Vettel cuts it fine in securing pole position for Singapore GP


Sebastian Vettel has continued his good form at the Singapore Grand Prix by securing pole position for tomorrow’s race, but he was very nearly pipped to the post by fellow countryman Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes.

Vettel had dominated practice earlier today, but the advantage he enjoyed in qualifying was just 0.091 seconds come the checkered flag in Q3. However, it was enough to hand him his fifth pole position of the season at a track where he has won twice before.

Title rivals Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton could not match the pace of the defending champion, with teammate Mark Webber also falling three-tenths short of Vettel’s pace. Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez both enjoyed good days as they both made the top ten, but Paul di Resta will undoubtedly be disappointed to have dropped out in Q1 once again.

Despite the gap between the prime and option tires being over 1.5 seconds per lap, the majority of the field ventured out on the slower medium compound at the beginning of Q1. Pastor Maldonado was the first to post a time, but he was soon overthrown by both Mercedes drivers with Nico Rosberg establishing his dominance by going eight-tenths faster than his teammate early on. Fernando Alonso’s struggles continued with a big lock-up at turn one before going P2, whilst Kimi Raikkonen looked to do as well as possible despite suffering from back pain. Lower down the grid, Sauber, Caterham and Marussia all went straight onto the super-soft tire in an attempt to secure a place in Q2, with Nico Hulkenberg immediately going fastest by almost a whole second. Red Bull bided their time, eventually sending Webber and Vettel out with just eight minutes remaining in the session, but they proved their pace to go P1 and P3 respectively. Hamilton was having none of it though, responding to go fastest of all on the option tire, followed by Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez at the head of the field. Felipe Massa was the big name in the dropzone as the checkered flag fell, but he improved late on to secure a place in Q2 and dump Paul di Resta out of qualifying along with Maldonado, both Caterhams and both Marussias.

Fighting through the pain, Raikkonen was the first to set a time in Q2, but he was soon edged out by both Mercedes drivers, Alonso and Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg, with the latter hoping to repeat his run to P3 at Monza. Once again, Red Bull played the waiting game, eventually sending Vettel and Webber out on the super-soft tire for the first time in qualifying. The defending world champion immediately stamped his authority on proceedings, going almost a second quicker than previous leader Rosberg. Webber joined him at the front, albeit eight-tenths down on his teammate. In the final flurry of times following the checkered flag, Esteban Gutierrez was the surprise name in the top ten, finishing an excellent seventh for Sauber. His teammate, Nico Hulkenberg, was less fortunate, dropping out in Q2 along with the injured Raikkonen. McLaren’s decision to go for just one timed run worked for Jenson Button as he made it through in P10, but Perez could only finish fourteenth. Jean-Eric Vergne, Adrian Sutil and Valtteri Bottas filled out the dropzone.

Red Bull bucked their own trend in Q3 by sending their drivers out early. Vettel laid down the first marker, a full six-tenths quicker than closest-rival Rosberg whilst Button completed an outlap and two sectors before returning to the pits. With two minutes remaining, nine of the ten runners came out to set a lap with Vettel getting out of his car, believing that he had done enough. However, his confidence nearly proved costly, with Rosberg coming within just 0.091 seconds of his compatriot. Romain Grosjean put in an impressive lap to finish P3 ahead of Webber and Hamilton. Felipe Massa will undoubtedly have a chip on his shoulder, having outqualified teammate Fernando Alonso with the Ferrari’s lining up P6 and P7 ahead of Button, Ricciardo and Gutierrez, with the Sauber driver failing to set a time.

Vettel has given himself the best possible chance of securing his third consecutive win in Singapore, and following dominant performances in Belgium and Italy, picking up a seventh win of the season under the lights at Marina Bay would surely put him out of reaching distance in the drivers’ championship.

Stefan Johansson’s latest blog: COTA reflections, blocking thoughts

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 23: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer leads Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo, Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H Ferrari 059/5 turbo (Shell GP), Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H Ferrari 059/5 turbo (Shell GP), Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer and others on track during the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 23, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Stefan Johansson’s latest blog entry looks back at last weekend’s United States Grand Prix from Circuit of The Americas, where Johansson was in attendance, with a deeper dive look through the field.

He also touches on the final three races ahead as Mercedes AMG Petronas teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton fight for the title, and continued thoughts on blocking, especially in the wake of new rules implemented during the Austin weekend about drivers moving in a brake zone.

It’s the latest conversation with Jan Tegler live on Johansson’s website, and continues with what we’ve been chronicling throughout the year on

Johansson notes the title battle is down to one thing for the next few races, with Rosberg needing to lose more than seven points in one of the next three races if he loses the title. He enters this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix up 26 points.

“More than anything else between these two, it really comes down to who gets the start right and at least in Lewis case also some reliability issues. That’s it. That’s all the difference there is between them,” Johansson writes.

On COTA, Johansson laments the track doesn’t lend itself to particularly good racing, and whoever emerges in first place after Turn 1 often is good to go for the rest of the race.

“It’s the nature of the track. It’s another [Hermann] Tilke-designed track basically so it’s built to the same template as most of the rest he’s done,” Johansson explains. “Unfortunately, they don’t produce very good racing in general because they all seem to have one corner followed by a kink or another corner and you can never get a proper run on a guy ahead of you as you’re going through them.

“The corners leading onto the long straights are all sort of aero-dependent which means that if you get somewhat close to the car in front you lose your front end which means you have to lift slightly and then the gap remains too big to have a go when you arrive to the braking zone – often even with DRS engaged. It’s the same problem you have on so many modern circuits.

“Whoever gets through the mess at the first corner in the lead – that’s pretty much where they end up. With the cars at the front so closely matched it’s pretty predictable from there on.”

With Max Verstappen’s driving tactics coming under the microscope once again, with the way he denied Lewis Hamilton in Suzuka and with some of his other moves this year having been scrutinized, F1 moved to rule that drivers could not move in the brake zone.

Johansson talked a bit about Verstappen here, as well as the rule itself and the mentality drivers have these days.

“This moving under braking – even if it’s just a little wiggle – makes it very difficult for the guy behind. Once you hit the brakes you’re more or less committed to one line, so if you’re the car following and you’ve decided to make an attempt to pass where there is a gap by leaving your braking to the very last moment and the driver in front of you suddenly moves across and the gap is no longer there it makes it almost impossible for the guy behind to avoid even hitting him. You either completely blow the corner or you hit the guy you’re trying to pass, which in fact we have seen numerous times lately, where parts of the front wing suddenly go flying because there was contact under braking.

“We’ve talked about this many times but this blocking nonsense in racing goes back quite a few years. There’s a great video of Rene Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve (1979 French Grand Prix at Dijon). If you watch that, it was an intense battle where they traded second place several times and you see how they raced back then. There was no blocking and that’s how everyone raced. Sadly, these dirty tactics slowly crept into the system by a few drivers who then became heroes to the generations that followed and because the FIA didn’t clamp down on it early enough it’s now become the norm and every young driver thinks that’s how you should race.”

Johansson also notes that with a rotation in race stewards, there is often no consistency in terms of penalties applied.

“I think it would have been easy for (Felipe) Massa to stay to the inside of the corner. And when you leave the door wide open a driver like (Fernando) Alonso will always make a move. Knowing how difficult it is to pass around there the only option is really to go for the “surprise” move which is exactly what Alonso did. You have to make a move when the driver ahead least expects it because there’s hardly any other place to pass on that track.

“It’s the same thing Rosberg did to (Kimi) Raikkonen in Malaysia but Nico got a 10-second penalty. Alonso got nothing and it’s the same old story – rulings at random. These were almost identical incidents but the stewards’ rulings were not identical. One time you get a penalty, next time you don’t.  What do you do as a driver?

“I think [Mark] Blundell who was the steward in Austin did the right thing but it shows there’s no consistency whatsoever in the control tower.”

There are several more great nuggets within Johansson’s latest blog, which you can view in its entirety here.

Previous linkouts to Johansson’s blog on MotorSportsTalk are linked below:

Additionally, a link to Johansson’s social media channels and #F1TOP3 competition are linked here.

Ocon focused on racing as Mercedes considers next move in F1

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 22: Esteban Ocon of France and Manor Racing walks in the Paddock during qualifying for the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Esteban Ocon says he is focused purely on his racing commitments with Manor in Formula 1 amid speculation about a possible move for 2017.

Ocon won the GP3 title in 2015 as an affiliate member of Mercedes’ young driver program, before being loaned to Renault in a reserve role for the first half of this season.

When Rio Haryanto’s backing fell through, the Mercedes-powered Manor team drafted in Ocon as a replacement to partner fellow Mercedes youngster Pascal Wehrlein.

An impressive start to life in F1 has resulted in Ocon being linked with a drive at a number of F1 teams for 2017, including Force India and Renault.

However, with Mercedes managing his career, Ocon is choosing to focus on doing his talking on-track as the F1 season enters its final three races.

“I’m already really happy to make the progress we made with [Manor]. Together we have done a really strong job,” Ocon said.

“It hasn’t been an easy thing to arrive half way through the season but I’m happy with the progress.

“Mercedes is managing my career, so at the moment I’m trying to focus on the remaining races and, yeah, we will see from there on how it goes.

“I’m focusing as much as I can on the remaining races. If you do a strong job there will always be talks and opportunities.”

Ocon is rated highly by Renault, but would need to be released from his Mercedes contract if he were to race for the French manufacturer.

Force India does have an available seat after Nico Hulkenberg’s decision to move to Renault for 2017, and given Mercedes’ links to the team, there may be a place for Ocon there. However, Felipe Nasr is thought to be the front-runner for the seat thanks to his significant financial backing.

A look to the future: 2017 Michelin Challenge Design cars revealed

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This was not the best week for sports car racing with Audi’s departure from the FIA World Endurance Championship confirmed at the end of this season.

However, as Audi raised the game in so many aspects, so too could the next generation of designers, and that’s where Michelin Challenge Design comes in.

Announced last Friday, the winners of 2017 Michelin Challenge Design’s “Le Mans 2030: Design for the Win” competition were revealed, created in partnership with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest.

There were more than 1,600 entrants from more than 80 countries who came up with design ideas for the next generation of cars.

“The winners of our 2017 Michelin Challenge Design presented numerous highly innovative features for the Le Mans race in the year 2030 and the quality of work from this year’s entries was truly outstanding,” said Thom Roach, vice president of original-equipment marketing for Michelin North America.

“We congratulate the winners for their thought-provoking, visually captivating designs for the world’s greatest endurance race, Le Mans 24 Hours.”

The three winners of the 2017 Michelin Challenge Design, and their designs, are linked below. Further information is available here via

Winners of the 2017 Michelin Challenge Design:

  • First place: Tao Ni of Wuhu, China, for design entry “Infiniti Le Mans 2030”
  • Second place: Daniel Bacelar Pereira of Vila Real, Portugal, for “Bentley 9 Plus Michelin Battery Slick”
  • Third place: Kurt Scanlan of Toronto, Canada for “Cierzo C1”

First Place


Second Place


Third Place


Red Bull GRC adds electric series for 2018

Speed leads. Photo: Chris Tedesco/Red Bull Content Pool
Photo: Chris Tedesco/Red Bull Content Pool
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Red Bull Global Rallycross will add an electric standalone series to its Supercars and GRC Lites divisions from the 2018 season. Further details about what type vehicles and the name of the series will be present will come in the coming year.

Here’s the release, below:

Red Bull Global Rallycross will continue to position itself at the forefront of motorsport technology with the creation of an all-electric vehicle series for the 2018 season. Electric vehicles will be added to Red Bull GRC race weekends as a distinct, standalone series, joining the Supercar and GRC Lites classes in the series’ race program. Red Bull GRC, in conjunction with USAC (United States Auto Club), will serve as the governing body for the new series.

“Red Bull Global Rallycross is pleased to add to our rallycross platform an electric series,” said Red Bull GRC CEO Colin Dyne. “The 2018 season will be a landmark year for us as we welcome electric vehicles to the grid for the first time. The electric car is one of the hottest topics in the automotive industry, and manufacturers across the globe have recognized its immense potential. We want to embrace this technology by welcoming it into our series as we continue to grow and expand.

“Our current platform is the most enticing in motorsports right now to a young, millennial audience. Our small displacement, high-horsepower, turbocharged engines allow our manufacturers to showcase the performance capabilities of their current millennial-focused offerings, and provide a glimpse into the exciting future of the automotive industry. This electric series will add a new dynamic that will never replace the current formula, but will be an important part of our expansion.”

Having just wrapped up its sixth season, Red Bull GRC has consistently been responsible for major announcements that have accelerated the growth of the sport of rallycross. The Supercar class now features four manufacturer partners: Ford, Subaru, Honda, and Volkswagen. In 2015, Red Bull GRC also became the first racing series to compete on an active United States military installation.

Further details on Red Bull GRC’s upcoming electric class will be released in the coming year.