Canadian GP Paddock Notebook – Saturday

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Who would have thought it? Nico Rosberg snatching pole position away from Lewis Hamilton at the Briton’s favorite circuit? Ouch. How will that go down in the Mercedes garage?

Given that things are apparently okay between the two now, it will probably be alright. Just as Lewis said in the post-qualifying press conference, “Nico just did a better job today so I need to work hard to make sure I do better tomorrow”. That’s the kind of attitude we like to see in our racing drivers.

It was certainly a busy day at the circuit, so here’s the latest paddock notebook from the Canadian Grand Prix.

SESSION REPORTS

  • The final say in practice did in fact go to Hamilton, and the margin by which he gapped the rest of the field on the slower tire was phenomenal. It didn’t seem like he could be beaten…
  • …but then Nico did exactly that. The German driver produced a fine final lap in Q3 to snatch pole position away from the Briton. Williams and Red Bull both put in an impressive display, while Ferrari and McLaren struggled.

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Nico beating Lewis? Who would have thought it? In the media centre, it was a common assumption that Hamilton would bag his fifth pole position of the season. After all, this is his circuit; he always goes well around here. However, a mistake heading down to the hairpin meant that he lost a fraction of time. Unfortunately for him, said fraction was enough to cost him pole to Rosberg. Thankfully, we had none of the theatrics of Monaco. Lewis simply held his hands up and said that Nico was quicker.

What we do have is a cracking fight for the win tomorrow, though. The run into the first corner will be massive for the result of the race, and even though he might start from second, the smart money will still be on Lewis Hamilton. As Nico proved today, though, he is not to be discounted.

The battle further back is a little more complex. Williams turned out to be the dark horse of qualifying, with Valtteri Bottas finishing fourth ahead of Felipe Massa. The two drivers both will be hoping to convert this into a strong double score tomorrow, whereas Red Bull will want the Martini-liveried cars to have as much trouble as possible. Daniel Ricciardo was his smiley self after qualifying, but he made no secret of his annoyance after having missed out on P3 by less than half a tenth of a second.

At Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen was once again anonymous in the final session, and Fernando Alonso once again dragged the car to just seventh on the grid. Fighting with Red Bull and Williams might be a bit of a long shot for the prancing horses tomorrow.

Finally, a few thoughts on Gene Haas’ comments to NBCSN about his F1 team. It’s fantastic that we will have an American team on the grid in 2016, and if there’s an American driver (not mentioning any names… Alexander Rossi), that would be awesome. That’s why I find his comments about Danica Patrick being a candidate confusing.

Sure, Danica would be very marketable, and yes, she does have open wheel experience. However, she would be 34 by the time the team makes its debut. A 34-year-old rookie in F1? It goes against the idea of nurturing the next generation of drivers, one of whom has to be Rossi. Of course, this debate will rumble on until Gene signs a deal with his drivers, which probably would’t be for another 12 to 18 months yet.

Race day tomorrow promises to be a fascinating one. Be sure to watch the Canadian Grand Prix live on NBC from 2pm ET, with build-up starting on NBCSN from 1:30pm ET.

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

Audi Sport
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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”