The demon duo does it again

 

2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, SaturdayLewis Hamilton has taken his 61st career pole position – his third at the Yas Marina Circuit and 12th of the 2016 season so far. Nico Rosberg completed a 14th Silver Arrows front row lockout of the season in P2 – his 60th front row start in Formula One. The team has now taken 20 pole positions from 21 races in the 2016 season, which is a new all-time record. Both drivers completed a single run in Q1 and Q2 then two runs in Q3, using UltraSoft tyres throughout.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was third, but 0.834 secs slower than Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton: “It’s been an awesome weekend so far. It’s rare that you end almost every session on top, so I’m very, very happy, with that. It’s down to the hard work done by the mechanics and the engineers to get the car where I need it, so I’m grateful to them for that, as always.

“I felt so great out there tonight. It’s really sad that this is the last Qualifying session we’re going to do in this car! It’s a dream for any driver to have something this good to drive. I’ve been doing my practice starts from the pole slot all weekend as I wasn’t planning on being anywhere else for tomorrow. I came here knowing that was a big part of what I needed this weekend and, now I’ve got that, I can focus on the race. Getting away in front will be the next important step. You need a big pace delta to overtake here, so the start will be crucial.

“Tonight, though, I need to look at strategy and how things need to work for me to get the win. At the moment, my pace is that little bit better. But I can’t control what happens behind me. All I can do is focus on my own race. You never know what might get thrown into the mix, so I’m just hoping my car is as beautiful as it has been so far this weekend and aiming for the win.”

Nico Rosberg: “I came here to be on pole, so I’m not ecstatic today. I was feeling good in the car today and put in some good laps at the end. But Lewis did a great job and was just a few tenths quicker. I’m still in a good position to win the race and I want to end the season on a high. There are a few opportunities tomorrow, so I look forward to an exciting battle.

“The Yas Marina Circuit is a great track and I’m feeling very good before the last race of the year. I am proud and happy about how this season has gone for me until now. Tonight I will relax a bit with Vivian and some friends and come back tomorrow in top shape.”

Tomorrow is promising to be a cracker, yet also tinged with some sadness as we say goodbye to Felipe Massa and Jenson Button.

 

2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Saturday

Shame about the boys

Felipe Massa has certainly announced that he will retire from Formula One at the end of the 2016 season, after 14 years. Not sure about Mr Button who I thought would be off to finish his career at Williams.

The 35-year-old Brazilian is in his third year with Williams, having joined the team in 2014, and is due to celebrate his 250th Grand Prix start at his final race in Abu Dhabi this year. Felipe scored three podiums and one pole position on his way to seventh in the drivers’ standings in his first season with the team, helping Williams climb to third in the Constructors’ Championship. Two further podiums followed in 2015 as Felipe finished sixth in the Drivers’ Championship and the team retained third place in the Constructors’. He is currently ninth in the 2016 championship.

Felipe made his F1 debut with Sauber back in 2002, scoring his first points in just his second race. He was signed as a test driver by Ferrari for 2003, before returning to Sauber for two further years alongside his testing duties with Ferrari. This relationship paved the way for Ferrari’s driver academy which was launched in 2009.

Felipe graduated to a race seat at Ferrari in 2006, alongside seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher. Felipe took the first two of his 11 career victories that season, finishing third in the world championship. He came close to winning the 2008 World Championship with Ferrari, leading the standings with just half a lap of the final race of the season to go, until Lewis Hamilton climbed enough places to claim the title.

Felipe stayed with Ferrari up until he joined Williams in 2014, with his 139 starts for the Scuderia making him the team’s second-longest serving driver ever, behind Schumacher. He remains one of the most popular drivers in Formula One, especially so in his native Brazil, and in Italy following his 11-year stint with Ferrari.

However, it’s not so clear about Jenson Button. On the face of it Stoffel Vandoorne is replacing him. Jenson is sticking around and keeping race fit. In my view he’s still a contender, so what’s going on? Perhaps it’s all about the marketing. Who knows…

Back to the drawing board for Mr Button

Williams says the partnership of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas will be retained for a third season which closes the door on a return of Jenson Button to the team.

Massa joined for 2014 and has so far scored one pole position, at the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix, and four podium finishes. Bottas is one of the sport’s most promising talents, with seven podiums to his name in the last two seasons.

Both drivers quickly developed an exceptional working relationship from the beginning of 2014 and, while they remain fiercely competitive as rivals,  you could say they’ve played a pivotal role in the rejuvenation of Williams.

China post race: Lotus

Romain Grosjean in the E23.

Romain Grosjean in the E23.

 

Lotus F1 Team scored its first points of the season after Romain Grosjean came home in a strong seventh position in the Chinese Grand Prix. It wasn’t so plain sailing for Pastor Maldonado who, despite a very strong start, suffered from braking issues and late race contact from Jenson Button, eventually retiring from the race with seven laps to go.

Grosjean started from P8 on the grid on his qualifying soft tyres, changing to new medium tyres on laps 12 and 32. Maldonado started from P11 on the grid on his new soft compound tyres, changing to new medium tyres on laps 11 and 33. He retired from the race on lap 49.

Romain Grosjean, P7, E23-02: “It’s the best we could do today and it’s satisfying to have achieved the team’s first points of the season. It wasn’t an easy circuit for us, with a lot of front limited corners that we don’t particularly like, but we had a strong start, and most of the stints were good too. We’ve made a good job improving the car race after race and it’s great to finally score points.”

Pastor Maldonado, DNF, E23-03: “I made a great start and we were running strongly early on. However later I had a braking issue which made it harder to battle. We also have to understand why the brakes locked up so easily coming into the pits. We lost a lot of time here and it compromised the rest of my race. It was a fantastic battle with Jenson and we were passing each other very cleanly; a good, fun, exciting battle. Unfortunately, it looks like he got his braking point wrong and went into the back of me. This can easily happen when you’re fighting for position, braking offline and using DRS, so it’s just one of those things. Certainly our race pace is good, if we qualify a little higher we should be set for a very good time in Bahrain.”

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director: “That was a solid race from us which illustrates where we expected to be fighting from the start of the year. Both cars were looking in very good shape for a seventh and eighth finish, and it was a great result from Romain meaning our first points on the board. We achieved our target of overtaking the Red Bull and both of the Saubers with Romain, who delivered everything required. Pastor had a much more difficult race despite a strong start and clearly had potential to finish comfortably in the top ten too.”

 

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Chinese Grand Prix - Race Day - Shanghai, China Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Chinese Grand Prix - Race Day - Shanghai, China

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