F1 Grand Prix of Germany

Rosberg rocks Hockenheim to win German GP for Mercedes


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.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Ryan Hunter-Reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field. Finishing sixth in 2015 after a late rally was Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2014: 6th Place, 3 Wins, 1 Pole, 6 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 195 Laps Led, 10.2 Avg. Start, 10.9 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 6th Place, 2 Wins, Best Start 3rd, 3 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 71 Laps Led, 12.2 Avg. Start, 10.4 Avg. Finish

The old adage “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” would probably be the best way to sum up Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 2015 season, which until the final quarter of season could best be described as a forgettable nightmare.

The first three races seemed somewhat OK, with eighth, seventh and fourth place grid spots. But none of the three produced a result of note; Hunter-Reay was also caught up in the three-car, late race accident at NOLA Motorsports Park and didn’t bank any good finish until a fifth place at Barber the end of April.

A tailspin followed. Hunter-Reay started between 14th and 21st every race between the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Milwaukee – a stretch of eight races – and only had one top-10 finish in that stint, eighth at the rain-affected lottery that was Detroit race two. Some seasons are just ones you want to end and by Milwaukee it was obvious that Hunter-Reay was racing just to get to the end of the year, without things getting any worse.

Things finally came good with a typically good drive at Iowa and arguably one of the drives of his career, two races later at Pocono, to end with two wins and extend his streak of winning a race in each of his six seasons at Andretti Autosport. It was no coincidence, either, that Hunter-Reay’s uptick in form came with the return of the late Justin Wilson’s presence in a fourth car.

After Pocono, Hunter-Reay also drove well to finish second at Sonoma, and by that point he’d completed an incredible late-season turnaround to jump from 14th to sixth in points. But if asked, he’d probably admit this was his toughest season yet at Andretti and arguably his toughest overall since his 2009 season, when he was in-between full-time rides and saw out the year with Vision Racing and A.J. Foyt Enterprises.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series field with fifth-placed Helio Castroneves.

Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet

  • 2014: 2nd Place, 1 Win, 3 Poles, 6 Podiums, 7 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 282 Laps Led, 5.7 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 5th Place, Best Finish 2nd, 4 Poles, 5 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 198 Laps Led, 4.9 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish

Much as you’d write about his fellow countryman and longtime friend and rival Tony Kanaan, age hasn’t slowed Helio Castroneves, but it’s instead fueled continued success. And while Castroneves went winless for only the second time (2011) in his illustrious 16-year career with Team Penske, he wasn’t down on performance.

Now 40, Castroneves continued to have several shining moments in 2015, which was particularly important to do to stand out against defending champion Will Power, this year’s primary title contender Juan Pablo Montoya and new driver Simon Pagenaud.

Castroneves scored four pole positions and boasted a 4.9 averaging starting position, second in the field to Power, which was very impressive to note. His run of form from Texas through Milwaukee, capturing three podiums in four races, was his best race stretch this season. Additional highlights included back-to-back runner-up results in the NOLA lottery and then on pure pace at Long Beach.

The month of May must though be viewed as a disappointment. Castroneves played a role in the first corner mess at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and got a points penalty (although the number was dropped) as a result. Then he endured another Indianapolis 500 where he was not the out-and-out fastest car in the Penske brigade. While Montoya and Power were dueling for the win and Pagenaud had speed to burn all month, Castroneves’ lone moment of note came with his accident in practice, which mercifully he emerged unscathed from.

As ever though, fifth in this field owed to his consistency and dogged determination to succeed. Castroneves has ended top-five in seven of the last eight seasons since the IRL/Champ Car merger in 2008 and if it wasn’t for Dixon’s top-three run hogging the headlines, we’d probably appreciate Castroneves even more so. As long as he’s continually competitive, he’s still worthy at Team Penske.