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 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

First 2015 in-season test line-up confirmed

Nine of the ten Formula One teams will take part in the first in-season test on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In 2015 there will be two in-season tests – down from the four last season – and the first of these is due to take place in Spain following the Grand Prix at the weekend. Every team bar Manor will run on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Circuit de Catalunya. The Sporting Regulations have stipulated that each team must run a driver with less than two F1 race starts on two of the four test days.

The schedule for the two days in Barcelona is as follows:

  Tuesday Wednesday
Mercedes Nico Rosberg Pascal Wehrlein
Red Bull Daniil Kvyat Pierre Gasly
Ferrari Raffaele Marciello Esteban Gutierrez
Williams Felipe Massa Alex Lynn
McLaren Oliver Turvey Jenson Button
Force India Pascal Wehrlein Nick Yelloly
Toro Rosso Pierre Gasly Carlos Sainz
Lotus Pastor Maldonado Jolyon Palmer
Sauber Marcus Ericsson Raffaele Marciello

As well as seven current Formula One drivers, seven test and reserve drivers will also take the wheel. Pascal Wehrlein, Raffaele Marciello, and Pierre Gasly will be the busiest drivers as they split their running between two teams. Mercedes test driver Wehrlein who also tested for Force India during pre-season testing will continue to run for both teams, starting with Force India on Tuesday. Marciello is a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy and will run for the Scuderia on Tuesday before taking up his official Sauber test and reserve driver duties on Wednesday. Finally, Red Bull Junior driver Gasly will get running for both Toro Rosso and Red Bull over the two days.

Elsewhere Nico Rosberg, Daniil Kvyat, Felipe Massa, Pastor Maldonado, and Marcus Ericsson will kickstart the running for their respective teams. Jenson Button and Carlos Sainz will also be in action. Former Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez will get his first running for Ferrari after joining the team as one of their test drivers for the 2015 season. Long-time McLaren test driver Oliver Turvey will get a days running as will Williams development driver Alex Lynn. Lotus reserve driver Jolyon Palmer will be in action on Wednesday with Nick Yelloly sharing the Force India with Wehrlein.

The second in-season test will take place following the Austrian Grand Prix in June.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nico Rosberg fastest ahead of qualifying in Spain

Nico Rosberg set the fastest lap in FP3 to top the final practice session ahead of qualifying, having already been fastest in FP1.

Pastor Maldonado was the first driver out on track to start FP3. The Lotus driver had restricted running in FP1 yesterday due to a gearbox issue but was able to get 34 laps under his belt in FP2. He was soon joined on track by local hero Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo who endured a difficult start to his weekend yesterday, completing just 13 laps over two sessions. Early phases of running saw drivers’ tyres below the optimum operating temperature and a number struggled with lock-ups.

Daniil Kvyat was confined to the garage for most of the session due to a water leak but he eventually got out with twenty minutes to go. Lewis Hamilton found the limit at Turn 3, spinning as he drifted wide onto the astroturf. He was able to select reverse in the car and get going again. In the final 20 minutes drivers started to put on the option compound tyre to do qualifying runs ahead of the real thing this afternoon. This resulted in a number of time improvements with Valtteri Bottas taking over at the top from initial pacesetter Nico Rosberg, who then got it back again. He ended up ahead of Sebastian Vettel and team-mate Lewis Hamilton who set the pace in FP2.

Times from FP3:

  1. Nico Rosberg – 1:26.021 – 19 laps
  2. Sebastian Vettel – 1:26.177 – 14 laps
  3. Lewis Hamilton – 1:26.222 – 10 laps
  4. Valtteri Bottas – 1:26.682 – 19 laps
  5. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:26.944 – 14 laps
  6. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:27.048 – 19 laps
  7. Felipe Massa – 1:27.109 – 19 laps
  8. Max Verstappen – 1:27.132 – 18 laps
  9. Daniil Kvyat – 1:27.313 – 7 laps
  10. Carlos Sainz – 1:27.809 – 17 laps
  11. Jenson Button – 1:27.938 – 17 laps
  12. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:28.082 – 13 laps
  13. Felipe Nasr – 1:28.096 – 23 laps
  14. Fernando Alonso – 1:28.304 – 17 laps
  15. Romain Grosjean – 1:28.578 – 17 laps
  16. Pastor Maldonado – 1:28.618 – 18 laps
  17. Marcus Ericsson – 1:28.788 – 20 laps
  18. Sergio Perez – 1:28.996 – 14 laps
  19. Will Stevens – 1:31.125 – 16 laps
  20. Roberto Merhi – 1:31.749 – 17 laps

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

2015: Spanish Grand Prix Preview

Following a three week break the Formula One action returns this weekend. The Spanish Grand Prix will kick off the European season (with a brief visit to North America for the Canadian Grand Prix) with teams set to introduce rafts of upgrades as they return closer to home.

Mercedes have so far demonstrated that they are still the team to beat although they have Ferrari snapping at their heels. Sebastian Vettel won in Malaysia and was on the podium in Australia and China while Kimi Raikkonen led the Ferrari charge in Bahrain, finishing second. It was a nervy race for Mercedes as both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg limped across the line with brake issues.

Spanish GP Stats

Circuit: Circuit de Catalunya
Number of Laps: 66
Circuit Length: 4.655km
Number of Corners: 16
Lap Record: 1:21.670 Kimi Raikkonen (2008)
Previous Spain winners still on the grid: 7
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (12 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Medium and Hard

There are seven former Spanish Grand Prix race winners still on the grid and these are Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel, Pastor Maldonado and most recently Lewis Hamilton. Raikkonen came close to a win last time out but ran out of laps while Vettel has picked up one victory so far this season. McLaren team-mates Alonso and Button are unlikely to repeat previous Spanish victories however the team will be hopeful they can achieve their first points of the season. Button had a weekend to forget in Bahrain, with technical issues compromising his weekend on Friday and Saturday. His weekend was compounded as he failed to make the grid for the start of the race. Alonso made it into Q2 for the first time this season and was just four seconds off McLaren’s first points of the season. Maldonado has endured a difficult start to his 2015 campaign but Lotus have overall improved since last year and team-mate Romain Grosjean has picked up points. Williams appear to have slipped behind Ferrari in the battle behind Mercedes but Rob Smedley revealed earlier this year that he believed Massa is driving at the best form of his career.

Teams tested at the Circuit de Catalunya during pre-season testing and the race will provide all teams the first opportunity for major upgrades. Due to its regular location as a testing circuit, teams and drivers are very familiar with it. It is a circuit where overtaking is very difficult so qualifying will be more important than it is at some other circuits. It is a mixture of fast, medium and low speed corners with a long pit straight. As well as technical upgrades McLaren will debut their new livery with the chrome being ditched for a “dynamic, predatory, graphite-grey” colour.

There are three Spanish drivers on the grid this year – Alonso, Carlos Sainz and Roberto Merhi. Sainz has performed well so far in his rookie year and is best placed of the three Spaniards to score some points.