It was Kimi Raikkonen’s day

Scuderia Ferrari’s sixth win of the season came about thanks to determination, a calm approach and strategy implemented by the driver and the entire team. Sebastian Vettel finished fourth, having to fight all the way. Mathematically at least, both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships remain undecided.

The sun finally shone on the Circuit of the Americas, after two days of cold and rain, with the thermometer showing 21 degrees air temperature and 32 on track. Raikkonen was second on the grid, running Ultrasofts. Vettel, with a three-place penalty, was fifth on Supersofts.

As the lights went out, Raikkonen was in brilliant form, getting the better of Lewis Hamilton to take the lead. Vettel stayed fifth, attacking Ricciardo who immediately fought back. The Ferrari and the Red Bull collided at turn 13 and, on the inside, Vettel spun round, but kept going, although it meant he had to start yet another climb up the order from 15th place. The Stewards decided it was a normal racing incident.

Raikkonen was suffering from bad oversteer, while the number 5 Ferrari was lapping quickest of all, and Vettel was already back in ninth spot.

On lap 10, Ricciardo parked at the hairpin and that required a crane on track, so the Virtual Safety Car was indicated, requiring drivers to slow by 40% compared to the reference point. As expected by those on the Ferrari pit wall, Hamilton pitted and dropped one place. At the restart, Vettel dealt with Hulkenberg to move up to fifth.

Raikkonen held off Hamilton on tyres that were now well worn for 21 laps, which was some help to his team-mate’s return up the order. Then he pitted for the yellow-banded tyres, the hardest on offer, to run to the flag with just the single pit stop. Shortly after, he swapped places with Vettel (setting the fastest race lap on the way) as the German was due to come in for fresh tyres. He too went for the Softs.

On fresher rubber, Raikkonen closed up to the leader, while Vettel, quickest on track, caught up to Bottas. On lap 37, Hamilton pitted for a second stop, which meant Raikkonen was leading again.

With ten laps to go, a battle ensued for the top three places, with Vettel right behind, closing in on Bottas. In the final few kilometres, as Verstappen fought Hamilton, Raikkonen made the most of it to pull out a bit of a gap. Vettel was duelling hard with Bottas who overshot at turn 12 which meant the Ferrari number 5 went up to fourth. Raikkonen meanwhile was first past the chequered flag to take his first win for five years.

He well deserved it, and so did Ferrari.

Is he really running away with it?

 

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport scored a 1-2 victory in Suzuka. Hamilton took his 71st career victory – his 50th with Mercedes, ninth of the 2018 season and fourth at the Suzuka International Racing Circuit. Bottas came in second to complete the second 1-2 for the team in a row – his first podium at the Japanese Grand Prix and 30th podium finish in Formula One. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third.

Today’s result marks the fifth consecutive win in Suzuka for Mercedes and tenth win at the Japanese Grand Prix for Mercedes-Benz Power. Mr Hamilton (331 points) leads the Drivers’ Championship by 67 points from Sebastian Vettel (264 points) with Valtteri Bottas (207 points) in P3 and with 100 points left to be scored in the season.

It does rather look like Hamilton is on the way to his fifth world title but, as we know only too well in F1, you just can’t be too sure – anything can happen. Always expect the unexpected.

Lewis Hamilton: “I was having so much fun driving this track. I was really able to just embrace the moment and enjoy every single lap, every single corner and the feel of the car. Suzuka is such a unique circuit, you go down a hill into Turn 1, then up-hill, you go underneath the track – it’s one of my favourite circuits.

“The pace was really great and this is definitely the best weekend I’ve had here and the best feeling I’ve had here balance-wise, it was really lovely. There’s still 100 points available, so we have to try and focus and never be complacent. (However)… The harmony in the team and the performance of every single individual in the team is the best it’s ever been. But we’ve always got areas that we can improve on, collectively and for me personally, so we will keep pushing and keep raising the bar.”

Valtteri Bottas: “This is a perfect result… and a great reward for an amazing performance from the entire team this weekend. I’m happy that we could bring it home like this after qualifying on the front row yesterday. This was my first podium here in Suzuka which was great. I get a lot of support from the local fans, I can really feel it and it means a lot to me.

“My race was pretty straightforward. We actually had a bit of margin to save the engine. It probably looked much closer on TV than it actually was. I had one lockup going into the last chicane where Max got a bit closer, but otherwise I was just managing and it was all under control. The first stint on the Soft tyres was a little better than the second one on the Mediums, where blistering was a bit of an issue, but no drama. Overall, this was a great weekend for the team.”

Max Verstappen: “After the penalty and incident with Seb I’m really happy to come away with another podium in Japan. The car felt good and we were able to compete at the front for the entire race, which at this track makes it even better. Judging by a few mistakes he made it looked like Bottas was pushing hard on the last few laps. It’s hard to follow anyway so I just did my best hoping he would make another fault and I could be in a position to take advantage.

“I felt a little hard done by with the penalty I got while defending against Kimi. I was trying my best to get back onto the track as quickly as possible instead of just cutting the corner, perhaps next time I will just cut the track. The incident with Sebastian was a very similar mistake to mine in China earlier this year, I think he could have passed easier if he had waited. It shows that even the most experienced drivers can make errors when under pressure. I’m now very excited to get to Austin, we have good performance and it’s a great place to visit.”

 

Mercedes 1-2 – the adventure continues

 

Lewis Hamilton scored his 70th career victory today in Formula One – his eighth of the 2018 season and third at the Sochi Autodromo. Valtteri Bottas finished the race in P2, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in 3rd.

You had to feel sympathy for Bottas pulling over for Hamilton to go through half way through the race, but it was the right decision.

As Toto Wolff explained: “We are all racers at heart and what we want to see is out and out racing and may the quickest man win. But then we are a bunch of rational guys – we discuss things in the morning and then everything is different in the race… We discussed who to pit first and then we did it with Vatteri because that would protect his win. It was one lap too late with Lewis and he lost the position to Sebastian.

“This triggered this mess because Lewis came out behind Sebastian and then needed to attack. That caused the blister and we needed to protect when Sebastian was all over Lewis on damaged tyres… This is a harsh reality also that on such a day you can extend the lead by several points more in a Championship that has been very tough and very difficult at times. Sometimes you have to take it and this is what we did today. We finished 1-2, we have a 50 point advantage and that feels good on a day that has otherwise been very difficult.”

Lewis Hamilton: “Valtteri was an incredible gentleman today. Honestly, it’s the strangest day I can remember having in the sport in my career. I remember, we have crossed this situation and discussion before. It’s always felt super uncomfortable, I was like ‘Look, I want to win the right way’, that’s always how it is for me. I would say ‘Look, as racing drivers we exist to win, and if you tell us we can’t win, it’s like you are taking our air away, our life away’. It’s that deep. I would never wish it upon anyone else and would never ask for it, ever. I made sure when we were in a meeting before, I was like ‘Just so you know, I’ve never gone to Toto and those guys, this is not how I want to win’.

“Obviously, the team took the decision when they saw that my tyres were blistered and Vettel was charging from behind. There are stronger heads in the team who are like ‘We have to win, it’s all about the win. We have got to win both Championships, we don’t care who finishes ahead’. I think ultimately, it’s really important right this second to first acknowledge Valtteri, because as I said he was just the ultimate gentleman.

“It is very weird to feel down but we’ve also got to feel grateful to the guys back at the factory. So many people are working flat-out to make sure we have a 1-2 like this, the team have just done an incredible job this weekend. We have to really embrace the moment still, but it’s definitely a victory on my list of wins that I am least proud of.”

 

Valtteri Bottas: “It’s been a tough day. We got a good result for us as a team with maximum points, but for me personally it was a difficult race. Although I already understand the situation. If you put yourself in the team leader’s shoes, for them it doesn’t matter if it is me or Lewis winning, as long as we are 1-2 we get the maximum points.

“For the end of the year, it’s only Lewis fighting for the Championship, I am not. So, for the team, it is always better that Lewis wins – that’s how it goes. It is not ideal for me as an athlete and a person, but that is a fact. We are playing as a team and I am prepared to play as a team. I took one for the team today, I will take one for the team tomorrow. That’s how it goes, but I am also looking forward to next year, starting a new season.

“I know that today I was supposed to win and I could’ve won the race on equal terms. I know myself I am the winner of this weekend. I don’t have the trophy but it doesn’t matter. That’s how it is and I move on.”

Sebastian Vettel: “Today the feeling with the car was very good and I was able to push, but I just wasn’t as fast as the others. Obviously, today it was better than yesterday in terms of pace, but it wasn’t enough to put pressure on our competitors. We tried everything and I am happy that we got a podium finish, but obviously this is not the result we were looking for.

“My start was good, but there wasn’t much track space for me and I could go nowhere. After pit stop we were able to overcome Lewis, but he could pull ahead more than us and at the end there was nothing to do. We lost some points during the two last races and it doesn’t help, but we have our plan to follow and hopefully we can make some progress in the races to come.

“Maybe the next couple of tracks are better suited for us, we will know when we get there. We need to keep pushing and try; who knows what will happen in the next races.

Well, there you go…

 

Popping off the start into that all-important first corner somewhat gingerly but controlled, Mr Hamilton scored his 69th career victory – his seventh of the 2018 Formula One season and fourth at the Marina Bay Street Circuit. The feisty Max Verstappen finished a glorious 2nd with Sebastian Vettel 3rd. Mercedes’ Chief Vehicle Dynamicist accepted the Constructors’ trophy on behalf of the team.

Hamilton (281 points) leads the Drivers’ Championship by 40 points from Sebastian Vettel (241 points) with Valtteri Bottas (171 points) in P4.

Said Hamilton: “I had a great start and from then I was able to manage it. When I hit the traffic, I was just mindful not to take any risks. When you start to get closer to another car, you start losing grip and start sliding around more, so there’s a higher chance of mistakes. If you’re lucky you catch the cars at the right point and they let you by so you don’t lose any time, but today I always caught them at an unfortunate point.

“So when Max was right behind, I had to go on the defensive, and I thought to myself ‘Bro, you’re not getting by – not today!’ It was physically such a demanding race, so I’m relieved that it’s over now – it felt like such a long night, but I’m super grateful for the result.”

James Allison: “Yesterday felt great, exhilarating and breathless, but about five minutes afterwards, those feelings disappear and our thoughts turn to the race. Making good on pole position takes over our world.

“Now, just 24 hours later, a wonderful feeling of contentment washes through the whole team from the knowledge that we’ve done a good job here and increased our lead in both championships. More importantly, we have put right the weaknesses that have plagued us at this circuit for a number of seasons and validated a lot of the theories and analysis of why we have suffered previously. This sport can beat you up, like what happened recently to us in Spa, but it is days like today that remind us why we are so very fortunate to work in Formula One.

“But this feeling, too, will last for about 10 more minutes before we begin fretting about Sochi, because our competition is desperately strong and the remaining races cover a very wide range of challenges. We are all aware that we need to keep having weekends like this one if we are to finally achieve the results that we so crave.”

 

 

Max Verstappen: “It was a shame to lose a position to Sebastian so early on but there was not a lot I could do as we were both flat out. I should have been able to hold the line but I just couldn’t match his speed. My only real chance to win was at the start, unfortunately it was a bit all over the place and I knew my chance had gone.

“Luckily the team had me on a great strategy and therefore managed to get me back into second place with a brilliant pit stop. When I got close to Lewis due to back markers I never really thought the pass would be possible. It’s hard to overtake here so I didn’t want to take the risk. It was also slightly unfair how he had been held up by drivers not getting out of the way.

“I had a few driveability issues again behind the Safety Car and pulling away from the pit stop was dreadful, but in the end we managed it well and got the result we wanted. After the way the car has felt at certain points this weekend, qualifying on the front row and taking second place today is an amazing result.”

Sebastian Vettel: “It’s never easy to come and win even if, obviously, that was our target. Yesterday the qualifying didn’t go the way we wanted and we couldn’t extract the best out of ourselves. Today, starting from third position, we had to try something different, but it didn’t work out and we finished where we started.

“We were running second after a good start which allowed me to get past Max. I was happy and confident when I got the call to box. I knew I needed a mega out lap to try and challenge for the lead but it didn’t work. I lost time behind another car and the brakes got a little too hot. It was close but we got the worse of it.

“I fully support the team’s decision because, as I am sitting in the car, I can’t be aware of everything that goes on, so I rely on them. Our target was not to finish third, but today we just did not have enough speed.”

What an amazing lap – a piece of Hamilton genius

 

Well, it’s all been sinking in. No-one expected a 1′ 36″ when Lewis suddenly pulled it out of the bag in qualifying – his 79th career pole position, fourth at the Marina Bay Street Circuit and seventh of the 2018 Formula One season. It may well be the pole that seals the championship.

Said the man himself: “That lap just started perfect and it just kept going – it felt magical. It felt like one of the best – if not the best lap I’ve ever done. It’s what my brother and me would call a ‘sexy lap’. I only had that one lap in me today, I just couldn’t go any faster afterwards.

“This track is all about confidence, confidence in your braking points and the stability of the car, you only have a few laps to build your steps towards it. As soon as you lose it, it’s very hard to build back up to it. So I’m grateful that I had the extra two laps on the HyperSofts in Q2 as I could try and understand the tyre a bit more. In Q3, it really felt like each corner was on the limit, but no more, I didn’t have any wheel spin or any of that.

“I think the races have generally been quite strong for me this year, so I hope this will continue tomorrow. I’m going to work hard tonight to make sure the start is good. After that it will be all about looking after the tyres. Making the HyperSofts last long won’t be easy, but we’re all in the same boat, so it should be interesting.

“The Ferraris and the Red Bulls in particular had good long-run pace, so we have a fight on our hands tomorrow. But I’m just so grateful that we did a better job today and so grateful for the support from everyone in the team today. This journey that I’m on with Mercedes and the entire team is just a remarkable experience.”

 

Spitfire project

The F1 community has always enjoyed a close relationship with the fighter community, especially the Red Arrows and Mike Ling MBE, (@MikeLingPilot) our local Biggin Hill boy who is now the longest serving member of the Reds.

Take this back a few years, and it would have been those flying spitfires. So it’s heartwarming to see news of quite an  amazing project – namely, flying a restored spitfire around the world.

At the tail end of next summer, Matt Jones and Steve Brooks intend to take off in a polished silver Spitfire Mark IX from southern England, head north-east, and return to Blighty by Christmas having pushed the aircraft to new limits. When they touch back down, they will have made more than 150 stops in over 30 countries, soaring over many airspaces the Spitfire has never before entered, and flying over territories, such as the Far East and North Africa, where it hasn’t been seen since the war ended.

Good luck to them, and let’s hope the project goes well. It’s a brave challenge.

Unilever and Williams launch Engineering Academy

 

Nine students have been selected to join the UWEA for 2018. The collaboration with Williams will see the Engineering Academy continue to mentor students from around the world as they aim to secure a career within engineering.

The Unilever Williams Engineering Academy (UWEA), designed to identify talented young engineers, launched this week at the F1 in Schools Finals in Singapore. F1 in Schools is a not-for-profit organisation encouraging the development of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills by allowing schools to take on the role of a Formula One team.

The high-profile programme will give students from around the world a head start in a competitive job market by providing advice, mentoring and guidance. Academies designed to identify and train future racing drivers have existed in Formula One for a number of years, but this particular scheme is dedicated to recognising and supporting a new generation of engineering stars.

The finalists underwent a series of practical and written challenges set by Williams engineers before a joint Williams and Unilever assessment panel selected students to join the UWEA.

The class of 2018 are:

  1. Elin Pierce, UK
  2. Jimin Oh, Korea
  3. Marisi Gutiérrez Ruiz, Mexico
  4. Samuel Chapman, UK
  5. Michael Jin, US
  6. Rosie Dolan, UK
  7. Omar Salem, Ireland
  8. Poojan Mehta, US
  9. Owain Roberts, UK

In Year One of the UWEA, students will complete a series of e-learning modules that have been developed by the Academy. Each student will be assigned to an experienced mentor, complemented by a number of practical experiences. Unilever will support the students with work experience opportunities in their respective home countries.

The students still attend school and university. The programme supports and goes a step beyond their traditional education. Students involved in F1 in Schools can apply to the UWEA to be in with a chance of taking part.

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