© Getty Images

Lorenzo expects more open fight for MotoGP title in 2016

1 Comment

Three-time MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo is anticipating a more open fight for next year’s title due to the technical changes that he believes will close up the field.

Lorenzo won one of the most controversial and turbulent championships in MotoGP’s history in 2015, edging Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi by just five points in the final standings.

For 2016, Michelin takes over as MotoGP’s sole tire supplier following the withdrawal of Bridgestone at the end of the season, while all bikes will now use the same electronic package previously split into ‘factory’ and ‘open’ specifications.

Lorenzo believes that these changes will bunch the field up more, resulting in a more open fight for the championship.

“In the upcoming season many things change,” Lorenzo told motogp.com. “The new electronics are less sophisticated than last year. You still have to know and be able to adjust them, that will be critical. The tire will be a very different look to this year and will influence the performance of the riders.

“In the end, I think the fastest with the most talent and experience will remain towards the top in 2016. It may be that more riders get into the fight, Suzuki came strong at the end and could be closer.”

Tensions between Lorenzo and Rossi flared up towards the end of the year following the latter’s penalty in Malaysia after he was adjudged to have deliberately made contact with Marc Marquez to cause the Spaniard to fall.

Rossi was forced to start the final race of the year from the back of the grid after having a stay of execution rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. With the championship decided in Valencia, he ultimately opted to withdraw his appeal against the penalty.

Lorenzo dodged questions about Rossi’s decision, but said that he is open to holding talks with his teammate in the near future.

“Sorry, I will not continue to feed the controversy on the season,” Lorenzo said.

“I’m just looking forward and happy to talk about 2016. I have not had time to talk to him, I imagine in the future we will have time and opportunities to do so.”

Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
1 Comment

SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

“Oh my God, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session – after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap to make it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

“It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.