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 on pole for Belgian Grand Prix

Mercedes led the way in the first three practice sessions ahead of qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix. Drivers going into the session with grid penalties were Max Verstappen, Romain Grosjean, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Verstappen got a ten place grid penalty for a component change while Grosjean got five places for a gearbox change.  The McLaren duo went into qualifying with combined grid penalties of 105, meaning they will start at the back of the grid regardless.

Q1

Most drivers went out on the medium compound tyre at the start of the session, with Roberto Merhi, Felipe Nasr, Carlos Sainz, Marcus Ericcson and Will Stevens opting to use the softs straight away. Nico Rosberg’s first flying lap put him ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton by just under a tenth of a second. Sebastian Vettel slotted into third albeit six tenths of a second off the leading pair. Both McLaren drivers went out to complete laps, despite knowing they would be right at the back due to their penalties. Times started to fall as drivers switched to the option tyre with Force India moving to the head of the times with Sergio Perez. Hamilton soon returned to the top of the times, just a hundredth clear of Rosberg with Perez still within a tenth of a second of the Mercedes duo.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:48.908
  2. Nico Rosberg 1:48.923
  3. Sergio Perez 1:49.006
  4. Vallteri Bottas 1:49.026
  5. Carlos Sainz 1:49.109
  6. Sebastian Vettel 1:49.264
  7. Kimi Raikkonen 1:49.288
  8. Romain Grosjean 1:49.353
  9. Daniil Kvyat 1:49.469
  10. Nico Hulkenberg 1:49.499
  11. Marcus Ericsson 1:49.523
  12. Pastor Maldonado 1:49.568
  13. Daniel Ricciardo 1:49.664
  14. Felipe Massa 1:49.688
  15. Max Verstappen 1:49.831
  16. Felipe Nasr 1:49.952
  17. Jenson Button 1:50.978
  18. Fernando Alonso 1:51.420
  19. Will Stevens 1:52.948
  20. Roberto Merhi 1:53.099

Q2

Valtteri Bottas set the first flying lap of the session – a 1:49.678 – before quickly being dislodged at the top of the times by Lewis Hamilton with a 1:48.024. Nico Rosberg went faster still – the Mercedes team-mates once again separated by under a tenth of a second. Kimi Raikkonen came to a halt on track bringing out the red flag with eight minutes of the session remaining. Max Verstappen complained of a loss of power and looked like he wouldn’t be taking any further part in qualifying. There were a flurry of times at the end of the session, with Nico Hulkenberg dropping out of the top ten while his team-mate went fourth. The top thirteen drivers who set a lap time were separated by just over a second and a half, with sixth to eleventh covered by a tenth of a second setting up a close fought pole position shoot out.

  1. Nico Rosberg 1:47.955
  2. Lewis Hamilton 1:48.024
  3. Sebastian Vettel 1:48.761
  4. Sergio Perez 1:48.792
  5. Felipe Massa 1:48.806
  6. Pastor Maldonado 1:48.956
  7. Romain Grosjean 1:48.981
  8. Daniel Ricciardo 1:49.042
  9. Valtteri Bottas 1:49.044
  10. Carlos Sainz 1:49.065
  11. Nico Hulkenberg 1:49.121
  12. Daniil Kvyat 1:49.228
  13. Marcus Ericsson 1:49.586
  14. Kimi Raikkonen No Time Set
  15. Max Verstappen No Time Set

Q3

Going through to the pole position shoot out were both Mercedes, Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez, both Williams, both Lotus, Daniel Ricciardo and the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz. The Williams driver of Valtteri Bottas was first out on track for Q3, soon joined by Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado and Felipe Massa. Bottas once again set the first flying lap of the session – 1:48.567 – which was promptly beaten by Lewis Hamilton by over a second. Nico Rosberg was four tenths off his team-mate. Hamilton improved his lap-time and maintained pole position. Bottas secured third with Grosjean fourth before his five place grid drop. Perez ended the session fifth, with Ricciardo sixth, Massa seventh, Maldonado eighth, Vettel ninth and Sainz in tenth.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:47.197
  2. Nico Rosberg 1:47.655
  3. Valtteri Bottas 1:48.537
  4. Romain Grosjean 1:48.561
  5. Sergio Perez 1:48.599
  6. Daniel Ricciardo 1:48.639
  7. Felipe Massa 1:48.685
  8. Pastor Maldonado 1:48.754
  9. Sebastian Vettel 1:48.825
  10. Carlos Sainz 1:49.771

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: British GP Preview

It’s the British Grand Prix this weekend and, with seven of the ten teams on the grid based in the UK, it is one of the biggest events on the Formula One calendar. The Force India team are based in Silverstone while it is also the home race for Jenson Button, Will Stevens and reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Last time out Nico Rosberg won, cutting the gap to Hamilton in the drivers championship to just 10 points. Felipe Massa finished in third for Williams in a repeat of their podium finish there last year in Austria.

The British Grand Prix held at Silverstone is full throttle for over 60% of the lap and it is one of the fastest circuits on the calendar. The track requires medium to high downforce and features a mixture of high and low speed corners. Pirelli are bringing the medium and hard tyres for the weekend.

Circuit: Silverstone
Number of Laps: 52
Circuit Length: 5.891km
Number of Corners: 18
Lap Record: 1:33.401 Mark Webber (2013)
Previous British Grand Prix winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (15 wins)
DRS Zones: 2    
Pirelli Tyres: Medium and Hard

Last year’s race was won by Hamilton with Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo also on the podium. There was a big accident on the first lap as Kimi Raikkonen spun across the track and collected Felipe Massa which resulted in a red flag as the barriers needed repairing. Raikkonen had a first lap accident in Austria, this time collecting Fernando Alonso, bringing an end to both of their races. At a time when his future in the sport is under intense scrutiny, Raikkonen will be hoping to have a better weekend this time out. Rosberg retired from last year’s race with a gearbox issue.

Button was another retirement from the Austrian Grand Prix, as McLaren brought his car in as a precaution. He will be hoping for a better showing for McLaren at his home race. Stevens will be making his first home appearance for Manor in an F1 race.

2015: Austrian Grand Prix Preview

Following a brief interlude in North America for the Canadian Grand Prix, Formula One returns to Europe for the Austrian Grand Prix. The race returned to the calendar in 2014 for the first time in 11 years and was won by Nico Rosberg. The event marked the first and only time in 2014 that someone from a team other than Mercedes secured pole position. Felipe Massa led an all Williams front row while it was team-mate Valtteri Bottas who finished on the podium behind Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

Mercedes once again come into the Austrian Grand Prix as the team to beat. Lewis Hamilton leads the drivers championship while Mercedes lead Ferrari in the constructors. Hamilton won last time out in Canada, leading yet another Mercedes 1-2, with Bottas in third.

Circuit: Red Bull Ring
Number of Laps: 71
Circuit Length: 4.326km
Number of Corners: 9
Lap Record: 1:08.337 Michael Schumacher (2003)
Previous Australian Grand Prix winners still on the grid: 1
Most Successful Team: McLaren (6 wins)
DRS Zones: 2    
Pirelli Tyres: Soft and Supersoft

The Red Bull Ring is made up of fast straights joined by a mix of slow and medium speed corners. Teams come into this weekend with data from last year, in contrast to last year’s race when they did not know what to expect. It is another power track, which requires good aerodynamics and traction. The track is considered medium-downforce due to the mix of corners, despite there being few of them. Last year drivers saw qualifying times deleted for exceeding track limits so they will have to be careful to keep all four wheels on the track.

Last year only one of the four Red Bull affiliated cars made the finish with Sebastian Vettel and the Toro Rosso duo of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat retiring. Only Daniel Ricciardo saw the chequered flag and he finished eighth. They will be hoping to have a better showing at their home track this year, despite the difficulties they have endured so far this season. Another team struggling are McLaren-Honda who, following the highs of their first points of the season in Monaco, suffered the disappointment of a double retirement in Canada. Kimi Raikkonen put in a strong showing in Canada to finish fourth while team-mate Vettel fought through from the back of the grid to finish in fifth. Massa was another driver who had to come from the back of the grid and he ended up in sixth. Williams are bringing a significant upgrade to their car this weekend which they hope will help them close the gap to Ferrari.

Sunny days – Canadian GP quali

With the Wall of Champions waiting patiently for the unwary, it was McLaren’s Fernando Alonso heading the pitlane queue out onto a dry track as the Q1 session light went green. All hopes for a decent qualifying for McLaren were riding on him, as team mate jenson Buton was forced to watch from the garage, his car withdrawn from qualifying due to an enforced engine change. It was an eventful first lap for Sebastian Vettel: with the Ferrari promising a performance step forward this weekend, Vettel found himself withdrawing from his first timed lap with turbo problem. With much of the pre-race discussion being on the state of Lewis Hamilton’s mindset after his Monaco strategy mishap, it was Merecedes team mate Rosberg setting the pace in the first session. Lotus’ improving form was compromised somewhat by Maldonado taking a spin on his flying lap. Nothing serious though. With just over two minutes left on the clock, Vettel rejoined the session after frantic work in the garage, taking to the track on the supersoft tyres to try to guarantee his progression to q2. Ultimetaely, he did not have the power and found himself eliminated in P16, along with a struggling Massa (Williams) and the two Manors of Merhi (P18) and Stevens (P19). To round off a topsy turvy session, it was Grosjean’s Lotus topping the timesheet.

Out from 20: Button (DNQ), Stevens (Manor), Merhi (Manor), Massa (Williams), Vettel (Ferrari).

Vettel’s early exit from qualifying seemed to be the spur that those chasing a second row spot needed. Raikkonen was the early pace-setter until, that is, the Mercedes duo set their first representative times. Bottas, carrying the Williams flag in the absence of his team mate, seemed to be running well, if still nearly a second off Hamilton’s mid-session time. There was half a second from Mercedes to the Ferrari/williams/Lotus scrap for those higher Q2 slots. Alonso’s day did not improve, finding himself qualifying in 14th. All eyes are on those second row slots. With McLaren showing a serious deficit in straight line speed, it was Grosjean topping that chart, being clocked at 212mph.

Out from 15: Nasr (Sauber), Alonso (McLaren), Ericsson (Sauber), Verstappen (Toro Rosso), Sainz (Toro Rosso).

Force India’s Hulkenberg was first out for Q3, with both cars in the final session for the first time this season. Rosberg, trailing Hamilton, was complaining of a lack of rear grip, leaving him vulnerable to a charge by any of the chasing pack. For the final scramble, both Lotuses exited their garage at the same time, almost colliding in the pitlane. As the session drew to a close, it was Raikkonen heading the chasing pack. So, Hamilton on pole (his 44th, fact fans), from Rosberg, prompting Rosberg to comment “what a rubbish end to qualifying”, with Raikkonen and Bottas sharing Row 2 in the absence of their team mates. A Lotus Row 3 and then Hulkenberg putting his Force India ahead of the Red Bulls and then his team mate Sergio Perez rounding out the top ten.

(grid positions provisional on pending penalties).

Hamilton fastest in Canada FP2 before ending session in barriers

Lewis Hamilton went fastest again in Canada, having already topped the times in the first free practice session.

This time he was ahead of the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. The session was curtailed, however, by the rain. With the threat of rain hanging over the session drivers wasted no time in getting out on track to complete laps on the super-soft tyres.

Vettel set the initial pace before eventually being knocked off the top spot by Hamilton, who struggled on his first super-soft tyre run. When it looked like he was on a fast lap – with two purple sectors – he got the final chicane all wrong and narrowly bounced over the kerbs. Elsewhere Nico Hulkenberg was forced to limp back to the pits with a puncture, reporting to his team that he had not hit anything on the track. Pirelli later reported it as a ‘rim problem’. After Daniil Kvyat struggled with the rear of the car in FP1, Daniel Ricciardo reported that his car was more responsive but a bit aggressive at the rear.

About half an hour into the session the rain started to fall and it turned out to be heavy. All drivers retreated to the pit-lane before the Mercedes duo lined up to go out again on intermediate tyres. That run did not last long as Hamilton aquaplaned at the hairpin and made contact with the tyre barriers, damaging his front wing. Nico Rosberg returned to the pit-lane and that proved to be the end of running for the afternoon. The forecasts for Saturday and Sunday look dry meaning there would be nothing to gain from going out in difficult conditions with the risk of damaging the car, as proven by Hamilton.

Free Practice 2 Results:

  1. Lewis Hamilton – 1:15.988 – 22 laps
  2. Sebastian Vettel – 1:16.304 – 19 laps
  3. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:16.310 – 20 laps
  4. Nico Rosberg – 1:16.440 – 22 laps
  5. Pastor Maldonado – 1:16.600 – 15 laps
  6. Valtteri Bottas – 1:16.849 – 18 laps
  7. Romain Grosjean – 1:16.864 – 15 laps
  8. Felipe Massa – 1:17.041 – 19 laps
  9. Daniil Kvyat – 1:17.092 – 10 laps
  10. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:17.111 – 16 laps
  11. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:17.120 – 15 laps
  12. Marcus Ericsson – 1:17.261 – 17 laps
  13. Carlos Sainz – 1:17.318 – 23 laps
  14. Sergio Perez – 1:17.367 – 20 laps
  15. Fernando Alonso – 1:17.627 – 21 laps
  16. Max Verstappen – 1:17.657 – 23 laps
  17. Felipe Nasr – 1:17.751 – 21 laps
  18. Jenson Button – 1:18.135 – 20 laps
  19. Roberto Merhi – 1:19.531 – 15 laps
  20. Will Stevens – 1:19.734 – 13 laps