Rosberg rocks Hockenheim to win German GP for Mercedes

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HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY – Nico Rosberg has capped off an incredible two-week period in his life by winning the German Grand Prix, becoming the first driver to win for Mercedes in Germany since Juan Manuel Fangio in 1954.

However, the star of the race was undoubtedly Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton, who charged from 20th on the grid to finish the race in third place behind Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, thus minimizing the points advantage for Rosberg in the championship battle.

Bottas continued his streak of podiums in second place, and somehow managed to fend off Hamilton in the final few stages of the race. Sebastian Vettel finished an excellent fourth for Red Bull, with Fernando Alonso finishing as the lead Ferrari in fifth place.

The start saw Rosberg make a good getaway from pole position to stay ahead of Bottas, but the safety car was immediately deployed when Felipe Massa was rolled by McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen. Thankfully, the Brazilian landed the right way up and was able to walk away from the crash, whilst Magnussen was able to continue in the race. Daniel Ricciardo had lost ten positions as he tried to avoid the incident, and Hamilton made a fair start to pick up three places off the line.

The racing resumed on lap three once the wreckage had been cleared, and Rosberg set about opening up a gap to the rest of the field. Hamilton continued to charge through the field, making light work of Max Chilton and Pastor Maldonado. He soon found a way past Adrian Sutil, albeit with a gentle nudge on his sidepod at the hairpin, and was soon on the cusp of the top ten.

Ricciardo and Hamilton began to scythe through the order together, pulling off some great overtakes. Both passed Kimi Raikkonen in fashion to move into the top ten, but all the while, Rosberg was extending his lead at the front lap by lap. In the battle to make the podium, Sebastian Vettel tussled with Fernando Alonso through the traffic, producing some incredible wheel-to-wheel racing.

When Rosberg made his first stop, he came out still in the lead ahead of Hamilton, who was yet to pit after starting on the prime tire. Bottas ran third – net second – after changing to the prime tire. Four laps into his second stint, the Finn made light work of the Mercedes driver. Hamilton duly pitted when Vettel and Alonso began to close, and emerged from the pits in eighth place on another set of primes.

The Briton soon set about continuing his charge, passing Ricciardo for seventh, but was lucky to only lose a front endplate when he made contact with Jenson Button at the hairpin. Hamilton was a bit closer for his second attempt, and made light work of his former teammate to take sixth, before passing Hulkenberg for P5 one lap later.

In the battle ahead, Vettel and Alonso continued to scrap for position through the pit stops, with the Spaniard finally finding a way past the Red Bull after his second pit stop. Sebastian would not let the Ferrari go though, as he looked to secure just his third podium finish of the season.

Rosberg came in for his second stop on lap 42, and emerged in the lead ahead of Hamilton. The Briton pitted just one lap later, fitting the super-soft tires and coming back out in fifth place. Rosberg, on the prime tire, was seeing the advantage to his teammate gradually shrink as Hamilton continued to light up the timing screens with personal bests and fastest laps.

Daniil Kvyat’s race came to an early end after a fire broke out on his Toro Rosso. The Russian youngster had dropped down the order after being spun by Sergio Perez earlier on, and he was clearly frustrated to see his race go up in smoke with 20 laps remaining.

Hamilton put his super-softs to good use, catching Alonso and passing him for third place after Vettel pitted for primes to release him into fourth. Bottas was next up on his hit list, but he pitted for another set of options in anticipation of a safety car after Adrian Sutil spun his Sauber on the main straight. However, the marshals were able to recover it under double yellow flags.

Having pitted, Hamilton had to pass Alonso for a second time, and was catching at a considerable rate of knots. The Spaniard soon lost out to his former teammate once again, and took to the pits with ten laps to go for a set of super-soft tires. He came out in seventh place, and set about recovering some positions from the longer runners ahead. His battle with Daniel Ricciardo was particularly enthralling, but he could not quite find the pace to catch Vettel for fourth.

Hamilton found himself narrowly trailing Valtteri Bottas in the dying stages of the race, and despite the Finn’s tires being 40 laps old, he was still finding the pace to stay ahead. Ultimately, the Finn came home in second, securing his third consecutive podium finish. Hamilton’s tires had simply been pushed too much come the end, but in third place, he has limited the damage of Rosberg’s win.

With this victory, Rosberg has extended his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship to 14 points. In the last two weeks, he has got married, seen Germany win the FIFA World Cup, signed a new long-term contract with Mercedes, and now – for the first time – he has won the German Grand Prix.

Now, the focus for Rosberg will be to maintain his lead heading into the summer break, with next weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix being the last until the end of August. At the halfway stage of the season though, he has an important lead over his teammate in the drivers’ championship.

Schmidt Peterson aiming high with Hinchcliffe, Wickens

Photo: IndyCar
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The new Schmidt Peterson Motorsports duo of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens expressed a high amount of confidence during Wednesday’s confirmation of Hinchcliffe’s return and Wickens’ signing, as the pair looks to return the Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson co-owned team to prominent status within the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“We’re hoping to give Toronto and Ontario and Canadian sports fans in general something to cheer about over the next season,” Hinchcliffe quipped during a teleconference on Wednesday.

Granted, there are likely to be several challenges to overcome, notably for Wickens, who returns to single-seater competition for the first time since 2011, when he was a champion of the Formula Renault 3.5 series and served as test driver for the now defunct Manor Racing (then known as Marussia Virgin Racing).

Having spent every year since then in DTM, where he won a total of six races and finished as high as fourth in the championship (2016), Wickens knows returning to open wheel competition will be an adjustment. However, he explained that the history of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, specifically its Indy Lights history, speaks to their ability to help a driver adapt, and he rates the program they’re putting together very highly.

“I think Schmidt Peterson Motorsports have a fantastic driver development program. They showed that in their multiple Indy Lights championships along the way. I think we will have a strong program in place. I have a feeling that the simulator will be my new best friend,” Wickens said when asked about getting reacquainted with an open-wheel car.

Of course, having an experienced teammate like Hinchcliffe to lean on will undoubtedly help the transition, something Wickens readily admitted.

“I’m very fortunate that I have James as my teammate because he’s so experienced, I can learn off him. Because we already have such a good off-track relationship, I feel like you can just take his word, trust him, kind of move forward with it,” he revealed.

They’ve been teammates before, both in karting where they first met in 2001, and then in the now-defunct A1 Grand Prix series in 2007-2008, a series that pitted nations against each other in spec open-wheel cars. Funnily, that A1GP type of vibe returns as Schmidt Peterson Motorsports now has that with its “Team Canada” mantra while all four of Andretti Autosport’s full-season drivers are American.

For Hinchcliffe, Wickens’ background, even if it hasn’t been in the single-seater realm since 2011, was a big selling point in adding him to the team.

“In Robby, we have a proven winner at a very high level. The level of technical expertise that he comes with from his time in DTM is very impressive,” he said of Wickens’ technical background.

Hinchcliffe added that Wickens’ ability to analyze the car and its setup was evidenced in two outings: one at Sebing International Raceway in March, in part of a “ride swap” between the two longtime friends, and a second at Road America, when he subbed on Friday practice for Mikhail Aleshin.

Wickens sampled Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda earlier this year. Photo: IndyCar

Hinchcliffe revealed that Wickens’ feedback to the team and his ability to quickly adapt to the chassis took everyone somewhat by surprise.

“We did our ride swap. He had two hours in the car, hardly anything even resembling a test day, and his performance was pretty impressive. No doubt the time in Road America helped because that really gave us a better sense of his technical feedback, integrated with the team a little bit more. Everybody was happy to work with him on that day,” said Hinchcliffe.

Further still, Hinchcliffe is firm in his belief that the 2018 aero kit and its reduction in aerodynamic downforce will fall right into Wickens’ wheelhouse, based on Hinchcliffe’s own take after sampling Wickens’ DTM Mercedes earlier this year.

“In all honesty, I was saying earlier today, the 2018 car is probably better suited for him than the 2017 car because of the experience he’s had the last handful of series,” Hinchcliffe asserted.

“The (aero kit) was such high downforce, it would be a big change coming out of DTM. But with the loss of downforce that we’ve seen, the car is moving around a little bit more, brake zones, things like that, it won’t be as big a transition I think. Just based on the experience that I got in our ride swap, I think he’s going to adapt very quickly, be comfortable very quickly, and as a result be competitive very quickly. So it’s going to be exciting.”

As for expectations heading into next year, team co-owner Schmidt did not mince words and expects the team’s performance to resemble what they did in 2012, 2013, and 2014, when they won a total of four races (with driver Simon Pagenaud) and finished in the top five in the championship each year.

“We had a stint in ’12, ’13, ’14 where we finished fifth in the points (or better. I think we want to get back to that level of competition,” Schmidt added. “We felt like we were missing things in having two cars with equal funding and equal drivers and equal capabilities. We think this gets back there.”

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