Hamilton cruises to German GP victory as penalty costs Rosberg

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Lewis Hamilton extended his lead at the top of the Formula 1 drivers’ championship to 19 points by winning Sunday’s German Grand Prix at Hockenheim in a dominant display.

Hamilton seized the lead from Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg at the start before crusing to his sixth win in the last seven races, heading into the summer break on a high.

For Rosberg, it was a home race to forget as a poor start and in-race time penalty left him down in fourth place at the checkered flag, dealing another blow to his championship hopes.

Instead, it was left to Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo to take the fight to Hamilton at the front, leading teammate Max Verstappen home to secure a double podium finish for the team.

In a flurry of deja vu from Hungary, Rosberg bogged down off the line to allow Hamilton to sweep into the lead down the inside at Turn 1. Rosberg was swarmed by the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo, dropping him down to fourth by the end of the first lap – precisely how Hamilton wanted the race to begin.

Rosberg settled down into P4 and began his fightback, but found that Ricciardo was up for a fight. The Australian forced Rosberg wide at Turn 8 when the German tried to pass, leaving Rosberg to drop back again, now with the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen for company.

With a fine line between two and three-stop strategies at Hockenheim, teams urged their drivers to look after their tires early on. Verstappen and Ricciardo were able to keep Rosberg at an arm’s length early on, prompting Mercedes to bring the home favorite in early for his first stop. Verstappen pitted on the same lap, and was able to stay ahead after a slow stop from Mercedes cost Rosberg more time. Ricciardo dived in one lap later, emerging from the pits still ahead of Rosberg on the soft tire as Red Bull split its drivers’ strategies.

Hamilton pitted from the lead on lap 14, three laps later than Rosberg, but was able to retain his lead ahead of Verstappen and Ricciardo. Mercedes also ran its drivers on varying tire strategies, fitting Hamilton with soft tires before informing Rosberg that he was now on ‘Plan B’ in P4.

Despite having Verstappen behind on the faster super-soft tire, Hamilton was able to slowly extend his lead over the chasing pack through the second stint of the race. Verstappen reported to Red Bull that he was struggling on his tires, hinting that the soft compound was better-suited for the rest of the race. Rosberg was also having trouble, languishing down in P4 behind Ricciardo as Hamilton pulled further and further away at the front.

Rosberg was the first of the leading drivers to make his second stop, pitting at the end of lap 27 and making the switch to the soft tire in a bid to place pressure on the Red Bull drivers ahead. Mercedes timed the stop perfectly, dropping Rosberg into clean air and forcing Red Bull to respond by bringing Verstappen in just one lap later.

Verstappen emerged from the pits just ahead of Rosberg, but struggled to get his tires up to temperature on the long run down to the hairpin. Rosberg slung his Mercedes down the inside with an aggressive move before forcing Verstappen wide at the exit of the corner, moving up into fifth place in the process.

Verstappen immediately complained about the move over the radio, with the stewards confirming moments later they would be investigating Rosberg for forcing another driver off the track. Rosberg was duly handed a five-second time penalty, much to the German’s chagrin who protested he was at full lock.

While Rosberg’s penalty continued to sink in, the rest of the front-runners began to make their second stops. Hamilton and Ricciardo both looked set for two-stop races, only to take on super-soft tires, moving onto a three-stop strategy in the process. Hamilton continued to lead with relative comfort after stopping, leading Rosberg by five seconds heading into the final 30 laps of the race.

Rosberg was told to get his head down and focus on opening up a gap to Verstappen behind, something he did in the laps that followed. Verstappen had more pressing matters: namely Ricciardo, who was charging behind on the super-softs. With the help of DRS and little resistance from Verstappen, Ricciardo swept into third place before setting his sights on Rosberg ahead, who was told to up the pace in response.

With Ricciardo looming large in his mirrors, Rosberg dived into the pits to take his penalty and fresh tires, moving onto softs for the final stint of the race. However, more time was lost as Rosberg remained stationary for eight seconds – three more than required. Red Bull once again reacted immediately by bringing Verstappen in one lap later, allowing him to emerge well clear of the Mercedes driver. Ricciardo followed suit the next time around, coming back out ahead of Verstappen but with his teammate right on his tail.

After being given the hurry up by Red Bull to create a gap to Verstappen, Ricciardo soon began to carve into Hamilton’s lead at the front. The leader’s advantage fell to just six seconds in a matter of laps as Ricciardo put his super-soft tires to good use. Hamilton reacted well, putting in a set of personal bests to extend his advantage once again, cooling Red Bull’s faint hopes of victory.

Hamilton managed to negotiate a bit of late traffic before crossing the line to pick up his sixth win of the season and extend his championship lead to 19 points over Rosberg, who was left to settle for P4 after failing to catch the Red Bulls in the closing stages.

Ricciardo finished second ahead of Verstappen in third, lifting Red Bull above Ferrari in the constructors’ championship as the Italian marque’s cars only came home fifth and sixth, Vettel leading Raikkonen.

Nico Hulkenberg led Force India’s charge in P7 after passing Valtteri Bottas late on, dropping the Finn into the clutches of Jenson Button. Concerns over fuel mileage left McLaren sweating on its points in the closing stages, but Button was able to ease past Bottas for P8 as the Finn struggled with his tires, eventually crossing the line ninth.

Fernando Alonso lost out to Sergio Perez late on, allowing the Mexican to take P10 and secure a double-points finish for Force India.

Haas’ attempt at a two-stop strategy failed to yield any points as Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean finish 11th and 13th respectively, split by Alonso, while the Toro Rosso pair of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat followed in 14th and 15th.

Kevin Magnussen enjoyed a bright start to the race, but could only finish 16th for Renault ahead of Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein. Their respective teammates, Jolyon Palmer and Rio Haryanto, finished 19th and 20th respectively behind Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson.

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

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing
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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 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 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 car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

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. – McLaren Racing

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.”