Vettel’s current win streak compares admirably to Schumacher’s 2004 run

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Formula One 2013 is a different era from 2004. We’re in the last year of V8s compared to shrieking V10 engines, a car design that has evolved over five years since a radical redesign in 2009, with fewer manufacturers involved, fewer races in Europe and more in other continents, on Pirelli rubber instead of Bridgestone and Michelin, and only five drivers still on the grid this year who raced in that season.

You can say then that Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button have had a front row seat to two of F1’s most dominant win streaks: Michael Schumacher’s in 2004, and Sebastian Vettel’s this year.

With Vettel on the precipice of his seventh consecutive victory next Sunday in Abu Dhabi, here’s a look back at Schumacher’s run of seven in ’04, and a look at Vettel’s six in a row thus far in 2013:

SCHUMACHER 2004

  • NURBURGRING: Schumacher had crashed out of the previous race in Monaco so this win from pole returned him to the top of the podium. He took the lead for good on Lap 16 of 60 at the new Nurburgring, emerging ahead after early pit stops. He won by 17-plus seconds over Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello.
  • CANADA: Early race leader was brother Ralf for Williams, but he was one of four eventually disqualified for a brake duct infractions. Michael won on the road with Barrichello promoted to second after Ralf’s DQ.
  • USA, INDIANAPOLIS: The race was more memorable for Ralf’s high-speed accident on the oval portion of the track and the rare occasion of a Minardi scoring points (Zsolt Baumgartner in eighth), but up front Michael led the third straight Ferrari 1-2 over Barrichello. Takuma Sato in third scored his only career F1 podium.
  • FRANCE: Perhaps Schumacher’s most memorable victory in this stretch of seven. Ross Brawn and the Ferrari team executed a four-stop strategy and still beat polesitter Fernando Alonso. Alonso’s then-Renault teammate Jarno Trulli found himself in hot water after the race when he lost third to Barrichello on the final lap.
  • BRITAIN: Schumacher qualified only fourth but made it to the lead by Lap 11 over polesitter Kimi Raikkonen, who secured McLaren’s first podium of the year.
  • GERMANY: A rare win on home soil for Schumacher broke his previous personal high-water mark of five consecutive wins, with Jenson Button recovering to second after a 10-spot grid penalty and Alonso third.
  • HUNGARY: A seventh win in style as Schumacher secured his last “Grand Slam” of his career, where he won from pole, led every lap and set the fastest lap. Barrichello and Alonso completed the podium.

VETTEL 2013

  • BELGIUM: Started only second after the mixed qualifying session when the last man to set his flier would take pole, but no matter for Seb. Vettel was into the lead from second by the end of Kennel Straight, and had enough to set sail with an unassailable gap achieved before DRS could be enabled. It was the first race after this year’s summer break, and the beginning of this current win streak.
  • ITALY: Pole ahead of the tifosi in Monza and another great jump, with Felipe Massa’s then-slower Ferrari emerging second behind him, was all Vettel needed for the second win in a row.
  • SINGAPORE: The most dominant of these wins thus far, with a victory by more than 30 seconds in a “Grand Slam” performance. Alonso and Raikkonen behind him made it a trio of World Champions on the podium, which is as close as they were to Vettel all race.
  • KOREA: Vettel accomplishes the previously unmatched feat of back-to-back “Grand Slams,” although this one featured only a 4-second margin of victory over Lotus teammates Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.
  • JAPAN: Arguably his most impressive performance with the odds stacked against him, Vettel rebounded from a slow start and Grosjean’s heroics in a slower car ahead of him to pass the Frenchman late in the race after their strategies synced up. Vettel’s talent was made all the more evident when Webber failed to complete the move on Grosjean anywhere near as quickly for second.
  • INDIA: And yesterday, it wasn’t the typical Vettel “run-and-hide” from pole even though it was his seventh of the season. He pitted after just 2 laps to drop Pirelli’s soft tires but even still, ran fast enough on the mediums to not lose too much ground, and cycled back to the lead once everyone else stopped. 

Ricky Brabec wins 2017 Sonora Rally (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Ricky Brabec wins Sonora Rally. Photo: Sonora Rally
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Honda rider Ricky Brabec, who won a stage at this year’s Dakar Rally, has captured the victory in last week’s Sonora Rally, held March 21-24 in Sonora, Mexico.

He led all four of the special stages in a start-to-finish romp for victory.

Despite Joan Barreda and Steve Hengeveld’s injuries that ruled them out of the rally, Brabec still had to focus on the job at hand.

“You are really racing against yourself out here, against the terrain,” he said in a release.  “I’m much more familiar now with open up a course than I was back in January at Dakar when I had to do it for the first time.”

Fellow Honda riders Mark Samuels and Andrew Short completed the podium. Samuels won the Sonora Rally’s Dakar Challenge, which presents a free opportunity for a rider to enter the 2018 Dakar Rally.

“The hard work of getting to Dakar is still ahead of me, but I will do everything in my power to make America proud,” Samuels said.

Polaris ATR rider Dave Sykes won the UTV class, with Eric Pucelik and Mike Shirley winning the Cars class.

On background, the Sonora Rally is the only event of its kind in North America. The rally raid format requires street legal vehicles to transit along untimed “liaison” sections and timed “special stages” over multiple days, with the lowest combined time winning the event. Now in its third year, the Sonora Rally realizes the vision of founders Scott Whitney and Darren Skilton to bring a world class rally raid event to these shores (2016 recap).

Brabec’s winning ride is captured in the below video, via Race-Dezert.

Meanwhile, because photos do this event more justice than words do, those are below (All Photos: Sonora Rally)

Webber: Alonso may not see out the season with McLaren

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Mark Webber never had the easiest time in Formula 1, particularly his latter years as the number two driver at Red Bull Racing to Sebastian Vettel.

That being said, he was never on the verge of leaving it directly until he announced his plans to move to Porsche’s LMP1 Team, where he raced for three years from 2014 to 2016 before retiring at the end of last season.

But the Australian pondered whether Fernando Alonso might not be able to see out the season with McLaren Honda, if the team and manufacturer’s woes continue.

“Alonso may not stay with the team,” Webber told Belgian outlet Sporza. “Maybe Stoffel (Vandoorne) soon will have a new teammate.”

“I could see it happen that Alonso does not drive out the season. He is very frustrated. Fernando doesn’t start for a sixth or seventh place; he wants to fight for the podium.”

Webber added that for Vandoorne’s sake, starting in a team with lower expectations might not be the worst thing for him. It may allow the Belgian rookie to learn without extra pressure, since the onus is focused on the team.

For Alonso though, time is of the essence for what’s left of his career in F1. This is his last season under contract with McLaren Honda and he made no secret of his frustration for how well he drove at Melbourne, yet the car wasn’t up for it.

“Well the race was good, one of my best races driving like that,” Alonso told NBCSN post-race. “The car’s uncompetitive and to be close for a point was a nice surprise. It was good fuel saving as well. I was surprised to keep it in the points. A suspension (issue) stopped us from getting this point.

“I feel very well prepared, driving at the best of my career, and I’m fighting for one point. That’s disappointing and frustrating. But so long as I’m driving at my best, it’s a problem for the team… not me.”

Rosberg, Button soak up their first weekends out of F1 (PHOTOS)

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Since 2008, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have won seven World Championships. The two drivers that won titles in that period not named Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel – Nico Rosberg (2016) and Jenson Button (2009) – were both enjoying their first weekends not on a Formula 1 grid as full-time drivers for the first time in more than a decade this weekend as the 2017 season commenced at Melbourne’s Albert Park.

Rosberg made a visit to preseason testing in Barcelona a few weeks ago for his first appearance as spectator since winning the World Championship. But he watched from home this weekend with his family and posted a few thoughts during both qualifying and the race:

We’re now quite familiar with Rosberg’s home TV set and coffee table. This is the first time Rosberg has been out of an F1 race since 2005, the year he won the first GP2 championship.

Button meanwhile paid a visit to California for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana… once he got off his couch. He checked in with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson at Fontana.

Do you guys know if there's anything good to watch on tele this weekend? @storm_and_rogue_pomskies

A post shared by Jenson Button (@jensonbutton_22) on

Given McLaren Honda’s struggles, Button is probably smart to have got out when he did. He’d been on the grid since 2000, save for a couple races out in 2005 when BAR-Honda was barred from competing after being disqualified from the San Marino Grand Prix.

Meanwhile for Rosberg, he watched as Mercedes was unable to win the season opener for the first time since 2013.

DJR Team Penske wins three of four Supercars races at Melbourne

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DJR Team Penske has won its first Virgin Australia Supercars Championship races over the weekend during the Australian Grand Prix, with Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard taking the first three wins in the four-race, non-championship race weekend.

While Penske’s teams have long succeeded in North America and have had some international success, notably a Formula 1 win at the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix with John Watson, success has thus far eluded them since arriving in Supercars two years ago as majority shareholders of Dick Johnson Racing.

McLaughlin had the honor of beating Coulthard to the first win in race one of the weekend, before Coulthard doubled up with wins in races two and three. The first two races were one-two finishes, though, and McLaughlin said he’d received a text from Roger Penske in the wake of the victory.

“I got a text from Roger straight away and they’re all pretty happy,” McLaughlin told Supercars.com.

“They’re thanking me but I should be thanking them for giving me the opportunity.”

The first race was marred by this incident between Nick Percat and Lee Holdsworth, Percat having lost his brakes entering Turn 1 and crashing into Holdsworth, who was an innocent bystander.

But once the race resumed, McLaughlin held off Coulthard for the victory.

Coulthard led from start-to-finish in race two after his second straight pole position. He did the same in race three, albeit not in a Penske 1-2 as Jamie Whincup came second for Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodore. McLaughlin was third.

A left-front puncture stopped Coulthard making it three in a row in the fourth race, and with steering damage, McLaughlin was resigned to 17th. Chaz Mostert took the win his Supercheap Ford, ending his own winless spell that dated to August of 2015.

Also of note from the weekend, ex-IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro in her Team Harvey Norman Nissan Altima finished 13th in race one, her best finish yet in her first full season in the series.

The Supercars series is back in action at Symmons Plains Raceway on April 7-9.  Coulthard sits second in the series championship, 51 points back of Whincup’s teammate, Shane van Gisbergen.