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FernandoAlonsoSpanishF1GPQual-2017

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Spain — Qualifying results

Mercedes’ Hamilton takes pole in Barcelona over Ferrari’s Vettel; Bottas P3 in second Silver Arrow

Eager to regain his momentum after a disappointing fourth place finish in Russia two weeks ago, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton stormed to a blisteringly fast pole position on Saturday at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain. With most of the cars sporting significant upgrades entering Round 5 and the beginning of the pivotal European portion of the Championship, Hamilton ran a remarkable 1.19.149 lap during the latter part of Q3. It was good enough to keep him in front of the hard charging Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel on the warm and windy track if only by a scant .05. Hamilton’s Silver Arrows teammate, Valtteri Bottas, who is coming off the high of his first F1 win at Sochi, was not quite as quick as the elite top two despite pushing his ride to the limit. That separated Bottas from his teammate and pushed him onto the second row in P3. Vettel’s Prancing Horse teammate Kimi Raikkonen slotted in alongside Bottas in P4, once again seeming to be very fast in all the practice sessions but then missing that final special something when the real qualifying began.

The two Red Bulls struggled for top end speed and stability somewhat versus their top-flight opposition despite their own upgrades. Max Verstappen once again outpaced his senior teammate Daniel Ricciardo, P5 to P6. McLaren had a surprisingly good day coming off a huge oil leak issue in practice, with Spaniard Fernando Alonso vaulting his troubled chassis all the way up to P7 despite a serious lack of track time. Must have been the home cooking and tennis break on Friday while the mechanics scrambled to fix the Honda-powered car. Spain will be Alonso’s last race before he skips Monaco and takes on the daunting challenge that is the Indianapolis 500 in two weeks. He and the team would dearly love to grab some points before that cross-continetal adventure after a slew of DNFs to start the season.

Rounding out the Top 10, the two Force Indias once again made a very representative showing, with Sergio Perez qualifying P8 and young Esteban Ocon taking P 10 on the grid. Felipe Massa spilt them with his P9 time for Williams.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Spanish Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:20.511 1:20.210 1:19.149 12
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:20.939 1:20.295 1:19.200 16
3 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:20.991 1:20.300 1:19.373 15
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:20.742 1:20.621 1:19.439 14
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:21.430 1:20.722 1:19.706 12
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:21.704 1:20.855 1:20.175 12
7 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:22.015 1:21.251 1:21.048 15
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:21.998 1:21.239 1:21.070 14
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:22.138 1:21.222 1:21.232 15
10 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:21.901 1:21.148 1:21.272 17

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live on NBC Sports at 8AM Eastern here in the States. With Ferrari nipping at Mercedes’ heels and Lewis Hamilton desperate for a win it should be all to play for on a track these drivers all know so well. Hope to se you then!

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of 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 Malaysia — Results & aftermath

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

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

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 finishers in Malaysia:

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

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

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

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Singapore — Results & aftermath

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

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

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

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

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

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

Top 10 finishers in Singapore:

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

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

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

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Italy — Qualifying results

Mercedes lockout front row at Monza as Hamilton scores dominant pole, Rosberg P2; Vettel saves Ferrari’s honor with P3 in front of home crowd

The Mercedes Silver Arrows showed their true from at the ultra-fast Monza Autodromo in Italy during Saturday qualifying, with Lewis Hamilton laying down a scorching lap for pole, besting his teammate Nico Rosberg, who qualified P2, by half a second. It was Hamilton’s record-tying fifth pole at Monza, leveling him with F1 legends Juan Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna. After Hamilton’s miracle P3 finish last week at Spa when he carved his way through the field after starting at the back of the pack his pole once again laid down a marker for excellence and sent a clear message of dominance to his teammate and archival. Rosberg is going to have to take the belt from the champ and Hamilton, still leading in the points, ain’t giving it up without a serious fight.

Ferrari was the best of the rest of the teams, with Sebastian Vettel grabbing P3 and bettering his hot teammate Kimi Raikkonen’s P4. The pressure is really on at Ferrari in front of their home fans and in the midst of a disappointing season but it seems unlikely that the Prancing Horses have anything for Mercedes unless the two Silver Arrows teammates once again come to blows.

Williams’ Valtteri Bottas put his Mercedes power to good use to take an impressive P5 on the grid, while the Red Bulls showed their Achilles’ heel, the lack of pure pace at a speedy track like this one, with Daniel Ricciardo only good enough for P6 and Max Verstappen at P7. No doubt, though, the always well-prepared Red Bull team will have some strategic tricks up their sleeves to try to move their men up come race day. Force India continued their recent excellent form with Sergio Perez good enough for P8 and Nico Hulkenberg taking P9. Esteban Gutierrez had an terrific P10 fast lap for first year American Team Hass on the debut of their new rear wing, a very impressive result that saw him out-qualify not only his more experienced teammate Romain Grosjean but also both McLarens and the Williams of Felipe Massa.

And speaking of those latter two teams, both Massa and McLaren’s Jenson Button announced that they would retire from F1 at the end of the 2016 season. The two veteran stalwarts will be sorely missed but a new generation will be racing to take their spots. So it goes in Formula 1 just as in life!

Top 10 qualifiers for the Italian Grand Prix.

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:21.854 1:21.498 1:21.135 16
2 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 1:22.497 1:21.809 1:21.613 15
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:23.077 1:22.275 1:21.972 13
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:23.217 1:22.568 1:22.065 15
5 77 Valtteri Bottas WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:23.264 1:22.499 1:22.388 12
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:23.158 1:22.638 1:22.389 17
7 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:23.229 1:22.857 1:22.411 15
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:23.439 1:22.922 1:22.814 15
9 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:23.259 1:22.951 1:22.836 18
10 21 Esteban Gutierrez  HAAS FERRARI 1:23.386 1:22.856 1:23.184 21

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live on NBC Sports Network here in the States beginning at 8:00 AM Eastern. Hope to see you then to how it all shakes out at the always thrilling cathedral of speed, Monza!

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Belgium — Results & aftermath

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

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 finishers for the Belgian Grand Prix:

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

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

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

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Germany — Results & aftermath

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

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

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

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

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain — Results and aftermath

Hamilton triumphs for 3rd straight win at Silverstone; Rosberg loses P2 to Red Bull’s Verstappen on radio penalty

In a remarkable race in front of his countrymen and with typically rainy English summer weather as a key subplot, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton triumphed over the elements and his rivals, taking a remarkable third consecutive victory at the historic Silverstone circuit in Great Britain. Not only did Hamilton beat his points-leading teammate, Nico Rosberg, but he continued to ratchet up the pressure on the German contender by taking victory in four out of the last five contests. Hamilton even got a bonus — and Rosberg another psychological blow — when the stewards penalized Rosberg and his race engineers for disclosing too much “driver coaching” information over the radio late in the Grand Prix when he had a problem with 7th gear. The 10-second time penalty subsequently imposed meant that P2 went to Red Bull’s wunderkind, Max Verstappen, rather than to Rosberg’s true positional second-place finish, doubly galling for the Mercedes driver, as he had spent so much of the second half of the race trying to get by Verstappen. After his win at the British GP, Hamilton now sits only one slim point behind Rosberg in the Drivers’ Championship and also seems to have the lucky breaks back on his side again. With only two contests remaining before the long August break, Rosberg has got to try to recapture the momentum that propelled him to four straight wins to start the year, lest his fragile psyche crumbles in the face of Hamilton’s typically ruthless onslaught.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

For Verstappen and Red Bull, Rosberg’s technical misfortune was their boon. The 18-year-old Dutchman and his RB-12 chassis excelled in the wet conditions that prevailed in the early part of the contest. With a little more oomph from the “Tag Heuer” (really a beefed-up Renault) engine, it’s possible that the Red Bulls could be a legitimate threat for victories against the mighty Silver Arrows. And Verstappen is certainly living up to the hype despite his tender years. With more wet weather performances like the drive he put in at Silverstone, Verstappen could well inherit the “Rain Meister” title that has been in mothballs since Michael Schumacher’s retirement. Daniel Ricciardo was again not as fast as his precocious teammate and something about his demeanor seems to have darkened considerably since his massive disappointment at Monaco this year when poor pit work by the team literally threw certain victory away. The normally ebullient Aussie did manage a solid 4th-place finish but his 18-second deficit to Vertappen extinguished his normally electric smile.

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Ferrari had another tough race weekend and must be wondering if their early season improvements have been caught up by the other teams. Continue reading