Mercedes completes “pretty perfect” weekend in Monza

GP ITALIA F1/2016 – MONZA (ITALIA) 04/09/2016
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Nico Rosberg took his first Italian Grand Prix victory with a controlled display from the front, leading home a supreme Mercedes 1-2 after a poor start by Lewis Hamilton all but gifted him the race.

A third straight Monza win looked to be a formality for Hamilton after storming to pole position by half a second clear of Rosberg, but he was forced to watch his teammate streak off into the lead when a clutch issue off the line left him swallowed by the two Ferraris and Valtteri Bottas behind.

But compared with Hamilton’s other poor starts this season, recovery was a simple matter for the Briton – after breezing past Bottas under DRS on the main straight, Hamilton made his first and final stop for mediums and simply waited for the Ferraris ahead to see out their own two-stop strategy and drop behind him.

“It’s tough to take when you lose a race because of such a poor start,” Hamilton said. “From there it was just about managing the tyres in the first stint and I was delighted to get back up to second after the first stop.

“I’m happy with my performance this weekend but after such an incredible qualifying day yesterday it was disappointing to be unable to capitalise.”

Hamilton eventually took the chequered flag fifteen seconds adrift of Rosberg, who ran an unchallenged race at the front on his way to an “incredibly special” seventh win of the season.

“It means so much to win here at Monza,” said Rosberg. “The race went perfectly for me. Our car has been amazing this weekend and I extend a massive thank you to the whole team.”

Despite facing a renewed threat from Red Bull and Ferrari in Belgium, Mercedes appeared to be competing in a category above their rivals in what Toto Wolff called a “pretty perfect” weekend marred only by the team’s recurring clutch problems.

Paddy Lowe added: “Clearly we need to analyse what happened to Lewis at the start and do better next time [but] it’s fantastic to get the 1-2 here today and it’s been a sensational performance all weekend from the drivers, race team and team back at Brackley and Brixworth.”

James Matthews

Title momentum up for grabs in high-stakes Italian Grand Prix

GP AUSTRIA F1/2016 – SPIELBERG (AUSTRIA) 03/07/2016
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Nico Rosberg may have put an end to Lewis Hamilton’s four-race win streak with a lights-to-flag victory in last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, but his teammate’s recovery from the back of the grid to third prevented the German from retaking the lead in the championship.

That makes this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix a must-win event for Rosberg. Having lost out to Hamilton at favourite tracks like Monaco, Austria and Hockenheim, Rosberg needs to strike back at his teammate’s own hunting grounds if he is to keep his title challenge alive.

With traditional Hamilton tracks like Suzuka and Circuit of the Americas dominating the latter half of the season, it’s imperative that Rosberg builds on the momentum of Spa to take back control of the championship – just as he did at the start of the season.

“It’s great to add another classic circuit like Spa to the list of wins,” Rosberg said. “Hopefully that puts us on a good curve as we head to another legendary track in Monza.

“Last year obviously didn’t end so well for me there, so I’m hoping for a bit more luck and a little less fire this time… I can’t wait to make our Silver Arrow fly at Monza.”

But if Rosberg is heading to Monza emboldened by his performance in Belgium, so too will Lewis Hamilton, who also has the added psychological benefit of three recent Italian Grand Prix victories to his name.

“I had a perfect weekend there last year,” Hamilton said of his most recent Monza win. “Standing on that amazing podium, looking out over a sea of fans on the straight, has to be up there as one of the most incredible experiences a sportsman can have.

“It’s game on for me with the penalties out of the way and fresh engines ready to use. I can’t wait to get back out there.”

Mercedes steals double podium amidst Spa mayhem

GP BELGIO F1/2016 – SPA FRANCORCHAMPS (BELGIO) – 28/8/2016
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Mercedes steals double podium amidst Spa mayhem

Mercedes will leave the Belgian Grand Prix feeling no small amount of relief, as Nico Rosberg cruised serenely to his first victory around the Spa circuit and Lewis Hamilton benefited from the chaos ahead to overcome a 60-place grid penalty and finish third.

Even without Hamilton starting from the back, the team had been bracing themselves for a difficult race – the unusually high track temperatures had been compromising Mercedes’ tyre strategy all weekend, and on Saturday in particular Red Bull and Ferrari appeared much closer than expected.

But in the end, the Belgian Grand Prix proved to be an utterly imperious display from Rosberg. Making a clean start from pole, any immediate threat from behind vanished when Verstappen and the two Ferraris barrelled into each other at La Source, and by the end of lap one Rosberg had already opened a gap of four seconds over Hülkenberg and Ricciardo.

Ricciardo eventually managed to pass the Force India for second but by then had already lost too much time to challenge for the lead, and Rosberg took the chequered flag with fourteen seconds in hand over the Red Bull.

“It wasn’t an easy weekend for us,” Rosberg reflected. “We had to work a lot on the setup – but in the race it was perfect. Our car was really great today, so thank you to the team for all their hard work in getting it spot on.”

Hamilton’s race was also made much easier by the bedlam at La Source. Arriving late on the scene because of his grid penalty, the Briton managed to weave his way through the carnage and emerge in twelfth place.

But Hamilton’s biggest break came when the race was red-flagged on lap ten after Magnussen’s horrifying crash at Raidillon.

Although many drivers dove into the pits during the preceding safety car, Mercedes kept Hamilton on track in anticipation of a full neutralisation and therefore gained a free pit stop over most of the field.

With that, Hamilton restarted the race in a legitimate fifth place, which he upgraded to third by lap 18 after straightforward moves on Alonso and Hülkenberg.

“If you’d offered me third coming into this race with all the penalties I definitely would have taken it,” Hamilton said. “The most difficult part of the race was the mental approach…in terms of whether I risked it all at the start or hung back and tried to pick my way through. Then all this commotion happened and I’m grateful I could capitalise on that.”

Like Rosberg, Hamilton also paid tribute to the wider Mercedes team this weekend, praising the “exceptional job” done by his mechanics in changing so many parts on his car, and hailing the pit wall’s tyre strategy as “the right call”.

Hamilton now leads Rosberg by just nine points in the championship heading into next weekend’s Italian Grand Prix – an event he has won three times in the past four years.

James Matthews @James16Matthews

Formula E testing roundup: Renault still ahead as midfield closes in

The first week of public Formula E testing has concluded, with Renault e.Dams once again staking their claim as the team to beat in the 2016-17 season

Although Renault only topped the timesheets once – defending champion Sébastien Buemi ended day one seven tenths ahead of the field on a 1:30.143s – the French marque appeared on ominous form all week, with Buemi and Nicolas Prost logging a total of five out of a possible six top ten times across the three days.

By comparison, their season two rivals ABT had a quiet few days. Loitering comfortably but not outstandingly within the top ten, the German team’s performance would suggest their ABT Schaeffler FE02 package will again focus on consistent race form over qualifying pace.

The other takeaway from this first test is that many of the midfield teams appear to have closed up over the summer – if not to Renault then certainly to the likes of ABT and DS Virgin.

New entrant Techeetah were perhaps the biggest surprise, with Jean-Éric Vergne finishing fastest on day two after breaking the Formula E lap record around Donington Park, and almost doing the same on Thursday by being the only driver to lap below 1:31s in the wet afternoon conditions.

Swedish debutant Felix Rosenqvist made a strong start to his Formula E career with Mahindra, spending most of day two at the top of the times before being pipped by Vergne. Also showing pace was two-time race winner Jérôme d’Ambrosio in his new Penske-powered Dragon car, and was one of only four other drivers – Buemi, Heidfeld, Abt and Bird – to end each day within the top ten.

For the much-anticipated Jaguar team, this first week was a modest beginning to life in Formula E – the British marque ended day one sixth and ninth with Alex Lynn and Adam Carroll respectively, but managed no more than thirteenth fastest across the remainder of the week.

However, headline-grabbing times were hardly to expected just yet as the team look to bed in their new I-Type 1 powertrain and evaluate drivers for the season ahead. With that in mind, the fact that the team suffered no fatal technical issues and were not left propping up the timesheets hints at real promise for the future – and may even give teams like Venturi and NextEV something to worry about.

Introducing: Felix Rosenqvist

Mahindra Racing enter the 2016-17 season with a revised lineup, pairing the stalwart Nick Heidfeld with young Swedish rookie Felix Rosenqvist. During testing, we grabbed a quick word with Felix to get to know Mahindra’s newest signing a little better.

Born in Värnamo, Sweden, 24-year-old Felix Rosenqvist made his single seater debut in regional Formula Renault, taking titles in the Asian, Swedish and NEZ Formula Renault 2.0 series’ between 2008 and 2009. International recognition came with a third-place finish in his maiden European Formula 3 campaign in 2012 and victory in the prestigious 2014 Macau Grand Prix.

In 2015, Felix took the European F3 title in dominant fashion, finishing more than a hundred points over second-placed Antonio Giovinazzi and racking up a run of 15 consecutive podiums – including eight victories – and a second Macau win to tie off the season. After stints in DTM, Blancpain GT and IndyLights – the latter yielding three wins – Felix was called up by Mahindra to replace Bruno Senna for the 2016-17 Formula E season.

TPCO: Is Formula E’s preference for street circuits a big part of its appeal for you, given your strong history at tracks like Macau?

FR: Yes, it sure is. It’s a big reason why I considered to join Formula E. I love every street circuit and I always had good results on them so for me it made perfect sense.

TPCO: Considering the unique technical challenge of Formula E, how much of a confidence boost is it for a rookie driver to make their debut with a team as solid as Mahindra?

FR: For sure it helps me a lot to join a team that has been here since the start of the championship. Even with my teammate Nick being very experienced and a good team leader it feels like I’m in good hands.

TPCO: Are you aiming for any particular results this season, or is the focus just on finding your feet for now?

FR: For now I don’t really know where I am when it comes to the performance. Obviously the first test went well but I think it’s way early to judge lap times for now. I think I will just prepare in the best possible way and then I guess we will see in Hong Kong!

TPCO: How do you feel going up against a teammate as experienced and highly-regarded as Nick – is it a little daunting, or do you enjoy the challenge?

FR: I think it’s first of all very helpful to have Nick as he’s a great teacher when it comes to leading a team – something that takes a long time to learn as a driver. He’s easy to work with and I hope I can push him as well!

TPCO: Speaking of teammates, is there any current driver, from Formula E or beyond, against whom you’d love to test yourself?

FR: I think in the last seasons I had the opportunity to put myself up against very good drivers around the world, a couple of weeks ago I tested the same car as Scott Dixon and I was very impressed with him. I would love to try to go against Hamilton!

TPCO: Who would you regard as the toughest rival so far in your career?

FR: I think Esteban Ocon is a very good driver, and the one that impressed me the most when he won his rookie F3 season in 2014, and also won GP3 the following year as a rookie as well.

Shivraj Gohil / Spacesuit Media

TPCO: Which location this season are you most looking forward to racing in? And is there any location not on the calendar that you would like to visit with Formula E in the future?

FR: I look forward to Buenos Aires and Mexico as I’ve never been to South America. I think the championship should visit Stockholm for sure, and also come back to London.

TPCO: What are the most difficult, and most rewarding, parts of racing all over the world?

FR: The most difficult is the fact that you’re always a bit jet lagged and tired, and also your private life becomes a bit compromised when it comes to meeting family and friends. The rewarding part is that you get to do what you love every day, and as a young guy it’s nice that you can really go for something instead of being home drinking beer every weekend.

TPCO: How do you like to unwind after a race weekend?

FR: Normally I love just being home for one day doing nothing, then I feel ready to go again – as long as I get this day I’m good!

TPCO: Any predictions for the season – for yourself, for Mahindra, or for Formula E in general?

FR: It’s way too early to judge, at the moment we are just looking at ourselves and focusing on our programme. I think the team has done a very impressive job during the off-season and I can’t wait to see our final product in Hong Kong! For myself, I can just prepare as well as possible and then see how it goes I guess 🙂

Introducing: the 2016-17 Formula E grid

The Race.
Mexico City e-Prix, Mexico, Central America.
Saturday 12 March 2016
Photo: Adam Warner /LAT/FE.
ref: Digital Image _L5R9302

As public testing commences at Donington Park, we’ve taken a proverbial walk down the 2016-17 grid to help you get to know Formula E’s Class of Season Three.

The sharp end of the championship looks much the same this season, with Renault retaining defending drivers’ champion Sébastien Buemi and race winner Nico Prost, and ABT fending off advances from Jaguar to keep Lucas di Grassi alongside Daniel Abt.

Loïc Duval and two-time ePrix winner Jérôme d’Ambrosio will return as well for a second full season together at Dragon Racing. The American team should be one to watch this season, entering for the first time as a powertrain manufacturer in its own right under a technical alliance with Faraday Future.

NextEV, the last of the teams to field an unchanged lineup, could potentially be another dark horse challenger provided they can overcome the issues that kept them propping up the back of the grid last season – particularly if Oliver Turvey can keep up the superb qualifying form shown in the last few races of 2016.

Race winner Sam Bird remains at DS Virgin, but his season two teammate Jean-Éric Vergne is off to join Techeetah, the Chinese outfit who bought up the Team Aguri entry at the end of last season.

How competitive the Techeetah team will be is hard to tell – despite being the only team this season not to be linked in some way to a major manufacturer, they do at least have the benefit of heavy investment from Chinese Media Capital and a supply of Renault’s class-leading powertrains. Nevertheless, Techeetah may struggle to fully realise the potential of their package, if previous performances from Vergne and the returning Ma Qinghua are any indication.

By contrast, Techeetah’s rivals Andretti will be fielding perhaps the strongest lineup of the grid, having poached Team Aguri’s star driver António Félix da Costa to partner their own Robin Frijns. With two of last season’s hottest talents on board – and with reported involvement from BMW to boot – the 2016-17 season should be a strong showing for MS Amlin Andretti – perhaps even yielding the American team’s elusive first win.

Vergne’s vacant Virgin Racing seat will be taken by two-time WTCC champion José María López. The Argentine may not have raced single seaters since his 2006 GP2 campaign but comes with plenty of racing pedigree as a Citroën factory driver, and should bring DS Virgin the boost they need to consistently battle the likes of Renault and ABT.

López is joined on the grid by four fellow rookies: GT World Cup winner Maro Engel enters the sport alongside Stéphane Sarrazin at Venturi, whilst Mahindra have replaced Bruno Senna with 2015 European F3 champion Felix Rosenqvist.

The last of the rookies come courtesy of the much-anticipated Panasonic Jaguar Racing team. Blancpain GT racer Adam Carroll – who narrowly missed an outing with Team Aguri in Berlin last season – joined the team early on after completing a series of private tests earlier in the year, and is joined by 2012 GP3 champion Mitch Evans, who was chosen after outperforming Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell in a pre-season shootout. Chinese single-seater stalwart Ho-Pin Tung also joins Jaguar as test and reserve driver, returning to the series after a brief but unsuccessful stint with Team China in season one.

Full 2016-17 Formula E grid:

Renault e.Dams: Nico PROST (8) / Sébastien BUEMI (9)

ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport: Lucas DI GRASSI (11) / Daniel ABT (66)

DS Virgin Racing: Sam BIRD (2) / José María LÓPEZ (37)

Faraday Future Dragon Racing: Loïc DUVAL (6) / Jérôme D’AMBROSIO (7)

Mahindra Racing: Felix ROSENQVIST (19) / Nick HEIDFELD (23)

Venturi: Stéphane SARRAZIN (4) / Maro ENGEL (5)

MS Amlin Andretti: Robin FRIJNS (27) / António Félix DA COSTA (28)

Techeetah: Jean-Éric VERGNE (25) / MA Qinghua (33)

NextEV NIO: Nelson PIQUET JR (3) / Oliver TURVEY (88)

Panasonic Jaguar Racing: Mitch EVANS (20) / Adam CARROLL (47)

Hamilton Takes Control In Hungary


Lewis Hamilton has taken command of the Drivers’ Championship for the first time this season, fending off Nico Rosberg to take a record fifth Hungarian Grand Prix victory.

The Briton was forced to settle for second behind his teammate on the grid after being caught out by yellow flags in Q3, but pounced when Rosberg bogged off the line and stole into the lead through the inside of Turn 1.

Rosberg then looked set to lose another place as Daniel Ricciardo went around the outside of the Mercedes at Turn 1 even as Hamilton was on the inside, though a bold switchback move through Turns 2 and 3 saw Rosberg wrestle back second place.

The German then continued to keep his teammate in check, repeatedly lowering the fastest lap in the early stages and even closing into DRS range as Hamilton struggled for pace on soft tyres after his first pit stop.

 

GP UNGHERIA F1/2016 – BUDAPEST (UNGHERIA) 24/07/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

But as close as Rosberg came, he simply couldn’t find a way past Hamilton, who exploited every inch of the famously tight Hungaroring to hold onto the lead and eventually take the chequered flag a comfortable two seconds ahead of his teammate.

The win was Hamilton’s fifth at the Hungaroring, now making him the most successful driver at the circuit ahead of Michael Schumacher. As his fifth win of the season as well, the Hungarian Grand Prix brings Hamilton level with Rosberg on victories and six points ahead in the standings with ten rounds remaining.

“I don’t know what the secret is here,” Hamilton insisted. “Naturally, having a great team and everything coming together is key, but it’s a track that I think works really well for an aggressive driver.

“I’ve not really thought about the standings much but it’s definitely a good feeling to get the job done here. It’s been an awesome few races and I’ve just got to keep that kind of form up for the rest of the season.”

The result was also Mercedes’ first ever 1-2 at the Hungaroring, and incredibly their first win at the venue in their dominant hybrid era.

“We’re delighted with today’s result,” said Toto Wolff. “This place has been Red Bull and Ferrari territory, so it just shows what a great place we have got to with our chassis and engine package that we were able to…control the race like we did.”