In the young season’s best race so far, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton gave everything he had to come out on top in a mano-a-mano duel with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain. Hamilton started on pole but made a less than spectacular getaway that saw him quickly passed by Vettel as the lights went out. But Hamilton survived a big bottleneck in Turn 1, which was more than could be said for Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull’s young phenom Max Verstappen. With Mercedes’ second driver Valtteri Bottas looking for an advantage over Raikonnen on the inside at that pivotal first bend, the two cars touched wheels. That sent Raikonnen’s blood red Ferrari across the track and into the ambitious Vestappen’s Red Bull, who had also stuck his nose into the melee on the outside, terminally damaging both vehicles’ suspensions. In less than a lap, two premier runners were out of the race and Vettel had lost a crucial ally.
Nevertheless, Vettel swanned away from the pack and up the road, leaving Hamilton to bide his time and settle in for the chase. Vettel pitted early on Lap 14 for another set of the better performing soft tires, on which he had started the race, while Mercedes ran both Hamilton and Bottas longer, with Hamilton going to Lap 21 and then switching to the slower but more durable medium compound Pirellis. And with Bottas yet to come in that enabled the Finn to hold up Vettel somewhat when the German Ferrari man was desperate to put as much distance between himself & Hamilton while on the superior soft rubber. That small impedance by the second Silver Arrow may have proved pivotal as Hamilton did not lose as much time as he might have without Bottas’ entirely legal obstructions. Vettel managed to pass the Finn on Lap 25 and Bottas subsequently let his teammate by quickly and then came to the pits for his first stop and his own set of medium tires on Lap 28, indicating that Mercedes were committing to a 2-stop strategy for both their cars while the sole remaining Ferrari’s options remained open.
And then Mercedes, which had been caught flat-footed in the season opener that saw Ferrari outsmart them for a Vettel win in Australia, had the strategic coup of the race. Continue reading →
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.
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!
Red Bull debutante Verstappen becomes youngest ever F1 Grand Prix victor after Mercedes drivers knock each other out on opening lap; Ferrari unable to stop wunderkind’s win, finish P2 & P3
In a race that unfolded more like a Hollywood script than a Formula 1 contest the inexplicable somehow transformed into the inevitable on Sunday at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. Despite another front row lockout from team Mercedes, their two talented drivers let their fierce competitiveness overcome their good sense, destroying the team’s day in an instant. As pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton saw himself passed at the start by his archival Nico Rosberg he desperately tried to regain the lead exiting Turn 3 by swinging sharply across the track and to Rosberg’s inside. But Rosberg, slowed now by being in an incorrect engine mode, appeared to coldly shut any perceived opening by jinking to the right, forcing Hamilton onto the grass and into a spin. The Englishman’s out of control Silver Arrow then came back onto the track, tagging Rosberg in the rear and sending the German points leader, as well as Hamilton, into the gravel trap at Turn 4. In an instant both Mercedes’ team cars were beached, broken and out of the race. The previously peerless team had lost the opportunity for a potentially perfect season, Rosberg saw his winning streak snapped at seven races and Hamilton failed to gain any ground in the Drivers’ Championship. While officially the team refused to apportion blame to either driver after debriefing Nikki Lauda did finger Hamilton for an overly ambitious move. Regardless, the incident would never have happened with a little more patience by Hamilton and a little more respect by Rosberg. In the end it was 43 valuable Manufacturers’ points down the tubes for Team Mercedes before the end of Lap 1.
But Mercedes’ misfortune opened the door to something truly remarkable: Max Verstappen’s first Grand Prix win in his maiden drive for the senior Red Bull team. After replacing Daniil Kvyat during the break between Russia and Spain, all eyes were on the Dutch wunderkind as the race weekend progresssed in Barcelona. And come Sunday he didn’t disappoint. With the dominant Mercedes duo cleared from the field of combat before the end of the first lap that put Verstappen in P2 and saw his veteran teammate Daniel Ricciardo leading the race. Very shortly they would be joined by the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen and that quartet would dual each other in one configuration or another for the rest of the race. As it happened, Red Bull decided to split their strategy, putting Ricciardo on a 3-stopper while electing to have Verstappen only pit for tires twice. Eventually that enabled Verstappen to come out ahead of both Ferraris with Raikkonen his closest pursuer and shuffled Ricciardo back to 4th behind Vettel after the Aussie’s third stop on Lap 45. That’s how they would remain for the rest of the tense race, with Raikkonen hounding Verstappen for the lead and Ricciardo hounding Vettel for the last spot on the podium.
But Verstappen didn’t wilt under the pressure from Raikkonen’s Prancing Horse and the veteran Finn could never find a way past the youngster despite pulling close a few times with the aid of DRS on the start-finish straight. Continue reading →
Mercedes’ Hamilton rebounds with dominant pole in Barcelona, Rosberg second best in qualifying; Ricciardo grabs P3 for surging Red Bull
After a run of tough luck that saw him playing second fiddle to his streaking Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton regained a measure of momentum with a dominant pole in Saturday qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix. Bedeviled by gremlins in his last two quali efforts, Hamilton’s Silver Arrows had no issues as he dusted off his points-leading rival Nico Rosberg by an impressive quarter of a second. But Hamilton must covert his P1 start into victory to begin to claw back an advantage on Rosberg, who has won all four races so far in 2016 and a stunning seven in a row dating to last season. If the defending champ can have a clean run to victory tomorrow he might be able to get back into Rosberg’s head and begin working on undermining the German’s heretofore unflappable confidence just as he has done in the past.
Team Red Bull not only made the biggest news with a huge personnel shakeup during the fortnight between the last race in Russia but also seemed to confirm that their chassis is improving by leaps and bounds. Red Bull made the dramatic move of promoting teen sensation Max Verstappen from their junior Toro Rosso team and demoting the controversial Daniil Kvyat back down to Toro Rosso, from whence he originally came. Perhaps eyeing a future where other powerhouses like Ferrari might come courting the Dutch wunderkind, Red Bull made sure to lock him up in one of their premier seats for the foreseeable future. But coming as it did after Kvyat had two race-altering incidents with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the prior two contests the timing did seem a bit like a rebuke to the Russian. Regardless, Red Bull were all smiles after seeing Ricciardo grab P3 on the last lap of Q3 with Verstappen also coming in at a very competitive P4 in his first outing in earnest in his hot new ride.
The improved performance of Red Bull’s RB12 spelled bad news for Ferrari, as Kimi Raikkonen was pushed back to P5 and Sebastian Vettel to P6. Continue reading →
After being thoroughly dominated by his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in the first four “fly away” races of the 2015 F1 season Nico Rosberg desperately needed to reestablish his bona fides as a championship contender. The question on everyone’s mind as the series returned to European soil this past weekend was a simple one: could he muster the will to throw a scare into Hamilton and truly make a fight of the championship? In Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix the world received an answer. Rosberg emerged form the three-week break refreshed and relaxed and proceeded to do some dominating of his own for a change. Starting from the pole, the sensitive German put his self-doubt and the rest of the field in the rearview mirror, checking out on the first corner of the first lap. With an all around impressive race weekend in which he was undoubtedly the fastest man on the track, Rosberg put Hamilton on the defensive for the first time this season and the victory revivified the prospects for an authentic intra-team battle for the championship. With Monaco coming up in two weeks, the jewel in Formula 1’s crown and a race Monte Carlo resident Rosberg has also won the past two years, it would seem to be game on again for the two Mercedes rivals.
Because of his teammate’s untouchability on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Hamilton’s race came down to damage limitation after a poor start saw him immediately overtaken by Sebastian Vettel Ferrari. Continue reading →
The boys of Formula 1 are back after their 3-week layoff for the Spanish Grand Prix. And if it’s Saturday that means it’s 3 rounds of knockout Qualifying to determine who starts from the Pole on Sunday. Would Nico Rosberg finally get the better of his dominating Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton? Or would Ferrari jump the Silver Arrows with their ever-improving performance?
Rosberg serves notice with dominant Pole for Mercedes, Hamilton 2nd fastest; Vettel snags P3 for Ferrari
Nico Rosberg returned from the three-week break after Bahrain refreshed and up for the fight in Barcelona. The German contender and last year’s championship runner-up served notice to his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton that he was not ready to concede this early in the season. He laid down an untouchable lap midway through Q3 that clocked in at a mega fast 1:24.681. And despite having a chance to overtake Rosberg with his typical last lap heroics, Hamilton could not quite manage it this Saturday. He was a mere .267 behind and will settle for P2 on the grid. It remains to be seen if Rosberg can make it happen in a race and with Hamilton winning 3 of the first 4 Grand Prix another victory for the Englishman would be hard to overcome. Still, Rosberg seems even more comfortable than most at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Formula 1’s default test track, and a win could do wonders for his badly shaken confidence, as well as the Championship battle as a whole.
Ferrari had mixed qualifying results in their return to Europe after showing steady improvement in each of the “fly away” races that start the season. Sebastian Vettel was back on form and was able to grab 3rd position barely half a second behind Hamilton. But Kimi Raikkonen, who placed an impressive 2nd in the last Grand Prix in Bahrain, struggled after one of his fresh sets of tires was bizarrely burnt beyond using by the warming blankets and had to settle for P7. That left Williams’ Valtteri Bottas in prime position to capitalize and the young Finn didn’t disappoint, hooking up a fast lap good enough for 4th on the grid. His teammate Felipe Massa was not nearly as quick and ended up a rather inexplicably poor P9, not what the desperate-to-overtake-Ferrari Williams team was looking for at all.
The youthful Torro Rosso duo of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen, whose combined age is only 37, continued to impress in their rookie seasons. Continue reading →