Rosberg, Mercedes big winners in Japanese Grand Prix

2 Comments

Nico Rosberg has taken another key victory in the pursuit of his maiden Formula 1 World Championship, following an authoritative display in the Japanese Grand Prix.

The German, who won the opening four races and was poised for another four-in-a-row run before coming third last week at Malaysia, secured his ninth win of the season, and first yet in Japan.

The day was also an excellent one for Rosberg’s Mercedes AMG Petronas team, which clinched the Constructor’s Championship on the day, with the win and Lewis Hamilton coming third. It’s the team’s third straight.

But Hamilton’s day was an exercise in frustration after a nightmare start, and he was lucky to even get back up that high.

He fought to no avail to get by Max Verstappen in the final 10 laps of the race, and the Dutch teenager ran a clean, quiet, smart and untroubled race en route to second for Red Bull Racing, with Hamilton rounding out the podium and now 33 points back of Rosberg with just four races remaining.

The race was good as decided though off the line as Hamilton had the aforementioned miserable start from second on the grid. The three-time and two-time defending World Champion looked to have a fine grid spot and a good run down to Turn 1, but instead bogged down and fell to eighth into Turn 1. Hamilton said simply on the radio, “Sorry, guys.”

Rosberg led away from Verstappen, Sergio Perez in a rocket start from sixth to third for Force India, Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull), Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), Nico Hulkenberg (Force India), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Hamilton and Haas F1 teammates Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez. Raikkonen’s would-be third spot on the grid became eighth after a late five-spot grid penalty assessed for a gearbox change.

Perez and Hulkenberg were third and sixth by the end of the first lap. Elsewhere, Grosjean was lucky not to run in the back of Hulkenberg going into Turn 1 and Fernando Alonso went wide around the outside of Turns 1 and 2 when battling his old Ferrari teammate, Felipe Massa.

By Lap 3, Vettel had overcome his three-position grid penalty for his Malaysian Grand Prix first corner contact, with a move of Perez for third going into Turn 1.

Hamilton hadn’t made up much ground early, down almost 20 seconds to Rosberg and only up a position by Lap 8, past Hulkenberg for seventh.

On Lap 9, Raikkonen had a lurid moment at Degner just ahead of Hamilton, but the Ferrari driver’s car control was on full display as he saved his car from a possible accident.

Alonso was into the pits on Lap 10, which kicked off the first round of pit stops. The McLaren driver – who infamously called his Honda engine a “GP2 engine” in last year’s race – started on Pirelli’s soft tires.

A lap later the two Red Bull Racing drivers were in with Verstappen in just before Ricciardo, as both drivers switched onto the hard compounds.

Rosberg pitted from the lead and joined the soft-to-hard switch on Lap 13. Behind them, Ricciardo was out ahead of Perez and Raikkonen.

Hamilton opted for the same strategy, and emerged just ahead of Raikkonen, who made a three-wide pass to the inside of Perez and Renault’s Jolyon Palmer into Turn 1. It was a needed net gain for Hamilton, who looked to continue his charge forward after the miserable start.

At Lap 16, the Williams pair of Bottas and Massa hadn’t pitted and ran fifth and eighth, opting for an off-sequence strategy. They were the only two drivers in the top 10 who hadn’t been to the pits by that point. But they lost ground on their tires they started on, while those who pitted used the fresher tires to their advantage.

Esteban Gutierrez’s 10th place grid spot was undone by a tough opening stint, and exacerbated when he spun at the Casio Triangle trying to pass Carlos Sainz Jr., although he was less than pleased on the radio with Sainz. The Mexican resumed, but down the order, continuing his run of Grands Prix without points to now three years since this race last year, with Sauber.

Raikkonen was first of the frontrunners to be in for a second stop, with another stop at halfway to switch from one set of hards to another. A couple other teams – Renault, Williams and Sauber – opted to go for one-stop strategies to try to make it into the minor placings.

Rosberg made his final stop from the lead on Lap 30 and like others, stayed from hards to hards.

The battle was behind him though with Verstappen assured in second, then differing strategies as Mercedes put Hamilton still onto hards, while Ferrari put Vettel onto softs, and Ricciardo had an issue on the right front on his last stop which cost him time to Raikkonen. The gamble by Mercedes was an interesting one because Hamilton had a set of softs available to him.

While it seemed as though this seemed a strategic misfire, Hamilton was able to gap Vettel at a decent rate because the softs went off faster on Vettel’s car, and eventually set sail on Verstappen for second.

And then that set up the battle for second, as Hamilton caught Verstappen within the final 10 laps of the race, and was within one second for position. But he was unable to make a passing attempt stick, blowing the Casio Triangle on the second-to-last lap.

Vettel was fourth, Raikkonen fifth and Ricciardo sixth. The two Force Indias and two Williams runners completed the points, with the Williams pair doing so on a one-stop strategy.

Grosjean made it back to 11th, the seemingly perpetual hard luck position for Haas.

That capped the first half of the field, and the remaining runners 12-22 made it all 22 starters that finished the race.

Results are below:

Ganassi announces multiyear sponsorship extension with American Legion for No. 10

Chip Ganassi American Legion
David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
0 Comments

Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).

It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).

Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.

The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.

“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”

“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”