Strategy blunder costs Hamilton victory as Rosberg notches up third Monaco win

Nico Rosberg won the Monaco Grand Prix for the third year in a row following a costly mistake from his Mercedes team.

Lewis Hamilton secured pole position on Saturday and looked set for a lights to flag victory around the streets of Monte Carlo before a pit-stop error put paid to that. He ended up in third place behind Rosberg and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

When the lights went out signalling the start of the race, Hamilton and Rosberg maintained their positions of first and second, while Vettel remained third. Daniil Kvyat locked up as he moved ahead of his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and came close to making contact with Vettel, but all emerged out of the first corner unscathed. There was contact further down the field between Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg at Mirabeau, the former of which picked up a five second stop/go penalty as the Force India ended up in the barrier. Hulkenberg was able to pit for a new nose and continued in the race but ultimately was on the back-foot and finished outside the points. Felipe Massa was another driver needing to pit after the first lap and he sounded desolate as he came over the team radio and said “it’s over”. He – as was the case with Hulkenberg – continued after his pit-stop but failed to score any points.

Pastor Maldonado may be ruing the day he selected ’13’ as his permanent driver number after the Lotus driver suffered more bad luck. He retired from the race after just six laps due to a brake-by-wire issue, which the team had initially tried to manage by asking him to lift and coast. He was joined on the sidelines by Alonso, who had already endured a difficult weekend when his car suffered electrical issues during qualifying. His issues on Sunday appeared to be gearbox related as his car overheated.

Following 64 laps of what was very much a procession there was drama after a close battle between Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean. Grosjean led the pair and Verstappen closed the gap to him, trying to find a way to overtake. The Toro Rosso driver had already encountered a long pit-stop earlier in the race and it looked like he may be able to salvage a point. As the pair approached Ste Devote Verstappen made heavy contact with the rear of the Lotus and was sent as a passenger into the barriers. It was a big impact but thankfully Verstappen was OK, reporting he was “a bit stiff” as he completed his post-race media interviews. He suggested that Grosjean had braked early, causing him to make the mistake, but the stewards ruled that Verstappen was at fault and he carries a five place grid drop to Canada as well as two penalty points on his licence.

The Virtual Safety Car was initially used to cover the incident however the real safety car was soon deployed and Hamilton’s race started to unravel. He had built up a lead of nearly 20 seconds to his team-mate, but a miscalculation from the team saw him brought into the pits for a new set of tyres. They didn’t have quite as much time in hand as they imagined and Rosberg and Vettel continued on past the pits. Vettel was ahead as they crossed the safety car line meaning Hamilton had to settle for third, primed for an overtake once racing was resumed. Vettel suggested to his team it was like “swimming with weights on my feet” in relation to his soft compound tyres – while Hamilton had taken on fresh super-softs – as they would struggle to get heat back into them after the safety car period.

When racing was resumed, Hamilton failed to find a way past Vettel, allowing Rosberg to build up a gap and cross the line to take his third Monaco victory in a row. In the championship, he now lies just ten points behind his team-mate. Behind the top three, Kvyat finished a career best fourth after Red Bull employed team orders to try and get on the podium. Ricciardo had been released to try and get amongst the top three, and he got close to Hamilton in third but was unable to pass. As had been agreed, he allowed Kvyat back past him at the final corner. Kimi Raikkonen finished in sixth, not happy with a move he described as being “not very nice” from Ricciardo who pushed him wide. The move was investigated but no further action was warranted. Sergio Perez finished an impressive seventh for Force India while Jenson Button finally secured McLaren’s first points of the season – four for finishing eighth. Rounding out the top ten were Felipe Nasr for Sauber and Carlos Sainz, who started from the pit-lane having been disqualified from qualifying for missing the weighbridge.

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

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

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

Spanish Grand Prix victory for Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg has won the Spanish Grand Prix, beating team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

The Mercedes duo joined by a Ferrari driver image is fast becoming very familiar as it has been the result at all five races so far. It was Rosberg’s first visit to the top step of the podium in 2015 as he convincingly beat Hamilton by 17.5 seconds. Vettel was a distant third for Ferrari.

The Circuit de Catalunya is notoriously difficult for overtaking so it was not much of a surprise that the top four on the grid were in the same order come the chequered flag. A slightly longer than usual pit-stop for Hamilton cost him some time and he also lost out at the start when he was passed by Vettel. He nearly lost out to Valtteri Bottas as well but he was eventually able to keep the Williams driver at bay. Hamilton used a three stop strategy while Rosberg and Vettel went for two stops. Bottas finished fourth also on a two stop, keeping Kimi Raikkonen at bay in the closing laps of the race. Felipe Massa ended up the last unlapped driver in seventh, with the rest of the top ten being passed by the leaders.

Pastor Maldonado enjoyed a feisty start to his race, passing a number of cars. He made early contact with his team-mate Romain Grosjean and after running wide across bollard, one of his rear wing endplates became dislodged. At one of his pit-stops the team removed the broken part, leaving him circulating with his rear wing attached by just one mount. He managed to run faster than the cars around him but the team eventually retired his car. There was some drama in the pit-lane when Grosjean missed his marks in the pit-lane and caused the front jackman who be lifted airborne on the jack. He was later spotted being wheeled through the paddock on a trolley with his foot in a bandage. That wasn’t the only pit-lane drama as Fernando Alonso dramatically had rear brake failure and was not able to stop in his pit-box. The front jackman had time to react and moved out of the way as Alonso came to an eventual smoking stop. He had already encountered brake issues on the previous lap, struggling to stop for the first corner and it was the brake issues which ended his race.

Daniel Ricciardo picked up his fifth points finish of the year in seventh place ahead of Grosjean, Carlos Sainz, and Daniil Kvyat. The latter two made contact on the last lap and Sainz used the run off area to get ahead. Max Verstappen missed out on points by just a second. Felipe Nasr, Sergio Perez, Marcus Ericsson, Nico Hulkenberg, Jenson Button, Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi were the rest of the finishers. Button endured a difficult race from start to finish as he struggled with throttle issues and wheelspin.

It was Mercedes’ fourth 1-2 finish of the season. The next race of the season is the Monaco Grand Prix, where generally anything can happen. Can Ferrari or someone else halt the Mercedes duo once again?

It’s coming home – Spanish Grand Prix quali

There’s a persistent feeling in F1 that glamorous as the flyaway races are, the real business is done on the European circuits. As the circus rolled into Barcelona, a number of questions persist: has Alonso’s move to a floundering McLaren Honda lost him support in his home country; will Ferrari have brought the fight any closer to a dominant Mercedes; will Hamilton continue to subjugate his team mate in the season’s most high profile intra-team rivalry?

Free practice hadn’t hinted that there was to be any change to the existing order, despite a scrappy final session from the current leader of the Drivers’ Championship. Eyes were also on McLaren, still struggling to benefit from the incremental developments to their all-new chassis/motor package. Would they be able to convert a seemingly improved practice performance into qualifying success?

Local favourite Mehri was first out for Q1 onto a track registering at the upper end of the expected temperature range. As is becoming customary, it was the Mercedes pair trading fastest times through the session, with Vettel’s Ferrari duelling with the Williams pair to be ‘best of the rest’. Raikkonen, who had opted not to run the aero developments brought for this race, was complaining about a lack of rear grip. The McLaren pair quickly posted top ten times, boding well for their progress to Q2. Biggest casualties of Q1? Force India, with both drivers failing to progress.

It was ‘Fred’ Nasr first away in the remaining Sauber for Q2 but as expected, it was the Mercedes pair setting the pace despite Hamilton being released into traffic for his first run. McLaren’s improvement faltered  as they failed to beat the Lotus pair and progress to Q3. Lotus remained upbeat about their prospects for Sunday, citing their race pace.

With history illustrating the importance of a front row start, there was extra pressure on the frontrunners for the final session, particularly Raikkonen who outpaced his illustrious team mate in the preceding runs. Perhaps underlining the twitchiness of the cars on this circuit, Bottas put his Williams well outside the track limits as struggled to hold it on his first timed lap. It was again Rosberg, seemingly more comfortable in the car, who set the target time for pole. As all ten remaining qualifiers raced to the flag, it was indeed Rosberg who held his nerve to take pole from is teammate, with Vettel’s Ferrari and Bottas’ Williams lining up on row 2 behind them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First blood to Nico Rosberg in Barcelona

Nico Rosberg was the fastest driver in the opening session of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend but was just seven hundredths clear of team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

While the two Mercedes were very close in terms of pace they were nine tenths faster than their nearest rival – the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. He in turn was just hundredths faster than his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. Ferrari have come to the start of the European season with clear intentions, running with 16 updates to the car including smaller sidepods, a revised cooling system, rear wing tweaks, and new floor.

Behind the Ferrari duo Carlos Sainz was four tenths faster than team-mate Max Verstappen with Daniil Kvyat sixth for Red Bull. Both Red Bull drivers are going into the weekend on their fourth – and final – free engine change at just the fifth race of the season. They have also come to the race with a shorter nose. Rounding out the top ten were Felipe Massa, Daniel Ricciardo and Felipe Nasr. Rosberg set the first flying lap of the session with a 1:31.039. Hamilton was next up to set a lap-time followed by the Manor duo of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi. After the first 30 minutes of running in which drivers have an additional set of tyres to use, Rosberg led Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, and Sainz.

McLaren are another team who have arrived with upgrades and theirs include rear suspension updates and subtle aero tweaks. The team have also revealed a revised livery. Fernando Alonso ended up fifteenth while team-mate Jenson Button was sixteenth, after complaining of oversteer throughout the session and the balance being wrong with the front wing.

There were three third drivers getting outings for their respective teams – Jolyon Palmer for Lotus, Raffaele Marciello for Sauber and Susie Wolff for Williams. That meant Romain Grosjean, Marcus Ericsson and Valtteri Bottas spent the session on the sidelines. Marciello was the best placed of the trio, ending the session 12th fastest. Palmer ended up thirteenth while Wolff was fourteenth.

Times from FP1:

  1. Nico Rosberg – 1:26.828 – 28 laps
  2. Lewis Hamilton – 1:26.898 – 27 laps
  3. Sebastian Vettel – 1:27.806 – 21 laps
  4. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:27.832 – 16 laps
  5. Carlos Sainz – 1:28.132 – 27 laps
  6. Max Verstappen – 1:28.529 – 23 laps
  7. Daniil Kvyat – 1:28.785 – 7 laps
  8. Felipe Massa – 1:28.831 – 21 laps
  9. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:29.075 – 9 laps
  10. Felipe Nasr – 1:29.140 – 14 laps
  11. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:29.409 – 20 laps
  12. Raffaele Marciello – 1:29.630 – 15 laps
  13. Jolyon Palmer – 1:29.676 – 21 laps
  14. Susie Wolff – 1:29.708 – 22 laps
  15. Fernando Alonso – 1:29.813 – 22 laps
  16. Jenson Button – 1:29.817 – 22 laps
  17. Sergio Perez – 1:30.096 – 19 laps
  18. Pastor Maldonado – 1:30.110 – 7 laps
  19. Will Stevens – 1:32.471 – 22 laps
  20. Roberto Merhi – 1:32.647 – 20 laps