That was a bit tense

 

Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes took his 55th career victory today – his second at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and second of the 2017 season, beating Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel into second place with Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull, third.

This race was one of the best of the year – an epic Grand Prix. Racing simply doesn’t go more wheel to wheel – and we were treated to some fantastic racing for the win.

A perfect getaway from second on the grid saw Vettel move ahead of Hamilton and into the lead. Things did not go so well for Kimi Raikkonen: at the first corner, he was tapped from behind by Valtteri Bottas and that pushed him into Max Verstappen which meant the ice man had to pull over to the side of the track with a broken front left suspension.

First one, then the other

Vettel pulled away in the early laps and behind him, Hamilton reacted. For the opening laps, the gap stayed around the two-second mark and then it looked as though the Mercedes man was trying to close with the intention of pulling off an undercut by pitting early to emerge in front. Ferrari reacted, bringing Vettel in on lap 14, fitting another set of Softs. Vettel rejoined behind Ricciardo. At the start of lap 16, he passed the Red Bull under braking and set a fastest lap of 1’24”901.

Hamilton pitted on lap 21 and went for the Medium tyres, while Vettel was attacking Bottas who was doing everything he could to keep ahead. Lap 35 and Vettel dived to the left, went on to the grass and got by at Turn 1, so the Vettel-Hamilton duel was back on. Lewis was 4 seconds down but on the harder rubber. On lap 33, Stoffel Vandoorne closed the door on Felipe Massa, went off the track and the race went into Virtual Safety Car mode. Hamilton came in on lap 37 and soon after the race was on again. Vettel went for the mandatory set of Medium tyres.

Master stroke

Hamilton was passed on the straight and yet again the duel resumed. Vettel pushed hard, really hard in the first two corners. The SF70H hung on to the lead, while Bottas retired. Vettel made the most of getting through the backmarkers to also be able to use the DRS down the main straight. But with a clear track, Hamilton made the most of his tyre advantage and the moveable wing to get ahead finally on lap 44.

But the fight wasn’t quite over, because Vettel’s rival had to look after his softer tyres. “Keep your head down,” Vettel’s engineer Ricky Adami advised his driver. But there were no more opportunities for attempting one final assault.

Lewis Hamilton: “It’s been a really good weekend and a great way to bounce back from Russia. It was the rawest fight that I can remember having in a long-time. I loved it, this is why I race. This is what made me get into racing in the first place. This is what the sport needs to be like every single weekend. To have a close battle like that with a four-time champion is awesome.

“I lost out on the start and had to watch Sebastian fly by. He was so fast out in front and it was such a push to keep in touch with him and not let him pull away. I was able to manage my tyres in the first stint and keep relatively close, then it was tricky to keep up on the Medium tyre and then after the second stop.

“We came out so close together which was super tight into Turn 1. He didn’t give me much space, it was close! I thought Seb would get me at the end of the final stint but I was able to do it. I have to congratulate my team today, with the strategy and the pit stops, as well as everyone back at the factory that has worked so hard to deliver these upgrades, enabling us to be so close in this fight with Ferrari.”

Sebastian Vettel: “My start was good, I saw Lewis struggle with wheelspin, and kept looking in the mirror to see if anybody else had a better start. The first stint went OK, then we had to pit, otherwise they might have got us with an undercut. My second stint was also pretty good: I managed to get close to Valtteri who was all over the place with his tyres. He blocked me. In the end I managed to get past, but by then I had lost an awful lot of time. Then in the last stint we did everything we could, the car was good.

“It was close with Lewis. I am happy when we have the chance to race the Mercedes cars, we can be very happy but not entirely happy today. The most important thing, though, is that we were in the fight. The team is in great form, we need to improve because we want to be ahead of them.”

Daniel Ricciardo: “I’m happy to be back on the podium today, it’s the first one of the season for me which is nice but actually the race was quite a lonely one. I didn’t have any real battles and my race was more about trying to keep a rhythm and maintain concentration.

“I got a bit fortunate with Valtteri’s problem towards the end of the race which bumped me up to third, but of course I’m still happy to be up there again and see all the smiles from the team. Today we will enjoy the podium but tomorrow we need to understand how to further close the gap to Ferrari and Mercedes.

“I want to take the positives from this weekend, we will keep working hard and chipping away. I don’t think it’s impossible to catch the leaders at some point, maybe it will take a little longer than we had hoped but we will get there. I think I got the maximum out of the car today and moving on to Monaco we will have a few more updates, which will hopefully give us another step, and at that track it’s fair to say anything can happen.”

Perhaps the last word though should go to Mercedes’ Technical Director, James Allison: “Grands Prix like that are why we go motor racing. Winning is always lovely. But when you win a proper 12-round heavyweight fight in this kind of style, and along the way answer all sorts of questions about tyre degradation, following other teams and the car’s handling – and then see a driver at the peak of his craft like Lewis was today – there’s nothing better than that.”

Good news for the season ahead

 

We could have a fight on our hands.

Lewis Hamilton may have dominated today’s Chinese Grand Prix with Sebastian Vettel second and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen third – having moved up from 16th on the grid to finish third, but I’m pleased to say the season could turn out to be a humdinger between the two champions as Hamilton and Vettel battle it out.

Lewis Hamilton: “My pole lap put me in a great position and then the start was just fantastic. I’m really happy with my starts right now so I want to keep that up!

“During the race I needed to keep my composure in some really tricky conditions out there. After the pit stop under the Safety Car the speed was low and the tyres were very cold, so it would have been very easy to make a mistake, so I’m just grateful that I didn’t. In those final 20 laps Seb and I were just pounding around as fast as we could, exchanging fastest lap times, that’s what racing is all about.

“In the future there will be times when we don’t have a Safety Car and we won’t have that gap. I’m excited for that. It’s very close and there were times when it was hard to match Sebastian. It has been a fantastic weekend… Big congratulations to everyone, especially those back home, I hope they’re celebrating and feeling the spirit and the fight.”

Sebastian Vettel: “The race was a lot of fun, very entertaining. Conditions were tricky at the start, you never know what can happen in those moments, so I was perhaps a bit too conservative. Then we chose to change tyres since the track was quickly drying out, so that we could take advantage from the slicks; but luck was not on our side as the safety car came in right after.

“I can’t say how much this affected the final result, it was still a long way from there to the finish, but I think it had an effect. From then I had to work my way through the field, and I had a tense wheel-to-wheel fight with Ricciardo. I like this way of overtaking, when gaining position comes at a price and not simply by opening up the DRS.

“At that moment though, the gap to Lewis had widened, and I kept pushing to keep some pressure on him, while asking my engineer what pace was needed for me to catch him. I think that pace-wise we were a match today. Sometimes he was faster, sometimes I was: if we can fight with Mercedes also in Bahrain that will be again good news. We can still improve.”

 

Stunning São Paulo double for Mercedes as chaos reigns at Interlagos

2016 Brazilian Grand Prix, Sunday

 

Lewis Hamilton has taken his 52nd career victory – his first at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace and ninth of the 2016 season so far. Nico Rosberg completed a seventh Silver Arrows 1-2 of the season in P2, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen third.

Rosberg (367) leads the Drivers’ Championship by 12 points from Hamilton (355) in P2. MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS (722) leads Red Bull (446) by 276 points in the Constructors’ Championship.

Lewis Hamilton: “I’ve just won my first Brazilian Grand Prix! I remember watching Ayrton win back in 1991 and thinking “one day, that’s what I want to do”. I shared his emotion that day and now I can finally understand how he felt. It’s the 44th Grand Prix here as well, so it’s a really special one for me. To win on Senna’s turn in front of that crowd… it’s a moment I’ll never forget and I genuinely can’t believe it’s finally come.

“It’s crazy – all these years it’s been so hard to win this race and then today was one of the easiest wins I’ve had. Of course, in those conditions I could easily have made a mistake at any point. But I was generally very relaxed out there today and felt completely in control. I love driving in the rain. It must come from years of racing around the UK as a kid! It’s all in the mind – keeping your cool, not making mistakes, having great reactions and knowing where to put the car.

“It was one of those races where I was able to focus purely on driving. That one set of tyres just kept going and going, I didn’t have any problems at all and the car was really fantastic. I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone back at both factories who have worked so hard to give us such an incredible car. This result is all down to them.

“Every week we’re making another piece of history and we’ve out-and-out proven that we’re the best team by far, in every area. Our hospitality is the best, our food is the best, our guys in the garage are the best, the guys back in the factory are the best, our cars are the best… it’s so rare to see every area so spot on and I’m proud to be a part of that.

“I’m glad that it’s come down to the last race. All I can do is focus on being as strong as I have been in these past few races. If I can do that, I’ll know in my heart what I’ve achieved this year.”

 

2016 Brazilian Grand Prix, Sunday

Nico Rosberg: “The conditions were really tricky out there today. Up the hill there was heavy aquaplaning and a lot of drivers went off the track. I had a bit of a moment when I spun at one point but luckily this wasn’t at high speed, so I was able to catch the car again.

“Lewis did a better job today and deserved the win, so I must be happy with P2. Max also did a good job. We knew that the Red Bull would be very strong in the wet but he drove a great race. Thank you very much to my team for choosing the right strategy and letting me stay out on the full wet tyres. Now I look forward to Abu Dhabi, where I have good memories from last year. I will be going all out for the win there.”

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: “To come away with such a result in a race like that is really quite something. You simply can’t expect a 1-2 in such conditions. It’s a rare achievement and the whole team is to be congratulated for that. I’m very happy with the result. When you consider the circumstances, it’s maybe the best result of the season.

“It was a faultless drive from Lewis, with easily the best pace of the field, while Nico showed his strength to stand firm in P2. A word for Max too, who was very impressive today. It was the Verstappen show out there – really unbelievable driving and great entertainment.

“Also, for Charlie and the Stewards. It’s very difficult in these conditions and, overall, they probably made the right calls. I probably wouldn’t have stopped the race the last time around because the conditions hadn’t changed. But if you have to sit up there, put your neck on the line and take responsibility for the drivers’ safety, you might see it from a different perspective.

“Now, we have a showdown in Abu Dhabi – just as Bernie would have ordered it. Our job is simple – give both drivers the cars they need to fight to the flag on track.”

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical): “Absolutely mind-blowing. To get a 1-2 from a day like that is really incredible. Most of the credit for that must go to the drivers, who kept their heads in very difficult conditions. It was great to see such a thrilling race in the end too for the crowd at this iconic circuit. Such difficult weather makes it tough to run a safe race and their dedication must be applauded.

“In the end we had a lot of exciting racing, so I’m happy for them. From a technical point of view, to us it was clearly a full wet race all afternoon. Twice, others gambled on the intermediate tyre – but we resisted that temptation as the data simply didn’t support it and neither did the drivers.

“On both the initial start and the two re-starts, that proved to be absolutely the right call. Credit to the team and the drivers for making those choices, which won the race for us today. Congratulations to Lewis on becoming the second most winning driver in Formula One history. We now take the Championship finale to the final race in Abu Dhabi, which is a perfect outcome for the sport.”

 

2016 Brazilian Grand Prix, Sunday

Malaysian GP qualifying: Mercedes pair seal Sepang front row lock-out

L-R: Rosberg, Hamilton and Max Verstappen for Red Bull starts in third for tomorrow's Malaysian GP.

L-R: Rosberg, Hamilton and Max Verstappen for Red Bull starts in third for tomorrow’s Malaysian GP.

 

Lewis Hamilton has taken his 57th career pole position – his fourth at the Sepang International Circuit and eighth of the 2016 season so far. Nico Rosberg completed a ninth Silver Arrows front row lock-out of the season in P2. Both drivers completed a single run in Q1 and Q2, another two runs in Q3, using soft tyres throughout.

Lewis Hamilton: “It feels great. I’m incredibly grateful for the car being where it is. The guys have done a great job for us to have such performance this weekend. To be able to extract it from the car is the thing I’m really happy about. It’s been night and day in comparison to Singapore. Of the laps I had there, I only really got a few of them together. Here, though, we’ve had lots of mileage, I’ve been able to build through the sessions and I felt really comfortable in the car.

“My final qualifying lap was the first lock-up I’d had all weekend into Turn One, so there was more time out there. It’s a shame I didn’t get to show it but I still got pole and it’s looking good for tomorrow. I’ve been here since last Saturday, so I’ve been able to prepare really well and I’ve been pretty quick all weekend. I’ve had incredible support ever since I arrived here in Malaysia from the people here – and from everyone else around the world too, as always. I want this just as badly as they do, so hopefully we’ll see it through tomorrow. It’s too soon to say how the race will go. When I’m on top of it like I have been this weekend, it generally goes my way on a Sunday. Let’s hope that pattern continues.”

Nico Rosberg: “Congrats to Lewis for the pole. He did a better job today. I was closer to him on my last lap but then I lost a couple of tenths in the last corner, which was a pity. I can be happy with a front row start as we have seen this year that there are some opportunities at the start and qualifying is not quite so important anymore – especially at a track like this where you can overtake. So, overall I’m quite confident for tomorrow. I hope we can give our Malaysian friends from Petronas and the whole country a great race.”

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: “That was a pretty awesome session from Lewis, setting fastest time in all three parts of qualifying and taking pole by a big margin – and without completing his final effort. He’s been on point from the first laps this weekend and, without any reliability problems, he’s got the job done.

Nico also did a great recovery in Q3 after an oversteery first run left him P5. He got a strong P2 on his final lap and he probably left a couple of tenths out there on the track as well. Looking ahead to tomorrow, we need to keep the ball flat and focus on the job. It will be a challenging race with our main rivals very close on long run pace. Strategy will be important and so will avoiding mistakes in the challenging conditions. We’ve hit our first target for the weekend but the big one is still to come.”

 

2016 Malaysian Grand Prix, Saturday

 

Ricciardo and Verstappen bring home the bacon

Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, and Lewis Hamilton celebrate on the podium.

Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, and Lewis Hamilton celebrate on the podium.

 

Daniel Ricciardo: Finish Position: 2nd, Start Position: 3rd
“I’m very pleased with today obviously. To beat one Mercedes is nice but for both cars to beat one Mercedes and the pole-sitter was really good. In the first part of the race I was sitting in third and the pace was okay but I think I really came to life in the second half of the race and that’s when I was able to show a bit more speed and capture second place.

“It was the best we could do today and I’m now happy to go into the summer break with another podium in the bag. For me the strategy worked very well, I was comfortable on the supersofts and it worked out my pace was better in the end with that tyre. Drinking out of the shoe on the podium is an Australian thing. It’s called a ‘shoey’. I said if I win a race this year I’ll do it, but just in case, I thought I’ll do it next time I’m on the podium.

“The last few races I got a bit more out of the race weekends and it’s nice to get a bit of momentum now before the summer break. Just to stand up there on the podium is the best feeling in the world.”

Max Verstappen, Finish Position: 3rd, Start Position: 4th
“The start was very strong and during the race we had good pace. We didn’t expect it to be that good this weekend so we definitely maximised the result. Strategy doesn’t always work for you but I took one for the team today and we still finished second and third and in front of Ferrari, which was the main aim.

“Rosberg just braked very late and then didn’t turn into the corner. That incident cost me a lot of time, he pushed me wide and put me in a bad situation. I then let Daniel go by as was the strategy of the team. In the end the most important thing was to score the points and move up in the Constructors’ Championship. Finishing only 10 seconds back from Mercedes is very good.

“It is still too early to say how close we can get by the end of the season as I think they may have some in reserve. It’s good to go on a little break now and spend some time with family and then be ready to go again in Spa and see all the Dutch fans.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal: “A fantastic team performance today, particularly from the drivers starting from the second row of the grid. After they both made strong starts, Daniel gave Max just enough space at turn one, though it looked pretty tight and from there on the drivers settled in to their race.

“We elected at the first stop to split the strategies, putting Daniel on to the soft tyre and Max on to the supersoft, so they were both running slightly different races. When we pitted Max to cover Rosberg he did manage to get a run on him and then obviously Rosberg picked up a time penalty down at turn six, so the objective thereafter was for both drivers to clear him at the pit stop.

“With Daniel being on the faster supersoft tyre, he quickly closed on Max who allowed him to pass after the request from the team, to not lose any time, allowing them both to get out ahead of Rosberg at the final pit stop. To finish up second and third on the podium here at Hockenheim, to have outscored Ferrari and go into the summer break with a 14 point advantage over them in the Constructors’ Championship is a great end to a really strong first half of the year.

“Time for a well-earned break for all of the team, to recharge their batteries and come back for the final nine races, where there are circuits on the calendar that will hopefully suit us. We’ve exceeded all of our expectations in the first half of the season. I don’t think pre-season any of us could have imagined to have been second in the Constructors’ Championship after 11 rounds.”

I just want to get out of here…

Daniel Ricciardo at the podium. No words needed.

Daniel Ricciardo at the podium. No words needed.

 

Poor old Daniel Ricciardo (finishing 2nd having started from Pole): “On the extremes in the beginning we were quick and I did everything I had to. I asked a couple of times how the people on inters were doing but they said that my pace was really good on the extremes so we stayed out and that was no problem. And then they said ‘box this lap’. We put the inters on and then we came out behind Lewis. Then when Lewis pitted we tried to pit the lap later to overcut him. It was all prepared and then I came into the pits and there were no tyres.

“I actually hate being like this. I hate being miserable. I got a podium in Monaco. I should be extremely happy, grateful and thankful.I’ve been fast now for two races and that’s the positive, but again no win so I’m a little bit sick of being fast and not getting any real rewards. I don’t like being the sad story. To end it on a positive note, we are fast in all conditions, which is good.”

Max Verstappen (DNF, started 21st): “Disappointed in myself and disappointed for the team, because they worked very hard to get the car ready and I didn’t give them the result they deserved today. We were in a good way, we were in the points and to start from the pit lane and end in the points would have been very good, but I learned from this and hopefully we can come back stronger in Canada.

“It was pretty tricky especially in the beginning of the race it was a very slippery track. It got better and better, the track was drying, and I think from then on we had great pace and I was overtaking cars, charging through the field and everything felt well. Then we put the softs on and I locked up. Unfortunately I went a bit off-line and of course then you arrive in the wet area and I was a passenger from there on.

“That’s racing in the end, it can go up and down very quickly but you shouldn’t back off because of this you should keep positive, keep pushing. I learn a lot from those moments as well and I’m already focusing on Canada now and leaving Monaco behind.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal: “A very disappointing day. We as a team owe Daniel a huge apology today as we failed to support him in the way we did to get him to his first pole position yesterday. The delay at his pit stop cost him the lead and despite some excellent driving to get close to Lewis, he couldn’t get past, as is so often the case here in Monaco.

“Max put in some excellent laps to move through the field but unfortunately came unstuck at turn three pushing to improve position. We will review and re-group and all of the team will be aiming to continue our strong form in Canada.”

 

Christian Horner and Red Bull Racing Team Manager Jonathan Wheatley before  the race, but just as pertinent 78 laps on.

Christian Horner and Red Bull Racing Team Manager Jonathan Wheatley before the race, but just as pertinent 78 laps on.

Monaco qualifying: Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo during qualifying

Daniel Ricciardo during qualifying

 

Daniel Ricciardo – Pole (Practice 3 – P4, 1:14.807): “I’m happy! I put it together when I needed to. Qualifying just built up and built up and I found the rhythm, and then that first run in Q3 was the one I needed to do. I feel I’ve been qualifying very well all year, and it’s cool to get my first pole in Formula One, this place more than any is a great place to get it at.

“Hopefully tomorrow we can convert it to the win, that’s the plan. It’s the first pole for the team in a while too, it’s a very good feeling. Coming into the weekend I believed I could be here today and it’s nice to match that belief. The lap felt good. I knew once I’d done it, it would be hard to beat because we were competitive with Mercedes and I hadn’t yet put together the best lap. It was a pretty good lap on the supersofts in Q2 so we start on those tomorrow, it should give us a bit more option in the race when to pit.

“It seemed like a bit of a freebie for us if we could do it and make it work, so why not. Sitting here now it looks good, we’ll see tomorrow what happens but I think it should hopefully give us a bit more flexibility. Today the job was pole, I’ve done that so let’s see what happens tomorrow, I’ve done what I can so far.”

Max Verstappen – 21st (Practice 3 – P5, 1:15.081): “It’s of course not the way you want to start for tomorrow. I turned in a bit too early, clipped the inside wall, broke the inside suspension and then couldn’t turn anymore. I felt quite good, in my first push lap I felt more confident than all the other laps and also in terms of car balance it was better, because my second sector was nearly two to three tenths faster than I ever did.

“It was all coming together but then into the chicane, maybe I underestimated the grip I had and turned in a bit too early. Hopefully the weather will help a bit tomorrow but if you start 21st it will be very difficult. These things unfortunately happen and you have to learn from it and continue. Hopefully there will be a lot of action tomorrow, not only from me but from others. It will be very tough but I won’t give up. The car is great, we just have to find a way to get past the people in front. It will depend a lot on the strategy, what other people do of course and the weather, so hopefully we have some luck tomorrow. Congratulations to Daniel on a great lap and his first pole, it’s great for the team.”

Christian Horner: “Fantastic and thrilling to secure our first pole position since 2013, and especially delighted for Daniel in claiming his maiden pole today. Daniel drove a sensational lap and the team perfectly executed the strategy we set in briefing this morning. It sets us up nicely for the Grand Prix tomorrow and we hope we can capitilise on this sterling performance in qualifying.

“Max has had a tough day. He just clipped the barrier on entry into the chicane and it ended the session for him. It’s unfortunate for us but just demonstrates the margins on the tight streets of Monte Carlo. He’s naturally disappointed but he’s a level-headed guy and he will bounce back and be focused on getting the best out of tomorrow’s race.”

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