Categories
Formula One Open Wheel

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

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @PatersonCameron

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.

Categories
Formula One Open Wheel

Vettel Spoils Red Bull Party With Singapore Pole

For a while in Singapore on Saturday evening it looked as though Max Verstappen was set to become F1’s youngest ever pole sitter. That was until the man who holds that record – Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel – stormed to his fourth P1 qualifying at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, beating the Dutchman by a clear three-tenths of a second.

It was a lap that left even Vettel breathless with disbelief that finally settled the situation in his favour as he fights to retrieve his previous championship advantage from points leader Lewis Hamilton, who finished fifth on the grid for Mercedes.

Daniel Ricciardo was third with a time almost identical to his Red Bull team mate’s, with Kimi Raikkonen taking fourth in the second Ferrari. Then came the silver cars of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, the McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, with Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz completing the top ten.

Prior to the start of Q1, teams were warned that there was some oil on the entry to Turn 20, a residue from the Porsche race that followed FP3. The big problem was hitting walls, which Williams’ Felipe Massa, Haas’s Romain Grosjean and Force India’s Esteban Ocon all did, the first of that trio losing time and chances by puncturing his right rear tyre.

But the big excitement was Red Bull’s pace as Verstappen narrowly headed Ricciardo, 1m 42.010s to 1m 42.063s, with Hamilton third on 1m 42.455s and the Ferraris nearly a second down on Hamilton in fifth and sixth places.

That got even worse for the Scuderia, though, as they were in the pits having changes made for Q2 there was a rash of further improvements. Alonso jumped to third ahead of Sainz and Vandoorne, leaving Hamilton sixth ahead of Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Hulkenberg, thus dropping Bottas, Raikkonen and Vettel to 10th, 11th and 12th.

A late improvement from Grosjean also bumped team mate Kevin Magnussen’s 1m 43.756s to 16th and thus the first of the Q1 fallers, followed by Massa, who got going again to lap in 1m 44.014s, Williams team mate Lance Stroll on 1m 44.728s, and the Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson on 1m 45.059s and 1m 45.570s respectively.

Ferrari came out fighting in Q2, as Vettel on 1m 40.329s headed Raikkonen on 1m 40.999s, Hamilton on 1m 41.075s and Bottas on 1m 41.409s. But then Verstappen went quickest with 1m 40.379s and Ricciardo moved in behind Vettel with 1m 40.776s. This was more like it.

Grosjean went off again, this time in Turn 1, then Vandoorne jumped to sixth on 1m 41.227s.

In the end it was Verstappen on 1m 40.332s as a strong lap for Raikkonen ended in the final sector with 1m 40.525s. That was then beaten by Ricciardo with 1m 40.385s as Red Bull went 1-2, while Vettel and Hamilton were inseparable on 1m 40.529s and 1m 40.577s.

The outstanding Vandoorne was sixth from Hulkenberg, Bottas, Alonso and Sainz, which meant that Palmer was the first to miss out with 1m 42.017s. The Force Indias were, unusually, nowhere, with Perez on 1m 42.246s and Ocon 1m 42.760s in 12th and 14th, separated by Kvyat on 1m 42.338s. Grosjean brought up the rear with 1m 43.883s.

Could Verstappen hold on to become the world’s first teenaged F1 polesitter, or would Mercedes and Ferrari be able to wind up their engines sufficiently to overcome the Red Bull duo?

Q3 saw the times really tumble. This time it was Vettel on provisional pole after the first runs with 1m 39.669s, snatching the honours from Verstappen, who had lapped in 1m 39.814s. Ricciardo was also super-quick with 1m 39.862s, jumping him to third ahead of Raikkonen on 1m 40.069s and Hamilton on 1m 40.192s. The track seemed to be getting better every lap.

Further back, Bottas was sixth from Alonso, Vandoorne, Hulkenberg and Sainz.

Could Verstappen get the initiative back from Vettel? Would Ricciardo intervene?

Vettel pushed harder than ever and clipped his time to 1m 39.491s, and to that Verstappen had no reply as his 1m 39.993s lap failed to match his previous effort. Ricciardo improved fractionally, to stay third with 1m 39.840s, while Raikkonen was likewise unable to go quicker and stayed fourth ahead of Hamilton, who improved slightly to 1m 40.126s for fifth.

“I don’t know where I found the time,” Vettel admitted. “We struggled yesterday and also this morning. I’m still full of adrenaline so maybe what I saw makes no sense, but I love this track. The car was tricky but was getting better and better. I scraped the wall with my left rear, and I think I need to calm down, but I’m very, very happy. It’s amazing, on this track, and when you can feel the car coming alive you can do what you want.”

Ericsson has a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change following his FP3 crash, but given he qualified last, the provisional grid currently reads exactly as per qualifying order.

Categories
News Open Wheel

Vettel Next Driver to Secure F1 Future

Another vacant seat on the Formula 1 grid has been taken from the market, as Ferrari completes their lineup for 2018.

Four-time champion – and 2017 title fighter – Sebastian Vettel has agreed to a new three-year contract to stay at the Scuderia until the end of 2020.

This comes just days after the news of Kimi Raikkonen continuing for 2018.

Vettel has been at Ferrari since 2015, winning seven races and taking three pole positions. It will be his longest period at a team, equaling the six years he spent at Red Bull from 2009 to 2014.

He is set to surpass 250 Grand Prix starts in the sport if he completes the duration of his deal.

Possible Repercussions?

This announcement could be the development that slows down the market for 2018 and future years in the fight for the drivers’ championship.

Ferrari has only used two world champions in their lineup this century between 2014 and 2017 and has not partnered two competitors who are multiple title-holders.

After years of rumors over whether he may one day be with the Italians, it may mean that Lewis Hamilton stays at Mercedes – or joins another team who are not yet at the front – if he continues fighting for wins in F1 until 2020 and beyond, with a seat at Red Bull unimaginable.

It also potentially delays a graduation for others on the grid or any of its Academy racers and allows a possible strong line-up of third drivers – with Antonio Giovinazzi waiting for a chance, Charles Leclerc leading the F2 championship and probably not returning to the series in 2018, and Giuliano Alesi winning races in GP3.

EMAIL CAMERON AT @cpatersonf1@gmail.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @PatersonCameron

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.

Categories
Formula One Open Wheel

Vettel Wins as Ferrari Prove Unstoppable in Hungary

Sebastian Vettel led team mate Kimi Raikkonen home for a Ferrari one-two in Sunday’s Formula 1 Pirelli Magyar Nagydíj 2017. With Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton finishing fourth, it means Vettel extends his championship lead to 14 points heading into the summer break.

On a day when the Silver Arrows had no answer to the Scuderia, despite Vettel complaining of steering issues, Valtteri Bottas took third ahead of Hamilton, just in front of a recovering Max Verstappen, who had been penalised 10 seconds for taking his Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo out of the race on the opening lap.

Fernando Alonso secured his and McLaren’s best result of the year in sixth, winning a race-long battle with fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz in the Toro Rosso.

Force India again got both cars in the points, with Sergio Perez beating team mate Esteban Ocon to eighth place, whilst Stoffel Vandoorne rounded out the top ten in the second McLaren.

Vettel and Raikkonen finished less than a second apart after 70 laps of the Hungaroring, but the reds certainly had to work much harder that they anticipated for their 43 points.

In the opening stages they were very much in command, as Vettel sprinted away and took Raikkonen with him, and Hamilton dropped behind team mate Bottas and Verstappen at the start.

But gradually Raikkonen began to erode Vettel’s lead as the German started complaining of a steering problem, and when Hamilton’s car came alive on the soft Pirelli tyres in the second stint, Mercedes asked Bottas to let the Briton by.

Then we had a real race, as Hamilton began clawing back ground lost partly because Ferrari were generally quicker, partly because of his indifferent start, and partly because a radio communication problem had seen Mercedes bring him in sooner to switch from the supersoft tyres to the softs than he thought necessary.

Bit by bit he pulled Raikkonen in, as the Finn angrily declaimed to Ferrari that he didn’t want to have to deal with pressure from Mercedes when it would be easier to get Vettel to move over. He was told that Vettel had been instructed to speed up and to go with him. Meanwhile, Hamilton was given five laps – then 10 – in which he could use his engine’s overtake function, and was putting them under big pressure. In a brave charge he got the gap to Vettel down to 1.7s on the 54th lap, but as is so often the case at the Hungaroring, a following car just couldn’t quite gather the pace to overtake.

Gradually he dropped away, as Bottas kept pushing hard in the closing stages to keep a threatening Verstappen at bay. The Dutchman had ran fourth and moved up into the lead when Raikkonen, the last of the leaders to stop, pitted on the 34th lap. He stayed out until the 42nd lap, but had to serve his 10s penalty during his stop for shoving team mate Ricciardo into retirement in Turn 2 on the opening lap. Now, on fresher tyres, he was coming back fast at the second Mercedes.

In the end, Hamilton and Mercedes honoured their promise to Bottas to restore his podium slot in the event that Hamilton could not pass the Ferraris, so as Vettel won by 0.9s, Bottas ended up a further 11.5s adrift, with Hamilton 0.4s behind and Verstappen another 0.4s down.

The result puts Vettel further ahead again in the title chase with 202 points to Hamilton’s 188 and Bottas’s 169, while Raikkonen closes on Ricciardo’s 117 with 116.

McLaren finally moved out of last place in the constructors’ table, with Fernando Alonso finishing an excellent sixth – and remarkably setting the fastest lap of the race on the 69th tour – and Vandoorne surviving for 10th after a near-miss with the spinning Ricciardo on the opening lap, then a delay during his pit stop. They now have 11 points to Sauber’s five.

In between the McLarens, a brilliant start brought Sainz seventh place for Toro Rosso, ahead of equally fast-starting Perez, who had a brush with team mate Ocon at the start and finished only a second ahead, as Ocon in turn was just half a second ahead of Vandoorne at the end.

Daniil Kvyat was 11th in the other Toro Rosso, four-tenths ahead of Jolyon Palmer who had run 10th early on before being instructed to let faster Renault team mate Nico Hulkenberg by. The German was fighting for points when he was eased off-track in Turn 2 by Kevin Magnussen (who received a five second penalty as a result), but his R.S.17 malfunctioned right near the end and he was instructed to retire.

That left Magnussen 13th from Lance Stroll who was Williams’ sole finisher after the returning Paul di Resta drove a smooth and incident-free race battling with the Saubers until he too was told to stop near the end due to an oil leak.

Pascal Wehrlein beat Sauber team mate Marcus Ericsson for 16th, as Romain Grosjean joined Hulkenberg, di Resta and Ricciardo in retirement when an improperly fastened wheel obliged Haas to tell him to stop. The team were subsequently fined €5,000 for releasing the car in an unsafe condition.

Categories
Formula One Open Wheel

Qualifying – Vettel Leads Ferrari One-Two in Hungary

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel was in scintillating form as he took his second pole position of the season in Budapest on Saturday afternoon. Kimi Raikkonen underlined Ferrari’s strength as he lapped just 0.168s slower than his team mate to complete the Italian team’s third front row lockout of the season and confine chief rivals Mercedes to the second row.

Valtteri Bottas was the quicker of the two Silver Arrows drivers, lapping 0.2s slower than Vettel, with Lewis Hamilton looking ragged as he came home in fourth, a couple of tenths down on his team mate.

Next up were the Red Bulls who were never quite in the mix for pole, with Max Verstappen edging Daniel Ricciardo to fifth, before a big gap to Nico Hulkenberg, who qualified his Renault seventh but will drop five places on the grid thanks to an unscheduled gearbox change.

The top ten was completed by the improving McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne and Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso.

Vettel had outlined his credentials by setting the pace in Q1, albeit by just 0.022s as Verstappen kept him honest. But the undoubted star of the opening segment was Williams stand-in Paul Di Resta.

Called up to drive at the last moment as a replacement for the unwell Felipe Massa, the Scot – who hadn’t driven an F1 car in anger since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix and had only tested the team’s 2017 car on the simulator – worked down to 1m 19.868s within just 11 laps.

That left him P19 – just two spots and seven tenths down on the other Williams of Lance Stroll and one place ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson. Kevin Magnussen was unlucky not to advance to Q2 after tying with Sergio Perez on 1m 19.095s, but having set the time later than the Mexican he was the first driver eliminated. He was joined by Stroll in 17th and the Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Ericsson who sandwiched Di Resta.

Hamilton, who had been targeting a record-equalling 68th pole, had been fastest in Q2, but only after going out on a second set of supersofts was he able to move ahead of Vettel and Verstappen, who had stayed in the garage after their first runs. Hulkenberg put in a mighty lap as he went sixth, but team mate Jolyon Palmer could only manage P11 as Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz took the last spot in Q3.

The Briton was eliminated along with Force India’s Esteban Ocon, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, the other Force India of Sergio Perez and Haas’s Romain Grosjean.

It could scarcely have looked closer between Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull going into Q3, but in the end the red cars proved untouchable.

Vettel’s blistering pole lap – a new outright lap record for the Hungaroring – came on his first run in Q3, with the German initially followed by Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Raikkonen as Hamilton, having complained of tyre vibrations, abandoned his first run after sliding off the road at Turn 4.

The Briton was the first to head out for a second run and improved to P3, but Raikkonen subsequently leapfrogged both him and Bottas to take second place and put Ferrari in the best possible position to score maximum points heading into the summer break.

With penalties applied, the grid will form thus: Vettel, Raikkonen; Bottas, Hamilton; Verstappen, Ricciardo; Alonso, Vandoorne,; Sainz, Palmer; Ocon, Hulkenberg; Kvyat, Perez; Grosjean, Magnussen; Stroll, Wehrlein; Di Resta, Ericsson.

 

Categories
Formula One Open Wheel

F1 NOTEBOOK: British Grand Prix Questions Answered

With almost a week passed since the British Grand Prix, some conclusions have been made about the failures experienced in Silverstone.

Teams have just one weekend off before competing in Hungary and then starting the traditional August summer break.

As a result, quick verdicts have been made over notable decisions.

Pirelli Investigates Ferrari Tire Failures

Pirelli says that Sebastian Vettel’s front left tire failure on the penultimate lap of British Grand Prix Sunday was due to a slow puncture.

The German looked set for his 10th straight top-four finish until the extra pit stop dropped him to seventh.

“As appeared clear since Sunday afternoon, a full investigation has now confirmed that the original cause of the failure was a slow puncture,” the manufacturer said in a statement. “The consequent driving back to the pits on an underinflated and then flat tyre led to the final failure.”

Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen’s front left tire is needing further analysis after initial tests could not find a clear reason for his failure.

“Further tests and analysis are still ongoing in Pirelli’s laboratories and indoor testing facilities. It will take a few more days to reach a definitive conclusion.”

Renault Developments

Renault’s chassis technical director Nick Chester has in-depth description why Jolyon Palmer did not start the British Grand Prix.

Palmer’s car developed a problem on the formation lap, meaning only 19 drivers took the start, which turned out to come from a piece that could be bought using coins.

“It was something as simple as an O-ring in the hydraulic system,” he said. “We’ve been investigating thoroughly to determine why it failed to ensure we don’t see this again.”

He does believe that the Renaults can make a step forward in the coming races after changes were made with the R.S.17 chassis.

“Both cars will have the new floor we validated [in Hungary],” Chester added. “We will evaluate updated front bodywork and a modified cooling package. We had significant aero upgrades in Silverstone and we expected to see improvements in overall grip and stability. We made the car more drivable with more downforce. It took a big step forward and we could see that in the measurements made in the car, so we are reasonably confident this will carry forward.”

Verstappen’s View

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen also explained where his team is aiming ahead of the Hungarian weekend.

With tight and twisty parts, the track could play to its aerodynamic strengths and help himself and Daniel Ricciardo fight for podium places.

“It’s always a bit too early to say how we’ll do in Hungary but we’re constantly improving, trying to get a better balance and more downforce on the car. Luckily there are not too many straights,” the Dutchman said.

EMAIL CAMERON AT @cpatersonf1@gmail.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @PatersonCameron

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.

Categories
Formula One Open Wheel

THREE TAKEAWAYS: 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

The latest addition to the Formula 1 calendar, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, produced one of the most dramatic races of this decade as chaos ensued at the Baku City Circuit.

After polesitter Lewis Hamilton had suffered an unusual incident with his headrest not being secured and Sebastian Vettel being given a time penalty, putting both in the pitlane one more time, Daniel Ricciardo took his fifth win in the sport.

Valtteri Bottas rebounded from a first lap puncture to finish second after beating Lance Stroll on the line.

Every team that had one car left in the event scored, with Renault being the only team to suffer a double retirement.

Ricciardo’s Fifth Win

Red Bull is rarely having a straightforward day in 2017, and Daniel Ricciardo certainly worked hard to claim another victory.

Ricciardo started in 10th after a qualifying crash and was forced to pit on Lap 6 to remove debris from his brakes, pushing him down to 17th.

As drivers around him suffered incidents, teammate Max Verstappen became the sixth team retirement of the year, and he made passes, Ricciardo was already up to 10th by a Lap 13 safety car period and fifth by the red flag ten circuits later. The safety car stint also saw him move onto the faster supersoft tires while the rest of the top-10 continued on the soft compound.

The Australian also again showed his gutsy overtaking abilities on his mission to the front. He passed both Marcus Ericsson and Carlos Sainz in turn 1 on Lap 10 for 13th, jumping on Sainz’s overtake of the Swede. A move by both Williams of Stroll and Felipe Massa took him to the podium positions at the inside of Turn 1 on Lap 24 thanks to late braking before the two leaders disappeared.

His run of four straight podiums since Spain is the best of his career and the chances of a third top-four championship finish are looking brighter by the weekend. That is if Red Bull’s unreliability problems do not develop.

Stroll’s First Podium

Fans of the sport are now left on a cliffhanger over whether the Canadian racer is beginning to blossom.

Stroll looked fantastic all weekend and rarely made an error on track in practice or qualifying.

His first points finish of ninth in Canada and more track time seemed to have given him more confidence.

He out-qualified teammate Felipe Massa for the first time in qualifying, leaving McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Renault’s Jolyon Palmer as the only permanent racers to not do this after eight rounds in 2017.

This is Williams’ 16th podium of this decade. Stroll is the fourth competitor to claim a top-three finish alongside Bottas, Pastor Maldonado and Massa.

He is the youngest person to score a podium in their rookie season, at 18 years and 239 days. It happened over a year since the team’s last top-three finish at the 2016 Canadian Grand Prix.

A third top-10 finish in a row in Austria may help the argument over his ability. Only five other Williams entrants have done this in the last 10 years – Nico Rosberg (2007, ’08), Rubens Barrichello (’10), Bruno Senna (’12), Bottas (’14, ’15, ’16) and Massa (’14, ’15, ’16).

Vettel and Hamilton Take Gloves Off

This contest sparked to controversial life as the safety car pitted at the end of Lap 23. Lewis Hamilton prepared for the restart, and Sebastian Vettel made contact with his rear before pulling alongside and hitting his right sidepod.

The German was penalized on Lap 32 with a 10-second stop-and-go penalty, resulting in a pit lane time loss of around 30 seconds. Vettel eventually recovered to fourth place, extending his Drivers’ Championship lead by two to 14 points.

Vettel’s incident had memories of 2010 when he was involved in some dramatic events while fighting for his first title, including his infamous ‘crazy’ gesture towards Mark Webber when the Red Bull rivals crashed at Turkey. In a way 2017 is like 2010 for him, when many may have thought he was not ready to become a champion because of his crashes. It is the first time since then he hasn’t had as much control of his destiny.

From 2011 through 2013, he had arguably the fastest car on the grid and had the mental advantage of being reigning champion. This year, like seven years ago, he is fighting to take the title against the odds.

Vettel now has nine penalty points, and if he were to offend again in Austria and gain another three-point penalty, he would be given a one-race ban for gathering 12 on his license. He may need to be careful and drive conservatively.

EMAIL CAMERON AT @cpatersonf1@gmail.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @PatersonCameron

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.

Categories
Formula One Open Wheel

THREE TAKEAWAYS: 2017 Canadian Grand Prix

The look of the Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship has changed again after Lewis Hamilton gained vital points on Sebastian Vettel by winning the Canadian Grand Prix.

Hamilton dominated the race for his sixth victory in Montreal, becoming the second driver to do this following Michael Schumacher (seven).

It is the first track he has won at on six occasions, and the third time in his career he has taken three straight victories at a circuit (Britain, United States 2014-16; Canada 2015-17). After placing 25 points behind the German after Monaco, the gap lies at just 12, marking a critical moment in stopping Vettel’s momentum as soon as possible.

Further down the grid, fan favorite Fernando Alonso again suffered a DNF for McLaren-Honda, classifying 16th. It was ironic that Alonso was in the top-four after 21 laps of this race, where he would have expected to be in the final portion of the Indy 500 had his engine not blown on Lap 179. This season is the first time that McLaren has not scored points in the first seven races of a year as its pace/unreliability crisis grows.

Hamilton Changes Record, Again

On Saturday, the Brit equaled his hero Ayrton Senna’s tally of pole positions (65) and is set to break Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 in coming months.

His pole time was an all-time venue record at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a 1m11.459s, while his race fastest lap of 1m14.551s was the quickest since Kimi Raikkonen in 2005 (1m14.384s).

Hamilton led every lap of a race for the 11th time in his career, moving to joint-fourth on the all-time list alongside Schumacher and Jackie Stewart. He also achieved his best lead of the year, 19.783 seconds, after triumphing by just three and six seconds in Spain and China. It was also the biggest difference between Hamilton and another driver since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix (Vettel, 25.042s behind), 36 races ago.

He completed the ‘grand slam’ of having the pole, win, fastest lap and leading every lap for the second time this year, and fourth time overall. Hamilton is the first driver to do this twice in a season since Nico Rosberg in Russia and Baku in 2016.

Important Drive?

Although just seven races have passed in 2017, Vettel will already be thinking about the long game.

The German finished just fourth after being forced to make two stops because of front wing damage, ending his run of six podiums. It was his 12th consecutive top-five finish, continuing the second-best streak of his career (19, 2010 Brazilian – 2011 Indian Grands Prix).

Vettel made one of the overtakes of the year at the left-handed first turn on Esteban Ocon on lap 66 after six laps behind the Force India driver.

Ocon was stuck behind teammate Sergio Perez, moving to his right while Vettel attacked the left. It was incredible that Vettel managed to stay away from contact by expertly braking, while Ocon was forced to run out of track and go across the run-off. This lost Ocon momentum and allowed Vettel into fifth before attacking Perez on Lap 69.

Stroll’s Breakthrough

During 2017, the story has always been that Williams has relied on Felipe Massa for points.

For the first time in Canada, Lance Stroll led the team when Massa’s race ended after just one lap through a crash with Carlos Sainz.

Stroll made many confident overtakes throughout the race, not making any errors, before finishing ninth to become the third Canadian to score in F1 after Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve. Canada now has 338 points in the sport.

Williams’s chief technical officer Paddy Lowe believed Stroll’s result was one of the team’s best of the year, especially after Stroll started with three straight DNFs.

“It’s a great story,” Lowe said. “Given the difficult start Lance has had to his F1 career, this feels like a race win to us. It was an incredible drive. I think this result will boost his confidence going forward and will give him some real momentum.”

F1’s next round, the first official Azerbaijan Grand Prix, could produce anything with no current drivers winning at Baku in the past, and the circuit where Hamilton had one of his ‘off days’ in 2016.

EMAIL CAMERON AT @cpatersonf1@gmail.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @PatersonCameron

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.

Categories
Formula One Open Wheel

What We Learned from the Monaco Grand Prix 2017

The Big Picture: To say Monaco is an iconic race is perhaps to understate the case. The contest draws billionaires in their yachts and casual fans to the Principality’s bars and restaurants all to watch a Grand Prix that has been run with some regularity since 1929.

The Event:  It’s one of the few auto races appearing on the Social Calendar. Oh, and there is a race too? The circuit on the streets of Monaco is a little over three miles for 78 laps. Everyone pits just once to do the mandatory change of tire compounds.

In Our Last Episode: Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton powered past then race leader Sebastian Vettel to take the win at Barcelona.

Qualifying:  Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen won his first pole position in 129 races, followed by his teammate Vettel and Mercedes’ Valterri Bottas. Usual frontrunner Hamilton had trouble qualifying due to a yellow being thrown while he was on a flyer and failed to make it into Q3, forcing the Briton to start in P13.

Start: Clean except for the dust-up between Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz which would help end the Force India cars end their streak of 17 consecutive finishes.

Race:  This edition came down to achieving a good starting position in qualifying, making clean pit stops without losing a place and completing the race. There is no actual passing on track in Monaco, so the contest went like this. Kimi Raikkonen won the pole, so he started and ran much of the event in P1. He was called to the pits first by his team, as is customary, which allowed Vettel to run some very fast laps which ended up giving him the lead after his pit stop. Bottas lost third due to clever pit strategies by Red Bull, giving the final podium position to Daniel Ricciardo. Both Haas cars finished in the points, the first time this year.

Best Team:  Scuderia Ferrari emerged from Monaco with its first win since 2001 and its first one-two finish since 2010. In this running, Mercedes was totally eclipsed in a way it had not been for years.

What We Will Remember:  This will likely be McLaren’s Jenson Button’s final F1 race. We got to see what the driver called “The Ice Man” looks like when he’s truly angry, as Raikkonen was after not winning the race.

Quote of the Weekend:

“It’s an incredible day. In the laps before my pit-stop I was surprised by my own pace because earlier on Kimi and I were both struggling with the rear tires. Those laps I did today were comparatively better than the ones I did in qualifying yesterday. It was impossible for me to predict how fast I could go today. At one point I thought a second, maybe half a second, but then it turned out it was more than that, which was obviously crucial to grant me first place out of the box. It was fantastic to be in the lead and win the race. There was a lot of adrenaline during those laps but in general I could control the race. It sure helps to be the leading car, without any traffic, so that you get better into the rhythm. Once I had new tires, again I was able to control the position. We had the chance this weekend to finish first and second and that’s what the team did. It’s great to see what we were able to do. Today the team gained a lot of points. It’s been a while since Ferrari won here so it’s a great day. I really enjoyed driving for the team. It is great to work together, we try to push each other and the best thing is to see that the team keeps growing.” Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel

Runner-up Quote of the Weekend

“It’s disappointing to come away from here with no points. Our race was compromised on the first lap, when I made contact with Sainz and damaged my front wing. We had to stop early and ended up in traffic, and it was always going to be difficult to recover to the points. We had a lot of pace in the car, but overtaking is always a challenge, even when you are much faster than the cars in front. After the Safety Car, with the field bunched up, I was on fresh tyres and all the cars ahead were struggling. I had a big opportunity to make up a few positions, but in Monaco there is no way to overtake without taking risks. I wasn’t any more aggressive than when I passed Palmer, Vandoorne or Stroll earlier in the race, but with Daniil [Kvyat] he didn’t give me enough space and we touched. It wasn’t a big hit but it was enough to ruin both our races. Even though I missed out on points, I am proud of my race because I gave everything I could. I feel really sorry for my team because we deserved more from this weekend and our string of good results is over, but we can take a lot of positives from today and build on them for the rest of the season.” Force India driver Sergio Perez

Schedule:  In two weeks the series comes to Canada to race the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in historic Montreal on Sunday June 11th.

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.

Categories
Formula One Open Wheel

Monaco Win Extends Vettel’s Championship Lead

Sebastian Vettel beat Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen to victory in Sunday’s Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco 2017, boosting his title advantage to 25 points over Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who finished a distant seventh. Daniel Ricciardo completed the podium for Red Bull.

A late safety-car period meant a frantic final 10 laps, but at the front the race was decided largely by strategy. A longer first stint for Vettel enabled him to get ahead of polesitter and early leader Raikkonen as he emerged in front of the Finn following their first and only pit stops. It was Ferrari’s first win in the Principality since 2001.

Ricciardo similarly made use of the ‘overcut’ to pass Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and his less-than-impressed Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen, who duly took the chequered flag in fourth and fifth respectively.

Toro Rosso were ‘best of the rest’ with Carlos Sainz in sixth, as Hamilton behind him climbed from 13th on the grid. Completing the top ten were Haas’s Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, separated by the Williams of Felipe Massa.

The most dramatic moment of the race came on Lap 60 when an ambitious passing attempt from McLaren’s Jenson Button on Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein went awry, tipping the latter’s car on to its side against the Portier barriers, its mercifully unharmed driver unable to escape his cockpit until help arrived. And as the safety car emerged, Button got as far as the chicane before suspension damage forced him to halt his one-race comeback.

Raikkonen had won the start, and soon the two Ferraris cleared off, though there was a period in the middle of the race when the pursuing Bottas and the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo were running quicker as the red cars’ tyres started sliding.

Ricciardo vaulted ahead of both Bottas and Verstappen by pitting later. They did so on the 33rd and 32nd laps respectively, the Australian on the 38th. The Dutchman was not amused.

But it was Vettel’s stop, on the 39th lap, which put him ahead of Raikkonen, who had made his pit call five laps sooner. That settled the race in his favour, extending his championship points score to 129.

Raikkonen’s face and demeanour on the podium suggested he was far from happy. This was a race in which the overcut worked more effectively than going for the undercut, so that the later you pitted, the better.

Ricciardo was happy, especially as he had clobbered the barrier exiting Ste Devote when the race restarted on the 67th lap and he narrowly fended off Bottas and Verstappen. He stayed ahead of them as the Dutchman got bottled up behind the Mercedes, to claim the final podium slot.

Sainz brought his Toro Rosso home and excellent sixth, holding off a fierce challenge from Hamilton. The Englishman’s race didn’t begin until his rivals began pitting, and for the first 20 or so laps he ran 10th after overtaking Stoffel Vandoorne off the line and moving up as Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault stopped early on with a blown gearbox and Sergio Perez pitted early for a new front wing on his Force India.

Hamilton kept running, and had climbed up to sixth before he pitted on the 46th lap. He lost just one place, to Sainz, but did not have the performance to pass the Spaniard even when the field bunched up behind the safety car. He now has 104 points, 25 – or a race win – behind Vettel.

Romain Grosjean ran well to take eighth for Haas, always in points contention, and it was a good day for the US team as Kevin Magnussen benefitted from a late collision which removed Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso after he was hit by the recovering Perez in a battle for position at Rascasse.

Magnussen had been well placed early on, but lost out in the pit stops and had dropped to 12th, but made it back to 10th, behind Massa’s equally fortunate Williams.

Jolyon Palmer was Renault’s survivor, and held off everything Esteban Ocon could throw at him to take 11th, as the Force Indias finally failed to score for the first time in 14 races, or to maintain their record of taking double points in every 2017 race.

Marcus Ericsson added to Sauber’s horrible day by crashing slowly at Ste Devote whilst under the safety car, and Vandoorne lost McLaren’s strong chance of the final point by doing the same thing there on the restart a lap later. Lance Stroll’s Williams retired late, with loss of brakes.

For Ferrari the race marked a big step towards not only the drivers’ championship, but also the constructors, as they move back ahead of Mercedes with 196 points to 179 as they scored their first 1-2 since Germany 2010.