Max Verstappen makes history with first Grand Prix victory

Max Verstappen became the youngest ever winner in Formula One history when he crossed the line first at last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

The 18 year old – who only swapped to Red Bull Racing from Toro Rosso in the lead up to Spain – held off Kimi Raikkonen to secure his first victory in the sport. Raikkonen, who has also raced against Max’s dad Jos Verstappen, is the oldest driver on the grid and led Ferrari’s charge on the day.

Sebastian Vettel joined Verstappen and Raikkonen on the podium on a day which saw Ferrari take over 30 points over Mercedes championship lead. The Mercedes duo, who had started first and second, made contact at the fourth corner resulting in them both retiring from the race. It was deemed to be a racing incident by the stewards with blame being apportioned to both drivers, rather than one in particular.

This left the door open for a fight for the lead which was contested by four drivers throughout the race – both Red Bull drivers and both Ferrari drivers. There was a mix in strategies as Verstappen and Raikkonen made a two stop work and held on on older tyres at the end. Vettel and Ricciardo on the other hand went for three stops which left them unable to close the gap to their team-mates.

Thankfully for Ricciardo they had built up enough of a gap to Valtteri Bottas in fifth, meaning he was able to pit following a puncture in the closing stages of the race.

On a day when his former team-mate was vindicating the early team switch, Carlos Sainz also impressed with a sixth place finish. He had run third in the opening stages of the race as well entertaining his fans at his home race. Sergio Perez picked up more points for Force India ahead of Felipe Massa and Jenson Button. Daniil Kvyat set the fastest lap of the race on his way to tenth on his first race back at Toro Rosso.

Outside the top ten were Esteban Gutierrez and Jolyon Palmer with Felipe Nasr 14th. Kevin Magnussen was penalised ten seconds after forcing his team-mate off the track on the final lap. Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto were the final two classified finishers.

Romain Grosjean was just one of five retirements, while a software issue brought Fernando Alonso’s home race to a disappointing end. Nico Hulkenberg pulled off at the side of the track with a smoking car. The Mercedes duo were the first two retirements and their incident brought out an early safety car.

First career Grand Chelem for Nico Rosberg in Russia

Nico Rosberg secured his first career Grand Chelem in Russia as he extended his lead in the World Championship.

Having secured pole position he went on to lead lights to flag while also setting the fastest lap of the race. He was joined on the podium by team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who had started in tenth due to Power Unit problems, and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

There was drama when the lights went out causing a few retirements. Rio Haryanto, Nico Hulkenberg and Sebastian Vettel were the three drivers to fail to finish the first lap. Vettel’s retirement came after Daniil Kvyat made contact with him twice leading to an expletive ridden radio message from the four time world champion. The pair had already come to blows in China after an incident with Kvyat caused Vettel to make contact with his team-mate Raikkonen.

Kvyat received a 10 second stop/go penalty for his role in the first lap accident. Other drivers who received penalties were Carlos Sainz for driving Jolyon Palmer off the track and Felipe Nasr for not obeying race director’s instructions.

Behind the top three on the podium Valtteri Bottas finished in fourth ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa, who made a late stop for the super soft compound tyre. Fernando Alonso was a season best sixth – getting a welcome points finish for McLaren. Kevin Magnussen was another driver getting his first points of the season as he finished ahead of Romain Grosjean. On his 100th Grand Prix weekend Sergio Perez finished in ninth place getting his first two points of the year. Jenson Button was tenth for McLaren meaning they took their first double points finish of the season.

Outside the top ten was Daniel Ricciardo who got caught up in the accident between Vettel and Kvyat at the start. Sainz’s ten second penalty dropped him to 12th, with Palmer 13th, Marcus Ericsson 14th and Kvyat 15th. Nasr, Esteban Gutierrez and Pascal Wehrlein rounded out the race finishers. Max Verstappen was the fourth retirement.

Rosberg now leads the championship by 43 points from Hamilton with Raikkonen now third.

Nico Rosberg avoids drama to be victorious in China

Nico Rosberg has won the third race of the season.

The Mercedes driver – who now has a 36 point lead over nearest rival, and team-mate, Lewis Hamilton – kept out of trouble while those around him tripped over each other. He started on pole position and initially lost the lead to Daniel Ricciardo.

Ricciardo picked up a puncture early on and dropped down the order but fought back to finish in fourth place behind Sebastian Vettel and Daniil Kvyat. At the start of the race there was contact between the Ferrari pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel. The latter was clearly aggrieved about the incident, putting the blame on Kvyat who he felt was a “torpedo” into the first corner.

The move caused Vettel to turn to the left, pitching Raikkonen into a semi spin and causing the Finn to get significant front wing damage. He had to pit for a new nose while Vettel dropped down the order. The contact had a knock on effect as further down the pack Felipe Nasr swerved to avoid getting collected which in turn caused him to make contact with Hamilton, who lost his front wing. Hamilton had started at the back of the grid after suffering engine problems in qualifying and taking a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

After the chaos of the first few laps the safety car was deployed to enable the marshals to pick up the debris strewn across the track. It was a day of recovery as those involved in the drama had to change their strategies to fight back through the order. Raikkonen recovered to fifth place while Hamilton finished in seventh although just ahead of Max Verstappen. The Toro Rosso driver changed his tyres late in the race to the Super Soft but ran out of laps to catch and pass the Mercedes driver who was on older tyres.

Elsewhere both Williams drivers finished inside the points – Felipe  Massa sixth and Valtteri Bottas tenth – with Carlos Sainz in ninth.

All 22 drivers saw the chequered flag with Sergio Perez first of those outside the points. Behind him came Fernando Alonso, – who had ran as far up the order as third after the safety car – and Jenson Button. Esteban Gutierrez took his first finish of the year in 14th with Nico Hulkenberg 15th and Marcus Ericsson 16th. Kevin Magnussen finished in 17th with Pascal Wehrlein 18th and Romain Grosjean a disappointing 19th. Felipe Nasr, Rio Haryanto and Jolyon Palmer rounded out the last few places.

The next race is the Russian Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time.

Nico Rosberg extends championship lead in Bahrain

Nico Rosberg currently sits 17 points clear of team-mate Lewis Hamilton at the top of the championship.

This lead is thanks to picking up maximum points at the first two rounds of the season. Following a 1-2 for Mercedes in Australia, Rosberg stood on the top step again in Bahrain although this time he finished ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Hamilton started the race from pole but it was a fast starting Rosberg who led by the first corner. As Hamilton swept across the track after realising he had lost his lead, there was contact with Valtteri Bottas – something the stewards felt warranted a drive through penalty for the Finn. This led to damage on his car which was something he had to contend with for the duration of the race.

While Rosberg romped away at the front, Hamilton once again found himself having to fight back from about fifth or sixth, something he had already endured in Australia due to a poor start.

Ferrari’s leading – and only – contender in this race was Kimi Raikkonen, a driver who has excelled in Bahrain in the past picking up seven podiums. Raikkonen’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel didn’t even make the race start when he suffered an engine failure on the formation lap. Raikkonen drove a good race and finished in second place, undoubtedly particularly welcome following a retirement in the opening race of the year.

Following the top three Daniel Ricciardo came home in fourth place in front of Haas driver Romain Grosjean, the latter picking up another solid points haul for the new team. It was once again a bittersweet event for Haas as their other driver Esteban Gutierrez retired, this time with a brake issue. Max Verstappen finished sixth for Toro Rosso ahead of Daniil Kvyat in seventh, Felipe Massa in eighth and a recovering Bottas in ninth.

Rounding out the top ten finishers was late McLaren call-up Stoffel Vandoorne. Following the news that Fernando Alonso had been declared unfit to race by the FIA, McLaren’s test and reserve driver was rushed to the track to stand in for him. With Alonso watching his every move from the pitwall and offering guidance, Vandoorne raced to tenth place. It was a point on his debut and McLaren’s first points finish of the year.

Jenson Button was frustrated to pull off at the side of the track with a power problem, later suggesting he could have been on for a top five or six finish had he not retired. He joined Vettel on the sidelines along with Gutierrez and Jolyon Palmer, who also did not start. Carlos Sainz was the fifth retirement having picked up a puncture during the race and retiring a few laps later.

Outside of the top ten, Kevin Magnussen recovered from a pit-lane start to finish 11th, ahead of Marcus Ericsson and an impressive Pascal Wehrlein. After qualifying 16th, the Manor driver put in a strong performance in the race to finish 13th, having ran in the points. Felipe Nasr was 14th for Sauber ahead of the two Force Indias and Rio Haryanto.

Nico Rosberg wins action packed Australian Grand Prix

The more things change the more they stay the same. You’d be forgiven for thinking that not much had changed in Formula One if you looked at the results of the 2016 Australian Grand Prix without knowing the story behind them.

Another Mercedes 1-2 finish with Sebastian Vettel once again on the podium for Ferrari at the end of the race, but when the lights went out it was a much different story. Lewis Hamilton set the headline times in practice and took pole position in a maligned qualifying session – the 50th of his career. The talking point prior to the race weekend was the new elimination style qualifying session that would see cars eliminated throughout the three sessions, rather than a number being put out at the end of each.

That was the plan anyway. Instead it turned into a clock watching exercise with many drivers climbing out of their cars before they had formally been eliminated. Hamilton had pole position wrapped up and was out of his car with three minutes of the session remaining, such was the scale of the ridiculousness of the new system. It was 1 – 0 Hamilton over team-mate Nico Rosberg but it was to be a different story on Sunday.

Daniil Kvyat’s car broke down following the warm up lap meaning just 21 cars took the start of the race. Better numbers than last year, however, when just 15 actually managed to make the lights going out. When the race did get started it wasn’t the Mercedes duo – who had locked out the front row – who led by the end of the first lap.

Vettel swept into the early lead with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen taking up second spot. Rosberg and Hamilton lost out, with Hamilton dropped right down the order to seventh in the early phases of the race. Ferrari started to pull away and with the first stop of pit-stops out of the way it looked like Vettel would be hard to beat. A red flag gave the advantage back to Mercedes who were able to gain back lost time.

The red flag was brought out following a “racing incident” between Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez. Deemed a racing incident by the FIA and both drivers involved, it was a big impact with very little being left of the McLaren when it eventually came to a halt beside the barriers after being sent airborne. Thankfully both drivers emerged from their cars unaided and waving to the crowds. There was a brief delay as the debris was cleared up before racing resumed.

While both Mercedes had the medium tyres on after the stoppage, Vettel chose to continue on his set of supersofts. This meant he would have to pit again for tyres while the Mercedes duo would not. The main question was now could Vettel pull out enough of a gap to allow him a free pit-stop?

The answer was no. Rosberg took over the lead of the race as Vettel pitted and came out in fourth. He passed home favourite Daniel Ricciardo before chasing down on Hamilton. An uncharacteristic Vettel error on the penultimate lap – when the gap was down to less than a second – meant that he eventually finished in third.

Behind the trio Ricciardo came home in fourth – setting the fastest lap on his way – ahead of Williams’ Felipe Massa. An overjoyed Romain Grosjean was sixth, taking points on new team Haas’ debut, with Nico Hulkenberg seventh and Valtteri Bottas eighth. The Toro Rosso duo of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen finished ninth and tenth respectively although their inter-team battle was not without fireworks.

As they got caught up behind a string of cars, Verstappen was busy on the radio telling the team that he should be in front of his team-mate. His engineer gave him the OK to overtake Sainz but it was clear he would have to do it on his own as the Spaniard would not be pulling over willingly. After many laps of squabbling and angry radio messages from Verstappen, the pair eventually touched with both lucky to escape with only very minor damage and able to continue to the end.

Jolyon Palmer was just outside the points in eleventh ahead of his team-mate who picked up a first lap puncture and ended up a lap down. Kevin Magnussen was able to recover this following the red flag period. Sergio Perez was a quiet 13th with Jenson Button 14th following poor tyre strategy. Felipe Nasr and Pascal Wehrlein were 15th and 16th respectively.

Elsewhere Raikkonen retired with an airbox fire, while rookie driver Rio Haryanto failed to take the restart after the red flag due to an issue with his car.

 

Mercedes untouchable at Belgian Grand Prix

Mercedes dominated the Belgian Grand Prix with Lewis Hamilton leading yet another 1-2 finish for the team. The pair finished over 30 seconds clear of third placed driver Romain Grosjean, who qualified fourth before dropping to ninth with a grid penalty.

There was a lot of focus on the race start after new regulations surrounding what drivers can and cannot say to their drivers in the moments just prior to the lights going out. A couple of drivers were slow away on the formation lap but it went without any major problems in the race start proper. There was an aborted start following problems for Nico Hulkenberg on the grid. The Force India driver reported loss of power on his out-lap to the grid, and had been advised by his team to return to the pits at the end of the warm up lap. The team then changed their mind and told Hulkenberg to take the race start as they believed the problem was resolving itself. This was not the case and Hulkenberg was wheeled back into the pits. Carlos Sainz also had his own problems and was asked to return to the pit-lane prior to the start.

When the lights went out it was Sergio Perez who made the biggest impression, going from fourth to second as Nico Rosberg dropped to fifth. Perez made an attempt to take the lead of the race but Hamilton but failed to get past and that proved to be his only opportunity. Pastor Maldonado became an early retirement from the race as his car quickly slowed due to engine problems. He was able to make it back to the pits. Other retirements from the race were Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz.

After Ricciardo retired on track following the final chicane, the Virtual Safety Car was used, neutralising the speed of all the cars on track. The Mercedes duo were pulling away at the front of the field and it was Sebastian Vettel who slotted into third race. He became a late retirement after a tyre delamination in the final couple of laps. After a pit-stop on the 14th lap of the race, Vettel was attempting to go to the end on the medium tyres but he failed to make it. He had found himself under pressure from Grosjean but had been keeping himself ahead of the Lotus driver, with the Ferrari benefiting from good straight line speed. Vettel had called for another pit-stop but the team chose to leave him out.

Daniil Kvyat backed up his strong showing at the Hungarian Grand Prix – where he got his first podium – put in a strong end to the race to finish in fourth. Fresher tyres allowed him to catch and pass the cars ahead. Perez eventually finished fifth, ahead of Felipe Massa in sixth. Vettel’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen – who started 16th following problems in qualifying and a gearbox penalty – finished the race in seventh with Max Verstappen eighth, Valtteri Bottas ninth and Marcus Ericsson tenth. Williams suffered a pit-stop blunder which saw Bottas’ car fitted with one medium tyre and three softs – a breach of the regulations. Bottas was given a drive through penalty for the mistake but he still managed to salvaged a couple of points.

Felipe Nasr finished in 11th ahead of the McLaren duo of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Button suffered problems throughout the race including a lack of power, allowing his team-mate to pull away from him. Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens were classified in 15th and 16th with Vettel classified 12th despite not finishing the race.

It was another crushing performance by the Mercedes team, following their disappointment in Hungary. The next race is in two weeks time at Ferrari’s home race of Monza.

Lewis Hamilton notches up third home win at British Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton has won the British Grand Prix for the third time following a fortuitous pit-stop decision that saw him swap to intermediate tyres at just the right time.

Hamilton was joined on the podium by team-mate Nico Rosberg while Sebastian Vettel also benefited from a well timed pit-stop to join the Mercedes duo on the podium once again.

It was a race of mixed conditions – largely dry until a couple of rain showers towards the end. Off the line the Mercedes duo were caught out by both Williams drivers, who had locked out the second row of the grid after Hamilton secured pole position by just a tenth from his team-mate. Felipe Massa took the race lead off the line while Valtteri Bottas slotted into second before running too wide and opening the door for Hamilton to get back ahead. The battle at the front was called off following the deployment of the safety car at the end of the first lap.

The safety car was brought out due to an incident which saw both Lotus drivers and Jenson Button retire. Daniel Ricciardo tagged Romain Grosjean, sending the Lotus driver into his team-mate Pastor Maldonado. As Fernando Alonso attempted to avoid the pair he collected his own team-mate, resulting in Button retiring from the race. The incident was investigated after the race but no further action was taken. Ricciardo later retired from the race due to an engine problem while Alonso went on to score his first point of the season. The safety car returned to the pits at the end of lap three and racing resumed. Hamilton attempted to pass Massa but locked up and gave Bottas the opportunity to get back ahead.

Massa and Bottas were asked not to fight each other but Bottas believed he had the speed to pull away from the chasing Mercedes duo. Hamilton’s pit stop strategy allowed him to leap frog Massa and take the lead of the race. There was a brief period under Virtual Safety Car conditions to allow marshals to retrieve Carlos Sainz’s stricken Toro Rosso.  Light rain started to fall around lap 36 of the race and some drivers – including Kimi Raikkonen, Marcus Ericsson, and Alonso – chose to go straight onto the intermediate tyres. The conditions proved not to warrant the change and Ericsson was unfortunate to pit again for slicks when heavier rain started to fall. In the changeable conditions Rosberg launched a charge on team-mate, slashing the gap. Hamilton reported he had no grip and pitted for intermediate tyres, a decision which proved to pay off when the rain got heavier. Vettel also pitted and went from sixth to third.

There were six retirements from the race in total along with Felipe Nasr who failed to make the start due to a gearbox failure on his out-lap to the grid. Sainz, Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, Maldonado, Grosjean, and Button were the other retirements from the race. At the front the top three were followed by the Williams duo, perhaps ruing a lost opportunity to fight for the win. Daniil Kvyat was sixth, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in seventh, Raikkonen eighth, Sergio Perez ninth and Alonso tenth. Ericsson, Roberto Merhi, and Will Stevens also finished the race, although the latter lost his front wing after clipping the barrier but returned to the pits and continued.

Following the cancellation of the German Grand Prix the next action will take place in three weeks time in Hungary.