Ferrari lead the way in Saturday Practice | 2016 Bahrain GP FP3 report

A stunning Arabian sky greeted the F1 fraternity after the cloudy weather of Friday, and it was Ferraru’s Sebastian Vettel who clocked the fastest time on Saturday afternoon.

It was a session including a lot of medium-tyre running for most teams, including McLaren and Force India, who appeared well down the order.

Mercedes set the early pace with Nico Rosberg, but later on in the session Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen topped the sheets, at the track where he got his best result the previous year.

He was then pipped in the last few minutes by team mate Sebastian Vettel, who posted a time just four hundredths quicker.

It was a trying session for McLaren debutant Stoffel Vandoorne (who deputises for the injured Fernando Alonso this weekend) when a suspected oil leak left him in the garage with the floor off for most of the session. He was, for the first 45 minutes, the only driver not to have set a time, but when the oil leak was revealed just to be a spillage, he headed out and set a time just behind that of McLaren team mate Jenson Button.

Jolyon Palmer’s baptism by fire in F1 continued as the chequered flag came out, when a right-rear puncture manifested itself on his final lap, presumably due to running over a kerb in the middle sector.

Ferrari look strong, but it remains to be seen whether Mercedes were sandbagging, or the Scuderia are a genuine threat.

Times from FP3

1) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari 1:31.683 (22 Laps)
2) Kimi Räikkönen, Ferrari 1:31.723 (13 Laps)
3) Nico Rosberg, Mercedes 1:32.104 (18 Laps)
4) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes 1:32.160 (14 Laps)
5) Valtteri Bottas, Williams-Mercedes 1:32.675 (18 Laps)
6) Romain Grosjean, Haas-Ferrari 1:33.082 (14 Laps)
7) Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull-TAG Heuer 1:33.113 (10 Laps)
8) Esteban Gutiérrez, Haas-Ferrari 1:33.337 (14 Laps)
9) Felipe Massa, Williams-Mercedes 1:33.363 (18 Laps)
10) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull-TAG Heuer 1:33.519 (20 Laps)
11) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber-Ferrari 1:33.569 (16 Laps)
12) Kevin Magnussen, Renault 1:33.617 (9 Laps)
13) Jenson Button, McLaren-Honda          1:33.704 (12 Laps)
14) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren-Honda  1:33.744 (11 Laps)
15) Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:33.778 (20 Laps)
16) Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:34.003 (20 Laps)
17) Felipe Nasr, Sauber-Ferrari 1:34.013 (15 Laps)
18) Nico Hülkenberg, Force India-Mercedes 1:34.128 (16 Laps)
19) Sergio Pérez, Force India-Mercedes 1:34.281 (15 Laps)
20) Jolyon Palmer, Renault 1:34.424 (9 Laps)
21) Rio Haryanto, Manor-Mercedes 1:35.546 (15 Laps)
22) Pascal Wehrlein, Manor-Mercedes 1:35.724 (16 Laps)

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Hamilton leads soggy first session of 2016 | Australian GP FP1 Report

The first official Formula 1 session of the 2016 Season got underway at 12:30 local time in Melbourne on Friday, ending fifteen weeks without the fastest sport on earth.

Sebastian Vettel was first out on track as the Albert Park Street Circuit took the honours of first round of the season – twenty years on from its first slot on the calendar.

Damp conditions saw a very stop/start session, punctuated by both drizzly and bright spells.

A particularly wet period caught out Valtteri Bottas at Turn 7, and the Finn damaged the floor of his Williams machine, sending him back to the pit lane.

Max Verstappen pushed hard throughout, even daring to fly over the sodden astrotruf on the exit of the super-fast T12 chicane, but it was a much slower corner that caused the Dutch teenager to spin; as he spun his STR10 on the exit of T7 at low speed, due to more damp run-off.

Team mate Carlos Sainz also hit trouble, when his car toured the circuit slowly and then ran out of power in the pit lane.

A third unfortunate Red Bull driver – Daniel Ricciardo – ended the session in the gravel trap at T14 as the rain fell heavier at the end of FP1, beaching his car with less than a minute to go.

Everyone kept it out of the barriers though, including the new Haas team, the re-vamped Manor team, and the returning Renault boys, clad in a new glowing gold paint scheme.

Times from FP1

1) Hamilton, Mercedes – 1.29:725 (14 Laps)
2) Kvyat, Red Bull – 1.30:146 (14 Laps)
3) Ricciardo, Red Bull – 1.30:875 (13 Laps)
4) Hulkenberg, Force India – 1.31:325 (7 Laps)
5) Verstappen, Toro Rosso – 1.31:720 (13 Laps)
6) Rosberg, Mercedes – 1.31:814 (11 Laps)
7) Alonso, McLaren – 1.33:060 (11 Laps)
8) Button, McLaren – 1.33:129 (16 Laps)
9) Perez, Force India – 1.33:370 (5 Laps)
10) Magnussen, Renault – 1.34:060 (12 Laps
11) Bottas, Williams – 1.34:550 (6 Laps)
12) Massa, Williams – 1.34:679 (6 Laps)
13) Nasr, Sauber – 1.34:796 (7 Laps)
14) Palmer, Renault – 1.35:477 (12 Laps)
15) Ericsson, Sauber – 1.37:956 (6 Laps)
16) Wehrlein, Manor – 1.40:401 (5 Laps)
17) Raikkonen, Ferrari – 1.40:754 (10 Laps)
18) Gutierrez, Haas – 1.41:780 (8 Laps)
19) Haryanto, Manor – 1.43:372 (6 Laps)
20) Grosjean, Haas – 1.43:443 (6 Laps)
21) Vettel, Ferrari – No time (8 Laps)
22) Sainz Jr, Toro Rosso – No time (3 Laps)

Ogier continues to dominate with snowy victory | WRC Rally Sweden Sunday Report

Sébastien Ogier took another clean sweep of rally lead and power stage victory as he wrapped up Rally Sweden on Sunday.

The reigning triple-world champion took the lead at the first stage of the rally in SS2 and despite a sublime performance from Hayden Paddon, he never relinquished it.

A reduced running of just twelve stages instead of twenty-one meant almost an hour of time was knocked off the winner’s time compared to last year; the Frenchman’s 2015 winning time of 2:55:30.5 dwarfed by his effort in 2016, clocking in at 1:59:47.4, just under an hour quicker.

The planned four stages on the final day of WRC Rally Sweden were cut to just one – the final ‘power’ live TV stage in Värmullsåsen. The final power stage sees additional points awarded to the fastest three drivers, and Ogier did just that, gaining an additional three points.

Next fastest was local boy Andreas Mikkelsen, followed by Kris Meeke, who took a huge hit to his rally on the first day when a rock smashed his steering out of shape. The Northern Irishman finished down in 23rd overall, but his effort on Sunday was enough to salvage his first point of the season.

Results from SS21 – Värmullsåsen (Power Stage)
1) Sebastien Ogier, VW Motorsport – 7:42.7 (3 Pts)
2) Andreas Mikkelsen, VW Motorsport II – 7:46.1 (2 Pts)
3) Kris Meeke, Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team – 7:51.7 (1 Pt)

Nobody could come close to Ogier’s time; not even Hayden Paddon, who had threatened to overpower him all weekend. The New Zealander tried all he might, but a puncture to his radiator on the very last stage put paid to those efforts.

Final Rally Results after 12 stages
1) Sebastien Ogier, VW Motorsport, Polo R, (1:59:47.7)
2) Hayden Paddon, Hyundai, i20 (+29.8)
3) Mads Ostberg, M-Sport, Fiesta RS (+55.6)
4 Andreas Mikkelsen, VW Motorsport II, Polo R (+1:10.8)
5) Ott Tanak, DMACK, Fiesta RS, (+1m 50.7)
6) Dani Sordo, Hyundai R, i20 (+2m 24.0)
7) Henning Solberg, Adapta, Fiesta RS (+2m 40.0)
8) Craig Breen, Abu Dhabi Total, DS3 WRC (+2:44.6)
9) Elfyn Evans, M-Sport, Fiesta R5 (+5:17.0) WRC2
10) Teemu Suninen, Skoda Motorsport, Fabia R5 (+5: 31.6) WRC2

POS) Driver, Team, Car, Time/Split
*Note only top 10 positions are show

The result sees Ogier extend his lead in the championship to 26 points already over VW colleague Mikkelsen, who is in turn six points of fellow Norwegian Mads Ostberg.

Hayden Paddon’s incredible form in Sweden sees him put points on the board after the disappointment of Monte Caro, and the Kiwi has promised “more of the same” next time out in Mexico.

Steady form from Dani Sordo and Ott Tanak see them in fifth and sixth, and Henning Solberg and Craig Breen do well to get on the leaderboard after their first rallies of the year.

Drivers Championship Standings
1) Sébastien Ogier, VW Motorsport (56 Pts)
2) Andreas Mikkelsen, VW Motorsport II (33 Pts)
3) Mads Ostberg, M-Sport (27 Pts)
4) Hayden Paddon, Hyundai Motorsport (18 Pts)
5) Dani Sordo, Hyundai Motorsport N (18 Pts)
6) Ott Tanak, DMACK (16 Pts)
7) Thierry Neuville, Hyundai Motorsport (15 Pts) 8) Stéphane Lefebvre, (10 Pts)
9) Henning Solberg, Adapta (6 Pts)
10) Elfyn Evans, M-Sport WRC2 (6 Pts)

The Constructors’ championship is a much closer affair, with Hyundai snapping at the heels of VW

Constructors Championship Standings
1) VW Motorsport (54 Pts)
2) Hyundai Motorsport (49 Pts)
3) VW Motorsport (30 Pts)
4) M-Sport (27 Pts)
5) DMACK (18 Pts)
6) Hyundai Motorsport N (14 Pts)

The next race of the season is the WRC Rally Mexico beginning on March 4th.

Denny Hamlin holds on to win NASCAR Sprint Unlimited

Denny Hamlin won the first race of the NASCAR season, Daytona Sprint Unlimited, on Saturday evening after a tense race-long battle with Brad Keselowski. The opening race of the 2016 NASCAR Season serves as a precursory event to next Sunday’s Daytona 500, when the championship begins in earnest and drivers will score points.

The event began under the lights at Daytona Beach with a twenty-five strong grid, but a race of attrition – which saw three multi-car collisions – meant that just eight finished the race without damage.

Hamlin’s race actually started in tough conditions, after contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr caused damage to his Number 11 Joe Gibbs Camry and he had to stop for repairs. Brad Keselowski was in trouble too, as his Number 2 Penske Ford began overheating early in the race due to debris lodge in his radiator.

Lap 23 saw the first of three huge incidents, when an unfortunate Brian Vickers lost pressure in his right-rear tyre, careening across the track and taking Dale Earnhardt Jr, Greg Biffle, AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick with him. Vickers and the latter two retired on the spot, while the rest continued with damage; Junior falling five laps down on the leader.

After the crash the racing resumed on Lap 30 with Hamlin leading the way from Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Austin Dillon. The middle period of the race saw an intense scrap for the lead emerge between the 2 and 11 cars, with neither giving an inch.

Jimmie Johnson had not finished the previous four Sprint Unlimited events, and after he took miniscule contact with Paul Menard on Lap 45 and spun into the infield, it ensured he would not again in 2016. The spin took him through the grass, tearing off his front splitter and front-right fender with it.

Casey Kahne became the third Hendrick driver involved in an incident during the race, after Jamie McMurray attempted to bump-draft him. It did not go to plan, and the 5 car got loose, veering left, into the 47 of AJ Allmendinger.

With three to go another multi-car pile up ensued with sparring duo Keselowski and Carl Edwards making contact at the front, eliminating Edwards, Aric Almirola and reigning champion Kyle Busch from proceedings.

The race resumed and took NASCAR into its new ‘Overtime’ system, essentially a replacement for the old Green-White-Chequered arrangement which used to occur if there was a caution that would take the race through to the chequered flag. Instead the leader has to now reach the ‘Overtime Line’ – which varies from track to track – before the result will be taken, and two more laps will be run.

However, shortly after Hamlin passed this line in Daytona, another wreck behind him, including McMurray and Keselowsi, took out yet more cars, in effect freezing the field where they were and ensuring the victory for Hamlin.

1) Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Toyota, (1:32:16.000)
2) Joey Logano, Penske Ford (+0.924)
3) Paul Menard, Childress Chevrolet (+1.008)
4) Kyle Larson, Ganassi Chevrolet (+2.568)
5) Casey Mears, Germain Chevrolet (+3.733)
6) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Roush Fenway Ford (+3.896)
7) Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Chevrolet (+4.512)
8) Austin Dillon, Childress Chevrolet (+6.024)
9) Brad Keselowski, Penske Ford (+17.985)
10) Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Ford (+26.858)
11) Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Chevrolet (+29.094)
12) Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Toyota (+57.130)
13) Martin Truex Jr, Furniture Row Toyota (-1 lap)
14) Jamie McMurray, Ganassi Chevrolet (-1 lap)
15) Dale Earnhardt Jr, Hendrick Chevrolet (+4 laps)

Out/Unclassified:
Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Toyota (Collision, -7 laps)
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Toyota (Collision, -7 laps)
Aric Almirola, Petty Ford (Collision, -7 laps)
Ryan Newman, Childress Chevrolet (-10 laps)
Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Chevrolet (Brakes, -15 laps)
AJ Allmendinger,JTG Daugherty Chevrolet (Collision damage, -23 laps)
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Chevrolet (Spun Off, -36 laps)
Clint Bowyer, HScott Chevrolet (Collision damage, -56 laps)
Brian Vickers, Stewart-Haas Chevrolet (Collision, -57 laps)
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Chevrolet (Collision, -57 laps)

Ogier continues to resist Paddon Pressure | WRC Rally Sweden Saturday Report

Sebastien Ogier continued to resist pressure from New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon on the second day of the WRC Rally Sweden as it entered Norway, for a few stages. A gap of 17.1 seconds over Paddon, followed by the Norwegian contingent of Mads Ostberg and Andreas Mikkelsen – gives him the perfect opportunity to take the honours on Sunday.

As with Friday’s running, a reduced itinerary had been planned ahead of the event, with three removed from the roster for Saturday.

Stages 12 and 16 saw drivers compete the tricky ‘Colin’s Crest’ jump, a blind peak named after the late Colin McRae, over which cars literally fly and is one of the most spectacular sights of the entire calendar.

Stages on Saturday
SS10 – Fredriksberg 1, 18.19 km
SS11 – Rämmen 1, 22.76 km
SS12 – Vargåsen 1, 24.70 km
SS13 – Fredriksberg 2, 18.9 km
SS14 – Rämmen 2, 22.76 km
SS15 – Hagfors Sprint, 1.87 km
SS16 – Vargåsen 2, 24.70 km
SS17 – Karlstad (Super-Special), 1.9km

Saturday morning’s trip through Fredriksberg saw Ogier take the quickest time, but his team mate Jari-Matti Latvala was still having a rotten time, coming home with a puncture thanks to some stones. Dani Sordo also had a tricky first stage of the day with a puncture, also on the left front, not helping his time as he came in over a minute slower than Ogier.

However, neither were as unfortunate as Eric Camilli, who went off the road in SS10 and rolled his Fiesta RS, completely destroying it, along with any hopes of points.

Kris Meeke had to retire on Friday afternoon after an encounter with a stone in the road, but was allowed to re-start under WRC2 specification on Saturday after fixing his Citroen’s steering.

Hayden Paddon kept Ogier honest through the first few stages on Saturday, and had cut the gap to 8 seconds by the mid-point, but some risky and aggressive driving from the Frenchman illustrated why he’s yet to be beaten in three years in the sport.

The fearsome Colin’s Crest peak in SS12 & 16 did not claim any casualties with all drivers navigating the jump without damage, and in fact, a new furthest jump was recorded by Norwegian Eyvind Brynildsen driving for M-Sport in a Ford Fiesta R5.

His jump of 45 metres just edges ahead of the 44m record set by Thierry Neuville at the event last year and was performed in fifth gear at roughly 165 kilometers per hour.

A high-speed moment of oversteer for Ogier could have proved disastrous in SS16, but VW’s leading driver proved his talents once more to lead the pack going in to the final day of running on Sunday.

Standings after Day 2 (SS10, 12, 14, 16-17)
1) Sebastien Ogier, VW Motorsport, Polo R, (1:52:04.7)
2) Hayden Paddon, Hyundai Motorsport, i20 (+17.1)
3) Mads Ostberg, M-Sport, Fiesta RS (+42.3)
4) Andreas Mikkelsen, VW MotorsportII, Polo R,(+1:07.4)
5) Ott Tanak, DMACK, Ford Fiesta RS (+1:31.6)
6) Dani Sordo, Hyundai Motorsport, i20 (+1:56.3)
7) Henning Solberg, Adapta, Ford Fiesta RS (+2:17.2)
8) Craig Breen, Abu Dhabi Total, DS3 (+2:0.8)
9) Elfyn Evans, M-Sport, Fiesta R5 (+4:44.7) WRC2
10) Pontus Tidemand, Skoda Motorsport, Fabia R5 (+5:02.6) WRC2

POS, Driver, Team, Car, Time/Split

Click here for Day 1 of Rally Sweden

Click here for Day 3 of Rally Sweden

Paddon hounds Ogier on Day 1 | WRC Rally Sweden Friday Report

Sebastien Ogier continued his excellent start to the 2016 WRC season on the opening day of Rally Sweden, with a lead of 26.9 seconds over Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon.

Weather worries in Sweden prompted the cancellation of the 1.9km first Super-Speical stage of the event in Karlstad, meaning that the first round occurred on Friday morning in Torsby.

Stages on Friday
SS1 – Karlstad (Super-Special), 1.9km
SS2 – Torsby 1, 16.48km
SS3 – Röjden 1, 18.47km
SS4 – Svullrya 1, 24.23km
SS5 – Kirkenær 1, 7.07km
SS6 – Kirkenær 2, 7.07km
SS7 – Svullrya 2, 24.23km
SS8 – Röjden 2, 18.47km
SS9 – Torsby 2, 16.48km

Lack of snowfall in Sweden meant that the studded Michelin tyres were not suitable to some of the roads, and so the two stages in Kirkenær were cancelled, meaning no mid-day service stop for any cars.

This was awful news for Jari-Matti Latvala, who landed awkwardly after a small bump at the end of SS2, breaking his driveshaft. The Norwegian said “I will drive, but I don’t know what spares we have in the car. Will have to have a look”.

An unseen water splash caught out his VW team mates Ogier and Mikkelsen, who both slid into some light branches after a large puddle caught them out. Neither took too much damage, although both suffered damage to the left-front wing of the car.

The Frenchman later made a mistake in SS8, missing a junction and sliding gently into a road barrier. While he escaped without damage, Kris Meeke was much less fortunate close to the end of the rally. Just like in Monte, the non-works Citroen driver hit a hidden rock buried in the middle of the corner, and completely ruined his steering, and forcing him to miss the final stage of the day.

Ogier dominated the first three stages of the day, with Meeke taking the honours in SS7, just before he broke his steering. The unexpected pace of Hayden Paddon in the new Hyundai i20 caused a scare for the leader at the end of the day though, and while the Frenchman went off, Paddon capitalised and took the fastest times of the day in the final two stages to close up into second place.

Standings after Day 1(SS2-4, 7-9)

1) Sebastien Ogier, VW Motorsport Polo R, 1:03:10.6
2) Hayden Paddon, Hyundai Motorsport, i20, +26.9
3) Mads Ostberg, M-Sport, Fiesta RS, +33.7
4) Ott Tanak, DMACK, Fiesta RS, +34.8
5) Dani Sordo, Hyundai Motorsport, i20,  +38.2
6) Andreas Mikkelsen, VW Motorsport II, Polo R +42.0
7) Henning Solberg, Adapta, Fiesta RS +1:36.9
8) Craig Breen, Abu Dhabi Total, DS3, +1:38.8
9) Eric Camilli, M-Sport, Fiesta RS, +2:43.5
10) Lorenzo Bertelli, FWRT, Fiesta RS, +3:08.6

POS) Driver, Team, Car, Time/split
*Note, only top 10 positions are shown

Click here for Day 2 of Rally Sweden

Magnussen in, Maldonado out at Renault

Renault F1 Team have officially announced Kevin Magnussen as their second driver for the 2016 Formula 1 Season after sponsorship payment negotiations with Pastor Maldonado fell through.

Maldonado had a lucrative sponsorship agreement with PDVSA, a petrol company in his native Venezuela, thought to be worth somewhere in the region of $46Million per year, but it appears the change of ownership at Lotus/Renault, combined with PDVSA’s president Rafael Ramírez moving from his position in a government re-shuffle in 2014, has prompted an annulment of the contract.

The Venezuelan has been at the Enstone-based team (formerly known as Lotus) for the past two years. He joined F1 in 2011 with Williams, and made history with them in 2012 by winning the Spanish Grand Prix. It was not only his first win, but the first win in F1 history for a Venezuelan driver, and the first for Williams in seven-and-a-half years.

Pastor became the fifth different race winner in 2012 with his magnificent win. Photo: Cahier Archive
Pastor became the fifth different race winner in 2012 with his magnificent win. Photo: Cahier Archive

However, he also picked up a reputation for colliding with drivers, spawning websites such as Has Maldonado Crashed Today? and the Twitter account Did Maldonado Crash. His most notable collision(s) were arguably with Esteban Gutierrez, whom he flipped upside-down at the 2014 Bahrain GP, and Lewis Hamilton, with whom he collided on the penultimate lap of the 2012 European GP while both fought for a podium position.

His replacement, Magnussen, last participated in F1 when he deputised for Fernando Alonso at last year’s Australian Grand Prix, although his McLaren-Honda engine expired before he even made it to the grid. Before that, he had a stellar 2014 campaign with the British team alongside Jenson Button, the highlight of which was a second-place podium finish on his debut in Australia.

Magnussen_2014_Italy_06_PHC
Magnussen at the Italian GP in 2014. Photo: Cahier Archive

Magnussen has looked a shoo-in to replace Alonso or Button at McLaren as the pair come towards the end of their F1 careers, but he was unceremoniously dropped from McLaren’s roster on his birthday late last year.

It means that Renault will have one of the most inexperienced driver pairings in the sport in 2016, with Magnussen partnering 2014 GP2 Champion Jolyon Palmer. Magnussen will resume the use of car number 20, while Palmer will take the vacant number 30 which he has used in test and practice sessions.