Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Fernando Alonso prepared for “very emotional” last race in F1

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso is certain that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be a “very emotional” race for him, as he hangs up his helmet in F1 and moves on to pastures new.

“Abu Dhabi will certainly be a very emotional race for me, as it will be the end of a long and happy 17 years in Formula One,” he said. “The time has come for me to move on, but I’m looking forward to ending the season – and my F1 career – on a positive note.”

In a career spanning more than 300 races that began in a humble Minardi all the way back in 2001, Alonso won two world championships along with 32 wins and 97 podiums, in stints driving for Renault, McLaren (well, the first stint at least) and Ferrari. His last win was at his home race around the Circuit de Catalunya in 2013, with first an underwhelming 2014 Ferrari and then a woefully underpowered McLaren Honda making his pursuit of further victories difficult and then virtually impossible.

Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, USA
Sunday 21 October 2018.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren.
Photo: Sam Bloxham/McLaren
ref: Digital Image _W6I8618

Despite this, Alonso is not severing all ties with McLaren once he retires from F1, and plans to fight as hard as ever in Abu Dhabi.

“I’m also pleased that my relationship with McLaren will continue with the Indy 500,” Alonso added, “and there will be more new challenges together. There are very exciting things ahead, and I’m enthusiastic for what the future will bring. For now, I’m not ruling anything else.”

“I’m fully focused on this weekend in Abu Dhabi, and making the most of every day – in the car, with the team, and with my family and friends. Abu Dhabi is a tough circuit, but we don’t have anything to lose, so both Stoffel and I will be fighting hard as always.”

Alongside Alonso, Abu Dhabi will also be the last race at McLaren for Stoffel Vandoorne. Speaking of the duo, McLaren Sporting Director Gil de Ferran said, “The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will certainly be a significant end of the season for everyone at McLaren, as we bid farewell to Fernando and Stoffel in their final Grand Prix for the team. They have been incredible team-mates and ambassadors for McLaren and for the sport, as well as great guys to work with.”

Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, USA
Sunday 21 October 2018.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren, at the team photo call.
Photo: Glenn Dunbar/McLaren
ref: Digital Image _X4I9809

 

Featured image – Steven Tee/McLaren – Digital Image _2ST7317

Sebastian Vettel: Ferrari spirit “unbroken despite everything”

Sebastian Vettel believes that Ferrari can still be a force to be reckoned with in 2018, with their spirit “unbroken despite everything” they have been through.

“Today, I found it quite inspirational walking through the garage and watching the guys work,” Vettel said. “All the team is fired up and that certainly helps, as the last couple of weeks haven’t been that easy. The spirit is unbroken despite everything.”

Vettel has only won two races out of the past ten – taking the chequered flag at Silverstone and Spa – and he has been involved in incidents or been the victim of various strategy mistakes in Germany, Hungary, Italy, Singapore and, most recently, in Japan.

Vettel finished in sixth place in Suzuka after a clash with Max Verstappen early on in the race dropped him to the back of the pack. The German tried to dive down the inside going into Spoon Curve but made contact with Verstappen and ended up spinning. The incident, which was investigated by the stewards but didn’t result in any penalties, left Vettel to fight his way back through the field. He now trails title rival Lewis Hamilton by 67 points with four races still to go.

Image courtesy of Ferrari Media

Speaking of the coming together with Verstappen, Vettel said, “I was obviously pushing to pass, I knew he had a penalty, but I also felt that we were fast. I could see that his battery was clipping, while I had saved some energy from mine. I saw a gap and went for it on the inside, he obviously tried to defend and I couldn’t go anywhere, so we touched. However, this is part of racing.”

F1 now heads to the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas, where Hamilton has his first chance at winning his fifth world championship. If he outscores Vettel by eight points – so, if Hamilton wins the race and Vettel doesn’t finish second, for instance – then he would wrap up the title.

“Races like [Japan] are a bit of a hand-over and we know it is difficult from where we are in the points standings, but we don’t have much to lose,” Vettel said. “We have given everything so far and I believe there’s still something we can learn and understand from the car. So we keep fighting and resisting and we’ll see what the other races bring.”

Image courtesy of Ferrari Media

Nico Hulkenberg targets “positive weekend” ahead of 150th Grand Prix

Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg will be starting his 150th Grand Prix at the upcoming Singapore Grand Prix, and he is hoping for a “positive weekend” at a circuit that he sees as something of an anomaly on the F1 calendar.

“It’s a unique Grand Prix in more ways than one,” Hulkenberg said, “and it’s the only real night race we have on the calendar. Racing under artificial lighting does take a little getting used to, but Singapore has been on the calendar for so long now, it feels pretty normal. We don’t see too much daytime there as we’re working on European time. We sleep until lunchtime and then the work begins. The facilities at Singapore are really good, and it’s a very enjoyable venue for a Grand Prix.”

With its relentless twenty-three corner layout and temperatures in excess of thirty degrees even at night, since its inaugural race in 2008 Singapore has developed a reputation for being one of the most physically demanding Grand Prix around.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault Sport F1 Team.
Singapore Grand Prix, Thursday 13th September 2018. Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore.

“The circuit itself is very physical and puts a lot of strain on the body,” Hulkenberg added. “It’s up there as one of the toughest circuits of the season. It’s a long lap with corners coming thick and fast, with not many straights to have a break. The humidity makes it hard combined with all the action we’re doing at the wheel with non-stop corner combinations and frequent gear changes.”

This weekend’s race is the tenth anniversary of the first Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay and, as mentioned, is also Hulkenberg’s 150th in F1. As such, he is hoping he will be able to move on from the last couple of races, where he has started from the back of the grid thanks to penalties.

“It’s a significant milestone to have been racing in Formula 1 for so long with that many races under my belt. But it’s just a number at this stage and we have a challenge on our hands in the midfield battle, so I’ll be drawing on my experience and targeting a positive weekend in Singapore.

“We did all we could from the back of the grid [in Italy], and I’m pleased with how the weekend progressed. It’s good that the team are back in the points especially at a power-sensitive circuit like Monza. The penalties are hopefully out of the way and we head to Singapore in [a] confident mood aiming to have both cars in the points.”

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault Sport F1 Team RS18.
Italian Grand Prix, Saturday 1st September 2018. Monza Italy.

Fernando Alonso: “Monza has all the characteristics that expose the weaknesses of our package”

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso has said that despite having fond memories of the Monza circuit, he is not holding out hope for a good result at this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, with the track unlikely to play to his car’s strengths.

“Monza is a very special circuit for me and I have a lot of happy memories there,” he said. “It has a different feeling to many tracks – maybe because of the heritage or the fans, I’m not sure – but the emotions you feel when the fans invade the track after the race is like nowhere else in the world – there’s so much passion there.

“For us we know this weekend will be difficult, like in Spa. Better tracks are coming for us, that’s for sure, but Monza has all the characteristics that expose the weaknesses of our package. We just have to work as hard as possible and see what we can get out of it.”

Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium.
Sunday 26 August 2018.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren, and Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, on the grid.
Photo: Glenn Dunbar/McLaren
ref: Digital Image _31I8707

Last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix came to a rather jarring halt for Alonso before he’d even reached the first corner. P17 was his result in qualifying – the worst Saturday for McLaren so far this year after team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne qualified P20 – but the Spaniard was bumped up a few places on the grid thanks to engine penalties given to those around him.

Unfortunately, that put him right in the thick of things when Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg missed his braking point going into La Source on lap one and triggered a series of events that ended in Alonso being launched over the top of Charles Leclerc in an incident reminiscent of the crash at the start of the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix.

“After the accident in Spa last Sunday,” Alonso added, “I know the team has been working very hard to make sure we have enough parts for this back-to-back race. I’m very grateful for their efforts and I’ll still be giving it maximum attack even if it will be a challenging weekend.”

Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium.
Friday 24 August 2018.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL33.
Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren
ref: Digital Image _2ST3380

 

Featured image – Steven Tee/McLaren. Ref: Digital Image _1ST2801

Toto Wolff calls German Grand Prix podium “the perfect scene” after Mercedes’ 1-2

Toto Wolff has hailed Mercedes’ unexpected 1-2 finish at the German Grand Prix as the “perfect scene”.

The German marque’s duo of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton had started the race in P2 and P14 respectively, after the Brit suffered a hydraulic failure in qualifying. Bottas held position at the start but for the most part could only sit back and watch Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel begin to open up the gap, whilst Hamilton set about carving through the field. Both drivers had longer first stints than those around them – Bottas changed from the ultras to the softs on lap twenty-eight, and Hamilton swapped from softs to ultras on lap forty-two after having broken into the top five.

2018 Großer Preis von Deutschland, Sonntag – Wolfgang Wilhelm

It was after Hamilton’s pitstop that the rain began to fall. It had been a looming threat hanging over the race, and it was only a matter of when, not if, it would arrive. Despite it turning out to be only a brief shower, many in the midfield made the decision to pit for intermediates.

On lap fifty-two, championship leader Sebastian Vettel crashed in the damp conditions and brought out the safety car, with Bottas and Vettel’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen choosing to pit for fresh ultrasoft tyres. Hamilton, though, stayed out and thus inherited the lead.

When the race restarted, Hamilton began to pull away – although he was helped by Mercedes telling Bottas to hold position despite the Finn being on the fresher tyre – and eventually crossed the line to win the German Grand Prix and reclaim the lead of the drivers’ championship. With Bottas in P2, Mercedes also re-took the lead of the constructors’ championship from Ferrari.

2018 Großer Preis von Deutschland, Sonntag – Wolfgang Wilhelm

Hamilton’s win was briefly under threat when he was summoned to the stewards post-race to explain why he cut across the pitlane entry line when under the safety car, but he was eventually let off with a reprimand and was not given a penalty.

“What an incredible race – here at Hockenheim, on home turf for Mercedes, and a one-two finish after all the bad luck we have had in recent races,” Toto Wolff said. “Today it felt like that turned into good fortune for us and it was the perfect scene on the podium with our two drivers and Dr Zetsche up there. Like always, the race happens on Sunday not Saturday, and sometimes it’s not the quickest car that wins; that was what happened today.”

Wolff also extended his sympathies to Ferrari regarding the news that Fiat Chrysler’s CEO Sergio Marchionne was replaced due to worsening health after a recent operation. “But even in the joy of victory, our thoughts also remain with Sergio Marchionne and his family; although we are rivals on the track, we are friends off it and we were saddened to hear the news of his illness.

“It’s hard to sum up a Grand Prix like this one in a few sentences but things were unfolding in an interesting way when the rain came.

“After the drama of Silverstone and then qualifying yesterday, this is a dream result and that unpredictability is the beauty of sport. But our focus will turn quickly to Hungary, where we will have to do it all over again next weekend.”

 

 

Featured image – 2018 Großer Preis von Deutschland, Sonntag – Steve Etherington

Fernando Alonso: “We need to improve our qualifying performances” for German Grand Prix

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso has said the team is seeking to improve their pace during qualifying ahead of this weekend’s German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.

“We know we need to work on our qualifying performances to give ourselves the best chance on Sunday,” he said, “but we’ve also seen that during the race we can push forward and secure points, so the aim is to achieve the same in Germany [this] weekend.”

Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada
Saturday 9 June 2018.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren.
Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren
ref: Digital Image _1ST9206

So far this season, Alonso has only made it into Q3 twice – in Spain and in Monaco – while team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne hasn’t managed to do so at all. For the most part, the duo have been stuck in the midst of the mid-field, with P13 and P14 being their most frequent results in qualifying. There is no doubt that the French Grand Prix provided their worst Saturday of the year so far – though Vandoorne has failed to make it out of Q3 on four occasions, Paul Ricard has been the only track thus far where Alonso has joined him.

Speaking of the Hockenheim track, Alonso was realistic about his chances. “[I] have won there three times so it’s great to be back after a break last year. The track is viewed as one of the classics, it’s fun to drive and there are a couple of overtaking opportunities – and an extra DRS zone this year – so hopefully we can fight with the cars around us.

“The next couple of races before the summer break are on very different tracks. We need to work hard, and do as much as possible to adapt our set-up for each of them to maximise our chances. We know this weekend won’t be an easy track for us but we’ll give it our best as always.”

Last time out at the power-sensitive Silverstone, Alonso unexpectedly made up five places during the race to end up in the points for the 200th time in his career. In apparently typical McLaren style, the eighth place finish was not made easy for him after – unsurprisingly – a lacklustre qualifying the day before, a trend Alonso and the team are hoping they can end sooner rather than later.

 

 

Featured image courtesy of Steven Tee/McLaren

Toto Wolff: Mercedes “hungry” and “ambitious” ahead of German Grand Prix

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff has said that the team are “hungry [and] ambitious” ahead of their home event at this weekend’s German Grand Prix.

It has been a strange series of races for the Silver Arrows, something Wolff admits. “We didn’t score as many points in the triple-header as we had hoped for,” he said. “A lot of that was down to our own mistakes. However, there is a silver lining to this – while we didn’t maximise on points, we did bring the quickest car to all three races.

“Hockenheim will mark the halfway point of the 2018 season. We’ve had a decent first half – on the one hand, we’ve left points on the table and had to do damage limitation more often than we would have wanted. On the other hand, we still scored a good amount of points, both drivers have shown strong performances and we have a fast car.

“So, there are many reasons why we’re looking forward to the second half of the 2018 season; we’re hungry, ambitious and want to kick on from there.”

Steve Etherington/Mercedes AMG

At the French Grand Prix, the first race of the triple-header, Lewis Hamilton romped to victory while Valtteri Bottas was spun at the start by Sebastian Vettel, suffering a left-rear puncture in the process that dropped him way down the order. He eventually recovered to seventh. A week later in Austria, both Bottas and Hamilton retired from the race in what is believed to be Mercedes’ first double mechanical retirement in F1 since the 1950s. Then, another week after that, Silverstone and the British Grand Prix saw an inversion of the Paul Ricard incident. This time, it was the other Mercedes of Hamilton that was pitched into a spin on the first lap by the other Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. Bottas would finish P4, while Hamilton recovered to finish P2.

Speaking of the looming German Grand Prix, Wolff added, “Going to Hockenheim always feels like coming home. It’s only about a 90-minute drive from the Daimler headquarters in Stuttgart.

“While we had the great opportunity to race in front of many of our colleagues from Brackley and Brixworth in Silverstone, we’re now looking forward to welcoming the German members of the Mercedes family to the circuit and to holding high the three-pointed star on home turf.

“The track itself is quite interesting; it has a variety of corner speeds and will test every aspect of the car.

“We will fight hard to not only put on a good show for our friends and fans in Hockenheim, but also get the result that they will be hoping for.”

Going into the race, Hamilton and Bottas are P2 and P5 in the WDC respectively, with the former eight points behind leader Sebastian Vettel. In the constructors’ championship, Mercedes are twenty points behind Ferrari, with the prospect of their home race making them keener than ever to make up ground.

 

 

Featured image courtesy of Steve Etherington / Mercedes AMG F1.

Austrian Grand Prix: Christian Horner Praises “Mature” Max Verstappen

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has praised Max Verstappen’s approach to the Austrian Grand Prix, in light of the Dutchman’s win this afternoon.

It was Verstappen’s first victory of 2018 after a series of incidents in the early stages of the year, and is Red Bull’s first win at their home race since it returned to the F1 calendar, re-branded in their image, in 2014.

Max Verstappen the Winner of the 2018 Austrian GP with Kimi and Seb. Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

“To win in a Red Bull Car at the Red Bull Ring is something I never imagined would happen this morning,” said Horner. “All credit to Max today, he drove a very, very mature race, managing a very tricky situation with the tyres and he completed a very controlled drive to win our first Austrian Grand Prix.”

Verstappen started the race in P4 and gained a position on the opening lap when Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen overcooked an attempt to overtake Lewis Hamilton.

When Valtteri Bottas retired on lap fourteen and brought out the Virtual Safety Car, Verstappen emerged from the round of pit-stops in P2, now on the soft tyres and thirteen seconds behind the other Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, who had stayed out.

He then inherited the lead of the race when Hamilton finally did pit, and calmly waved off his team’s concerns about his tyres blistering, an issue that befell a number of other drivers on the grid. Kimi Raikkonen may have been closing in the final stages of the race, but Verstappen had built up enough of an advantage to hold on to victory.

Max ahead of kimi. Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

His team-mate Daniel Ricciardo – whose 29th birthday it was today – retired from the race on lap fifty four. “It was a great shame not to have Daniel up on the podium as well,” Christian Horner said, “after running for so many laps in P2, but then his rear tyre started to overheat which caused a second pit stop. Shortly after that we began to see an exhaust crack that was causing gearbox damage, forcing his retirement.

“A special word to our pit-crew, again executing a faultless stacked pit stop on our route to victory, as they had done previously this year in China. I have to also applaud out entire staff back at the factory and their commitment to produce a competitive race car. The day belongs to them, to Max, to the team, to Red Bull and particularly to Mr Mateschitz who has given so much to modern Formula One. We are all delighted for him.”

 

Armin Kremer to drive an M-Sport WRT Fiesta WRC

 

M-Sport WRT Press release

Armin Kremer will contest the 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship with an M-Sport prepared Ford Fiesta WRC.
The multiple German, European and Asia-Pacific champion from Mecklenburg will contest this year’s ADAC Rallye Deutschland in M-Sport’s top-specification Ford Fiesta WRC.

Last month saw Kremer get his first taste of 2017 machinery when travelling to the UK for a test drive. Just a few kilometres at M-Sport’s private testing facility was enough to convince the German and he is now looking forward to contesting his home event at the very highest level.
A total of 21 stages covering a competitive distance of more than 309 kilometres awaits. The challenging route mixes a variety of characteristics – from the spectacular new city circuit stage in Saarbrücken to the fast country lanes of Saarland; from the twisty tracks through the Moselle vineyards, to the rugged concrete of the Baumholder military ground.

In preparation for this unique challenge, Kremer will conduct a pre-event test alongside M-Sport’s manufacturer entries in early August.
The German’s entry at this year’s Rallye Deutschland goes full circle – Kremer having taken to the wheel of M-Sport’s Ford Focus WRC at the very first FIA World Rally Championship round to be held on German soil in 2002.

Armin Kremer said:

“I am overwhelmed and proud. It is an honour and a great pleasure for me, but also a huge challenge to compete with the same rally car at the ADAC Rallye as the four-time world champion Sébastien Ogier.

“I will translate everything in order to confirm the confidence placed in me by M-Sport and Malcolm Wilson. It is still too early to think about a result, but I am sure that with the support of the M-Sport drivers and engineers I will quickly get used to the Ford Fiesta WRC and find the optimal set-up for me.
“Anyone who knows me knows how much I want to get a decent result and to offer the German fans a good show.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE:
“It’s great to welcome Armin back to the team for his home event. We’ve worked with him in the past and he is an extremely experienced driver – especially at Rallye Deutschland.

“It’s fantastic to have a German driver in a Ford Fiesta WRC for his home event – particularly as the home of the road-going Fiesta is just up the road in Cologne.

“I’m sure that Armin will enjoy every minute of it. I also have no doubt that his vast experience of these unique roads will benefit the entire team.”