The 10s Club

Marc Marquez

#93 Marc Marquez blurs away. Image Copyright © AP Photo/AJ Mast

Honda’s 21-year-old Marc Marquez joined MotoGP’s elite 10-in-a-row club yesterday, when he scampered away from Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi at the Indianapolis Grand Prix.

Mick Doohan, riding an NSR500 Repsol Honda joined the ‘club’ in 1997 which Giacomo Agostini astride an MV Agusta founded – way back in 1968!

Who’s betting against the Spanish sensation to join another legendary club for most-wins-in-a-season? :-)

Ricciardo rules again

HUNGARORING REVIEW

Dani strikes twice! Image Copyright © AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic

Dani strikes twice! Image Copyright © AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic

He hung his RBR10 out over the kerbs at T2. He held on like a matador in a bull-fight, muscling Hamilton out through the inner racing line of T3. Next up was the Spaniard in the red Ferrari, who has taken to ‘bullfighting’ of late, but this time around, was easy meat for the Aussie on fresh soft tyres. Nothing now, could deny the smiling Daniel Ricciardo a second Grand Prix win in 2014.

But while he was sealing his victory, behind the trail of Alonso and Hamilton – a charging Rosberg was eating away into all three of them’s race at nearly 3secs per lap! And with 9 laps remaining in the 70-lap race, the Hungarian Grand Prix instantly became the season’s classic!

Hamilton, the Safety Car and wet-weather conditions ultimately denied pole-sitter Rosberg, a podium place. He crossed the start-finish line in P4, his lowest points finish of this season so far. But it wasn’t without controversy and drama.

When the lights went out at Hungary, Rosberg blitzed away from the pursuing pack at a storming pace. Posting fastest laps in rapid succession he was almost 9 seconds ahead in the lead when the first Safety Car was brought out. A crashing Caterham of Marcus Ericsson, left debris scattered all over the track with the car and driver in a dangerous position.

In a dramatic twist however, the top four of the leading pack had crossed the pit entry and caught the Safety Car after the pit exit. This meant they had to complete another full lap at a slower pace before switching to fresh rubber while the rest of the field pitted. Including Lewis Hamilton, who started from the pit lane! He saw his entire disadvantage of starting from that far behind wiped out clean. When the racing was resumed, Ricciardo led from Button’s McLaren and Massa’s Williams.

SC! SC! SC! Image Copyright © AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic

SC! SC! SC! Image Copyright © AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic

Rosberg, Magnussen, Vergne, Vettel and Alonso trailed behind them followed by Hulkenberg, Perez, Bottas, Gutierrez and Hamilton.

Romain Grosjean spun at T3 and crashed out forcing the Safety Car to stay out longer. At the restart, Alonso began to pounce on the cars in front of him getting past Vettel, Vergne, Magnussen and Rosberg! Demoting the Championship leader to P6.

Hamilton dismissed Perez, Hulkenberg, Bottas and Gutierrez all in a single lap, leaving just Vettel sandwiched between him and his title rival, Rosberg!

On Lap 23, at the final corner, Sergio Perez ran over the outside kerb and got caught out. His VJM07 spun around violently crashing into the main pit wall. The crash saw the Safety Car intervene again! Race leader Ricciardo and the two Williamses dived into the pits. And Alonso was now leading the race. Vergne held off all attempts of passing, by Rosberg, while Vettel, Hamilton and the fresh-tyre shod Ricciardo, chased.

Mercedes called in Rosberg for fresh tyres as well, as he was making no progress on the Toro Rosso. His strategy now was to be a three-stopper while Hamilton running on primes was always on a two-stopper. It seemed, the strategy for the car starting last was more about damage-limitation than for a win. Vettel in his RBR10, almost carbon-copied the accident of the spinning Force India in the last corner. But he managed to hold on to a dramatic 360º spin, just narrowly missing the wall, but flat-spotting all four tyres. His challenge for a podium spot vanished at this point. Another mistake for the four-time champion, while his rookie team mate raced away in the distance.

It was Hamilton’s turn, while in hot pursuit of Alonso, to deal with the Toro Rosso of Vergne. Having attempted to pass on the straight, the Briton kept the momentum going through to T4 on the outside of the Frenchman. It was an amazing take, with his right rear wheel flicking up dirt!

Ricciardo was in P3. On Lap 38, Alonso pitted followed by Hamilton the next lap. The Red Bull, now leading, had to pit again and therefore required to build a gap of about 22 seconds to rejoin ahead. The lead was now about 16 seconds. And on Lap 54, Ricciardo took his final stop. He joined ahead of Rosberg but behind Hamilton and Alonso. Crucially he was on new faster, soft option compounds.

Meanwhile, Rosberg who was going to swap tyres once more found Hamilton in front of him. The team asked Hamilton to move over for Rosberg because ‘he was on a different strategy’ they explained. A modified strategy to win from pole position, originally.

Hamilton refused to budge. And in doing so, held onto valuable track position even after Rosberg rejoined the fight with new tyres that were faster than Ricciardo’s, on Lap 61. Hamilton secured P3. An astonishing feat given that he started last from the pit lane.

Has he denied Mercedes AMG Petronas another win this season? Or has he lived up to their public image of allowing both their drivers a fair shot at the title?

Pit lane to P3. Image Copyright © AP Photo/Petr David Josek

Pit lane to P3. Image Copyright © AP Photo/Petr David Josek

The end of the summer break has never ever been so eagerly anticipated. Bring on Spa!

PODIUM

P1 Ricciardo – Red Bull Racing 1hr  53m 05.058s
P2 Alonso – Scuderia Ferrari
P3 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG

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Up in smoke

Blown up and beaten. Image Copyright © Google.com

Blown up and beaten. Image Copyright © Google.com

Mercedes AMG Petronas’ car #44 was last seen burning at the pit entrance, with it’s driver walking away in utter despair. Before qualifying, Lewis Hamilton, dominated the time sheets in a clean sweep of all three practise sessions.

Pole seemed to be guaranteed at the Hungarian Grand Prix. A race he has won 4 times before. But a fuel pipe leak created a memorable image of Hungary 2014.

P1 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 22.715s
P2  Vettel – Red Bull Racing 1m 23.201s
P3 Bottas –  Williams Martini Racing 1m 23.354s

Rosberg wins for Germany

HOCKENHEIM REVIEW

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There are two ways of looking back at yesterday’s German Grand Prix.

One, Lewis Hamilton’s heroic drive from the last row on the grid, to a fighting and entertaining P3, or Two, Nico Rosberg’s serene, unchallenged and lonely run to the chequered flag. The former’s race was full of action and drama. The latter’s was boring and seldom broadcasted on TV.

But, what it does mean to the Championship fight is that Mercedes Petronas AMG are now on 366 Constructor’s points with Red Bull Racing far behind in second place on 188. In the Driver’s title fight Rosberg now on 190 of a possible 250, has extended his lead over team mate Hamilton on 176, by 14 points.

For the Englishman, the weekend became an uphill task after the brake-disc failure that saw him hurled into the barriers in qualifying. That hurt, even physically.

Going into the race, he had a five-place penalty imposed on him for a gearbox change which saw him starting alongside Max Chilton’s Marussia on P21. By Lap 17 though, he was P2! Incredibly, he made quick work of the entire field apart from his team mate who was on cruise mode up ahead. He had clean manoeuvres and scrappy ones, where he took off a bit of an endplate from Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari and bruised with Adrian Sutil’s Sauber. Unfortunately a misjudged overtake on Jenson Button’s McLaren saw him lose a bit of his own front-wing.

This damage went on to play a big role against him in his final attack on a supremely confident Valterri Bottas, who was in no hurry to surrender a fine P2, to Hamilton. On his re-charge to catch Rosberg, Hamilton encountered the Williams of the Finnish driver. Only to find that the similarly powered FW36 was phenomenally quick on the straights. His super-soft tyres were past their prime by the last couple of laps and he had to settle for the final podium position.

It was his lowest point-scoring finish this season.

For Nico Rosberg, it was a dream victory. With the W05 showing no signs of slowing down this season even with the latest FRIC ban all he had to do was bring his car home. And he did so in fine-fashion. A lights to flag win on home soil for the first time in a German car, team and circuit all in his special-edition ‘World Cup winner’s’ helmet design!

German football star, Lukas Podolski on the starting grid earlier, predicted Rosberg would win. What he nor Ferrari could’ve predicted though was how their star, Fernando Alonso would fair against the Red Bulls. For a few laps, first it was the Silverstone battle, sans-radio-complaints, continuing between four-time Champion Vettel and Alonso. Just like a fortnight ago he lost to the German, but then drove stubbornly against Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Button to take P5.

A typically feisty drive from the Spaniard led FOX Sports TV to ask “if we really want to see Fernando ever in a leading car again?!”

Up and down the race there were battles between all the three-stoppers and it made for excellent viewing. Felipe Massa took T1 aggressively right at the start only to be punted out and flipped over by Kevin Magnussen. The Dane finished in P9 behind team mate Button and ahead of the second Force India of Sergio Perez. This was the second consecutive DNF for Brazilian Massa. Sebastian Vettel was satisfied with his P4 finish ahead of Ricciardo on P6. While Kimi Raikkonen had a race to forget as he finished out of the points, first hit by the charging Hamilton and later Vettel.

The Silver Arrows are dominating. No matter where they start on the grid. The title fight boils down to the Mercedes team mates. But will Valterri Bottas’ superb run of podium finishes continue to upset the result? You can bet Rosberg will be hoping it does in his favour as we now head off to the season’s first half closure at Budapest. Up next, in a few days time.

PODIUM

P1 Rosberg– Mercedes AMG 1hr 33m 42.914s
P2 Bottas – Williams Martini Racing
P3 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG

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The gift

The gloves come on! Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

The gloves come on! Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Newly married, World Drivers Championship points leader Nico Rosberg was ‘gifted’ a team-mate-less fight for pole in Germany. However, the season’s new Finnish sensation, Valterri Bottas came close to toppling off the German from P1.

Lewis Hamilton, fresh from a ‘gifted’ win by Rosberg’s retirement in Britain, hit the brakes going into T13 only to find himself smashing the barriers sideways instead of slowing down. Brembo, have confirmed it was a right-front disc failure. Hamilton will start either P15 or from the pit lane.

Aussie Daniel Ricciardo got the better of defending champ Sebastian Vettel, although it was the German who was on top through most of the session. The Red Bulls are P5 and P6. Ahead of them is Kevin Magnussen who put it an astonishing lap to claim P4. He later commented interestingly that McLaren have gained from the FRIC ban.

The start, the expected rain and tyre wear will define the podium tomorrow. Hamilton’s switch to Rosberg’s preferred brand of brake discs i.e. Carbon Industrie might, with some luck, bring back the gift to him.

P1 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 16.540s
P2 Bottas – Williams Martini Racing 1m 16.759s
P3 Massa –  Williams Martini Racing 1m 17.078s

It’s Hammertime!

SILVERSTONE REVIEW

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 4.12.29 pm

Lewis’ fandom at Silverstone. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Lewis Hamilton bathed in the ecstasy of a home win at the British Grand Prix, after the agony of losing pole position to his team mate in qualifying on Saturday.

Cheered on by a 120,000-strong, partisan crowd he took his 27th career win, equalling Sir Jackie Stewart’s total and is now behind only Nigel Mansell, for most number of wins, by an English driver. It was his fifth win this season.

Two DNFs in Australia and Canada, yellow flags in Monaco, slow pit-stops in Austria and a 29-point deficit to Rosberg before this weekend, did not bode well with Hamilton fans worldwide. They believed the German, was getting the better deal in the intra-team rivalry at Mercedes. At half distance in Silverstone, had they finished as they were, Rosberg would’ve had the luxury of settling for P2 in the next five grand prix without losing the championship lead!

But it wasn’t to be. Nico Rosberg’s W05 sputtered and stopped on Lap 29 with gearbox downshifting issues. Putting an end, to his long streak of consecutive points finishes and any suspicion that Mercedes AMG Petronas were building only one bullet-proof car. It’s worth remembering that the last team order that actually influenced the result of Mercedes’ race was made by Ross Brawn, in the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix. Back then Rosberg was asked to hold station behind Hamilton although he was much quicker –– the team felt Hamilton was nursing a wounded car home and it wouldn’t be fair to race him.

With Nico, registering his first DNF of the season, Lewis is now just four points behind him in the title fight on 161, with 10 races to go.

At the race start, both Mercedes cars got off the grid cleanly. With the performance advantage of his W05, Hamilton was quick to blast past a sluggish Nico Hulkenberg in his VJM07 and a poor starting Sebastian Vettel in the RBR10. On Lap 2 the race was red flagged because of Kimi Raikkonen’s spectacular shunt on the Wellington Straight. The Finn was seen limping away from the site of the accident which also saw the end of Kamui Kobayashi’s and Felipe Massa’s afternoon. During the restart, Hamilton overtook the McLarens of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button, while Rosberg built a gap of 5s to P2.

Meanwhile, behind them the Williams of Valterri Bottas was on a blistering run to attack the final podium position. Overtaking Alonso, Button, Magnussen, Vettel and Ricciardo on the outside of the racing line, he was a racer on form fresh from his P3 finish in Austria.
He ultimately, went one better here in Silverstone.

Back at the front, Lewis brought down the gap to 2.3s to Nico and pitted for fresh rubber after running longer. A problem with the rear left wheel nut however saw him exiting the pits almost 2s slower than his team mate, who now rebuilt the gap back to about 6s.

Lewis, on hard tyres now was expected to be slower. But to everyones surprise, the hard tyres suited the race temperature perfectly and he was able to cut the deficit by almost a second a lap! The home crowd anticipated a big showdown and the atmosphere was electric. Sadly Nico’s gearbox then decided to give up. And the lead was Lewis’ to keep.

A year ago at the same venue, Hamilton was in the lead when his tyres blew and the win was Rosberg’s to cherish.

The crowd’s focus now shifted to the battle for P5 between Alonso and Vettel. An epic fight that involved unbelievably close racing, questionable manoeuvres and numerous radio messages that kept TV audiences entertained too. Alonso, who was flagged down for leaving the track limits repeatedly, received a five-second penalty for overshooting his grid and had numerous complications with the performance of the F14T still managed P6 after Vettel passed him for P5!

Jenson Button charged home to P4 after hounding Ricciardo’s Red Bull in the closing stages in an attempt to give the British fans a fuller weekend. McLaren team mate Kevin Magnussen led home Nico Hulkenberg from Daniil Kyvat and Jean Eric Vergne for positions 7, 8, 9 and 10 respectively.

Eric Clapton, Naomi Campbell, Jude Law and Prince Harry were amongst the celebs present to celebrate Silverstone’s 50th Grand Prix. It was Lewis Hamilton’s victory though, that commemorated the occasion best, as the fight for the championship had now come alive once again.

Hockenheimring in Germany, is up next. Mercedes and Nico Rosberg’s home race. It seems the only team that can stop the Silver Arrow juggernaut from a clean sweep again, is the German team themselves.

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PODIUM

P1 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 2hr 26m 52.094s
P2 Bottas – Williams Martini Racing
P3 Ricciardo – Red Bull Racing

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The agony…

Could this be an award-winning film writer’s ultimate script?

The season, once seemed to appear a totally predictable one, in which the main protagonists run away into history, with all of the champagne and glory. Ending Red Bull Racing’s utter 4-year dominance.

The Mercedes works cars are the class of the field so far and barring a few issues in the race at Canada and qualifying at Austria, they’ve been untouchable. Splitting wins between them. It still looked quite predictable.

Then this. The British Grand Prix, it’s unpredictable weather and the two ‘characters’, one a German serious-faced intellectual, the other an Englishman who runs on high emotions.

Is Lewis Hamilton playing to a fantasy story line where his title conquest sees him go through the ups and downs of a people’s hero? Are the FIA making the final-race-double-points relevant by forcing this drama?

Or has Nico Rosberg rattled him, big time.

Sunday the 6th of July 2014, could be Hamilton’s last chance to hang in there.
To taste some ecstasy…

P6 at Silverstone Q3. Image Copyright Mercedes AMG.

P6 at Silverstone Q3. Image Copyright Mercedes AMG.

P1 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 35.766s
P2 Vettel – RBR Renault 1m 37.386s
P3 Button –  McLaren 1m 38.200s

Mercedes conquer mountains

SPIELBERG REVIEW

Rosberg leads the pack. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Rosberg climbs to T2. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

A scenic return to alpine forests and grassy mountains in Austria, saw the Turbo Hybrids perform against a backdrop of spectacular green landscape. A perfect setting to promote eco-friendly technology and the new green formula.

The circus last visited here in 2003.

Lewis Hamilton seemed unable to do anything about his German team mate’s height -scaling form of recent. He did however botch up two Q3 laps on Saturday and found himself sitting all perplexed on the grid in P9. Was it the W05 that let him down with a sudden spin under braking or was he cracking under pressure as his championship lead had all but vanished?

At the race start though, he was spectacular. Leaping from P9 to P4 in the span of half a lap swallowing the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and the STR of Daniil Kvyat right off the blocks! He was right behind Nico Rosberg in the sister Mercedes on Lap 2 although behind both the fast starting Williams Martini Racing cars.

For Hamilton, though the race had its ups and downs, with agonisingly slow pit stops and ERS K and tyre precautions he was destined to finish behind Rosberg. Again.

His car managed the rear tyre wear better than that of Rosberg’s and he was encouraged to have a go for the lead in the closing stages. But the closest he got was about .562s of car #6 after many attempts.

In this race, he had to battle against the equally Mercedes-powered cars of Felipe Massa and Finn Valterri Bottas too, who were in turn fighting to claim the third step on the podium. The Williams Martini Racing cars came good on Saturday sealing an all Williams-lock-out of the front row. Their chassis seemed to ride the Super Soft Option tyres more effectively than the Mercedes factory team. But the Germans were confident of race pace.

Massa, after taking pole earlier could not match his Finnish team mate’s solid drive to his first ever Formula One podium. Behind him, Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen shone for their teams in what was a technically challenging circuit for the new V6 machines. Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen brought up the top ten. Ricciardo was advised not to use his overtake button as earlier Sebastian Vettel’s car stalled when he deployed it.

Lewis’ attempts on Nico were as futile as Rossi on Marquez in MotoGP. Rosberg had just enough to distance himself in the sectors that mattered.

With this win, Nico Rosberg helped Mercedes achieve their 7th 1-2 of the season. An incredible feat. Next stop is Silverstone. The momentum has firmly swung back into the Rosberg garage as he leads Hamilton by a healthy 29 points now in the championship.

Will he humiliate his nearest competitor on what is his home ground? Or will Lewis reward his fans with a fantastic win? Bring on the British Grand Prix!

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PODIUM

P1 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1hr 27m 54.976s
P2 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG
P3 Bottas – Williams Martini Racing

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Massa on pole!

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Felipe on pole! Image Copyright © Williams F1

The Williams F1 media team took more than 48 hours to upload images of their driver’s amazing P1 & P2 grid lock out. Well, I don’t think they expected it! Nobody did!

At the Red Bull ring in Austria, Nico Rosberg could only manage P3 as Felipe’s team mate Valterri Bottas sealed P2. A first Williams front row lock out since the 2003 German Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton spun out of Q3 and will now start at P9. Sebastian Vettel shocked home fans with his failure to make it into Q3 while team mate Ricciardo once again out qualifies him on P5.

Can Williams Martini Racing hold on to their starting positions or will it be situation normal for Mercedes once they display their true race pace?

P1 Massa –Williams Martini Racing 1m 08.759s
P2 Bottas – Williams Martini Racing 1m 08.846s
P3 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 08.944s

 

Ricciardo beats Mercedes

MONTREAL REVIEW

Daniel Ricciardo celebrates. Image Copyright © Red Bull Racing

Daniel Ricciardo celebrates. Image Copyright © Red Bull Racing

Red Bull Racing’s new signing Australian, Daniel Ricciardo, will never forget his debut win. Choking with emotion over the radio on the slow down lap, Formula One’s newest Grand Prix winner could hardly believe what he had just achieved. A fantastic attacking drive from P6 on the grid signalled the end of the Silver Arrow’s domination and granted Ricciardo the podium’s top step in the last two laps!

The bullet-proof W05s finally broke. The Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve is a renowned car-breaker. But in recent times cutting edge technology, together with stringent regulations by the FIA saw F1 cars achieve solid milestones in reliability. However, 2014 and the Turbo Hybrid cars were a brand new story in Montreal.

It looked like a another Mercedes 1-2 in the making, but after about 45 laps of trouble free running, both drivers reported a massive loss in power from their ERS K units. This amounted to a reduction of speed of almost 3 seconds per lap with the hungry pack of Force Indias, Williamses and Red Bulls on full charge pursuing them.

The Canadian Grand Prix finish was certain to be a belter with the top 7 cars all 10 seconds within each other with just 10 laps remaining.

The ERS K failure on Lewis Hamilton’s car meant another DNF for the Briton as his close trailing of Nico Rosberg in the first half of the race led to overheating rear brakes that subsequently refused to work as the energy recovery system shut down. Nico, on the other hand managed to hold on to his injured car and nursed it back astonishingly to take P2 ahead of Sebastian Vettel who looked pleased with the outcome of the race and his own P3 finish.

On understanding Hamilton’s brake issues the Mercedes team were quick to advise Nico to adjust his car’s brake bias as forward as possible so he won’t face his teammate’s woes. It worked. And towards the closing stages Rosberg drove tactfully through sectors 1 and 3 to ensure he was out of the DRS range of the charging Sergio Perez. Although Ricciardo and Red Bull won the race, Rosberg’s relentless drive might prove crucial in his bid to become champion this year.

William’s Felipe Massa at one point looked most likely to take the win after the Mercedes cars called in sick. But his tyre management meant he would have to work real hard for it in the last stint of the race. During his charge back from his second pitstop he found himself nudging a late turning Sergio Perez into Turn 1. What ensued was a spectacular accident which saw both cars hit the barriers at 27G! Thankfully they’re both out of danger. But the Force India driver incurred a five-second penalty for the next round.

Jenson Button overtook both Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso in the last couple of laps to register an exciting drive to P4 after the retirements of Massa and Perez. While Valterri Bottas, Jean Eric Vergne, Kevin Magnussen and Kimi Raikkonen rounded off the top ten points finishers.

It was a dramatic victory for Daniel Ricciardo, though it became a reality only once it was clear the Mercedes cars were nursing technical issues. But when an opportunity presented itself, the young smiling Aussie grabbed it with both hands. True signs of a champion in the making.

PODIUM
P1 Ricciardo – Red Bull Renault 1hr 39m 12.830s
P2 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG
P3 Vettel – Red Bull Renault

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