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Vettel still confident despite Hamilton’s win at Spanish GP

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Sebastian Vettel lost the battle, not the Formula One title.

Despite a great start in individual duels with Mercedes, Ferrari’s top driver finished Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix exactly where he started: in second place behind Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel can take heart, however, from the fact that the difference between the winner and runner-up came down to a choice of team strategy that went Mercedes’ way. Hamilton finished the race on a faster set of tires than Vettel, passing the German on Lap 43 of 66 and conserving his tires as he sped away to victory.

“I think we can be very happy, but today we’re not entirely happy because the win was there,” Vettel said. “The car was quick enough but the way the race happened, it wasn’t meant to be. The most important thing is that we were there. Once again fighting, hanging in there, not much missing at the end.”

Vettel remained in the series lead, now reduced to six points from 13 over Hamilton, with his third second-place finish to go with two wins in five races.

Equally as important, Ferrari showed that the upgrades brought by both title contenders to Spain canceled one another out.

Vettel’s Ferrari was a mere 0.051 seconds slower than Hamilton in Saturday’s qualifying. He finished the race less than four second behind Hamilton, and Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo was nowhere close finishing a distant third.

Vettel also won three of the four jousts he had with Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

His excellent jump from the start allowed him to pass Hamilton at the first turn.

Next, Vettel engaged Bottas in an exhilarating lap-long chase before finally getting past the Finn on the third try, even though the effort slowed down Vettel and let Hamilton shave off valuable seconds from behind.

“I was really happy, but then I looked down and (saw) I’d lost an awful lot of time, so I wasn’t that happy because the real fight was with Lewis,” Vettel said. “We lost four seconds.”

Those seconds meant that when Vettel emerged from a second pit stop he was neck-and-neck with a hard-charging Hamilton. But Vettel defended his inside position on a curve, sending Hamilton off as they came close to touching.

Vettel had kept his lead, but Hamilton waited for a straightaway to blow past him on his faster tires and never looked back.

Vettel said the race was there for the taking.

“The car is good, the team is in great form,” he said. “We’re very happy when we have the chance to race Mercedes. They have been proving over and over in the last few years that they are the team to beat. We are giving them, so far, a good run for their money.”

Vettel’s and Hamilton’s teammates both abandoned the race. Bottas bumped Kimi Raikkonen on the first turn, sending his Ferrari into Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, damaging both cars’ front suspension. Bottas was later forced to stop his Mercedes when it started spouting smoke midway through the race.

Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene said the knock by Bottas that cost Raikkonen an early exit was just part of F1.

“Shame for the end result, but we leave Spain knowing that we can count on a car that is solid and very quick,” Arrivabene said. “The championship is still a long way and we are already focusing on the next race at Monaco.”

After spending three years battling retired teammate Nico Rosberg for the title, Hamilton said he was enjoying taking the fight outside Mercedes’ garage.

“To have that close battle with him, with a four-time champ, is awesome,” Hamilton, himself a three-time champion, said about Vettel. “I think it was the rawest fight I can remember having for some real time, which I loved. This is why I race and this is what got me into racing in the beginning.”

Hamilton will get another chance to tangle with Vettel in two weeks at the Monaco GP.

Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean to launch cookbook

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Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean may be one of the sport’s most promising talents on-track, but he also has a burning passion off it: cooking.

Grosjean may have been spent a good part of this year cooking his brakes, but you’ll now be able to cook bakes instead…

F1’s resident foodie is set to release a cookbook alongside wife Marion Jolles in the coming weeks, as announced on his Facebook page.

Grosjean currently sits 13th in the F1 drivers’ championship with 18 points to his name, helping Haas to match the points total from its debut season after just 10 races in 2017.

Mercedes F1 engine chief warns against underestimating Honda

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Mercedes Formula 1 engine chief Andy Cowell has warned against underestimating the threat of Honda despite its ongoing power unit struggles, tipping the Japanese manufacturer to bounce back in the near future.

Honda returned to F1 as a manufacturer in 2015, supplying V6 turbo power units to the McLaren team, but has struggled for either performance or reliability through that period.

The struggles have led McLaren – currently sat bottom of the constructors’ championship – to consider cutting ties for 2018 given how far adrift compared to the other three engine suppliers Honda has been.

Mercedes has been the benchmark for engine performance since the change in regulation for 2014, but Cowell feels that Honda could make up ground quickly, with the removal of the token system for 2017 helping performance to converge through the field.

“I think collectively we’ve helped with convergence in Formula 1 in the opening season, performance development through the year,” Cowell said.

“But then the opportunity to do a big change with Honda coming in, we all agreed that Honda could have that same opportunity to change everything in the first year and then the request came from manufacturers in addition to Honda saying ‘please can we take this crazy token table away because it’s bad for the sport?’

“It’s bad if somebody can’t train to get better and so we agreed, yeah, take the table away because it’s better for the sport because it means that you can innovate, you can introduce whatever you like.

“I think none of us should underestimate the technical prowess of Honda and of McLaren and I think my money is on that combination coming good and coming good pretty quickly. No pressure…”

Williams happy to ‘hold off’ on 2018 F1 driver decision

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Williams is happy to “hold off” on making a decision on its Formula 1 driver line-up for 2018 as it focuses on improving its on-track displays after a tough start to the season.

Williams currently fields Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, a mix of experience and youth, but has failed to keep up with midfield front-runner Force India through the first half of the year.

Force India sits fourth in the constructors’ championship with more than double the points of Williams, who leads a tight-knit group down to Renault in eighth place, 15 points adrift.

While Stroll looks set to continue with Williams and Massa has hinted he may look to continue through to 2018 despite initially planning to retire at the end of last season, deputy team boss Claire Williams has confirmed that no decision about next year’s line-up will come any time soon.

“There’s a lot of talk already isn’t there, about drivers across the paddock. For us, we’ve decided we’re going to hold off a bit on our driver decision,” Williams said.

“We’ve got a fight on our hands on the race track at the moment and to be distracted by those kinds of conversations isn’t something that we want to be happening at the moment.

“[Force India’s] got a nice points haul on us at the moment we need to focus on, rather than anything else.”

Nico Rosberg visits Stanford University, considering study options

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2016 Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg is considering study options at Stanford University after visiting the college earlier this week as part of his tour around California.

Rosberg sensationally announced his retirement from F1 just five days after winning his maiden world title last November, wanting to spend more time with his young family.

The German has been enjoying his retirement, recently embarking on a tour of Silicon Valley and California that saw him hold meetings with electric car giant Tesla, among other companies.

In a video posted to his Twitter account on Sunday, Rosberg spoke warmly about a visit to Stanford, revealing that he is considering some study options in the near future at the historic institution.

Rosberg was previously offered a scholarship to study engineering at Imperial College London when he was younger, only to turn it down in order to embark on a racing career. He also reportedly holds the highest ever score on Williams’ engineering aptitude test.

Should Nico sign up to a course at Stanford, we imagine he’d take things one class at a time…