Lewis the pace maker

CHINA REVIEW

What the Chinese Grand Prix confirmed was that Formula Oneâ„¢ is now well and truly dominated by Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. The two most popular faces of the current generation. Surprising everyone by signing up for Mercedes from the struggling McLaren and Red Bull Racing teams respectively, both have displayed a keen sense of foresight and fierce ambition for being in the right team at the right time.

A fantastic rivalry is in the making.

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Another victory for car #44. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Although it was Nico Rosberg in the other Mercedes who defended P2 successfully from the Ferrari threat, his complaints later about team mate Hamilton suggests he’s not on song with the W06 yet.

Rosberg felt Hamilton unnecessarily drove slowly in the first stint backing him into the clutches of P3 placed Sebastian Vettel who tried in vain to undercut him during the pitstops. Lewis later rejected the claim stating his job wasn’t to “drive for Nico’s race”!

A war of words and mind games within the Mercedes squad reminded us of the squabbling and eventual run-in last year. But this year the German in the Ferrari and it’s amazing recovery to winning form is providing an exciting parallel story.

Elsewhere down the field a new star emerged in the form of 17yr old Max Verstappen. His ability to smoothly overtake rival cars making the manoeuvres stick almost effortlessly has won him applauds up and down the paddock. With Martin Brundle of Sky Sports even touting him to be the next Senna or Schumacher! Unfortunately for Max his Renault powered Toro Rosso didn’t see the chequered flag.

 

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Hamilton rambles on

Lewis Hamilton

Continuing the strut. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

MELBOURNE REVIEW

“Ramble on, and now’s the time, the time is now, to sing my song…” – Led Zeppelin

Lewis Hamilton charged to a lights-to-flag victory at Albert Park unchallenged.

He’s on song to become a triple world champion this year. And if his father Anthony’s prediction is accurate, ‘as early as mid-year’.

At Melbourne, round 1 of the 2015 FIA Formula 1™ Championship could easily have been mistaken for round 21 of 2014. Hamilton and Rosberg in familiar fashion blitzed away from the entire field when the lights went off. The chasing pack ultimately had Sebastian Vettel finish in P3 with his new Ferrari SF15 – albeit a full 30 seconds adrift from the Mercedes pair.

Behind him two Brazilians made it home. Felipe Massa for Williams and Felipe Nasr for Sauber. The impressive rookie star gave the Swiss team their first points since 2013 on his F1 debut.

Only 11 cars saw the checker in the Australian Grand Prix. And only the top 6 were on the same lap as the leading W06s!

Vettel made a sluggish start and new team mate Kimi Raikkonen almost overtook him through Turn 1. But he forced Raikkonen wide. Behind them Nasr and Maldonado clashed with the Venezuelan hitting the barriers and ending Lotus’ hopes of a good start to it’s campaign.

Raikkonen went backwards to P8 while Vettel chased Massa’s Williams for the first half of the race. Massa later attempted to hold on to his podium place but the four-time World Champion eased home ahead.

Daniel Ricciardo finished in P6 having been lapped by the Mercedes right at the end of the race. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg held on to P7 and team mate Sergio Perez grabbed the last available points ahead of a woeful performance from newly formed partnership McLaren and Honda with Jenson Button.

Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jnr. took P8 on his debut. His team mate Max Verstappen, the youngest starter in F1 history ended his run prematurely when his STR10 started smoking and had to be retired.

More bad luck for Lotus, as Romain Grosjean joined Maldonado in retirement on the opening lap with mechanical problems. Raikkonen after his second stop had a problem with this left rear which was not properly attached. His team Ferrari are under investigation for unsafe release.

While everyone else seemed to experience trouble with at least one of their cars or drivers, Mercedes were in a class of their own. They lead both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships.

Hamilton leads Rosberg with 25 points to 18, with Vettel third on 18 and Massa fourth on 12.

In the constructors’, meanwhile, the Silver Arrows have stolen a scary march over their rivals as they are on 43 points, with Ferrari and Sauber on 15 and 14 respectively.

Is this the year Lewis Hamilton equals his idol Ayrton Senna’s, world titles? And can Ferrari overhaul the technological advantage Mercedes have? One cannot rule out dramatic turnarounds in Formula One. However a lot depends on Nico Rosberg to reign in his world famous team mate and take it down to the wire.

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PODIUM

Hamilton –  Mercedes AMG Petronas 1hr 31m 54.067s
Rosberg – Mercedes AMG Petronas
Vettel –  Ferrari

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Lewis unstoppable at Austin

AUSTIN REVIEW

“Epic drive mate, epic drive” said Lewis’ race engineer over the radio. The epic drive was faultless and fearless. It didn’t seem to bother him that he was starting from the dirty side of the track in P2 nor that he would be trailing his team mate for the first half of the race. He knew he was going to be lethal on prime tyres in the second stint.

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Peace out! Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Pulling off a commanding win from P2 on the grid, Lewis Hamilton seemed at ease in Austin, Texas – home of the USA Grand Prix. Losing pole to Nico Rosberg earlier on Saturday in Qualifying he worked his race craft to attack an unsuspecting team mate on Lap 24 at T12. Rosberg was caught napping. He was rudely woken up outside the racing line over the kerbs.

Nico later confessed he hit the wrong button whilst looking in his mirrors. Somehow these confessions in recent times don’t help in portraying him as a strong title contender. If he is taking the consistency route hoping for another technical failure on his rival’s car he might just end up being crowned world champion. But surely not a very popular one.

For Formula 1â„¢ it would be destructive PR. To have a champion crowned because of a questionable double-points system introduced by the commercial rights holder to spice up the show will only add to the negative headlines the sport has attracted of late.

Behind the all-conquering Mercedes duo, a race was on.

Firstly between the Williamses of Valterri Bottas and Felipe Massa. Bottas lost out to Massa at the start. Massa should have gone on to take the final podium spot with Mercedes power. But yet again a slow-thinking Williams pit wall had him lose out to a fast-thinking Red Bull team that has the most sensational driver of the season strapped in. Daniel Ricciardo drove the wheels of his underpowered Renault RB10 to come home a fighting P3. He had an exciting dice with Ferrari’s Alonso en route and nearly clipped Bottas in a late braking manoeuvre at T1.

Sergio Perez though, was unsuccessful in a similar dive into a hairpin in an attempt to overtake Kimi Raikkonen who ultimately endured a lack lustre afternoon. Nudging the Ferrari from its original line the Force India careened into Adrian Sutil’s Sauber. The clash took out both cars from the USA Grand Prix on Lap 1! And brought out the Safety Car.

Behind the Safety Car at the restart Rosberg simply disappeared leaving Hamilton almost 2s behind. At this point, it seemed the German-polesitter had the race in his bag, in total control. But Hamilton’s smooth and confident pass showed that he had Austin covered in his game plan.

Sebastian Vettel, the only other driver to have won the USA Grand Prix in Texas, was having a horrid time initially with an erratic RB10, but after his fourth pitstop on Lap 49 he made up six places in six laps on fresh tyres to come home in P7 very nearly beating Alonso to P6. His was an aggressive strategy that the Williams team should study closely.

Lewis Hamilton is now the most successful British driver of all time. He has 32 wins. The same as Fernando Alonso. In equal machinery in 2007 he amassed the same number of points as him. And he is most likely to win the title again this year. Which will draw him level there too with the Spaniard. Fernando as we know is considered the hottest property in the F1™ market.

So that makes Lewis’ achievements till date even more special then.

PODIUM

Hamilton –  Mercedes AMG Petronas 1hr 40m 04.785s
Rosberg – Mercedes AMG Petronas
Ricciardo –  Red Bull Racing

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Hamilton cruises at Sochi

SOCHI REVIEW

Champagne for the champions. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Champagne for the champions. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Consider it a 19 round bout by knockout in the World Heavyweight Championships. Rounds 1, 6, 8 and 10 have gone to Nico Rosberg – 7, 11 and 12 to Daniel Ricciardo – 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 13, 14, 15 and 16 to Lewis Hamilton.

He’s the one throwing the maximum punches. The one with the most effective combinations. And his rivals seem to have no answer. Red Bull aren’t helping Dani with radical strategies anymore. The RB10’s lack of outright pace means he isn’t going to surprise-leapfrog any of the Silver Arrows soon. And their refocussed approach towards getting those 1-2 finishes means the best he can aim for is a podium. Which of late has been William’s territory.

Nico, seems to have dug himself into a psychological pit. One that Hamilton frequently visited post-Monaco. But has successfully climbed out of recently!

When the lights went out at Sochi, the Black Sea resort venue of the Russian Grand Prix, Rosberg had Turn 2 covered. He thought. But instead of turning in earlier than his team mate, he got mixed up adjusting his safety harnesses and braking so late that his front wheels locked up making for spectacular photography! It’s going to be a lasting image in everyone’s memories of Sochi. Two Silver Arrows in formation…one sliding out in trails of thick smoke.

So severe was his lock up that he flat spotted both tyres which led to vibrations so extreme that he had to pit immediately. On Lap 1.

“What’s our strategy now?!” yelled Nico on the radio. “We’ve to race on the mediums till the end Nico” was the reply.

It was a combination of Rosberg’s smooth driving style, Sochi’s new non-abrasive surface and Pirellis super-conservative approach to tyre construction that saw the Championship contender drive the rest of the race without a pit stop! What his drive did underline was the supremacy of the 2014 Mercedes W05 Turbo Hybrid. And it was only fitting that with both cars taking their 9th one-two finish – they sealed the Formula 1 World Constructors Championship. With three rounds to spare.

Lewis Hamilton won in cruise mode. Making him the most successful driver in Britain. He now has 31 wins like Mansell, with a few more to come his way this season for sure.

Barring a few dices between Daniil Kvyat and Nico Hulkenberg, Sebastian Vettel and his team mate Daniel Ricciardo, Jean Eric Vergne and Kevin Magnussen the race was quite a disaster on the entertainment front.

On Lap 32, Rosberg flew past a bewildered Valterri Bottas to reclaim P2. The Williams pit wall reassured their Finn that Mercedes #6 was bound to have degradation issues sooner or later and that “we’ll get the position back…!”. They were playing chess with their estimations of the wear and tear of Mercedes’ Pirellis. They were not alone in their thinking. Jenson Button in the McLaren in P4 was also intrigued about Rosberg’s medium compound pace and durability. To his surprise and to many around the world, the second W05 tucked in behind race leader Lewis Hamilton who was now about 13s ahead to finish in P2.

It’s a wonder that both Williams and McLaren hadn’t taken the Mercedes radio discussion seriously! Rosberg was always one-stopping.

When asked if he liked to party the Russian way by the podium interviewer, Lewis said he loves Vodka. So why not. He’s now joined an elite group of greats who have won 9 or more times in a single season. But that won’t do for Hamilton to sew up championship number two. He has to ensure he keeps the pressure on Rosberg to make more mistakes right till the end.

From what we’ve seen so far, that shouldn’t be too difficult.

PODIUM

Hamilton –  Mercedes AMG Petronas 1hr 31m 50.744s
Rosberg – Mercedes AMG Petronas
Bottas –  Williams Martini Racing

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Lewis conquers Suzuka

SUZUKA REVIEW

Formula 1™ and the FIA have come under close scrutiny after a dramatic Japanese Grand Prix began and ended behind the Safety Car on Sunday. The race was red flagged on Lap 44/53 after both the Medical Car and the Safety Car were despatched.

Initially, only Adrian Sutil’s stricken Sauber was visible on the live FOM feed as it was hauled out by a JCB tractor. Moments later it was evident from bits of body work being removed – that the crash site had witnessed another accident. Jules Bianchi’s Marussia had aquaplaned in an almost identical fashion to the Sauber. Only he wasn’t as lucky.

The Frenchman, is believed to have submarined into the rescue vehicle at speeds in excess of 100mph! An ambulance was on the scene quickly and he was soon shifted out by road to the Mie University Hospital, where he is currently declared to be in a critical but stable condition. [Updates from Marussia F1]

— — — —

When the Japanese Grand Prix did get underway, pole-sitter Rosberg pulled away cleanly from the rolling start behind the Safety Car. Hamilton kept the gap down to under two seconds from his team mate ducking out of Nico’s spray every time he could. Jenson Button pitted first for intermediate tyres. A choice which almost rewarded him a podium in the end. He had to settle for P5.

LH#44 signs off at Suzuka. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG Petronas

LH#44 signs off at Suzuka. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG Petronas

The Williams team watched their Mercedes power advantage disappear as the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo made short work of them in the span of a few laps. Christian Horner remained quietly confident post-qualifying on Saturday – both his RB10s were set up for a wet race. This thinking paid off against the superior Mercedes-powered teams who qualified in higher positions. And they ended up P3 and P4. Fernando Alonso suffered his second DNF in three races with the F14T shutting down all systems on the formation lap. With Kimi Raikkonen finishing down in P12, Ferrari recorded their first non points-scoring finish in 82 races!

In stark contrast the Mercedes factory team with their massive downforce advantage this season, were in a race of their own. And Hamilton, a cut above that. After a failed DRS attempt on the earlier lap he then found some extra grip on the outside line passing Rosberg going into T1 on Lap 29 never to look back again. He built up a gap of almost 10s to car #6 before the Safety Car was deployed again. This time for the Marussia crash.

By winning in Suzuka for the first time Hamilton joins 7 other Formula One greats after taking his 30th career win. It was his 8th win this season, Rosberg’s 8th second place and Mercedes’ 8th one-two of the season! Next up is the inaugural Russian Grand Prix at Sochi.

With three consecutive wins now, Hamilton is back firmly in command on top leading Rosberg by 10 points. He has double the number of wins than his German rival. But with the FIA’s new double-points being awarded in the final round this year, there’s everything to race for till Round 19. At this point it might be worth looking back at Nico’s father’s title winning year – 1982. Keke Rosberg registered just a single victory the whole season but was crowned champion for his consistency.

Lewis will be wary of that stat!

PODIUM

P1 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 1hr 51m 43.021s
P2 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG
P3 Vettel  – Red Bull Racing

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Hamilton’s 7th heaven

SINGAPORE REVIEW

If your title rival, your nearest threat, your intra-team nemesis, your thunder-stealer begins to suffer your share of bad luck will you feel satisfied? Will you feel the world and it’s populace isn’t really on your case? Will you rediscover the real you?

It appears that Lewis Hamilton has begun to rediscover his genius. The genius that brought him into this massive spotlight called F1â„¢. At Singapore a few nights ago his stride had a bounce in it. A proper fashionista swagger. Alighting from his shiny chauffeur-driven AMG he walked unescorted towards the Paddock gates and responded to a fan’s ‘you all right Lewis?’ with a ‘Yeah I’m great, thanks!’.

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Hipster Hamilton arrives at the Marina Bay. Image Copyright © Ajit Devadason

Fresh from the feisty conquest at the temple of speed, Hamilton revelled in another completely dominating weekend leaving Rosberg trailing by 3 points in the Championship.

Rosberg suffered a start-line nightmare when his steering wheel all but failed. He couldn’t engage the clutch and his paddles were double-shifting. While the rest set off on the formation lap Mercedes #6 was wheeled away into pit lane.

When the lights went out, Hamilton floored it to perfection taking T1 well before the chasing pack. Behind him Alonso jumped both Red Bulls from P5 with no real intention of braking to make the corner! He went off but came back onto the racing line holding onto P2. Which he decided to give back to a fast-starting Vettel who in turn capitalised on Rosberg’s empty Mercedes grid slot ahead of him.

On Lap 4, positions 1,2 and 3 were held by champions. All past winners of all the Singapore Grand Prix. Meanwhile the pit-lane-starting Championship leader Rosberg, was making no impression on the Caterhams and Marussias running ahead of him. His MGP W05 was truly in a lot of pain and woefully out of pace. The street circuit notorious for lack of overtaking space wasn’t helping either.

Between him and the leading trio a train of battles ensued between Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Massa, and further back Button, Bottas and Magnussen. The Toro Rosso team mates duelled too – Vergne getting the better of Kvyat while on Lap 10 Rosberg was still in P20. Three laps later Vettel, Alonso and Ricciardo all pitted in succession. Hamilton, by this time had built a large enough gap to Vettel that he exited ahead of the German after his first pit stop.

On Lap 14 Rosberg came in for his pit stop but the steering trouble was terminal.
A big moment for the Championship shoot-out had just unfolded at Singapore! Mercedes’ boss Toto Wolff was later quoted as saying “…we have built a missile but we must make it more reliable”.

In the next successive laps Ricciardo, Hamilton and Alonso traded fastest laps with each other and Alonso, closed in rapidly on Vettel. It was soon time for the second round of pit stops and Alonso, Vettel and Raikkonen dived in for fresh rubber. This left Hamilton out in front ahead of Ricciardo by 17 seconds. By the time he and Ricciardo made their second stops the gap to P2 was down to 7 seconds.

An incident between Force India’s Perez and Sauber’s Sutil wrecked the Mexican’s front wing and strewed debris all over the track. Considering how the Pirellis can shred nowadays, the Safety Car was deployed as is inevitable on a street circuit.

The race wasn’t going to remain as straight forward as it initially appeared. The long Safety Car period meant tyre strategies needed re-thinking! Red Bull and Williams believed they could stick with a two-stop strategy to catch Mercedes whose big lead was reduced to nothing. Mercedes however required to pit again for prime tyres! This meant Hamilton had to build a gap of over 27 seconds to Vettel. He did so. Lapping almost 2 seconds faster than anyone else at times, he began a relentless chase to the finish line. He stopped and exited just behind Vettel on fresh tyres. In the space of a lap and a half he overtook the German aggressively through T7 and secured a deserving win for Mercedes amidst spectacular fireworks.

For the seventh time this year.

PODIUM

P1 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 2hr 00m 04.795s
P2 Vettel  – Red Bull Racing
P3 Ricciardo – Red Bull Racing

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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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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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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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It’s Hammertime!

SILVERSTONE REVIEW

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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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