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

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

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 finishers in the United States Grand Prix:

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

Complete race results amiable via Formula1.com.

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

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia — Results & aftermath

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

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

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 finishers in Malaysia:

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

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

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

f1gpsingapore_2016

2016 F1 Grand Prix of Singapore — Results & aftermath

Rosberg edges out Ricciardo for victory in Singapore, reclaims Championship lead; Hamilton only good for enough P3

Nico Rosberg continued his run of fine form and drove a flawless race from pole to claim victory at the beautifully lit Marina Bay Circuit in Singapore on Sunday evening, holding off the surging Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo by just half a second as the checkered flag flew. While the Mercedes driver dominated for most of the day the pace of Riccardo in the closing stages of the race forced Rosberg to forego a final pit stop and nurse his older tires to the end, which accounted for much of Ricciardo’s late-race gains. Regardless, Rosberg has now won three races in a row after the summer break, regaining his previously stalled momentum and recapturing the Championship points lead. With his victory, Rosberg vaulted past his teammate and archrival Lewis Hamilton and now leads the chase for the title by 8 points with only 6 Grand Prix remaining.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Rosberg’s win capped a frustrating weekend for Hamilton. Not only did he see his points lead evaporate but he could never really overcome his disappointing qualifying effort after technical issues in Friday practice. In the end Hamilton couldn’t make any real headway against Ricciardo but held off the competitive Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and finished where he started, P3, flummoxed by his inability to wring any more speed from his usually nonpareil WO7 chassis, as well as persistent brake overheating issues. After winning 6 of 7 contests before the break, Hamilton has now lost that superb momentum through a combination of technical issues, misfortune and his own mistakes, particularly his poor start at Monza two weeks ago. Now that fortune seems to have returned its favor to his teammate in this back-and-forth season, it is now up to Hamilton to somehow try to wrestle back the lead from Rosberg. With Hamilton seeking his fourth title and Rosberg still hunting his first both drivers will be amply motivated for the closing contests. Whoever takes the crown will certainly have earned it and so evenly matched are the Silver Arrows teammates in their supreme cars that it may come down to a simple stroke of luck for one or the other.

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For Ricciardo and Red Bull it was very good race that saw their always aero-efficient chassis excel on the tight and twisty Marina Bay street circuit. Riccardo drove beautifully and even made Mercedes nervous with his closing pace. His eventual P2 helped the team stay 15 points clear of Ferrari in the all-important Constructor’s standings. His teammate Max Verstappen was not as successful, once again struggling to get away from the line, where he started from P4, and getting somewhat caught up in a big shunt by Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg as the race got underway. The wunderkind had to battle back all race long with the likes of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and eventually finished a decent but somewhat underwhelming P6. The Dutch phenom has now struggled to some degree in the last three races as the reality of just how difficult attaining consistent success in F1 sinks in. But to his credit he kept it out of the wall and raced cleanly despite his frustrations so that bodes well for his maturity going forward.

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The two Ferrari’s split the Red Bulls with Raikkonen driving well to take P4 just a little over 2 seconds behind Hamilton, although he might have been even closer to a podium if the Scuderia hadn’t opted for a late tire change, and Sebastian Vettel making a brilliant run from all the way in the back of the field to capture P5. It was an astonishing drive for Vettel on a track where passing is notoriously difficult, as he used smart tire strategy, patience and opportunistic overtaking to overcome mechanical problems that doomed his qualifying and show once again how good the 4-time world champ can be when he has the bit between his teeth. Fernando Alonso also drove extremely well bringing his McLaren home an impressive P7, while Sergio Perez carried the flag for Force India after his teammate Hulkenberg’s first lap crash out to take a valuable P8. Daniil Kvyat rediscovered some of his 2015 form at his favorite venue and drove an excellent race, coming home with much needed points for Toro Rosso in P9, the team’s first score in 4 races. It was a pivotal confidence boost for the much-maligned Russian whose F1 future appears very much up in the air. Kevin Magnusson got the last points-paying position with P10 despite starting from P15 in his Renault. With decisions about next years drivers’ line up also hanging over the Dane that was also a key result and an exemplary drive in the usually pokey Renault.

Top 10 finishers in Singapore:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 61 1:55:48.950 25
2 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 61 +0.488s 18
3 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 61 +8.038s 15
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 61 +10.219s 12
5 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 61 +27.694s 10
6 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 61 +71.197s 8
7 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 61 +89.198s 6
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 61 +111.062s 4
9 26 Daniil Kvyat TORO ROSSO FERRARI 61 +111.557s 2
10 20 Kevin Magnussen RENAULT 61 +119.952s 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next race is in two weeks time from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. With the championship tight as a tick and the season down to only 6 more races every lap is ever more crucial. Hope to see you then!

F1GPBelgium_2016

2016 F1 Grand Prix of Belgium — Results & aftermath

Rosberg sails to victory at Spa but Hamilton charges from rear to nab 3rd; Ricciardo P2 for resurgent Red Bull

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

The first race back from the summer break was marked by clashes, shunts and remarkable performances in Belgium. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg had a flawless drive from pole, making a speedy getaway, getting the most out of his tires for long stints and leaving the drama in the rest of the field far behind. In the end it led to a dominant victory at the historic Spa-Francorchamps track on Sunday. But while Rosberg was untouchable in the win he still must have been slightly unnerved seeing his teammate and archival Lewis Hamilton charge through the field and astonishingly come home P3. Hamilton started from the back of the grid after the team made multiple strategic engine changes and somehow willed his way to the podium, limiting Rosberg’s gains on the day. If there was a thought bubble above Rosberg’s head as he looked at Hamilton during the podium ceremonies it probably read: “What the hell are you doing up here?” For surely in his heart of hearts the German contender was expecting — and hoping — that Hamilton would finish out of the points completely and that he, Rosberg, would re-take the championship lead. Instead, despite his perfect day in the Ardennes, Hamilton’s scrappy effort insured that Rosberg remained behind him by 9 points as the two head into next weekend’s tussle at Monza, where they will once again be fighting on even terms. As has been said more than once before, if you want some serious passing done in Formula 1 better call Lewis Hamilton. And if you want to beat Hamilton in the championship you better keep him out of the points on those rare days when all the cards seem to be stacked against him.

All due credit to the English defending champion but Hamilton was also helped by a lengthy Red Flag period that bunched up the field and neutralized a lot of potential tire strategy with free changes available in the pits (as an aside, it is truly a ridiculous rule that tires can be changed in the pits during Red Flag periods in F1 — absolutely incomprehensible for race that has been “frozen”). The stoppage came when Ranault’s Kevin Magnussen suffered a prototypical Spa crash on Lap 7 when he lost control at high speed coming to the top of the big uphill sweeping left-hander Eau Rouge and smashed into the tire barriers. Though it looked nasty, Magnusson suffered only a minor ankle injury and was able to limp away with help from the medical crew. But the tire wall he speared into was badly damaged by the fierce impact and required 17 minutes worth of significant repairs. It capped a hectic opening stanza to the race featuring multiple collisions and retirements but after the Red Flag period the contest would settle down somewhat.

The Grand Prix got off to that contentious start when Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull’s wunderkind Max Verstappen all came together trying to squeeze through Turn 1, damaging all of their cars to some degree in the process. But the Red Flag period also wound up helping that combative trio when they were able to recover valuable track position after time-consuming repairs to front wings and under trays that should have destroyed all their races. While the two Ferraris got quickly back up to speed, Verstappen could never seem to recover his poise after that early incident where he felt hard done by. And while he diced and made life difficult for both Prancing Horses to the point of dangerous blocking maneuvers, they were able to overtake him eventually and score at least some points to salvage what had looked to be a dismal day in Belgium for the Scuderia. In the end, Vettel finished P6 and Raikkonen came home P9, which is something but maybe not enough to forestall major shakeups at Maranello. Verstappen, meanwhile, finished out of the points in P11 and with his erratic performance in front of huge crowd boosted by many of his enthusiastic Dutch countrymen (he also claims Belgian heritage) it seemed like the sheer moment of the occasion got to him. On days like yesterday it’s worth remembering that while Verstappen shows all the signs of being a super talented prodigy he is still just 18-years-old. At the intense Spa circuit and under the weight of so much expectation that lack of maturity seemed to cost him.

But all was not lost for resurgent Red Bull, as their senior driver Daniel Ricciardo drove a beautiful race, keeping his nose clean and maximizing his car’s greatly improved pace to come home P2 after starting from 5th on the grid. The Aussie was all smiles after the race and his ebullient spirit seems to have reemerged in full after a bit of a down period post-Monaco, where his team fumbled away what appeared to be a certain victory. The fact that Red Bull are now 22 points up on Ferrari for second in the Constructors’ standings and that it was also his third podium in a row couldn’t be hurting Ricciardo’s mood either. Also all smiles were the Force India duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, who came home P4 and P5 respectively. While Hulkenberg may have been slightly disappointed that he couldn’t score his first career podium in F1, The Little Team That Could saw their drivers’ excellent efforts vault them ahead of mighty Williams for 4th in the incredibly lucrative Constructors’ standings.

And speaking of bettering Team Williams, Fernando Alonso did just that in his at long last improving McLaren, besting a game Valtteri Bottas P7 to P8. It was fine finish for the Spaniard, who also started at the back of the pack due to penalties, and the McLaren team as a whole. One has to wonder what might have been had Jenson Button, starting from P9 on the grid, not been punted out of the race early on by Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein. Bottas’ teammate Felipe Massa took the last points paying position with P10 but all in all it was forgettable weekend for Williams, where their chassis’ continued lack of downforce proved too big a challenge to overcome at this long, fast but also twisty all-time great circuit.

Top 10 finishers for the Belgian Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 44 1:44:51.058 25
2 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 44 +14.113s 18
3 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 44 +27.634s 15
4 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 44 +35.907s 12
5 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 44 +40.660s 10
6 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 44 +45.394s 8
7 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 44 +59.445s 6
8 77 Valtteri Bottas WILLIAMS MERCEDES 44 +60.151s 4
9 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 44 +61.109s 2
10 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 44 +65.873s 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next race is but a week away and it’s at yet another historical European track — the very fast, very storied Monza Autodromo in Italy. It’s Ferrari’s home circuit but the fight for victory should end up being between the evenly matched Silver Arrows of Hamilton and Rosberg. With only eight more contests to go each race becomes more and more important in determining 2016’s champion and every little twist and turn takes on added significance — hope to see you then!

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Germany — Results & aftermath

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

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

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

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

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Russia — Results & aftermath

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

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

Pictures via GrandPrix247.com

Pictures via GrandPrix247.com

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

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

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2015 F1 Grand Prix of The United States — Qualifying results

Rosberg ends up on top in Austin after delayed & truncated qualifying, Hamilton P2; Ricciardo snags 3rd in the wet

With the eastern edge of Hurricane Patricia dumping rain on the Circuit of the Americas at a record clip, Formula 1 found itself in the unusual position of postponing the traditional Saturday Qualifying until race day morning on Sunday. And while the rains never stopped they did let up enough to get in two sessions of the scheduled three knockout rounds of qualifying to determine the grid for the United States Grand Prix, which is to be run at 2:30 Central/3:30 Eastern today. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg managed the best lap in treacherous conditions at the wonderful new track in Austin, Texas, just pipping his Championship-leading teammate Lewis Hamilton for the pole by a tenth of a second. With Hamilton all but fitted for this year’s title crown, however, and the weather supposed to be gradually improving as we count down to the race, it’s not at all certain that Rosberg’s accomplishment will really mean anything significant in the big picture.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was also excellent under the persistent threat of aquaplaning and managed the 3rd fastest time while his teammate Daniil Kvyat took P4. Force India’s Sergio Perez was an impressive P5 and teammate Nico Hulkenberg solid at P6. Felipe Massa pulled himself up to P7 late in the going, with teammate Valtteri Bottas a distant P10, and rookie Max Verstappen was P8 for Toro Rosso while Fernando Alonso drove superbly in his woeful McLaren to grab P9. The Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen are facing 10 grid-spot penalties for engine changes and will start P14 and P18 respectively, greatly improving Hamilton’s chances of clinching his second consecutive title this weekend. Vettel is his nearest if still distant pursuer and starting so far back really hurts the German’s chances of scoring enough points to keep his hopes alive for the next race in Mexico.

If anyone doubts that Formula 1 drivers are the best in the world they have only to look at the remarkable footage of them manhandling their machines in the deluge at COTA to make them a convert. It was truly one of the more amazing performances by a group of drivers that I’ve ever witnessed. Here’s wishing them less treacherous conditions for the race!

Top 10 Qualifiers at COTA:

POS. NO. DRIVER TEAM Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 6 NICO ROSBERG  MERCEDES 1:56.671 1:56.824 16
2 44 LEWIS HAMILTON  MERCEDES 1:56.871 1:56.929 14
3 3 DANIEL RICCIARDO  RED BULL RACING 1:56.495 1:57.969 16
4 26 DANIIL KVYAT  RED BULL RACING 1:57.640 1:58.434 16
5 11 SERGIO PEREZ  FORCE INDIA 1:59.284 1:59.210 16
6 27 NICO HULKENBERG  FORCE INDIA 1:58.325 1:59.333 16
7 19 FELIPE MASSA  WILLIAMS 2:00.902 1:59.999 17
8 33 MAX VERSTAPPEN  TORO ROSSO 1:58.689 2:00.199 17
9 14 FERNANDO ALONSO  MCLAREN 1:59.704 2:00.265 16
10 77 VALTTERI  BOTTAS  WILLIAMS 1:59.569 2:00.334 16

Complete Qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

The teams and drivers will really have to turn it around quickly as the race begins in just about an hour. It can be seen live on NBC here in the states.