Spanish F1 Grand Prix - Qualifying

Hamilton supreme in qualifying to secure Spanish GP pole

1 Comment

Lewis Hamilton has secured pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix after edging out Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg during the final stage of qualifying at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona today, marking his first pole at the race.

The British driver posted a fastest lap time of 1:25.232 to finish one-tenth clear of Rosberg, as the Silver Arrows locked out the front row of the grid for the fourth time this season.

Daniel Ricciardo finished as best of the rest in third place, albeit some nine-tenths behind the Mercedes drivers. Valtteri Bottas produced a stunning final lap to qualify in fourth place for Williams, whilst Romain Grosjean ended up in fifth place ahead of both Ferraris.

It was another difficult day for Sebastian Vettel as the German driver suffered a gearbox problem during Q3, leaving him down in 10th place.

Since the end of final practice, the track temperature had rocketed, meaning that it was immediately quicker than it had been at the end of the morning session. A number of drivers came out early in order to post a time, but the session came to an abrupt halt just 90 seconds after the green light when Pastor Maldonado crashed his Lotus at turn three. Although he walked away unharmed, a red flag was required to recover the stricken Lotus.

The restart saw most of the drivers head out, including the two Mercedes drivers who would ultimately battle for pole. Nico Rosberg immediately went fastest of all, but Hamilton’s first lap was slow after he ran onto the grass. He soon made up for it, though, by moving up into second place behind his teammate, and Sebastian Vettel slotted into third place, albeit some seven-tenths down on the Mercedes’ drivers. Daniil Kvyat put in a good lap to finish in sixth place, but Romain Grosjean was having a bit of trouble with his front tires in the sole remaining Lotus, but eventually got through.

With five minutes to go, a number of drivers switched to the quicker option tire to secure a place in Q2. Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen both improved to give themselves a bit more security, and Adrian Sutil moved up to P16 with his last lap, putting Jenson Button at risk. The 2009 world champion duly redressed the balance and moved up to P9, thus dumping Sutil out of qualifying along with the two Marussias, the two Caterhams and Maldonado in the Lotus.

Only Force India and Williams ventured out on track at the beginning of Q2, but this gave Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez a chance to go P1 and P2 early on. With around 10 minutes to go, the rest of the runners emerged from the pits to get in a first lap time, and Mercedes soon resumed normal service by going P1 and P2 with Rosberg ahead of Hamilton. Red Bull slotted in behind the Silver Arrows, whilst Romain Grosjean managed to move up to sixth with his first lap of the session ahead of Fernando Alonso.

Kevin Magnussen’s qualifying came to an early end as a technical problem forced him to get out of his car without posting a time. Jean-Eric Vergne was also sidelined, meaning that with his grid penalty he will start last tomorrow. Mercedes and Red Bull could afford not to run again, such was their advantage, but the other 10 cars on track needed to head out and post a quicker time.

Jenson Button managed to improve and squeeze into the final shoot-out, but the Force India pair were less fortunate as they qualified 11th and 12th with Hulkenberg ahead of Perez. Daniil Kvyat could not repeat his Q1 escapades and finished 13th, whilst Esteban Gutierrez finished as the top Sauber in P14.

Mercedes was the first team to come out in Q3 as both of its drivers planned for two runs in the battle for pole position. However, the session was soon stopped when Sebastian Vettel’s car lost drive, forcing the German to pull his car up at the side of the road and bringing out the red flags.

Once the session restarted, there was a rush to get back out on track and make up for the time lost under the red flag. Rosberg was the first to lay down a benchmark, but he was beaten into second place by Hamilton who went some two-tenths quicker. Daniel Ricciardo slotted into third place ahead of Fernando Alonso, but the rest of the drivers opted to wait for one run at the end of the session.

The final runs saw all of the drivers improve their times on fresh tires, and although Rosberg managed to go quicker, Hamilton went faster still to secure his fourth pole position of the season. Ricciardo slotted into third place as best of the rest ahead of surprise front-runners Valtteri Bottas and Romain Grosjean. Kimi Raikkonen ran well to outqualify his Ferrari teammate Fernando ALonso, whilst Jenson Button and Felipe Massa finished in eighth and ninth ahead of Vettel in P10.

He’s the man in form after three straight wins, and it is hard to bet against Lewis Hamilton making it four in a row on Sunday. Once again, Rosberg simply had no answer to his teammate.

Can Lewis take the lead of the championship? Tune in from 7:30am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra tomorrow to find out.

Rosberg keeps cool amid Spa madness to win Belgian GP

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 28:  The safety car leads Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo, Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer and Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM09 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 28, 2016 in Spa, Belgium  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nico Rosberg got his bid for a maiden Formula 1 drivers’ championship back on-track with a controlled victory in a manic Belgian Grand Prix at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday.

Rosberg went lights-to-flag from pole position with a dominant display reminiscent of those at the beginning of the season when he won four straight races, yet he faced a number of challenges throughout the race.

Start-line drama and contact, a tire blow out, debris, a safety car period and even a red flag all threatened to spoil Rosberg’s day and bring title rival and teammate Lewis Hamilton back into contention.

After starting 21st thanks to a grid penalty, Hamilton made the most of the frenetic early stages to rise up to third place after his first scheduled pit stop, bringing himself into the mix for a stunning victory.

However, a lack of pace through the middle stint and a slow pit stop meant Hamilton had to settle for third place, which despite being somewhat disappointing for the three-time champion meant he left Spa still leading the drivers’ championship.

Rosberg made a clean getaway from pole to retain the lead on the short run to La Source, leaving echaos to ensue just behind. Max Verstappen tried squeezing past Kimi Raikkonen for second place, only for the two to make contact and run into the path of Sebastian Vettel on the outside. Vettel was sent into a spin while both Verstappen and Raikkonen were left with damage, forcing all three to pit for repairs at the end of the first lap.

Vettel and Verstappen were serviced swiftly, but Raikkonen’s stop featured yet more drama when a small fire broke out underneath his Ferrari. It was quickly extinguished, allowing the Finn to head back out on-track, albeit one lap down.

A Virtual Safety Car period was called moments later when Carlos Sainz Jr. suffered a tire failure, causing damage to his rear wing and leaving debris on the track. Once the mess had been cleared, the race returned to green with Rosberg leading from Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo. Hamilton, meanwhile, had risen to P12 on the medium tire.

The race went under the safety car on lap six after a huge crash for Kevin Magnussen at the top of Raidillion after losing the back-end of the car. Thankfully, the Dane walked away from the crash, albeit with a limp after a severe hit. Renault confirmed soon after that he had been taken to hospital with a minor injury to his ankle for further checks.

Many of the super-soft runners took advantage of the safety car period to dive into the pits, leaving Rosberg to lead from Ricciardo and Hulkenberg, the latter emerging from the pits in P3 ahead of medium-shod Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton now sat P4 and P5.

After three laps under the safety car, race officials took the decision to red flag the race due to the damage caused to the guardrail by the crash. All drivers were sent to the pit lane and able to change tires before the race restarted behind the safety car some 20 minutes later.

The race went back to green on lap 11 with Rosberg leading the pack on the medium tire. Mercedes teammate and title rival Hamilton opted to switch to softs in P5, and with an array of sets still fresh after cutting qualifying short on Saturday, the Briton was in a strong position.

Rosberg quickly set about creating a gap to the chasing pack, immediately moving out of DRS range for the chasing Ricciardo. Hamilton eased past Alonso for P4, leaving just two cars between himself and his teammate.

Further back, Verstappen and Raikkonen once again entered battle while fighting over 14th position. Verstappen forced the Finn off the road at Les Combes before making an aggressive defensive move the next lap, leaving Raikkonen fuming over his radio to the Ferrari pit wall.

Rosberg was able to eke out a lead over Ricciardo in the laps that followed while Hamilton toiled behind Hulkenberg, keeping a close eye on his tires. The Briton eventually battled past into third place on lap 18, but was hungry to catch the leading pair.

Hamilton was not able to make inroads to Rosberg and Ricciardo as he would have liked, though. As his soft tires began to fade, Mercedes took the decision to bring Hamilton in on lap 21 and move him onto another set of soft tires, trying to get the undercut on the cars in front. A slow stop meant Hamilton returned to the track in P9 behind Valtteri Bottas.

The battle behind Hamilton saw Hulkenberg and Perez, running net P4 and P5, enter the pits together on lap 23. A quick stop from the McLaren crew allowed Alonso to get the jump, but Hulkenberg kept his nose in around the outside at pit exit, resulting in contact. Hulkenberg got back past at the end of the Kemmel Straight, ensuring their battle would rage on.

Ricciardo came into the pits at the end of lap 26 to switch to the medium tire, coming out ahead of Hamilton who still had one more stop to make. Rosberg continued to plug away at the head of the field on his mediums, having been given the call by Mercedes to push and move to ‘plan B’.

Rosberg came into the pits one lap after Ricciardo, taking on another set of mediums that would take him to the checkered flag. A lead of 10 seconds may not have been much, but it meant that Rosberg remained in control of a race that had taken many twists and turns.

Hamilton managed to run close behind Ricciardo, but his soft tires began to fade with around 13 laps remaining. Rosberg was able to increase his lead over the chasing drivers, running around one second per lap faster than both Ricciardo and Hamilton.

Mercedes brought Hamilton in at the end of lap 32, bringing the Briton back out behind Hulkenberg and ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Force India. With another set of mediums fitted, Hamilton questioned the decision taken by Mercedes, but soon found his feet to latch onto the back of Hulkenberg ahead. The pass was completed at Les Combes, lifting Hamilton back into a podium position.

At the front, Rosberg looked comfortable. While all about him appeared to lose their heads at Spa, the German had kept his to cross the line over 10 seconds clear and record his sixth win of the season and cut the gap to Hamilton in the drivers’ championship.

Ricciardo was able to follow Rosberg home in second place, increasing Red Bull’s lead over Ferrari in the constructors’ championship with another impressive drive.

Hamilton had hoped to cut the gap to Ricciardo and secure Mercedes a one-two late on, but the medium tire wasn’t quick enough, forcing him to settle for third place at the checkered flag.

Nico Hulkenberg’s wait for his first podium finish in F1 continued as he was left to settle for fourth place ahed of teammate Sergio Perez, capping off a hugely impressive weekend for Force India.

Sebastian Vettel recovered from the first-lap drama to cross the line sixth for Ferrari ahead of Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas, the latter unable to make it through on the final lap despite closing up on the Spaniard.

Kimi Raikkonen’s rollercoaster race culminated in two points for P9, while Felipe Massa picked up his first point since Baku with P10 for Williams.

Verstappen’s home race weekend that held such promise ended without points as he crossed the line a lowly 11th ahead of Haas drivers Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Groseajn. Daniil Kvyat was 14th for Toro Rosso ahead of Jolyon Palmer, while Esteban Ocon was 16th on his F1 debut ahead of Sauber’s Felipe Nasr.

Magnussen taken to hospital with ankle injury after Spa shunt

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 27: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS16 Renault RE16 turbo on track during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 27, 2016 in Spa, Belgium.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kevin Magnussen has been transferred to hospital with an ankle injury after a hefty crash during Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.

Magnussen lost the rear end of his Renault Formula 1 car at the top of the hill after Eau Rouge and Raidillion, slamming into the wall on the right-hand side of the circuit at high speed.

The crash was severe enough to cause Magnussen’s head-rest to break free, leaving much of the car wrecked.

Magnussen did manage to get out of his car unaided, but was limping when walking away from the shunt.

Renault confirmed that Magnussen had been taken to the medical centre with an injury to his left ankle, and has since been transferred to hospital for further check-ups.

Belgian GP red flagged after Magnussen crash

Leave a comment

The Belgian Grand Prix has been red flagged following a frightening crash for Kevin Magnussen that caused significant damage to the barrier at Raidillion.

Magnussen went off at one of the fastest points of the circuit, losing the back-end of his Renault after running through Eau Rouge and Raidillion corners coming uphill.

The crash was so severe that the headrest in Magnussen’s car came loose, leaving his R.S.16 wrecked. Thankfully, the Dane was able to walk away, albeit with a limp.

Three laps after the crash, stewards decided to red flag the race as repairs needed to be completed to the guardrail, forcing all drivers to head to the pit lane.

Once the repairs were completed, stewards gave the call for the race to resume with a 10-minute warning, leaving Rosberg to lead away the pack once again.

Graham Rahal able to ‘tame the beast’ of Texas ghosts with win

FORT WORTH, TX - AUGUST 27: Graham Rahal driver of the #15 Mi-Jack/RLL Honda speaks at a media conference after winning the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on August 27, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
(Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Leave a comment

FORT WORTH – Graham Rahal swears he didn’t give the final 177 laps of the Firestone 600 a single thought between June 12 and Aug. 27.

“I haven’t thought about it at all until this week,” said Rahal, who was now thinking about nothing else after winning said race by .008 seconds over James Hinchcliffe, a Texas Motor Speedway record.

Rahal and the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series have been busy since June, competing in –  and actually finishing – five races since the Firestone 600 was postponed 77 days for rain after reaching Lap 71.

After visiting Road America, Iowa Speedway, Toronto, his home track of Mid-Ohio and Pocono, the 1.5-mile track in North Texas finally, surreally, came back around.

“It’s a very strange thing actually,” Rahal said, still wearing the 10-gallon Cowboy hat awarded to race winners by track president Eddie Gossage. “We came down here this morning, and I don’t know, it was just a weird day to kind of get into the groove of it. It was like, we landed so early, we had so much time to kill, then such a short practice, and then we just go racing.”

Due to what transpired over the those five races – not finishing better than fourth after a Road America podium and only leading two laps – Rahal was having very specific thoughts about Saturday night’s race.

“This week I knew, again, because of the year that we’ve had, it was an opportunity,” Rahal said. “I felt like in June we had a great race car, we just didn’t get to see it through and tonight obviously from the front, we went forward, and it was a great night.”

After restarting 12th in a car Rahal described after a brief practice session as a “f—ing rocket,” the No. 15 carved its way through the pack. By the final 25 laps it one of five cars on the lead lap, led by Hinchcliffe.

“I just thought if I could get there, we’d have a good chance, and then we went fighting at the end there,” Rahal said. “I had a lot of front tire degradation. I was having to take the early laps a bit slower to try to save that outside front. You could see Kanaan and (Scott) Dixon even a little bit quicker than me but 15 laps or so into the stint I closed back up because my car, I think, was better on the tires in the long run.”

Then, unlike Hinchcliffe, Rahal’s team decided to pit late for tires under caution. That decision set up an eight-lap sprint that will likely be considered the most thrilling of the season. With three and four-wide racing, it looked like the memorable Indy Racing League races at Texas of a decade ago.

On a night where TMS honored law enforcement, Rahal’s path through the field was oversaw by spotter Steve Turner, a retired police officer from Speedway, Indiana.

“Steve does a great job. But tonight I had to keep my eyes particularly peeled at all times to my mirrors, Rahal said. “I always trust the spotter but I want to make sure in a lot of cases that we gave ourselves a little extra room.”

In the closing laps, Rahal’s thoughts didn’t drift to those old “pack” races. They went to a more recent Texas visit in 2012. That year, Rahal led 27 laps at the climax of the race with Justin Wilson chasing him. With three laps left, Rahal bounced off the wall out of Turn 4, allowing Wilson to pass him and win.

It would be the last IndyCar win for Wilson, who died a year ago last week from injuries sustained at Pocono Raceway.

“You know what I was motivated by a little bit is I kept thinking about Justin there, because a couple years ago we had a great battle here,” Rahal said. “Quite honestly I was picturing him shooting those things off there the last couple of laps, just trying to get it done for ourselves here.”

That failure in 2012 came in the middle of seven winless seasons for the son of Bobby Rahal. Graham Rahal ended that last season with a win in another tense, hotly contested “pack race” at Auto Club Speedway.

“It’s just nice to kind of tame the beast a little bit,” said Rahal, who has made nine starts at Texas, but only finished in the top 10 three times. “This place is a tough place to win … So it feels nice. To not go through this year winless is the biggest pressure I feel off my shoulders. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to get that over because not that it would have been a dry spell like last time, but I don’t want to have to hear the questions again, so it was nice to just get that.”

Even when Rahal got the win, he was afraid he has celebrated too soon. As his car neared the finish line, he raised his right hand in a celebratory fist before quickly dropping it down right as Hinchcliffe was pulling even with him.

“I was like, ‘make sure his roll hoop says two.’ Looked over and I could see it said two, and I knew I had it,” Rahal said. “Those LED panels that IndyCar started using are awesome.”

The win also gave Honda just its second win of 2016, a year after it earned five. After two months of not thinking about a race, Rahal won’t want to stop talking about it.

“It’s special for us to get a win for Honda for sure, and be able to call corporate on Monday and have a good talk,” Rahal said.