Home hero Hamilton storms to pole at Silverstone

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Home favorite Lewis Hamilton has stormed to pole position for the British Grand Prix after setting the fastest lap in the dying moments of qualifying, edging out teammate Nico Rosberg and the Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.

Hamilton, who won the race in 2008, set a lap of 1:29.607, and was the only driver to dip below the 1:30 mark as he took pole by 0.452 seconds despite the best efforts of his teammate and the Red Bulls, whilst Ferrari struggled to P10 and P12 on the grid.

The first qualifying session got underway as Silverstone bathed in bright sunshine, but this serenity was soon broken as Nico Hulkenberg became the first driver to set a flying lap of 1:35.806, although he quickly fell behind his teammate and the two Lotuses. Most of the cars opted to go out on hard tires, but Marussia looked to optimize their grid position by running on mediums early on as per usual. Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas put in good lap times early on, hoping that it would be enough to make it through, but Mercedes soon rose to the top of the timesheets on the medium tire; Hamilton’s lap was met with cheers from the British fans. Red Bull left it late to release their drivers, but they did enough to make it through with ease unlike Ferrari. Felipe Massa required a last-gasp lap to make it through by the skin of his teeth, whilst Fernando Alonso remained in the pits as Ferrari believed he had set a quick enough lap, only for him to scrape through in P15. The battle to beat the drop ensued between Esteban Gutierrez and the two Williams drivers, but the Sauber came unstuck and ended up P18. Bottas did enough to sit just outside the dropzone only for Maldonado to relegate him one place. Giedo van der Garde managed to finish 21st with just one flying lap, with teammate Charles Pic winning the battle at the back to qualifying 19th.

Mark Webber bucked the trend for Q2 and was first out on track, setting a respectable time on the hard compound tire which was soon beaten by both Mercedes on the white-ringed medium tire. Fernando Alonso got close to Webber’s time, as did Adrian Sutil, but it wasn’t until Sebastian Vettel posted his first lap time that the Mercedes dominance was broken, shooting up to P1. McLaren and Ferrari appeared to be struggling, with Massa, Perez and Button sitting the dropzone as the final runs began. Daniel Ricciardo and Paul di Resta both put in impressive times to secure a place in Q3, whilst Webber also put himself in the frame to vie for pole by finishing P2. Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen scraped through in 9th and 10th, as did Alonso in P8, but Massa could only finish 12th come the checkered flag, joining both McLarens, Vergne, Hulkenberg and Maldonado on the sidelines ahead of Q3.

Once again, it was Webber who was first out in Q3 along with compatriot Daniel Ricciardo. The Red Bull driver managed to open up a one second gap over his potential replacement, and Fernando Alonso slotted between the two as Ferrari opted to run their one remaining driver with hard tires to begin with. Mercedes once again exercised their superb one-lap pace to go P1 and P2; Hamilton leading Rosberg with Webber and Vettel just behind. For the final runs, all ten cars went out on the medium compound tire in pursuit of the best possible lap, but once again it was Mercedes who led the way. Webber could only go P2 with his final effort, but Rosberg managed to squeeze out his teammate to take provisional pole. However, Hamilton had other ideas, storming to pole position by 0.452 – a very sizeable gap – ahead of Rosberg, Vettel and Webber. Championship contenders Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso could only manage P9 and P10 respectively.

For Hamilton, this is an important pole in front of his home fans, with the Silverstone crowd also delighted to see Paul di Resta finish an excellent 5th ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Adrian Sutil. Now remains the question of whether or not Mercedes can carry this form over into the race tomorrow.

Porsche ready for final LMP1 outing in Bahrain

Photo: Porsche
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At the conclusion of this weekend’s Six Hours of Bahrain, Porsche’s four-year run in the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship will come to a close. The pair of Porsche 919 Hybrids will roll off from first and third after Friday’s qualifying, and will look to add one more win to their final tally.

Despite its short stint, Porsche more than made its mark on the class and the championship, immediately jumping to the fore and challenging young hotshots Toyota, race winners in 2012 and 2013 and LMP1 champions in 2014, and long-time stalwarts Audi, which introduced its first LMP1 entry in 1999 and quickly became the predominant force in the LMP category.

The 2014 season saw Porsche score four poles and a race win before embarking on a remarkable three-year stretch from 2015 to 2017, in which they scored three straight 24 Hours of Le Mans wins and three straight WEC driver and manufacturer championships (they wrapped the 2017 titles at the previous race in Shanghai.

Fritz Enzinger, Vice President of the LMP1 effort, detailed that the early days of the program were a little rocky, given the complex hybrid technology they were working with, but that they were able to find their stride relatively quickly.

“Back then (in 2014), we developed from zero a highly complex hybrid racecar on a Formula One level. The early days were extremely demanding, especially as we had to set up the infrastructure, including new buildings, at the same time, plus assembling a team of 260 excellent people. The timing was really tight and the 2014 Le Mans race came way too early for us. But since then, we have managed maximum success. I’m incredibly proud of this team and I hope that we can conclude the era of the Porsche 919 Hybrid with a good race in Bahrain.”

Team principal Andreas Seidl added that having the championships wrapped up will make the final weekend more enjoyable, as they won’t have the pressure of racing with the championships in mind.

“I feel a big relief that the pressure of defending the manufacturers’ and drivers’ world championship titles is resolved before our last race. The emotions of the farewell under the stress of the title battle would have been extremely hard for the team,” Seidl revealed.

Further, he added that Toyota’s TS050, which debuted last year, made their task all the more challenging as they worked to developed the Porsche 919 Hybrid –  the same basic car that they launched in 2014.

“In Toyota this year, we are facing a competitor who developed an all-new car for 2016. We, instead, kept developing our existing car. That we still won Le Mans as well as both championship titles is thanks to outstanding driver performances, many detailed improvements and the operational strength of our team,” Seidl asserted. “Now we have to get ourselves together and focus on this last race. We want to leave the stage not only as world champions but also with a performance that is satisfying for all of us. Six hours of reliability and faultless work are big challenges of men and machine. Safety has the highest priority. Only after the checkered flag can we allow our reflective feelings to break through.”

In terms of approaching Porsche’s LMP1 swan song, some drivers are taking different approaches. For example, Nick Tandy, driver of the No.1 entry with Neel Jani and André Lotterer, isn’t putting much thought into the farewell and is focusing entirely on the race.

“I prefer not to think about the farewell yet,” Tandy quipped. “The Bahrain race is very interesting anyway because we are racing from day into night. It is normally very hot for the car, the drivers and especially the tires. It is a challenging race to finish the season at. I haven’t been there since 2015 but I was on the podium back then when I came second in the LMP2 class. So this year’s target is to make it onto the LMP1 podium.”

Conversely, newly crowned champion Brendon Hartley, driver of the No. 2 entry with fellow champions Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard, freely expressed his emotions about the end of the Porsche LMP1 program.

“Going to Bahrain will be emotional for all of us. Especially as we arrive as World Champions with less pressure now,” asserted Hartley, who has also endured a busy stretch since the Petit Le Mans on October 7 that has seen him racing every weekend across the WEC, Formula 1, and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. “I have so many incredible memories and experiences with the 919 Hybrid, teammates and all the boys and girls from the Porsche LMP Team. We shared something very special together. After developing the Porsche 919 for more than four years, it’s an absolute dream to drive so we will all be enjoying every last lap with this awesome machine. On one side there will be a lot of sadness, but on the other hand we will be giving everything to give this project the ultimate send off it deserves.”

Porsche’s LMP1 effort won races in each of its four seasons, totaling 17 victories between it’s entries.

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