F1 2016: Brazilian GP Preview

The 2016 Formula One grid features five world champions – Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, and Sebastian Vettel. All five have won one or more of their championships at Brazil and this weekend could see a new champion crowned in the form of Nico Rosberg.

Rosberg currently has a 19 point lead over team-mate and a victory in Sao Paulo will see him become World Champion, regardless of what Hamilton does. There are a number of other ways that Rosberg can become champion as well but he can’t win it if Hamilton wins the race.

Circuit: Autodromo José Carlos Pace
Number of Laps: 71
Circuit Length: 4.309km
Number of Corners: 15
Lap Record: 1:11.473 Juan Pablo Montoya 2004
Previous Brazil winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: McLaren (12 victories)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Hard, Medium and Soft

The Autodromo José Carlos Pace features a number of elevation changes and a number of bumps making it a unique challenge for teams and drivers alike. Throw in often mixed weather conditions and some areas with little run off area and it normally throws up an exciting race. The race no longer hosts the final race of the season – that will be held in Abu Dhabi – but this year’s championship can still be won there as it has so many times before.

It is quite a flowing track meaning that brake wear is low while there is a high demand on ERS deployment. Drivers will change gear approximately 42 times per lap and will sit at full throttle for 60%. It is quite a short circuit meaning drivers will circulate 71 times during the race. There is also a high possibility of safety cars.

In the run up to this year’s race a number of pieces of the 2017 jigsaw have fallen into place. Renault have confirmed that Jolyon Palmer will remain next season to partner Nico Hulkenberg. Kevin Magnussen is expected to sign for Haas – with Esteban Gutierrez recently confirming his departure from the team. Esteban Ocon will move from Manor to Force India to partner Sergio Perez. This leaves just Sauber and Manor to confirm their driver line-ups for next year.

In qualifying, a few teams still have finely poised head-to-head battles between their drivers. In the qualifying head-to-heads Hamilton, Vettel, and Hulkenberg all lead their mates 10-9 so with two races remaining can still be beaten.

This weekend will also be special for Felipe Massa as he prepares to retire from Formula One at the end of the year. He has won his home race once before – a bittersweet victory in 2008. He crossed the line in first and for a few seconds he had done enough to win the world championship, until Lewis Hamilton did enough to become champion by finishing fifth. It was a highly emotional podium for Massa in front of his home crowd which he handled with dignity. It would be a fitting end to his career to have one last podium at home.

 

Lewis Hamilton takes 50th career victory with win in Austin

With Nico Rosberg firmly in control of the drivers championship, Lewis Hamilton really needed a win to reignite his fight.

He took a controlled victory at the Circuit of the Americas, beating Rosberg by four seconds and taking seven points out of his lead. It was Hamilton’s 50th career victory in F1 and at a circuit where he has won three times previously.

Hamilton took pole position on Saturday and was never really challenged for the lead of the race. Daniel Ricciardo got the jump on Rosberg at the start but the championship leader was able to come back at the Red Bull driver to finish second. Ricciardo had to settle for a distant third when his strategy was compromised by his team-mate’s retirement.

Sebastian Vettel finished in fourth for Ferrari ahead of a spirited Fernando Alonso in fifth. The Spaniard had qualified outside the top ten but drove a superb race to finish in the points. He went wheel to wheel with Felipe Massa which eventually led to a stewards investigation due to contact but ultimately no action was taken. In the closing laps of the race he also fought hard with fellow countryman Carlos Sainz who lost out to his childhood hero in the end. Sainz finished in sixth place ahead of Massa, Sergio Perez, Jenson Button and Romain Grosjean. Button and Grosjean had both dropped out of qualifying in Q1 but enjoyed good races to pick up some points.

Daniil Kvyat was 11th, ahead of Kevin Magnussen, Jolyon Palmer, Marcus Ericsson, and Felipe Nasr. Valtteri Bottas didn’t recover from an early puncture, eventually finishing 16th, ahead of the Manor duo of Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon.

Kimi Raikkonen was forced to retire when he left the pits with a tyre not secured properly. Max Verstappen was also a retirement when he suffered transmission issues having already had a pit stop blunder during the race. He pitted when his crew were not ready for him – claiming to have thought that the team had called him in. While that cost him a lot of time, it was ultimately a car failure which led to his retirement. He pulled off at an awkward part of the track which led to the deployment of the Virtual Safety Car which in turn hampered Ricciardo’s strategy. Esteban Gutierrez and Nico Hulkenberg were the other retirements.

Daniel Ricciardo leads home Red Bull 1-2 in Malaysia

This year’s Malaysia Grand Prix saw Daniel Ricciardo score his first F1 victory since the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix.

The Australian driver led home a Red Bull 1-2 with Nico Rosberg rounding out the podium finishers. It was an eventful race which saw Rosberg extend his championship lead to 23 points. Championship contender Lewis Hamilton dominated qualifying and started the race from pole but his Mercedes engine gave up on lap 40, leading to his second retirement of the year.

At the start of the race it was Hamilton who made the best start, maintaining his lead. Rosberg was sent into a spin following contact with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and dropped right down the order. Vettel pulled off at the side of the track with broken suspension and was subsequently handed a three place grid drop for Japan.

Rosberg faced a fight back through the field and eventually finished in third behind the hard – but fair – fighting Red Bull duo. Rosberg picked up a ten second penalty for making contact with Kimi Raikkonen as he passed but was able to finish more than ten seconds clear of the Finn. The Ferrari suffered floor damage and lost what it reported to be about three tenths per lap.

Valtteri Bottas was fifth for Williams just ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez. Fernando Alonso drove a fine race to finish seventh having started last and he finished ahead of Nico Hulkenberg. Jenson Button celebrated his 300th Grand Prix with a ninth place finish and points while Jolyon Palmer picked up his first ever F1 point.

The Toro Rosso duo struggled with brake issues with Carlos Sainz 11th and Daniil Kvyat 14th. Marcus Ericsson was 12th with Felipe Massa recovering to 13th having started from the pit-lane when he failed to get away on the warm-up lap.  Pascal Wehrlein was 15th ahead of Esteban Ocon – who picked up two separate 5 second penalties for speeding in the pit-lane.

Felipe Nasr joined Vettel and Hamilton on the sidelines along with Kevin Magnussen. Esteban Gutierrez’s Haas lost a wheel on one of the straights causing his retirement while Romain Grosjean suffered brake failure and spun into the gravel, bringing his race to an end.

Ricciardo dedicated his win to Jules Bianchi following the race, after making Max Verstappen and Rosberg take part in celebratory ‘shoeys’ on the podium.

The next race is this weekend at the Suzuka circuit in Japan.

F1 2016: Malaysia Grand Prix Preview

Despite having been on the Formula One calendar since 1999, teams and drivers are heading into the unknown this weekend. The entire circuit has been resurfaced and a number of modifications have been made to corners including banking and elevation changes.

ircuit: Sepang International Circuit
Number of Laps: 56
Circuit Length: 5.543km
Number of Corners: 15
Lap Record: 1:34.223 Juan Pablo Montoya 2004
Previous Malaysia winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (6 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Hard, Medium and Soft

The Malaysia Grand Prix has traditionally held an early spot in the calendar – usually after the Australian Grand Prix – but this year will host round 16 of the championship. Ferrari are the most successful team at the circuit and it was here last year that Sebastian Vettel took his maiden win for the Scuderia.

Lewis Hamilton won the race for Mercedes in 2014 and will be needing a win this weekend after seeing his team-mate win three in a row and take back his championship lead. Vettel has won the race on four occasions, Fernando Alonso three times, Kimi Raikkonen twice, Jenson Button & Hamilton once.

The Malaysia Grand Prix has a significant history for Alonso, Raikkonen and Button. In 2003 Alonso scored his first ever F1 podium at the track, Raikkonen took his first ever race win and Button joined them both on the podium for his first in F1. This weekend will also see Button’s 300th Grand Prix celebrated.

Drivers will be at full throttle for about 65% of the lap with about 57 gear changes per lap. There is a mix of medium and high speed corners and about 15% of the lap is spent braking. Pirelli have brought the hard, medium and soft compound tyres for the weekend and high tyre degradation is always a factor . Humid conditions can play a big part in the weekend with warmer conditions causing cooling problems.

Stoffel Vandoorne to partner Fernando Alonso at McLaren in 2017

After months of increased speculation, McLaren have confirmed their driver line-up for 2017.

The Woking team has announced an “innovative three-driver strategy for the 2017 and 2018 Formula 1 seasons” which will see current reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne promoted to a race seat alongside Fernando Alonso.

While Jenson Button – who has raced with McLaren since 2010 – has signed a new two year deal with the team, he will take a backseat in 2017.

“As a race driver for our team these past seven seasons, he’s been superb, both on and off the track,” Ron Dennis said of Button. “And, as we’re seeing this season, he remains superb – not only fast and fit but also experienced and expert. He’ll start his 298th Grand Prix tomorrow; as such, he’s the most experienced driver on the grid. Having extended his contract to include 2017 and 2018, he’ll continue to be a senior, influential and committed member of the team, and will remain centrally involved in the development of our cars. He’ll also be available to race for us if circumstances require it.”

As expected, Alonso will continue as a race driver into 2017 and will be partnered by Vandoorne. Vandoorne deputised for the Spaniard at this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix and scored McLaren’s first point of the season with an impressive drive to tenth. He has been waiting in the wings for a couple of years and won the GP2 championship in 2015. This year has seen him race in Super Formula.

For Button, he does not view the news as a retirement. “I’m delighted that I’ll be staying on as a key member of the McLaren-Honda team,” he revealed. “I’m massively excited about my new role [and] specifically I’m looking forward to becoming even more deeply involved in the team’s efforts to bring about the success we’ve all been striving to deliver.”

“I love McLaren-Honda – I firmly believe it’s made up of the best bunch of people I’ve ever worked with and I have no intention of ever driving for another Formula 1 team,” he continued. It had been suggested that he might be on his way to Williams – with whom he made his Formula One debut back in 2000 – to replace the retiring Felipe Massa. “To be clear, I’m very definitely not retiring. I’m contracted for both 2017 and 2018, I intend to work hard on car-development, and I’m sure I’ll get behind the wheel of the new car at some point.”

 

Button has enjoyed eight victories with McLaren to date along with 18 further podiums. His best finish in the championship with the team was 2nd in 2011. 201

 

 

Nico Rosberg avoids chaos to win Belgian Grand Prix

Nico Rosberg saw Lewis Hamilton’s championship lead cut to just nine points by winning the Belgian Grand Prix.

Hamilton started from the back of the grid after a number of engine penalties but was able to take advantage of a safety car and red flag period to secure a podium finish. He finished behind Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

The start of the race was chaotic with a number of drivers getting themselves into difficulty. Max Verstappen – who started alongside Rosberg on the front row of the grid- bogged down at the start and as a result lost out to Kimi Raikkonen. Verstappen tried a move up the inside at the first corner but Sebastian Vettel squeezed the pair resulting in contact. Both Ferraris dropped to the back of the pack while Vetstappen picked up damage which Christian Horner suggested cost him 1.5 seconds a lap.

Elsewhere Carlos Sainz picked up an early puncture and as the tyre delaminated it got caught in his rear wing, causing damage and the car to spin. Pascal Wehrlein and Jenson Button were also casualties of the first lap as the Manor driver drove into the back of the McLaren. Marcus Ericsson started from the pit-lane but was forced to retire after just three laps following a gearbox failure.

The safety car was brought out following a huge shunt for Kevin Magnussen on the fifth lap. He lost control of his car at the top of Eau Rouge and the impact was such that his headrest came free from the car. Thankfully Magnussen was able to get out of the car unaided, however with a limp. After a trip to the medical centre and a local hospital Magnussen tweeted that he had a cut on his ankle but expected to be able to race in Monza.

A red flag was eventually brought out after about ten laps behind the safety car to allow marshals to properly fix the damaged barrier. The red flag stoppage benefited Fernando Alonso and Hamilton as they stayed out while most ahead of them pitted. This left Alonso fourth and Hamilton fifth, due to the McLaren driver having got ahead of the Mercedes at the start and leading him for the duration of the race so far.

When the race was restarted Rosberg was once again unchallenged at the front and he was able to drive his own race and win by 14 seconds. Ricciardo was second with Hamilton 27 seconds off his team-mate in third. Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez were fourth and fifth for Force India meaning that they have now moved into fourth in the championship ahead of Williams. Vettel fought back to sixth and finished ahead of Alonso, who showed some good pace to stay ahead of the Williams duo. Raikkonen split the Williams after passing Felipe Massa, having had spirited battles with Verstappen throughout the race.

Verstappen missed out on a points finish after finishing 11th. He was visibly aggrieved by the incident, driving aggressively against Raikkonen. The Finn at one stage came onto team radio to suggest that Verstappen’s “only interest” was running him off the track. One incident saw Raikkonen having to back right off on the Kemmel straight after a last minute change of position for Verstappen. Esteban Gutierrez finished 12th ahead of Romain Grosjean, Daniil Kvyat and Jolyon Palmer. Rookie Esteban Ocon finished 16th on his debut ahead of Felipe Nasr.

There is a quick turnaround with the Italian Grand Prix taking place this weekend.

McLaren announce new partnership with Michael Kors

 

McLaren-Honda and Michael Kors have announced a new partnership.

Michael Kors will become the official lifestyle partner of the team and will feature on the team’s cars and the drivers’ overalls.

“Michael Kors and McLaren-Honda are pioneers in their respective spaces,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Michael Kors, John D. Idol said. “We firmly believe that McLaren-Honda is the right partner for our entry into the Formula 1 racing world. This is an exciting moment for us, especially as we continue to grow as a men’s lifestyle brand.”

 

McLaren’s Executive Chairman and CEO of McLaren Group Ron Dennis explained the reasoning behind signing the new deal. “Like McLaren, which has raced in Formula 1 all over the world for the past 50 years, Michael Kors is a truly international company, operating stylish and successful stores in some of the most prestigious cities in the world,” he said. “[These include] New York, Beverley Hills, Chicago, London, Milan, Paris, Munich, Istanbul, Dubai, Seoul, Tokoyo and Hong Kong.”

“Moreover, I firmly believe that the corporate cultures of both McLaren and Michael Kors encompass a common dynamism and adventurism , as well as a shared commitment to a similarly relentless pursuit of perfection,” he continued. “As such the two brands are extremely well suited to a long-term partnership. That brand fit is very important to both of us: both companies have built their reputations on being the very best at what they do, and, as we now march forward together, we’ll both become stronger still.”

In celebration of the launch of the partnership, Michael Kors has created a limited edition men’s leather jacket. The 50 specially produced black leather jackets will be sold exclusively on the men’s floor of the new Michael Kors London flagship store, while supplies last. The jackets will feature both the Michael Kors and McLaren logos, as well as a limited edition plaque with each piece’s unique production number.

 

“This partnership is about the convergence of style and speed which is inherent to both the Michael Kors and McLaren-Honda DNA,” Michael Kors explained. “There is an energy, sophistication and confidence to both of our brands, and we wanted to create a limited edition piece that spoke to that.”