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 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.

Hamilton takes fifth Pole in Shanghai | 2015 Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying

Lewis Hamilton proved once more that he is the master of the Shanghai International Circuit on Saturday when he stole top spot on the grid for Sunday’s race. The Briton is joined on the front row by his Mercedes team mate, who won his first race at this circuit back in 2012.

The first session saw both ‘M’ teams drop out as is to be expected for most of this season. They were joined by Nico Hulkenberg in his Force India, as the Silverstone team continue to struggle in 2015.

As was the case in Malaysia, Jenson Button qualified ahead of Fernando Alonso, however, it was only by four thousandths of a second. They can take some solace from the fact that they were just six hundredths away from Forcie

Q2 saw three Red Bull cars drop out; all apart from Daniel Ricciardo. His team mate, the Russian Kvyat, complained of a loss of power down the back straight, and was only able to get one lap time in. Evidently, it wasn’t quite fast enough.

In the final session, it was all about the Mercedes duo. Hamilton shattered the morale by posting a first time of 1:35.782, which was eventually enough to secure Pole. He was given a run for his money in the closing moments – the World Champion was unable to improve on his time, and paved the way for an attack by Rosberg, but he fell agonisingly short, but just .042 of a second.

The Top 10

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes (1:35.782)
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes (1:35.824)
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari (1:36.682)
Felipe Massa, Williams (1:36.954)
Valtteri Bottas, Williams 1:37.143)
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari (1:37.232)
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull (1:37.540)
Romain Grosjean, Lotus (1:37.905)
Felipe Nasr, Sauber (1:38.067)
Marcus Ericsson, Sauber (1:38.058)

Eliminated in Q2

Pastor Maldonado, Lotus (1:38.134)
Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull (1:38.209)
Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso (1:38.393)
Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso (1:38.538)
Sergio Perez, Force India (1:39.290)

Eliminated in Q1

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India (1:39.216)
Jenson Button, McLaren (1:.39.276)
Fernando Alonso, McLaren (1:39.280)
Will Stevens, Manor Marussia (1:42.091)
Roberto Merhi, Manor Marussia (1:42.842)

Rapid Ricciardo takes second consecutive win | 2014 Belgian GP Report

Daniel Ricciardo won his third grand prix of the season (and of his career) at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix. The Aussie avoided trouble and kept a cool head in a race which saw Championship leaders Hamilton and Rosberg collide, with the Brit eventually retiring. Rosberg recovered to take second, and the podium was completed by Valtteri Bottas.

LAP GUIDE

Last year I made a lap guide to help people get to know the corner names at Spa, so here’s Lewis Hamilton’s Pole lap from 2013.

BACKGROUND

There was a new boy in at Caterham for the Belgian GP; German endurance racer Andre Lotterer got his F1 debut in place of Kamui Kobayashi. Max Chilton was due to be swapped out for American Alex Rossi, but the Marussia line-up was only altered for the first practice session. You can read more about the swaps here, and also about Toro Rosso’s new driver for 2015.

Saturday’s qualifying event was a wet-dry affair; Spa’s famous micro-climate playing its usual part. One of the biggest surprises of Q1 was Jules Bianchi making it in to the next session ahead of Nico Hulkenberg. Both are favourites to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari next year after a disappointing return to the team, and clearly this round went to Bianchi, in a much less-competitive car.

At the business end of the grid, Rosberg took Pole ahead of Hamilton, with a resurgent Sebastian Vettel due to start third. The top five teams dominated Q3 and ensured there was no room for anyone else, with both McLarens making the cut for only the fifth time this year.

RACE DAY

The teams started the day as usual, but Ferrari were already in trouble. The mechanics for Fernando Alonso’s car were on the grid after the two-minute warning (at which point team personnel must leave the grid) and so the Spaniard collected a 5-second Stop/Go penalty before he had even turned a corner.

At the start, Hamilton made a fantastic start and powered past his team mate. Further back, Q1 sensation Bianchi made contact with new boy Lotterer, leaving the Frenchman with a puncture, and the German out. Fellow German Vettel fared much better, though. He passed Rosberg after a fantastic start, and then hounded Hamilton. He pulled alongside, and the TV graphic momentarily showed him ahead, but Hamilton maintained the advantage.

At Les Combe, the first corner after the long straight, Vettel went wide, allowing Rosberg to get back past. However, the next time round, things did not go so smoothly. Rosberg chased Hamilton once more. On the outside of the corner, he attempted to cut back behind, but the cut he actually made was to his team mate’s tyre. Hamilton had to drag his wounded Mercedes back to the pits, falling to 19th position, and damaging the floor in the process.

On Lap 4, Daniel Ricciardo made short work of Fernando Alonso, squeezing past for 3rd in the DRS zone. Not long after, The Aussie was right behind his own team mate. When Vettel went wide at Pouhon corner (a rare mistake for the Weltmeister) Ricciardo did not waste any time, and claimed what was then second place. His ascendency was all but complete when Rosberg pitted for tyres on Lap 9, earlier than was expected. Ricciardo had the lead.

On lap 10, Adrian Sutil’s car flicked up a piece of shredded tyre, likely from Bianchi’s car. The rubber tangled itself around Rosberg’s radio antenna, distracting him. He attempted to rip the rubber away while passing Sutil and travelling at 200mph, but was unable to, and had to get it taken off during his next pit stop.

Alonso’s race was a little quiet – he made a decent getaway at the start, but since then he had faded in to the background somewhat. That was until he pulled a cracking move around the outside of Sergio Perez at the Rivage corner, a very tight, second-gear hairpin.

Pit stops came and went, and positions remained relatively similar, Ricciardo maintaining a decent advantage over Rosberg. Puncture pals Bianchi and Hamilton (Who both suffered popped tyres on laps 1 & 2 respectively retired with six laps to go, their ruined afternoons compounded by gearbox issues.

The racing appeared to be over, until a dramatic scrap for fifth place, with Magnussen led a group of Button, Alonso, and Vettel. Along the Kemmel Straight, Alonso went for the right, but Magnussen blocked, and the Ferrari had to take desperate avoiding action on the grass. Button and Vettel looked on in hope of a chance, so a few corners later when Magnussen defended and pushed Alonso wide, the other two took full advantage. Button then tried his luck against Magnussen but also found no room, which let Vettel and Alonso past him.

Vettel eventually got the better of all three other drivers, but Magnussen’s impressive defense skills were deemed too feisty by the stewards, and they handed him a 25-second penalty. That promoted everyone up a place from 6th down, and meant that Nico Hulkenberg got the final point. Magnussen finished 12th.

FINISHING POSITIONS

1) D Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing
2) N Rosberg, Mercedes AMG
3) V Bottas, Williams
4) K Raikkonen, Ferrari
5) S Vettel, Red Bull Racing
6) J Button, McLaren
7) F Alonso, Ferrari
8) S Perez, Force India
9) D Kvyat, Toro Rosso10) N Hulkenberg, Force India
11) JE Vergne, Toro Rosso
12) K Mahnussen, McLaren
13) F Massa, Williams
14) A Sutil, Force India
15) E Gutierrez, Sauber
16) M Chilton, Marussia
17) M Ericsson, Caterham

OUT/ UNCLASSIFIED

J Bianchi, Marussia (Gearbox)
L Hamilton, Mercedes AMG (Gearbox)
R Grosjean, Lotus ( Battery)
A Lotterer, Caterham (Electrics)
P Maldonado, Lotus (Exhaust)

The next race will take place at the historic Monza Park in Italy, the home of the Tifosi, and will occur on September 7.

Ricciardo the best in Budapest | 2014 Hungarian GP report

Daniel Ricciardo took his second career win (and second of the season) in Sunday’s sensational Hungarian Grand Prix. The Aussie finished ahead of Fernando Alonso who led for most of the race, and hard-charging Lewis Hamilton who managed to go from the pitlane to the podium. The race started in wet conditions, and though no more rain fell, the damp track caught out several drivers throughout.

 

And you thought his smile couldn't get any bigger... Danny Ric celebrates his win in Hungary
And you thought his smile couldn’t get any bigger… Danny Ric celebrates his win in Hungary. [Source: News.au]
BACKGROUND

The previous race was just one week prior, and saw a home win for Nico Rosberg in Hockenheim. It stretched his championship lead to 14 points over Silver Arrows chum Lewis Hamilton.

To read more on the superb event in Hockenheim, click here!

QUALIFYING

Q1 was a dramatic event which included the knocking-out of two bespoke World Champions in the form of Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn was caught napping by a faster-than expected Jules Bianchi, something for which the Iceman blamed his team. However, Hamilton’s demise was far more dramatic, the Brit suffering an oil leak that set light to his W05 in dramatic fashion. His ruined Mercedes sat on the entry to the pit lane and caused a yellow flag for most of the session.

Q3 was also treacherous; Kevin Magnussen crashing heavily at turn 1. The young Dane, like the rest of the drivers, had fitted dry tyres for the first time that afternoon, and was not prepared for the lack of adhesion at the first corner; locked up

RACE DAY

Just prior to the start, Daniil Kvyat stalled on the grid and had to start from the pit lane, just ahead of Hamilton. At the start, Bottas pounced on Vettel immediately, seizing third. However, by the time the drivers had reached the top if the hill, the German had got back ahead. Meanwhile, Hamilton was in trouble. The 2008 champion was desperate to make up more ground, but at just the second corner, he spun his Mercedes and gently tagged the wall, damaging his front wing.

Miraculously, Hamilton bounced back from this excursion, and by lap 8 had reached the dizzying heights of 13th position, when he squeezed past Kimi Raikkonen who shared in a miserable qualifying.

His progress was fortunately-timed as well – a hefty crash for Marcus Ericsson wiped out the gap to the cars ahead, neutralising the field. Everyone was still on intermediate tyres, but bizarrely, the top 4 (Rosberg, Bottas, Vettel and Alonso) did not pit for dry tyres, and neither did Kevin Magnussen. Everyone else pitted at the first opportunity, leaving Ricciardo in control of the field, followed by Button, who was the only driver to pit for more intermediate tyres. The Safety Car was just about to come in, when Romain Grosjean spun at the exact same piece of tarmac as Ericsson, although the Lotus driver crashed in to the opposite side of the track.

After the extended Safety Car period the race got going again. Button quickly demonstrated that the track was still damp, using his Intermediates to cruise past Ricciardo for the lead. However, just two laps later, the dry tyres had replaced the Inters as the superior tyre, and Button was forced to pit, dropping him way out of contention.

One of the best performances of the race involved Jean-Eric Vergne who had used the Safety Car period to get up to fifth position. As the race resumed, he caught Rosberg napping at turn 1 and got up to 4th. This loss of momentum for Rosberg caused Alonso to get past as well, leaving just Vettel between himself and Hamilton.

Button had to concede that his tyres were not the right choice, a fact made apparent by Ricciardo swarming all over the back of him; the Aussie took the lead again when Button pitted on lap 15.

Sergio Perez caused the second Safety Car appearance of the race on Lap 23, when he put the power down far too early coming out of the final corner. Spinning tyres on damp kerbing is never a good cocktail, and it was one that sent him sprawling in to the out wall. So great was his impact that it removed a chunk of concrete from the wall, but the Force India driver was not hurt. The team certainly was though, as Nico Hulkenberg had retired not long before, giving them a double-retirement.

Some more pit stops made for another unlikely pecking order, with Fernando Alonso leading Jean-Eric Vergne and co at the restart. JEV managed to keep Rosberg at bay for six laps, before the current Championship leader came in for fresh tyres. Meanwhile, Vettel behind nearly copied Perez’ crash, spinning at the final corner, but somehow keeping his car out of the concrete. That released Hamilton in to 3rd, and he set after Vergne. He encountered the Frenchman at the top of the hill going in to turn four, and pulled off a cracking overtake to sweep round the outside of the Toro Rosso and up in to second.

The next round of pit stops left Alonso leading the race from Hamilton and Ricciardo, with Rosberg 23 seconds behind the group. While the cameras focused on the leaders fighting it out, Rosberg sneakily made massive progress on fresh tyres. His advantage was so immense that with three laps remaining he was just 7 seconds shy of Hamilton, who had been brilliantly overtaken by Daniel Ricciardo at turn 3. The two diced coming out of the first corner, and in turn 2, Red Bull’s new hero took the outside line, setting him up for the inside of turn three.

He then set his sights on Alonso, whose tyres were well past their best. On lap 68 of 70, Ricciardo eased past at the first corner and set his own pace. Just behind though, Rosberg was hard charging, ready to attack his team mate. On the very last lap, he tried to get past at the spot where Ricciardo had got the better of Lewis, but the feisty Brit pushed him to the grass, and maintained the final step on the podium.

FINISHING POSTIONS

1) D Ricciardo, Red Bull
2) F Alonso, Ferrari
3) L Hamilton, Mercedes AMG
4) N Rosberg, Mercedes AMG
5) F Massa, Williams
6) K Raikkonen, Ferrari
7) S Vettel, Red Bull
8) V Bottas, Williams
9) JE Vergne, Toro Rosso
10) J Button, McLaren
11) A Sutil, Sauber
12) K Magnussen, McLaren
13) P Maldonado, Lotus
14) D Kvyat, Toro Rosso
15) J Bianchi, Marussia
16) M Chilton, Marussia

OUT/UNCLASSIFIED

E Gutierrez, Sauber (Electrics)
K Kobayashi, Caterham (Fuel System)
S Perez, Force India (Crashed)
N Hulkenberg, Force India (Crashed)
R Grosjean, Lotus (Spun off)
M Ericsson, Caterham (Crashed)

The result puts Hamilton 11 points behind Rosberg, a reduction from 14 points’ deficit going in to the event. Daniel Ricciardo is still third. Ferrari are back in third ahead of Williams in the Constructors’.

The next race will occur after the summer break in four weeks’ time, on August 24th. The race will be held at Spa-Francorchamps Circuit in Belgium, a race that saw a win for Sebastian Vettel in 2013.

Rosberg dominant in Deutschland | 2014 German GP Report

Newly-married Nico Rosberg has increased his Championship lead by winning a hectic German Grand Prix on Sunday, ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas. It follows the trend for Mercedes drivers to win their home race, a feat accomplished by Hamilton in Britain a fortnight ago. The Brit finished 3rd on Sunday, climbing through the field after a disastrous qualifying session.

BACKGROUND

The last race in Hockenheim was in 2012, and saw a win for Fernando Alonso. However, last year’s German Grand Prix (held at the Nurburgring) was a closely-fought race between Vettel and Raikkonen, culminating in another home-grown winner.

Qualifying was a day of mixed fortunes for the home team, as Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg grabbed pole. By contrast, the session also included a big crash for Lewis Hamilton in the arena section when his front right brake disc exploded, launching him into the gravel and eventually the barrier. This left him 15th on the grid, until a change of gearbox and brakes dropped him to 20th on the grid.

RACE DAY

Sunday arrived, but the predicted thundery weather did not. At the start, Rosberg and Magnussen got away well from 1st and 4th respectively. K-Mag looked to take advantage of the slow-starting Felipe Massa at the first turn, but neither had quite enough space. The result was another first lap retirement for Massa – he hit the front left wheel of the Dane’s car, and flipped upside down.

With so much mayhem, the Safety Car was inevitable, and led the field for a couple of laps. Daniel Ricciardo lost out the most from the incident. Staring 5th, the Aussie had to take to the gravel to miss the flying Williams, and slumped to 15th. Hamilton had got to 17th after the start, leaving the duo to scythe their ways through the pack.

After the restart the action did not die down, as Lewis quickly dispatched the Marussia of Max Chilton. Hammy and Danny then both pounced on Adrian Sutil at the hairpin. The Red Bull driver made it through cleanly, but Hamilton’s lunge was a little later, and Sutil made light contact with him.

Kvyat and Perez were the next two to tangle at turn turn 7. The young Russian has not made many mistakes in his rookie year despite being just 19, but this time, he gave Perez no room, tried to overtake on the outside, and subsequently spun himself after making contact with Checo.

Raikkonen was next on the hit lists of Hamilton and Ricciardo. On Lap 13 Ricciardo managed to get past Kimi, but Hamilton’s ambition was even greater. Again using the hairpin as his overtaking point, he made himself three-wide with Raikkonen and Ricciardo, squeezing against Kimi and knocking a small piece of front wing off. The result was Hamilton getting past both drivers, and though a little scruffy, it was surely one of the overtakes of the season so far.

After being overtaken by two cars, Raikkonen’s confidence must have taken a hit – an assumption that was all but confirmed when exactly the same thing happened just two laps later. Vettel emerged from the pits and found himself behind Raikkonen but ahead of Alonso. Sebastian and Fernando both got DRS and once again mugged Kimi at the hairpin. The Iceman made even more contact, bumping both cars and losing more of his front wing.

Fast forward to lap 30, and former team mates Button and Hamilton were close to one another. Lewis made a lunge at – you guessed it –  the hairpin, but instead of a textbook overtake, collided with his compatriot’s sidepod. The next lap saw him get past cleanly, passing the McLaren before the corner itself. In a sporting gesture, Lewis put his hand up to apologise for the contact, and moved onwards.

The damage to their friendship had been salvaged, but Lewis’ car was in a less than favourable condition. The contact had removed one of his front wing end plates, and it was hurting his tyres badly, meaning he had to pit for an extra set later on.

Those with tickets for the grandstand at the hairpin definitely got their money’s worth, as on Lap 46 Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso cried enough, erupting into flames at the hairpin. An Oil leak was the end to his first German Grand Prix, and it caused a great deal of fire to spew from the Renault power unit’s bowels.

Adrian Sutil’s featureless season continued when he lost the back end of his car coming out of the final corner. He tried to spin his car around to resume his race to 15th place, but the engine cut out and he was stranded in the middle of the track. The German decided not to try and move his car to a safer place and instead abandoned it, expecting a Safety Car. Bizarrely, no Safety Car was deployed, and Marshalls had to run across the track to move the stricken Sauber.

It was easy to forget that Nico Rosberg was even racing, such was the ease with which he won. It was the first time since 1939 that a German driver in a German car had won the German Grand Prix, but 75 years on, young Nico had made some history, and improved his championship gap while he was at it. Valtteri Bottas clung on to take his third podium finish in a row, and the 3o0th for the Williams team. He was chased all the way by a spirited Lewis Hamilton, whose drive from 20th to 3rd shows why he is not out of the title fight in the slightest.

FINISHING POSITIONS

1) N Rosberg, Mercedes AMG
2) V Bottas, Williams
3) L Hamilton, Mercedes AMG
4) S Vettel, Red Bull Racing
5) F Alonso, Ferrari
6) D Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing
7) N Hulkenberg, Force India
8) J Button, McLaren
9) K Magnussen, McLaren
10) S Perez, Force India
11) K Raikkonen, Ferrari
12) P Maldonado, Lotus
13) JE Vergne, Toro Rosso
14) E Gutierrez, Sauber
15) J Bianchi, Marussia
16) K Kobayashi, Caterham
17) M Chilton, Marussia
18) M Ericsson, Caterham

NOT CLASSIFIED

A Sutil, Sauber (Spin)
D Kvyat, Toro Rosso (Oil Leak)
R Grosjean, Lotus (Water Leak)
F Massa, Williams (Collision)
The results put Rosberg 14 points clear of Hamilton in the standings, and both are well clear of Daniel Ricciardo who lies 3rd in the standings. Alonso is in fourth, with the rising star of Valtteri Bottas just eight points behind, in fifth.

The next race will take place just one week later on July 27, from the Hungaroring in Budapest, Hungary.