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.

2015: The Canadian Grand Prix in Numbers

Statistics from the Canadian Grand Prix weekend

Total number of laps completed (by driver)

Nico Rosberg 166
Pastor Maldonado 164
Valtteri Bottas 163
Carlos Sainz 159
Marcus Ericsson 159
Lewis Hamilton 156
Sergio Perez 156
Daniil Kvyat 155
Kimi Raikkonen 155
Max Verstappen 154
Romain Grosjean 153
Nico Hulkenberg 153
Daniel Ricciardo 150
Felipe Nasr 149
Felipe Massa 144
Sebastian Vettel 138
Roberto Merhi 132
Will Stevens 132
Fernando Alonso 120
Jenson Button 117

Total number of laps completed (by team)

Mercedes 322
Lotus 317
Toro Rosso 313
Force India 309
Sauber 308
Williams 307
Red Bull 305
Ferrari 293
Manor 264
McLaren 237

Total number of laps completed (by engine manufacturer)

Mercedes (4 teams) 1255
Ferrari (3 teams) 865
Renault (2 teams) 618
Honda (1 team) 237

Number of race laps: 70
Number of safety cars: 0
Number of race starters: 20
Number of times race lead changed hands (includes pole sitter): 2
Number of different race leaders (excludes pole sitter if lead changes off the line): 2
Number of classified drivers: 17
Number of retirements: 3
Number of drivers on lead lap at chequered flag: 7
Number of teams scoring points: 6
Most places gained: Sebastian Vettel 13 (18th – 5th)
Number of visits to pit-lane: 28
…of which were pit-stops: 24
Stop/go penalties (added to pit-stop): 0
Drive through penalties: 1
Retirements in pit-lane: 3
Fastest lap: Kimi Raikkonen 1:16.987

Lewis Hamilton back on top at Canadian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton was back on the top step of the podium at the Canadian Grand Prix, leading home another Mercedes 1-2. Valtteri Bottas completed the podium positions – his first since last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hamilton only briefly lost the lead of the race in the pit-stop phase but was never really challenged by Rosberg, who bemoaned a poor tyre choice in qualifying costing him the chance to take the fight to his team-mate for pole position. The Mercedes duo did not have a perfect run to the line with Hamilton being asked to conserve fuel while Rosberg was asked to conserve his brakes. They both made it and with a 30 plus second advantage over the Williams of Bottas, the victory was never in doubt.

Entertainment was provided by Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa fighting through the field. Mechanical issues had seen them both start near the back of the grid and both drivers went wheel to wheel with others to fight back to points scoring positions. Vettel eventually finished in fifth place – just behind team-mate Kimi Raikkonen – while Massa was just behind him in sixth. Raikkonen had enjoyed his best grid position of the year starting third but a spin cost him the chance to finish on the podium. He was able to continue but it cost him valuable time as Bottas passed him on track and he was not able to close the gap again.

Elsewhere there was some drama as Romain Grosjean and Will Stevens had a coming together. As they headed down the back straight towards the pit-lane, Grosjean pulled across on the Manor driver. Stevens’ front wing was damaged while Grosjean suffered a puncture and had to limp into the pits – surprising his team. Grosjean was given a five second post race penalty and had two points added to his licence.

Stevens’ team-mate Roberto Merhi suffered Manor’s first retirement of the year with a broken drive shaft. He was joined on the sidelines by Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button on another difficult afternoon for McLaren-Honda. Alonso had been asked to save fuel and he had responded that he did not want to. He eventually retired due to a loss of power. Button lasted a bit longer but was brought into the pits to retire his car. He had already started at the back of the grid due to an engine penalty which also meant he had to take a drive through penalty within the first three laps, leaving him on the back foot.

Pastor Maldonado finished in seventh place to finally secure his first points of the season while Nico Hulkenberg finished eighth despite a trip across the high kerbs at the final chicane. He had been going wheel-to-wheel with Vettel and ended up spinning, but there was no contact between the pair. Daniil Kvyat finished ninth for Red Bull with Grosjean holding on to tenth despite his penalty.