Tag Archives: Nico Rosberg

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi — Results & aftermath

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

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

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

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

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

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

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

To 10 finishers at Abu Dhabi:

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

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

Click here for final Drivers’ Standings.

Click here for final Constructors’ Standings.

2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Friday

2016 F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi — Qualifying results

Hamilton sets up final race showdown with blistering lap for pole in Abu Dhabi, points leader Rosberg just behind in P2; Red Bull’s Ricciardo pips the Ferraris to start P3

At the final qualifying session of the 2016 Formula 1 season and with the Drivers’ Championship poised on a knife’s edge, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton gave himself the best opportunity to snatch his third consecutive title and break his teammate’s heart once again. Trailing by a mere 12 points in the Drivers’ standings, the hard-charging Hamilton was faster than all comers at the futuristic Yas Marina circuit, laying down a lightning fast lap of 1:38.755 as Q3 wound down. That was good enough for pole position, his fourth in a row and sixth from his last eight attempts. Hamilton’s Championship-leading Silver Arrows teammate and archrival, Nico Rosberg, couldn’t match the speedy Englishman but still came home only 0.7 seconds in arrears to take P2. As it has been all season long there is little to separate the Mercedes duo and it’s only fitting that they will start side-by-side yet again for the ultimate prize in this last race of the season. For Rosberg, all he has to do is finish on the podium to secure his long dreamed off first career Championship. Even if the German contender finishes P4, he wins on the tie-breaker for 2nd place finishes throughout the year, where Rosberg has a 4-3 advantage. There are other permutations but essentially Hamilton needs the victory and for Rosberg to finish P5 or worse. And with Rosberg’s rather poor record at Abu-Dhabi — he’s only finished on the podium twice in six attempts at Yas Marina — his finally prevailing over his stablemate and chief tormentor is hardly a sure bet. Literally anything can happen in a Grand Prix race so buckle up. Tomorrow’s intra-team showdown and season-defining finale should be a real nail-biter with echoes of the glory days of Prost vs. Senna .

Top 10 qualifiers for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:39.487 1:39.382 1:38.755 12
2 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 1:40.511 1:39.490 1:39.058 12
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:41.002 1:40.429 1:39.589 17
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:40.338 1:39.629 1:39.604 14
5 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:40.341 1:40.034 1:39.661 14
6 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:40.424 1:39.903 1:39.818 13
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:41.000 1:40.709 1:40.501 12
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:40.864 1:40.743 1:40.519 12
9 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:41.616 1:41.044 1:41.106 17
10 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:41.157 1:40.858 1:41.213 15

Complete qualifying results amiable via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s GP will be broadcast live starting at 8:00 AM Eastern on NBC Sports Network here in the States. It’s for all the marbles with two Mercedes drivers desperate for the title and the rest of the field eager to make their own impact in the season’s final race. No real racing fan should miss it so hope to see you then!

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Brazil — Results & aftermath

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

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

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

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

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

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Brazil — Qualifying results

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

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

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

Top 10 Qualifiers for the Brazilian Grand Prix:

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

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

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

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Mexico — Results & aftermath

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

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

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

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

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

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Mexico — Qualifying results

Surging Hamilton grabs another pole, Rosberg salvages P2 in dying seconds of quali; Verstappen fast enough for 3rd on grid

After dominating all race weekend in Austin last week en route to a commanding win, Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton showed yet again that he is not ready to concede the title belt to his teammate, archival and current points leader Nico Rosberg. Displaying his typical grit and determination, Hamilton once again comprehensively out-qulaified the entire F1 field to grab pole in Mexico City and give himself the best possible chance to not only take victory in Sunday’s Mexican GP but also keep his hopes of a third consecutive title alive in the face of dwindling races and odds. The Englishman bested Roseberg for the second weekend in a row and for a while it looked like the German contender might actually be pushed back to the second row in P4. But Rosberg dug deep in the dying seconds of Q3 and vaulted himself over the very competitive Red Bulls and up to P2, albeit a quarter of a second behind the man who has what he desperately wants. But Rosberg knows that if he can just keep finishing on the podium he can run out the clock no matter how many victories Hamilton claims in these last 3 races. In fact, if Rosberg should somehow win tomorrow and Hamilton stumbles to a sub-tenth place finish the Championship will be mathematically decided in the German’s favor.

Despite the Red Bulls looking very pacy at the high altitude, low drag Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez track all weekend long, they ware foiled by Rosberg’s last-second surge. Wunderkind Max Verstappen was still good enough for P3 and his senior teammate Daniel Ricciardo took P4 on the grid. Nico Hulkenberg was surprisingly fast for Force India and turned in a Q3 lap that earned him an impressive P5 for tomorrow’s race, while Kimi Raikkonen out-qualified his more decorated Ferrari teammate, Sebastian Vettel, P6 to P7. However sitting behind a Force India is not exactly where the Scuderia envisioned themselves on race day.  The two Williams managed to hoist themselves into the top 10 starters’ group after looking like dangerously dropping out in Q2 — Valtteri Bottas will start P8 and the retiring veteran Felipe Massa will occupy P9 on the grid. Following a strong P6 finish for the generally underwhelming Toro Rosso chassis at COTA last weekend, Carlos Sainz again showed improving skill and pace in a mediocre car and will start from P10.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Mexican GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:19.447 1:19.137 1:18.704 18
2 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 1:19.996 1:19.761 1:18.958 22
3 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:19.874 1:18.972 1:19.054 14
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:19.713 1:19.553 1:19.133 15
5 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:20.599 1:19.769 1:19.330 22
6 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:19.554 1:19.936 1:19.376 21
7 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:19.865 1:19.385 1:19.381 17
8 77 Valtteri Bottas WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:20.338 1:19.958 1:19.551 20
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:20.423 1:20.151 1:20.032 19
10 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO FERRARI 1:20.457 1:20.169 1:20.378 24

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live on NBC starting at 3PM Eastern. With an ultra-fast circuit and a rabid fan base down Mexico way it should be a heated contest full of energy and excitement — just the kind of venue that a hard charger like Hamilton enjoys in his quest to come from behind and put the pressure back on Rosberg to defend his title aspirations. Hope to see you then to find out how it all shakes out!

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

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

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

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 finishers in the United States Grand Prix:

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

Complete race results amiable via Formula1.com.

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

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of the United States — Qualifying results

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

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

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

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

Top 10 qualifiers for the US Grand Prix:

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

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

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

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Japan — Results & aftermath

Rosberg sails to victory at Suzuka after another poor Hamilton start; Mercedes claim 3rd consecutive title; Verstappen powers his Red Bull to P2

A week after his engine blew up en route to a sure victory in Malaysia, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton went back to having only himself to blame for his on-track misfortunes. Starting alongside his pole-sitting teammate Nico Rosberg on the front row in P2, Hamilton once again got a very poor getaway from the line as the lights went out and saw himself swamped by nearly all of the rest of the top 10 starters before he could recover. Meanwhile, Rosberg swanned away and instantly began pulling out a gap on his nearest pursuer, Red  Bull’s Max Vertstappen. Starts have been Hamilton’s unexpected bête noir this season and as has often happened after the summer break, he found himself fighting back furiously to recover from his own unforced error. But fight back he did, scrapping with and passing Ferraris, Red Bulls, Williams & Force Indias to claw his way back from a seemingly perilous points deficit. In the end, Rosberg scored an easy maiden victory at Suzuka, his eighth victory of the 2016 season, while Hamilton was able to salvage a hard-fought P3 for some level of redemption for his poor getaway. The high finishing places also insured the Mercedes factory team’s impressive third Constructors’ Championship in succession, a remarkable feat for any F1 team.

But for their battling drivers, everything remains to be settled. With only four Grand Prix left, Rosberg stretched his points lead to 33 over his teammate and arch-nemesis. The German looks well-poised to take his first-ever title from current champion Hamilton but, as the old saying goes, anything can happen in motorsport. One thing’s for sure: Hamilton will never quit and if he is going to go down, he’ll go down swinging. So Rosberg had better be prepared for the four toughest races of his career if he’s going to grab that elusive first Drivers’ Championship.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Splitting the two Silver Arrows, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen drove a superb race to come home P2. The Dutch phenom fought his way forward after Hamilton’s initial slow start and was able to use solid tire strategy and determined driving to outpace both Ferraris, fight his way through stubborn backmarkers and then hold off a charging Hamilton as the laps wound down. His superb effort culminated with making himself just wide enough to thwart Hamilton’s optimistic passing maneuver on then penultimate lap, sending the Englishman down an escape road when he overcooked the overtake. While Mercedes and Hamilton complained that Verstappen made an illegal block at the time, replays showed no such excess movement and eventually the team dropped their protest. It was another sweet podium for Verstappen, his 6th so far in this his breakout year, and an amazing 6 podiums out of only 13 starts with the big Red Bull team.

All was not as joyful for Verstappen’s senior teammate Daniel Ricciardo. A week after his lucky victory in Malaysia, the Aussie had an uncharacteristically poor start from the wetter side of the track and had to fight for the rest of the race just to stay in reach of the leaders. In the end, Ricciardo finished well back in P6, a sure disappointment to him on a day when his precocious teammate thoroughly outscored him. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel could never quite make his tire strategy work even after looking very quick and battling back from a 3-spot grid penalty that saw him start from P7 instead of P4. Try as he might he could never close down Hamilton late in the race and had to settle for P4. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who also was penalized for a gearbox change and had to start from P8 drove with controlled aggression to work his way up to P5, decent if unspectacular day at the office for the Scuderia.

Rounding out the Top 10, the two Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg were P7 and P8 respectively. After the race rumors swirled that Hulkenberg would be jumping from Force India over to Renault, something of a surprise when it seemed his ride was already settled for next year. And both Williams managed to score points after neither made into the third round of qualifying on Saturday. Felipe Massa was P9 and Valtteri Bottas was P10, as Williams’ race pace proved superior to their nearest competitors, the American Hass F1 team, even after they were comprehensively out-qualified by them.

Top 10 finishers at the Japan GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 53 1:26:43.333 25
2 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 53 +4.978s 18
3 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 53 +5.776s 15
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 53 +20.269s 12
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 53 +28.370s 10
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 53 +33.941s 8
7 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 53 +57.495s 6
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 53 +59.177s 4
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 53 +97.763s 2
10 77 Valtteri Bottas WILLIAMS MERCEDES 53 +98.323s 1

Complete results available via Formula1.com.

The next race is in two weeks — the United States Grand Prix from COTA in Austin, Texas. With the weather predicted to be much better than last year’s soggy affair, the beautiful purpose-built track should get back to delivering excellent racing and plenty of passing. It’s also a circuit that Hamilton loves, having taken victory in three out of the four GPs held there. With time running out on the season, he’ll be desperate to take the fight to Rosberg and salvage his aspirations of a championship 3-peat. Hope to see you then!

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Japan — Qualifying results

Rosberg pips Hamilton for pole at Suzuka; Raikkonen good enough for P3 for Ferrari

Nico Rosberg kept his recent positive momentum going by nabbing pole in Saturday qualifying at Suzuka in Japan. The Mercedes championship points leader pipped his nearest pursuer, teammate and archival Lewis Hamilton, by a mere .013 seconds as time wound down in Q3 and the checkered flag flew. That excellent performance capped off a terrific first two days in Japan that saw Rosberg fastest in every session and gave the German continued confidence in his quest to secure his first career F1 championship and take the title belt from his gifted English teammate. Despite his disappointment at being bested in quali all is not lost for Hamilton. The battling Briton was victorious the last two Grand Prix at Suzaka after starting from P2 and there is really nothing between the two Mercedes’ aces. But with the races running out and following a mechanical failure last week in Malaysia that cost him a sure victory and precious points Hamilton needs a good finish tomorrow and a sub-par performance or perhaps a reciprocal mechanical problem for Rosberg.

As he has so frequently in the second half of the season Kimi Raikkonen carried the fag for Ferrari with a lap good enough for P3. But while his much-vaunted teammate Sebastian Vettel was also quick with a P4 effort, the 4-time World Champion will be assessed a 3-spot grid penalty after last week’s first lap collision with Rosberg. An while the Red Bulls move up because of Vettel’s punishment, the team its drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo have to be puzzled at being out-paced by Ferrari after making such great strides in their battle against the Scuderia. A week after a 3-4 finish at Sepang, Verstappen qualified only P5 and Ricciardo was P6. Rounding out the Top 10, the Force India team was once again impressive, with Sergio Perez quick enough for P7 while Nico Hulkenberg nabbed P9. And Haas F1 got both their drivers into Q3 for the first time in this their inaugural season, with Romain Grosjean a solid P8 and Esteban Gutierrez over half a second behind but still starting from P10 on the grid tomorrow.

Despite high expectations and recent signs of improvement, McLaren was back to being  completely adrift only this time at their engine supplier Honda’s home track. Fernando Alonso could do not better than P15 and Jenson Button couldn’t make it out of Q1 and was way back in P17. It was a sobering reminder that the team still has a long way to go to get back to the Olympian heights of their storied past. Williams was also out to lunch and neither Valtteri Bottas (P11) or Felipe Massa (P12) could make it out of Q2.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Japanese Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 1:31.858 1:30.714 1:30.647 13
2 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:32.218 1:31.129 1:30.660 13
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:31.674 1:31.406 1:30.949 12
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:31.659 1:31.227 1:31.028 12
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:32.487 1:31.489 1:31.178 14
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:32.538 1:31.719 1:31.240 14
7 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:32.682 1:32.237 1:31.961 12
8 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:32.458 1:32.176 1:31.961 17
9 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:32.448 1:32.200 1:32.142 12
10 21 Esteban Gutierrez  HAAS FERRARI 1:32.620 1:32.155 1:32.547 15

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix airs live in the wee hours here in the States — coverage starts at 1AM Eastern on NBC Sports Network. Hope to see you then for all the action from Suzuka!