Rosberg takes fourth straight win in Australia as Haas finishes sixth on debut

7 Comments

Nico Rosberg picked up where he left off at the end of 2015 by taking his fourth consecutive Formula 1 victory in Australia on Sunday.

Rosberg recovered from a poor start to switch strategy under a red flag, allowing him to pass Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and make a one-stop strategy work in Melbourne to win the opening race of the season.

Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton also managed to recover from a bad start to end the race in second place after fending off a charging Vettel late on.

In a race full of drama, Haas F1 Team enjoyed a dream debut as Romain Grosjean finished sixth after also benefitting from the red flag period, making it the first brand-new operation to score points on debut since Toyota in 2002.

At the start, Vettel made an incredible start to dive between the two Mercedes drivers and move into the lead of the race at the first corner. Hamilton was pushed out wide and dropped down to sixth place, while Rosberg slipped behind Kimi Raikkonen as the Finn made it a Ferrari one-two at the end of the first lap.

Vettel quickly looked to put his foot down up front and open up a lead to Raikkonen behind, who soon became occupied with Rosberg in his mirrors. Hamilton recovered fifth place from Felipe Massa at the end of lap four, before then coming up behind Max Verstappen in fourth. The world champion toiled behind the Toro Rosso, telling his Mercedes engineers “I can’t get past this guy!” to prompt them into a strategy rethink.

Rosberg was the first of the leaders to pit at the end of lap 12 in a bid to get the undercut on Raikkonen. It worked perfectly for the German, allowing him to close up on race leader Vettel when he pitted just one lap later. Rosberg tried to pass into Turn 3 but was knocked back by Vettel, who duly pulled clear once his super-soft tires had warmed up.

Hamilton grew more and more frustrated as Mercedes looked to extend his stint. Vettel passed the Briton with ease at Turn 2 to move a pit stop ahead, prompting the team to bring Hamilton in and move him onto his sole set of medium tires and try to go to the end of the race.

All strategy went out of the window on lap 19 when the race was red flagged following a huge crash involving McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez. Alonso tried to pass Gutierrez on the run down to Turn 3, only to run over the back of Gutierrez’s car. Alonso’s car came to a rest upside down after digging into the gravel, but thankfully, both drivers walked away unharmed.

The amount of debris on track prompted the officials to suspend the race at the end of lap 19. The drivers were sent to line up in the pit lane, where they were permitted to make any changes they wished to the car, allowing them to switch tires.

Hamilton retained his set of mediums, planning to go to the end of the race, with Mercedes also switching Rosberg onto the white-walled tires. Ferrari kept both Vettel and Raikkonen on super-softs, giving them a pace advantage, but they would have to pit again.

The race resumed on lap 20 with Vettel leading from Rosberg and Raikkonen. However, the leader was left to fight without the support of his teammate after a fire broke out on Raikkonen’s car four laps after the restart, forcing him to pit and retire from the race.

Down in sixth, Hamilton found himself stuck behind both Toro Rossos as Verstappen and teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. ran fourth and fifth. Once again, Hamilton could not keep up or pass them, but on the medium tire and with no more pit stops to make, the Briton was able to bide his time.

Romain Grosjean may have been the sole Haas driver remaining in the race, but he was the big winner under the red flag as he was able to make a free tire change. Grosjean had worked his way into the top 10 before the stoppage, and ran eighth at half-distance.

Rosberg managed to keep Vettel within his sights at the front, and soon began to cut the gap when the super-soft tires started to fade. Even as Rosberg whittled the lead down to around a second, Ferrari persisted with Vettel on the super-softs in a bid to put him on the quicker soft tires late on instead of the mediums.

On lap 35, Ferrari bailed and brought Vettel in, putting him onto the soft tire. A problem getting the nut off the front-left wheel slowed his stop down, bringing the German back out in fourth place. Rosberg now led on the medium tire ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Hamilton.

Grosjean’s strong race continued as he rose to sixth when the Toro Rossos pitted. A slow stop for Verstappen caused him to drop behind Sainz, with both emerging from the pits behind Jolyon Palmer in ninth. The Renault driver held them back, much to Verstappen’s chagrin as he requested that Toro Rosso tell Sainz to move aside. Sainz eventually made the pass on Palmer himself, with Verstappen following through just one corner later.

Hamilton’s fightback continued at the expense of Ricciardo on lap 41 to take second place, prompting Red Bull to bring the Australian in and switch tires. Rosberg had been managing his tires up front, but duly upped his pace when Hamilton moved into second place, the pair being split by 10 seconds at the front.

Vettel had made his soft tires work perfectly after stopping to catch Hamilton late on, resulting in a late battle to the flag between them. Ultimately, Hamilton was able to hold the Ferrari driver back despite his worn tires, with a late error ending Vettel’s charge.

However, neither could hold a candle to Rosberg up front. After winning the last three races of 2015, Rosberg made it four-in-a-row and kicked off his 2016 season in the best possible fashion by winning the race, finishing comfortably clear of his teammate in second place.

Ricciardo managed to fight his way back to fourth place after his late pit stop, finishing ahead of Williams’ Felipe Massa in fifth.

For the American fans watching, the biggest cheer would have come courtesy of Haas F1 Team. On the day that it became the first American team to race in F1 for 30 years, it fulfilled its target for the season of scoring points in its maiden grand prix as Grosjean crossed the line in sixth place.

Nico Hulkenberg came home seventh for Force India after spending the majority of the race stuck behind Grosjean, while Valtteri Bottas finished eighth. Carlos Sainz Jr. ended the race ninth after holding a frustrated Verstappen back, leaving the Dutchman to settle for P10.

Renault’s return to F1 saw Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen finish 11th and 12th respectively, while Sergio Perez followed in P13. Jenson Button, Felipe Nasr and Pascal Wehrlein were the last classified finishers in positions 14-16 respectively.

The second round of the 2016 F1 season takes place in Bahrain on April 3.

IndyCar champion Will Power completes ‘Victory Lap’ at ceremony in Indianapolis

Will Power Victory Lap
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
0 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power went on his “Victory Lap” last week to celebrate his second career championship as the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion.

It began with several media interviews in Monterey, California, the day after he won the championship with a third-place finish in the Sept. 11 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

From there, it was off to Los Angeles for more interviews and personal appearances that included a VIP Tour at the Petersen Automotive Museum, several appearances on SiriusXM and lunch at The Ivy, where the Team Penske IndyCar Series driver was treated to Wagyu Beef.

“It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life,” Power told NBCSports.com.

From L.A. back to Power’s North Carolina home, near Team Penske’s home base of Mooresville, there was one stop left on Sept. 17 — the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, an invitation-only banquet where Power and his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew at Team Penske were honored for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

They didn’t even have to check into a hotel and spend another night on the road. Power and his team left on a Team Penske plane from the Statesville, N.C., airport at 4 p.m. ET Saturday to fly to Indianapolis. On arrival an hour later, a limo bus took the team to IMS.

Power led the 2022 season with five NTT P1 Awards for pole, earning the NTT P1 Award as the best qualifier of the season for the fifth time in his career. Power also made history with his 68th career pole, breaking the all-time mark held by the legendary Mario Andretti.

Power and Scott Dixon also became just two of only five drivers to complete every lap of every race in IndyCar Series history.

“What a year,” Power said as he was awarded his personal Astor Cup trophy (the second in his collection after the 2014 championship. “What a phenomenal year coming off one of my worst seasons personally. We came back with a vengeance.

“I want to thank Roger and Kathy Penske for everything they have done for me over the years. I wouldn’t be standing here and have the numbers I have without what Roger has done for me. I’m given a car every week that is capable of winning the pole, races, championships, and Indianapolis 500s. I’m so grateful for that.

“Also, to Greg Penske, you are there every week now at every event and I know we will be in good hands moving forward with the Penske Family.”

There are many on Power’s team and at home, that helped support Power throughout his career. None is bigger than Power’s wife, Liz, who told Power before the season that he would win the championship and break Andretti’s record.

“I must thank my wife. I’m so lucky to have a wife with that crystal ball that can tell me what is going to happen,” Power said. “I can’t think you enough, babe. I love you so much and you have been a big support to me my whole career. We’ve been together 17 years, and I’ve been in the series 17 years. She has been such a huge support to me. The mother of our child and she is a fantastic mother.

“She can’t tell the future. She just had faith in me.”

Liz Power’s premonition came true and that allowed Power and his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team to celebrate Penske’s 17th IndyCar championship and 42nd title in the racing team’s history.

“The 12 crew this year, I’ve never had such a great group of guys,” Power said. “Trevor Lacasse (chief mechanic) is such a calm guy, but he does such a meticulous job on the preparation of the car. He is very, very good at keeping the whole crew happy. It feels as if there is no pressure on us. That’s a huge part in getting the most out of people. It was our first year together with you as a crew chief. What a great year to start our relationship.

“Dave Faustino (Power’s longtime engineer), we’ve worked together for 15 years. He’s almost like a wife to me, a partner … apart from sleeping together. We have a very good working relationship. Sorry Dave, I’m an awkward person and you are not.

“The things we have been through in our years together, it’s crazy that we continually improve and get better. We are standing on the podium after winning the championship and we are talking about the car, the race, and the tires. We weren’t talking about the championship.

“We never stop. The other boys were laughing at us, but I’m already thinking about next year.

“Ron Ruzewski (Team Penske IndyCar Managing Director and strategist) on the radio, always calm. He has actually made me a calm person. I rarely get upset on the radio anymore.”

Power also recognized the fans who helped boost attendance at many venues on the schedule this season as NBC Sports enjoyed its largest IndyCar audience yet.

“This series is growing,” Power said. “With open wheel racing now so popular because of Formula One, it’s really our time to push and put money behind it and go now and take IndyCar to another level because we have the best racing product in the world.

“I have to thank my teammates and (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric. I can’t tell you how hard we push each other. We are ultracompetitive and love each other and push each other hard, so thank you.”


Power won the championship by 16 points over hard-charging teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second in the standings for the third year in a row.

“Overall, I’m filled with a lot of pride for our team and what we were able to do this year,” Newgarden said in his banquet address. “Any year that you step in the championship, you can easily see the challenges it presents everybody.

“It’s a very difficult challenge for the teams and drivers. To be a part of it, make it through it and for us at Team Penske, to topple it, is a very big deal. We’re all competitive.

“The tough thing about being in a championship fight, especially with teammates is we all want to be the best. That’s how it should be. We are competitive people and want to be the best. But it’s a team sport.

“Will, tremendous season, great, great job. I think the world of everybody on our team. It’s a big group. I’m so happy for all of you on the 12-car crew. There is so much we can take into next year.”

Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was unable to attend the banquet because of the Goodwood Festival in England but sent congratulations to Power via a video message.

“I really want to congratulate Will Power,” Dixon said. “You drove a tremendous season this year. Even with some of the lows that you had, some of the mistakes with qualifying, you bounced back tremendously. I know how tough these championships are and to see you do it in the style that you did it in the last race of the season, massive congratulations.”

Power’s championship formula included one victory, nine podiums and 12 top-five finishes. Teammate Josef Newgarden was second in the championship with five wins but only six podiums.

Cindric saluted Power’s season in accepting the championship team owner award.

“Will, you took it to another level this year,” Cindric said. “You are the complete package. You completed every lap, had nine podiums, finished out of the top 10 just four times, broke Mario Andretti’s record, and you did it all without cussing at the officials on national TV.

“One complaint I do has is while most of us think you might be from another planet, you never told us your wife was a fortune teller.”

Cindric also honored the seasons of Penske drivers Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who won three times in his second full season (“You are one of only two full-time IndyCar drivers that has driven for us in the past 23 years that hasn’t won an Indy 500 or an IndyCar championship. Your time is coming.”).

Kyle Moyer was named team manager of the year (his fifth time and Penske’s sixth). Pennzoil presented Lacasse with the chief mechanic of the year for the first time, the sixth time for Team Penske. The No. 12 crew also won the Firestone Pit Performance Award for the most pit stop performance award points in 2022.

Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin delivered nine of Chevrolet’s series-leading 11 victories this season, helping Chevy win the Manufacturer Award for the seventh time since it returned to the series in 2012 and the first time since 2017. Jim Danahy, U.S. vice president, Competition Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet, accepted the award on behalf of his team.


Christian Lundgaard was honored as the 2022 NTT IndyCar rookie of the year. Lundgaard, from Denmark, scored one podium, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He edged David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD by 18 points in the standings for first-year series drivers.

Christian Lundgaard (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

“It’s been a tough season and looking at how it panned out, we struggled so much at the beginning of the season and how we were able to turn it around means so much to me and the team,” Lundgaard said. “It’s the one thing that you only get one shot at. I’m happy to have it.

“Being the first Dane at the Indy 500 certainly helps. Competing here for me is quite important and also special. To win this award and to be here in future years means so much to me. I have a chance to compete for wins and championships.

“This team gave me this opportunity at this track one year ago. We came back and got redemption. We got our first podium here. This year was 40 years ago that Bobby Rahal won the same award. It’s pretty special to keep it among the team.”

Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist was honored as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion after a dominant season for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing owners Henry and Daiva Malukas accepted the team championship.

“I’m very proud of that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s cool to see. We are starting to look to the future, and this might not be doing too bad. It’s been great. As most of you can guess with Henry and Daiva Malukas (team owners), it’s been an incredible journey. So much fun that we’ve had. To be on the grid this year was so much of a struggle for us. I didn’t even know I would be doing this until January.

“To be able to pull out the season that we had, I cannot thank this team enough. We will celebrate this for a long time. I’m so happy and proud about that.”

Outgoing IndyCar Director of Medical Affairs Dr. Geoffrey Billows also was honored as he is leaving that role while battling cancer.

“When I think of Dr. Billows, I think of two words,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “One is selfless and the other is tough. He’s gone through a lot these last couple of years, and he didn’t want anybody to know. He’s an amazing man, and we are very grateful for what you have done.”

Dr. Geoffrey Billows with IndyCar president Jay Frye (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Billows was presented with a framed checkered flag signed by all drivers in the series as well as other IndyCar officials and dignitaries.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Billows said. “This means so much for me to be part of this family for the past 30 years. I’ve been presented with opportunities I never thought I would ever have. I can’t tell you how much I love all of you guys and care for all of you guys.

“Thank you so much. I want to also thank my wife, Tammy, who has been a pillar of strength as I continue on this journey with cancer for the past two years as well. You will still see me as a consultant because I love this too much to quit altogether.”

When the evening concluded, Team Penske boarded a bus to the airport for the short return flight to Statesville. They were home by midnight.

Power’s Victory Lap was complete.

“The best thing about this is I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500