Well, that was somewhat unpredictable

Not sure what happened really, but my eyes tell me Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo has won, with Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in second place and, quite remarkably, Williams driver Lance Stroll in third.

In between, we had three safety cars and several crashes, and a reappearance of Sebastian Vettel’s unsavoury behaviour. He was given a 10-second stop-go penalty for swerving into Hamilton’s Mercedes, claiming the former braked back into him as they prepared for the re-start after the second safety car period.

Hamilton ended up finishing fifth, a place behind Vettel after a pit stop for a loose headrest dropped him from the lead. He is 14 points behind after eight of the 21 races.

Valtteri Bottas: “Today was a crazy race, especially for me. I had a puncture on the first lap after the contact with Kimi on Lap 1. I was a lap down, then had to overtake the field under the Safety Car. The second Safety Car after that really helped me out and, step by step, I moved forward from there.

“My main goal today was to fight for the win but that went out of the window after the first lap. I was actually last at one point, but I got my head down, gave it absolutely everything and tried to get the absolute maximum out of every single corner. We didn’t quite manage to win but P2 from where we were is a great feeling. Importantly for the team, we scored more points in the fight with Ferrari and I got some good points for myself as well.”

Lewis Hamilton: “It’s difficult to swallow a result like this after a strong weekend. I drove my heart out today right to the line – I gave it everything. I know the team will be devastated about the issue with the headrest, but what we have to take away from this weekend is the great performance we have shown. We all feel that pain, but it’s on me to gather my thoughts and try and lead the team through this adversity. We’ll pull together and move forwards. I’m proud of my performance and I hope we can take the speed we’ve shown this weekend forward.

I definitely didn’t brake-test Sebastian. I controlled the pace under the Safety Car and, just like with the other restarts, I slowed down in the same place on the entry to T15. At that point, it is up to me to control the pace and then I felt a bump from behind. But that wasn’t the issue for me – everybody saw clearly what happened after.

“All the young kids in other series look up to us, as champions, to set an example and that is not the behaviour you expect to see from a multiple champion. But we know that when times get tough, true colours show, and we have managed to apply some good pressure in the last weeks. Personally, I want to do my talking on the track and win this championship in the right way. More than ever after this weekend, I believe we can.”

“Street” and super quick: Baku is a set-up puzzle

Baku is the “youngest” circuit on the calendar and, at 6.003 kilometres, the second longest after Spa.

It is undoubtedly one of the most unusual tracks on the Formula 1 calendar. It’s a street circuit, running through the centre of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, but nevertheless it boasts a straight of 2.1 kilometres, which is over a third of the total distance and is tackled flat out.

Last year, the highest recorded speed was in excess of 378 km/h. This year, it is unlikely the F1 cars will hit those sort of numbers because of their increased downforce and wider wheels. However, finding the right set-up for Baku tomorrow will still be a difficult task for drivers and engineers, because when deciding on the optimal level of aerodynamic downforce, one has to weigh up the demands of the slowest section, with the need for speed down the straights.

This type of circuit also requires excellent traction in the twistier corner and it is also tough when it comes to energy recovery.

The forecast is for sunny weather, but cooler than the heatwave conditions affecting parts of Europe at the moment. Pirelli is bringing its Medium, Soft and Supersoft compounds, as degradation here is higher than in Monaco and Montreal.

Lewis storms to Azerbaijan Grand Prix pole

After an incredible last lap, Lewis Hamilton claimed his 66th career pole position to move into second on the all-time pole list.

It is Hamilton’s first pole in Baku, the fifth of the 2017 season, and his seventh in 10 races.

Valtteri Bottas will start from P2, as the Silver Arrows took a second front-row lockout of 2017. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen rolled in third.

Lewis Hamilton: “My pole lap in Montreal was pretty special, but I think this one here tops that. My first run in Q3 was actually really good, but I was a bit greedy into the last corner, locked up and cost myself time. After the red flag, there was a lot of pressure on that final lap.

“All weekend we’ve struggled to switch the car on over a single lap, but it was an all or nothing moment so I just gave it everything I had. Valtteri was on a great lap as well, so when I came across the line and saw that I had pole, it was such a good feeling. Even if that time had only been enough for P2 it was a lap to be proud of.

“We were struggling yesterday but we made a lot of changes overnight. A big thank you to the team who stayed late last night to get the car to where it is today – they did a fantastic job.”

Great shame…

Statement by the Chairman regarding Monisha Kaltenborn:

“Longbow Finance SA regrets to announce that, by mutual consent and due to diverging views of the future of the company, Monisha Kaltenborn will leave her positions with the Sauber Group effective immediately. We thank her for many years of strong leadership, great passion for the Sauber F1 Team and wish her the very best for the future. Her successor will be announced shortly; in the meantime we wish the team the best of luck in Azerbaijan.”

Pascal Picci
Chairman of the Board
Sauber Holding AG

As above, the 46-year-old, Formula 1’s first and only female team boss, was in disagreement with the team’s owners over the running of Sauber.

Obituary: Nicholas Patrick Hayden

 

Don’t usually cover those who compete bravely in the Superbike World Championship but the passing of Nicky Hayden on 22 May made me incredibly sad, so thought I’d wait until Monaco and the Indy 500 was over before reminding everyone of the great talent we’ve lost, and of course one of the nicest guys on the circuit.

Born into a large extended Catholic family in Owensboro, Kentucky, Nicky was the middle child of Earl and Rose Hayden, with two brothers and two sisters. The entire family loved motorcycles, and shortly after he could walk, Nicky declared that his dream was to be a world champion. Although life on a farm meant that animals – horses, pot-belly pigs, even llamas – were a part of every day, for Nicky they were just novelties, and while he was a natural athlete, childhood sports leagues were little more than a lark.

Racing – for the whole family, but especially for Nicky – was everything. Apart from an annual spring break jaunt to Panama City, Florida, family trips were to racetracks, first around the Midwest, then the Eastern US and eventually the entire country.

For Nicky, a distinguished amateur dirt track and road racing career transitioned into a successful stint in the AMA Grand National Championship and AMA Superbike series, in which he earned the 1999 AMA Supersport and 2002 AMA Superbike crowns with American Honda. He was promoted to the FIM MotoGP series with Repsol Honda, for whom he achieved his dream of earning the World Championship in 2006. Nicky also rode for Ducati and Aspar Racing in MotoGP, and last year he transitioned to the FIM Superbike World Championship with the Ten Kate squad.

Along the way, his charisma earned him legions of fans the world over, while his dedication and professionalism earned the respect and admiration of his teams, teammates and competitors.

Among those who knew him best, Nicky was cherished for his generosity, kindness, and mischievous sense of humour. His famous grin was never far from his lips, and he invariably had time to engage with others, even strangers. The life of any party, Nicky loved to dance, wear funny costumes, and pull pranks, often with a microphone in hand.

Throughout it all, family was Nicky’s anchor. Many Americans who race internationally opt to relocate overseas, but Nicky always preferred to return home between events. Well into his professional career, he resided in an apartment above his parents’ garage, and even after purchasing his own home nearby, he religiously showed up for his mother’s 6 o’clock dinners when he wasn’t travelling.

Several years ago, he purchased and refurbished an old building on an Owensboro lake, and what he dubbed Victory Lane Lodge became the family’s preferred location for functions of all types, from Sunday get-togethers to weddings. He loved children and was a model uncle, and friends and family say he was never happier than after meeting girlfriend Jackie, with whom he became engaged last year.

One more decent egg and a great racer who’ll be sorely missed.

Lola founder Eric Broadley dies at 88

 

In post-war Britain a whole generation of young engineers were growing up as racers, building their own racing machinery from kits or from parts of old cars. It was do-it-yourself motor racing.

The 500cc Club and the 750 Motor Club both played an important role in this, although it was the 750 Motor Club which had access to the basic Austin Seven which the enthusiasts treated “as a grown-up Meccano set” with which to create racing and rally cars.

The popularity of the car clubs created commercial opportunities for those with the skills and the vision. As the sport grew so did the need for car constructors, component manufacturers, engine tuners and other businesses. As they were set up by racing enthusiasts with specific aims they tended to be dedicated to motorsport and so had to be competitive to survive. They didn’t have any spare cash to fall back on. When engineers came along who felt they could do better than what was available they were often proved right.

Colin Chapman was a leading member of the 750 Motor Club with Austin Seven-based cars. Eric Broadley was another 750 Motor Club graduate who began building his own cars in the late 1950s. The result was Lola Cars which would become one of the biggest racing car production companies in the world. He too would recruit from among his friends in the 750 Motor Club, notably Len Bailey, the designer of the Le Mans 24 Hours-winning Ford GT40.

So how will Eric Broadley be remembered?

Says one F1 commentator: “Those who knew and worked with him will remember him fondly and with affection. His vision and dedication to Lola deserves the same respect rightly afforded to Chapman, Williams, McLaren, Dennis and Brabham, because the influence he had on the UK motorsport industry was so vital.”

Broadley was a true engineer’s engineer.

Indy 500: Alonso so close but Sato clinches it

 

Well, what a race. It was certainly heartbreaking stuff at Indianapolis when Fernando Alonso retired from the race on lap 179 out of 200, and having led the race for 27 laps. Former Jordan FI driver Takuma Sato – who raced in F1 between 2002 and 2008 before switching to the American series – clinched the win, edging out three-time victor Helio Castroneves in an exciting conclusion.

Fellow former F1 driver Max Chilton of Britain also had a superb race, leading for several laps before coming home in an eventual fourth place. Dubai-born British driver Ed Jones took an impressive third place on his Indy 500 debut.

Said Alonso: “Obviously it’s disappointing not to finish the race because every race you compete, you want to be at the chequered flag. But today that was not possible.

“The last two weeks have been a great experience. I came here basically to prove myself and to challenge myself. I know that I can be as quick as anyone in an F1 car. I didn’t know if I can be as quick as anyone in an IndyCar.

“It was nice to have this competitive feeling – even leading the Indy 500. I was passing, watching the tower, and saw the 29 on top of it. I was thinking at that moment if Zak or someone from the team was taking a picture, because I want that picture at home!

“Thanks to IndyCar, thanks to Indianapolis, and thanks to the fans. I felt at home. I’m not American, but I felt really proud to race here.

“Finally, congratulations to Sato San and to Andretti. We have been sharing the last two weeks and Takuma was a lot of help, in coming from F1. I’m extremely happy for the final result.”

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