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THREE TAKEAWAYS: 2017 Singapore Grand Prix

Formula 1 treated fans to one of its most exciting races of the year as Singapore celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Marina Bay Street Circuit with the series’ first wet night competition.

On a circuit which is traditionally Mercedes’ bogey track, Lewis Hamilton led every lap to take his seventh win of 2017 ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton is the first driver to take three in a row this year after Belgium and Italy.

He inherited the victory after a dramatic opening lap crash involving poleman Sebastian Vettel, teammate Kimi Raikkonen, and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Just 12 of the 20 drivers completed the two-hour distance as the contest had the highest number of retirements in 2017.

The drivers’ championship fight has decreased, with Hamilton extending his three-point advantage to 28, with a maximum of 25 for a win.

Has Vettel Thrown Away The Title?

One of the questions answered after the event was what role Vettel played in the incident.

From multiple viewings of the accident, it appears that the German gradually slides left to try and stop Verstappen from attacking him, with Raikkonen going on Verstappen’s left-hand side to attempt to and snatch first place.

The Finn’s right-rear tire collided with the front left of the Dutchman’s car, sending him speeding without stopping into Turn 1, hitting the side of the Red Bull before Fernando Alonso becomes involved. Vettel continued momentarily before spinning into the Turn 3 wall, destroying his front wing.

The last time before this the German had a DNF was in Malaysia last season. It was then that Hamilton suffered power unit failure and the championship fell away from his grasp and towards Nico Rosberg. Has karma gone back into his direction, with nothing to choose between the two drivers who both have shown strong previous form at the upcoming tracks?

Meanwhile, Alonso was almost up to third early on, but took his ninth DNF of the year, tying his worst career record set back in 2001 at Minardi. Water is wet for the Spaniard.

Hamilton Again Shows Wet Weather Class

The three-time champion is probably one of the few drivers on the grid you would want to drive in damp conditions, and he set multiple fastest laps on his way to victory. His time of 1m45.008s is a new record with the faster 2017 machinery.

He made his way from fifth on the grid thanks to the chaos ahead and an important move around the right-hand side of a slow-starting Ricciardo before carrying on at the very right of the track to avoid becoming a passenger in the debris above.

“I came in and I saw that it was raining and I knew that this balances everything out,” he said. “I love racing in the rain, then everything unfolded in the beginning. Starting on the Intermediates I thought it was going to be much closer pace-wise. These conditions give you the opportunity to really make a difference with your driving.”

Ricciardo’s job to finish 4.5 seconds off the winner seemed impressive when his team principal Christian Horner said after the race that he had to control an issue.

“After the [initial] restart (Lap 5 of 58), Daniel started to lose an awful lot of gearbox oil, which created a lot of problems with oil pressure, and we were feeling that it was looking unlikely that Daniel would get to the end of the race,” he said. “However, he managed to nurse the gearbox of the car incredibly well for three-quarters of the Grand Prix, and though able to hold off any threat from behind from Valtteri, unfortunately he could not attack Lewis ahead.”

It was a familiar story for Valtteri Bottas. Many have wondered whether he can match up in damp or wet conditions after his spin in China earlier in the year, and he finished 8.8s behind in third. Not only that, but his drinks bottle was not fully working in one of the most physically-demanding tracks the series visits.

“In the dry, the car was performing better than expected and the pace was very good for Lewis and me,” he said. “In the wet, I struggled a bit more than him. It’s nice to bring a trophy home after what has been a tricky weekend for me.”

Notable Drivers Suffer Ups And Downs

Days after news of Carlos Sainz swapping Toro Rosso for Renault and Renault powering McLaren next season, all three parties had a solid Singapore night.

Sainz took a career-best fourth-place, while the replaced Jolyon Palmer finished just ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne in sixth. Rumors still say Palmer could have had his last contest with the team, but a positive performance won’t hurt as he looks for a new home on the grid or in another series for 2018.

Two drivers suffered difficult results due to car problems. Nico Hulkenberg was fourth until an oil leak took him to pit lane. He also spent some laps in the top-three, but collects the record for most starts without a podium in F1 history, beating Adrian Sutil’s total of 128. Haas’ Kevin Magnussen was fighting for points until an electrical failure.

What’s Next?

The 10th running doesn’t end Singapore’s story for now, as it signed a new four-year deal before the weekend to continue hosting the sport until 2021, confirming its place on 2018’s 21-race calendar.

Drivers now head to Malaysia for the final event in that country in two weeks’ time as the fight to become champion comes down to the next two months.

EMAIL CAMERON AT @cpatersonf1@gmail.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Hamilton Wins Dramatic Wet-Dry Grand Prix in Singapore

It was action from the off in Sunday evening’s Singapore Grand Prix – the first night race in F1 history to be run in wet conditions. With both Ferraris and a Red Bull eliminated in a coming-together at the start, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton stormed to his 60th F1 victory, extending his championship lead over Sebastian Vettel from three to 28 points with just six races to go.

In a race that ran to the full two-hour limit thanks to three safety-car periods, Daniel Ricciardo made the Marina Bay podium for the fourth year in a row, as he took second place for Red Bull ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.

Carlos Sainz scored his best-ever result with fourth for Toro Rosso; Jolyon Palmer did the same as he finished sixth for Renault; and likewise Stoffel Vandoorne with seventh place for McLaren. The remaining points places went to Force India’s Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon in fifth and tenth respectively, Williams’ Lance Stroll in eighth and Haas’s Romain Grosjean in ninth.

The race, as it happened

With the forecast rain having started to fall just prior to the start, Vettel led off the line from his hard-won pole position, but as Max Verstappen lagged alongside him, Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen came creeping down the inside of the Red Bull heading to Turn 1. That was where the Dutchman found himself getting pinched in a Scuderia sandwich, and the three collided.

Verstappen and Raikkonen were done for the night, sliding off on the outside of the corner and collecting an innocent Fernando Alonso, who had rocketed his McLaren off the line in typical fashion to briefly nose as high as third.

Vettel clung to the lead as Hamilton jumped to second place round the outside, but then the German’s car damaged spun in a straight line, ripping off its nose and prompting his retirement.

Hamilton thus led Ricciardo as the debris was cleared under the first of the three safety-car deployments.

When the race resumed on the fifth lap, Hamilton began opening a gap to Ricciardo that was wiped out in the 11th lap when Daniil Kvyat crashed his Toro Rosso into the Turn 7 wall.

Once again Hamilton rebuilt his advantage with another series of fastest laps, and by the 24th lap conditions were dry enough for slick tyres.

Ricciardo took ultrasofts on the 28th lap, Hamilton a lap later, and yet again the Mercedes pilot opened up a lead, only to see it eradicated once more when Marcus Ericsson crashed his Sauber on the 37th lap after spinning on the Anderson Bridge.

By then Ricciardo had been trading fastest lap with Hamilton, but when the track went green for the last time the Englishman was still able to draw away as he wished and eventually won by 4.5s.

It was a great evening for Mercedes, with Valtteri Bottas bringing his car home third, albeit a long way behind the Red Bull.

Carlos Sainz drove an excellent race for Toro Rosso and resisted race-long pressure from Force India’s Sergio Perez to take fourth place, 14s behind Bottas.

And it was a good day at last for Jolyon Palmer who, after Renault team mate Nico Hulkenberg had fallen back from an excellent fourth place with mechanical problems, resisted attacks from Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren to finish sixth.

Vandoorne was comfortably ahead of Lance Stroll’s Williams which benefited when the team split their early strategy and put him on intermediate tyres and kept Felipe Massa on full wets. The Canadian was chased home by Romain Grosjean’s Haas, as Esteban Ocon took the final point for Force India. Massa, in 11th, and Pascal Wehrlein in 12th, were the final finishers.

Besides Verstappen, Raikkonen, Vettel, Kvyat, Ericsson and Hulkenberg, Alonso recovered from his first corner delay but retired his damaged McLaren with mechanical problems which led to loss of power, while Kevin Magnussen, whose Haas had a problem with its MGU-K, was the final DNF.

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What We Learned Italian Grand Prix 2017  

THE BIG PICTURE:  The Italian Grand Prix was one of the 1950 group of original events and is still one of four actively run; they are Monaco, British, Belgian and the Italian. While the venue could change, it has not to date, with Monza Park, also known as Autodromo Nazionale Monza, hosting each time except for 1980. This one is a keeper.

EVENT:  In its current configuration, Monza runs about 3.5 miles around the lush European forested Villa Royale, once an estate of the Imperial Hapsburgs. It features fast corners and long straights, which makes for an exciting race. This is especially remarkable considering that Monza was just the third purpose built race track constructed in the world. The track is often called “The Cathedral of Speed,” And lest anyone feel this is too dignified for car racing, we need to remind you this is also home to the Tifosi.

 IN OUR LAST EPISODE: Lewis Hamilton powered to his fifth win of the year at Spa-Francorchamps, ahead of second place Sebastian Vettel by less than three seconds.

 QUALIFYING:   This was almost as interesting as the race. For starters, the time what was supposed to be qualifying was red flagged due to rain. So, the famous track at Monza was a soupy mess when the multi-million-dollar cars finally hit the grid to determine who was fastest. Immediately, Hamilton showed us that once again, he was the quickest of all, for the record 69th time. And he remained so. There is little point in reviewing the other positions as they got jumbled up due to half the field sporting grid penalties. Stupid.

 START:  The start was nearly as stupid. Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon are competent mid pack drivers and normally not a hazard to anyone. But, with their current equipment, they had no business starting second and third.  It was only through the skills of their fellow drivers that there was no tragic accident. And so it was all the way down the grid. More thought should be given to the millions of race fans who pay hard earned money to see these events throughout the world. Instead, under the current system thought is given to the potentates who control the sport. Boo.

 RACE:  There was little to no suspense in this race. Lewis Hamilton led from the start and only went out of the lead to pit and retook it to win his sixth contest of the season. It was also the first back-to-back victory this year. The action at Monza all happened behind the leader. Ferrari was, unfortunately, celebrating their 70th anniversary, but it was not a particularly successful for them, with a weak finish by Vettel in third, a full 36 seconds behind the leader. Daniel Ricciardo, on the other hand, was gridded back in the 16th spot and charged to the front, finishing a well-deserved fourth. Max Verstappen, who has been sharing the role of DNF King this year with Fernando Alonzo, managed to place tenth and earn a single championship point. And of course, both McLarens DNFed, likely so that they could make car repairs for Singapore instead of incurring those annoying grid penalties.

BEST TEAM:  Once again, it was Mercedes, with their cars finishing one – two.

WHAT WE WILL REMEMBER: Most memorable will be that 45% of the field had grid penalties mostly due to equipment changes. While the intention of the grid penalties was to be punitive, the reality is this many makes the event downright dangerous, not to mention, stupid. The purpose of qualifying, after all, is to keep faster cars in the front. With slower cars gridded as far up as second, the start was unusually ridiculous, even for Formula 1.

QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND:  “This is obviously an incredibly exciting season; the last two races have been really strong for us as a team. The way things have come together in the second half of the season is exceptional. Today, the car felt fantastic, particularly on that first stint. As we had a bit of breathing room behind us, it was easier for us to extend the life of the tyres. Valtteri did a fantastic job to get through and get this one-two. It is amazing to have the first back-to-back wins in a long, long time and claim the lead in the championship. But the fight will continue, the Ferraris have been really quick this season, especially on the high-downforce tracks. It will continue to be really close between us, so it will be ‘ beast mode’ all the way to the last chequered flag.” Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes driver and race victor

 QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND RUNNERUP: “I’m very, very happy about the result and loved it out there today. It was good fun. Two of my favourite races this year have been starting from the back. Silverstone and this one. Some good overtakes in the race kept me excited and I had some real pace in the end. I could see Seb and the thought of a podium was tempting me, so I was obviously trying to catch him right up to the end. The boys did the quickest pit stop and I also got the fastest lap so that’s very cool. You can almost call it a perfect day. We couldn’t have done much more from where we started. Of course I wanted to be up there on the podium as it looked unreal, but I believe it will come next year. Today has been a really good boost for everyone and we’re looking ahead to Singapore.” Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull driver and fourth place finisher

 SCHEDULE:  In two weeks, the fly-away races begin with the Grand Prix of Singapore, at night on a street circuit on September 17th.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Commanding Monza Win Gives Hamilton Title Lead

Lewis Hamilton heads the 2017 drivers’ championship for the first time this season after he led Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas to a dominant 1-2 finish in Sunday’s Formula 1 Gran Premio Heineken d’Italia 2017, humbling third-placed Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari on their home ground.

Daniel Ricciardo battled his way through from 16th on the grid to take fourth place for Red Bull, ahead of the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, while Esteban Ocon won a race-long tussle with the Williams of Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa to secure sixth for Force India.

Ocon’s team mate Sergio Perez was ninth and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who dropped to the back in an early clash with Massa, recovered to complete the top ten.

Hamilton dominated the race from the start, with Bottas riding shotgun from the third lap. The Finn made a poor start but redeemed himself by snatching back fourth place by passing Raikkonen’s Ferrari round the outside of the Parabolica at the end of the opening lap. Thereafter he made short work of fast-starting Ocon, who took second from front-row starter Stroll from the grid.

As the Mercedes ran away and hid, Vettel had no answer for Ferrari and as Hamilton led Bottas home by 4.4s, after a minor scare when he thought his car lost power on the 43rd lap, the former points leader finished 36.3s behind him.

Hamilton now has 228 points to Vettel’s 225, with Bottas still in touch on 197.

Red Bull had a strong race after engine penalties had pushed them down the grid. Riccardo started on the soft Pirelli tyres, ran until the 37th lap on them, then came on like gangbusters on supersofts in the final stint. The Australian cut an 11.5s deficit to Vettel to just 4.0s by the flag, though the German told his team he’d had a problem from the halfway mark.

Verstappen had a coming together with Massa on the third lap which sent him pitwards for a replacement front wheel and tyre, but like Ricciardo he set several fastest laps, and recovered beautifully to 10th.

Between them, Raikkonen took a very distant fifth, some way ahead of a fierce fight between Ocon’s Force India, Stroll’s Williams, and their respective team mates. Only 3.6s covered the quartet by the finish.

Kevin Magnussen was a disgruntled 11th for Haas, pushed out of 10th as he and Verstappen collided in the second chicane, and he had Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso less than a second behind him. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg likewise narrowly led Carlos Sainz’s sister car home for 13th. Romain Grosjean suffered front wing damage on the opening lap and trailed in 15th, ahead of final finisher Pascal Wehrlein who had a brush with Sauer team mate Marcus Ericsson.

Ericsson had to retire near the finish, as did a very unhappy Fernando Alonso, who had a clash with Renault’s Jolyon Palmer which earned the Briton a five-second penalty. Palmer did not finish either, while Stoffel Vandoorne’s quest for a point in the other McLaren also ended in the pit lane.

 
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Qualifying – Hamilton Takes Pole Record, Stroll to Start Second

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has more poles than any man in history – 69 – after topping a wet and rain-disrupted qualifying session in Monza on Saturday. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo finished second and third, but after grid penalties for both, Williams rookie Lance Stroll will start the race alongside Hamilton on the front row.

Fifth fastest was Force India’s Esteban Ocon, ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. Williams’ Felipe Massa and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne completed the top ten.

The session initially started on time, but as the rain worsened Haas’s Romain Grosjean aquaplaned off on the main straight, bringing out the red flags just four minutes in. The Frenchman was unhurt, and wheel rims aside, damage to his car was light, but his afternoon’s work was over.

Two hours and 35 minutes later, conditions were finally adjudged to be safe to resume the remaining 13 minutes and 31 seconds of Q1. Verstappen reported: “It’s better than when we started qualifying,” but had been happy to run much sooner.

Hamilton and Bottas were fastest on wets with 1m 36.009s and 1m 36.582s right into the dying moments, when the Finn went faster after switching to intermediates, with 1m 35.716s. Vettel was third on inters, in 1m 37.198s.

Raikkonen had a bit of a drama with a brake fire, and a near miss when his crew almost released him into the path of one of the Force Indias as the latter swept into its space immediately in front of the Ferrari pit.

Further down, Carlos Sainz made Q2 with 1m 39.788s for Toro Rosso, leaving Haas’s Kevin Magnussen 16th with a last-moment 1m 40.489s on inters, ahead of Renault’s Jolyon Palmer on 1m 40.646s on wets, the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein on 1m 41.732s and 1m 41.875s, and Grosjean in 20th on the strength of his originally third-fastest lap of 1m 43.355s.

There was a threat of further rain at the start of Q2, so everybody was in a rush to get a time in before conditions changed again.

All the quick times came on inters, with Hamilton improving further right at the end to stay on top with 1m 34.660s, despite some rain out on the back straight. Bottas also went quicker to 1m 35.396s as Verstappen did 1m 36.113s to beat Vettel’s 1m 36.223s set quite early on.

The biggest improver was Stroll who jumped from nowhere to fifth, ahead of Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Massa. Vandoorne bumped Sergio Perez right at the end, the Mexican missing out on 10th place by two thousandths of a second to Force India team mate Esteban Ocon.

Behind the Force India’s 1m 37.582s, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg was 12th on 1m 38.082s, with Fernando Alonso only running at the end to record 1m 38.202s for McLaren. That left the Toro Rossos 14th and 15th, with Daniil Kvyat on 1m 38.245s and Carlos Sainz on 1m 38.526s.

Could Ferrari beat Mercedes to the pole in Q3, giving the soaked spectators something to cheer, or would Hamilton set a new all-time record of 69?
The rain had come back, so again there were some brave tyre choices and some initially still went for intermediates – notably Ferrari and Mercedes – as the full wets made a comeback. But the rain was by now so heavy that surely the green-banded rubber was a mistake.

This was one of those sessions when times were improving continually as conditions did. Ocon, Verstappen and Hamilton all had turns at the top, but right at the end Mercedes pitted both their drivers for fresh wets. That was just as well, as Verstappen lapped in 1m 36.702s to beat Hamilton’s mark of 1m 36.913s. Team mate Ricciardo was also fast with 1m 36.841s, temporarily putting red Bull 1-2. But right at the end the triple champion put another super-neat lap together, even though he said conditions did not feel as good, and when he stopped the clocks with 1m 35.554s a sensational lap earned him a new record of 69 pole positions.

Stroll did a superb job to put his Williams fourth on 1m 37.032s, ahead of the also impressive Ocon on 1m 37.719s. Bottas didn’t get his run on new wets, so was sixth with 1m 37.833s, while Ferrari had a simply disastrous session with Raikkonen only seventh on 1m 37.987s and Vettel eighth after failing to better 1m 38.064s.

Massa was ninth on 1m 38.251s, and Vandoorne completed the top 10 with 1m 39.157s.

Both Red Bulls, of course, have heavy grid penalties for using additional power unit elements and will thus start Sunday’s race from the back of the field – likewise Hulkenberg, Palmer, Alonso and Sainz. That at least throws Ferrari a lifeline as their drivers will move up two places apiece.

And Stroll will start from the front row – the youngest driver to do so in history and the first Canadian in 19 years.

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What We Learned from the Belgian Grand Prix 2017

The Big Picture:  If the drivers could vote, most would select either Spa-Francorchamps or Monza as their favorite course in the championship. As one of the inaugural races in modern Formula One, Spa is an important race for the series.

The Event:  A record crowd of 265,000 watched the race this year in person. Spa is contracted with Formula One through 2018. We see no reason the contract won’t be extended for many years to come by new owners Liberty Media.

In Our Last Episode:  Sebastian Vettel took his fourth win of the season at the Hungaroring with the two Finnish drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas filling out the podium.

Qualifying:  Lewis Hamilton took his 68th career pole, tying Michael Schumacher’s all-time series record, and setting a new track speed record in the process. Sebastian Vettel’s final lap was one of the best of his career.

Start:  We have mentioned this before, but Formula One is supposed to be the premier auto racing series in the world. But, if so, why can’t they get their 20 cars all through the first lap?

Race:  It was a tight race at the front between Hamilton and Vettel, with the Briton managing to stay in front due to qualifying better, strategy and determination. Behind these two, both Bottas and Raikkonen were out driven by Daniel Ricciardo on the restart on Lap 34 and ended up on the podium instead of the Finns. Elsewhere, the Force India drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez managed to crash together not once but twice!

Best Team:  This one is hard to call. No team had both drivers finish at the front. Hamilton was first, but Bottas came in fifth. Ouch. Vettel scored a second-place finish, while teammate Raikkonen had a fourth. So, we are going to say no one this week.

What We Will Remember:  It was Hamilton’s 200th Formula One start. He and three other drivers won their two hundredths races: Michael Schumacher (2004), Jenson Button (2011) and last year’s champion Nico Rosberg (2016). Hamilton notched his 58th victory, his fifth this season. Max Verstappen fared poorly this race as is becoming the norm. He’s now DNFed six times, all within the 12th Lap of the start. As a result, he has run fewer laps in 2017 than any of the 20 full-time racers.

Quote of the Weekend: “It’s amazing to come back into the season and start on the right foot. The Ferrari was very strong today and they put on a fantastic fight. We were both pushing every single lap and there was no room for error or mistake. The Safety Car was driving so slow that keeping tyre temperature was very difficult. On the restart, Sebastian got a good tow, it was very close. It is fun to be racing against another team and Sebastian at his best and the car at its best – that’s what racing is all about. I want to thank the team, I would not have been able to win today without them.” Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes driver and race victor

Runner-up Quote of the Weekend:  “If we had ended up ahead in qualifying, then we would have had a good pace to stay in front today! I was surprised how close I could follow through the whole race. So I am a bit angry at myself, because, when the race restarted after the safety car, I was probably too close to Lewis out of Turn 1. I tried to open the gap down Eau Rouge but it’s a difficult compromise. You see the cars coming behind and you know that you need to defend, instead of focusing on attacking. At the same time I know that down the straights we are not as quick as Mercedes. So, I am not entirely happy, but after all it’s been a great weekend for the team. We don’t need to be afraid of any circuit, I believe we have the best car in terms of package. There’s still something missing but the guys in Maranello are very motivated. I think we have done the biggest improvement and a big step forward. Now we turn the page on and move on to Monza: let’s see what happens there.” Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari driver and second place finisher

Schedule:  The circus goes to Monza next weekend for the Italian Grand Prix on September 3rd.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Race – Hamilton Holds Off Vettel to Halve Title Deficit

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton took a narrow victory over Sebastian Vettel in Sunday’s 2017 Formula 1 Pirelli Belgian Grand Prix to slash the Ferrari driver’s championship lead from 14 to seven points. Just 2.3s separated the title rivals at the chequered flag, as Daniel Ricciardo secured an unexpected podium for Red Bull with third place at Spa-Francorchamps.

Hamilton did just what he needed to in his 200th Grand Prix as he scored his 58th career success, but it was an intense nip-and-tuck battle all the way, with Vettel never more than two seconds adrift throughout the 44 laps, and sometimes a lot closer than that.

Kimi Raikkonen was fourth in the second Ferrari, the Finn having been given a 10-second stop-go penalty for ignoring yellow flags when the luckless Max Verstappen retired his Red Bull with power loss on Lap 8.

Valtteri Bottas finished a disappointed fifth for Mercedes, while Nico Hulkenberg scored his third sixth place of the year for Renault, followed home by the Haas of Romain Grosjean and the Williams of Felipe Massa.

Esteban Ocon survived contact with Force India team mate Sergio Perez not once but twice in two separate clashes on the run down to Eau Rouge to take the flag in ninth, with Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz completing the top ten.

Hamilton took charge from the start as Vettel pushed in his wake ahead of Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen and Ricciardo. But much to his 40,000 Dutch fans’ dismay the luckless Verstappen lasted only seven laps before coasting to a halt partway up the Kemmel straight with power loss.

Hamilton retained control until another incident between Force India drivers Ocon and Perez, who had already rubbed wheels (and in Ocon’s case the wall) going down the hill to Eau Rouge on the opening lap, brought out the safety car on the 30th lap.

This time Perez had again squeezed his team mate towards the old pit wall, and they made firmer contact. Perez sustained a punctured right-rear tyre, while Ocon lost a chunk of his front wing. There was debris everywhere, hence the safety car.

Where all but supersoft runners Grosjean and Sainz went for ultrasoft tyres in the ensuing rash of pit stops, Mercedes put their drivers on softs, and it seemed that they might have thrown away the race.

Bottas got things wrong at the restart on the 34th lap and was passed on the left on the run to Les Combes by the ever-opportunistic Ricciardo and on the right by Raikkonen.

As one Mercedes fell back, however, the other forged ahead again, and against expectations Hamilton was able to contain Vettel’s challenge, even though the Ferrari was on the theoretically faster rubber.

The result brings him within seven points of the German, 213 to 220, with Bottas third on 179, Ricciardo on 132, and Raikkonen on 128.

Behind them, Hulkenberg easily took sixth, but a mid-race change of strategy helped Grosjean to take seventh for Haas ahead of Massa, whose Williams fended off Ocon’s damaged Force India to the flag. Sainz salvaged 10th and a point for Toro Rosso, as Williams’ Lance Stroll led Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson home.

Perez’s car was withdrawn late in the race, joining McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, Verstappen and Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein on the retirements list.

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The History of Formula 1’s Pole Record

Back in 2006 when Michael Schumacher took his 68th and final pole position at the French Grand Prix, the total looked like a steep obstacle for anyone to climb.

That was until Lewis Hamilton came on the scene a year later. And in his 11th season in the sport, the Mercedes pilot has joined Schumacher on the same amount after setting the fastest time at Spa-Francorchamps.

Hamilton set a 1m42.553s – a new lap record – to lead the grid for the race ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas.

He is now the second British person to take this honor following Jim Clark, and it is currently the 18th record with his surname besides it.

Coincidentally for the man who now has Bottas (No. 77) as his teammate – it is the 77th change of the record since the first pole position back in 1950.

The Beginning of the Sport

As the sport first got underway in 1950, unsurprisingly the most changes at the front of this standing happened in the opening decade of racing.

Nino Farina took the first at the British Grand Prix that year before Juan Manuel Fangio started on top in Monaco. Walt Faulkner joined them on level terms when he won the pole for the 1950 Indianapolis 500, then a part of this championship.

Fangio and Farina tied on two in the next two contests before Fangio ran away to four by the end of the year, and seven at the end of 1951.

The Fall of 1952 brought Alberto Ascari’s period with the record, stealing the accolade in Italy in September, before extending his reign in Argentina, the Netherlands, France, Britain, Germany, and Italy again in 1953.

This would not stop Fangio’s time entirely, as he came back to begin a 13-year spell in the lead by taking his 13th  in Britain in 1954 before ending his career on 29, his last in Argentina in 1958.

Clark Takes Over

Fangio’s list of achievements was quickly eradicated by Lotus’s Clark as his team became dominant in the sport in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

The Scot became only the second driver to reach 20 before tying with Fangio at the 1967 German Grand Prix in August.

He took the record outright at the end of that month in Canada before having the fastest times in Italy and Mexico.

His last 33rd  was at the South African Grand Prix on New Year’s Day in 1968 as his period fighting at the front of the sport was sadly cut short on April 7 that year, dying at an F2 race in Germany.

Senna’s Supremacy

Clark’s time with the accolade was the longest period – over 21 years – until Ayrton Senna took over while fighting for his second world championship.

Starting at the front in Mexico was the 33rd of his career, but this would only be the halfway point of his amount.

Nine others in 1989 extended his record to 42, before another 10 the following year, and eight in 1991.

Just two more came for him at McLaren in 1992 and 1993 in Canada and Australia, before starting first in his first three events for Williams.

Sadly, his time would also be cut short by an accident at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, resulting in his death.

Schumacher’s Time

The final year in which Senna extended his record was the one that Michael Schumacher began his title-winning streak for Benetton.

He would be the next line in for throne, equaling the Brazilian’s tally at the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix.

His final campaign in the sport included claiming three more at the San Marino, United States and French races.

The date of July 16, 2006, previously stood as the last time the record changed as he ended the last three months of his career without another, and without an eighth title.

What Next?

Hamilton has reached seven so far in 2017, reached double figures in the past two seasons, and has an average of eight per calendar with Mercedes – so many will wonder whether he could reach 100 if he goes on to have a career of a similar length to Schumacher’s (1991-2006, 2010-12).

For now, his next step will be to take another and complete the passing over of the baton if he wants to ensure winning the Pole Trophy for the third time in a row.

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Categories
Formula One Open Wheel

Qualifying – Hamilton equals Schumacher’s all-time pole record

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to first place in Saturday’s qualifying session for the 2017 Formula 1 Pirelli Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. It is the 68th pole of Hamilton’s F1 career, matching Michael Schumacher’s outright pole-position record.

A scintillating lap of 1m 42.553s – the fastest ever here – put the Briton, who starts his 200th Grand Prix on Sunday, 0.242s ahead of his championship rival, with team mate Valtteri Bottas third and Kimi Raikkonen, complaining of vibrations in the second, Ferrari fourth.

The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were fifth and sixth respectively, followed by Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. A disappointed Jolyon Palmer completed the top ten, his Renault’s gearbox having failed at the start of Q3.

Hamilton owned the session and never looked like being beaten, but in the end it was a close-run thing between the three-time champion and points leader Vettel, after a gripping hour of action.

As Raikkonen immediately suffered serious vibrations on his Ferrari in Q1, Vettel set the initial pace with 1m 44.275s before Hamilton did a second run that yielded 1m 44.184s. Verstappen got closest to them, with 1m 44.535s, but had to run ultrasoft tyres to do it whereas they had both run supersofts.

Neither of the Williams made it through to Q2 – bad news on a track where their Mercedes engines should have helped. Felipe Massa recorded 1m 45.823s to head Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat on 1m 46.028s, team mate Lance Stroll – hampered by bodywork issues – on 1m 46.915s, and the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein on 1m 47.214s and 1m 47.679s.

Hamilton narrowly headed Raikkonen, 1m 43.539s to 1m 43.700s, at the start of Q2, but a subsequent run yielded 1m 42.927s for the Briton as Bottas improved to 1m 43.249s to head the Finn, who was still complaining of vibrations. Verstappen was fourth from Vettel and a disappointed Ricciardo. To his delight, Palmer was seventh, ahead of Perez, Hulkenberg and Ocon, despite a clutch problem on his Renault.

That left Fernando Alonso as the first to be out in the cold despite a decent tow up Kemmel from McLaren team mate Vandoorne. The local boy, who will start from the back of the grid thanks to engine penalties, did not record a time, while the Spaniard crossed the line complaining of no power. Nevertheless, his 1m 45.090s left him ahead of the Haas drivers Romain Grosjean on 1m 45.133s and Kevin Magnussen on 1m 45.400s. Sainz was 14th, on 1m 45.439s.

Palmer’s wretched luck returned the moment Q3 began, when his gearbox expired on his out lap. That left some oil out the back of the track, but that didn’t stop Hamilton from blasting the Ferraris with a lap of 1m 42.907s compared to Raikkonen’s 1m 43.270s and Vettel’s 1m 43.426s. Bottas split the red cars with 1m 43.358s, as Verstappen led Ricciardo with 1m 43.778s to 1m 43.925s.

Could Hamilton keep the advantage, or would Ferrari find something? He could, and they did. But not enough.

Hamilton’s next run brought him down to 1m 42.553s, which was just as well as Vettel improved to 1m 42.795s to move up to second as Bottas’ improvement to 1m 43.094s was not enough. The Finn will start alongside fellow countryman Raikkonen, who aborted his attempts to go faster, still suffering vibrations. 

Verstappen and Ricciardo both improved but stayed where they were, as Hulkenberg’s 1m 44.982s left him seventh ahead of Perez and Ocon on 1m 45.244s and 1m 45.369s respectively. The luckless Palmer will start 10th, having been unable to record a time.

A total of five drivers have grid penalties to be applied: 65 places for Vandoorne after a new gearbox and multiple power unit element changes; five places for Massa for ignoring yellow flags in FP3; five apiece for Ericsson and Wehrlein due to unscheduled gearbox changes; and 20 for Kvyat for using several new power unit elements.

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News Open Wheel

Race – Hamilton’s fifth home win slashes Vettel’s title advantage

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton won the British Grand Prix for the fifth time on Sunday – matching the record of Jim Clark and Alain Prost – to cut Sebastian Vettel’s championship lead to just a single point after late tyre dramas hit both Ferraris. They allowed Valtteri Bottas to grab second from Kimi Raikkonen to secure a Mercedes one-two, as Vettel trailed home seventh.

Red Bull – off the pace of the frontrunners all afternoon – were the key beneficiaries, with Max Verstappen fourth and Daniel Ricciardo – the fans’ Driver of the Day after battling his way up from P19 on the grid –fifth.

Behind them, Nico Hulkenberg secured a superb sixth place for Renault – some consolation for the French team after Jolyon Palmer in the sister car went out with hydraulic problems on the formation lap.

The Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez took the flag in eighth and ninth respectively, with Felipe Massa the final point scorer for Williams in tenth.

On a perfect afternoon at his favourite track, Hamilton delivered in style for his fans, starting from pole, leading all the way and setting the fastest lap of the race.

“I see you out there!” Hamilton told the fans over his radio as he toured in, after a pluperfect performance in which his only significant concern was some blistering on his soft Pirelli tyres just past mid-distance.

Hamilton took the lead, nursed it during a safety car intervention after the Toro Rossos of Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat had collided on the first lap, then simply controlled the race until the end.

All of the action took place behind him. Raikkonen pushed him as hard as he could, which this day was not enough to worry Mercedes, as Vettel never ran higher than third after losing a huge amount of time trapped behind a boisterous Verstappen who had out-fumbled him in the opening corners with a superb move round the outside at Loop.

The two later came close to swapping paint at Stowe and Club on the 14th lap, after which Ferrari brought their man in and got the undercut on the Dutchman when his left rear wheel’s nut proved sticky during his stop a lap later.

As Red Bull fell back, Bottas in the other Mercedes was pushing forward. He moved ahead of Verstappen after the latter’s pit stop on the 19th lap, then ran long on his soft tyres, climbed to second behind Hamilton as the Ferraris stopped, then battled after them on his supersoft tyres after pitting on the 32nd of the 51 laps.

Vettel succumbed as the Mercedes slammed past going up to Stowe on the 43rd lap, after an attempt round the outside there the previous lap hadn’t quite worked out, and then Bottas began to slice into Raikkonen’s advantage as he sensed a possible Mercedes one-two.

But in the end he didn’t need to push so hard, because the Ferrari’s left front tyre started to delaminate, forcing Raikkonen into the pits. Red Bull also brought Verstappen in, which ultimately lost him the podium slot, because just as it seemed Vettel would inherit it, the German’s car suffered exacty the same failure as team mate Raikkonen’s.

As that dropped him down the order with a pit stop, Raikkonen recovered to take the final podium position ahead of Verstappen, as Ricciardo’s superb afternoon of recovery took him from the back of the grid to fifth.

And Vettel’s misfortune handed back to Renault the sixth place that Hulkenberg had looked like taking all afternoon until his engine started de-rating and he could no longer fend off Ricciardo.

Vettel’s seventh place earned him six points, so he now has 177 to Hamilton’s 176, at the notional midpoint of the season.

Force India scored another chunk of points, as Ocon forced by Perez at the start and stayed there for the rest of the afternoon, and Massa made best use of soft tyres to begin with and supersofts at the end to snatch the final point for Williams.

Stoffel Vandoorne couldn’t quite turn his top 10 qualifying position into points with 11th for McLaren, who lost Fernando Alonso at just over half distance with mechanical problems. Haas took 12th and 13th with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, as Marcus Ericsson was Sauber’s top finisher in 14th ahead of the delayed Kvyat, who got a drive-through penalty for rejoining the circuit unsafely and thus causing the collision with his team mate.

Lance Stroll was 16th for Williams with some ‘aero loss’ late in the race, leading home Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein.

Thus the complexion of the world championship fight has been turned around in one afternoon, on which the huge British crowd got exactly what it came for.