Belgian Grand Prix: Hamilton Claims Pole as Force India Impress in Rain-Affected Qualifying

Lewis Hamilton has claimed his 78th pole position in Formula One, setting a time seven tenths quicker than title rival Sebastian Vettel as rain showers shook things up in Q3 at Spa-Francorchamps.

The Brit now holds the record for the most pole positions claimed at the circuit, beating the previous record of four poles held by Juan Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna.

Ferrari had looked as if they had the edge coming into qualifying, with the Scuderia setting the fastest times in every practice session as well as in Q1 and Q2. However, when the rain started to fall in Q3, the pendulum swung in Mercedes’ favour. Sebastian Vettel managed to significantly improve his lap time in the final runs of Q3 as the track began to dry but it wasn’t enough to overthrow Lewis Hamilton at the top of the timing screens. He will start the race tomorrow in P2.

2018 Großer Preis von Belgien, Samstag – Steve Etherington

Force India, or Racing Point Force India if you want to be pedantic, saw both of their drivers put in superb performances. Esteban Ocon – whose future is uncertain amid rumours of Lance Stroll being drafted into the team as soon as Monza or Singapore – qualified an amazing P3. Team-mate Sergio Perez recovered from a huge moment coming out of Eau Rouge and going into Raidillon to post the fourth quickest time. There must be something in the Force India water at Spa, for this is the circuit where Giancarlo Fisichella claimed pole for them in 2009 and where previous incarnations of the team, notably Jordan Grand Prix, have always run well.

Also putting in a great performance was the Haas of Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman had been surprisingly off the pace all weekend, but he managed to get it together when it mattered and qualified P5.

Kimi Raikkonen had been looking particularly strong all weekend, but Ferrari made the strategic error of only giving him enough fuel for one lap in Q3. This meant the Finn was confined to the garage towards the end of Q3 at precisely the moment when the fastest laps were being set on track. He ended up P6.

The Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo will, like Raikkonen, definitely not be satisfied. Thanks to a mix of strategic error and the low-drag trim they had been running, they ended up P7 and P8 respectively and over four seconds away from Hamilton’s pole time.

2018 Großer Preis von Belgien, Samstag – Wolfgang Wilhelm

The other Haas of Kevin Magnussen qualified P9, nearly three seconds behind his team-mate, and Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top ten having failed to set a time in Q3. The Finn came into qualifying carrying engine penalties and knowing that, whatever happened, he would be starting the Grand Prix from the back of the grid.

Outside the top ten, the main surprise came in the form of Renault’s Carlos Sainz being knocked out of Q1 by the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson.

Not so surprising, however, was the pace of the two McLaren cars. It is turning into a home race to forget for Stoffel Vandoorne – the Belgian had been slowest in FP1, FP2, and FP3, and that trend, unfortunately, continued into Q1. This was McLaren’s worst qualifying of the year so far, with Vandoorne’s team-mate Fernando Alonso also failing to make it out of Q1 and qualifying P17. They will, however, get bumped up a couple of places thanks to the engine penalties given to Valtteri Bottas and also to Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.

 

Featured image: 2018 Großer Preis von Belgien, Samstag – Steve Etherington

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

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.

F1 2018: British Grand Prix Driver Ratings

Looking at the results, you wouldn’t have thought much happened during the British Grand Prix, but some action at the start and a couple of safety car periods spiced the race up. The final race of the triple-header in Europe saw Sebastian Vettel take the win.

The 2018 Formula One British GP winners; (left to right)Lewis 2nd, Seb winner and Kimi 3rd. Image courtesy of Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel – 9

There were pre-race doubts about Vettel’s fitness – he had tape put on his neck after FP3 – but the adrenaline kicked in and his start was beautiful, waving concerns away. All the action happened behind him. The safety cars late on in the race put him behind on the track but a great dive-bomb up the inside of Bottas sealed the win. Great victory as we head towards Germany next! 

 

Lewis Hamilton – 9

The Brit got a tardy start which he would come to regret, even if he ended the race in a position where he lost minimal amounts of points. There were some very interesting comments from him afterwards suggesting that tactics from Ferrari were what resulted in him being taken out, bringing back memories of Mexico 2017. Hamilton was the last car on track at the end of lap one, but like a knife through butter he carved his way through the field. A disappointing start, but if you look from lap two onwards it was a great race for him.

 

Kimi Raikkonen – 7

Raikkonen has finished on the podium at the last three races, but never on the top step. The Finn owned up to his coming-together with Hamilton, saying the incident at turn three was his fault and accepting the penalty handed to him. Team-mate Vettel stormed off into the distance, while Raikkonen couldn’t quite match Hamilton near the end of the race.

 

Valtteri Bottas – 8

The Mercedes team threw away the lead again today, deciding to keep Bottas out after the second safety car. Before that he was faster than Vettel, so on a level playing field Bottas could have beaten the German and taken the flag first. Much like in China and Baku, strategy from his team may have cost him the victory once again, even if it may have been tougher in Silverstone to remain in the lead. A great start made amends for a poor qualifying on Saturday, but he is clearly still playing second fiddle to Hamilton.

 

Daniel Ricciardo – 7

Silverstone turned out to be a track which highlighted the frailties of the Red Bull package. Roughly 80% of the track is spent at full throttle, and power isn’t exactly Red Bull’s strong point. Ricciardo was out qualified once again by Verstappen, with a DRS issue hampering his performance. He was great at defending against Raikkonen during the race but unfortunately the safety car came out at the wrong time for him, as he had already made a pit-stop two laps beforehand. The lack of speed along the straights prevented him from passing Bottas in the closing laps of the race.

 

Nico Hulkenburg – 8

Best of the rest and great haul of points for the German. Renault were the only team to use the hard tyre during the race, having worried about blistering on the other compounds, and the tactic worked brilliantly. Hulkenberg did supremely well to keep the pack behind him at the two safety car restarts.

 

Esteban Ocon – 7

Ocon is showing his worth a lot more this season compared to last, and provided a great result at for Force India at what is essentially the team’s home race, given that their factory is literally just over the road. Ocon made it through to the final part of qualifying, and kept the car in the top ten on Sunday. 

 

Fernando Alonso – 8

Alonso’s McLaren may lack pace on a Saturday but on a Sunday, in the hands of the Spaniard, it is one of the best in the midfield. He took advantage of the safety cars to pit for some fresh rubber, allowing him to get past Kevin Magnussen at the end. He may appear calm on the outside, but it isn’t hard to imagine that deep down all is still not well with the relationship between himself and McLaren.

Sebastian Vettel leads the 2018 British GP. Image courtesy of Ferrari

Kevin Magnussen – 7

Hampered by the first lap accident with his team-mate, Magnussen did well to score points considering the clash inflicted some damage to his car, which restricted his speed. He was one of few drivers not to pit under the safety car which pushed him down the order late on, but he managed to hold on to salvage some points.

 

Sergio Perez – 6

Much like Hamilton, Perez saw the field drive past him after contact on the first lap spun him at turn one. He recovered well and found himself in contention for the last point, which was ultimately claimed by Pierre Gasly Chafter a collision between the two near the end of the race. After the race, though, Gasly was awarded a five-second penalty for the incident, meaning Perez inherited P10 and the one point that comes with it.

 

Stoffel Vandoorne – 4

It was a quiet weekend in general for Vandoorne. He was a whopping 0.9 seconds slower than Alonso on Saturday, and with others making the decision to start the race from the pit-lane it meant he was the last on the grid. He finished the race in 12th, meaning he now hasn’t scored since Baku. Lando Norris in currently second in Formula 2 and is hotly tipped for a drive in F1 next year. It could well be this seat that he takes.

 

Lance Stroll – 5

Williams are currently the worst car on the grid, and unfortunately nothing put that more on show than Sunday’s race. Prior to the first safety car they were the only team to have been lapped, and Stroll made a mistake in qualifying which ended up his car being beached in the gravel.

 

Pierre Gasly – 7

Gasly had a good Sunday and initially finished tenth, a welcome result given that Toro Rosso been having a tough time of it recently. The Frenchman collided with Perez with a few laps to go, and a harsh time penalty given to him after the race pushed him down the field. Silverstone was a track which showed Honda’s deficit to the other manufacturers, but there are still promising signs and it was a far better day for Gasly than the results suggested.

 

Sergey Sirotkin – 5

Sirotkin, along with his team-mate, started the race from the pits after taking on new parts. Like Stroll, Sirotkin also made a mistake in qualifying, but managed to keep the car going and set a lap, albeit one that turned out to be the slowest of the session. Seeing the Williams team run plum last is such a shame to see.

 

Max Verstappen – 7

Verstappen may have been classified as a finisher, but a brake-by-wire issue ended his day late into the race. Ever-hungry, he was running in a solid podium position, but with the deficit of his Renault power-unit he was a sitting duck at the restarts. His defending to Raikkonen was brilliant.

 

Carlos Sainz – 5

A poor performance for Sainz both on Saturday and Sunday. A less-than-par qualifying session put him in the thick of the action, and he collided with Romain Grosjean. A weekend to forget for the Spaniard.

 

Romain Grosjean – 5

Will Austria be seen as a peak in Grosjean’s season? Three collisions in one weekend isn’t good enough. The first occurred in practice, with the second being the cardinal sin of hitting his team mate on the first lap. The third, a tangling with Sainz at Copse, ended his race. Grosjean should have lifted off the throttle, but he kept his foot buried, causing instability and ultimately the collision.

 

Marcus Ericcson – 6

Ericsson’s DRS didn’t close as he approached turn one during the race and he crashed heavily, bringing out the first safety car. The crash rounded out an unfortunate weekend for the Swede, after England took his country out of the World Cup the day before. He did, however, have great pace during qualifying and got through to Q2.

 

Charles Leclerc – 8

An unfortunate error in the pits for Sauber resulted in Leclerc’s rear tyre not being fitted properly and the team telling him to stop the car. He had made another Q3 appearance on Saturday and had been running seventh at the time of the error, which meant the loss of a potentially big haul of points.

 

Brendan Hartley – N/A

You can’t really comment on what a horrible weekend the Kiwi has had. The suspension failure on Saturday pretty much ended his weekend. He didn’t see any track action in qualifying, and a last minute problem starting from the pit lane resulted in retirement after one lap. None of it whatsoever was his fault.

Ferrari Media

There is now a two-week break before we head to Hockenheim in Germany, a track that we see appear every so often on the calendar. Vettel won on Hamilton’s home turf this weekend, but can Hamilton strike back with victory in Germany? Vettel hasn’t got a record like Hamilton at his home track, and has only won in Germany once in his Red Bull days. The summer break looms and, for drivers such as Grosjean and Vandoorne, the pressure increases.

Austrian Grand Prix: Bottas Claims First Pole of the Year

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Valtteri Bottas has claimed his first pole position of the year, and leads a Mercedes 1-2 into tomorrow’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Of the big-hitters, only Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen had a truly clean session. Both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel made mistakes early on – at turn three and turn four respectively – and ended up relatively far back after the first Q3 runs had been completed. It took until the last couple of minutes for the pair to pull themselves back up the order – Hamilton ultimately qualified P2, and Vettel P3, with both pushing Kimi Raikkonen down into P4. Vettel was noted as being under investigation for allegedly impeding Carlos Sainz in Q2, but since Sainz did advance to Q3 it is uncertain whether Vettel will receive any penalty.

Red Bull had expected qualifying to be a struggle compared to Mercedes and Ferrari coming into the weekend. Max Verstappen may have qualified P5 but he was still two tenths behind Raikkonen, and Daniel Ricciardo ended up P7 behind the Haas of an impressive Romain Grosjean. Replays of team radio throughout the session indicated a certain amount of tension in the team, with Ricciardo frustrated that Verstappen did not follow orders to lead the Australian for a lap and give him a tow, as Ricciardo had done for Verstappen the lap before.

Kevin Magnussen and the two Renaults of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg complete the top ten.

Further down the order, Charles Leclerc continues to impress in the Sauber. He qualified P13 but carries a five-place grid penalty due to his gearbox needing to be changed following a stoppage on track in FP3.

Force India’s Sergio Perez had a nightmare of a session. The Mexican complained of running out of battery during his first run and of getting stuck in traffic during his second. He failed to make it out of Q1 and starts P17.

It was also a frustrating session for McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley. Both were looking to pull themselves out of the drop-zone and into Q2, but encountered yellow flags on their flying laps when Charles Leclerc ran through the gravel trap in the final moments of Q1.

Both Mercedes and Red Bull will start tomorrow’s Grand Prix on the supersoft tyres, with all those around them starting on the ultras. Bottas will be hoping to convert pole position into a win, at the circuit where he claimed his second ever victory in 2017.

Austrian Grand Prix Grid

1. Valtteri Bottas – 1:03.130

2. Lewis Hamilton – 1:03.149

3. Sebastian Vettel – 1:03.464

4. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:03.660

5. Max Verstappen – 1:03.840

6. Romain Grosjean – 1:03.892

7. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:03.996

8. Kevin Magnussen – 1:04.051

9. Carlos Sainz – 1:04.725

10. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:05.019

11. Esteban Ocon – 1:04.845

12. Pierre Gasly 0 1:04.874

13. Fernando Alonso – 1:05.058

14. Lance Stroll – 1:05.286

15. Stoffel Vandoorne – 1:05.271

16. Sergio Perez – 1:05.279

17. Sergey Sirotkin – 1:05.322

18. Charles Leclerc – 1:04.979 *5-place penalty for gearbox change

19. Brendon Hartley 1:05.366

20. Marcus Ericsson – 1:05.479

 

Update – 17:30 – Sebastian Vettel has been given a three-place penalty by the stewards for impeding Carlos Sainz at turn one in Q2. The German will now start P6, promoting Kimi Raikkonen to P3, Max Verstappen to P4, and Romain Grosjean to P5.

©2017 The Pitcrewonline