Strategy blunder costs Hamilton victory as Rosberg notches up third Monaco win

Nico Rosberg won the Monaco Grand Prix for the third year in a row following a costly mistake from his Mercedes team.

Lewis Hamilton secured pole position on Saturday and looked set for a lights to flag victory around the streets of Monte Carlo before a pit-stop error put paid to that. He ended up in third place behind Rosberg and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

When the lights went out signalling the start of the race, Hamilton and Rosberg maintained their positions of first and second, while Vettel remained third. Daniil Kvyat locked up as he moved ahead of his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and came close to making contact with Vettel, but all emerged out of the first corner unscathed. There was contact further down the field between Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg at Mirabeau, the former of which picked up a five second stop/go penalty as the Force India ended up in the barrier. Hulkenberg was able to pit for a new nose and continued in the race but ultimately was on the back-foot and finished outside the points. Felipe Massa was another driver needing to pit after the first lap and he sounded desolate as he came over the team radio and said “it’s over”. He – as was the case with Hulkenberg – continued after his pit-stop but failed to score any points.

Pastor Maldonado may be ruing the day he selected ’13’ as his permanent driver number after the Lotus driver suffered more bad luck. He retired from the race after just six laps due to a brake-by-wire issue, which the team had initially tried to manage by asking him to lift and coast. He was joined on the sidelines by Alonso, who had already endured a difficult weekend when his car suffered electrical issues during qualifying. His issues on Sunday appeared to be gearbox related as his car overheated.

Following 64 laps of what was very much a procession there was drama after a close battle between Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean. Grosjean led the pair and Verstappen closed the gap to him, trying to find a way to overtake. The Toro Rosso driver had already encountered a long pit-stop earlier in the race and it looked like he may be able to salvage a point. As the pair approached Ste Devote Verstappen made heavy contact with the rear of the Lotus and was sent as a passenger into the barriers. It was a big impact but thankfully Verstappen was OK, reporting he was “a bit stiff” as he completed his post-race media interviews. He suggested that Grosjean had braked early, causing him to make the mistake, but the stewards ruled that Verstappen was at fault and he carries a five place grid drop to Canada as well as two penalty points on his licence.

The Virtual Safety Car was initially used to cover the incident however the real safety car was soon deployed and Hamilton’s race started to unravel. He had built up a lead of nearly 20 seconds to his team-mate, but a miscalculation from the team saw him brought into the pits for a new set of tyres. They didn’t have quite as much time in hand as they imagined and Rosberg and Vettel continued on past the pits. Vettel was ahead as they crossed the safety car line meaning Hamilton had to settle for third, primed for an overtake once racing was resumed. Vettel suggested to his team it was like “swimming with weights on my feet” in relation to his soft compound tyres – while Hamilton had taken on fresh super-softs – as they would struggle to get heat back into them after the safety car period.

When racing was resumed, Hamilton failed to find a way past Vettel, allowing Rosberg to build up a gap and cross the line to take his third Monaco victory in a row. In the championship, he now lies just ten points behind his team-mate. Behind the top three, Kvyat finished a career best fourth after Red Bull employed team orders to try and get on the podium. Ricciardo had been released to try and get amongst the top three, and he got close to Hamilton in third but was unable to pass. As had been agreed, he allowed Kvyat back past him at the final corner. Kimi Raikkonen finished in sixth, not happy with a move he described as being “not very nice” from Ricciardo who pushed him wide. The move was investigated but no further action was warranted. Sergio Perez finished an impressive seventh for Force India while Jenson Button finally secured McLaren’s first points of the season – four for finishing eighth. Rounding out the top ten were Felipe Nasr for Sauber and Carlos Sainz, who started from the pit-lane having been disqualified from qualifying for missing the weighbridge.

The next race is the Canadian Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time.

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: Bahrain Grand Prix Qualifying Report

Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton all topped a practice session ahead of qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Raikkonen led the way in Free Practice 1 ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, while Mercedes concentrated on heavy fuel runs. Rosberg was fastest in Free Practice 2 while Hamilton was ahead in Free Practice 3. Going into qualifying it looks once again like Mercedes have the upper hand but Ferrari are not close behind. Behind them the midfield looks close – especially the gap between getting through to the pole position shoot-out.

Q1

Kimi Raikkonen was the first driver out on track for the start of qualifying, using the medium compound tyres. His first flying lap was compromised by a lock-up at turn one resulting in a 1:36.731. This was beaten by Valtteri Bottas with a 1:36.268 and then Nico Rosberg with a 1:35.657. Jenson Button compounded what has already been a difficult weekend by pulling off at the side of the track on his out-lap, revealing everything had shut down and there was a “loud bang”. His team-mate Fernando Alonso went straight out on the soft tyres and his first flying lap was good enough for ninth. Sebastian Vettel came out with just six minutes of the session remaining on the soft tyres. His first flying lap was a 1:34.919. At the end of the session, in the dropzone were Pastor Maldonado who encountered an engine problem in his Lotus, Daniil Kvyat, Will Stevens, Roberto Merhi and Button.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:33.928
  2. Valtteri Bottas 1:34.161
  3. Nico Rosberg 1:34.398
  4. Felipe Massa 1:34.488
  5. Kimi Raikkonen 1:34.568
  6. Daniel Ricciardo 1:34.691
  7. Sebastian Vettel 1:34.919
  8. Romain Grosjean 1:35.007
  9. Fernando Alonso 1:35.205
  10. Felipe Nasr 1:35.310
  11. Carlos Sainz 1:35.371
  12. Marcus Ericsson 1:35.438
  13. Sergio Perez 1:35.451
  14. Max Verstappen 1:35.611
  15. Nico Hulkenberg 1:35.653
  16. Pastor Maldonado 1:35.677
  17. Daniil Kvyat 1:35.800
  18. Will Stevens 1:38.713
  19. Roberto Merhi 1:39.722
  20. Jenson Button No Time Set

Q2

The Mercedes duo and Sergio Perez were the first drivers out for the start of Q2. Nico Rosberg’s initial time was a 1:33.878 which was quickly smashed by Lewis Hamilton who went 1.2 seconds faster. Rosberg was warned to save his tyres because they would be the tyres he would start the race on. Felipe Massa slotted into second between the two Mercedes while Ferrari went 2nd and 4th on their first runs, Kimi Raikkonen leading Sebastian Vettel. Fernando Alonso ventured out onto track with two and a half minutes remaining in McLaren’s first Q2 appearance of 2015. He set a lap-time of 1:35.039 going 12th, before being dropped down to 14th. Nico Hulkenberg crept into the top ten going ninth, and was nearly joined by team-mate Perez who was knocked down by Carlos Sainz.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:32.669
  2. Kimi Raikkonen 1:33.540
  3. Felipe Massa 1:33.551
  4. Sebastian Vettel 1:33.623
  5. Nico Rosberg 1:33.878
  6. Valtteri Bottas 1:33.897
  7. Romain Grosjean 1:34.123
  8. Daniel Ricciardo 1:34.403
  9. Nico Hulkenberg 1:34.613
  10. Carlos Sainz 1:34.641
  11. Sergio Perez 1:34.704
  12. Felipe Nasr 1:34.737
  13. Marcus Ericsson 1:35.034
  14. Fernando Alonso 1:35.039
  15. Max Verstappen 1:35.103

Q3

Going through to the pole position shoot-out were two Mercedes, two Williams, two Ferraris, a Lotus, a Red Bull, a Force India and a Toro Rosso. The Ferrari pair were first out on track and were soon joined by Daniel Ricciardo. Sebastian Vettel’s first effort was a 1:34.552 which was 0.013s better than Kimi Raikkonen’s time. Ricciardo’s first flying lap was a 1:33.850 while Nico Rosberg completed a 1:33.854. Lewis Hamilton took provisional pole with a 1:33.522 – three tenths faster than Ricciardo. Vettel improved his time by six tenths to take pole position with Valtteri Bottas going second. Raikkonen then took second before losing it to Rosberg. Ultimately it was Hamilton who secured pole position, going four tenths faster than his provisional pole time.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:32.571
  2. Sebastian Vettel 1:32.982
  3. Nico Rosberg 1:33.129
  4. Kimi Raikkonen 1:33.227
  5. Valtteri Bottas 1:33.381
  6. Felipe Massa 1:33.744
  7. Daniel Ricciardo 1:33.832
  8. Nico Hulkenberg 1:34.450
  9. Carlos Sainz 1:34.462
  10. Romain Grosjean 1:34.484

FP2 in Bahrain sees Nico Rosberg top the times

Following a free practice session spent focusing on long runs and tyre evaluations, Mercedes returned to the top of the times in FP2.

Nico Rosberg lead the way just a tenth of a second faster than his team-mate. Earlier pacesetter Kimi Raikkonen ended the session third – continuing Ferrari’s impressive showing – four tenths down on Lewis Hamilton’s time. With a top 11 separated by under a second in FP1 the gap increased in FP2. The top eight were within a second while the gap to eleventh crept up to one and a half seconds.

Romain Grosjean returned to his car after Jolyon Palmer’s appearance in free practice one. The Frenchman – who scored his first points of the year in Malaysia – ended up 13th just behind the McLaren of Fernando Alonso. After grinding to a halt after just a few minutes in the first practice session, Jenson Button again came to stop early on. This time he managed three laps before stopping on the back straight. He did get out again later in the session, however, ending up 19th fastest and completing 15 laps.

A number of drivers struggled as the conditions turned from day to night. The lock-ups from earlier in the day continued while a number of drivers ran wide. In the closing stages of practice Sebastian Vettel picked up front wing damage as well as suffering from braking failure. He later apologised for hitting Sergio Perez which was what resulted from his brake failure. Raikkonen found himself in hot water, being investigated for not leaving the pit-lane correctly. He was reprimanded but no further action was taken.

Free practice two results:

  1. Nico Rosberg – 1:34.647 – 31 laps
  2. Lewis Hamilton – 1:34.762 – 33 laps
  3. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:35.174 – 30 laps
  4. Sebastian Vettel – 1:35.277 – 26 laps
  5. Valtteri Bottas – 1:35.280 – 36 laps
  6. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:35.449 – 27 laps
  7. Pastor Maldonado – 1:35.474 – 34 laps
  8. Felipe Nasr – 1:35.793 – 27 laps
  9. Daniil Kvyat – 1:35.883 – 23 laps
  10. Felipe Massa – 1:35.884 – 35 laps
  11. Marcus Ericsson – 1:36.148 – 34 laps
  12. Fernando Alonso – 1:36.191 – 22 laps
  13. Romain Grosjean – 1:36.334 – 31 laps
  14. Carlos Sainz – 1:36.471 – 32 laps
  15. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:36.805 – 30 laps
  16. Max Verstappen – 1:36.917 – 26 laps
  17. Sergio Perez – 1:37.062 – 33 laps
  18. Will Stevens – 1:39.131 – 21 laps
  19. Jenson Button – 1:39.209 – 15 laps
  20. Roberto Merhi – 1:40.592 – 26 laps

2015: Bahrain Grand Prix Preview

In the first back-to-back races of the year, the Formula One circus has moved on to Bahrain after the Chinese Grand Prix last weekend.

Following Ferrari’s time at the top of the podium in Malaysia it was business as usual for Mercedes in China as they recorded a 1-2 finish. There were post-race rumblings of another falling out between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg as the latter accused the race winner of holding up his progress by driving too slowly. Both made their feelings perfectly clear in post race interviews and things are set to heat up again in Bahrain, where Hamilton won last year. It was yet another Mercedes 1-2 with Force India’s Sergio Perez finishing 20 seconds behind them on the podium.

Whilst Mercedes once again dominated proceedings in China – both on and off the track – Ferrari were the team closest to them, finishing third and fourth. They were followed by the two Williams, Romain Grosjean scoring his and Lotus’ first points of the year, Felipe Nasr, Daniel Ricciardo and Marcus Ericsson. At the back of the field there were reasons to celebrate for both Manor and McLaren as both teams got two drivers to the finish. Jenson Button was handed a five second post-race penalty following a collision with Pastor Maldonado, meaning McLaren were classified 12th and 14th. Manor were classified 15th and 16th of 17th classified finishers, although Max Verstappen pulled off four laps before the end of the race.

Bahrain Stats

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 and Soft

Bahrain has been on the Formula One calendar since 2004. It has been held on ten occasions having been cancelled in 2011 due to political unrest. It hasn’t always been in the current format either. In 2010 the race flirted with a longer endurance circuit but it reverted to the Grand Prix circuit for 2012 onwards. The Bahrain Grand Prix became a twilight race in 2014 – starting in daylight and ending in darkness.

Due to the differences in conditions teams and drivers have a lot to take into consideration when setting up the cars. There will be a discrepancy between temperatures during the ‘day’ and ‘night’ parts of the race, resulting in changes in balance and grip levels. It is also a track which gives brakes a good workout as there are a number of slow-speed corners at the end of straights. Qualifying has proven to be of particular importance in Bahrain in the past with the race having never been won from further back than fourth on the grid. Ferrari challenged Mercedes in China during qualifying but ultimately the Silver Arrows came out on top. Rosberg narrowly missed out on pole position, taking the fight to his team-mate.

It is a race where Kimi Raikkonen has performed well in the past but never won. Most recently he finished on the podium for Lotus in 2012 and 2013. He is yet to get a podium in 2015 but has finished in fourth. He has encountered problems, including a loose wheel which forced him to retire from the Australian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel has been demonstrating what the Ferrari is capable – being the only driver to so far beat a Mercedes this year – so Raikkonen could be one to watch out for this weekend. For Grosjean – who has also finished on the Bahrain podium – it will be an opportunity to maintain the momentum from last weekend when he got his first points of the season. McLaren will be hoping to build on the progress they made by getting both cars to the finish and they are set to turn their engines up a bit more for this weekend ahead of further updates in Spain. Red Bull and Toro Rosso both had engine problems in China while Maldonado retired following rear brake failure and an accident with Button who collided with the Lotus driver.

Lewis Hamilton continues at top in China as Ferrari close the gap

Following his dominant FP1 performance in China, Lewis Hamilton continued at the top of the times in FP2 but Ferrari managed to reduce the gap. It was Kimi Raikkonen who ended the session second just four tenths down on the Silver Arrow.

Roberto Merhi was first out on track for Manor as the team continued to get more running under their belt. They will be hoping to get both cars onto the starting grid on Sunday following Will Stevens’ failure to start the Malaysia Grand Prix due to a fuel pump problem. He was quickly joined by team-mate Stevens and Raikkonen in the Ferrari. Romain Grosjean also got his first running of the weekend having given his car to Jolyon Palmer for FP1.

Raikkonen reported to his team that he was struggling with brakes in the early phases of FP2. Team-mate Sebastian Vettel suffered a spin but continued on his way. Force India driver Sergio Perez encountered rear brake issues during the session. Another team experiencing brake problems were Red Bull who returned to Brembo brakes this week following issues in Malaysia. Daniil Kvyat was asked to return the car slowly to the pits following a smoking rear brake, however he did not make it to the pit-lane following complete brake failure. He made light contact with a wall and brought out a yellow flag. Another driver whose running was brought to an early end was Stevens, following just six laps, due to a power unit problem.

After the initial early running it was Nico Rosberg who led the order ahead of Raikkonen, Vettel and Grosjean. Hamilton soon headed the times, however, going a tenth faster than his team-mate. When the soft tyres went on the cars Raikkonen was the first to set a flying lap. Rosberg and Vettel could not better his time but Hamilton could. There was a brief red flag period following an off by the Williams of Felipe Massa. It hampered Daniel Ricciardo’s first run of the session but his eventual first flyer was enough to see him go seventh fastest. Following the soft tyre flurry attention turned to longer runs.

Free practice two times:

  1. Lewis Hamilton – 1:37.219 – 32 laps
  2. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:37.662 – 35 laps
  3. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:38.311 – 24 laps
  4. Sebastian Vettel – 1:38.339 – 30 laps
  5. Nico Rosberg – 1:38.399 – 35 laps
  6. Daniil Kvyat – 1:38.737 – 10 laps
  7. Valtteri Bottas – 1:38.850 – 27 laps
  8. Felipe Nasr – 1:39.032 – 26 laps
  9. Romain Grosjean – 1:39.142 – 32 laps
  10. Jenson Button – 1:39.275 – 29 laps
  11. Pastor Maldonado – 1:39.444 – 30 laps
  12. Fernando Alonso – 1:39.743 – 27 laps
  13. Marcus Ericsson – 1:39.751 – 33 laps
  14. Max Verstappen – 1:39.894 – 32 laps
  15. Carlos Sainz – 1:39.971 – 28 laps
  16. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:40.151 – 28 laps
  17. Felipe Massa – 1:40.423 – 7 laps
  18. Sergio Perez – 1:40.868 – 24 laps
  19. Roberto Merhi – 1:42.973 – 27 laps
  20. Will Stevens – 1:44.564 – 8 laps

Lewis Hamilton overcomes engine problems to top FP2 in Malaysia

Lewis Hamilton topped the second free practice session after suffering an engine problem in FP1.

His lap-time of 1:39.790 was four tenths quicker than the lap set by Nico Rosberg in the morning. Rosberg’s time, however, was on a used set of the hard compound tyres while Hamilton’s was on a new set of the medium tyres. Kimi Raikkonen continued Ferrari’s impressive form by going second quickest once again, once again just under four tenths shy of the Mercedes pace. His fastest time was on a used set of medium tyres. The morning pacesetter Rosberg was third fastest.

The heat and humidity of Malaysia always creates its own unique challenges and track temperatures peaked at 56 degrees during the second practice session. This contributes to tyre degradation with the medium compound suffering more than the hard tyres. Despite this Valtteri Bottas reported over the team radio that track conditions had improved since the first practice session. After getting their first running of 2015 in the morning, Manor caused a red flag in FP2 when Roberto Merhi ended up in the gravel following a spin. Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel also had a spin in the same place but did not end up in the gravel. Hamilton did not get out in the session until after the red flag with fifty minutes remaining.

Hamilton’s first run saw him go fifth fastest before improving late in the afternoon. He was forced to box due to the team losing telemetry completely. Romain Grosjean’s session came to an early end after suffering from a loss of power. Red Bull also encountered their own problems with Daniil Kvyat only completing 17 laps and Daniel Ricciardo eight laps. Free practice two times:

  1. Lewis Hamilton – 1:39.790 – 16 laps
  2. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:40.163 – 29 laps
  3. Nico Rosberg – 1:40.218 – 26 laps
  4. Daniil Kvyat – 1:40.346 – 17 laps
  5. Valtteri Bottas – 1:40.450 – 31 laps
  6. Felipe Massa – 1:40.560 – 27 laps
  7. Sebastian Vettel – 1:40.652 – 29 laps
  8. Max Verstappen – 1:41.220 – 30 laps
  9. Marcus Ericsson – 1:41.261 – 30 laps
  10. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:41.799 – 8 laps
  11. Pastor Maldonado – 1:41.877 – 15 laps
  12. Felipe Nasr – 1:41.988  – 30 laps
  13. Sergio Perez – 1:42.242 – 24 laps
  14. Carlos Sainz – 1:42.291 – 31 laps
  15. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:42.330 – 28 laps
  16. Fernando Alonso – 1:42.506 – 25 laps
  17. Jenson Button – 1:42.637 – 24 laps
  18. Romain Grosjean – 1:42.948 – 7 laps
  19. Will Stevens – 1:45.704 – 12 laps
  20. Roberto Merhi – 1:47.229 – 6 laps