Hamilton charges to Chinese GP victory ahead of Rosberg

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Lewis Hamilton has claimed his second win of the 2015 Formula 1 season in China on Sunday by dominating the race at the Shanghai International Circuit, beating Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

The British driver capped off a perfect weekend that has seen him finish as the fastest driver in every single session by winning the Chinese Grand Prix for a fourth time, controlling the race from start to finish to subject Rosberg to a ninth defeat in the last ten races.

WATCH: Full Chinese Grand Prix Replay

Despite keeping up with the Mercedes drivers in the first half of the race, Ferrari’s pace faded in the final stint after Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen moved onto the medium compound tire, forcing them to settle for third and fourth at the finish.

Keen to protect first position from his teammate, Hamilton made an aggressive start, pointing his car across the grid to cut Rosberg off. The Briton retained his lead through the first complex of corners as Rosberg and Vettel settled into second and third place, but it was Kimi Raikkonen who was the big mover on the first lap, bravely passing both Williams drivers to move up to fourth place. Further back, Daniel Ricciardo made a poor start and dropped down the order, whilst Carlos Sainz Jr. also fell through the field thanks to a spin at turn one.

Hamilton was unable to pull away from Rosberg in the opening stint as most of the drivers struggled on the soft compound tire. Ferrari’s drivers kept the Silver Arrows in sight, but Vettel looked to get the undercut on the leading pair by pitting early and taking on another set of option tires.

However, Mercedes reacted in kind, fitting Hamilton and Rosberg with the same tires in the following two laps to ensure that they retained the top two positions ahead of Vettel and Raikkonen.

The rest of the runners had to move onto the medium tire upon stopping, but this worked well for Lotus as Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean moved up into seventh and eighth place respectively. Maldonado had fought past the Sauber drivers earlier in the race, and was followed up the order by Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen. The Dutchman continued to show a maturity and ability that far exceeds his 17 years, pulling off some great passes on Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson at the hairpin.

After stopping, Vettel began to put the hammer down in a bid to catch both Hamilton and Rosberg. Wary of the Ferrari threat from behind, Rosberg told Mercedes to give his teammate the hurry-up as he felt he was going too slowly. However, Vettel continued to push on, bringing himself within 1.5 seconds of Rosberg in the fight for second place.

Increasingly fearful of Ferrari, Hamilton was warned by Mercedes that Rosberg would be given the preferential strategy unless he was able to up his pace. The Briton responded by opening up the gap to Vettel, posting some fastest sector and fastest lap times. Ferrari soon brought its lead driver in to try and make use of the undercut once again, but Mercedes covered this yet again by bringing Rosberg in just one lap later. A slow stop allowed Vettel to close on his compatriot, but it was Rosberg who remained ahead for the time being.

Hamilton proved that he had been backing off slightly to look after his tires by posting two very fast lap times after Rosberg pitted, and eventually came in for his final stop on lap 33. Once Raikkonen pitted two laps later, the Briton was back in the lead, enjoying a 6.5 second lead over his teammate.

Further down the field, Pastor Maldnado very nearly undid all of his hard work by locking up at pit entry, narrowly avoiding the wall. The marshals were able to push him back and get going again, but he did drop outside of the top ten as a result of the error, with a second spin ending his hopes of points. A late run-in with McLaren’s Jenson Button forced Lotus to retire Maldonado with five laps to go.

After moving onto the medium compound tire, Ferrari began to struggle. Vettel found himself falling further back from Rosberg, ending his hopes of a second-place finish and forcing him into keeping an eye on his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, in fourth place.

Ricciardo continued to fight on in China as the sole Red Bull runner, enjoying some spirited fights with Marcus Ericsson at Sauber. A fine pass at the hairpin on lap 44 saw him move into the points, following the example set by Max Verstappen, who had made a great move on Sergio Perez to eighth before the Force India driver pitted after a long second stint.

However, the Dutchman was denied a good haul of points when his engine failed on the main straight, prompting a safety car period with just three laps to go.

As a result,  there was no change in position in the final stages, allowing Hamilton to claim his second win of the season. The British driver went unchallenged in the last stint, allowing him to cross the line  ahead of Rosberg and extend his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship.

In the dying stages of the race, Raikkonen was able to reel Vettel in thanks to his fresher tires, but the safety car put paid to his hopes of a first podium finish since rejoining Ferrari. Nevertheless, a second straight fourth place finish appears to mark a return to form for Raikkonen.

Williams endured a very lonely race, running in fifth and sixth with a gap of half a minute to the cars both in front and behind until the late safety car period. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were happy with the result all the same, knowing it was the maximum they could achieve.

Romain Grosjean picked up Lotus’ first points of the year in P7, marking his first top ten finish since last year’s Monaco Grand Prix. Sauber enjoyed another good weekend as Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson finished eighth and tenth respectively, split by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

Once again, it was Hamilton who stole the show in Shanghai, dominating proceedings to claim yet another emphatic psychological victory over Rosberg. With two wins now under his belt in 2015, the Briton will be hoping to continue his good start to the season in Bahrain next weekend.

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”