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.

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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.

Twenty-one-five, a good year to be alive

Ah, WordPress personal blog, my old friend. How I’ve missed and neglected you.

The last 365 days were very hard to put into words. The word ‘rollercoaster’ is thrown around a lot by those summing up their years previous.

Rather than summon notions of Ronan Keating, the nerd in me will refer to this year as a sine wave. There were indescribable highs, and a few desolate lows as well, but it has to be said that two thousand and fifteen was a superb year as a whole.

Without any further delay, this is what made my year what it was!

YOU NEVER FORGET YOUR FIRST
(January 9, Birmingham)

Late December of 2014 heralded an exciting opportunity – heading to a motorsport convention as a member of the press for the first time,

I headed to Autosport International at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre to receive my first ever press pass and met several other journalists, whom I can now call good mates (Well here’s hoping, Joe Diamond and Dan Puddicombe!).

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The unassuming entrance to quite a simply gargantuan labyrinth of motorsport and memorabilia

I also got a chance to see Petter Solberg give a speech, and had an interview with David Brabham, winner of Le Mans in 2009. David Coulthard was around on the Saturday, too, but that was the day after I was there.

There were loads of cool exhibitions, including Pirelli; who had a show car there where you and two others could attempt to change a wheel with an air gun, and Motors TV; where you could audition to be part of their presenting or commentary team for the next year’s British GT series. I had a go at the presenting malarkey, but never heard back. Maybe the email got lost or something, happens all the time…

It was a great day during which I got horribly lost in the colossal sea of red carpeted motorsport happenings, and saw countless rally, F1 and BTCC race cars. I’m due to go back later in January!

AN IDIOT ABROAD
(February 27 – March 1, Montmelo)

The start of the year was even more prosperous to me in February. After a late-night Sportswriting lecture I received a message from Adam, the founder of Badger GP, inviting me to F1 winter Testing in Spain.

Never mind the fact that I’d never been to an F1 race or another country – I was off to Montmelo (near Barcelona) to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for four days. OUTTA NOWHERE!

The Randy Orton of opportunities saw a return flight paid for by Ad Le Feuvre of Badger GP (Still can’t thank him enough), and I paid for the accommodation at the Ibis hotel Montmelo-Granollers, which was roughly 200 metres across the road from the track.

After landing, I foolishly got a taxi to the track – which ended up costing ninety euros. I was later informed I could have got the tube from the airport to Granollers (a nice village about 20 minutes walk from the circuit) for the price of four euros, which is what I did on the way back. Bit of an oversight, that!

Anywho, when I landed, I had to find the accreditation office, which can only be described as ‘in a shed’ next to a dirtbike track. Nevertheless, I got my passes and was kindly given a lift inside the circuit by a man called Raul (obviously) and instantly saw Lewis Hamilton mobbed by fans.

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Standing at a corner of the track called ‘La Caixa’ – you’re about 10 metres from the cars here!

The first day was a learning curve, but happily, a couple of acquaintances – Dan Paddock and Matt Somerfield – were there as well, and their help, plus that of NBC’s Luke Smith and Octane Photographic husband and wife duo Leanne and Craig Boone, was invaluable.

Eventually I settled into a rhythm, and after plucking up the bravery to step into the media room, I eventually headed to interviews for Carlos Sainz, Nico Hulkenberg, Marcus Ericsson, Pastor Maldonado, Daniel Ricciardo, Jenson Button and Eric Boullier. my personal highlight was having a wee chat with Craig Scarborough and Ben Edwards.

Everything I wrote during the test got its own tag on Badger GP, and you can find everything below!

http://badgergp.com/tag/charlie-eustice-in-barcelona/

Needless to say, it’s left me with an insatiable desire to get back in the paddock. Roll on next season!

LOWEST POINT
(March 25 – April 2, Salou)

My second visit to the Catalonia region in a month can only be described as the worst week of my life, and started out as a jovial outing with Uni chums. The prospect of ‘going on tour’ with our Racquets gang to play tennis in Spain with other Universities sounded great at first, but things quickly soured.

The morning of departure was overcast and drizzly; pathetic fallacy coming into full effect early on. While our Spanish driver Pablo dithered about in a forty-year old bus which had the steering wheel side (for him) and that drove on the wrong side of the road (for him), we all waited at the Sport Centre for pick up. After much deliberation, we were delegated the crappiest coach known to man. Ten minutes into our journey – and not even out of Eastbourne yet – Pablo managed to hit a parked car and remove its wing mirror.

This set the tone for the week. Failure after failure after failure.

We arrived in Dover about an hour late, and so our gang headed inside for a game of Uno and a sit down on seats that weren’t ancient or smelled of fag ash. I ushered our group back to the coach with plenty of time to spare so that we got on the ferry in time, but ol’ Pablo had other ideas, and he took:
A) I’m assuming, a seismic dump
B) Half an hour longer than us
C) The piss

The culmination the Spaniard’s miscalculated respite? We missed three damn ferries. He then, for some reason, drove towards London, before driving back to the ferry port, where we were unexpectedly spot-checked.

After crossing the channel, our driver forgot that fuel is required for vehicular propulsion, and so our diesel engine nigh-on seized up, somewhere not far from Marseilles. After a petrol-based recovery vehicle was shooed away, a diesel truck helped us to a garage, where we were told the driver would not be allowed to leave unless he paid 500 euros.

Are you still with me? I promise you this is true.

After much deliberation and the breakdown of Anglo-Franco-Catalan relations, we traveled through the home of my ancestors, the Basque Country and Catalonia, and eventually reached Salou, Tarragona, more than thirteen hours late.

We were too late to go out partying, so the next day we tried to draw a line under it all. We played football on the beach, went swimming, and in the evening, went out. However, coming back from the night out I encountered almost certainly the worst moment of my entire life. A young man came up to me in the street and attempted some sort of dance. I passed it off as a drunk idiot, but to my horror, a minute later, I discovered my wallet and phone had been SEAMLESSLY lifted from my pockets. I didn’t feel a thing, and it being only my second time abroad, I just didn’t expect it to happen. I’m too naive. I expect the best of people. Never been a victim of a crime before.

Bottom line? I lost about three hundred pounds-worth of property.

I wasn’t hurt. It’s just stuff. But the annoying thing is, the completely useless floppy-haired imbeciles from ‘I Love TTour’ did bugger all to help my situation, and told me I could complete a Police report when I got to England. They were wrong. I never recovered my items, and some Spanish git has my ID.

The next days proved pretty troublesome too; I got knocked on my arse by a security guard in a club when he erroneously accused me of hitting a lightbulb (a punishment fitting the crime, of course), and after the events of the night prior, I felt like a bad luck magnet, and just burst into tears and went back to the hotel. The only thing that kept my spirits up was the (mostly) amazing bunch of friends I was with. If you were there and you helped me, thank you so much.

The next day, two girls fell from balconies at the hotel, from the first and fourth floors respectively. It cast a morbid shadow over what had already been a bad week. We all came back to England with a lot less money, a lot less morale, and a feeling of scorn towards the Tour Company, whose paltry offering for our trials was £25.

Never mind, eh?

TOURNAMENTAL
(May, Hillbrow)

May brought with it two tournaments at University.

When the weather hots up, we Brits suddenly dig out age-old sports like Rounders, and so I helped assemble our racquets social into two rounders teams – teams which would also form part of a very special social later in the day. Anyway, rounders was ace, but perhaps even more fun, and certainly more novel, was the Quidditch tournament that preceded it on May 5.

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A deflated yellow football acted as the Quaffle

The rules said you had to bring a broom, and so foolishly expecting everyone else to, I grabbed the crappy push broom from my flat’s kitchen and scribbled ‘Nimbus Infinity’ on it… as if that made it any better.

When I arrived, everyone else hadn’t bothered with a broom, and instead used lacrosse sticks. Eventually my cumbersome sweeper became too unbalanced, so I swapped it for a lacross doofer (pretty sure that’s the technical term) as well. I managed to absolutely wallop a girl on the top of the head with a deflated volleyball (taking the place of the bludgers from Harry Potter) early on in the game, and scored soon after. The Snitch came in the form of one of the Parklife members running around the pitch with a tennis ball inside a rugby sock. It was stupid amounts of fun, and Racquets ended up winning!

ALLEN AND ALLAN
(June 5 & 23, Crantock)

BBC Radio 5 Live commentators James Allen and Allan McNish suddenly had more contact with me than ever before in June. First, Mr Allen read out a question I sent in to the commentary team for Free Practice 2 ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix. He seemed to like it, but then I was told there was an opportunity for an article with Badger GP. All I had to do? Call up 3-times Le Mans winner Allan McNish on his mobile.

He was incredibly friendly, personable and chatty, and it produced a nice look at the sport in general, from the perspective of a former driver.

OPENHOUSE COMES FULL CIRCLE
(June 30, Milton Keynes)

You’ve probably heard my story of how I got to play in a go kart and meet Daniel Ricciardo in 2014 after winning a competition. However, this year, I headed to the same event (‘Openhouse’) as media. It feels odd to have turned from a fan to somewhere along the way to ‘pro’ in a year, and though I could never dream of saying I’ve ‘made it’ in my young life yet, I feel like it’s a huge step. Makes me feel good, anyway. It also managed to be the most beautiful and cloudless day of the year!

Hey there, RB6!
Hey there, RB6!

I got a chance to chat to Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat, Christian Horner, David Croft, and a certain BBC F1 writer, who was beyond condescending to me. I think the fact that I mentioned I wrote for a website irked him a little, as he’s known for disliking blogs. That means he probably isn’t reading this, but on the off-chance that he is – you’d do well to remember that everyone has to start somewhere, and that I’m maximising my opportunities. Thanks, pumpkin.

Anyway, Natalie Pinkham was there too and she decided to share one of my photos on Twitter, which was really cool.

I got the train back home later that day and wrote up a couple of interviews, and sent them over 4G while aboard. It felt super-productive, and gave me a massive sense of accomplishment. Hopefully Openhouse 2016 is a return to karting rather than the cricket and lawn sports in 2015, which were still fun, but come on – karts!

CHARLIE EUSTICE, PASTRY MAGNATE
(September 6, Quintrell Downs)

If nothing else, I want to be remembered for my proficiency in pastry when I’m gone.

Happily, that much is hopefully now assured after my triumph in this year’s Quintrell Downs Garden Show. For years I have entered a pasty, in the category where you much bake the food of the gods to a specified recipe – meat, potato and onion – and they must not exceed seven inches. Stop bloody giggling.

Every effort has been met with second place, third place, and I’ve even been unseeded before, but this year, the specification changed, and swede was added to the recipe. I baked four beauties to my gran’s timeless recipe, and after a long wait, I was phoned by her to be informed I had won – I’d beaten the Quint contingent at their own game, including multiple winner and nefarious nemesis Dennis Yelland. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

ANSOM
ANSOM

I guess you could call that a turnip for the books.

YOU THE MAN, DOG
(September, Crantock)

After months, nay, years of persistence, my parents finally gave in to the immense pressure of me and my sister, and get a dog.

The doggie in question? This little cherub.

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This here’s Flossie, a Westie crossed with a Jack Russell. It’s fine, I didn’t need to get any work done or anything.

FINDING MY FEET
(October, Eastbourne)

October was when my Uni course resumed, and with it came module options for the first and only time in my further education career. One such module was the delicious-sounding ‘Broadcast Journalism’, which was, incidentally, the course I actually applied for at University way back in early 2013. I got the grades required to enter the course, but I changed my mind on results day, and decided that I wanted to specialise in Sport Journalism straight away.

Now that I’m here… I almost wish I’d done it the other way around. Everything has gone rather brilliantly so far, but I feel so at home in front of a camera that part of me can’t help but think ‘what if…?’. But enough of that dwelling nonsense.

Turns out I’m not too bad at the whole presenting-piece-to-camera-type-thing business after all, but you’re only as strong as your team. Chums like Andy Element (A superb camera man and editor, but a terrible human being), Emily Magee (proper Cornish bird), Greg Stubley (Who went to the trouble of injuring himself to prove a point in a video we made) and Luuuuuuuuuke Adams (Fearless wrangler of Sheikhs and hoteliers) have helped my realise my fondness for and (without wanting to sound big-headed) aptitude for broadcast journalism.

On set! #TV #Production #Broadcast #Journalism #UoB #Hastings #GuysOnFilm

A post shared by Charlie Eustice (@cgeustice) on

Over the winter months, we made some mock-TV shows in the style of BBC’s Watchdog / Channel 4’s TFI Friday, with people taking on roles such as cameraman, vision mix, microphone mix, camera control, director and many more roles. I felt most comfortable in the role of presenter, but I enjoyed featuring in pieces-to-camera as well. Hopefully, I end up doing something like this one day!

INDEPENDENCE DAZE
(November 23 – December 4, Kensington, London)

My first taste of a real ‘paper; I completed two weeks for work experience at the Independent at the end of November/ start of December.

The work was mostly football-based, and I did a lot of research tasks as well for other journalists’ pieces. However, I was able to get a couple of original articles published on the site. One was a tribute to deceased Rally legend Richard Burns; the other a summary of who could finish where in the F1 championship come the final round of the season in Abu Dhabi.

I like to think I showed initiative, guile and adaptability while I was there, getting well out of my comfort zone in terms of sports covered, which included tennis and cricket – a couple of sports with which I’m not wholly familiar.

Didn't write 'em, but I compiled 'em. Was pretty cool.
Didn’t write ’em, but I compiled ’em. Was pretty cool.

I also worked on a few pieces for the i newspaper, most notably the ‘Sporting Opinion Matrix’, and a sporting calendar for 2016 too.

I was given an open invitation to go back if I want to, but if I return, I’ll be doing so with the intention of getting paid. Hey, don’t look at me like that – exposure will only take you so far!

Dibs on this room
Dibs on this room

The building itself was regal and ornate. Not a surface in sight was comprised of anything other than highly-polished Marble, and the elevators felt like personal vertical butlers. That’s totally what lifts should be called…

STUFF OF THE YEAR

I thought I’d have a quick sum-up of the media I consumed at the end of my reflection of 2015, because why not.

ALBUM: Hot Chip – Why make sense when The World around refuses?

FILM: Good joke. Obviously it’s Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

GAME: Good joke. Obvio- oh, did I already use that? Whatever. Fallout 4, by an astronomical margin.

TV SHOW: Hmm. Don’t really watch much telly any more. Probably Game of Thrones, in particular the episode ‘Hardhome’. Ooh, or MasterChef. Or maybe Storage Hunters UK. (*Continues not watching TV very much, for his own good*)

Phew. All done! That was fun. These were just the highlights – despite a bit of adversity, 2015 really was a mega year, and there were many other interesting and excellent events this year. Thanks for being part of them (if you were, that is. Don’t take credit if you weren’t, you scoundrel), and thanks for reading, if you made it this far.

I’ve decided that in 2016, I’m gonna take on the world, so look out for that. I hope your 2015 was exciting, and that the next one is terrific as well. Have a good one.

Over and out, 2015!

Seagulls soar past Milton Keynes

Brighton & Hove Albion recorded a slender 2-1 win against MK Dons on Saturday to post an unbeaten streak of 17 games, a new record for the club.

Brighton & Hove Albion – 2
March (4′)
Murphy (18′)
Milton Keynes Dons – 1

Maynard (23′)

Brighton and MK Dons moved further towards the extreme ends of the Championship table after the 2-1 result.
Brighton and MK Dons moved further towards the extreme ends of the Championship table after the 2-1 result.

The win means that Brighton remain the only unbeaten club in the top five tiers of English football, with the next-highest club to register a point or better in every game being Solihull Moors of the National League North (Formerly Conference North, 6th tier).

With two early goals against the struggling Milton Keynes side, the Seagulls were in control, and sit second in the Championship behind Hull albeit only on goal difference.

Brighton’s 100th home game at the American Express Community Stadium began in the best possible way, with Solly March blasting home from 25 yards once a cleared corner kick sent the ball his way after four minutes.

Not long after, the scoreline was doubled by Jamie Murphy, who found the back of the net to notch his third goal of the season with 18 minutes on the clock.

MK Dons rallied though, and boosted by 635 away fans making the trip down from Buckinghamshire, Nicky Maynard found a way past David Stockdale to score his first goal for the Dons and bring the deficit down to one goal, which would ultimately prove to be a gap too great for the away side to bridge.

The first half petered out with both sides looking to refresh at half time, and during the interval, the away side brought on Dean Bowditch for Daniel Powell.

Almost immediately, goalscorer Murphy turned assistant and played Sam Baldock through, but he was caught offside. Baldock got another chance a few minutes later, but he took a knock and was subbed-off for fan favourite Bobby Zamora.

While Baldock’s afternoon didn’t end the way he would have liked, the appearance of Zamora received raucous applause from the home fans. Zamora, however, would prove to be ineffectual during the match, getting very little time on the ball.

The tempo in the second half was to a much slower beat than the energetic first half-hour, and the end of the game saw little other than a flurry of substitutions and bookings.

Elvis Manu came on for the Gulls with ten minutes to go, and his injection of pace was a welcome addition to a stagnant second half, but the Dutchman couldn’t muster a cross or shot with enough venom to trouble the visitors.

Five minutes of added time were called, during which Solly March somewhat tarnished his great start to the game with a needless slide tackle on Josh Murphy which won none of the ball.

The final whistle came with a unified sigh of relief for Brighton, who were arguably the second-best side in the latter part of the game, but robust defending – including that of man of the match Bruno – saw them hold out.

Brighton & Hove Albion
13 Stockdale
2 Bruno
4 Hünemeier
5 Dunk
23 Rosenior
20 March (G, YC)
6 Stephens
7 Kayal
15 Murphy (G) // Manu – 83′
9 Baldock  // Zamora – 56′ (YC)
10 Hemed // Crofts – 71′

Substitutes
1 Mäenpää
8 Crofts
14 Calderon
17 Goldson
19 Manu
24 Ince
25 Zamora

Milton Keynes Dons
1 Martin
12 Spence
5 McFadzean (YC)
6 Kay
3 Lewington
8 Potter
39 Poyet
14 Carruthers // Murphy – 71′ (YC)
7 Baker // Church – 78′
17 Powell // Bowditch – 45′
28 Maynard (G)

Substitutes
2 Hodson
9 Bowditch
11 Church
13 Gallagher
22 Cropper
31 Murphy
38 Hall

The sides will return in two weeks, along with the rest of the Premier League and Championship, after next weekend’s International friendlies.

MK Dons are set to host Fulham on Saturday 21 November, while Brighton will travel to Burnley on Sunday 22 November.

Buemi takes victory in Beijing ePrix as Formula E Season 2 kicks off

Switzerland’s Sébastien Buemi took the honours at the 2015 Beijing ePrix, the opening round of the 2015-16 FIA Formula E season.

The Renault e.Dams driver finished 11 seconds clear of nearest rival Lucas di Grassi, who won the same race – the series’ inaugural event – last year, and behind him finished Nick Heidfeld, whose spectacular crash with Nico Prost in Beijing 2014 brought the race to a close.

It might well have been an e.Dams double-podium, but Buemi’s team mate Prost had a bizarre aerodynamic failure that left his rear wing dangling off the back of his car.

Due to the lack of downforce required on FE cars, his pace was not really affected, but the Marshals deemed his car’s condition too dangerous, and he duly came in to retire the car with three laps to go.

Sébastien Buemi and e.Dams Renault looked in total control in China.
Sébastien Buemi and e.Dams Renault looked in total control in China.

The race started well for Buemi, who had taken the first ever ‘SuperPole’, a newly-added fifth Qualifying session.

For 2015, Four groups of five drivers are randomly selected in a lottery draw, and these four groups go out separately (to minimise traffic) to set lap times and decide the grid. However, the fastest drivers from each group are now grouped together for the final session, and they get a chance to improve their time, and attempt to take ‘SuperPole’.

His prime starting position meant he was in great shape at the first corner, but team mate Prost locked up and lost second place to Nick Heidfeld. He did exactly the same thing on Lap 2, and that handed third place to Lucas di Grassi.

Lap 3 saw the first ever Full course yellow (FCY) for Formula E, whereby yellow flags to curb drivers’ speed are shown all around the track while an incident is cleared.

The incident in question was that of FE debutant Simona de Silvestro. The sport’s leading lady locked up and clouted the barriers hard, ending her first race on a low.

After two laps, the FCY ended, and immediately Sébastien Buemi took off into the distance; his pace in this stint culminating in a 14.9 second lead at the pit stops and eventually, the win.

Formula E batteries are still not capable of running an entire race, so the compulsory car swaps remain. On lap 14 most cars – including the frontrunners – came in for their swaps, and it was here that another swap occurred – di Grassi slipped past Heidfeld.

1997 Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve caused another FCY when he collided with Team Aguri’s Antonio Felix da Costa. The Uruguayan ePrix winner of Season 1 was out on the spot, but the Canadian veteran continued.

Season 1 Champion Nelson Piquet Jr had a tough race, languishing in 9th for much of the race, and then suffering a mechanical issue two laps from the finish.

The Dragon racing cars looked spirited at the end of the race, with fourth-placed Loic Duval bearing down on Nick Heidfeld for the final podium position. Jerome d’Ambrosio in the sister Dragon in fifth also looked racy and fancied his chances against Duval on the last lap, but there was not quite enough time remaining, and the trio finished where they were.

Buemi up ahead had created a monstrous gap to di Grassi in second, to take the first win of the season, and the second of his electric career.

This gave him 25 points, as well as three points for Pole Position, and two points for fastest lap, resulting in a highest possible total of 30 points.

Classification

1) Sébastien Buemi, e.Damns Renault
2) Lucas di Grassi, Abt Shaeffler Audi
3) Nick Heidfeld, Mahindra
4) Loic Duval, Dragon racing
5) Jerome d’Ambrosio, Dragon racing
6) Oliver Turvey, NEXTEV China Racing
7) Sam Bird, DS Virgin
8) Nathaniel Berthon, Team Aguri
9) Daniel Abt, Abt Schaeffler Audi
10) Stephane Sarrazin, Venturi
11) Robin Frijns, Amlin Andretti
12) Jean-Eric Vergne, DS Virgin
13) Bruno Senna, Mahindra
14) Jacques Villenueve, Venturi (+1 Lap)
15) Nelson Piquet Jr, NEXTEV Team China (+2 Laps)

Retired

Nicolas Prost, e.Dams Renault (Rear wing)
Antonio Felix da Costa, Team Aguri (Collision)
Simona de Silvestro, Amlin Andretti (Collision)

The next race is on November 7 2015 in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

Hamilton wins while Rosberg left rudderless in Russia

Lewis Hamilton won Sunday’s dramatic Russian Grand Prix for Mercedes, ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, and a spirited Sergio Perez who came home third, to score Force India’s third ever podium.

The Mexican was fortunate to finish where he did, after a late charge from Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen. Both passed Perez with just one lap to go, but half-way round the final lap, Kimi tried to pass his fellow countryman, but ended up pitching him into the barrier, re-promoting Perez to third.

Raikkonen was given a 30-second penalty after the race, and that meant that Mercedes out-scored Ferrari by 3 points – exactly the right amount to secure their second consecutive Constructors’ championship.

Background

The weekend got underway on Friday afternoon, but was oddly delayed by a diesel spillage on the track, which was then sprayed with water in an attempt to clear it, but it only worsened the situation. The oddly-damp track saw very little running in Practice 1, and the second session of the day was even worse, with a rain shower coating the track, and the new tarmac failing to drain properly.

After a pointless day of very little running on Friday, Saturday’s Practice 3 was cut short as well, after Carlos Sainz suffered hefty crash when his rear brakes locked and he crashed into a wall, then slid underneath a foam barrier. Luckily, the Spaniard was unhurt, and he ironically ended up with the most number of laps for anyone over the three days, with just 19.

He was transported to hospital, but tweeted a picture of himself looking fine from his bed, and was cleared to race the following day, starting 20th on the grid.

Race Day

With the Mercedes duo securing the team’s 30th front row lock out, the start was dominated by the battle between the silver cars. Hamilton got alongside and momentarily ahead of Rosberg, but he was on the outside of the first corner, so Rosberg kept the lead.

However, while things were falling in to place for one Nico, it fell apart for another.

Hulkenberg qualified an excellent sixth, but when he rounded turn one he spun. His car blocked part of the track, and an unfortunate Marcus Ericsson collected him, eliminating both cars on the spot.

Max Verstappen also clipped Hulkenberg’s stationary Force India and picked up a puncture. He pitted at the end of the first lap, along with Grosjean, who damaged his front wing in the carnage.

With so much debris, the Safety car was inevitable, and it was brought out instantly, but oddly, nobody opted to pit for tyres.

After three laps, the Safety Car came back in, and Hamilton set about chasing Rosberg, but he didn’t have to do much work. Lo and behold, Rosberg’s car ran in to difficulties, with his throttle pedal stuck open. This meant that even while he was braking, his car was trying to accelerate, and though he tried to manage the situation, it was too difficult, and he retired on Lap 8, shortly after Hamilton passed him.

The next retirement was much more dramatic. Newly-announced Haas driver for 2016 Romain Grosjean was following Jenson Button through the impossibly long turn 3, but ran wide on the discarded bits of tyre debris known as ‘marbles’, and he spun, crashing heavily into the barrier.

He was completely unhurt, thankfully, but the car – and indeed barrier – were obliterated, leading to the strange sight of marshals repairing it with duct tape. After another four laps, the racing resumed.

Sergio Perez had fitted the harder Prime tyre during this Safety Car Period, and his team intended to go to the end of the race on them in a super-agressive strategy that would end up paying dividends later on.

The action died down in the middle of the race, but returned on Lap 38 when Kimi Raikkonen tried to negotiate Valtteri Bottas. The Ferrari dived down Bottas’ inside, but Bottas went right back past him; the desperation from the 2007 World Champion would boil over later in the race.

Carlos Sainz recovered from his huge crash on Saturday morning, but on Lap 46, his brakes, which had been overheating, exploded, and he spun harmlessly at first, but further down the road spun into the very same barrier he was buried under 24 hours previously.

A piece of his rear wing fell off, and a foolish marshal ran on to the track to retrieve it without yellow flags being shown, and was not far away from being hit by Sebastian Vettel, who dubbed him ‘a brave Russian’.

Two laps on from the Toro Rosso driver’s retirement, a former Toro Rosso driver, Daniel Ricciardo, pulled off the race track with damage to his suspension, after running in sixth place. It did however, promote his team mate and the only Russian racer on the grid Daniil Kvyat up to sixth.

Ricciardo had been on the back of Raikkonen and Bottas, who were in turn gaining on Sergio Perez, whose 41-lap stint on the hard tyres was beginning to show signs of extreme wear. The Mexican had taken the soft compound tyres from Lap 12 to Lap 52, when finally he ran out of grip completely, and was passed by Bottas at turn 12, and then Raikkonen at turn 13.

With a podium in his sights – a rarity in 2015 – Raikkonen went for the pass on Valtteri Bottas at turn 3, but came from too far away, locked up and hit the side of Bottas, sending him in to the wall, and breaking Raikkonen’s front-left suspension. This meant that Perez was able to regain third place and pick up a sublime podium for Force India, who have only made the rostrum three time since their debut in 2008.

Hamilton had been forgotten about once Rosberg retired, and coasted to his ninth win in 2015, and 42nd overall, taking him past Ayrton Senna’s tally of 41, and drawing him level with Sebastian Vettel.

Raikkonen went on to finish fifth on the road, but was later demoted to eighth after receiving a 30-second penalty after the race.

Fernando Alonso originally finished in tenth place, but was dropped to 11th after a five-second penalty was added for ignoring track limits.

Classification

1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
3) Sergio Perez, Force India
4) Felipe Massa, Williams
5) Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull
6) Felipe Nasr, Sauber
7) Pastor Maldonado, Lotus
8) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari (with 30 second penalty)
9) Jenson Button, McLaren
10) Max Verstappen
11) Fernando Alonso
12) Valtteri Bottas, Williams*
13) Roberto Merhi, Manor (+1 Lap)
14) Will Stevens, Manor (+2 Laps)
15) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull*

* Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo did not finish the race, but were still classified as the finished over 90% of the race distance.

Out/Retired
Valtteri Bottas, Williams, Lap 53 (Collision)
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Lap 48 (Suspension)
Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, Lap 46 (Brake failure)
Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Lap 12 (Spun off)
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Lap 8 (Throttle)
Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, Lap 1 (Collision)
Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, Lap 1 (Collision)

The next race takes place in two weeks’ time at the formidable Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on 25 October.

The sun rises for Hamilton in Suzuka | 2015 Japanese GP Report

Lewis Hamilton furthered his lead in the Drivers’ Championship on Sunday by taking yet another commanding victory in 2015. The Mercedes driver was forceful-but-fair with team mate Nico Rosberg at the start of the race heading into the first corner, forcing the German to the outside, and duly taking the lead, which he never let go of. His 41st career victory also means that he is now tied with his idol Aytron Senna for number of career victories.

Ferrari’s strong season was supplemented by a 3-4 for the team, with Vettel grabbing bottom step of the podium ahead of his team mate. As has become the theme for 2015, most of the action occurred further down the field; the mercurial Max Verstappen once again showing up his elders with daring overtakes.

Chronology

The race began with a great start from Rosberg who took Pole, due in part to Daniil Kvyat’s crash at the end of the session which brought out the red flag, and prevented anyone – including Hamilton, who was on a faster lap – from improving.

However, Hamilton lined up along side him, and took the inside line at the first corner, forcing Rosberg to submit. Unfortunately for Nico, he lifted too late and ended up on the grass, losing positions to Vettel and Bottas.

Meanwhile, Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo made miniscule contact, but it was enough for both cars to earna  puncture. Sergio Perez ran over some debris as well, and made it three drivers crawling back to the pits on three fully-inflated Pirellis and one shreded mass of rubber.

Alonso benefited most from the turn one troubles, and surged from 14th on the grid to ninth by the second lap. However, his Honda power couldn’t keep him ahead of the overwhelming advantage of the other Power units, and he had to relinquish ninth place to Carlos Sainz on lap four.

Further on in the race, after the first round of pit stops, Alonso found himself ahead of both Toro Rossos once more, but was overtaken by Carlos Sainz and Marcus Ericsson at the same time, at the start of Lap 26. A lap later, Max Verstappen passed him at the same corner, and the McLaren driver exclaimed “GP2 Engine! GP2!” before letting out an exasperated cry.

It’s not the first time in 2015 McLaren’s drivers have been vocal about the 160 horsepower deficit on the Honda power unit, most of which comes from the deployment of electrical energy. Still, the comments created a PR nightmare for McLaren after the race, with Alonso and McLaren CEO Ron Dennis criticising one another.

However, there was nothing that could be done during the race, and Alonso continued, eventually finishing 11th, just outside the points, although it still counts as the team’s fifth-best result of the season, after fifth and ninth for Alonso and Button respectively in Hungary, tenth in Britain for Alonso, and eighth for Button in Monaco.

Rosberg’s engine had been critical with temperature early in the race, but by the second round of stops he had managed the issue, and by lap 31 he had passed Bottas and then Vettel thanks to the ‘undercut’ pit strategy.

Red Bull’s junior drivers provided most of the excitement in the latter half of the race, although Carlos Sainz rued his ‘rookie mistake’ on Lap 28 when he smashed his front wing on the pit entry bollard. Later on, he and team mate Max Verstappen scrapped for ninth place, with Verstappen scything down his colleague’s inside at the chicane on Lap 45.

The other young Red Bull talent, Daniil Kvyat, was busy making headway of his own. He started in the pit lane and could not use his ‘overtake button’ (which allows the driver to change gears at a higher rev count, and therefore gives better acceleration) due to reliability worries, so was resigned to scrapping for no points. He tore past Sergio Perez for 14th place o lap 45, and then relieved Marcus Ericsson of 13th on lap 49.

With two laps to go, Felipe Nasr became the only retirement, but was still classified four laps down on race winner Lewis Hamiton, who took the flag nearly twenty seconds ahead of his nearest rival Nico Rosberg.

Classification

1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2) Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
3) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
4) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
5) Valtteri Bottas, Williams
6) Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
7) Romain Grosjean, Lotus
8) Pastor Maldonado, Lotus
9) Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso
10) Carlos Sainz Jr, Toro Rosso11) Fernando Alonso, McLaren
12) Sergio Perez, Force India
13) Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull
14) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber
15) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull
16) Jenson Button, McLaren
17) Felipe Massa, Williams
18) Alexander Rossi, Manor Marussia
19) Will Stevens, Manor Marussia
Felipe Nasr, Sauber (Mechanical issue, +4 Laps)

The next race will be in two weeks’ time on Sunday October 11, at the Sochi Autodrom, Russia.