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.

 

F1 2016: Australian Grand Prix Preview

It is time for the talking to start and for the drivers to take to the track. With pre-season testing reduced to just two four day sessions this year, teams have had less track time to prepare for the upcoming season.

The main talking point going into the 2016 season is whether or not Ferrari will be able to close the gap to Mercedes. The Scuderia showed positive signs in testing however it is well known that you cannot take testing times at face value. Mercedes completed the most mileage of anyone but suffered a breakdown on the final day showing that reliability issues can strike and will strike at any time. The Mercedes team has been the dominant force for the past two seasons but can Ferrari take a sustained season long fight to them? Secondly, Nico Rosberg was the on form driver in Mercedes at the close of 2015 – can he maintain his form?

As well as a record breaking 21 race calendar, there is an extended grid with Haas joining. There will be three rookies on the grid this season – Jolyon Palmer steps up to a race seat with Renault while Manor has chosen to run DTM champion and Mercedes backed driver Pascal Wehrlein alongside Rio Haryanto. Making their return to the Formula One grid will be Kevin Magnussen – getting a race seat at Renault – with Esteban Gutierrez driving for Haas. Romain Grosjean has made the move from Lotus to Haas with the rest of the grid remaining as it was for 2015.

The Australian Grand Prix will once again play host to the start of the season and it is a race where there can be a lot of attrition as teams run their cars in full race mode for the first time.

Circuit: Albert Park
Number of Laps: 58
Circuit Length: 5.303km
Number of Corners: 16
Lap Record: 1:24.125 Michael Schumacher (2004)
Previous Australian GP winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: McLaren (12 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Medium, Soft and Supersoft

For 2016 the technical regulations have remained fairly stable ahead of bigger changes in 2017. There is still scope for teams to improve though and eyes will be on certain teams in particular. One such team will be McLaren following their tumultuous 2015 reunion with engine partner Honda. They had a much more reliable winter, completing more laps in one day at the opening test than they managed over four days at the first test last year. The team are confident they have made gains performance wise but it remains to be seen where they will feature in the pecking order. Renault return to the fray as a constructor for the first time since 2009. They have Kevin Magnussen joining them after a year on the sidelines and it was in Melbourne he took his one and only podium to date in F1 back in 2014 with McLaren.

The last time new teams joined Formula One, they clearly struggled. Only Manor remains of those three teams and Haas will be hoping they won’t meet the same fate as HRT and Caterham. The Haas F1 project has been a long time coming and suggestions are they could be fighting for points straight away. With experienced driver and podium finisher Romain Grosjean on board and former Ferrari test driver Esteban Gutierrez, they have a line-up who are certainly capable of performing.

Elsewhere Red Bull will be racing with their Tag Heuer branded engines and hoping for better fortunes than last year. Sister team Toro Rosso has made the switch back to Ferrari engines for this year and both their drivers – Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen – will be hoping for as good a season, if not better, that they both enjoyed in their rookie year.

It’s all change at Manor with two rookies taking over from last year’s drives. Pascal Wehrlein is the reigning DTM driver while Rio Haryanto enjoyed his best ever GP2 performance in 2015. Force India will be hoping to at least maintain their performance from last year where they finished a best ever fifth in the constructors championship. Williams and Sauber will run with the same drivers as they raced in 2015 and both teams will hope to make steps forward from their respective positions.

For the season ahead there are new Pirelli tyre rules and a new qualifying format which could shake up proceedings. An elimination style qualifying will take place, with cars being eliminated throughout Q1, Q2, and Q3 rather than just at the end of each session. Drivers also get to choose what tyre compounds they want from the three nominated by Pirelli. It is hoped this will lead to a bigger variation in strategies, thus shaking up the racing.

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.

F1 2016: Pre-season test Barcelona Preview 22nd – 25th February

At this stage last year teams had already taken part in two pre-season tests.  With the first race of the season due to take part in Australia on the 20th March, there are just two pre-season tests this year for teams to start to get to grips with their 2016 machines.

Both of these pre-season tests will take place at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona – the first of which kicks off tomorrow morning.

All 11 teams will be present at the test although only Sauber will be without their 2016 car. Instead their drivers will run the 2015 car with a revised livery. While teams such as Williams, McLaren, and Haas have revealed photographs of their new cars online, testing will be the first opportunity to see all the new cars as they take to the track for the first time.

Toro Rosso will be running an interim livery – with the real deal set to be unveiled at the second test – while Renault’s livery is also expected to change before the first race.

Testing line-up:

TEAM DAY 1 DAY 2 DAY 3 DAY 4
Mercedes Lewis Hamilton Nico Rosberg Lewis  Hamilton Nico Rosberg
Ferrari  Sebastian Vettel Sebastian Vettel Kimi Räikkönen Kimi Räikkönen
Williams Valtteri Bottas Valtteri Bottas Felipe Massa Felipe Massa
Red Bull Daniel Ricciardo Daniel Ricciardo Daniil Kvyat Daniil Kvyat
Force India Alfonso Celis Jr Sergio Perez Nico Hulkenberg Alfonso Celis Jr
Renault Jolyon Palmer Jolyon Palmer Kevin Magnussen Kevin Magnussen
Toro Rosso Carlos Sainz Max Verstappen Carlos Sainz Max Verstappen
Sauber Marcus Ericsson Marcus Ericsson Felipe Nasr Felipe Nasr
McLaren Jenson Button Fernando Alonso Jenson Button Fernando Alonso
Manor Pascal Wehrlein Pascal Wehrlein Rio Haryanto Rio Haryanto
Haas Romain Grosjean Esteban Gutierrez Romain Grosjean Esteban Gutierrez

Alfonso Celis Jr will be the only test/reserve driver in action, splitting the running with  Force  India’s regular race drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg. For Kevin Magnussen, Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez it will be their first outings with new teams. 2016 rookies Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto will also be in action.

Pre-season testing doesn’t give a clear picture of the order the teams will end up come the first race of the season, but it gives somewhat of an indication. It will be an important eight days for the likes of McLaren, Manor and Haas but for very different reasons.

McLaren endured a torrid 2015 season and this struggle started at pre-season testing where they failed to string laps together. They will be hoping for better reliability in the early stages of the year. For Manor it is a brand new line-up with a brand new car. They will have Mercedes engines for the 2016 season, having raced with older Ferrari power in the past. And finally, for Haas it is their first season in Formula One with a brand new car. They are hoping to score points in their maiden season and have a promising line-up in experienced driver Grosjean and former Sauber driver and Ferrari tester Gutierrez.

Ferrari will be hoping that they can close the gap to Mercedes and mount a sustained challenge throughout the whole season. For Williams it is another opportunity to make steps forward, having finished third in the championship for the past two seasons. Renault have returned to the sport as a works team for the first time since the 2009 season while Red Bull will hope to put their engine problems behind them. Toro Rosso will run Ferrari engines this year – having ran with Renault Power Units last year – with Force India coming off the back of their best season in Formula One. Mercedes will remain the team to beat having won the championship convincingly for the past two seasons.

Haas F1 Team launch VF-16

Formula One’s newest team Haas F1 has launched their 2016 car – the VF-16.

The car – named for being the team’s  Very First – will be driven this year by Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez. The American based team is the first new team to join the grid since 2010 and is also the first American led F1 team in 30 years.

“From an international standpoint, Formula One is the highest echelon of racing and  Haas Automation builds the highest-quality machine tools,” Team Chairman Gene Haas said. “When you hear F1 you know exactly what it is – a global racing series that showcases the latest technology and attracts the best talent in engineering and design. Haas Automation has an excellent reputation in the United States and I want that reputation to grow worldwide. Connecting Haas Automation with F1 in name and in practice is the best way to grow our business and elevate Haas Automation to a premium, global brand.”

Haas F1 has set its sights on points in its debut season. “We’re a new team, so we looked at what the successful teams were doing to give us a baseline of the direction we needed to go with our design,” Team Principal Guenther Steiner revealed. “We have very experienced designers who worked hard to develop all the little things from an aerodynamic perspective that, collectively add up to a lot.”

“Our goal with this car is to score points,” Steiner continued. “First, we need to go out there and show that we can do the job, that we can finish races, that we are respected by the fans and other teams in the paddock. Then, we want to score points. That is the ultimate goal.”

Haas F1 has a technical partnership with Ferrari who will also supply their Power Units for the upcoming season.

 

Mercedes untouchable at Belgian Grand Prix

Mercedes dominated the Belgian Grand Prix with Lewis Hamilton leading yet another 1-2 finish for the team. The pair finished over 30 seconds clear of third placed driver Romain Grosjean, who qualified fourth before dropping to ninth with a grid penalty.

There was a lot of focus on the race start after new regulations surrounding what drivers can and cannot say to their drivers in the moments just prior to the lights going out. A couple of drivers were slow away on the formation lap but it went without any major problems in the race start proper. There was an aborted start following problems for Nico Hulkenberg on the grid. The Force India driver reported loss of power on his out-lap to the grid, and had been advised by his team to return to the pits at the end of the warm up lap. The team then changed their mind and told Hulkenberg to take the race start as they believed the problem was resolving itself. This was not the case and Hulkenberg was wheeled back into the pits. Carlos Sainz also had his own problems and was asked to return to the pit-lane prior to the start.

When the lights went out it was Sergio Perez who made the biggest impression, going from fourth to second as Nico Rosberg dropped to fifth. Perez made an attempt to take the lead of the race but Hamilton but failed to get past and that proved to be his only opportunity. Pastor Maldonado became an early retirement from the race as his car quickly slowed due to engine problems. He was able to make it back to the pits. Other retirements from the race were Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz.

After Ricciardo retired on track following the final chicane, the Virtual Safety Car was used, neutralising the speed of all the cars on track. The Mercedes duo were pulling away at the front of the field and it was Sebastian Vettel who slotted into third race. He became a late retirement after a tyre delamination in the final couple of laps. After a pit-stop on the 14th lap of the race, Vettel was attempting to go to the end on the medium tyres but he failed to make it. He had found himself under pressure from Grosjean but had been keeping himself ahead of the Lotus driver, with the Ferrari benefiting from good straight line speed. Vettel had called for another pit-stop but the team chose to leave him out.

Daniil Kvyat backed up his strong showing at the Hungarian Grand Prix – where he got his first podium – put in a strong end to the race to finish in fourth. Fresher tyres allowed him to catch and pass the cars ahead. Perez eventually finished fifth, ahead of Felipe Massa in sixth. Vettel’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen – who started 16th following problems in qualifying and a gearbox penalty – finished the race in seventh with Max Verstappen eighth, Valtteri Bottas ninth and Marcus Ericsson tenth. Williams suffered a pit-stop blunder which saw Bottas’ car fitted with one medium tyre and three softs – a breach of the regulations. Bottas was given a drive through penalty for the mistake but he still managed to salvaged a couple of points.

Felipe Nasr finished in 11th ahead of the McLaren duo of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Button suffered problems throughout the race including a lack of power, allowing his team-mate to pull away from him. Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens were classified in 15th and 16th with Vettel classified 12th despite not finishing the race.

It was another crushing performance by the Mercedes team, following their disappointment in Hungary. The next race is in two weeks time at Ferrari’s home race of Monza.

Lewis Hamilton on pole for Belgian Grand Prix

Mercedes led the way in the first three practice sessions ahead of qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix. Drivers going into the session with grid penalties were Max Verstappen, Romain Grosjean, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Verstappen got a ten place grid penalty for a component change while Grosjean got five places for a gearbox change.  The McLaren duo went into qualifying with combined grid penalties of 105, meaning they will start at the back of the grid regardless.

Q1

Most drivers went out on the medium compound tyre at the start of the session, with Roberto Merhi, Felipe Nasr, Carlos Sainz, Marcus Ericcson and Will Stevens opting to use the softs straight away. Nico Rosberg’s first flying lap put him ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton by just under a tenth of a second. Sebastian Vettel slotted into third albeit six tenths of a second off the leading pair. Both McLaren drivers went out to complete laps, despite knowing they would be right at the back due to their penalties. Times started to fall as drivers switched to the option tyre with Force India moving to the head of the times with Sergio Perez. Hamilton soon returned to the top of the times, just a hundredth clear of Rosberg with Perez still within a tenth of a second of the Mercedes duo.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:48.908
  2. Nico Rosberg 1:48.923
  3. Sergio Perez 1:49.006
  4. Vallteri Bottas 1:49.026
  5. Carlos Sainz 1:49.109
  6. Sebastian Vettel 1:49.264
  7. Kimi Raikkonen 1:49.288
  8. Romain Grosjean 1:49.353
  9. Daniil Kvyat 1:49.469
  10. Nico Hulkenberg 1:49.499
  11. Marcus Ericsson 1:49.523
  12. Pastor Maldonado 1:49.568
  13. Daniel Ricciardo 1:49.664
  14. Felipe Massa 1:49.688
  15. Max Verstappen 1:49.831
  16. Felipe Nasr 1:49.952
  17. Jenson Button 1:50.978
  18. Fernando Alonso 1:51.420
  19. Will Stevens 1:52.948
  20. Roberto Merhi 1:53.099

Q2

Valtteri Bottas set the first flying lap of the session – a 1:49.678 – before quickly being dislodged at the top of the times by Lewis Hamilton with a 1:48.024. Nico Rosberg went faster still – the Mercedes team-mates once again separated by under a tenth of a second. Kimi Raikkonen came to a halt on track bringing out the red flag with eight minutes of the session remaining. Max Verstappen complained of a loss of power and looked like he wouldn’t be taking any further part in qualifying. There were a flurry of times at the end of the session, with Nico Hulkenberg dropping out of the top ten while his team-mate went fourth. The top thirteen drivers who set a lap time were separated by just over a second and a half, with sixth to eleventh covered by a tenth of a second setting up a close fought pole position shoot out.

  1. Nico Rosberg 1:47.955
  2. Lewis Hamilton 1:48.024
  3. Sebastian Vettel 1:48.761
  4. Sergio Perez 1:48.792
  5. Felipe Massa 1:48.806
  6. Pastor Maldonado 1:48.956
  7. Romain Grosjean 1:48.981
  8. Daniel Ricciardo 1:49.042
  9. Valtteri Bottas 1:49.044
  10. Carlos Sainz 1:49.065
  11. Nico Hulkenberg 1:49.121
  12. Daniil Kvyat 1:49.228
  13. Marcus Ericsson 1:49.586
  14. Kimi Raikkonen No Time Set
  15. Max Verstappen No Time Set

Q3

Going through to the pole position shoot out were both Mercedes, Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez, both Williams, both Lotus, Daniel Ricciardo and the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz. The Williams driver of Valtteri Bottas was first out on track for Q3, soon joined by Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado and Felipe Massa. Bottas once again set the first flying lap of the session – 1:48.567 – which was promptly beaten by Lewis Hamilton by over a second. Nico Rosberg was four tenths off his team-mate. Hamilton improved his lap-time and maintained pole position. Bottas secured third with Grosjean fourth before his five place grid drop. Perez ended the session fifth, with Ricciardo sixth, Massa seventh, Maldonado eighth, Vettel ninth and Sainz in tenth.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:47.197
  2. Nico Rosberg 1:47.655
  3. Valtteri Bottas 1:48.537
  4. Romain Grosjean 1:48.561
  5. Sergio Perez 1:48.599
  6. Daniel Ricciardo 1:48.639
  7. Felipe Massa 1:48.685
  8. Pastor Maldonado 1:48.754
  9. Sebastian Vettel 1:48.825
  10. Carlos Sainz 1:49.771