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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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Bottas Signs Extension with Mercedes

Ahead of this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, it was announced on Wednesday that Mercedes driver, Valtteri Bottas, has signed a contract extension retaining the Finnish driver through the 2018 season. Bottas was originally inked just before the opening race of 2017 to replace the reigning world driving champion Nico Rosberg who quite unexpectedly retired after his victory.

The timing of this extension along with the original contract offered by Mercedes strongly suggest that the team attempted to engage the services of other competitors before settling on Bottas. However, the decision has proven to be an excellent one, with the new Mercedes driver racking up two race victories in Russia and Austria, nine podiums and two poles. He has also built a solid relationship with his teammate, multiple world champion Lewis Hamilton.

“We gave Valtteri a big challenge this year: joining the team at the eleventh hour, stepping up to the forefront of F1 and pairing with the sport’s best driver as his team mate. With that in mind, his results have been probably even more impressive,” said Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport. “There have been ups and downs – more ups, fewer downs – and some great highlights like his two race wins in Russian and Austria. Overall, the balance of his performances and his upward trajectory made it a no-brainer for us to continue with him into 2018. For our team, the bonus factors are the respect and sportsmanship that have grown between our two drivers. The chemistry and dynamic between Valtteri and Lewis work and are what we need to take the fight to our competitors.”

It is imagined that Hamilton will be pleased with the signing, as he is known not to get along well other potential teammates that the Silver Arrows considered, such as Fernando Alonzo. The two drivers have blended seamlessly, and that must make team management must easier.

According to Valtteri Bottas, “When the team hired me for the 2017 season, they took a leap of faith by putting their trust in my skills. This new contract for 2018 shows that I’ve earned that trust. I’m happy to have celebrated my first race wins in a Silver Arrow. However, there’s always room for improvement and I still have not shown my full potential. I will continue to work hard on and off the track, to further improve my driving, get even better results and show that putting their trust in me was the right decision.

“As a driver, I’ve been able to learn and grow massively, and we have already enjoyed some really good moments this season that I will never forget. I’ve been very impressed by the mentality, commitment and the team spirit this team holds. Partnering Lewis has also been really good, and I’m enjoying the respect we have and the will to push this team forward together. I want to thank all the board members, the people at the factories in Brackley and Brixworth as well as the race team and all the fans for their support and trust. It means a lot to me.”

Competition in the Formula One Series resumes on Friday with First Practice for the Singapore Grand Prix.

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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What We Learned from Austrian Grand Prix 2017

The Big Picture:  The race is a Red Bull festival as this is one racing facility owned by a Formula One team. That said, it has not consistently been held over the past 50 some year, but under the Bull, it has been there in the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg since 2013.

The Event:  Last year drew about 85,000, 2017 brought over 100,000 so it appears as long as there are schnitzel and Red Bull ownership, this race will happen.

In Our Last Episode: June 25th was Daniel Ricciardo’s day as he was the winning recipient of Sebastien Vettel punting Lewis Hamilton out of a win. It was a wild and crazy race with Lance Stroll earning his first career podium.

Qualifying: The second pole for Valtteri Bottas was the result of most of the competitors having only one qualifying lap in Q3 due to yellows. Sebastian Vettel was second and Lewis Hamilton third. Most remarkable was the two Williams entries did not make it out of Q1.

Start: Bottas had such a flawless start that he was accused of jumping the lights – which he did not. Daniil Kvyat broke late, which caused him to crash into the usually fast Fernando Alonzo. This caused Alonzo to crash into the always fast Max Verstappen. No one likes the Russian now, especially the thousands of Dutch who crossed the border to Austria to see their countryman.

Race: It was an interesting race! Everyone went with a one pit stop strategy and most of the cars started on Ultrasoft Pirelli tires. Lewis Hamilton, starting eighth due to a penalty for changing his gearbox, quickly moved up through the field from eighth. Once drivers had switched to supersofts, the contest suddenly came alive. Sebastian Vettel worked very hard to pass Bottas, but didn’t. Lewis Hamilton in fourth tried to get by  Daniel Ricciardo but didn’t. This left the podium to a sublimely happy Bottas, scowling Vettel, and smiling Ricciardo. Vettel did his best sour grapes by saying, I would have won if I had one more lap.

Best Team: Goes again to Mercedes, with drivers finishing first and fourth and no whining.

What We Will Remember: Valtteri Bottas’ second win and eclipsing Ferrari without Hamilton on the podium.

Quote of the Weekend: “That champagne tasted good! The first win is obviously special, but this is only my second win, so it’s a great feeling to get it. It’s been my best weekend yet with the pole and the win and I hope we can continue from here. The start was absolutely perfect – definitely my best start ever. And you saw how close it was with Sebastian at the end, so today I needed it. The car was so good this weekend, so I knew we could still do it. I got a massive blister on the rear-left in the second stint after just five laps, which made the car tricky to drive. I was losing more and more performance, but it wasn’t my first time having to keep Sebastian behind me. I kept my focus and managed to finish the race without any mistakes. It would have been tricky to keep Sebastian behind for much longer, so it was good to see the chequered flag. I’m still in the title fight and I’m only going to get better. We’re growing all the time.” Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes driver

Runner-up Quote of the Weekend: “Finishing seventh is a great result for the team and a nice reward considering how difficult this weekend has been for us. We struggled in practice, but come qualifying and the race we were quite strong and we came home with some good points. It wasn’t the easiest of races for me. I made a good start, but I lost places to both Esteban and Lewis [Hamilton] at turn one. Thankfully I was able to pass them both at turn three and regain my starting position. I suffered from a lot of front graining in my first stint, but after the pit stop I was able to settle down into a rhythm, even though it wasn’t enough to attack Grosjean. We had very similar pace to him so we couldn’t get any closer. It has been a difficult weekend, but we recovered well and we can be happy with the outcome. Now our focus shifts to Silverstone. I really can’t wait to try these 2017 cars on the fastest track on the calendar.” Sergio Perez, Force India driver

Schedule:  The venerable British Grand Prix at Silverstone happens next Sunday afternoon, July 16th,

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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Bottas Holds Off Vettel for Superb Spielberg Win

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas drove a masterly race to secure victory – his second of the season – in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix, finishing just 0.6s ahead of world championship leader Sebastian Vettel for Ferrari. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was third after fending off Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages.

Kimi Raikkonen took a distant fifth in the second Ferrari, with Romain Grosjean an excellent sixth for Haas. The Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon were seventh and eighth, while Williams staged an impressive recovery with Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll – who started 17th and 18th respectively – completing the top ten.

It was a dramatic beginning to the race. As Bottas made a getaway so good the stewards’ investigated a potential jump start, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat braked too late into Turn 1 and ran into the fast-starting Fernando Alonso.

Much to the chagrin of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and his legion of orange-clad fans who sat watching in horror, Alonso’s McLaren inadvertently collided with Verstappen, who spun. Verstappen and Alonso had sufficient damage that they were forced to retire. Kvyat continued, receiving a drive-through for his trouble.

From there on, in many ways it was a rear-loaded race, with most of the action at the end. But if you asked Bottas if it was ‘a Sunday afternoon drive’ to the second win of his career he would likely disagree strongly. The Finn led easily from pole and dominated the first half of the race when the leaders were running Pirelli’s ultrasoft tyres – but once the switch to supersofts came it was a whole different story. Then Vettel’s Ferrari came alive, and so did the race.

From lap 47 onward, the German was on fire, steadily hunting down the Mercedes driver as the latter’s tyres started fading. The final laps were nail-biting as Vettel closed remorselessly, until they crossed the start/finish line with one lap left just six-tenths of a second apart. Despite the state of his rubber, Bottas clung on to take a hugely well-earned victory, and a possibly crucial one for Mercedes, for Hamilton’s fight from eighth ultimately only yielded fourth place.

On his supersofts the Englishman ought to have been on the best strategy, according to Pirelli, but after he had disposed of Ocon, Perez and Grosjean and closed in on Raikkonen’s Ferrari, his tyres were actually finished before his rivals’ softer compounds, so he was the first major runner to pit, on lap 31.

Thereafter he should have flown with ultrasofts on a lighter fuel load, but his Mercedes was carrying too much front wing, and though he would later battle strongly enough to set fastest laps, he could only close on third placed Ricciardo without ever truly presenting a challenge. On lap 70 they were side-by-side in Turn 4, but Ricciardo had the inside line and held firm. Over the course of the final lap Hamilton’s challenge faded, so where his team mate won by those six-tenths, he was 1.4s down.

Raikkonen was a long way back in fifth for Ferrari, as Grosjean upheld Haas’ qualifying promise with a strong sixth ahead of the duelling Force Indias of Perez and Ocon, the Frenchman facing a race-long challenge from fast-starting Massa in his Williams. The Brazilian and his Canadian partner Stroll made the most of first-corner mayhem to take the final points. Jolyon Palmer’s best drive of the season saw him see off Renault partner Nico Hulkenberg, and just fail to beat Stroll to the final point by half a second.

Stoffel Vandoorne was 12th in the other McLaren, penalised for ignoring blue flags, ahead of Hulkenberg, the Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, and Kvyat. Carlos Sainz had to retire the sister Toro Rosso after falling dramatically from points contention early on with mechanical woes.

The other retiree was Kevin Magnussen, who was hounding Palmer when he suffered hydraulic failure on his Haas.

Vettel now has a 20-point lead heading into the British Grand Prix weekend, with 171 points to Hamilton’s 151, the closing Bottas on 136 and 107 for Ricciardo.

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Qualifying – Bottas Beats Vettel to Pole; Hamilton to Start Eighth

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas clinched his second F1 pole in Austria on Saturday, just four-hundredths of a second ahead of Ferrari’s championship leader, Sebastian Vettel. Lewis Hamilton was third in the sister Mercedes, but will be eighth on the grid tomorrow thanks to a five-place gearbox penalty.

A late on-track stoppage for Haas’s Romain Grosjean (seventh) and then an off for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (sixth) prevented improvements in the dying seconds of Q3. It left Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen fourth ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, while the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz completed the top ten.

Hamilton ran Pirelli’s ultrasoft tyres to head the supersoft-shod Vettel and Bottas initially in Q1, ahead of Verstappen and Ricciardo, his Mercedes’s brake system repaired after his FP3 dramas. First he did 1m 05.238s to Vettel’s 1m 05.585s, then 1m 05.064s, the fastest lap so far this weekend.

Haas had set the early pace, but then Grosjean went off in Turn 6, and Kevin Magnussen crawled into the pits with suspension failure, the Dane thus unable to participate in Q2 despite a time good enough to carry him through.

Raikkonen and Sainz subsequently moved to second and fourth on 1m 05.148s and 1m 05.675s respectively, each on utrasofts, as Grosjean claimed eighth. Further back Jolyon Palmer’s 1m 06.345s left him 16th, two-tenths down on Renault team mate Nico Hulkenberg. Thus he was the first runner not to make Q2.

Then came the Williams duo after a complete disaster of a day saw Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll stuck on 1m 06.534s and 1m 06.608s respectively. That left them only ahead of the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein, on 1m 06.857s and 1m 07.011s.

Ominously McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who’d switched back to a Spec 2 Honda engine and been 13th overall, reported that he had “no more power.”

Mercedes sent Hamilton out on supersofts initially in Q2 to give him the best possible race strategy with his gearbox penalty, and he put in a superb lap of 1m 04.800s before Bottas then went fastest on 1m 04.640s on ultrasofts. Vettel was third on ultrasofts on 1m 04.823s ahead of the similarly-shod Verstappen on 1m 04.948s.

Vettel moved ahead of Hamilton with 1m 04.722s on his second run, and the Englishman didn’t improve, but Bottas cut down to 1m 04.316s to stay top.

Further back, Hulkenberg failed to make Q3 with 1m 05.597s, ahead of the McLarens. Alonso found some power to do 1m 05.602s ahead of team mate Stoffel Vandoorne on 1m 05.741s, with Daniil Kvyat 14th for Toro Rosso on 1m 05.884s and Magnussen not running.

After the first runs in Q3 Bottas and Hamilton were first and third on 1m 04.251s and 1m 04.424s, with Vettel on 1m 04.293s in second, all of them on ultrasofts, with Raikkonen fourth on 1m 04.779s from Ricciardo on 1m 04.896s and Verstappen on 1m 04.983s. That meant an eighth place start for Hamilton.

It stayed that way. He ran wide in Turn 1 on his second effort, but when Grosjean ground to a halt and brought out the yellows in Sector 2 near Turn 3, nobody was going any faster. Meanwhile, Verstappen spun in Turn 8 and went bouncing into the gravel.
Behind the top six, Grosjean maintained seventh with 1m 05,480s from the Force Indias of Perez and Ocon on1m 05.605s and 1m 05.674s, as Sainz rounded out the top 10 on 1m 05.726s.

Thus the provisional grid reads: Bottas, Vettel; Raikkonen, Ricciardo; Verstappen, Grosjean; Perez, Hamilton; Ocon, Sainz; Hulkenberg, Alonso; Vandoorne, Kvyat; Magnussen, Palmer; Massa, Stroll; Ericsson, Wehrlein.

 
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What We Learned from Russian Grand Prix 2017

The Big Picture:  On another stop on Formula One’s Dictatorship Tour, this time in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. These races take place almost entirely due to checkbooks.

The Event:  Without actual attendance figures, it’s tough to see if the attendance is going up or whether it’s a Potemkin Village. What we do know is that the Russian Grand Prix in years past has been sparsely attended like Malaysia. But the facilities do look beautiful in the Olympic village complex.

In Our Last Episode:  Sebastian Vettel took a decisive victory at Bahrain, closely followed by Lewis Hamilton.

Qualifying: Vettel and Ferrari score their first pole of the season. Lewis Hamilton qualifies fourth. Finns Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas fill the gap.

Start:  Clean. The most notable event was Bottas passing Vettel for the lead. He stayed there.

Race: It was one of those F1 races where all you’d have to do is watch the last 10 minutes of Q3, the start, and the checkers, and you’d have watched everything of any importance to this contest. Bo-ring.

Best Team: For this race, advantage Ferrari due to solid second and third place finishes sandwiched on either end by the Mercedes entries.

What We Will Remember: Two things, both crucialFirst, Bottas’ first Formula One victory is significant and well deserved. Second, for reasons still unknown, Lewis Hamilton was not provided with a car capable of running at the level to which we are accustomed. As this is published, no one has any idea what happened.

Quote of the Weekend: “It’s going to take a while to sink in. Normally I’m not that emotional but hearing the Finnish national anthem was very special for me. It’s all a bit surreal, the first win and hopefully the first of many. It was definitely one of my best races ever. The pressure from Sebastian wasn’t too bad; the main issue was with the lapped cars, trying to get past those. It was tricky to pass them without losing time. I also had a lockup with about 15 laps to go that hurt the pace, but it was manageable. I asked for a bit of radio silence just to get on it and focus. I’m sure this victory will give me lots of confidence going forward. I knew I could do these results, I always trusted my ability, but this result confirms it.” Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes driver

Runner-up Quote of the Weekend: “The start was very important today and ended up being the only action of the race for me. I managed to get past Felipe and Daniel and from there on it was a very lonely race. I could see the cars in front of me pulling away, and I was pulling away from the cars behind so I just tried to manage the car home. After the issues, we had this morning luckily nothing upset me or the rhythm during the race, so I just had to bring it across the line. The mechanics did a really good job sorting the issue in such a small amount of time and giving me a car to complete the race in P5. The pace was not so bad in the last stint which is another positive to take away from this tough weekend. Towards the end, you naturally start to turn things down on the car to be safe. We maximized the opportunities we had so now we can look forward to Barcelona, the upgrades are coming, and we can hopefully start to get involved in the fight at the front. Barcelona is obviously a very special track for me following last year’s race, so I am excited to return and see what we can do.” Max Verstappen, Red Bull driver

Schedule: In two weeks, the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. Fernando Alonzo is going to be one busy man during May.

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 – Bottas Takes Nail-Biting Maiden Win in Russia

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas scored the first win of his F1 career on Sunday after holding off the charging Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel for a superb victory in the 2017 Formula 1 VTB Russian Grand Prix. Kimi Raikkonen made it two red cars on the Sochi podium, as Lewis Hamilton trailed home a distant fourth in the second Mercedes.

Bottas got the jump on both Ferraris at the start, leading into Turn 2 from Vettel, Raikkonen and Hamilton, and from there the Finn was in command, only losing the lead during pit stops. Vettel put him under intense pressure in the closing laps, but he refused to crack and took the chequered flag just 0.6s ahead.

There was drama even before the start in Russia when Fernando Alonso reported that his McLaren was losing charge. When told to try various things he tetchily told his crew to try it themselves as he already had and nothing worked. The orange and black car ground to a halt on the grid formation lap, delaying the start and causing the race to be shortened by a lap. Bottas would have cause to be grateful for that.

Then, as Bottas made a blinding start to head the Ferraris and Hamilton, Lance Stroll spun his Williams after contact with Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault, while further back Haas’s Romain Grosjean made contact with Jolyon Palmer’s Renault and both retired on the spot. Out came the safety car for three laps.

Bottas resumed comfortably as soon as the track went green again, and began to open the gap to Vettel. By lap 21 it was an easy 5.3s as the pit stop window loomed, but then a combination of traffic and Vettel speeding up saw the Ferrari driver beginning to close the deficit dramatically. When Bottas made his sole stop, to switch from the ultrasoft Pirelli tyres to the supersofts, after 27 laps, it was down to 2.5s.

Ferrari then seemed in two minds how long to keep their man out. Initially they told him to pit on the 33rd lap, before deciding on the 34th. His was a slow stop, due to the front left wheel sticking, and when he resumed he was second again and Bottas had a 4.6s lead. But, after his stop on the 29th lap, Vettel’s third placed team mate Raikkonen had demonstrated the Ferrari threat by lapping a second faster than the Mercedes, and now we had a race as Vettel showed similar pace and he began slashing Bottas’ lead.

After 40 laps, with 12 to go, it was down to just 1.5s. Soon he would be within range to use his DRS system to attempt an overtaking move, and the closing laps were real nail-biters as they threaded their way through traffic.

Going into the final lap Vettel was only seven-tenths of a second behind. But keeping his nerve and lapping Felipe Massa’s Williams and leaving the German to follow the Brazilian through the long, fast Turn 3, Bottas got the break he needed and took a crucial victory for Mercedes by 0.6s.

Raikkonen was third, 10.3s behind, with the very unhappy Hamilton fourth after suffering intermittent overheating issues for much of the afternoon.

Max Verstappen was a lonely fifth on a day when Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo succumbed early to rear brake problems, while Force India scored their 14th consecutive set of points, and maintained their 2017 record of getting both cars into them, as Sergio Perez led home team mate Esteban Ocon, the latter a career-best seventh.

A whopping 40-lap stint on ultrasofts earned Nico Hulkenberg eighth for Renault, after Massa dropped from sixth place with a suspected puncture on the 41st lap. He recovered to ninth, with Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz taking the final point.

After his first-lap moment, Stroll took his first F1 finish in 11th ahead of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, Haas’s Kevin Magnussen who served a five-second penalty for a track limits violation on the first lap, McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne who did likewise, and the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

On a day when Bottas joined the F1 elite in tremendous style, Vettel came away with an extended championship lead over Hamilton. His advantage is up to 13 points, 86 to 73, while Bottas has closed in on 63 in third, with Raikkonen fourth on 49. In the constructors’ stakes Mercedes now lead Ferrari by just a single point, 136 to 135.

RACE RESULTS

POS. DRIVER TEAM TIME POINTS
1 VALTTERI BOTTAS MERCEDES 1:28:08.743 25
2 SEBASTIAN VETTEL FERRARI +0.617s 18
3 KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN FERRARI +11.000s 15
4 LEWIS HAMILTON MERCEDES +36.320s 12
5 MAX VERSTAPPEN RED BULL RACING +60.416s 10
6 SERGIO PEREZ FORCE INDIA +86.788s 8
7 ESTEBAN OCON FORCE INDIA +95.004s 6
8 NICO HULKENBERG RENAULT +96.188s 4
9 FELIPE MASSA WILLIAMS +1 lap 2
10 CARLOS SAINZ TORO ROSSO +1 lap 1
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Qualifying – Bottas Scores His First F1 Pole in Bahrain

Valtteri Bottas has taken his maiden Formula One pole position after beating Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton by just 0.023s in Saturday’s qualifying session for the 2017 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. Spicing up the mix for tomorrow’s race, Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari was joined on the second row by Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull, with their team mates Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen a row further back.

Renault had a superb session under the floodlights, with Nico Hulkenberg seventh and Jolyon Palmer 10th. Between the yellow cars, Williams’ Felipe Massa and Haas’s Romain Grosjean completed the top ten.

Under the evening sky, and in cooler temperatures of 31 degrees Celsius for the track and 30 air, Hamilton set the initial pace with 1m 30.814s in Q1, running Pirelli’s soft tyres. Verstappen was his closest challenger on supersofts, with 1m 30.904s, with Raikkonen third on 1m 30.988s from Vettel on softs on 1m 31.037s.

As Palmer’s eighth and Pascal Wehrlein’s 14th for Sauber were notable, power loss stymied a fast but frustrated Carlos Sainz as his Toro Rosso stopped, leaving him 16th on 1m 32.188s ahead of brake-troubled Stoffel Vandoorne on 1m 32.313s for McLaren, Sergio Perez, remarkably, on only 1m 32.318s for Force India, Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber on 1m 32.543s and Kevin Magnussen’s Haas on 1m 32.900s. Some of these were hurt by the flags for Sainz’s stoppage.

Excitingly, Hamilton just aced Bottas in Q2, with 1m 29.535s to 1m 29.555s, and then Vettel joined them with 1m 29.596s. It couldn’t get much closer. Then Raikkonen popped in 1m 29.43s, leaving Verstappen and Ricciardo trailing with 1m 30.307s and 1m 30.497s.

A broken power unit accounted for Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, leaving him 15th, without a time. But all around him there was drama. Williams gambled on leaving Massa in the garage after he’d gone seventh on 1m 30.677s, but Hulkenberg leapt to fifth for Renault on 1m 30.169s shortly after being bumped by team mate Palmer. That left the fortunate Massa eighth, and Palmer, 10th behind a delighted Grosjean, still made his first Q3 of the year.

The unlucky ones alongside Alonso were Daniil Kvyat on 1m 30.923s for Toro Rosso; Williams’ Lance Stroll, who didn’t get out until late because of front-end problems, got into Q3 on 1m 31.168s, then got bumped in the last-minute flurries; the impressive Wehrlein on 1m 31.414s; and Esteban Ocon for Force India on 1m 31.684s.

So, as ever, it all came down to Q3. And whoever made the fewest mistakes. Would they beat Hamilton’s 2016 pole time of 1m 29.423s at last?

After the first runs, the two Mercedes were at the front, Hamilton smashing his 2016 figure with 1m 28.792s, Bottas, on 1m 28.844s, right on his tail. The Ferraris were a little breathless in their wake, Vettel on 1m 29.247s, an understeering Raikkonen on 1m 29.684s. Verstappen got into that territory with 1m 29.687s, while Ricciardo was sixth with 1m 30.007s.

Could Hamilton hang on for his 55th pole?

The answer was no. He failed to improve, as did most of the really fast boys, with 1m 29.012s. But Bottas found what he needed, and took his first premier slot with 1m 28.769s, beating his team mate by just two-hundredths of a second after a fine effort.

Vettel stayed third, failing to improve with 1m 29.634s, but though Raikkonen did, with 1m 29.567s, Ricciardo had got it all together to jump to fourth with 1m 29.545s. Verstappen stayed on 1m 29.687s, dropping to sixth, while Hulkenberg great run to 1m 29.842s left him seventh. Massa improved to 1m 30.074s for eighth ahead of Grosjean on 1m 30.763s, while Palmer, though delighted to make Q3, was disappointed with a lowly 1m 31.074s for 10th.

Thus the provisional grid will line up: Bottas, Hamilton; Vettel, Ricciardo; Raikkonen, Verstappen; Hulkenberg, Massa; Grosjean, Palmer; Kvyat, Stroll; Wehrlein, Ocon; Alonso, Sainz; Vandoorne, Perez; Ericsson, Magnussen.

QUALIFYING RESULTS

POS. DRIVER TEAM TIME
1 VALTTERI BOTTAS MERCEDES 1:28.769
2 LEWIS HAMILTON MERCEDES 1:28.792
3 SEBASTIAN VETTEL FERRARI 1:29.247
4 DANIEL RICCIARDO RED BULL RACING 1:29.545
5 KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN FERRARI 1:29.567
6 MAX VERSTAPPEN RED BULL RACING 1:29.687
7 NICO HULKENBERG RENAULT 1:29.842
8 FELIPE MASSA WILLIAMS 1:30.074
9 ROMAIN GROSJEAN HAAS 1:30.763
10 JOLYON PALMER RENAULT 1:31.074
Categories
Formula One Open Wheel

Hamilton: Ferrari Could Be Fastest Team

Many fans hoped that the new regulations brought into Formula 1 in 2017 would change the order of the teams, and one man thinks that could be true.

Lewis Hamilton believes that the advantage his Mercedes team had in the sport in the first three years of the hybrid era could be under threat ahead of the start of the 2017 F1 season.

Ferrari has led three of the first seven days of pre-season testing, with Kimi Raikkonen fastest in two of the first four days and Sebastian Vettel setting the current fastest lap of the winter with a time of 1:19.024. This is almost three seconds faster than last year’s pole position time at the circuit, set by Hamilton.

Mercedes currently has the second fastest time of the winter, with Valtteri Bottas submitting a time of 1:19.310 while topping the timesheets on the sixth day of testing.

The British driver believes that the full power of the Prancing Horse is still to be unleashed and he doesn’t know whether he still has the fastest car in F1.

“I think Ferrari are bluffing and that they are a lot quicker than they are showing,” he said. “They’re very close to us. It’s difficult right now to say exactly who is quicker. But they are very close, if not faster.”

Hamilton’s team-mate Bottas agreed with the idea that the team still has work to do to maximize their possibilities for the Australian Grand Prix.

“We’re still finding out which of these parts are the best suited to our car and how exactly we can draw 100 per cent out of the package,” the Finn added. “Every day is still a massive learning curve for us and we’ve still got a lot of work to do to get it right. It’s going to be tight competition in Melbourne.”

One upside for both drivers is that the W08 car is reliable, completing the most laps of any team during the first part of testing and is just 11 laps away from hitting 1,000. It is just one lap away from having completed 15 Spanish Grand Prix distances (66 laps).

EMAIL CAMERON AT @cpatersonf1@gmail.com.

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

Thoughts and Observations From F1’s First 2017 Test

Looking back on the week that was testing, it’s possible to draw conclusions – but that’s ultimately pointless. The teams are going through things at their own paces, including any problems that present themselves, and the public doesn’t get to know the actual reflection of that for now.

More guesses can be made in Australia, and more comments will undoubtedly come flowing through from PR officers. Until then, you can look too much of a fool by predicting how a Formula 1 season will pan out from such a short amount of running and knowledge.

Even with this in mind, here are some takeaways from Barcelona.

Mercedes Still fast

Despite some fans potentially hoping for a slight downfall, F1’s reigning Drivers’ and Constructors’ champion is still looking like the fastest team despite the changes in regulations. 

Ferrari has led some of the final classifications, with Kimi Raikkonen on top twice. The Italian team has topped sessions before and will do in the future; it doesn’t necessarily mean anything special. The other two days have been led by both Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton as they quietly go about their business.

Apart from an apparent electronic problem on day four, the team seems to continue to have a competently reliable car and the possibility of being towards the sharp end of the grid. Its W08 machine completed 558 laps during the four days, and only 68 on the final day, the highest total of any team on the grid.

McLaren Still Seemingly Struggling

The team is still having unreliability problems as they prepare for a third season with Honda. You would be forgiven for thinking it was Groundhog Day at times during the test.

The first two days were tough for the team, including an oil systems issue and a necessary power unit change as they completed just 69 laps (Fernando Alonso 29, Stoffel Vandoorne 40), the least amount of any team.

A final total of 208 laps came from the test, the second-lowest amount of any team, just slightly better than Toro Rosso.

Racing Director Eric Boullier was unsurprisingly cautious about the problems after the first day of running.

“Of course, it’s disappointing to have encountered issues so early in the running, but this situation is not too unusual with a brand-new car,” he said, “It’s better to have these issues here than in Australia.

“Honda is investigating the problem carefully in order to find the proper solutions, so we need to let them do that before drawing any premature conclusions.”

If, and that is a big if, these problems continue, it will surely be frustrating for Fernando Alonso as he comes to the end of his career. Someone being 35-years-old, as barbaric as it is, is effectively nearing retirement age and he might not have many races left to have many opportunities to shine near the front of the grid.

This is also potentially harmful to Stoffel Vandoorne. He is effectively the next possibly special driver that McLaren has found and if he cannot get results it may affect parts of his driving while he is still in a learning stage towards the sport.

Time will tell whether McLaren can return to the top-five in the Constructors’ Championship for the first time since 2014.

Stroll-ing into the gravel

F1’s newest arrival, Lance Stroll, has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons – using testing to find the limits of his Williams car and damaging his car in some accidents.

As a result, allegations have already surfaced about Stroll not being up to F1 and a line of questioning over whether a jump from European Formula 3, skipping two series in GP2 and GP3, and competing in the new era of F1 is a wise move. However, recall the same type of overreactions surfaced surrounding Max Verstappen possibly being too young for F1. We all know how that ended up.

The team failed to run on day four due to safety concerns over previous damage, despite this day being a day designated for learning about Pirelli’s new wet tire range and the team being one of the worst teams on the grid for racing when rain hits a track.

Many will surely be concerned about their potential standing on the grid and whether they can remain in the top five of the Constructors’ Championship with so many competitors, like Renault and Toro Rosso, aiming for new heights in 2017.

Other issues

Stroll was a target of criticism, but some of the other members of the F1 grid also explored the run-off areas, including Bottas (Mercedes) and Jolyon Palmer (Renault). It wouldn’t be too surprising, due to the longer span of an F1 car in 2017 and wider front wing if the first Grands Prix sees many stupid crashes as drivers find their feet with the new dimensions. An Australian Grand Prix featuring just the points finishers completing the race has happened before and could always happen again.

One other minor problem with testing was the final day being put aside for wet tire testing, something that the teams didn’t do a lot of and the track had to be specifically dampened artificially which didn’t actually work. With thoughts that Pirelli is still developing a new set of wet tires, rain-filled sessions at the first race may be interesting.

Although a lot of focus was put on McLaren, another team which ran into high-profile technical issues was Toro Rosso. Its car completed just 183 laps over the four days after some problems including engine and drivetrain issues, which is just under three complete distances of the 66-lap race.

 

The final test sessions take place at the Barcelona track on March 7-10 before cars get packaged away again ahead of the first round of 2017 at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne on March 24-26.

EMAIL CAMERON AT cpatersonf1@gmail.com

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.