Lewis Hamilton gets his first Monaco pole position

It was Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel who set the pace going into qualifying. Hamilton headed an impressive Max Verstappen in FP1 but it was Nico Rosberg who slotted into second in FP2. An impressive lap on the super-soft tyre on Saturday morning for Sebastian Vettel saw him lead Rosberg by two tenths of a second.

Q1

A queue formed at the end of the pit-lane prior to the start of qualifying as drivers looked to get a lap time on the board before traffic became a real issue. Romain Grosjean went into the session knowing that he would take a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change. Will Stevens was the first driver to set a lap-time – a 1:25.869 – and he was soon joined on the board by Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, and Valtteri Bottas. Getting tyres up to temperature has proven to be an issue for all teams over the course of the Thursday and Saturday practice sessions and it was once again the case in the opening stage of qualifying. Nico Hulkenberg lost control of his car on the run into Mirabeau and touched the barriers, but was able to return to the pits. Sainz found himself under investigation during the session for failing to stop at the weighbridge. Both Mercedes and both Ferrari drivers chose to stay in the pits as lap-times continued to drop. Bottas became the ‘big’ name to fall out in Q1, getting caught up in traffic and struggling with grip.

  1. Nico Rosberg – 1:16.528
  2. Lewis Hamilton – 1:16.588
  3. Max Verstappen – 1:16.750
  4. Daniil Kvyat – 1:16.845
  5. Carlos Sainz – 1:17.246
  6. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:17.254
  7. Sergio Perez – 1:17.376
  8. Jenson Button – 1:17.492
  9. Sebastian Vettel – 1:17.502
  10. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:17.552
  11. Pastor Maldonado – 1:17.630
  12. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:17.660
  13. Felipe Massa – 1:17.679
  14. Romain Grosjean – 1:17.767
  15. Fernando Alonso – 1:17.778
  16. Felipe Nasr – 1:18.101
  17. Valtteri Bottas – 1:18.434
  18. Marcus Ericsson – 1:18.513
  19. Will Stevens – 1:20.655
  20. Roberto Merhi – 1:20.904

Q2

As was the case in Q1,  drivers wasted no time in getting out on track for the second part of qualifying. They all went out on the super soft tyre for their first run. Sebastian Vettel was the first driver to set a lap-time, quickly beaten by Force India’s Sergio Perez. Fernando Alonso was told over the radio that he would be doing a slow lap followed by a quick lap, something which the team expected most other teams to follow. The Spainard’s session came to an end not long after, pulling off at Ste Devote. With three minutes remaining all drivers – bar Alonso – were out on track, hoping to find some clear track for a fast lap. Nico Rosberg led the lap-times, ahead of Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Daniil Kvyat and Kimi Raikkonen. It was all to play for as the track evolved and lap-times got faster. Rosberg caused yellow flags at the first corner with a big lock-up but continued on his way. The yellow flags compromised Button, as he was forced to lift off and lost a few tenths of a second – which could have cost him getting through to Q3 for the first time this season.

  1. Nico Rosberg – 1:15.471
  2. Lewis Hamilton – 1:15.864
  3. Sebastian vettel – 1:16.181
  4. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:16.440
  5. Daniil Kvyat – 1:16.453
  6. Max Verstappen – 1:16.546
  7. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:16.706
  8. Carlos Sainz – 1:16.762
  9. Pastor Maldonado – 1:16.775
  10. Sergio Perez – 1:16.999
  11. Romain Grosjean – 1:17.007
  12. Jenson Button – 1:17.093
  13. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:17.193
  14. Felipe Massa – 1:17.278
  15. Fernando Alonso – 1:26.632

Q3

Lewis Hamilton was the first driver at the start of the queue for the start of Q3 and there was a threat of rain in the air. Sergio Perez set the fastest lap of the first runs, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel, Daniil Kvyat, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz. Pastor Maldonado put his car in P1 before swiftly being beaten by Hamilton on his second flyer who took provisional pole. There was a brief lull in proceedings as drivers returned to their garage before heading out again. Perez did not go out again as he had no new sets of tyres. It was another case of slow laps followed by quick laps to get temperature into the tyres. Rosberg aborted his lap after locking up at Ste Devote again as Hamilton improved his lap-time.

  1. Lewis Hamilton – 1:15.098
  2. Nico Rosberg – 1:15.440
  3. Sebastian Vettel – 1:15.849
  4. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:16.041
  5. Daniil Kvyat – 1:16.182
  6. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:16.427
  7. Sergio Perez – 1:16.808
  8. Carlos Sainz – 1:16.931
  9. Pastor Maldonado – 1:16.957
  10. Max Verstappen – 1:16.957

Sebastian Vettel sets the pace in the third and final practice session in Monaco

Sebastian Vettel set the pace in FP3 ahead of qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix.

It was a dry session for the drivers after some wet running on Thursday, giving them the first opportunity to try out the new super-soft tyres. Lewis Hamilton lead rookie Max Verstappen in the first practice session before going fastest again in FP2, this time ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg.

After compromised running on Thursday, teams wasted no time in getting their drivers out on track for the start of the third and final practice session. Both Mercedes drivers and both Manors went straight out on the super-soft tyre and Hamilton set the initial pace with a 1:19.074 before improving to a 1:17.504. Rosberg slotted into second place behind his team-mate after his first couple of laps.

Ferrari did not go out of the garage straight away as some adjustments were carried out to both car, and Kimi Raikkonen set his first lap-time with nearly 20 minutes of the session gone. It was enough to see him go third fastest on the soft compound tyre behind the Mercedes duo. When he put the super-soft tyre on he improved his lap time before ending up in the barriers at Sainte Devote, causing damage to the left rear tyre. The session was red flagged in order to allow marshals to recover the stricken Ferrari.

Elsewhere Fernando Alonso had been about to start a lap in his McLaren but was compromised after coming across the Ferrari. The session was quickly green flagged again and the action recommenced as drivers instantly took to the track. Having already lost significant time on Thursday due to the weather time is of the essence to get some substantial running in ahead of qualifying and the race. A number of drivers throughout the session struggled to get their cars stopped out of the tunnel and ran across the Nouvelle Chicane.

Verstappen, who had gone second fastest in the first practice session, got it wrong at Anthony Noghes, losing part of his rear wing as a result. Marcus Ericsson complained throughout the session about lack of grip and locked up going into Sainte Devote. Rosberg had a late improvement to end up six hundredths behind his team-mate. Vettel set a very impressive lap-time with about five minutes of the session remaining, going five tenths quicker than Hamilton and Rosberg. Rosberg improved to within two tenths of Vettel’s pace.

In the closing minute of practice, cars backed up at the final corner trying to find clear space to set a final lap-time. There were a number of improvements including Carlos Sainz and Jenson Button.

Free Practice 3 times:

  1. Sebastian Vettel – 1:16.143 – 27 laps
  2. Nico Rosberg – 1:16.361 – 31 laps
  3. Lewis Hamilton – 1:16.705 – 31 laps
  4. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:17.120 – 26 laps
  5. Carlos Sainz – 1:17.256 – 39 laps
  6. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:17.401 – 11 laps
  7. Daniil Kvyat – 1:17.471 – 28 laps
  8. Jenson Button – 1:17.767 – 28 laps
  9. Max Verstappen – 1:17.788 – 23 laps
  10. Romain Grosjean – 1:17.806 – 28 laps
  11. Sergio Perez – 1:17.832 – 30 laps
  12. Pastor Maldonado – 1:17.956 – 28 laps
  13. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:18.102 – 32 laps
  14. Fernando Alonso – 1:18.197 – 26 laps
  15. Valtteri Bottas – 1:18.212 – 29 laps
  16. Felipe Massa – 1:18.242 – 32 laps
  17. Felipe Nasr – 1:18.767 – 38 laps
  18. Marcus Ericsson – 1:19.269 – 37 laps
  19. Will Stevens – 1:21.093 – 31 laps
  20. Roberto Merhi – 1:22.225 – 30 laps

Lewis Hamilton fastest again as rain hits Monaco

Lewis Hamilton continued his form from the first Free Practice session to remain fastest in the afternoon.

It was a dry start to the session but with the threat of rain in the air drivers wasted no time in getting out on track to get some running in. There were a couple of yellow flags early on in the session as drivers including Kimi Raikkonen and Pastor Maldonado got things wrong. A number of drivers had a spell at the top of the times as the lap-times fell, including Sebastian Vettel, Carlos Sainz, Nico Rosberg and Hamilton.

The session was red flagged after just 15 minutes when Roberto Merhi lost it on the brakes coming out of the tunnel, a fate which has befallen a number of drivers in the past. He made contact with the barrier, losing his front wing and leaving debris strewn across the track. The session was quickly given the green flag but as the rain started to fall there was limited running in the remaining 50 minutes. Maldonado ventured out on the brand new super soft tyres but didn’t complete a lap due to the deteriorating conditions.

There was a lengthy period of no cars on track before Fernando Alonso headed out with ten minutes to go. He was joined by Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat, as well as the Williams duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa. Due to the wet nature of the track times were quite a bit off times set in the dry. Marcus Ericsson did not get out for any running due to a mechanical issue.

Free Practice 2 times:

  1. Lewis Hamilton – 1:17.192 – 12 laps
  2. Nico Rosberg – 1:17.932 – 16 laps
  3. Sebastian Vettel – 1:18.295 – 14 laps
  4. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:18.543 – 15 laps
  5. Daniil Kvyat – 1:19.548 – 16 laps
  6. Carlos Sainz – 1:18.659 – 14 laps
  7. Max Verstappen – 1:18.782 – 12 laps
  8. Fernando Alonso – 1:18.906 – 18 laps
  9. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:19.151 – 13 laps
  10. Romain Grosjean – 1:19.266 – 13 laps
  11. Sergio Perez – 1:19.300 – 13 laps
  12. Felipe Massa – 1:19.560 – 15 laps
  13. Valtteri Bottas – 1:19.566 – 14 laps
  14. Pastor Maldonado – 1:19.577 – 13 laps
  15. Jenson Button – 1:19.606 – 14 laps
  16. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:19.639 – 13 laps
  17. Felipe Nasr – 1:20.263 – 10 laps
  18. Roberto Merhi – 1:22.017 – 9 laps
  19. Will Stevens – 1:22,943 – 13 laps

Lewis Hamilton leads Max Verstappen in Monaco FP1

Newly contracted Lewis Hamilton was the fastest driver around the Principality in the weekend’s opening practice session.

His lap-time of 1:18.750 was just a tenth clear of rookie Max Verstappen who took his Toro Rosso to an impressive second, ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. It is Verstappen’s first time racing at Monaco and he has certainly impressed on his debut thus far. As the track conditions improved over the course of the session – having started as a ‘wet’ session – the lap-times tumbled. Overnight rain had left the track with little grip but the conditions cleared up allowing drivers to get some running in on dry tyres after starting on intermediates.

It was Hamilton who also set the initial pace – his lap-time of a 1:27s nearly ten seconds off the ultimate pace for the session. The unforgiving streets of Monte Carlo caught a few drivers out as they got up to speed. Nico Rosberg glanced the barriers at Tabac while Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso all had moments at Sainte Devote, the latter two taking to the escape road. Alonso’s team-mate Jenson Button endured another tricky start to his morning when the team had to fix an ERS issue on his car. He eventually got out with just half an hour of the session remaining.

In the last ten minutes there were 19 cars on track, leading to a busy and congested end to the session. Verstappen put in a lap time that was enough to put him third fastest, which he then improved on. There were a number of late improvers including Sainz, Pastor Maldonado, Ricciardo, and Daniil Kvyat.

Free Practice One times:

  1. Lewis Hamilton – 1:18.750 – 49 laps
  2. Max Verstappen – 1:18.899 – 42 laps
  3. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:19.086 – 27 laps
  4. Sebastian Vettel – 1:19.134 – 31 laps
  5. Carlos Sainz – 1:19.245 – 40 laps
  6. Pastor Maldonado – 1:19.454 – 35 laps
  7. Daniil Kvyat – 1:19.520 – 33 laps
  8. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:19.679 – 31 laps
  9. Nico Rosberg – 1:19.762 – 47 laps
  10. Felipe Massa – 1:19.766 – 32 laps
  11. Fernando Alonso – 1:19.791 – 28 laps
  12. Jenson Button – 1:20.202 – 15 laps
  13. Romain Grosjean – 1:20.274 – 34 laps
  14. Sergio Perez – 1:20.619 – 35 laps
  15. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:20.784 – 34 laps
  16. Felipe Nasr – 1:20.857 – 24 laps
  17. Valtteri Bottas – 1:20.917 – 36 laps
  18. Marcus Ericsson – 1:21.219 – 25 laps
  19. Will Stevens – 1:23.234 – 28 laps
  20. Roberto Merhi – 1:23.404 – 31 laps

2015: Monaco Grand Prix Preview

The Monaco Grand Prix is a race like no other on the Formula One calendar. Unforgiving Armco barriers line the street circuit and it also features a tunnel, which brings with it is own unique challenges. The race is known for its glitz and glamour, including the huge yachts docked in the harbour overlooking the track. It is an event which requires not only high downforce and good mechanical grip, but intense concentration from drivers – moreso than usual. “The best thing about coming to Monaco is that it’s a circuit where the driver has more influence on events,” Daniel Ricciardo has said ahead of the weekend. With the lowest average speed of the year – 98mph – Monaco is less about outright performance, meaning those not always finishing in the top ten could take the opportunity to score points. It is also very difficult – but definitely not impossible – to overtake on the streets of Monte Carlo.

Circuit: Circuit de Monaco
Number of Laps: 78
Circuit Length: 3.337km
Number of Corners: 19
Lap Record: 1:14.439 Michael Schumacher 2004
Previous Monaco winners still on the grid: 6
Most Successful Team: McLaren (15 wins)
DRS Zones: 1
Pirelli Tyres: Soft and Supersoft

Nico Rosberg has taken pole position and the race win on Formula One’s last two visits to Monaco. Last year his pole was tinged with controversy as he ran wide at Mirabeau, resulting in yellow flags which compromised team-mate Lewis Hamilton’s running. Hamilton said Rosberg did it deliberately, and inter-team relations continued to crumble after that. Rosberg held off Hamilton in the race to win with Daniel Ricciardo picking up third for Red Bull. It is once again Mercedes going into the race dominating proceedings. Rosberg took his first win of the year in Spain, giving him the psychological edge going into what is his ‘home’ race. His strong results in the past will also help him as he looks to cut the gap further to Hamilton.

Hamilton, on the other hand, enters the weekend off the back of securing a new three year deal with the team. With contract negotiations finally completed he will be able to give his full attention to the job in hand. Their main rivals Ferrari are a team who have performed well at the circuit in the past – second just to McLaren in terms of victories there – however, the Scuderia’s last win at Monte Carlo was back in 2001 when Michael Schumacher crossed the line first.

Elsewhere it will be a bittersweet race for Manor. The team picked up their first – and so far only – points in Formula One when Jules Bianchi took ninth place in the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix. It has been a difficult 12 months for the team since then with Bianchi’s horrific accident in Japan and the team entering administration within just a couple of months of each other. The team made a valiant effort to make the Australian Grand Prix, and are still racing their ‘B’ spec car, and will no doubt be thinking of their team mate over the course of the upcoming weekend.

The Circuit de Monaco is made up of a number of iconic corners such as La Rascasse, the Swimming Pool, Mirabeau, Sainte Devote, and Tabac, amongst others. Its winners list features a number of iconic drivers including Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Gilles Villeneuve, Mika Hakkinen to name a few. As the saying goes, “to finish first, first you must finish”, a phrase which takes on more meaning at a place like Monaco. In last year’s race there were eight retirements and if a car stops on track there will undoubtedly be a safety car. Just who will come out on top? Action commences tomorrow with Thursday practice.

Johnston finally secures Superstock win

Lee Johnston was the winner of the final race at the 2015 North West 200.

The BMW rider who had been leading the first Superstock race on each of the three times it had been red flagged, finally crossed the line to win on Saturday evening.

He narrowly beat Alistair Seeley and denied the Tyco rider the opportunity to set a new record for wins around the Triangle Circuit after he equalled Robert Dunlop’s existing record earlier in the day. He also beat Ian Hutchinson who finished second in the Superbike race and had enjoyed good starts in the earlier attempts at the first Superstock race. Michael Dunlop was also a close fourth, with the Ballymoney man finally securing a good result after a number of disappointing retirements following his second place finish in Thursday’s Supersport race.

William Dunlop rounded up his North West 200 with a distant fifth place while team-mate Guy Martin was a third lap retirement. Martin Jessopp finished in sixth place ahead of James Hillier, Keith Amor, Conor Cummins and newcomer David Johnson. Along with Martin, other retirements were Darren Cooper, Michael Rutter, Bruce Anstey, Mark Goodings, and Dan Kruger.

The final race of the day – the North West 200 Superbike feature race – was called off by race organisers due to high winds.

McWilliams gets better of Farquhar in Supertwins race

Jeremy McWilliams got the better of team boss Ryan Farquhar in the second Supertwins race at the 2015 North West 200.

On Thursday evening Farquhar beat McWilliams but the tables were turned on Saturday. The KMR Kawasaki duo were joined in an intense battle by Jamie Hamilton, who took third place on Thursday following a time penalty for Martin Jessopp. Hamilton also had a turn of leading Saturday’s Supertwin race but admitted afterwards he had got too hot into one of the chicanes and so lost time, dropping off the back of the leading pair.

McWilliams crossed the line just four tenths clear of Farquhar with Hamilton finishing 11 seconds later. Christian Elkin – who stayed with the top three in the opening couple of laps – dropped back to finish 30 seconds off the leader in fourth place with Jamie Coward fifth and Michael Russell sixth from the second group. Local rider Ian Morrell ended up seventh ahead of Maria Costello, David Madsen-Mygdal and Graham English, with the latter three coming from the second group.

It was McWilliams second victory at the Triangle Circuit having previously won the Supertwins class at the 2013 meeting. “I never thought on the wrong side of 50, I’d be sitting on the top step of the podium at the North West 200,” he said following the race.

It was a much depleted grid for the second Supertwin race after 29 riders started the Thursday race, there were just 17 riders for the second race.