Tag Archives: Nico Hulkenberg

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi — Results & aftermath

Bottas wins last race of season going away, Hamitlon P2; Vettel a distant P3

Mercedes #2 Valtteri Bottas finished out the season in style by winning the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi from the pole. His recently crowned 4-time World Champion teammate Lewis Hamilton came home a comfortable second and never seemed to push his Finnish wingman too hard for the victory, having secured the ultimate individual prize in Mexico some weeks back. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished a distant P3, a fitting end to a fleetingly promising season for the fabled Scuderia from Maranello. Their once robust challenge to Mercedes supremacy all began to fall apart in the second half when a first lap shunt between teammates in Singapore started a death spiral of unreliability that ended any realistic chance of a genuine title run. Vettel’s stablemate Kimi Raikkonen finished P4 after a lackluster campaign, once again begging the question of just why Ferrari have re-signed the aging Iceman for next season when there is so much hot young talent out there.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen came home a decent P5, flying the flag for the team after Daniel Ricciardo suffered hydraulic failure on Lap 21. It was an unfortunate bookend to the affable Aussie’s season — he also DNF’d in the first race of the year way back in March at his home Grand Prix in Melbourne — and it seeded fourth in the Drivers’ points to Raikkonen. With better reliability Red Bull really would have challenged Ferrari for second overall and they’ll be hoping for just that next season, Further back in the pack Nico Hulkenberg overcame a 5-second time penalty for cutting a corner while passing his old Force India sparring partner Sergio Perez early in the race to take P6 for Renault. The result was doubly excellent for the veteran German in his first year with the squad, as it netted enough points to lift the factory Renault team into 6th in the Constructors’ standings ahead of struggling Toro Rosso. It was a very lucrative last race promotion that also bodes well for the French automotive giant’s chances next year.

Perez, whose incessant complaining about Hulkenberg’s unfair pass guaranteed the penalty from the stewards, could nevertheless not capitalize and finished P7. His Force India teammate Esteban Ocon was right behind in P8, wrapping up another excellent points haul for the little team from Silverstone and proving with that season-long consistency that their fourth place in the Constructors’ was no fluke. Two veterans rounded out the Top 10. Fernando Alonso took P9 for McLaren and will be looking forward to next year not only for a new Renault power unit but also for his double duty in sports cars at The Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona and in the WEC Championship for Toyota. And Felipe Massa finished up his 269th and final F1 race in the points in P10, capping a sterling 15-year career with crowd pleasing burnouts alongside the top two Mercedes as a massive fireworks display exploded around the dazzling Yas Marina circuit. It was a memorable and fittingly celebratory end to the little Brazilian’s outstanding Formula 1 career.

Top 10 finishers of the Abu Dhabi GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 55 1:34:14.062 25
2 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 55 +3.899s 18
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 55 +19.330s 15
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 55 +45.386s 12
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 55 +46.269s 10
6 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 55 +85.713s 8
7 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 55 +92.062s 6
8 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 55 +98.911s 4
9 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 54 +1 lap 2
10 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 54 +1 lap 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

Final 2017 Drivers Standings are here.

Final 2017 Constructors Standings are here.

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi — Qualifying results

Bottas grabs pole at Yas Marina, Hamilton takes P2 for Mercedes front row lockout; Vettel third fastest for Ferrari

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas made it two poles in a row to close out the season in good form, laying down a record fastest time at the beautiful day-into-night Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Bottas bested his recently-crowned World Champion teammate Lewis Hamilton by .17 seconds to take the top starting spot for tomorrow’s Grand Prix, the finale of the exciting 2017 F1 campaign. Hamilton tried hard, his Silver Arrow squirming into the final turn at the very edge of adhesion as the checkered flag flew in Q3. But he couldn’t quite overcome his Finnish wingman’s earlier fastest lap and will line up in the #2 spot. Sebastian Vettel put in a typically sterling effort to elevate his Ferrari to P3 on the grid even if his Prancing Horse could never really match the pace of the Mercs at this flat, billiard table smooth and very speedy purpose-built track.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo split the Ferraris and also bested his teammate with a superlative final lap good enough for the 4th fastest time. That relegated Vettel’s teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, to the third row and P5 on the grid and Ricciardo’s stablemate, Max Verstappen, back to P6. Rounding out the Top 10, Nico Hulkenberg qualified P7 for Renault, Force India’s Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon were back-to-back in P8 and P9 respectively and Felipe Massa will start from 10th in what will be his 269th and last Formula 1 race after a distinguished 15-year career.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Abu Dhabi GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:37.356 1:36.822 1:36.231 18
2 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:37.391 1:36.742 1:36.403 19
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:37.817 1:37.023 1:36.777 18
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:38.016 1:37.583 1:36.959 16
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:37.453 1:37.302 1:36.985 17
6 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:38.021 1:37.777 1:37.328 19
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:38.781 1:38.138 1:38.282 14
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:38.601 1:38.359 1:38.374 17
9 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:38.896 1:38.392 1:38.397 17
10 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:38.629 1:38.565 1:38.550 18

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live starting at 8:00 AM Eastern here in the States on NBC Sports. It is not only the last contest of the year but also NBC’s final broadcast with next year’s F1 rights going over to ABC/ESPN. So join Steve Matchett, David Hobbs & Leigh Diffy one final time to farewell not only Fomula 1 for the year but also a really excellent broadcast team who helped make F1 racing more approachable and enjoyable for the North American fans. Hope to see you then to see how the season ends!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Brazil — Results & aftermath

Vettel victorious in Brazil, Bottas P2; Raikkonen finishes third while Hamilton roars back from the rear for P4

Sebastian Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari got a measure of redemption in Brazil on Sunday after coming up short in their quest for the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships. In the penultimate race of the season Vettel made a blinding start from P2, slipping past Mercedes pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas on the inside of Turn 1 and quickly pulling out a gap. Even after a multi-car melee behind the leaders led to a first-lap Safety Car Vettel was able to re-establish his advantage after the restart and control the race from the front, showing that for this weekend at least his Prancing Horse had the legs on the Silver Arrows. It all lead to a seemingly easy victory for the German 4-time World Champion, although Vettel claimed he had to be picture perfect in the middle sector all race long to hold Bottas off. It was also a much needed morale boost for the legendary team from Maranello after their second half swoon, which was fueled equally by unforced errors by drivers and engineering and ultimately resulted in their disappointing runner-up status. The victory at Interlagos also helped solidify Vettel’s number two position in the Drivers’ competition with his lead over Bottas ballooning to a very nearly insurmountable 22 points.

Despite a terrific qualifying effort that snatched pole from Ferrari on Saturday, Bottas’ Mercedes could not match Vettel’s race pace. The Finn made one or two vague challenges but essentially lost it at the start and had to settle for a relatively disappointing if comfortable P2. Likewise Vettel’s stablemate Kimi Raikkonen could never quite catch up to Bottas but drove a solid race to finish P3. Meanwhile Bottas’ teammate, newly-crowned 2017 champion Lewis Hamilton, had an amazing race to finish just off the podium in P4. Starting from pit lane after he shockingly binned his Merc early in the first round of qualifying, the team was able to break parc firmé and make several changes to the Englishman’s F1 W08. As well as aero tweaks Mercedes also installed a new power unit, which probably would have required grid penalties in the next race, the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Instead, despite his profound positional disadvantage, Hamilton tore through the field like a man possessed, slicing through back markers like a hot knife through butter. On an uncharacteristically sunny day in Sao Paolo with no aide from rain-induced strategy calls, Hamilton simply mustered the will to make it happen all on his own. In the end it showed once again why Lewis Hamilton is one of the all-time great F1 talents and truly deserving of his four world titles. Though Hamilton’s Super Soft Pirelli tires gave up at the end after a monster stint and he could not quite overtake Raikkonen for a podium his astounding fourth place must have felt nearly like a victory.

Behind the top four, Red Bull’s Max Vertsappen faded somewhat after a strong start where it looked like the young Dutch phenom might make the post-race champagne celebration. But the limits of his Renault power plant seemed to show themselves over the long run as the greater horsepower of the Ferraris and Mercedes pushed them out of his grasp. Verstappen had to settle for a distant P5, while his teammate Daniel Ricciardo did well to fight back after a first-lap spin to claim P6. Williams’ Felipe Massa earned an emotional P7 in his final home Grand Prix to the delight of the masses of his countrymen in the stands. The veteran Brazilian exited Sao Paolo with a clean and classy drive after tearfully crashing out during his rain-soaked false alarm last year.

Fernando Alonso continued McLaren’s upward ascent with a strong P8. Although next year will be extremely intriguing and demanding for the Spaniard with his plans to run not only the 24-Hours of Daytona in January but also at least a partial campaign for Toyota in the Prototype class of the World Endurance Championship, the two-time F1 champion has got to be looking forward to the switch to Renault engines to power what is seemingly a very competitive chassis. Unfortunately for McLaren, however, their second driver Stoffel Vanfoorne crashed out on the opening lap after getting tagged by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, who also had to retire. Sergio Perez brought his Force India home to a P9 finish after his teammate Esteban Ocon had his race-finishing streak snapped via a collision with Romain Grojean of Haas, also on the opening lap. Grosjean got a 10-second penalty for the accident but was able to complete the race, albeit out of the points in P15. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg landed the last points-paying position in P10 just getting the better of his teammate Carlos Sainz, who finished P11.

Top 10 finishers of the Brazilian GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 71 1:31:26.262 25
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 71 +2.762s 18
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 71 +4.600s 15
4 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 71 +5.468s 12
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 71 +32.940s 10
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 71 +48.691s 8
7 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 71 +68.882s 6
8 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 71 +69.363s 4
9 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 71 +69.500s 2
10 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 70 +1 lap 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next & final race is in two weeks time, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the gorgeous day-into-night Yas Marina Circuit. Hope to see you then to find out how the season ends!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Brazil — Qualifying results

Bottas snatches pole from Vettel while Hamilton crashes out in Q1 during unpredictable quali at Interlagos; Raikkonen P3

In a stunning qualifying session for the penultimate race of the 2017 campaign in Brazil on Saturday newly crowned World Champion Lewis Hamilton crashed out on his opening lap in Q1. The Mercedes ace lost it speeding into Turn 7 at Interlagos, bashing his Silver Arrow heavily into the barriers sideways. While the Englishman was unhurt his pride probably wasn’t by the unforced error just two weeks after he claimed his fourth F1 title in Mexico City. It only proved that it can happen to the best of drivers but it opened up the chase for pole to his only true rivals this season, his teammate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. And while Vettel looked like the favorite after laying down a track record lap relatively early in Q3, Bottas showed his mettle by besting that seemingly supreme time even though a light drizzle was falling and the checkered flag was waving. The Finn lifted Mercedes’ pride across the line with him at the death with a remarkable 1:08.322, good enough to take the pole and break Ferrari’s hearts. Vettel will start beside Bottas in P2 and his teammate Kimi Raikkonen will be right behind the Mercedes in P3. Hamilton, on the other hand, will have to start towards the back of the grid and will have to battle his way to the front, although other drivers facing grid spot penalties may move him up a spot or two by the time Sunday rolls around. Right now, however, the current F1 champ is starting from a lonely and lowly P20 after his very uncharacteristic cock up. (In fact it has just been announced that Hamilton will start from pit lane tomorrow, as Mercedes have decided to make changes to the car after the crash.)

The two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo qualified P4 and P5 respectively but that success was somewhat illusory for the team. Ricciardo is one of the drivers facing engine-change penalties, 10 spots in his case, and so the affable Aussie was pushed back to P15 on the grid. And though Verstappen was spared any such FIA demerits the young Dutchman, winner of the last Grand Prix in Mexico two weeks ago, was forced to retrofit old components onto his ailing Renault engine. Verstappen could be heard complaining about shifting issues during qualifying and can only hope that his bad luck, so frequent in the earlier part of the season, doesn’t return in the form of yet more mechanical failures costing him a race finish. Sergio Perez was the lone Force India to make it into Q3 and had the 6th fastest time, while McLaren’s Fernando Alonso continued the team’s late season upward trajectory by qualifying an impressive P7 at this very fast circuit. The yellow factory Renaults of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz were back-to-back with the 8th and 9th fastest times respectively. And Felipe Massa set the 10th quickest lap in what should really be his final Brazilian GP after last year’s tearful false alarm. It looks like the fine Brazilian veteran, who has the 6th most starts in Formula 1 history, will actually hang it up for good after being drafted back into Williams when Bottas made the unexpected leap to Mercedes following Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement at the end of 2016. We can only wish Massa, a classy and plucky competitor with 15 F1 campaigns to his credit, the very best at his final home race as he heads for the exits at season’s end after a superb career.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Brazilian Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:09.452 1:08.638 1:08.322 22
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:09.643 1:08.494 1:08.360 21
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:09.405 1:09.116 1:08.538 18
4 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:09.820 1:09.050 1:08.925 18
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:09.828 1:09.533 1:09.330 19
6 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:10.145 1:09.760 1:09.598 21
7 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:10.172 1:09.593 1:09.617 17
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:10.078 1:09.726 1:09.703 21
9 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 1:10.227 1:09.768 1:09.805 17
10 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:09.789 1:09.612 1:09.841 16

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live on NBC Sports starting at 11:00 AM Eastern here in the States. With wet weather always the wild card at Interlagos it could once again be the factor that shakes up the field and produces an unexpected result. Hope to see you then to find out how it all shakes out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Mexico — Qualifying results

Ferrari’s Vettel bests Red Bull’s Verstappen for pole in Mexico City; Mercedes off the pace with Hamilton P3, Bottas P4

Showing the fight of a true champion, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel laid down a track record lap of 1:16.488 for pole in the rarified air at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City on Saturday. Still mathemeaically alive in the Drivers’ Championship, albeit barely so, Vettel earned his 50th career pole by besting Red Bull’s ultra-quick wunderkind, Max Verstappen, by a scant .09 seconds. Verstappen had looked like the quicker man coming into Q3 but the young Ducthman, driving with a chip on his shoulder after being denied the podium by the stewards a week ago in Austin, couldn’t quite hook his laps up in the final qualifying round. Still, the Red Bull man was faster than both Mercedes, who struggled for outright pace against their usually inferior rivals a week after securing their fourth consecutive Constructors’ title. Points leader Lewis Hamilton, who can secure his fourth championship even if Vettel wins by finishing fifth or better on Sunday, could muster a time good enough for only P3 on the dusty, low-grip circuit. His wingman Valtteri Bottas vaulted himself to P4 on his only timed run in Q3 after a promising early attempt was spoiled by nearly colliding with a slowing Verstappen in the final sector (this tike Vertsappen escaped the stewards’ wrath). So for once in that proverbial blue moon the mighty Mercedes look like the third fastest cars on track, an unusual position to say the least and one that may be caused by the shortness of the circuit and the longness of their wheelbase. However the race could be a different proposition, particularly as the Silver Arrows are at least grouped to fight together while Vettel & Verstappen’s teammates are both separated from them further down the grid.

In fact, Ferrari #2 Kimi Raikkonen will start behind the two Mercs in P5, while the second Red Bull of Daniel Riciciardo looked a bit lost and could do no better than a P7 time. The affable Aussie saw himself bested by Force India’s Esteban Ocon, who qualified ahead in P6. The young Frenchman also outdid his teammate and archrival, Mexican national Sergio Perez, by a considerable margin. Perez could manage no better than P10 despite the passionate encouragement of his countrymen in the stands for his home Grand Prix. Rounding out the top 10, Nico Hulkenberg pipped his new Renault teammate Carlos Sainz, P8 to P9.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Mexican GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:17.665 1:16.870 1:16.488 20
2 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:17.630 1:16.524 1:16.574 19
3 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:17.518 1:17.035 1:16.934 21
4 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:17.578 1:17.161 1:16.958 17
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:18.148 1:17.534 1:17.238 20
6 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:18.336 1:17.827 1:17.437 19
7 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:18.208 1:17.631 1:17.447 15
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:18.322 1:17.792 1:17.466 17
9 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 1:18.405 1:17.753 1:17.794 17
10 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:18.020 1:17.868 1:17.807 19

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live on NBC at 3PM Eastern here in the States. Can Vettel live to fight another day or will Hamilton issue the coup de grâce and be crowned 2017’s champion? Might Verstappen steal the spotlight from both veterans by laying down a marker as next year’s man to beat? 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 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!