Tag Archives: Motorsport

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Japan — Results & aftermath

Hamilton holds off Verstappen for win at Suzuka consolidating championship lead; Ricciardo P3 but Vettel out early with engine problems

Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton had an essentially prefect race weekend in Japan. The English points leader shattered the track record at Suzuka on Saturday en route to his first pole at this fabled track. Then on Sunday he was not only the fastest car and driver on the circuit but his main rival for the Drivers’ Championship was out early and did not finish. Capping off a nightmare three-race run for Scuderia Ferrari, their title aspirant, 4-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, suffered another engine problem apparently due to a faulty spark plug of all things that saw him down on woefully power and forced the retirement of his car on Lap 5. After the team’s crash-induced double DNF in Singapore, persistent engine woes in Malaysia that saw Vettel forced to start from last and Kimi Raikkonen not make the race start at all and then this disaster for Vettel in Japan, Ferrari’s once-promising season appears to have completely unraveled. In the face of this year’s all but bulletproof Mercedes F1 W08 chassis the legendary team from Maranello are now too far behind in the Constructors’ chase to have a realistic shot and Vettel saw his deficit to Hamilton balloon to 59 points after Sunday’s latest non-scoring DNF. That leaves the victorious Hamilton on the brink of his fourth world title and he could conceivably wrap it up as soon as the US Grand Prix two weeks hence in Austin. So all-in-all it was another superb day for Hamilton and the Silver Arrows and another unmitigated disaster for Ferrari.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Red Bull’s wunderkind Max Verstappen tried his best to spoil Hamilton’s party. After being elevated to P4 on the grid due to penalties against Valtteri Bottas, Verstappen was even quicker in race trim, besting his teammate Daniel Ricciardo early and then taking advantage of Vettel’s misfortune to firmly secure second position for the majority of the race. Even though the Red Bull lacks a bit of horsepower when stacked up against Mercedes, Verstappen wrung every ounce of performance he could from his lithe RB13 chassis, almost having enough to close down Hamilton after a late Virtual Safety Car period precipitated by Lance Stroll’s off. But lapped traffic got in the way, particularly an obstinate Fernando Alonso, and the laps ran out on the Dutchman. The Malaysian GP winner had to be content with a very stout P2 podium result just 1.2 seconds behind Hamilton’s winning time. Ricciardo was a little bit further up the road and finished P3 for the second consecutive GP. That also makes it 4 podiums in the last 5 races for the smiling Aussie.

The second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas wasn’t able to keep pace with the frontrunners but played a valuable role for the team by allowing Hamilton by him mid-race and then stacking up the pursuing Verstappen, costing the Red Bull some valuable laps in its quest for a possible victory. Bottas would come home off the podium in P4 but surely earned a lot of credit with the team and Hamilton as a valuable wingman with that unselfish effort. Vettel’s teammate Raikkonen also drove well to fight his way back from a penalty-effected P10 start, as well as getting pushed off track by Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and falling even further back through the order on Lap 1. Raikkonen regrouped to will the lone surviving Ferrari up to a P5 finish. It was a strong drive by the Iceman but in the end small consolation on another terrible day for Ferrari.

The Force Indias ran well yet again, with Esteban Ocon besting his nemesis Sergio Perez, P6 to P7. Despite their mutual loathing and season-long on track skirmishes the Force India duo have nonetheless performed well enough to essentially guarantee the team fourth place in the Constructor’s Championship, a massively lucrative result for the little team from Silverstone. Both Haas cars also got good points in Japan with Kevin Magnussen staying ahead of his teammate long enough to make a forceful pass on the Williams of Felipe Massa late in the race for P8 and Romain Grosjean following close behind to finish ninth despite starting from P16 after a big shunt knocked him out of qualifying early on Saturday. Massa was able to hold on against the charging McLaren of Fernando Alonso to take the last points paying position for Williams in P10. After the race Alonso was given a 2-point penalty on his Super License for not obeying blue flags and letting Vertstappen by as the Red Bull man was making his late-race charge.

Top 10 finishers of the Japanese Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 53 1:27:31.194 25
2 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 53 +1.211s 18
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 53 +9.679s 15
4 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 53 +10.580s 12
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 53 +32.622s 10
6 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 53 +67.788s 8
7 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 53 +71.424s 6
8 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 53 +88.953s 4
9 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 53 +89.883s 2
10 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 52 +1 lap 1

Complete race results alive via Formula1.com.

In other news, Carlos Sainz, who wiped out his Toro Rosso on Lap 1, will make the switch to Renault for the last remaining races of 2017, bouncing the star-crossed Jolyon Palmer from his seat and presumably from Forumla 1 entirely. The erratic Russian Daniil Kvyat will return to his Toro Rosso ride but his partner for Austin may or may not be Pierre Gasly, as the rookie sensation still has an opportunity to win the Super Formula title that weekend. And whether Toro Rosso keep on Kvyat in 2018 also remains an open question.

The next race is in two weeks time, the United States Grand Prix from the always fun Circuit of the Americas in Austin. Will Hamilton be able to wrap up the title there or can Ferrari get back on the beam and put up a fight? Hope to see you then to find out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia — Results & aftermath

Verstappen victorious for Red Bull in Malyasia, Ricciardo P3; Hamilton extends lead with P2 but Vettel pulls miracle drive to come from last to fourth

Max Verstappen took full advantage of Ferrari’s startling misfortune and mediocrity by Mercedes to take a dominant victory at the Sepang Circuit on Sunday. The young Red Bull driver, who only turned 20 on Saturday and whose 2017 season has been blighted by bad luck, finally had something to cheer about when he overtook the pole-sitting Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton early in the race and never looked back, besting the points leader by a whopping 12.77 seconds at a track that rightly should have suited the Silver Arrows. Verstappen and Red Bull were also aided by more unreliability at Ferrari when their best placed driver, Kimi Raikkonen, was unable to start the race with what appeared to be the same turbo problem that bedeviled Vettel in qualifying, sending him to the back of the grid without setting a time. So instead of the Iceman fighting with Hamilton for victory the stunned Ferrari garage was left praying for their lone surviving Prancing Horse to make a miracle run through the field just two weeks after their catastrophic double-DNF in Singapore .

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

But Maranello’s prayers were nearly answered, as Vettel methodically carved his way through back-markers with a masterful effort to put himself in striking distance of the podium. With the laps winding down the 4-time world champion amazingly found himself duking it out with Verstappen’s veteran teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, for the last step on the podium. But the gritty Aussie managed to hold Vettel off long enough for the latter’s tires to lose their punch and it was Ricciardo who took that valuable P3. That sealed a very good day for Red Bull at a track where they always seem to run well — the current line-up went 1-2 last year after a Hamilton engine failure and Vettel won three out of the four contests during his championship run at Red Bull between 2010 – 2013. The team must be sad to see Malaysia being dropped from the schedule for next year. Still, despite Ferrari’s disappointment it was a good day of damage limitation for Vettel with Hamilton only adding 6 points to his now-34 point lead in the Championship on a day where it looked like the Englishman might outscore the German 25 to nil. And as if the weekend was not bizarre enough for the Scuderia, Vettel and Williams’ Lance Stroll came tohgther on the cool down lap, totaling Vettel’s SF70H. It was the perfect ending to a perfectly ghastly weekend and it’s certain they can’t wait to turn the page at Suzuka and hopefully exploit their new found race pace without anymore technical glitches in the final five Grand Prix.

Further behind the frontrunners, Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas had a bit of a mystifying weekend and found himself well off the truly competitive pace. Bottas finished where he qualified in P5, some 44 seconds behind Hamilton, and struggled to get temperature and balance into the front tires with some new aero tweaks that Hamilton chose not to run. So perhaps the split strategy hurt Mercedes in terms of maximizing points. But it could also be that Bottas has hit a bit of personal slump with his recent run of underwhelming performances. Sergio Perez did rather better in maximizing the perfomance of his Force India coming home a solid P6 despite once again getting together briefly with his junior teammate Esteban Ocon. Ocon, who also had a few other skirmishes throughout the race, could do no better than P10, although it was still a good points haul for overachieving Force India. Stoffel Vandoorne had another strong drive for McLaren for his second consecutive P7 finish (his teammate Fernando Alonso finished outside the points in P11). The two Willaims of Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa also had eventful races but both managed to make it to the end in P8 and P9 respectively with the Stroll-Vettel contretemps mercifully coming after the checkered flag had flown.

Top 10 finishers of the Malaysian GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 56 1:30:01.290 25
2 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 56 +12.770s 18
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 56 +22.519s 15
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 56 +37.362s 12
5 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 56 +56.021s 10
6 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 56 +78.630s 8
7 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN HONDA 55 +1 lap 6
8 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 55 +1 lap 4
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 55 +1 lap 2
10 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 55 +1 lap 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

With the races dwindling to a handful the next key contest is in but a week’s time from the always challenging Suzuka International Racing Course in Japan. Will Red Bull continue to make life difficult for the frontrunners and perhaps play spoiler? Can Ferrari get back on the beam and get both cars through a full race? And will Hamilton and Mercedes return to their dominating ways before heading to the Americas for the stretch run? Hope to see you then to find out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia — Qualifying results

Hamilton speeds to pole in Malaysia, Raikkonen P2 for Ferrari; Verstappen P3 as Vettel suffers engine failure in Q1, will start last

After a disastrous Singapore Grand Prix two weeks ago that saw both Ferarris crash out on the opening lap, Maranello showed tremendous speed in practice at the Sepang circuit and were surely hoping to be rewarded in qualifying on Saturday. Instead, the Scuderia’s bad luck continued when their lead driver Sebastian Vettel suffered engine problems in Q1 to his newly installed power plant. Despite frantic efforts by the team it proved unrepairable to be able to get the car out and set a timed lap and Vettel will face the monumental challenge of starting from last on the grid come Sunday. That opened the door to Mercedes and their championship-leading driver Lewis Hamilton. Despite looking like lacking the pace up against Ferrari and even Red Bull in all three practice sessions, Hamilton laid down a flyer good enough for a new all-time track record as well as a dominant pole. After lucking into the win at rainy Singapore despite starting back in P5 Hamilton now finds himself in his more accustomed front row perch where he will be very hard to beat. Vettel and Ferrari have got be hopimg for a typical torrential Malaysian downpour to shake up the contest and give them some extra strategy options to pick up positions.

On the other side of their garage, however, Kimi Raikkonen did well to fly the flag and give Ferrari some hope, lifting his Prancing Horse up to P2 with a very representative lap a mere .05 behind Hamilton’s streaking Silver Arrow. It looks like the Iceman will be Lewis’ key competition when the lights go out so look for Kimi to try and ambush the lead Mercedes early in Lap 1. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who turned 20 on Saturday, was also very quick and pipped his teammate for P3, with Daniel Ricciardo having to settle for P4. If something goes down between the first two competing cars look for the Red Bulls to try and take advantage at a track where they were 1-2 last year. Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was once again off the pace in quali and could do no better than P5. Esteban Ocon was the lead Force India, besting his stablemate and arch-rival Sergio Perez P6 to P9 respectively. And both McLarens were once agin in the top 10 with young Stoffel Vandoorne P7 and veteran Fernando Alonso P10. Nico Hulkenberg was a solid P8 for the improving factory Renault team.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Malysian Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:31.605 1:30.977 1:30.076 18
2 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:32.259 1:30.926 1:30.121 14
3 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:31.920 1:30.931 1:30.541 12
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:32.416 1:31.061 1:30.595 16
5 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:32.254 1:30.803 1:30.758 17
6 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:32.527 1:31.651 1:31.478 17
7 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN HONDA 1:32.838 1:31.848 1:31.582 18
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:32.586 1:31.778 1:31.607 17
9 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:32.768 1:31.484 1:31.658 18
10 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:33.049 1:32.010 1:31.704 17

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com

In other news it seems this will be the Malaysian Grand Prix’s last time on the F1 calendar for the foreseeable future, ending a 19-year run. And reigning GP2 champion Pierre Gasly made his Formula 1 debut this weekend, stepping into the Toro Rosso for a few races and relegating the erratic Daniil Kvyat to reserve status. Gasly qualified just behind his teammate Carlos Sainz in P15 and may get a permanent seat with the team when Sainz jumps to Renault next year.

Tomorrow’s race airs live on NBC Sports at the ungodly hour of 3AM here in the States. So set the DVR or brew an extra pot of coffee to pull an all-nighter because watching Sebastian Vettel try to carve his way through the field in pursuit of Hamilton should be worth the price of admission. Hope to see you then!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Singapore — Results & aftermath

Hamilton romps to victory after chaotic opening lap in rainy Singapore; Ricciardo survives to come home P2, Bottas P3; Vettel, Raikkonen & Verstappen crash out in Turn 1 melee

Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton spoke of needing a miracle after qualifying a lowly P5 on Saturday in Singapore well behind the Ferraris and Red Bulls. On Sunday the weather and recklessness of his rivals gifted him a pivotal victory in the hunt for his fourth Drivers’ Championship. With a cloudburst hitting the already tricky Marina Bay Stret Circuit right before the start of the race, teams were forced to start on wet weather tires on a very slippery and now quite green track. But instead of feeling out conditions when the lights went out the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen decided to fight it out on the greasy asphalt going into Turn 1. It wound up taking all three contenders out and seriously damaged pole-sitter Vettel’s championship aspirations.

Starting from P4 on the grid, Raikkonen launched well and made a power move to the outside of the P2-placed Verstappen. At the same time Vettel moved his line to the left, squeezing the young Dutchman directly into the path of Raikkonen’s Ferrari. That spun Raikkonen into his teammate Vettel’s side pod and sent the veteran Finn careening across the track. Verstappen likely had a broken front suspension anyway after being the meat in the Ferrari sandwich but ironically Raikkonen’s unsteerably out of control car found him again, smashing into his side and doing unquestionably terminal damage to his Red Bull chassis. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who had made a dynamite start of his own, was collected by the two combatants as an innocent bystander, sending his car vaulting through the air and forcing the Spaniard to retire later in the race. Despite being able to continue past the initial point of contact, Vettel’s car had radiator leakage that caused a hard spin into the wall up the road form the main accident. Just like that the 4-time World Champion was also bounced out of the race before one full lap had been completed.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

That meant that Hamilton, who avoided the carnage skillfully, was now the front runner at a circuit that generally ill-suits the longer wheel base Mercedes. Given such a gift, the English championship contender never relinquished that lucky lead and cruised home to a significant victory that saw him extend his advantage over Vettel to 28 points in the race for the title. Despite a representative drive from Ricciardo in the last remaining Red Bull, which finished P2, Hamilton was untouchable on wet tires and then dry rubber when the surface finally was ready for slicks. As the old saying goes, luck is the residue of design and while everything that could go right for Hamilton certainly did in Singapore he still kept his nose clean and let others make the unforced errors. Hamilton has now won the last three Grand Prix on the trot and must be extra confident claiming victory in a place where a podium would have been considered a very good result before the state of the race.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas was also a big beneficiary of the melee up front, vaulting himself from a poor P6 start all the way to the last step of the podium with a P3 finish. That drove home just how disastrous a day it was for Ferrari on a track where they had aspirations of a 1-2 finish and instead got zero points. Because of the Scuderia’s untimely double DNF Mercedes extended their lead in the Constructors battle to a whopping 98 points.

Further back in the field, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz also had good fortune when his future teammate Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault suffered race-ending hydraulic issues. The Spaniard drove a very smart and consistent race to take a terrific P4, showing his future French employers that they made the right choice in hiring him for 2018. Force India’s Sergio Perez also kept it clean and finished a solid P5. The man Sainz is replacing at Renault, Jolyon Palmer, had his best finish of the year with what must have been a bittersweet P6. The lone surviving McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne also ran well with a valuable P7 for the beleaguered team form Woking. And Williams rookie Lance Stroll had a quietly remarkable race battling back from a lowly P18 starting position all the way up to P8. Romain Grosjean was P9 for Haas and Esteban Ocon took the last points-paying position at P10 in his Force India.

Top 10 finishers of the Singapore Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 58 2:03:23.544 25
2 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 58 +4.507s 18
3 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 58 +8.800s 15
4 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO 58 +22.822s 12
5 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 58 +25.359s 10
6 30 Jolyon Palmer RENAULT 58 +27.259s 8
7 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN HONDA 58 +30.388s 6
8 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 58 +41.696s 4
9 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 58 +43.282s 2
10 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 58 +44.795s 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next race is in two weeks time from Malaysia. Will Vettel and Ferrari overcome their dreadful disappointment at Singapore to get back into the championship hunt? Or will Hamilton’s winning ways continue for a stranglehold on the title? Hope to see you then to find out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Singapore — Qualifying results

Vettel seizes pole for Ferrari in Singapore; Verstappen P2 & Ricciardo P3 for Red Bull; Mercedes struggle

After showing subpar speed during all three practice sessions, Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari shone brightest under the beautiful lights of the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore when it mattered most. The German 4-time champion earned a dominant pole for tomorrow’s race with a blistering track record quali lap of 1:39.491. Vettel’s heroics came at Red Bull’s expense, as it seemed for a while that their wunderkind Max Verstappen might become the youngest F1 driver to earn a pole position. But Vettel, the man who set that record when he earned his first pole at the age of 21 years, 72 days in 2008 at Monza, spoiled the 19-year-old Vertstappen’s potential party on that count. Nevertheless Red Bull must be well pleased with their slippery chassis’ starting positions with Verstappen on the front row alongside Vettel in P2 and teammate Daniel Ricciardo right behind in P3. Vettel’s Ferrari stablemate Kimi Raikkonen came home fourth fastest so it should make for a very interesting opening lap in anger with the first two rows a combative Ferrari-Red Bull mix.

Further behind were the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, who qualified P5 and P6 respectively. Though potentially damaging to Hamilton’s championship pursuit on a track where it is notoriously hard to overtake the subpar result was not altogether a surprise for the Silver Arrows. Mercedes even struggled at Singapore last year when they had no true competition in the Constructors’ fight. It is simply a track where their usual straight line speed advantage is nullified by the Marina Bay’s twisty nature and lack of long flat out sections and the fact that they are just not quite nimble enough without that power edge to make up the difference to their main rivals. Their best hope for tomorrow is to run clean and hope there is a damaging tangle between the Ferraris and Red Bulls up front. As unpredictable as Verstappen and Raikkonen can be that is not that bad a bet.

Nico Hulkenberg qualified a very solid P7 for Renault, while besieged McLaren had a rare bright moment with both of their cars getting into the top 10. Fernando Alonso was P8 while Stoffel Vandoorne was P9. Ironically it came on the same weekend that McLaren announced that they were divorcing their engine supplier Honda and switching to Renault power for 2018. But again horsepower is not the main thing in Singapore so it’s the McLaren chassis that really deserves the credit in this instance. Carlos Sainz had the tenth fastest time for Toro Roso and he also made news when it was announced that he will be loaned out to the Renault factory team for next season to partner Hulkenberg and replace Jolyon Palmer. Bringing the game of musical chairs full circle Toro Roso will switch to Honda power in place of their current Renault engines for 2018.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Singapore GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:43.336 1:40.529 1:39.491 19
2 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:42.010 1:40.332 1:39.814 18
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:42.063 1:40.385 1:39.840 18
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:43.328 1:40.525 1:40.069 18
5 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:42.455 1:40.577 1:40.126 17
6 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:43.137 1:41.409 1:40.810 16
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:42.586 1:41.277 1:41.013 18
8 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:42.086 1:41.442 1:41.179 20
9 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN HONDA 1:42.222 1:41.227 1:41.398 19
10 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO 1:42.176 1:41.826 1:42.056 20

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live starting 8AM Eastern on NBC Sports here in the States. Can Mercedes battle back to relevance at their own personal bogey track? Will Ferrari and Vettel rule the day? Or will Red Bull come up aces under the lights? Hope to see you then to find out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Italy — Results & aftermath

Hamilton dominates Monza for Mercedes, takes Championship lead; Bottas chips in with strong P2, Vettel settles for P3 for Ferrari in front of tifosi

On a race day that was the exact opposite of Saturday’s water logged qualifying, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton nonetheless vaulted from his wet weather record setting pole position to dominate the Italian Grand Prix at legendary Monza. No one could touch the English championship aspirant as he used his all-time best 89th pole position to run away from a scrambled grid and claim a relatively easy win on this ultra-high speed circuit. Better yet, Hamilton’s Silver Arrows teammate Valtteri Bottas redeemed himself after a poor qualifying effort saw him start from a lowly P6. But with the sun shining the Finn was ready for the fight willing his way past not only both Ferraris but also the other unlikely upstart drivers blocking his path. If Bottas was never as dominant as Hamilton he proved second fastest in Monza by a wide margin coming home an ever-valuable P2 for Mercedes, which put serious distance between themselves & Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship by dint of their barely contested 1-2 finish.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247com

Ferrari’s de facto home track proved less than suitable to this year’s iteration of Prancing Horses. After being bested in that epically wet quali by not only both Red Bulls but also midfield runners from Williams and Force India the Scuderia had to be very grateful for the demotion of those rivalrous Red Bulls due to engine component change penalties. Sure enough their lead ace, Sebastian Vettel, was able to overcome his now P6 starting position to jump his teammate Kimi Raikkonen and then go full tilt at the upstarts in front of him, Lance Stroll of Williams and Esteban Ocon of Force India. Vettel got them both in due time and settled into P3 after it became clear he had nothing for the two Mercedes men running well ahead of him. He maintained that position to the end for the last step on the podium, giving the tifosi at least some reason to be happy on a day when the German Silver Arrows marched into Italy and spoiled the planned Ferrari festivities. But with Hamilton’s recent run of victories — he’s the first diver to win back-to-back races in this very competitive season and has now won three out of the last four — Vettel now finds himself pushed out of the top spot in the Drivers’ Championship standings. The German 4-time champ now trails his English rival by 3 points, the first time Vettel hasn’t been at least tied for the lead all year.

Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen struggled with rear grip early in then race, was never a podium factor and could do no better than P5. Splitting the two Prancing Horses was Daniel Ricciardo who drove his Red Bull to a remarkable 4th place finish after starting way back in P16 due to a raft of engine component penalties. The affable Aussie put on a clinic of overtaking including a power move into the Turn 1 chicane on Raikkonen that sealed the Iceman’s fate as an also-ran. Ricciardo’s precocious teammate Max Vertstappen looked to be matching his teammate in moving to the front but continued his star crossed ways this season when he negated his terrific start by coming into contact with Williams’ Felipe Massa, leading to a puncture. By the time the Dutch wunderkind limped back to the pits for service he was dead last. But to his credit Verstappen didn’t give up on the race despite yet another 2017 misfortune. His car stayed spry and young Max doggedly worked his way up through the back markers, picking them off one by one. As the laps wound down he was so determined to score points he shoved Haas’ Kevin Magnussen off the road to grab P10 and the last points paying position, showing once again the ruthlessness and talent that may one day bring him a title. If he can ever find some good luck again.

Esteban Ocon of Force Indiia and Lance Stroll of Williams, the two rookies who started P3 and P2 on the grid respectively after their impressive wet weather qualifying, couldn’t quite maintain their lofty positions in the dry race. Nonetheless they both performed admirably and came home safely and with a raft of valuable points for their teams. Ocon was slightly superior and passed Stroll, making the most of being away from his pesky teammate Sergio Perez to come home a very solid P6. And though Stroll could never find a way by Ocon again the young Canadian was able to hold off his veteran teammate Felipe Massa and take P7 at the checkered flag. The hard charging Massa ended up P8 and Perez was right behind in P9. So very good day for Force India and an even better one for previously struggling Williams who were able to find mystery pace not only for the flukey wet qualifying but also in the dry race, securing a much-needed cache of points.

Top 10 finishers of the Italian Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 53 1:15:32.312 25
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 53 +4.471s 18
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 53 +36.317s 15
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 53 +40.335s 12
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 53 +60.082s 10
6 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 53 +71.528s 8
7 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 53 +74.156s 6
8 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 53 +74.834s 4
9 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 53 +75.276s 2
10 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 52 +1 lap 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next race is in two weeks time, the beautifully incandescent night race on the tight & twisty streets of Singapore. With a lower speed course much better suited to Ferrari than Mercedes and Vettel desperate to regain his championship lead over Hamilton with the races dwindling it should be a pleasingly frought — and hard-fought — affair between two ultra-competitive athletes. Hope to see you then to find out how it all shakes out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Belgium — Results & aftermath

Hamilton too quick for Vettel at Spa as title rivals finish 1-2; Ricciardo an opportunistic 3rd

Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton returned from the summer break refreshed and ready to fight for his fourth World Championship. Needing to recapture momentum that had recently swung to his nemesis at Ferrari, points leader Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton threw down the gauntlet with a dominant performance at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Ardennes forest, the first of two back-to-back European classics that kick off the business end of the championship. Starting from his record-tying 68th pole position, a time that also set the track record, Hamilton kept his lead when the lights went out on Sunday and managed to hold off a hard charging Vettel in the opening laps and pull out a DRS-proof lead on the Ferrari. And when the race got bunched up again for a restart after a Safety Car period later Hamilton kept his cool and managed the trick again despite Vettel being on softer, grippier tires. Perhaps Hamilton benefited from the aero disruption in close quarters of this year’s high downforce configuration chassis that seems to somewhat negate tire advantages between otherwise equally matched cars. And in the end Hamilton romped to victory in his 200th Grand Prix, his 3rd career win at Spa and the Englishman’s 58th victory overall. That cut Vettel’s championship lead back down to a mere 7 points. As the two team leaders head into Monza next weekend, which should be a frenzied sea of Ferrari red, it is clear that there is virtually nothing to choose between the Prancing Horses and the Silver Arrows. The key difference maker going forward will be the pilots. And with Hamilton and Vettel proving themselves superior to their teammates it is all but certain one of these superlative drivers will be the champion at season’s end.

Hamilton-BelgianGPSpa_2017

Another standout at Spa was Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who once again showed why he is likely the most opportunistic F1 driver in the paddock. Despite the RB13s lack of pure pace at this very fast and long circuit the Aussie took advantage of the post-Safety Car restart on Lap 34 to jump the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and hold off the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen with a lovely, gutsy pass up the Kemmel Straight. So despite running quietly in P5 for the entirety of the first two thirds of the race Ricciardo’s brave move saw him vault up into a podium spot. He made it stick and kept his pursuers behind for the rest of the race earning that ever-valuable last step on the podium with a sparkling P3 finish. That makes six podium finishes this year for Ricciardo — including that serendipitous win at Baku —  who has displayed the kind of luck in the reliability department his teammate, Max Verstappen, has sorely lacked. Verstappen’s Red Bull mount once again betrayed him, this time on Lap 8 and in front of a huge throng of orange-clad fans from nearby Holland. The Dutch wunderkind has now failed to finish an astonishing 50% of the contests so far in 2017. Will he be looking for the exits and a more reliable ride for next year? Couldn’t blame him if he is.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Ricciardo’s ballsy pass meant Kimi Raikkonen had to settle for P4. But in truth the Iceman probably felt relieved by that result after having incurred an 10-second stop & hold penalty for failing to lift for the yellow flag brought out by Vertappen’s stalled Red Bull. Continue reading

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Belgium — Qualifying results

Mercedes’ Hamilton earns record-tying pole at Spa, Vettel P2 for Ferrari pipping Bottas

Formula 1’s long summer break is over and Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton returned to action in style earning the pole at venerable Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium with a new track record for the current layout of 1:42.553. That impressive pole position also tied him with the great Michael Schumacher for most all time in F1 with 68. All in all it was perfect way for Hamilton to kick off his second half efforts in the quest for his fourth World Championship. As the season enters its pivotal final phase beginning with the two European classics at Spa and then Monza next weekend, the English contender will look to impose his will from the front of the field come  race day in the unpredictable Ardennes.

It was not quite as perfect a day for Hamilton’s Mercedes team, however, as it was for the man himself. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, the current points leader, put in a tremendous effort on his final Q3 lap to overhaul the other Silver Arrow of Valtteri Bottas, wrestling P2 from the Finn. That should make for an extremely interesting start when the lights go out tomorrow with Hamilton & Vettel now side by side at the front of the grid. And with his P3 starting position Bottas finds himself next to Vettel’s Ferrari teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, who muffed his final lap after complaining of vibration all session long but still had a time quick enough for P4. With no love lost between the two Finnish countrymen on the second row or between Hamilton & Vettel at the front watch for potential opening lap Mercedes-Ferrari fireworks as this quartet flies into Eau Rouge.

Best of the rest in quali were Red Bull’s dynamic duo of Dutch wunderkind Max Verstappen and Aussie veteran Daniel Ricciardo, who clocked in at P5 and P6 respectively. Nico Hulkenberg led an impressive qualifying result for Renault with a very solid P7 time and even though teammate Jolyen Palmer suffered gearbox failure early in Q3 he’ll still start from P10. So it ws a good day for the improving factory Renault program. Force India did their usual yeoman’s work even though they were down on downforce with Sergio Perez qualifying in P8 and Esteban Ocon in P9.

Top 10 Qualifiers for the Belgian GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:44.184 1:42.927 1:42.553 18
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:44.275 1:43.987 1:42.795 13
3 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:44.773 1:43.249 1:43.094 19
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:44.729 1:43.700 1:43.270 11
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:44.535 1:43.940 1:43.380 12
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:45.114 1:44.224 1:43.863 12
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:45.280 1:44.988 1:44.982 15
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:45.591 1:44.894 1:45.244 14
9 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:45.277 1:45.006 1:45.369 14
10 30 Jolyon Palmer RENAULT 1:45.447 1:44.685 DNS 10

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live starting at 7:30 Eastern on NBCSN here in the States. Can Hamilton use the momentum of this record-setting pole to get back to his winning ways on the grand old Spa circuit? Or will Vettel spoil those best laid plans and extend his lead in the points? Hope to see you the to find out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Britain — Results & aftermath

Hamilton supreme at Silverstone for 4th consecutive home victory; Bottas fights back for P2 as Ferrari suffers from late tire woes — Raikkonen recovers for P3 but Vettel plummets

After laying down a record time for pole at the British Grand Prix, Mercedes’ ace Lewis Hamilton sailed away at the start of Sunday’s race and never looked back. Badly needing a victory after a run of bad luck & mediocre performance, Silverstone was just the tonic he needed as Hamilton dominated his home Grand Prix yet again, winning for the fourth consecutive time and fifth overall. That tied the talented Englishman with F1 legends Jim Clark and Alain Prost for most British victories all time. After disappointing his countrymen with his inexplicable no-show for Thursday’s F1 London Live fan fest all was forgiven as Hamilton won easily in front of the packed Silverstone grandstands. The expected early race dice with two pursuing Ferrari never materialized. Hamilton’s start was simply so quick and his mastery of this circuit so complete that he never had to worry about falling into the clutches of the Prancing Horses, which wound up having to fend off other competitors of their own instead.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

With the Scuderia’s pilots Kimi Raikkonen starting from P2 and Sebastian Vettel P3 on the grid, Raikkonen got a decent enough getaway to maintain his position but Vettel quickly found himself in a battle with the very game and fired up Red Bull of Max Verstappen. In fact, Verstappen out-hustled Vettel for that P3 position in the opening laps, giving as good as he got in pushing the 4-time world champion wide to maintain his advantage. Vettel finally recovered on pit strategy when his team executed flawlessly to allow him to undercut the Red Bull man, who had a slower service due to a slightly unkempt tire change. So by the time the pit stops were made by the elite group in this nominal one-stop race it all seemed to be setting up to finish just as they had started: Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel. But Hamilton’s wingman Valtteri Bottas had other ideas.

F1GPBritain-BottasVettel_2017

Starting from back in P9 after a subpar qualifying effort and a 5-spot grid penalty for a gearbox change, Bottas, the winner of the Austrian GP two weeks ago, used an alternate strategy by beginning the race on the harder Soft compound Pirellis, which enabled him to run long into the race with a minimal loss of performance relative to the other Supersoft runners. By the time the Finn came in on Lap 33 he had regained a massive amount of track position. That put him in the hunt for a podium right behind Vettel in P4. He pressed his tire advantage cooly but relentlessly, forcing Vettel to defend fiercely. Vettel had a smoking lock up trying to keep Bottas behind on Lap 42 and on Lap 43 Bottas out-dragged him on the Hanger Straight and made it stick into Stowe. Now Bottas turned his attention to Raikkonen down the road clearly thinking of making it a Mercedes 1-2, however unlikely that might have seemed before the race.

F1GPBritain-Vettel_2017

And with Bottas taking chunks of time off of his fellow Finn, trouble hit the Ferraris with the laps winding down. First Raikkonen’s front left started to delaminate, forcing him to pit on Lap 50 of the 51 lap contest and seemingly destroying his chance at a podium. But then the same misfortune befell his teammate Vettel on the final lap of the race only in more explosive fashion with a major disintegration of his left front. So despite his own misfortune, Raikkonen benefitted from his teammate’s even more ill-timed one, passing him back for that P3 while Vettel’s late emergency stop caused him to plummet down the order. The main beneficiary was Bottas, who had driven a brilliant race to be in position to exploit Ferrari’s double misfortune and therefore inherited a stunning P2. Raikkonen held on for the last podium position at P3 and despite his disappointment was nowhere near as distraught as his teammate Vettel, who plunged all the way down to P7 with his ill-timed tire woes. That finish combined with Hamilton’s overall victory saw Vettel’s lead in the drivers’ Championship dwindle to a single point, 177-176. And with Mercedes unlocking more and more performance out of their F1 W08 chassis to the tune of the last 6 poles in-a-row the storied Scuderia has got to be feeling trepidatious about their chances as the season heads into its second half.

Elsewhere in the race, Red Bull were among the other key beneficiaries of Vettel’s problems. Verstappen, who must have been thrilled to finally see the checkered flag after a string of DNFs this season, came home a solid P4. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo chipped in with an amazing run of his own, fighting back from P19 on the grid after a turbo failure in qualifying to methodically pick off inferior cars and work himself up the order. He eventually came home a remarkable P5 and if he had a bit of luck finishing that high who could begrudge the hard-charging Aussie after such a compelling drive? Also thrilled with his result was Nico Hulkenberg, who qualified P7 in his normally pokey Renault and finished way up in P6. The factory Renault team’s upgrades, most notably a new floor that enables the rest of the aero to work more efficiently, appears to be really paying off even if reliability is still a big bugaboo for the bright yellow cars — Hulkenberg had to nurse his ride home with late-race ERS issues and hard luck teammate Jolyon Palmer was out on the formation lap with hydraulic issues.

Force India had yet another good points haul even if they were never in the mix for glory. Their two cars finished behind Vettel and off the lead lap, with Esteban Ocon pipping his teammate Sergio Perez, P8 to P9. Felipe Massa got the last point paying position with P10, salvaging something out of a tough weekend for the illustrious English Williams F1 team at their home GP.

Top 10 finishers for the British GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 51 1:21:27.430 25
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 51 +14.063s 18
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 51 +36.570s 15
4 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 51 +52.125s 12
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 51 +65.955s 10
6 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 51 +68.109s 8
7 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 51 +93.989s 6
8 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 50 +1 lap 4
9 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 50 +1 lap 2
10 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 50 +1 lap 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next race is in two weeks time from the Hungaroring in Budapest. Can Hamilton keep a good thing going to overhaul Vettel in the Championship at the last race before the summer break? Hope to see you then to find out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Britain — Qualifying results

Hamilton runs to record pole in home Grand Prix; Raikkonen takes P2 besting Vettel in P3

Lewis Hamilton got back in the good graces of his home fans after being the only driver to skip the London F1 Live fan fest earlier this week by setting a blistering record pole time at Silverstone in the UK on Saturday. The Mercedes ace bested his nearest pursuer, Ferrrai’s Kimi Raikkonen by half a second, setting the fastest ever F1 lap at Silverstone and capturing his 5th pole at this venerable airfield circuit, which ties the great Jim Clark for most British GP poles all-time. After his fourth place finish last weekend in Austria, where his ambitions for a win were hampered by grid penalties and poor qualifying, this P1 start in front of his countrymen has to be just the tonic Hamilton needs to improve his chances in the championship fight. He must also have breathed a huge sigh of relief for not getting sanctioned for potentially blocking Haas’ Romain Grosjean in Q3. So it’s all looking good for Lewis to get back to his winning ways come Sunday. And then it will really be all-is-forgiven with the disappointed English fans.

Raikkonen bested his usually superior teammate Sebastian Vettel for only the third time in qualifying this season and will start from P2 on the grid to Vettel’s P3. Vettel was irate at his lack of pace compared to the Mercedes but Ferrari the team will have a decided advantage over the Silver Arrows come race day. This is because despite qualifying P4 Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas will face a 5-spot grid penalty of his own for a gearbox change. So the same bugaboo that bit Hamilton in Austria, a race Bottas went on to win from pole after a miracle start, has hit the other Mercedes car. That means Bottas will have to start P9 and will be hard pressed to make it to the front and be a useful ally to Hamilton against the attacks of two well-placed Prancing Horses.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen had the fifth fastest time but is promoted to P4 after Bottas’ penalty. The hard luck that has often befallen the young Dutchman this season struck his teammate Daniel Ricciardo instead. Ricciardo suffered a turbo failure in Q1 and will have to start from the last row alongside Fernando Alonso, who was levied a ridiculous amount of grid positions this week for changes made to his McLaren. Nico Hulkenberg was very impressive in dragging his pokey factory Renault up to qualify P6 and will start from P5. The two Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon qualified P7 and P8 respectively and will start P6 & P7. McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne was the last to leapfrog the penalized Bottas and will better his P9 time by one to start P8. The unhappy Grosjean, feeling hard done by both Hamilton’s blocking and the stewards’ lack of punishment, will start from P10.

Top 10 qualifiers for the British GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:39.069 1:27.893 1:26.600 25
2 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:40.455 1:28.992 1:27.147 26
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:39.962 1:28.978 1:27.356 24
4 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:39.698 1:28.732 1:27.376 26
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:38.912 1:29.431 1:28.130 23
6 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:39.201 1:29.340 1:28.856 21
7 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:42.009 1:29.824 1:28.902 26
8 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:39.738 1:29.701 1:29.074 25
9 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN HONDA 1:40.011 1:30.105 1:29.418 24
10 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:42.042 1:29.966 1:29.549 26

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live on CNBC at 8AM Eastern here in the States. Can Lewis Hamilton regain momentum in the title chase and defend his home turf against the points-leading Vettel?  Can Mercedes find a way to move Bottas up the order to fend off Ferrari’s Constructors ambitions? And, of course, can the notoriously fickle Midlands weather throw some surprises into play? Hope to see you then find out!