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2017 F1 Grand Prix of Brazil — Results & aftermath

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 finishers of the Brazilian GP:

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

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

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

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Brazil — Qualifying results

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

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

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

Top 10 qualifiers for the Brazilian Grand Prix:

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

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

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

2017 F1 Grand Prix of the United States — Results & aftermath

Hamilton moves closer to title with dominant win in Texas as Mercedes clinch fourth straight Constructors’ Championship; Vettel salvages P2, Raikkonen third after Verstappen penalized

Mercedes’ ace Lewis Hamilton had a superb weekend for both himself and the team at an American track that has come to seem like a second home to the Englishman. Starting from pole at The Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, the championship points leader was able to overcome a fast start by the last remaining obstacle to the pursuit of his fourth Formula 1 crown, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Vettel was quicker on the opening lap and got by Hamilton with authority. For a brief moment it seemed that Ferrari could put their miserable 3-race tailspin behind them and get back on level footing with mighty Mercedes. But Hamilton’s Silver Arrow proved the stronger car as the laps accumulated and the tires settled in. Hamilton closed down the German relentlessly and by getting to within DRS range was able to pass Vettel on Lap 6, taking a lead he would never really relinquish again.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Perhaps because of Ferrari having to trim downforce off the car to match Mercedes’ pace at this long flowing track the Prancing Horses were not quite as good on their tires as they had been in other races. While Vettel had to stop for fresh rubber on Lap 17, Hamilton ran until Lap 20 (although one could argue this was a lap too late as he really hit the cliff by then). Hamilton was then able to run his Soft tires until the end of the race on his way to the victory, while Vettel threw the dice for a second tire change on Lap 39 of 56. It didn’t pan out for the Scuderia man — he had lost too much track position. In the end Hamilton won decisively by over 10 seconds while Vettel pushed his way back to the front and then was let through by his teammate Kimi Raikkonen for P2, keeping the Drivers’ Championship mathematically alive for another race weekend. Hamilton’s win in the States also helped earn the Mercedes factory team their fourth Constructors’ title on the trot. And to think that most people thought Hamilton was mad to jump from McLaren to Merc back in 2013. It was also Hamilton’s astounding fifth win at COTA in six attempts.

Raikkonen was awarded the last step on the podium in controversial fashion after Red Bull’s Max Verstappen made a stunning pass on him for P3 on the very last lap of the race. But the Dutch wunderkind who hurtled himself all the way up from a 16th place starting position after engine penalties, slicing through the field like a hot knife along the way, was deemed by the stewards to have exceeded track limits in gaining the advantage on Kimi. He was hit with a 5-second time penalty while waiting in the podium green room and had to give way to Raikkonen in shocking fashion. The 20-year-old phenom was justifiably livid at the decision in a race where track limits seemed to have been abused all day long with no similar consequences. In the end, though, the now fourth place Vertsappen could only take satisfaction in adding to his growing resume of superb overtaking drives, as well as signing a new multi-year contract with Red Bull, a smart move by the team in locking up such a prodigious if still maturing talent. Adding to the mixed feeling for Red Bull after the US Grand Prix their other driver, Daniel Ricciardo, suffered engine failure on Lap 16. It was a major disappointment for the Aussie after a roaring start from P4 on the grid and some hot and heavy wheel-to-wheel action with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.

Bottas lost ground late and finished P5 but it was still enough of a points haul to put Mercedes over the top for the title. Force India’s Esteban Ocon drove well despite battling the flu and finished P6, while his teammate and jousting partner Sergio Perez came home P8. That consolidated the team’s fourth place in the Constructors’ title, a remarkable result for the little Force India team. Carlos Sainz was extremely impressive in his maiden run for the factory Renault team, driving superbly to a P7 finish. Felipe Massa took P9 for underachieving Wiliams and Sainz’s old teammate Daniil Kvyat was P10 in his return to his Toro Rosso seat after a two-race enforced absence by the team.

Top 10 finishers of the US Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 56 1:33:50.991 25
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 56 +10.143s 18
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 56 +15.779s 15
4 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 56 +16.768s 12
5 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 56 +34.967s 10
6 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 56 +90.980s 8
7 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 56 +92.944s 6
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 55 +1 lap 4
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 55 +1 lap 2
10 26 Daniil Kvyat TORO ROSSO 55 +1 lap 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next race is in but a week’s time, just south of the border from Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City. Can Sebastian Vettel prolong the inevitable or will Lewis Hamilton join the German in the elite 4-time F1 Champions’ club? Hope to see you then to find out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Japan — Results & aftermath

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

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

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

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

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

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

Top 10 finishers of the Japanese Grand Prix:

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

Complete race results alive via Formula1.com.

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

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

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Japan — Qualifying results

Hamilton blisters track record for pole at Suzuka, Bottas back on form in P2; Vettel third quickest as grid shuffled by penalties

Making emphatic amends for never having scored a pole at the legendary Suzuka circuit, Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton shattered Michael Schumacher’s 11-year-old lap record by over 1.6 seconds en route to the 71st pole of the Englishman’s sparkling career. Better yet for the Silver Arrows, Hamilton’s wingman Valtteri Bottas returned to form after a run of mediocre qualifying results and qualified P2. That stout effort by Bottas pipped the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton’s only real competition for the Drivers’ title, but the Mercedes #2 has a gearbox penalty to serve and so was pushed back to P6 with Vettel inheriting the second spot on the grid beside Hamilton. After Vettel’s wonder drive in Malaysia a week ago where he came from last to finish a remarkable fourth the German 4-time World Champion must be salivating at the prospect of starting from P2 and being able to go mano a mano with Hamilton right from then get go.

However, Vettel may have to go it alone, as his Scuderia teammate Kimi Raikkonen had another difficult day a week after his car failed to start the Malaysian GP due to turbo problems. The Finnish vet got it wrong in free practice 3, smashing into the armco at the Degner curves and damaging his suspension and gearbox in the process. His mechanics did yeoman’s work to get the car ready for qualifying but Raikkonen couldn’t find the speed and ended up a lowly P7. With his and others’ penalties factored in Raikkonen got pushed back to P10. He’ll just be hoping that his car can get to race after last week’s disaster at Sepang Circuit. But when you start mid-pack the chances of bad things happening on the opening lap increase exponentially so I think it’s even money whether the sometimes accident prone Raikkonen can make it to the finish.

The two Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Vertstappen qualified P4 and P5 respectively but both will move up one spot and line up side by side on the second row. With their strong performance in Malaysia fresh in their minds where Verstappen got the win and Ricciardo was P3 they could once again be better in race trim. So watch out for at least one of the Red Bull duo to perhaps challenge the front runners for victory tomorrow. Esteban Ocon out-qualified his Force India teammate and arch rival Sergio Perez P7 to P8 and Ocon will start P5 come Sunday due to Bottas’ demotion. Williams Felipe Massa set the 9th fastest time and will move up to P8 on the grid, while Fernando Alonso got his McLaren into Q3 at Honda’shome track. But the Spaniard also faces a host of penalties for parts changes on his car that will drop him all the way to last position. That ironically benefitted his slower teammate, Stoffel Vandoorne, who could only muster the 11th fastest time in Q2 but will see himself elevated all the way up to P9 on the grid come race day.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Japanese GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:29.047 1:27.819 1:27.319 18
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:29.332 1:28.543 1:27.651 17
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:29.352 1:28.225 1:27.791 19
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:29.475 1:28.935 1:28.306 13
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:29.181 1:28.747 1:28.332 12
6 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:29.163 1:29.079 1:28.498 15
7 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:30.115 1:29.199 1:29.111 16
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:29.696 1:29.343 1:29.260 17
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:30.352 1:29.687 1:29.480 16
10 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:30.525 1:29.749 1:30.687 13

And the adjusted front grid after all penalties are factored in:

POS DRIVER CAR TIME GAP
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m27.319s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m27.791s 0.472s
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m28.306s 0.987s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m28.332s 1.013s
5 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m29.111s 1.792s
6 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m27.651s 0.332s
7 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m29.260s 1.941s
8 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1m29.480s 2.161s
9 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Honda 1m29.778s 2.459s
10 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m28.498s 1.179s

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix airs live on NBC Sports starting at 1AM here in the States. So stay up late singing karaoke and then enjoy the race with a cold glass of sake to see if anyone has anything for Hamilton or if he will simply leave them all in his dust. Hope to see you then to find out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia — Results & aftermath

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

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

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

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

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

Top 10 finishers of the Malaysian GP:

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

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

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

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Singapore — Results & aftermath

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

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

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

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

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

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

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

Top 10 finishers of the Singapore Grand Prix:

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

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

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

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Italy — Results & aftermath

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

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

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247com

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

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

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

Top 10 finishers of the Italian Grand Prix:

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

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

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

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Italy — Qualifying results

Mercedes’ Hamilton captures record pole after long rain delay at Monza; Red Bull’s Verstappen & Ricciarado come home 2-3 but raft of penalties scramble field — Williams’ Stroll inherits P2, Ocon P3 for Force India

After an interminable rain delay in Monza that seemed sure to scrap Saturday qualifying, Formula 1 was near-miraculously able to get all three sessions in despite the deluge. And that very wet and wild qualifying session wound up producing a major bit of history at this legendary circuit in Italy. With conditions deteriorating rapidly yet again as the seconds wound down in Q3 and drivers setting times all over the place without consideration of their usual favored status, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton showed yet again that he is a man for all seasons. The last car to cross the finish line in the last qualifying session, the English championship contender earned a hard-fought pole position, breaking Formula 1’s all-time record and a tie with the great Michael Schumacher for the 69th of his remarkable career. That the Mercedes man did it in front of diehard Ferrari fanatics in pursuit of their hero and points leader Sebastian Vettel must have made it that much sweeter for the ultra-competitive Hamilton.

Red Bull also did very well in the rain, maximizing their cars’ natural superority in downforce and stability in tricky conditions to come home P2 for Max Verstappen and P3 for Daniel Ricciardo. But both drivers are facing hefty penalties for engine modifications and they will have to start from further back on the grid than their earned positions and well outside the Top 10. That meant that Williams’ rookie Lance was bumped up to P2 and Force India’s talented Esteban Ocon inherited P3.

Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas out-qualified both Ferraris — though strangely not the Williams or Force India — and will start from P4 after the Red Bulls demotion. The unhappy Prancing Horses therefore find themselves starting mired back in P5 for Kimi Raikkonen and P6 for Vettel. But in front of what is sure to be a very vocal throng of tifosi perhaps all that Italian home cooking can nourish the Ferraris to greater heights come race day.

Also getting into the Tope 10 were Stroll’s Williams teammate Felipe Massa and the McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne with an excellent effort.

In an effort to clarify things on a confusing day, below find the actual quali times follow by the actual grid after all the penalties have been factored in.

Here are the Top 10 times in qualifying:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:36.009 1:34.660 1:35.554 29
2 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:37.344 1:36.113 1:36.702 29
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:38.304 1:37.313 1:36.841 26
4 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:37.653 1:37.002 1:37.032 27
5 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:38.775 1:37.580 1:37.719 29
6 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:35.716 1:35.396 1:37.833 29
7 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:38.235 1:37.031 1:37.987 30
8 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:37.198 1:36.223 1:38.064 28
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:38.338 1:37.456 1:38.251 27
10 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN HONDA 1:38.767 1:37.471 1:39.157 25

However these are the penalties for use of additional power unit elements: Alonso 35 grid places, Ricciardo 20, Verstappen 20, Sainz 10, Hulkenberg 10, Palmer 15. Ricciardo penalized a further 5 places for an unscheduled gearbox change.

Therefore here is the actual Top !0 grid for the race:

POS DRIVER CAR TIME GAP
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m35.554s
2 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 1m37.032s 1.478s
3 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m37.719s 2.165s
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m37.833s 2.279s
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m37.987s 2.433s
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m38.064s 2.510s
7 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1m38.251s 2.697s
8 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Honda 1m39.157s 3.603s
9 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m37.582s 2.028s
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Renault 1m38.245s 2.691s

Complete grid available via Autosport.com.

Tomorrow’s Italian GP airs live starting at 8AM Eastern on NBC Sports here in the States. What will the weather bring on Sunday and can Ferrari fight back to be a factor come when the lights go out? Hope to see you then to find out!

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Belgium — Results & aftermath

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

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

Hamilton-BelgianGPSpa_2017

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

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

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