Hamilton dominant en route to fourth Canadian GP victory

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Lewis Hamilton has won the Canadian Grand Prix for a fourth time after producing a peerless display in Montreal on Sunday afternoon.

The defending Formula 1 world champion lost the lead for less than one lap when pitting, controlling the race from pole position to lead Mercedes teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg home by 2.2 seconds at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

After seeing his lead at the top of the drivers’ standings fall from 27 to just ten points in the last month, Hamilton managed to hit back in style at his favorite circuit with a dominant display in what was an otherwise torpid race.

Rosberg managed to make a cleaner getaway than Hamilton off the line, but was cut off by the Briton into the first corner and forced to settle into second place. Nico Hulkenberg managed to squeeze past Pastor Maldonado for P6 at the start, whilst Sebastian Vettel began his fight from the back of the grid by passing the Manor drivers, Felipe Nasr, Carlos Sainz Jr and even Fernando Alonso in the opening few laps.

However, Vettel’s charge was halted when he began to toil behind Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Massa, with the latter running on soft tires and struggling to get past. Instead of wasting time stuck behind this battle, Ferrari opted to pit Vettel on lap eight for a fresh set of tires, but a slow stop saw the German drop to the back of the field.

After squeezing past Ericsson, Massa began to lay down a relentless pace on the prime tire, passing both Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez to sit ninth after 17 laps. He soon began to catch Daniil Kvyat as many of the front-runners began to struggle for grip on the super-soft tire, with Pastor Maldonado the first to pit for primes on from seventh place.

The leading drivers were able to go deep into the race before pitting, putting them all onto a one stop strategy. Kimi Raikkonen was the first driver to pit from third place, switching to the prime tire and emerging from the pits in fourth place. Mercedes told Rosberg to push for fear of Ferrari exploiting the undercut, only for Raikkonen to spin and relieve the pressure on the German driver. His mistake also allowed Valtteri Bottas to assume third position after making his pit stop.

Hamilton was the first of the Mercedes drivers to pit, coming in on lap 29 for a fresh set of prime tires. The defending world champion was soon on his way and reclaimed the lead when Rosberg pitted just one lap later. However, the gap had been halved through the stops, now standing at just 2.2 seconds.

Despite halving the deficit once again, Rosberg was quickly informed that his brake wear problem was “critical”, and that he needed to back off for ten laps and manage it before he could contemplate attacking Hamilton again. The German driver kept his teammate honest, though, remaining within two seconds as the race passed half distance.

Vettel’s decision to pit early began to pay dividends in the middle part of the race as he made up a number of positions when the front-runners pitted, leaving him seventh before he made his final stop on lap 36. The Ferrari driver emerged back out in ninth, and began to push his way further up the order, passing Massa when the Brazilian stopped and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg when he spun at the final corner.

Despite being given the call to ease off, Rosberg began to reel in Hamilton at the front of the field once again, getting close to the DRS range of the Briton. However, he could not quite latch onto the back of his teammate, becoming reliant on a mistake as the race entered its final stages.

Romain Grosjean’s hopes of a top-five finish were dashed when he made contact with Will Stevens, moving across the front of the Manor driver’s car and sustaining a puncture. The stewards looked dimly on the incident in spite of Grosjean’s complaints, handing the Frenchman a five second time penalty.

His teammate, Pastor Maldonado, kept the Lotus flag flying high though by running as high as fifth in the race, only for Sebastian Vettel to demote the Venezuelan down a place. Entering the final ten laps of the race, Maldonado had to keep an eye on Massa behind as both drivers struggled with worn tires.

Rosberg may have given Hamilton some food for thought in the closing stages, but he was unable to get close enough to make a move in the dying stages. For the fourth time in Montreal, Hamilton crossed the line to win the Canadian Grand Prix and extend his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship to 17 points ahead of Rosberg, who was forced to settle for second place.

Valtteri Bottas put in a quietly impressive display for Williams to finish third and become the first driver outside of Mercedes and Ferrari to finish on the podium in 2015. Ferrari’s day was far below the expectations heading into the weekend as Kimi Raikkonen finished as the lead car in fourth, although Sebastian Vettel’s charge to fifth did give some excitement to proceedings in Montreal.

Felipe Massa’s reverse strategy saw him rise from 15th on the grid to sixth by the end of the race after passing Pastor Maldonado in the final stages of the race. Despite falling back as his tires lost grip, Maldonado managed to keep hold of seventh place and score his first points of the 2015 season for Lotus.

Nico Hulkenberg bounced back from his spin to finish eighth for Force India ahead of Daniil Kvyat and Romain Grosjean, with the latter keeping tenth place in spite of his five second time penalty. Sergio Perez’s good form in Canada did not continue in 2015, leaving him 11th at the flag ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr and 2014 winner Daniel Ricciardo, who was anonymous for much of the race.

Marcus Ericsson’s early pace faded through the race before he eventually finished 14th ahead of Max Verstappen and teammate Felipe Nasr, whilst Will Stevens was the last classified finisher as Roberto Merhi and the McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso retired from the race.

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.”