Lewis Hamilton leads Mercedes to first constructor’s title at inaugural Russian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton led from practically start to finish at the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi to bring his Mercedes team their first constructor title with a one two with teammate Nico Rosberg.

The weekend was over-clouded by the critical but stable state of Marussia driver Jules Bianchi at a Japanese hospital after last week’s race at Suzuka. As a sign of respect the Marussia team decided to run only one car for the weekend instead of seeking a replacement as a sign of support for Bianchi and his family.

Hamilton secured pole on Saturday by two tenths of a second from teammate Nico Rosberg with Bottas third and Jenson button with the second best qualifying of the year in fourth, Daniil Kyvat put in a stunning performance to take fifth for Torro Rosso in front of his home crowd and Daniel Ricciardo out performed his teammate Sebastian Vettel yet again with sixth place on the grid.

The start of the race held memories of Spa with Nico Rosberg shooting up behind his teammate for the lead in the second phase of the start going into turn two, the move caused him to go shooting off the track as he missed his braking forcing him to give the place back to Lewis and pit at the end of the first lap as he had severely flat spotted his tyres causing severe vibrations to his car.

Fernando Alonso made a characteristically good start moving to fifth from seventh past Kyvat.

Kyvat continued to fall down the field steadily with Vettel and Ricciardo moving past him for seventh and eighth as Ricciardo lost places on the start.

The poor start by Ricciardo proved costly as he ended up behind his teammate Vettel who was causing a queue to form behind him with Ricciardo, Jean Eric Vergne and Kimi Raikkonen all fighting to pass him. Vettel did not appear to be asked to move over by the team and Ricciardo pitted at lap 12 releasing Vergne, Raikkonen and Kyvat.

Meanwhile up front Bottas was doing a good job to keep Lewis Hamilton within his sights, however it was clear that Hamilton was clearly coasting after his teammate, and championship rival’s, earlier mistake.

Marussia’s awful weekend continued with their only car of Max Chilton retiring on lap 12 after complaining of vibrations on his tyres.

Bottas had been fighting Vettel for second but as he failed to make his way through Rosberg began closing the gap to the fighting duo. Bottas was released when Vettel pitted allowing him and Rosberg to fight each other for the second step on the podium.

Unleashed by Vettel’s pit stop Rosberg made a daring move on Bottas for second down the inside of turn two which forced Bottas wide and onto the tarmac and giving Mercedes a one-two finish to dominantly secure their first constructors world championship title.

On lap thirty three Kamui Kobayashi retired from the race, and stated that he was not sure why the car was retired as he was only informed by his team that there was an issue. After the race the team stated the retirement was due to safety and the misunderstanding was simply down to a lack of communication.

At the end of the race Jenson Button in fourth was closing in on Bottas with Magnussen also running well in fifth; illustrating that McLaren’s promise on Friday was an indication of real improvement and pace. Furthermore, the fourth and fifth places for Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen whilst Perez and Hulkenberg did not score allowed McLaren to go to fifth, ahead of Force India in the World Championship.

Meanwhile home favourite Daniil Kyvat was steadily falling down the field from fifth and by lap 37 Nico Hulkenberg was sizing up the young Russian for fourteenth place. Kyvat ran wide at turn two and Hulkenberg streaked past.

Hamilton’s stunning victory in Russia both solidified Mercedes the constructors and extended his championship lead over his teammate Rosberg to seventeen points with only three races to go.  Going into the Circuit of the Americas in Austin this weekend, a track Hamilton claims is one of his favourites, the title battle has never been hotter.

As we gear up for Austin I will be releasing race recaps to  charter Lewis Hamilton’s fight back in the championship from a thirty two point deficit to a seventeen point lead in a mere matter of races.


Sombre Mood in Sochi for Inaugural Grand Prix

Marussia announced on Friday morning before free practice one that they have decided to only run the one car, Max Chilton’s, this weekend out of respect to their driver Jules Bianchi who is still fighting for his life in a critical but stable condition in Japan. As this is Marussia first home race this is a deeply significant move.

All cars and drivers are running a message of support for Jules and it is clear that thoughts are still firmly with him. The Marussia team have built his car and it will remain on his side of the garage all weekend to illustrate that although he is not racing this weekend he is still racing on with Marussia, an incredibly poignant message of support for him and his family from the team.

1913-14 was the last time a Russian grand prix was run, and this challenging track around the Olympic park, the third longest on the calendar with 3.63m, promises to be worth the wait. The long and narrow pit lane could provide some excitement through the race if there is traffic in the pit lane.

Nico Rosberg put in the first timed lap of the Sochi Olympic park track with a 1.45.186 having come out early and practised his starts. Hamilton then quickly put in a quicker time by only a few hundredths of a second despite a slight vibration on his brakes which brought him into the garage soon after.

This issue proved to be an issue that kept him in the garage for most of the practice session as the Mercedes team investigated the brakes to find the source of the issue.

Sergei Sorokin was making his Formula One debut at his home grand prix with the Sauber team in place of Estaban Gutierrez in free practice one and managed to get within four tenths of his teammate Adrian Sutil by the end of the session.

Jenson Button of McLaren shocked at the end of the first half an hour of Practice One by topping the leader board by more than a second from second place Valtteri Bottas.

It was not only Lewis Hamilton who suffered with a brake issue, as Kimi Raikkonen was also made to sit out the majority of free practice one with a brake issue that was causing oversteer and tyre graining.

With half an hour to go of Free practice one Valtteri experienced an unusual issue with his Williams as a malfunctioning tyre blanket overheated and destroyed his tyres making it unable for him to take any further part in the session.

As the session came drew to a close many drivers found themselves running off the track with lock ups a they searched for the limits, Hamilton also felt he had not fully got the most out of himself and the car as he implored his team for another flying lap sacrificing a long run lap for the opportunity to keep pushing. At the time he was in second 0.065 off his teammate Rosberg’s best time.

Classifications after Free Practice One

Rosberg Mercedes 1.42.311

Hamilton Mercedes +0.065

Button McLaren Mercedes+0.196

Alonso Ferrari +0.409

Magnussen McLaren Mercedes +0.715

Perez Force India Mercedes +0.818

Kyvat STR Renault +0.853

Raikkonen Ferrari +0.901

Vergne STR Renault +1.016

Bottas Williams Mercedes +1.231

Massa Williams Mercedes +1.430

Ricciardo Red Bull Racing Renault +1.510

Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes +1.665

Vettel Red Bull Racing Renault +2.195

Sutil Sauber Ferrari + 2.314

Maldonado Lotus Renault +2.565

Sirotkin Sauber Ferrari +2.721

Grosjean Lotus Renault +2.879

Merhi Caterham Renault +4.471

Ericsson Caterham Renault +4.611

Chilton Marussia Ferrari +4.973

Hamilton’s third consecutive win overshadowed by a horrific head injury for Bianchi in Suzuka

Marussia’s Jules Bianchi is fighting for his life after sustaining a severe head injury after colliding with the back of a tractor which was retrieving Adrian Sutil’s Sauber during the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.

The race was red flagged after 44 laps due to the collision and results were counted back a lap giving Hamilton the win, Rosberg second and Vettel third.

Questions over the start time of the race circulated the paddock all weekend as there was knowledge of the bad weather coming in since Friday but the race promoters refused  to bring the race forward four hours.

A safety car was decided on for the start of the grand prix with only two laps being completed before the red flag came out to stop the race after drivers complained of poor visibility and a high level of standing water.

Under the safety car Marcus Ericcson’s Caterham had spun onto the gravel trap with marshals helping to push his car so he could rejoin the race. Shortly after Lewis Hamilton stated that he could not see his teammate Rosberg in the lead due to the conditions.

The teams run out into the pit lane as work on the car was allowed under these conditions and after fifteen minutes the race was restarted under the safety car.

Four corners into the restart Fernando Alonso became the first car to retire from the Japanese grand prix after suffering from a suspected electronics problem.

When the race had been restarted the rain had sufficiently eased causing many drivers to call for the safety car to release them and allow the race to resume well before it eventually did after 9 laps.

Jenson Button, a well known master of changeable conditions, was the first to jump for intermediate tyres coming in just after the safety car’s release on lap 10, a move that proved to be highly successful as he matched the pace of the leaders triggering the rest of the field to come in soon after.

The Williams cars quickly became detached from the Mercedes as they proved the car was not best suited to wet conditions. The Red bull of Ricciardo, which was set up for wet weather conditions, soon closed up on the back of Felipe Massa.

Quickly intermediate tyres proved to be the best tyre with most of the field coming into the pits placing Button in third from eighth. However, the Mercedes duo stayed out longer choosing to pit five laps later with Hamilton unable to jump his teammate for the lead.

Their wet weather set up proved handy for both Red Bull drivers as Vettel passed Massa around the outside on lap 16 quickly followed by his teammate Riccardo around the outside before the Dunlop curve. A few laps later both Red Bulls made their way past Bottas in the other Williams for fourth and fifth places respectively.

The pace of the Red Bull’s began to trouble the Mercedes in front as they began to lap considerably slower with leader Nico Rosberg suffering from oversteer as his teammate Hamilton clung to his rear wing. When DRS was enabled on lap twenty five Hamilton was obviously faster and a move for both the lead of the race and the championship soon appeared inevitable.

That move finally came on lap 29 as Hamilton pulled off a beautifully daring move around the outside of turn one as his teammate heavily defended his line around the previous corner. Hamilton quickly proved that he did in fact have vastly superior speed as he pulled out a two second gap by the end of the lap.

A slow pit stop for Jenson Button on lap thirty two caused him to lose third place to Sebastian Vettel, the issue being an electronics problem which affected both McLaren cars causing the steering wheel to have to be changed during the stop.

The rain started falling fairly heavily again around lap thirty eight with some, such as Kevin Magnussen coming in for extreme wet tyres. As the rain fell a few incidents occurred throughout the grid, with Sebastian Vettel aquaplaning off the track allowing Jenson Button to close in on him for third place.

An almighty fight occurred between Button and Riccardo for fourth place over the next few laps with the Australian managing to pass several times but unable to make the move stick.

Then on lap forty three Adrian Sutil of Sauber suffered an accident on the Dunlop curve colliding with the tyre barrier, Sutil walked away unharmed and a tractor was brought out to clear his car under double waved yellows.

On the next lap Jules Bianchi’s Marussia suffered a similar accident to Sutil, unfortunately however his car made contact with the back of the recovery tractor causing a severe head injury and for him to lose consciousness.

The podium was a sombre affair with Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel refraining from spraying the champagne as it was clear their thoughts, and the rest of the paddock’s, were with their colleague.

As of Thursday afternoon Jules Bianchi had received one operation at a local Japanese hospital for diffuse axonal injury, a severe head injury, and was claimed to be in a critical but stable condition requiring aid to breathe.

Going into the next race this Sunday at Sochi in Russia Hamilton leads Rosberg in the championship by ten points with four races to go.

Rosberg secures pole in Suzuka

Qualifying at Suzuka was overshadowed by a bombshell this morning, with an explosion occurring in the driver market as Red Bull announced Sebastian Vettel’s departure from the team he secured four world titles with.
The action out of track produced slightly less drama with Rosberg storming to pole by two tenths of a second from Hamilton who suffered from a lock up on his final flying lap.
The weekend did not start smoothly for the championship leader Hamilton with a crash in the third free practice session necessitating a repair job on his car that continued up to the very last few minutes before qualifying.
The Williams’ proved yet again that they are the ‘best of the rest’ with Valtteri Bottas putting in a fantastic performance to take third on the grid ahead of his teammate Felipe Massa.
Despite questions over his future as a move to Ferrari by Sebastian Vettel appears most likely, Fernando Alonso yet again put in a good performance to take fifth, five places ahead and eight tenths of a second faster than his teammate Kimi Raikkonen.
Fernando has stated that he has both a plan and options for his future but nothing has yet been announced, with Ferrari refusing to comment over Vettel’s rumoured arrival at the team next season.
The seemingly only option for Fernando Alonso in 2015 appears to be at McLaren who are hoping to return to the top end of the sport in 2015 with their new engine partnership with Honda. However, after leaving the team in 2007 earlier than he was contracted, will the door at McLaren be open to him?
The apparent feeling is that Honda wish for a driver of Fernando’s calibre to be spearheading their world championship chances so surely this can be the only option for Fernando other than perhaps a year out of the sport, a risky move considering he is now one of the oldest drivers on the grid.
Red Bull have quickly announced their line up for next year shutting down any opportunity for Alonso to make a straight swap with Vettel, with 20 year old Daniil Kyvat promoted to the Red Bull seat after just one season for Torro Rosso.
This leaves a gap in Torro Rosso, with Max Verstappen already announced to be replacing Jean-Eric Vergne for next year surely a driver such as Carlos Sainz Jr will be promoted up through the Red Bull young driver programme to the remaining F1 seat.
Seemingly the future of McLaren’s drivers appears to be on less than solid ground with a chance that Jenson Button or Kevin Magnussen may be replaced by the now available Fernando Alonso. McLaren have refused to confirm their driver line up all year, but surely while at Honda’s home circuit there can be no better time to do so.
A storm appears to be brewing over the F1 paddock with both threats of a super typhoon that may affect the race tomorrow and a driver announcement that may just blow the whole driver market into disarray, either way tomorrow’s race has all the ingredients to be a real showstopper.
Qualifying classifications:
1. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1.32.506
2. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes +0.197
3. Valtteri Bottas – Williams i + 0.622
4. Felipe Massa- Williams + 1.021
5. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari + 1.234
6. Daniel Ricciardo- Red Bull Racing + 1.569
7. Kevin Magnussen -McLaren Mercedes + 1.736
8. Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes +1.811
9. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing +1.926
10. Kimi Raikkonen- Ferrari +2.042

Hamilton storms to first pole since May at Monza

Hamilton put in a stunning lap to claim his first pole since the Spanish Grand Prix in May by over a quarter of a second from his Mercedes teammate Rosberg. 

The pole position comes at a vital time for the 2008 world champion as he trails Nico Rosberg by 29 points after their controversial collision in Belgium which resulted in Hamilton retiring and Rosberg finishing second.

After the race Hamilton stated that Rosberg admitted in the team debrief that he had failed to prevent the collision to make a point to Hamilton after a series of incidents throughout the season. Rosberg has since been fined by the team and both Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff have told the media that they found his actions unacceptable as it cost the team a one-two finish.

On Friday Hamilton’s bad luck looked to be continuing as he had to sit out the majority of free practice two as the team worked on a electrical issue with his car. However, despite significantly less time on the track Hamilton managed put in a lap that was only 6 hundredths slower than that of his teammate.

Issues affected the other side of the garage on Saturday morning as Nico Rosberg suffered from a gear box problem in free practice three. However the team managed to send him out into qualifying without having to change his gearbox and therefore no penalty was applied to his time.

Qualifying proved to be an entirely Mercedes powered affair as the battle emerged between Williams and Mercedes for the front row of the grid. Valtteri Bottas continued the formidable form he has shown all season but was only able to gain third place on the grid with a time that was over half a second slower than Hamilton with his teammate Felipe Massa gaining fourth.

Ron Dennis stated on Saturday that “McLaren are back” and Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button highlighted this improved form by gaining fifth and sixth on the grid.

Fernando Alonso managed seventh place in front of the Tifosi crowd while his teammate Kimi Raikkonen was unable to make it through to the final session gaining eleventh place after Daniil Kyvat’s ten place grid penalty for changing a power unit element.

Lining up behind the prancing horse are the Red Bull’s of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo in eighth and ninth. The weekend showed an improvement for Sebastian Vettel as he out-qualified his young teammate Ricciardo, the last race winner at Spa.

Qualifying classification:

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.24.109

2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes +0.274

3. Valtteri Bottas Williams +0.588

4. Felipe Massa Williams +0.756

5. Kevin Magnussen McLaren +1.205

6. Jenson Button McLaren + 1.270

7. Fernando Alonso Ferrari +1.321

8. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull + 1.327

9. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +1.600

10. Sergio Perez Force India + 1.835

11. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari

12. Jean-Eric Vergne Torro Rosso

13. Nico Hulkenberg Force India

14. Adrian Sutil Sauber

15. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber

16. Pastor Maldonado Lotus

17. Romain Grosjean Lotus

18. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham

19. Jules Bianchi Marussia

20. Max Chilton Marussia

21. Daniil Kyvat Torro Rosso (After a ten place grid penalty for changing his engine)

22. Marcus Ericsson Caterham

Gimmick’s introduced to ignite sparks into television ratings- going too far?

Since the dominance of Red Bull Racing began arduously chipping away at the television ratings of Formula One last year, it appears that each week we have seen a new “quick fix” in an attempt to improve television ratings.
The fact is viewings have dropped due to the somewhat monotonous results, despite all the hope surrounding this year’s dramatic power unit rule changes, Red Bull’s dominance has simply transferred to Mercedes with seven of the last eight races having been won by the dynamic duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
A new attempt to enthral the viewing public was introduced during the last race at the Austrian grand prix with the inclusion of titanium blocks attached to the bottom of the two Mercedes and one Ferrari, designed to recreate the ‘Golden Age’ of grand prix racing by artificially producing sparks as the block contacts with the tarmac.
The concept of returning to the Golden Age of racing is what most Formula One fans are dying for these days, but the clue is in the title, the fans want racing not artificially constructed devices that make it appear as if the cars are racing.
Yes, sparks flying from the bottom of the cars is exciting, but only because it illustrates that the cars are flying so close to the limit and low to the ground. It is not simply the presence of bright sparks that elevates the adrenaline of Formula One fans – it is the on-track action, of which the last few seasons have at times failed to produce.
Evidence of this was shown during last week’s Austrian Grand Prix. I, personally, did not notice the sparks at all as I was focused upon the spectacle the race itself was providing. The fight between Williams and Mercedes was just what the doctor ordered as Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas provided the first non Mercedes one-two of the season in qualifying on Saturday.
The joy experienced as Williams locked out the front row highlighted more than just the delight at seeing a change of faces on the podium. As one of the oldest and most respected teams in Formula One history only die hard Mercedes fans could begrudge their success.
One of the most contentious rule changes this season has to be the introduction of double points for the final race in Abu Dhabi, introduced to prevent the championship being wrapped up several races before the end of the season, as we saw last year with Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing.
Arguably this makes sense, but it hits to the very core of the issue of balancing entertainment and the integrity of sporting endeavour which every sport has to deal with. The fact of the matter is if there is interference with the results of the championship then it undermines the very nature of this highly demanding sport.
The concept of a driver being faultless all season and then losing the championship due to an unforeseeable or unavoidable incident in the final race, while his competitor gained double the amount of points, is uncomfortable for most fans.
Luck has always played a part in world championships, but this is bad luck doubled by bad timing. Everyone will have an unlucky moment during the season but the person who suffers bad luck on the only race which has double importance will have suffered a double whammy.
Double points for one race throws up other issues as well such as why Abu Dhabi? Why not the “classic circuits” such as Monaco, Silverstone or Belgium which are considered by most to be some of the most challenging races for drivers.
It’s the concept of one race win being worth more than another that baffles, all wins should be considered equal as each driver has fought to be the best of the field that day and the rule has been universally unpopular with fans and drivers alike.
The intrusion of commercially motivated gimmicks is uncomfortable for a sport like Formula One, give the fans racing it’s what they sign up for.