F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Race

Hungarian heaven for Hamilton in his first Mercedes win

1 Comment

Lewis Hamilton has won the Hungarian Grand Prix following a brilliant display at the Hungaroring that saw him finish ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, claiming his first win for Mercedes and his fourth Hungarian Grand Prix victory.

Hamilton’s pace throughout the race was highly impressive, making his strategy work as Vettel – the pre-race favorite – got stuck behind Jenson Button for 12 laps and ended up losing a great deal of time to Hamilton before eventually falling behind Raikkonen during the final part of the race.

Off the start, Hamilton proved that he had learned from his mistake in Germany by holding the lead into turn one from Vettel and Grosjean, but the Lotus quickly came under pressure from Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso. The Ferrari driver could not quite pass Grosjean after being forced wide, allowing Rosberg to attempt a pass. However, the Mercedes was touched by a fast-starting Felipe Massa, causing Rosberg to run off the track at turn five and drop down to 12th place. On the medium tire, Button and Webber both made good starts to try and get in the running with their alternative strategies but they could not match Hamilton’s pace out in front. The Briton began to open up a lead over Vettel as Grosjean quickly reeled in the Red Bull, although he could not quite pass using DRS. Just nine laps into the race though, Hamilton elected to pit for fresh tires, releasing Vettel and Grosjean at the front but Red Bull soon pitted Vettel in reaction to Mercedes’ tactic. As a result, Lotus had their drivers P1 and P2 with the plan being to two-stop as their rivals would have to pit one extra time. However, the high tire wear meant that both Grosjean and Raikkonen had to pit, handing Mark Webber the lead on the medium tire.

The race slowly began to move away from Vettel as he got stuck behind Jenson Button and unable to get past, allowing Romain Grosjean to catch him up and, more worryingly, Hamilton to open up a five second lead over the Red Bull. Knowing he had to find a way through, Vettel tried to pass Button on the inside of turn two but instead made contact with Button, causing damage to his front wing and allowing Grosjean and Alonso to close up as Button pulled away. After dropping back, Vettel drew Button back in and made a fine pass on the inside of turn four, with Grosjean making contact on his way past the McLaren. At the front though, Hamilton took the lead once Webber pitted and enjoyed a 13 second lead over Vettel, putting the Mercedes driver in the box seat to claim his fourth win in Hungary.

Lotus took the decision to pit Grosjean in order to get the undercut on Vettel, and the Frenchman pulled off a great overtake on Massa in order to stop himself from being held up. Hamilton soon followed the example of the Lotus, coming out ahead of Raikkonen to hand Vettel the lead once again. However, the Briton soon disposed of Webber and re-took the lead when Vettel and Alonso pitted, with Vettel re-emerging behind Jenson Button once again. This time though, Vettel soon passed the two-time Hungarian GP winner but the gap to Hamilton now stood at 15 seconds.

Romain Grosjean’s race soon took a turn for the worse after the stewards handed him a drive-through penalty for the pass on Massa after putting all four wheels outside of the white line, ending his chances of a maiden grand prix victory. His teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, put himself in a position to two-stop following a long run during his second stint. Mark Webber had also been pushing hard to make his strategy work, coming back out in P3 after his second stop, and he was ahead of Hamilton when the race leader made his final pit stop. However, Hamilton made a brave move on the inside of turn three to re-take second place, now just 7 seconds behind Vettel who still had one more stop to make. The German driver looked to open up the gap to Hamilton, but he was soon forced to pit and dropped to 4th behind Hamilton, Webber and Raikkonen.

Vettel quickly set about catching Raikkonen and began to pressurize him for 2nd place once Webber had pitted for the final time. Mercedes gave Hamilton the call to cool his engine, with the 11 second cushion to Raikkonen allowing him to ease off in the final ten laps of the race. Vettel was forced to back off from Raikkonen in order to cool his car down, but he then began to push once again and was on the rear wing of the Lotus with just five laps remaining.

Mercedes’ near-perfect afternoon took a turn for the worse when Nico Rosberg pulled over at turn four following a sizeable engine failure, causing the engineers to become concerned about the condition of Hamilton’s car. This did elevate Maldonado into the top ten, handing Williams their first point of the season come the checkered flag. Vettel once again closed on Raikkonen, complaining when he wasn’t given enough room to make a pass on the Lotus, and the defending world champion could not find a way past on the last lap. Out in front though, Hamilton managed to keep it on-track to take his first win for Mercedes since joining the team and his fourth in Hungary crossing the line ahead of Raikkonen, Vettel, Webber and Alonso.

Vandoorne: No extra pressure at McLaren despite chance of Button comeback

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 13:  Stoffel Vandoorne of Belgium driving the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MP4-31 Honda RA616H Hybrid turbo on track during F1 testing at Silverstone Circuit on July 13, 2016 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Stoffel Vandoorne believes that he will face no extra pressure during his debut Formula 1 season despite there being a chance Jenson Button will return to a McLaren seat for 2018.

McLaren announced over the Italian Grand Prix weekend that Vandoorne would be stepping up to a full-time seat for the 2017 season after spending the past year in a reserve role.

The Belgian will partner Fernando Alonso following Jenson Button’s decision to take a year out from F1 in 2017.

However, should both the driver and team be willing, Button is able to return to a McLaren seat for 2018, appearing to put pressure on Vandoorne should he not perform. The 2015 GP2 Series champion does not see it this way, though.

“No, I don’t see that situation as extra pressure. I have a long-term deal with McLaren,” Vandoorne told the official F1 website.

“Hopefully we soon will be able to get back to the competitive level where McLaren used to be.

“In terms of next year, yes it is a special structure, but I think it is one of the best. Myself and Fernando are going to race, and then it is good to keep Jenson as well.

“He is the most experienced driver in F1 now and he will be involved with the team, be it in the simulator or coming to a few races.”

“I am fully thinking about the opportunity that I get – there is no room for non-issues. I want to succeed and am very much looking forward to that.”

Marquez fights back from poor start to win Aragon MotoGP race

ALCANIZ, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 24:  Marc Marquez of Spain and Repsol Honda Team rounds the bend during the qualifying practice during the MotoGP of Spain - Qualifying at Motorland Aragon Circuit on September 24, 2016 in Alcaniz, Spain.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Honda rider Marc Marquez took a big step towards winning his third MotoGP world title in 2016 after fighting back from a poor start to win the Aragon Grand Prix on Sunday.

Marquez was expected to walk away with the race after dominating practice and qualifying, only for a mistake on lap three to cause the pole-sitter to drop to fifth place.

Suzuki rider Maverick Vinales took up the mantle at the head of the pack with future Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi in tow as Marquez began his fightback.

The Spaniard deposed Andrea Dovizioso on lap five before picking off title rival Jorge Lorenzo two laps later.

Vinales lost the lead to Rossi on lap nine before slipping past Marquez and Lorenzo one lap later, with the lead finally falling to Marquez on lap 12.

From there, Marquez controlled proceedings at the front of the pack, pulling out an advantage of 2.7 seconds come the checkered flag.

Lorenzo bounced back from a crash in Sunday morning warm-up to finish second, his best result since the Italian Grand Prix in May, while Rossi rounded out the podium positions.

Marquez’s fourth victory of the season sees his lead extend to 52 points over Rossi, meaning he could mathematically wrap up the title at the next race in Japan.

Vinales finished the race fourth for Suzuki ahead of Cal Crutchlow and Dani Pedrosa, while the Espargaro brothers crossed the line seventh and eighth, Aleix ahead of Pol. Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl rounded out the top 10.

Nicky Hayden’s one-off return to MotoGP with the Marc VDS team saw him pick up a solitary point for P15, the American rider standing in for the injured Jack Miller.

MotoGP returns in three weeks’ time at the Twin Ring Motegi in Japan on October 16.

Binder clinches Moto3 world title at Aragon with four races to spare

ALCANIZ, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 24:  Brad Binder of South Africa and Red Bull KTM Ajo heads down a straight during the qualifying practice during the MotoGP of Spain - Qualifying at Motorland Aragon Circuit on September 24, 2016 in Alcaniz, Spain.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Brad Binder became South Africa’s first motorcycle racing world champion since 1980 by clinching the Moto3 title at Motorland Aragon on Sunday.

Binder, 21, made his debut on the MotoGP ladder back in 2011 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the 125cc class, which became known as Moto3 the following year.

Binder scored his first podium in 2014 with Mahindra, but did not ascend to the top step until this year’s Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez.

The result sparked a run of three straight victories that was bookended by four podiums, vaulting the KTM rider into the championship lead.

Further wins followed at Silverstone and Misano, leaving Binder on the brink of sealing the championship at Motorland Aragon on Sunday.

After qualifying seventh, Binder became embroiled in the battle for victory at the front of the pack, taking the lead on the final lap.

Despite running wide at the final corner and losing out to Jorge Navarro by 0.030 seconds in a sprint to the line, second place was enough to clinch Binder the championship.

Binder becomes South Africa’s first world champion in motorcycle racing since Jon Ekerold in 1980.

Binder will make the move up to Moto2 in 2017 with KTM, and will undoubtedly have his sights on moving up to the premier class of motorcycle racing, MotoGP, not long after that.

‘Fast Jack’ Beckman back to living up to his nickname at Gateway

Leave a comment

“Fast Jack” Beckman came into this weekend’s AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in a big predicament.

He didn’t live up to his colorful nickname during last week’s Carolina Nationals, the opening race of the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

Beckman was actually more like “Slow Jack,” as he failed to advance past the first round at Carolina in last Sunday’s eliminations.

He also failed to advance past the first round in the final pre-Countdown qualifying race, the U.S. Nationals, which he won last season.

All those things combined have put even more pressure on Beckman. He left Charlotte eighth in the 10-driver Funny Car Countdown standings.

2016_Jack_Beckman headshot

Being scored 110 points behind Funny Car points leader Ron Capps, Beckman had his work cut out for him heading into this weekend’s race at Gateway, in Madison, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

And as he has done numerous times in his career, when the pressure was on him, Beckman responded, qualifying No. 2 on Saturday for Sunday’s eliminations.

Robert Hight earned the No. 1 qualifier position (3.893 seconds at 328.38 mph), but Beckman wasn’t far behind (3.907 seconds at 325.22 mph).

That’s a big start for Beckman, who won at Gateway in 2012 and ended up second in last year’s championship battle that was won by fellow veteran Del Worsham. Beckman will face Dale Creasy Jr. in the first round of eliminations.

Last season, Beckman won seven races in the 24-race NHRA national event schedule. This season has been much different, as he has just one win (Chicago in July).

But that doesn’t mean he still can’t win each of the five remaining Countdown races – which obviously would go a long way towards earning him his second career Funny Car championship (and in five seasons).

Beckman isn’t panicking after Charlotte. He’s finished first, third and second in three of the last four seasons. He knows he and his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger have the capability to make a serious championship run.

In addition to hoping he wins Sunday, Beckman is defending champion of next week’s Dodge Nationals at Maple Grove (Pa.) Raceway.

“Since you can’t control how the leading cars do, really the goal is simple: you just need to win the race,” Beckman said in a media release. “At some point we have to win the race if we have a chance.

“There’s not any other path to a championship. We lost ground we couldn’t afford to lose (at Charlotte) and we can’t afford to lose any more ground. I don’t see those teams not continuing to perform well and the only way we win the championship is to outperform them. It’s imperative we get back to our capabilities.”

A major change for Saturday’s qualifying effort paid off handsomely with his No. 2 spot for Sunday – although admittedly it was a gamble of sorts for Beckman and crew chief Jimmy Prock.

“We’re still running a five-disc clutch and we have one disc on there that when it works it’s great and when it doesn’t it smokes the tires instantly and becomes too aggressive,” Beckman said. “We’re going to take that one out and take our chances with a brand new disc. We’re taking a calculated risk but I think it’s the only choice we have.

“We have to take baby steps but we have to take them quickly or we run out of races. Before we can go quick consistently we have to get back our predictability and we have to do that by the end of (this weekend’s race at) St. Louis.

“All we can control right now is our lane. Because we’re running out of rounds, every single pass becomes more important. But if you dwell on that, there’s a high likelihood you’re not going to do as well as you want.

“As the season winds down, the pressure goes up, but if you let it affect you, you’re not going to be at your best. The only thing you can do is take a positive mindset every time you go up there.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski