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.

Fernando Alonso provisionally cleared to race in China subject to conditions

Fernando Alonso has been given the go ahead by the FIA to participate in this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Question marks had been raised over whether or not the Spaniard would be allowed to race following being made to sit out the Bahrain Grand Prix. The FIA deemed he was not fit to race following the injuries he picked up in his heavy Austrailian Grand Prix crash.

A statement released by the FIA states that Alonso may participate in FP1 but must then undergo further examinations following that session. This will then determine whether or not he can continue with the remainder of the weekend.

 

F1 2016: Chinese Grand Prix Preview

Nico Rosberg is currently Formula One’s form man. On a five race winning streak, carrying over from the end of 2015, he will be looking to add another win to his tally at this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

The recurring theme at the first two races of the season has been Mercedes not getting away as well as their rivals when the lights go out. Both Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton lost out to the Ferrari duo in Australia while Hamilton picked up damage to his car after a poor start last time out.

Ferrari has demonstrated that it is a team with the capability of beating Mercedes this year, however reliability issues are hampering their chances. Kimi Raikkonen retired in Australia while Sebastian Vettel’s car expired on the warm up lap in Bahrain. There have been podiums for both drivers, however, in the opening two races – third for Vettel in Australia and second for Raikkonen last time out.

Now all eyes turn to China for the third race of the year. Big news ahead of the weekend is the fact that qualifying will return to the 2015 format.

Circuit: Shanghai International Circuit
Number of Laps: 56
Circuit Length: 5.451km
Number of Corners: 16
Lap Record: 1:32.239 Michael Schumacher (2004)
Previous China winners still on the grid: 6
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (4 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Medium, Soft and Supersoft

A feature on the Formula One calendar since 2004, the Shanghai International Circuit features a mix of two long straights punctuated by a mixture of slow, medium and high speed corners.

Tyres can play a big issue in the races with wear particularly high. With Pirelli’s new rule of bringing three compounds to each race it is inevitable that there will be a range of strategies throughout the race. This has already been showcased in the first two races and it is a rule praised by many.

The most successful driver at the circuit is Lewis Hamilton who has won the race four time, including in 2014 and 2015. The reigning world champion has been overshadowed by his team-mate in the races so far but has dominated in the qualifying. He will be looking for his first victory of the year and at a circuit he has obviously enjoyed considerable success but also disappointment.

Ferrari have also won the race four times including in 2007 when Kimi Raikkonen won the race in his championship year. They will be hoping to get both cars across the line this year after disappointment in the first two races of the season. Red Bull currently lie third in the championship and they enjoyed a solid finish in Bahrain, led by Daniel Ricciardo in fourth.

Another talking point of the first two races has been the success of Haas. Romain Grosjean has finished in sixth and fifth so far and his consistency so far sees the new team lie fifth in the championship.

Fernando Alonso is still a question mark for the race after being forced to sit out Bahrain. Stoffel Vandoorne picked up points on his debut and Jenson Button felt he was on for solid points before retiring early in the race. Renault, Sauber and Manor are looking for their first points of the year while Williams will be hoping to stay out of trouble. Valtteri Bottas picked up a penalty in Bahrain for his role in Hamilton’s turn one contact. Force India have had a quiet start to the year while Toro Rosso have seen mixed fortunes.

F1 2016: Bahrain Grand Prix Preview

 

Following business as usual for Mercedes with a 1-2 finish in Australia, it’s time for the second race of the season – the Bahrain Grand Prix.

While the results for Australia may look very similar – two Mercedes and a Ferrari driver on the podium – the story behind it is very different. Ferrari got the jump on Mercedes after an aborted start and Sebastian Vettel looked strong for the win before a red flag and a wrong strategy call put paid to that. Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari suffered an airbox fire, leading to his retirement from the race.

Circuit: Bahrain International Circuit
Number of Laps: 57
Circuit Length: 5.412km
Number of Corners: 15
Lap Record: 1:31.447 Pedro de la Rosa (2005)
Previous Bahrain winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (4 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Medium, Soft and Supersoft

The big news going into the weekend is that the most successful driver at the Bahrain Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso, will not be on the grid. The McLaren driver suffered a heavy crash at the Australian Grand Prix and is still feeling the effects. After an FIA medical check-up he has been forced to sit out the weekend due to broken ribs. This means that GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne will get his Formula One debut earlier than expected, fulfilling his reserve driver role with McLaren.

While the Australian Grand Prix takes place on a street circuit, the Sakhir circuit is purpose built and in the middle of a desert. Due to the start/stop nature of the track, there is a heavy impact on the brakes. The Power Units will also face higher stress than they experienced at the previous race.

Nico Rosberg comes into the event off the back of another victory and will be going for his eighth in a row. Ferrari are the most successful constructor at the race and will no doubt be hoping to repeat their success of the last race, before the red flag came out. Daniel Ricciardo came home fourth behind the leading trio, ahead of Felipe Massa and points for Haas on their debut. While Romain Grosjean was overjoyed, his team-mate didn’t enjoy such success. Esteban Gutierrez was involved in the racing incident which saw Alonso retire in spectacular fashion.

Rounding out the top ten in Australia were Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen. Verstappen showed his frustration at getting caught up behind his team-mate so Toro Rosso could have an interesting weekend ahead in terms of driver management. Outside the top ten were the Renault duo with Jolyon Palmer ahead of Kevin Magnussen, although the latter did have to recover from a first lap puncture. McLaren duo Jenson Button and Alonso did feel positive about their pace following practice and qualifying, but strategy left Button down in 14th.

 

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.

 

2016: A Beginner’s Guide to Formula One

Have you ever wondered what Formula One is all about? There’s no better time to start watching the sport than at the start of a new season. The sport is about to embark on a record breaking 21 race season and if you’re wanting to watch, but you’re not sure what’s going on, here’s a brief guide.

The Basics

From reigning world champions Mercedes to new team Haas, eleven teams make up the current Formula One grid with each team fielding two race drivers. Driver experience levels range from complete rookie to veteran of 250+ Grand Prix.

Jenson Button is the most experienced current Formula One driver. He has started 284 Grand Prix and has won one world championship. The reigning world champion is Lewis Hamilton, fresh off the back of his third world title in 2015. The driver with the most world championships on the current grid is Sebastian Vettel (four). Other world champions on the grid are Fernando Alonso (two) and Kimi Raikkonen (one).

For the first time ever, 2016 will see the calendar feature 21 races. The season starts in Australia and ends in Abu Dhabi.

Points are awarded per race for the top ten positions as follows:

  • First – 25
  • Second – 18
  • Third – 15
  • Fourth – 12
  • Fifth – 10
  • Sixth – 8
  • Seventh – 6
  • Eighth – 4
  • Ninth – 2
  • Tenth – 1

The drivers champion is the driver with the most points at the end of the season. The constructors champion is the team with the most points at the end of the season. The team points are made up of both their drivers’ points.

The Drivers

As previously mentioned, there are five world champions currently on the Formula One grid. Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen both drive for Ferrari, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso both drive for McLaren and Lewis Hamilton drives for Mercedes – the reigning champions.

Drivers race with permanent numbers – a rule brought into the sport in 2014. Previously the world champion had driven with number one on his car with his team-mate racing with number two. Number three was on the car of the team who finished second in the championship and worked out so on and so forth. These permanent numbers were picked by drivers for a variety of reasons, whether it was a special number to them or a random choice.

There are three rookies on this year’s grid – Jolyon Palmer at Renault, Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto at Manor.

The Race Weekend

The race weekend is split into three main sections – practice, qualifying and the race.

Free Practice sessions take place on Friday and Saturday. On Friday there are two hour and a half long practice sessions, with the exception being the Monaco Grand Prix where they take place on Thursday. Unlike in the past, race drivers generally take part in the Friday practice sessions although occasionally teams may choose to run their test drivers.

The third and final practice session is an hour long and takes place on the Saturday morning prior to qualifying.

Qualifying has had a shake up ahead of the 2016 season but will still be made up of three sessions – Q1, Q2, and Q3. This decides the grid order for Sunday’s race but could be shaken up by grid penalties. Penalties can be received for a number of reasons including impeding another driver during qualifying, causing an incident at a previous race, or changing a component of the car when you’re not supposed to.

The race is then held on a Sunday with the number of laps depending on the length of the circuit or the amount of time a lap takes. Races can not exceed two hours in length and if a situation arises where the two hour limit is reached before the planned end of the race, the race is stopped at the end of the lap the lead driver is on when they hit two hours.

The Nitty Gritty

Tyres

Pirelli are the sole tyre supplier in Formula One and, like qualifying, there has been some adjustments made to the tyre rules ahead of the 2016 season.

There are five dry tyre (‘slick’) compounds – Ultrasoft, Supersoft, Soft, Medium and Hard – and two for wet weather – Intermediate and Full Wet. Each driver gets an allocation of three sets of Full Wet, four sets of Intermediate, and 13 slick tyres per weekend. In a difference to previous years Pirelli will nominate three tyre compounds per race. For Australia, for example, these three compounds are Supersoft, Soft and Medium.

From these three compounds Pirelli will give each driver two sets that must be used during the race. Drivers will also receive a set of the softest compound to use in Q3. Should a driver not make Q3, they can carry these tyres through to the race.

This leaves drivers to select how they will split the remaining ten tyres of their allocation. Team-mates do not have to make the same selections. They can choose from any of the three compounds nominated for that race weekend. Rules stipulate that a driver must make use of at least two slick compounds during a race however there is an exception to that rule. If it becomes a wet race and they have to use the Intermediate or Full Wet compound then they do not have to use two dry compounds.

Power Units

Without getting too in depth about the Power Units, essentially drivers are allowed five unpenalised Power Unit changes throughout the season. The Power Unit comprises different components. A full explanation of these can be found on the Formula One website.

Safety Car and Virtual Safety Car

If there is an incident on track the Safety Car may be deployed. Drivers must line-up behind the Safety Car – which becomes the pace setter – in the order they were in when it came out. You cannot overtake under the safety car. The Virtual Safety Car is when there is no need for the physical safety car to come out but drivers must drive to a certain lap-time if there is an incident on track.

The Viewing

Formula One can be viewed two ways in the UK – on Channel 4 and on Sky Sports. Sky Sports F1 broadcast all races completely live, while Channel 4 will broadcast ten races live with the remainder as extended highlights packages.

The sport is a new acquisition by Channel 4 following the decision of the BBC to pull the plug early in their contract due to budget cuts.

Want to go further?

The official Formula One website has a comprehensive Inside F1 section which explains in further detail the ins and outs of the sport, including the regulations.

Previous Beginners Guides on The H Duct were published in 2011 and 2012.

Pirelli confirm driver tyre choices for Australian Grand Prix

Pirelli has confirmed the tyre choices the drivers have made for the season opening Australian Grand Prix.

A new rule brought in for 2016 will see drivers make their tyre selections from three compounds nominated by the tyre supplier. Pirelli has opted to bring the Medium, Soft and Supersoft compounds to Australia. The rule allows scope for a bigger variation of strategies not only between teams but also team-mates.

Over the course of the weekend drivers will have 13 sets of tyres available to them and here is how they have split their selections:

DRIVER Medium Soft Supersoft
Lewis Hamilton 1 6 6
Nico Rosberg 2 5 6
Sebastian Vettel 2 5 6
Kimi Raikkonen 2 5 6
Valtteri Bottas 1 5 7
Felipe Massa 1 5 7
Daniel Ricciardo 2 4 7
Daniil Kvyat 2 4 7
Kevin Magnussen 1 5 7
Jolyon Palmer 1 5 7
Nico Hulkenberg 2 5 6
Sergio Perez 2 5 6
Max Verstappen 2 4 7
Carlos Sainz 2 4 7
Fernando Alonso 1 5 7
Jenson Button 1 5 7
Marcus Ericsson 1 6 6
Felipe Nasr 2 5 6
Pascal Wehrlein 4 4 5
Rio Haryanto 4 4 5
Romain Grosjean 1 5 7
Esteban Gutierrez 2 4 7

In terms of differing strategies, only Mercedes, Sauber and Haas have team-mates differing from each other. Lewis Hamilton has opted for one set of medium compound tyres while Nico Rosberg has gone for two with one less set of the softs. The same has happened sat Sauber and at Haas. Only the Manor duo of Rio Haryanto and Pascal Wehrlein have taken more than two sets of the medium compound tyre, instead going for four.