Monday, April 20, 2015

Lewis Hamilton scores second Sakhir win amid drama

Lewis Hamilton scores second Sakhir Win amid drama

Lewis Hamilton sped from pole without any incident but was fortunate to win the race as Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari was only 3.3 seconds behind him with faster soft tyres and Hamilton was facing problems with his brake. Nico Rosberg of Mercedes came third and was followed by Valtteri Bottas of Williams in fourth and Sebastian Vettel of Ferarri in fifth.

Ferrari made an interesting call to put Raikkonen on medium tyres after the first stint whereas Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg of Mercedes and Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari chose to shod soft tyres again during the first pit stop. So this leading trio had medium tyres at the end and Raikkonen had the faster soft tyres in the last stint. Sebastian Vettel unfortunately ran wide in lap 35 and had to change the nose of his car. This pushed him down the order.

It was not all happy speeding away from pole for Hamilton. The Mercedes team did a tardy pit stop and this resulted in Lewis Hamilton just emerging ahead of his team-mate Nico Rosberg’s car and the distance separating the two would not be more than even a feet. At that time Rosberg was in battle with Sebastian Vettel.

Fortunately there were not incidents and Lewis Hamilton could resume his race lead and then soon create a gap between him and others. However, on the penultimate lap both the Mercedes cars faced brake problems. So Kimi Raikkonen could overtake Nico Rosberg and finish second. He was barely 3.3 seconds behind Hamilton and if there was perhaps even one more lap to go then Kimi would have overtaken Lewis Hamilton. So Mercedes needs to remain on their toes, else suddenly Ferrari can just snatch away wins like they did in Malaysia.

There are some people who felt that Mercedes purposefully slowed their cars down during the second stint, so that the gap between Mercedes and others doesn’t appear very big. There have been calls from other teams, especially by Red Bull to bring in a regulation and take away the advantage of Mercedes. In the strictest sense, F1 is not a sport as the drivers within a team can only race each other if they are allowed to by their teams. Now the call to penalise the leading team because others are not competitive is clearly against free competition. However, F1 is also not an equal opportunity sport for all teams. The top teams negotiate with CVC the rights holder and Bernie Ecclestone and get a major portion of the revenues. The lower ranked teams get less. Add to that the money power of the top teams like Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and one can easily know that the independent teams find it very difficult to spend money and compete. Red Bull had dominated F1 for four consecutive years and for the first time last year they lost the title to Mercedes. And since this year they are not in the pace, immediately they are calling to change the rules and throttle Mercedes. Such is the politics in F1. If this results in fans moving away from the sport, then it won’t come as a surprise.

Vettel’s former team-mate Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull finished sixth. This is a better than expected result for the Red Bull team especially since they finished higher then their sister team Toro Rosso which has way less resources than Red Bull. Both the Toro Rosso’s didn’t finish. However, Ricciardo’s Renault engine died while he crossed the finish line and won’t be usable later. Romain Grosjean of Lotus is having a much better luck than last year and he finished in seventh and was followed by Sergio Perez’s Force India.

Daniil Kvyat of Red Bull came in ninth with two points. Felipe Massa of Williams was 10th. Massa had to start from the pitlane as his car stalled. He however could muscle his way through and atleast salvage one point.

The drivers from 8th onwards were lapped.

It was another bad day for McLaren team as Jenson Button couldn’t even drive the race as there was an electrical problem with his engine recovery system. Fortunately the other car driven by Alonso could run the full race distance and finished in 11th. However, they are still slow and need much more development to be competitive.

Rookie Felipe Nasr of Sauber came in 12th followed by Nico Hulkenberg of Force India. Marcus Ericsson of Sauber was 14th and was followed by Pastor Maldonado of Lotus in 15th.

Will Stevens of Manor racing came in 16th and was lapped twice. His team-mate Roberto Merhi was three laps down.

Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari had the distinction of scoring the fastest lap of the race with a 1m 36.311s in the lap 42 denying Lewis Hamilton having the distinction of Pole, win and fastest lap.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hamilton beats Rosberg for Mercedes 1-2 in Shanghai

Hamilton beats Rosberg for Mercedes 1-2 in Shanghai

Mercedes came back to familiar race results with Lewis Hamilton winning the Chinese Grand Prix at Shangai and Nico Rosberg finishing in 2nd position. Sebastian Vettel of Redbull came in third behind the two Mercedes drivers.

Sebastian Vettel’s Malaysia win had shocked the F1 world, and Mercedes would be breathing easy now after this win in China. However, the victory by Mercedes was not one-sided as it was in Australia. Sebastian Vettel was not far behind and there was danger of Nico Rosberg losing the second place to him. The Mercedes team even urged Lewis Hamilton to quicken his pace, as he was cruising at a steady pace instead of the full pace that his machine was capable off. Mercedes even told Lewis Hamilton that if he did not increase his pace then may be forced to allow Nico Rosberg to the pits before Lewis Hamilton. It is an accepted fact that the leading driver of the team gets the first chance to pit before his team-mate. Infact Rosberg’s tyres were bad so he finally got a chance to pit before Hamilton, but Lewis Hamilton took the chance to quicken his pace and score a fastest lap.

Ferrari’s pace was not good in the medium tyres which they took in the last stint. They were a match to the Mercedes in the soft tyres. The race finished with the safety car as the youngest driver on the grid, Max Verstappen of Toro Rosso had to stop his smoking car on the pit straight and surprisingly it couldn’t be removed in time. This definitely impacted the race results as the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen was charging fast and could have snatched the third spot from team-mate Sebastian Vettel, as Kimi had fresh tyres on his car and the gap between the cars had dropped to only 1.3 seconds. When a car is within one second of the preceding car, it can deploy the DRS in the designated DRS zone and overtake. Kimi, a good friend of Vettel might be cursing his luck.

The Williams cars of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas came in fifth and sixth confirming that they have fallen behind Ferrari as well. Last year Williams were just behind Mercedes and were dreaming of a race victory, especially in Brazil where Felipe Massa was leading.

Romain Grosjean, the original bad boy of 2013, finished in seventh and got the first points for Lotus. 2014 was a forgettable year for Lotus with their team principal moving to McLaren and Kimi moving to Ferrari. They had financial trouble as well. This year after moving to Mercedes engines from Renault engines, they are having a better time.

Felipe Nasr of Sauber finished in eighth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull. Ricciardo had a dreadful start to the Chinese F1 Grand Prix as he accidentally hit the auto stall during the start. He somehow held his nerves and showed a gritty performance to finish in points in 9th place. He must be happy that Verstappen of sister car Toro Rosso, who was scheduled to finish in eighth had to retire with a smoking Renault engine. Despite the much higher budget of Red bull, the sister cars of Toro Rosso are doing better.

Marcus Ericsson must be very happy moving to Sauber as he finished in points by claiming the 10th and last points paying position. He was one lap down. Sergio Perez of Force India came in 11th.

Jenson Button made a mistake and hit Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus car from behind. Button accepted his fault and was penalised with 5 seconds. So he finished in 14th and his team-mate Fernando Alonso finished in 12th. Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso was 13th.

It must be a very sad day for Fernando Alonso, who left Ferrari to join McLaren, as Ferrari is doing well this year and the Ferrari cars lapped the McLaren of Alonso.

Both the Marussia cars managed to finish the race and would be very happy with the reliability. They couldn’t race in the season opener at Melbourne. In Malaysia they only ran one car. At Shanghai in the Chinese F1 Grand Prix, Will Stevens lead his team-mate Roberto Merhi for a 15th and 16th position finish.

Retirements in Chinese F1 Grand Prix

Max Verstappen                Toro Rosso
Pastor Maldonado             Lotus
Daniil Kvyat                     Red Bull
Nico Hulkenberg              Force India