Sebastian Vettel sets the pace in the third and final practice session in Monaco

Sebastian Vettel set the pace in FP3 ahead of qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix.

It was a dry session for the drivers after some wet running on Thursday, giving them the first opportunity to try out the new super-soft tyres. Lewis Hamilton lead rookie Max Verstappen in the first practice session before going fastest again in FP2, this time ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg.

After compromised running on Thursday, teams wasted no time in getting their drivers out on track for the start of the third and final practice session. Both Mercedes drivers and both Manors went straight out on the super-soft tyre and Hamilton set the initial pace with a 1:19.074 before improving to a 1:17.504. Rosberg slotted into second place behind his team-mate after his first couple of laps.

Ferrari did not go out of the garage straight away as some adjustments were carried out to both car, and Kimi Raikkonen set his first lap-time with nearly 20 minutes of the session gone. It was enough to see him go third fastest on the soft compound tyre behind the Mercedes duo. When he put the super-soft tyre on he improved his lap time before ending up in the barriers at Sainte Devote, causing damage to the left rear tyre. The session was red flagged in order to allow marshals to recover the stricken Ferrari.

Elsewhere Fernando Alonso had been about to start a lap in his McLaren but was compromised after coming across the Ferrari. The session was quickly green flagged again and the action recommenced as drivers instantly took to the track. Having already lost significant time on Thursday due to the weather time is of the essence to get some substantial running in ahead of qualifying and the race. A number of drivers throughout the session struggled to get their cars stopped out of the tunnel and ran across the Nouvelle Chicane.

Verstappen, who had gone second fastest in the first practice session, got it wrong at Anthony Noghes, losing part of his rear wing as a result. Marcus Ericsson complained throughout the session about lack of grip and locked up going into Sainte Devote. Rosberg had a late improvement to end up six hundredths behind his team-mate. Vettel set a very impressive lap-time with about five minutes of the session remaining, going five tenths quicker than Hamilton and Rosberg. Rosberg improved to within two tenths of Vettel’s pace.

In the closing minute of practice, cars backed up at the final corner trying to find clear space to set a final lap-time. There were a number of improvements including Carlos Sainz and Jenson Button.

Free Practice 3 times:

  1. Sebastian Vettel – 1:16.143 – 27 laps
  2. Nico Rosberg – 1:16.361 – 31 laps
  3. Lewis Hamilton – 1:16.705 – 31 laps
  4. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:17.120 – 26 laps
  5. Carlos Sainz – 1:17.256 – 39 laps
  6. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:17.401 – 11 laps
  7. Daniil Kvyat – 1:17.471 – 28 laps
  8. Jenson Button – 1:17.767 – 28 laps
  9. Max Verstappen – 1:17.788 – 23 laps
  10. Romain Grosjean – 1:17.806 – 28 laps
  11. Sergio Perez – 1:17.832 – 30 laps
  12. Pastor Maldonado – 1:17.956 – 28 laps
  13. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:18.102 – 32 laps
  14. Fernando Alonso – 1:18.197 – 26 laps
  15. Valtteri Bottas – 1:18.212 – 29 laps
  16. Felipe Massa – 1:18.242 – 32 laps
  17. Felipe Nasr – 1:18.767 – 38 laps
  18. Marcus Ericsson – 1:19.269 – 37 laps
  19. Will Stevens – 1:21.093 – 31 laps
  20. Roberto Merhi – 1:22.225 – 30 laps

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.












Lewis Hamilton edges ahead in second Spanish Grand Prix practice session

Lewis Hamilton moved ahead of his team-mate in the second practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Having ended up just seven hundredths behind Nico Rosberg in FP1, Hamilton was four tenths faster in FP2 with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in second. Rosberg was third with Kimi Raikkonen once again in fourth. The top four were separated by just under a second – quite a significant gap for practice – with the whole field separated by 5.899 seconds. Roberto Merhi was bringing up the rear behind his team-mate Will Stevens.

Romain Grosjean, Marcus Ericsson, and Valtteri Bottas returned to their cars having sat out the first practice session to allow Lotus, Sauber, and Williams’ respective third drivers some running in the car. It was Ericsson who was first out on track, completing a practice start before he headed out for some running. There was early work being carried out on Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull and Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus, the latter of the pair having had limited running in FP1 due to a gearbox glitch. It wasn’t a trouble free FP2 for Lotus as Grosjean’s engine cover disintegrated on track bringing out a red flag.

Raikkonen bemoaned about a lack of grip during the session while Rosberg encountered oversteer. They weren’t the only drivers to struggle as a tailwind disrupted handling. There was an improvement for the McLaren-Honda duo of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso who ended up seventh and eleventh respectively. Alonso was just a hundredth off Felipe Massa in tenth place.

Times from FP2:

  1. Lewis Hamilton – 1:26.852 – 26 laps
  2. Sebastian Vettel – 1:27.260 – 37 laps
  3. Nico Rosberg – 1:27.616 – 35 laps
  4. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:27.780 – 36 laps
  5. Daniil Kvyat – 1:27.943 – 25 laps
  6. Max Verstappen – 1:28.017 – 32 laps
  7. Jenson Button – 1:28.494 – 31 laps
  8. Valtteri Bottas – 1:28.525 – 39 laps
  9. Carlos Sainz – 1:28.674 – 31 laps
  10. Felipe Massa – 1:28.712 – 36 laps
  11. Fernando Alonso – 1:28.723 – 28 laps
  12. Romain Grosjean – 1:29.086 – 14 laps
  13. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:29.098 – 4 laps
  14. Pastor Maldonado – 1:29.217 – 34 laps
  15. Felipe Nasr – 1:29.333 – 37 laps
  16. Marcus Ericsson – 1:29.361 – 34 laps
  17. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:29.601 – 38 laps
  18. Sergio Perez – 1:29.707 – 35 laps
  19. Will Stevens – 1:31.929 – 30 laps
  20. Roberto Merhi – 1:32.751 – 23 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.