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!

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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 1â„¢ 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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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!

_

PODIUM

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

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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.

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

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The smart banker

One would expect Lewis Hamilton to have learnt a lesson from the epic at Monaco a fortnight ago. It was Rosberg’s banker lap in Q3 back then that won him the race on Sunday.

It could yet again tomorrow at the Canadian Grand prix.

Circuit De Villeneuve. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Circuit De Villeneuve. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

All through the Q1 and Q2 sessions, it was Lewis who held the upper hand over his German team mate. But early into Q3, Nico set a blistering time that became the benchmark to beat for anyone.

No one did. And on his final run he improved marginally – putting it even more out of reach. It was a determined performance that added fuel to the dying flames of his Monaco win. With it he’s rubbished the theory that Montreal belonged to Lewis.
Will he further rub it in tomorrow?

Vettel is in P3 to add to Hamilton’s tensions.

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P1 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 14.874s
P2 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 1m 14.953s
P3 Vettel – RBR Renault 1m 15.548s

 

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Rosberg steals a win

MONACO REVIEW

The Monaco Grand Prix weekend reassured all of us that after three practice sessions, three sessions of qualifying and 78 tours of the principality’s winding circuit, there can only be one victor. Regardless of any controversies or rivalries.

And this time it was Nico Rosberg.

Followed home by Lewis Hamilton who was hounded in the dying moments by Daniel Ricciardo. Rosberg said later, that he had to win this round. Not only because it was his home race, but also because he needed to break the momentum of victories that belonged to Hamilton in the last four outings. With this win, he regains the lead in the Championship standings as well.

The momentum was well and truly broken earlier on Saturday at the Q3-Turn 5 incident which saw Nico run off at Mirabeau and then attempt a reverse gear manoeuvre that yellow-flagged the session. Hamilton was caught unawares. And he wasn’t happy. In fact he repeated the word ‘fair’ to describe his lap, his pace and his race weekend.

Given his current form, P2 was defeat. It was as nightmarish as coming last. His car let him down at Melbourne and now after being robbed of pole he felt his team let him down too. He felt he could’ve been called in earlier than his rival to pit after Sauber driver Adrian Sutil’s crash brought out the safety car. But he also clarified later that the team follows the race-leader-preference policy during pit calls.

Mercedes allow their drivers to race, but it seems they like to play safe when their cars are leading 1-2. That’s understandable. But one wonders if they sense that the momentum of winning is going to swing back to Hamilton at Montreal which is up next.

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Rosberg celebrates at Monaco. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Daniel Ricciardo’s pace towards the end of the race suggests Red Bull Racing may have found some solutions at last. But in Monaco there are no high speed straights…and yet the silver arrows were a good 10 seconds ahead before Hamilton fell back to Ricciardo with an unusual problem. He had some debris in his eye which led him to drive with only one eye open!

Ricciardo was 1.5 seconds faster than the Mercedes but couldn’t find a way past. Which explains what little chances Hamilton had on Rosberg in equally-powered machinery.
It explains further the importance of pole position in Monaco and Nico’s celebrations at parc ferme after nicking it just in time. Although in a hollow sort of way.

Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg pulled off a memorable move on McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen at Portier, a corner that seldom sees overtaking, to finish P5 behind the never-say-die Fernando Alonso who took the checker in P4.

Behind them Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen came home in P6 and P10, a decent performance from the otherwise lack lustre McLaren team. Williams’ Felipe Massa held on to P7 from Lotus’ Romain Grosjean on P8 but behind both of them was a fantastic run to P9 for Marussia Racing in the hands of Jules Bianchi. The team’s first ever points-finish after 83 Grand Prix starts, eclipsed their previous best finish of P12 at Singapore and Brazil in 2012.

After six rounds of the 2014 Formula One championship, it’s evident that Mercedes AMG Petronas are on course to clinch the constructors title. But the battle between it’s drivers both psychologically and physically has made the season a truly gripping one, even though the results are almost predictable. Nico Rosberg has had a glitch-free season and heads the table with 122 points. Lewis Hamilton has had two glitches so far. A mechanical failure which led to a DNF at Melbourne and an aborted flying lap at Monaco qualifying.

He was riding high before the glamorous weekend, but transformed into a monosyllabic, thought-provoking-answering-machine after experiencing a low blow from Nico.
His reaction suggests he’s never taken one before. Whether this punch has left him winded temporarily, or knocked-out permanently we’ll have to wait and see at Canada.

Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve is where Lewis took his maiden triumph in Formula One. It could well announce his second coming.

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PODIUM
P1 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1hr 49m 27.661s
P2 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG
P3 Ricciardo – Red Bull Renault

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Ironic

The stage is Monaco. The scene is Q3.

Nico Rosberg secures pole position in the circuit where it matters most. With a mistake on his ultimate flying lap. Critically, on everybody else’s flying lap too! The irony lies in the fact that his mistake at Mirabeau brought out yellow flags which meant Lewis Hamilton had to abort his ultimate attempt at P1. Leaving the previous lap time set by Nico to be considered fastest of the day.

Nico at Monaco. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Nico at Monaco. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

The irony could go one further tomorrow on race day.

Hamilton is the only driver in the last decade to have won at Monaco from outside of pole position. With his controversial incident, did Nico unwittingly set it up for Lewis and statistics to take over? We can speculate for the next 24 hours only.

St. Devote has never brimmed with such excitement and tension before. Remember theres room for only single file discipline there…

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P1 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 15.989s
P2 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 1m 16.048s
P3 Ricciardo – RBR Renault 1m 16.384s

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