Hamilton fights back

MONZA REVIEW

The title contenders celebrate. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

The title contenders celebrate. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

In two consecutive races now, Nico Rosberg has made errors that reveal a weaker side to the German. In an attempt to let Hamilton know that he won’t be bullied on-track, a clumsy first-lap swerve saw both Mercedes AMG cars lose out on a potential one-two at Spa. Last Sunday, he out-braked himself keeping one eye on Hamilton who was closing down the gap to him rapidly.

At the Autodromo di Monza, home of the Italian Grand Prix, Hamilton claimed pole position on Saturday with Rosberg second best, sealing the front row for Mercedes. The points gap between the two contenders was 29. It was all for Lewis to claw back into. Track position was crucial for him as Nico ran a lower-downforce set-up, that gave him a higher top speed. Which meant he might be uncatchable.

But at the start the gremlins chose their favourite victim. Car #44 suffered a software glitch that saw it fall backwards down the grid as soon as the lights went off!

To Hamilton’s luck it was only till P4 thanks to an even slower starting Valterri Bottas in the Williams. On Lap 23, Hamilton after overtaking both Kevin Magnussen and Felipe Massa had the gap down to just 1.4s from his teammate. When Rosberg pitted it was ‘Hammer time’. But on Lap 25, after Hamilton had exited the bits with a marginally faster pit stop it wasn’t enough to jump Nico. The gap began to go up to 1.8s. Meanwhile Red Bull star Daniel Ricciardo pitted for fresh rubber and rejoined in P12. Around this time, Mercedes  engineers let Hamilton know where he was losing or gaining to Rosberg. They recommended he cool off and fall back temporarily in order to attack in the closing laps.

Crucially, Hamilton disobeyed!

Later, in the press conference he explained that he learnt from past experience that the Pirellis didn’t really offer a big advantage in the dying laps to mount a massive attack. This was a new-steely and determined Lewis Hamilton that we witnessed. It could be that the DNF in Spa had really charged him up to claim top honours at Monza. A race he’d won before. He charged after Rosberg bringing the gap down to nothing and well inside DRS range. At this point the German must’ve seen Lewis’ white helmet filling up his mirrors. He misjudged his braking point going into T1, locked up and slalomed through the escape road for the second time in the race. Allowing Hamilton to breeze past him on track and build up a a comfortable gap to P2.

The race was lost for Nico. It seemed the safer option rather than running wheel-to-wheel with the Briton and risking the fury of the team – again. It seemed so safe that fans suspected if it was an agreement with Mercedes to ‘gift’ the win to Lewis for the ‘wrong-doing’ of Spa.

But it was Hamilton’s relentless drive ultimately that won him the race, forcing his rival into an error. Fantastic stuff. It will go down as one of his greatest drives of the 28 wins he’s achieved so far in his career.

Behind the closely matched Mercedes AMG cars, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso bowed out of the Italian Grand Prix with a mechanical failure. A big blow to the tifosi. Lap 35 saw Ricciardo sweep past Raikkonen smoothly while between him and his team mate Vettel in P4 was a convoy of Mercedes powered cars. Magnussen lead from Bottas, Perez and Button! Magnussen was penalised for driving off Bottas at T1. Which left Bottas now charging up to catch Vettel, Perez and Button duelling for P6. While Bottas made easy work of the four-time defending world champion, his sensational team mate swallowed both Perez and Button together! Ricciardo has turned out to be the find of the season with an outside chance of even winning the championship should the Mercedes drivers do anything silly.

The RB10 of Ricciardo was clocked at a top speed of 362.1 kph! The highest ever at Monza was 369.9 kph demonstrating the pace at which the Hybrid Formula is catching up.
On Lap 44, the Mercedes car numbered 44 was leading Rosberg by 4.4 seconds!
Thats one for the numerologists!
While Lewis had all but sewn up the Monza win, watching Daniel Ricciardo make up positions in the last few laps has become a thing of habit for fans now. He was 2.5s faster than Sebastian Vettel with 9 laps remaining. He overcame him quickly. And by doing so put the Renault-engined Red Bull up among the Mercedes-powered Williamses of Bottas and Massa in P3 and P4 respectively. Only Hamilton, Rosberg, Massa and Bottas completed all 53 laps of the Italian Grand Prix.
Hamilton now 22 points behind Rosberg in the title hunt is sitting confident. But can the ‘honey badger’ as Ricciardo is fondly known in the paddock, pounce back to win at the Marina Bay circuit in Singapore? It’ll be a brave soul who bets against that!

PODIUM

P1 Hamilton– Mercedes AMG 1hr 19m 10.236s
P2 Rosberg  – Mercedes AMG
P3 Massa – Williams Martini Racing

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Speed at the temple

Lewis delivers. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Lewis delivers. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

At the Italian Grand Prix Saturday, Lewis Hamilton delivered the precision lap that seemed to have evaded him since Barcelona. Much to the relief of the whole watching Formula 1™ world. Everyone wants the epic intra-team battle to continue. Complete with it’s drama. Nico Rosberg ignored him at the post Qualifying weigh-in. Adding a little more tension to the rivalry.

It is important to note that Rosberg is set-up with a lower-downforce wing angle than Hamilton. This was evident in the speed traps as the Briton’s W05 was 3 kph slower than Rosberg’s 353 kph top speed.

This should make Rosberg faster through the straights and Hamilton sharper through the curves. A super contest is on tomorrow at Monza, the temple of speed.

P1 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 1m 24.109s
P2 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 24.383s
P3 Bottas –  Williams Martini Racing 1m 24.697s

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.

_

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