The Ferraris have it; Lewis gives it away

 

Scuderia Ferrari has recorded its fourth win and second one-two finish of the year – the 228th and 83rd respectively in the team’s history.

This was Seb Vettel’s seventh win in red and the 46th of his career. It came at the end of a race that was anything but easy, even if both cars started from the front row.

The two SF70H cars maintained those positions off the line, with Kimi tucked in behind Seb, while battle raged behind them and Ricciardo was already out following a collision. As Daniel was stuck on track, the Safety Car was called out for quite a while – five laps in fact – as oil had to be cleaned up off the track surface.

The Ferraris made a second good getaway when the race restarted and they were followed by Bottas, Verstappen, who would have to take a 10 second penalty for hitting his team-mate, and then Hamilton. In this phase of the race, the Reds were the quickest cars on track, the only ones lapping under the 1’23”.

At one third distance, nothing had changed, except that the two leading cars were backing off to spare their equipment. Then Seb came on the radio saying there was something wrong with the steering, which was pulling to the left down the straight. Kimi closed in until the gap closed to just over a second.

The number 5 Ferrari pitted at the end of lap 32, after his closest pursuers had already changed tyres. The Supersofts made way for the Softs. Next time round, Kimi came in and emerged back on track just behind his team-mate. The lap times went up and down, partly because of the need to pass backmarkers.

On lap 43, the Ferrari duo was back out in front, after a very late stop from Verstappen. Behind them the two Mercedes changed places without a fight. With 15 laps remaining, the top three cars were covered by just two seconds. Seb then pulled out a bit more on lap 58, his fastest of the race. Kimi did likewise to ensure Hamilton could not get into the DRS range.

The final laps were nerve wracking, as Seb could not take the lines he would have liked through the corners but he held firm, as did Kimi right behind him.

Sebastian Vettel: “Everybody inside the team can be very happy and proud of what we have done! Afterwards, I said to Kimi that I was sorry, because I was slow and struggling during the race. For Kimi it was not good to be there in the middle of a sandwich. It was a tough race that, in the end, kept a good shape.

“I developed a problem with the steering wheel and I don’t know why yet. We need to avoid it happening again of course, but during the race I didn’t have an option. It’s not like parking the car, check if everything’s all right and then fix the problem. It was quite annoying because it was a strange feeling. But then, at some point, I forgot about it and just tried to get used to it, which was tricky because it just kept changing and getting worse.

“However, in the end the pace was still there. More generally, I don’t like the short term view that some people have, that after a good race everything is great and you are the hero, but after a bad race it is a disaster. It is not fair because people work hard spending a lot of time, working all together on the car.

“In my opinion, we have the best car and downforce which hasn’t been the case for many years. In the end we can make a difference and we have done that so far. We have our testing days here this week and we have a lot of work to do. After that there will be the Belgian GP. Our car has been good there and I think we have some improvements, so it should be fine.”

Kimi Raikkonen: “I had no worries that the Mercedes could get me. I had a pretty good start and a good run in the first corner; then I took it quite easy. In places like this it’s tricky to try and overtake and I did not want to force things too much with my team mate. When you end up between two cars is not the easiest situation.

“When they called me for the pit stop I wanted to stay on track a bit longer because I felt I had the speed, but the team has the big picture and I trust them. I ended up following Seb through the whole race and I was never able to use my full speed. I knew I had all the tools to finish in a better position, but I should have done a better qualifying. I’m happy for the result that we achieved as a team and this is the main thing. I’m here to win races, but If you take the big picture it was a great weekend, we got the maximum out of it.”

Valtteri Bottas: “The pace was not so much a problem. But once you get within 1.5 seconds to the car in front of you it becomes so difficult to close the gap. And that track position was a big benefit for Ferrari. Even though Sebastian was struggling, no-one could pass him. We tried as a team to swap positions, but Lewis couldn’t get past them either. We didn’t gain any points but I’m glad we tried it.

“I was promised that Lewis would let me back if it didn’t work out. I was struggling with the back markers so the gap to Lewis became bigger than I wanted. But Lewis and the team kept their promise and we swapped positions back in the last lap. I don’t think every team-mate would do that in a championship fight, so I think that was really nice of him and it shows that he is a real team player. Our situations still is not too bad with regards to the points and the championship standing. Lewis and me are still in the fight.”

Lewis on those points

“I tried my best out there. It’s tough when you push so hard and you work so hard and you end up in the same place that you started. When the radio didn’t work, I was thinking that the team was worried about the tyres not going the distance. So maybe they were going slow so that they could speed up later. I was pushing and I had all this pace, but I was stuck behind Valtteri and I couldn’t tell the team because of the radio.

“But in the final laps, I kept my word. I said that if I couldn’t pass Kimi then I would let Valtteri back. I have said through this year that I want to win this title in the right way – and perhaps I will look at it in a different way if, at the end of the season, I lose out by a small margin – but I believe in doing the right thing and that when you put good things out there, they come back to you.

“I was 20 points behind before, but down to one, and now back to 14. We have lost quite a few points in the first half of the year – but I know that we can win it, once we come back even better after the summer break.”

 

Lewis by a whisker

 

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton claimed his 64th career pole position – his third in four years at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and third of the 2017 season. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel set the second fastest time. Valtteri Bottas will start tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix from P3.

Lewis Hamilton: “That was a really intense qualifying. We had to pull out every millisecond we could to take pole. We made some changes ahead of qualifying and the car felt great, so I was very happy with it. The race pace is looking good and the team has done an incredible job this weekend, as always.

“I don’t know if the guys back at the factory get tired of hearing this, but they’ve done an incredible job. To make this step forward and bring a great package for this weekend to keep us in the fight with the Ferrari, I’m so grateful to them. We’ll work as hard as we can on Sunday so that effort doesn’t go to waste.”

Sebastian Vettel: “I don’t know how the mechanics did it (a precautionary replacement of the Power Unit required an extraordinary team effort to have Vettel on track in time for Q1). It’s a lot of work to put together. I want to say a big thanks to the team.

“This morning we couldn’t do what we wanted to. We know the track and the car, and I know that it is working. In the end we could have got pole position, but I missed the apex at the chicane. I was a bit late and lost a bit of time there. But, overall, putting the car on the front row is a massive success.

“I think we worked really well. We realised that there was an issue and that we could fix it. Tomorrow, with the race rhythm, it will be fine, because when you get into the pace it is easier. A good start looks always good, so we’ll see, but I am confident for tomorrow and I always try to keep a smile”.

Valtteri Bottas: “For most of the weekend we’ve had the edge on Ferrari but in Q3 they raised their game. For me starting the day with the engine change and moving back to the old engine, I was always going to be on the back foot. I really struggled through qualifying with the rear stability of the car, so it was difficult to find a good rhythm.

“It wasn’t one of my best qualifying sessions but I’m happy with the job that the team has done. You could see Lewis was very strong and quick today. It’s a shorter run down to Turn 1 than in Sochi, but we’ve seen in the past that you can make positions from the second row. I’ve done some good things from P3 before. Everything is still wide open. We’re happy with the race pace and upbeat for tomorrow.”

What a cracker! Bottas hits the big time

 

Valtteri Bottas took his maiden Formula One victory today after jumping the two Ferraris off the start, then edging out Sebastian Vettel in a nailbiting, race-long battle.

Today’s result marks the 400th podium finish for Mercedes-Benz Power in Formula One. Some achievement.

Kimi Raikkonen finished third (on the podium for the first time this season) in a Russian Grand Prix that was settled in two moments: the start and the final lap. Vettel extends his lead in the Drivers’ classification over Lewis Hamilton (who finished fourth) to 13 points. Hamilton struggled with overheating throughout the race.

Valtteri Bottas: “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.”

Good man. It’s no secret that Finns enjoy a good drink from time to time. Now, is one of those occasions. Many congratulations Mr Bottas, you jolly well deserve it!

 

 

Ferrari nails it

Valtteri looks a bit cheesed off.

 

Sebastian Vettel produced a gutsy drive this evening to win the Bahrain Grand Prix, having started from third on the grid. His victory was also down to the strategic calls from the Scuderia Ferrari pit wall. Lewis Hamilton took the 107th top three finish of his Formula One career in P2, and Valtteri Bottas, having started on pole, sealed a double podium for Mercedes in P3.

Sebastian Vettel: “At the start, it was important for me to get second place. Also, we got everything right with the strategy. We decided to pit early and this tactic proved to be working. Towards the end, I tried to manage the gap I had over Lewis. I expected him to charge through. Of course I was concerned with all the traffic ahead of me. But in the end it was all OK.

“The car was like a dream to drive. I felt right from the beginning that we had the speed to win. I had a good feeling yesterday. The lap back to pits was so sweet, with all the fireworks around, and I really savoured it. Tonight we enjoy the moment, but tomorrow we’ll be back at work. I haven’t changed my mind – to become world champion, you must first beat the Mercedes. We’ll take it race by race.”

Lewis Hamilton: “It’s been a challenging weekend. The start of the race was OK but Sebastian was in my blind spot so I didn’t know where he was and I lost a position there. It was really hard to follow but we generally had similar pace. Under the Safety Car, I just misjudged it myself the situation; that was my fault, so my apologies to the team.

“I had good pace in the second and final stints and we honestly thought we could catch Sebastian. But the five second penalty made that twice as hard. I believe it was the right choice to go with the Soft in the final stint. I think that was the best call as I still had a long way to go. Our guys have been making good calls all year so far. I tried my best to recover from the mistake but it wasn’t quite enough. We still come away with good points.”

Valtteri Bottas: “Not a good day. We had an issue with the tyre pressures at the start. I don’t know what it was but I could really feel it in the first stint and was sliding around as early as Lap 2. The pace wasn’t good and Sebastian put us under real pressure. I tried to extend the first stint but I couldn’t keep up with the pace.

“The second stint was better but I was still struggling with oversteer and then I couldn’t get the rear-end to work in the last stint. Under the Safety Car at the first stop there was a problem and we lost some time in the stop; maybe otherwise I would have just been in front but I know that the team will investigate the issue.

“I had some good racing with Sebastian after the restart but unfortunately it was just for a short moment. I’ve not had the race results that I’d been hoping for so far, but will be targeting a strong weekend in Sochi.”

 

“Sorry you were asked to let me past….. err, twice”

And a few words from Mr Bottas

 

“I’m really happy with my first Formula One pole. It’s my fifth season in the sport now, so it took a few races. But we got it and hopefully it is the first of many. It feels good.

“I didn’t realise it’d been nearly 10 years since a Finn was last on pole. I’m very proud as always to drive for Finland and represent my country.

“It’s not an easy track to get everything right. It’s quite technical and there are a few tricky corners. But I I’ve been getting more and more comfortable with the car and managed to get the lap together. Thankfully it was good enough for pole.

“I just want to say a big thanks to the team for giving me this car. It’s great that we’re both starting from the front row. We’ve done a really good job this weekend to focus on the evening conditions and really maximise the lap time in the car. We’ll enjoy this for a short period of time – but the main focus is the race tomorrow. There is no point to start dreaming just yet. It’s all about getting the maximum out of the race. As a team we can be really strong tomorrow.”

James Allison, Technical Director: “A first pole for Valtteri and it feels excellent. It’s lovely to have a front-row lockout and it’s a great reward to Valtteri for three excellent laps in qualifying today. We are all really happy.

“The gap to Ferrari is a little larger than in the first two races but rather than being surprised we’re just grateful for that small bit of breathing space. It will be different again tomorrow when everyone has their cars full of fuel – then we are sure to have our work cut out.

“We’re expecting the weather to change a fair bit for tomorrow, both windier and cooler. But it will be normal fare for Bahrain – tough on the brakes, tough on the drivers. It’ll be a long, hard toil, but hopefully we’ll end up at the front. It’s going to be super tight.”

 

Well done Valtteri!

 

A cracking lap and a few mistakes by Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas is on pole – his first ever in Formula One – for tomorrow’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

Hamilton was ahead by 0.052 secs after the first laps in the top 10 shootout but appeared to have a scrappy final lap, allowing Bottas to edge ahead.

It was Mercedes’ first front-row lock-out of 2017, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in third 0.478 secs off the pace. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo took fourth ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Well, there’s a surprise

L-r: Hamilton, Vettel and Bottas.

 

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has beaten Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. It’s the former’s first win since the Singapore GP in September 2015.

Hamilton started in pole and it looked as though it might be another Merc 1-2, but Vettel had an advantage on pace and tyre wear, forcing Mercedes into an early pit stop with Hamilton then held up by Max Verstappen.

“A big congratulations to Sebastian and Ferrari. I know this win has been a long time coming for them. This shows we’ve got a real race on our hands this season and it’s a challenge we will relish,” said Hamilton after the race.

“It’s going to be great for the fans. We had a really good start which is fantastic. It was nice to get a good getaway. But I was struggling with grip from the get-go. Sebastian was able to always answer me in terms of lap time and just go quicker. Towards the end of the first stint I caught some traffic and that overheated the tyres.

“I struggled for grip to the point where I needed to come in, plus the gap was closing up and I was sliding around a lot. We made the call to pit, because otherwise I think Sebastian would have come past me anyway. After my stop I got caught in some traffic which was unfortunate but that’s motor racing.”

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