F1 Grand Prix of Germany - Qualifying

German GP Paddock Notebook – Saturday

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It’s been quite a week or two for Nico Rosberg. Since the last grand prix at Silverstone, he has got married, seen his nation win the FIFA World Cup, signed a new long-term deal with Mercedes, and now – just to put the cherry on the icing of the cake – he has secured pole position for the German Grand Prix.

However, it was not the straight dogfight that we all expected between himself and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. The Briton crashed hard during Q1 thanks to a right-front brake failure, wrecking his car in the process. He has qualified 15th, but is more likely to start from the pit lane tomorrow as a result of the shunt.

The real fight for Rosberg came from the Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, but neither could prevent the German from claiming his fifth pole of the season and his first on home soil (well, assuming Germany is “home” that is…).

SESSION REPORTS

  • FP3 saw Rosberg start Saturday as he meant to go on. Hamilton was left trailing by six-tenths of a second come the checkered flag, with Fernando Alonso finishing third for Ferrari.
  • Qualifying was all about Rosberg once Hamilton’s session had come to an early end. However, a nice sub-plot also unfolded as Bottas, Massa, Magnussen and Kvyat all impressed.

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

For the fourth race weekend in a row, we have seen a chink in Mercedes’ armor. Lewis Hamilton’s brake failure and subsequent crash was a very scary incident indeed, and frankly, it’s testament to the incredible safety standards in the sport at the moment that he was able to walk away with nothing more than a bit of bruising.

Hamilton said to the media after the session that it was another “gift” for Rosberg, but the Briton is going to be giving it his all tomorrow. From the pit lane (where he will most probably start), he faces an almighty uphill struggle, yet you would have to think that if anyone can make up for it in a race situation, Lewis can. He should dig out a video of his charge from 19th to 2nd in GP2 eight years ago for inspiration.

So that left Rosberg all alone to take pole, right? Wrong. In fact, Williams was a lot closer than the team appears to be getting credit for. Valtteri Bottas actually looked set to steal top spot away from Rosberg when he lit up green in the second sector on the timesheets; Rosberg had backed off, and wasn’t going to improve. A sloppy final sector meant that Valtteri couldn’t quite do it, but second place is still a sensational result for the breakout racer in Formula 1 this year.

Rosberg didn’t seem too comfortable to begin with in qualifying, though. In Q1, he hadn’t actually set a lap time within the required 107% when the red flag came out for Hamilton’s crash after locking up on both of his first two flyers. When he did go out and set just one lap time – he only needed one – he finished by putting all four wheels outside of the white line at the final corner.

If we were in Austria, the stewards would have deleted it; here, it went unpunished. Nico wasn’t the only one (we’re looking at you, Seb) to do so, but once again, there seems to be a variation in the enforcing of rules such as this between races.

Mercedes is still unquestionably the team to beat in Germany, but if we get some of the forecast rain, it could spice things up. For now though, the advantage – and also the pressure – lies with Rosberg. It would be an incredible way to cap off the last two weeks.

Join us for the German Grand Prix live on CNBC and Live Extra from 7:30am ET tomorrow.

VIDEO: Valtteri Bottas’ first day as a Mercedes F1 driver

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Following Valtteri Bottas’ official unveiling as a Mercedes driver on Monday, the team wasted little time in showing the Finn the ropes at its base in Brackley, England.

Bottas was released from his contract by Williams so he could join Mercedes for 2017, replacing world champion Nico Rosberg following the German’s shock decision to retire from F1.

Bottas was announced as Mercedes’ new driver on Monday, completing the puzzle for the 2017 driver market and putting an end to six weeks of speculation.

In the above video released by Mercedes, Bottas gets to grips with life at Brackley after signing his new contract with team chief Toto Wolff and meeting his new team members for the first time.

In related news, Mercedes announced on Friday that it had struck an agreement with the Wihuri Group, a Finnish conglomerate that has previously sponsored Bottas.

Wihuri’s branding will appear on the Mercedes drivers’ racesuits and helmets, as well as on the team’s trackside uniform.

“We are delighted to welcome Wihuri to the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport family today,” Wolff said.

“As a respected brand both in Finland and globally, Wihuri will be a valuable addition to our team and we look forward to working with them and helping to expand their Formula One experience.

“This year will be a new challenge for our team, with a new driver line-up, including our new Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas of course, and new regulations.

“I am sure it going to be a very exciting year to be involved with our team and the sport of Formula 1.”

Yamaha, Ducati enjoy launches ahead of new MotoGP season

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MotoGP heavyweights Yamaha and Ducati geared up for the new season of motorcycle racing’s premier championship with launches this week.

Yamaha and Ducati both enter 2017 with a new line-up following Jorge Lorenzo’s decision to move from the former to the latter, acting as one of a number of shake-ups in the rider market.

Three-time MotoGP champion Lorenzo replaces Andrea Iannone at Ducati, who sought refuge at Suzuki after a seat was freed up by Maverick Viñales following his move to Yamaha in replace of – the man who started the merry-go-round all – Lorenzo.

Yamaha was the first to take the covers off its new bike at a launch in Madrid on Thursday, with Viñales being joined by nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi for the unveiling of the YZR-M1.

The new bike features a darker blue as its main livery color, as well as greater presence for title sponsor Movistar.

“I had the first test in Valencia after the race, but particularly after we moved to Sepang and we could have more kilometers and [do] more work on the new bike,” Rossi said.

“We discovered a very good potential. It looks like we can be stronger. For sure now it’s important to work in the three tests before the first race, and try to arrive ready in Qatar. But the first impression is very good.”

Ducati followed suit earlier today by unveiling its new livery for 2017, with Lorenzo making one of his first official appearances in the team’s colors following the expiration of his Yamaha contract on December 31.

The team presented its 2016 bike, the Desmosedici GP16, in ’17 colors, as well as removing the controversial – and now banned – winglets from its model.

The new MotoGP season begins in Qatar on March 26, with pre-season testing set to start at the end of January in Malaysia.

Neuville leads Ogier midway through Monte Carlo Rally

Thierry Neuville (BEL) competes during the FIA World Rally Championship 2017 in Monte Carlo, Monaco on January 20, 2017
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MONACO (AP) Belgian driver Thierry Neuville took a 45-second lead Friday over defending world rally champion Sebastien Ogier midway through the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally.

Overnight leader Neuville won three of Friday’s six special stages, while Ogier struggled early on before pegging Neuville back by winning the last two. Ott Tanak of Estonia is third.

Four-time champion Ogier is now driving for Ford M-Sport after switching from Volkswagen last month. The Frenchman was eight seconds behind Neuville’s Hyundai overnight and quickly under pressure.

Tanak, who also drives for M-Sport, won Friday’s first special stage – the third of 17 overall – ahead of Neuville, with Ogier in ninth.

Difficult morning conditions saw snow and sheet ice on the roads. With all the top drivers fitting studded winter tires, Ogier still went off into a ditch.

“It happened at a junction, it was very, very icy. I pulled the handbrake but the car never turned,” Ogier said. “I slipped into the ditch and became stuck.”

Neuville won the next three specials – with Ogier second on 4 and 5 – but Ogier finally found his best form to trim back the deficit from 1:12 to 45 seconds. He also overtook Tanak, who is a fraction of a second behind Ogier.

Conditions were slushy in the afternoon as the icy roads began melting.

“For me this was more tricky than this morning and difficult to know what rhythm to go,” Neuville said.

A spectator was killed on Thursday night after being hit by a car during the first stage.

Organizers said the spectator was struck by a car driven by New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon during the first of two night stages.

That stage was canceled but the second went ahead, with Neuville beating Ogier.

There are six specials Saturday with the race concluding Sunday lunchtime.

Last year, Ogier won by nearly two minutes ahead of then-teammate Andreas Mikkelsen of Norway.

Ogier announced last month that he was going to drive the Ford Fiesta for M-Sport this season. A fifth title would move him into outright second place on the all-time list behind countryman Sebastien Loeb, who won nine straight titles.

The 33-year-old Ogier, who has won 38 career races, is tied with Finnish drivers Tommi Makinen – who won four straight – and Juha Kankkunen.

The next event in the 13-race season is in Sweden in three weeks.

BRDC: Reports Silverstone will definitely drop British GP ‘speculative and wrong’

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 10:  The grid at the start of the race during the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 10, 2016 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
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The British Racing Drivers Club has issued a statement dismissing suggestions that Silverstone will definitely drop its Formula 1 race following the 2019 season.

Doubt was cast over the future of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone following a leaked letter from BRDC chairman John Grant, in which he admitted to concerns about the cost of hosting the race.

Grant admitted that BRDC officials were considering triggering a clause in Silverstone’s F1 contract that would allow it to end its commitment after 2019 due to “ruinous” costs.

In a statement issued on Friday, the BRDC stressed that no final decision had been made and that suggestions a final decision to drop the race had already been made were incorrect.

“The British Racing Drivers Club wishes to make clear that recent press reports suggesting that talks have been unsuccessful and that the British Grand Prix will definitely be dropped after 2019 are speculative and wrong,” the statement reads.

“Our objective is to preserve the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for many years to come but, of course, we can only do this if it makes economic sense,” Grant added.

“As I have said before, we will be considering over the next six months if we should give notice of our intention to exercise the break clause in our grand prix contract at the end of 2019. No decision has been made, or will be made, until mid-July.

“In the meantime, we will be using this period to explore all interested parties, hopefully in private, various ways in which we might work out a more sustainable proposition.”