Round 4 WorldSBK Donington Park Race 1

World Super Bikes makes a welcome return to Donington Park after missing out last year due to the Covid 19 restrictions. The historic track, being the place where it all began back in 1988, hosting the first ever WorldSBK race.  Would we see history in the making this weekend?

Dramatic scenes at Donington. (Courtesy of: WorldSBK website).

Championship leader Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) was looking in scintillating form, setting the fastest time in FP 1, as well as in a wet FP3. With the heavens opening to make for a wet Superpole, it wouldn’t dampen Rea’s pace, topping the grid in an unbeaten time of 1:40.101. Completing the front row would be the BMW teammates, Michael van der Mark  1:40.626, and Tom Sykes in 1:40.763.

The weather for Race 1 was looking typically mixed for a British summers day. With a massive downpour earlier in the morning, the race was declared wet, even although by start time the track was dry in most places. Tyre choice would be crucial, and it seemed most of the grid was going for slicks.

Lights out, and it was Jonathan Rea who got the hole shot into turn 1, closely followed by the two BMWs of van der Mark, and Sykes. It was Toprak Razgatlioglu (Yamaha) with a wonder start who was grabbing all the headlines early on, scything through the field from a lowly qualifying position of 13th, by turn 1 he was already up to 5th place. Winner last time around in Misano race 2, Razgatlioglu (TR) wasn’t hanging about, getting past both BMWs by the end of the first lap.

T.R was now hunting down Rea, who nearly went down after his rear tyre hit a damp patch. Further back in the field it was still very close, Gerloff (Yamaha) was passed in the Melbourne Loop by Redding (Ducati) who subsequently went down at the top of Craner Curves. The damp track was causing havoc, who was going to be able to hold their nerve? Another crash through the Craner Curves and its Christophe Ponsson (Yamaha) who went down.

T.R was now caught up to Rea and made his pass on lap 2. Across the start/finish line to begin lap 3, Rea again slides at the top of Craner Curves, this time running off the track and down across the wet grass, somehow managing to avoid a massive crash, rejoins the track to remain in 2nd place. Razgatlioglu lays down the first marker by putting in a fastest lap of 1:33.292.

Spectators get a fantastic race. (Courtesy of WorldSBK website).

Van Der Mark (BMW) was now right behind Rea after his excursion, and looking for a way past. Further back it was Leon Haslam (Honda) in 5th place clawing his way up to Sykes in 4th, while Gerloff in 7th was closing up to Alex Lowes (Kawasaki) in 6th. Both Razgatlioglu and Gerloff were using the slick soft X-tyre, and it was noticeable in their times.

With 20 laps to go, Razgatlioglu already held a gap of 3.1 to Rea, and was slowly applying more pressure, putting in another fastest lap of 1:32.706. The world champion would respond the next lap setting a new fastest lap of 1:31.441. It was turning out to be ‘anything you can do, I can do better.’

Again, with 18 laps to go Rea puts in another fastest lap of 1:30.648, reducing the gap to T.R to 1.948. He wouldn’t be giving up any time soon. With the track mostly dry now, faster times were being set. Razgatlioglu responded with 17 laps to go, setting a new fastest lap of 1:30.126. The drying track was still catching some riders out, with Andrea Locatelli (Yamaha) crashing hard, but he managed to walk away unhurt.

Another big moment for Rea at Redgate turn 1 with 15 laps to go, the rear stepped out, the slide is saved, but Rea lost valuable time to T.R. With the sun now shining down onto the track, the fans were being treated to absolutely sublime racing. Donington we missed you!

With 13 laps to go, van der Mark was getting closed down quickly by his team mate in 4th, and Lowes in 5th. Gerloff got through on Haslam with 12 laps to go. In a ding-dong battle, Sykes decides to make a move on his teammate, opening the door for Lowes, van der Mark now going from 3rd to 5th. All the while Gerloff was gaining on the trio.  Into the Melbourne Loop van der Mark runs in hot, and bumps shoulders with Lowes, somehow both riders managed to stay on, but this allowed Gerloff to gain a place – moving up to 5th.

Meanwhile at the front with 11 laps remaining, Rea puts in a new fastest lap of 1:28.908, hoping to claw his way back to T.R. The gap now at 3.4. Immediately the next lap T.R responds with a 1:28.815, not allowing Rea to have any momentum. Tito Rabat (Ducati) retires due to a mechanical problem.

With 9 laps to go Lowes makes a move on Sykes, out-braking him into the Melbourne Loop – pushing him wide, this in turn leaves Gerloff space to dive inside Sykes, going from 3rd to 5th in one corner. Last corner, turn 12 (Goddards) and Gerloff drives up the inside of Lowes, aggressive riding by the Texan – now on for a podium.

Razgatlioglu now lapping Jonas Folger (BMW) with 8 laps to go, showing no signs of slowing down. The gap to Rea now at 3.9. Drama for Gerloff going into turn 12 with 7 laps to go, he loses the front end and goes down, managing to get back on track now in 8th position, no doubt seething under his helmet after all the work he did earlier.

Lap 18 of 23 and the gap between Razgatlioglu to Rea now at 4.2, with Rea seemingly having accepted his 2nd place, or possibly not able to respond anymore to Razgatlioglu’s lap times – tyre wear almost certainly an issue for both riders now.

With 5 laps remaining Alvaro Bautista (Honda) had steadily moved up to 7th from a grid position of 16th, although he had Gerloff looking to make a pass on him, which he did, pushing him back a position. Gerloff was now hunting down Haslam in 6th place with only 4 laps remaining. Meanwhile at the head the gap between Razgatlioglu and Rea was now up to 5.0.

Last lap – late drama, Razgatlioglu’s bike looks to be spluttering from low fuel, he managed to cross the line, but lost the gap he made to Rea, who crossed in 2nd place.  Lowes the local lad, gets 3rd place for his 200th WSBK start.

Sportsmanship between first and second place. (Courtesy of: WorldSBK website).

There is a star on the Turkish flag, and Razgatlioglu no doubt surely is one, with a bright future ahead of him. After an action packed race 1, what will the Superpole race, and race 2 bring?

Race Results:

  1. Toprak Razgatlioglu – Yamaha
  2. Jonathan Rea – Kawasaki
  3. Alex Lowes – Kawasaki
  4. Tom Sykes – BMW
  5. Michael van der Mark – BMW
  6. Leon Haslam – Honda
  7. Garrett Gerloff – Yamaha
  8. Alvaro Bautista – Honda
  9. Lucas Mahias – Kawasaki
  10. Axel Bassani – Ducati

Out – Jonas Folger – BMW, Tito Rabat – Ducati, Andrea Locatelli – Yamaha, Scott Redding – Ducati, Christophe Ponsson – Yamaha.

Championship Standings:

  1. Rea – 169 pts
  2. Raz – 154
  3. Red – 104
  4. Low – 104
  5. Rin – 86

 

(Featured image – courtesy of: BBC)

My British GP Experience

Having followed F1 for pretty much as long as I can remember, I finally got the chance to attend my first race at the British Grand Prix. It was something that I’d been looking forward to for months and it did not disappoint, by any means! The weather was glorious all weekend and there was a huge number of things to do, both on and off track.

Max Verstappen kicks a football. Image courtesy of Dan Istitene/Getty Images via Redbull Content Pool

I was there with four other members of my family and we decided, wisely or not, to camp at the Camping F1 campsite. This was brilliant for the atmosphere of the weekend and being surrounded by people who are attending, all for the same reason, meant that we had plenty of F1-related conversation with people who would’ve otherwise been complete strangers. It gives you a different perspective on the experience as a whole when you’ve spent time talking to strangers (who seemed like anything but that) about all things F1, whether it’s what Alonso should do next, Red Bull going to Honda, Leclerc’s potential Ferrari move or the new direction of F1 – to be surrounded by people who knew about all that was just amazing. There was one drawback of camping though, basically, don’t do it if you want to sleep as the music is going strong until at least midnight!

Away from the campsite, we had a short walk to the track and were immediately greeted by numerous food and drink outlets where we must have spent an absolute fortune over the course of the four days! Around the grounds, there were lots of merchandise stores and Fan Zones, all aimed at adding to the whole experience of the weekend. We spent the majority of our time away from the track action in the main F1 Village which was around the main stage. Here there was the large F1 Store with plenty of merchandise for all teams (of which I bought a lot!) as well as, for the first time in a long time, a store selling official Michael Schumacher merchandise while the Ayrton Senna stores also returned, meaning there was pa lot to choose from.

Daniel signing autographs. Image courtesy of Charles Coates/Getty Images via redbull content pool

Along with this, there was a row of 16 simulators which you could queue up to have a go on as well as the pit stop challenge where, in a team of three, you could see how quickly you could change an F1 tyre. Another part of the pit stop challenge was the leaderboard; over the course of the weekend, fans competed to have the quickest time – the top six times were then invited back for the final on Sunday morning where the fastest on that attempt would win paddock passes, a nice way to immerse fans in a more obscure part of the sport.

It was at the simulators that we met seven of the current F2 drivers: Artem Markelov, Sean Gelael, Jack Aitken, George Russell, Lando Norris, Roy Nissany and Roberto Merhi. The drivers each selected a fan from the gathered crowd to take part in a race with them which Nissany got disqualified from in about 5 seconds and Russell won in dominant fashion. Following this, the staff there came and handed out sheets of paper to the crowd and Sharpies to the drivers, meaning we could all get autographs and photos with them which was one of my highlights of the weekend.

The track action may have only gotten underway on Friday however, there was a very large crowd assembled for the Sky Sports F1 Show which took place on Thursday evening. This was a great event as we got to see the majority of the F1 grid come out onto the main pit straight and have a go at football darts, won by Nico Hulkenberg, with rather amusing consequences. Plenty of t-shirt cannons were also brought out during this with some drivers being more successful than others at firing them over the catch-fence!

For the actual track action itself, I think this year was one of the best showings for Silverstone – every race had a close battle for the lead, from GP3 and F2 to Porsche Supercup and even F1, all the racing was absolutely brilliant. For pretty much every race, bar one which we’ll get to in a minute, the grandstands were nearing full and the atmosphere in them was something else. The only exception to that was the first F2 race which clashed with England’s Quarter Final match in the World Cup so, while we stayed in the stands to watch the race, most of the spectators flocked to the big screens to watch the match. We certainly knew when England had scored by the cheering that actually drowned out the cars!

Sunday brought the race everyone had waited for – F1. Hamilton was obviously the home favourite, so he got a massive cheer on the formation lap, every time he overtook someone and every time he just came past the stand! The tension before the start was tangible while there was a collective disappointment when Hamilton got passed on the start. Our grandstand was Village B so the Hamilton/Raikkonen collision happened directly in front of us and meant that Raikkonen became the pantomime villain for the entire race.

After the race, some of the drivers went up onto the main stage to greet the very large crowd. Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were the first to make an appearance, followed by the Williams duo of Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll, Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul and Hulkenberg. Last up in the main slot was the hilarious pairing of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, accompanied by team boss Christian Horner, which involved a lot of jokes and even some singing from Ricciardo… he should definitely stick to driving! Hamilton didn’t show up until after Mel C’s set on the stage which was a bit frustrating but fitted with what he’d been doing all weekend.

Overall, despite a few minor frustrations, a complete lack of sleep and at times unbearable heat, the weekend was incredible – all the negatives were completely eclipsed by the positives, the amazing track action, meeting some of the drivers and being waved at by them on the cool down lap. We enjoyed it so much that we’ve already booked our tickets for next year which, we, along with the 340,000 who attended over the weekend, hope beyond all hopes won’t be the last British GP. The contract has been terminated but there are ongoing negotiations to save the British GP because we can’t lose it, it’s far too good to go!

 

British Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton the British King

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes-Benz F1 W08 Hybrid celebrates at Formula One World Championship, Rd10, British Grand Prix, Qualifying, Silverstone, England, Saturday 15 July 2017.

British Grand Prix, it was a disaster for Ferrari and one of the best races for Mercedes. The silver arrows secured another 1-2 for this season and Lewis Hamilton won his fourth consecutive British Grand Prix, with this victory the British driver matched Jim Clark’s record (five wins).

Lewis Hamilton showed from the beginning that he will not allow anyone to challenge him, from the pole till the chequered flag, Hamilton was calm and comfortable while he was driving his Mercedes. His team-mate, Valtteri Bottas started the race from the ninth place, after a five-place grid penalty which he got due to new gearbox, but after an amazing drive he moved up to the second position.

Kimi Raikkonen, who was the third person on the podium, had mixed feelings at the end of the Grand Prix. With two laps to go, Kimi had a problem with his front left tyre which cost him time and dropped him out of the podium, because he had to pit for new tyres. A few corners later, Sebastian Vettel suffered a puncture on the front left tyre, the German managed to find his way to the pits and after a quick stop he finished the race seventh.

That incident gave the chance to Raikkonen to finish third and score a podium.

Lewis Hamilton had a quick and clean start, followed by Kimi Raikkonen, whilst Sebastian Vettel lost his position from Max Verstappen and dropped down to fourth. A collision between the Toro Rosso drivers forced the safety car to make its appearance on the track.

At the restart, on lap 5, Hamilton increased his lead from Raikkonen to 3.1 seconds. Sebastian Vettel pressured Verstappen for the third place. Sebastian, took the inside on Stowe but Verstappen managed to hold his position. The German attacked once again on Verstappen on Vale, he took the inside, passed Verstappen, but the Dutch didn’t want to give his position without a fight, Verstappen pushed Vettel to go wide into the chicane and re-gained his position. A few laps later, Ferrari called Vettel into the pits and switched to soft compounds. A lap later, Verstappen pitted, but a delay which caused by an issue with a wheelnut cost him the third place.

Bottas started the race on softs, he was the only driver in the top ten who was on softs, pitted on lap 33 and switched to a fresher set of super-softs. After the pit-stop, the Finn was flying and he was closing to Sebastian Vettel for the third place. His first approach on Vettel was not successful, but one lap later the Finn took the outside after the Hangar Straight and he easily passed Vettel.

A smart strategy and a good drive from Ricciardo moved the Australian up to the fifth place. Daniel, after a series of penalties, started the race from the 19th place, whilst Max Verstappen finished fourth behind Kimi Raikkonen. Great race for Nico Hulkenberg and Renault, the French lost the fifth place from Ricciardo during the final laps of the race, but he finished ahead of Sebastian Vettel.

Eight double points finish in 10 races for the pink panthers. The two Force India drivers finished eighth and ninth, both ahead of Felipe Massa who scored one point for Williams.

For me Daniel Ricciardo was the driver of the day, even when he pitted for the first time and re-joined tenth, managed to pass the two Force India and moved up to fifth position.

Lewis Hamilton closed the gap on Vettel, in drivers’ standings, to just one point, with one race to go to the summer break. The next race will take place in Hungary on 28-30 July.

Twitter – @FP_Passion