Photo courtesy of Jamey Price
Shucking off any sweat remaining from the drama of last week, Lewis Hamilton dominates qualifying at Silverstone, and will start on the pole for the British Grand Prix. Hamilton dealt with a fair share of issues throughout qualifying. Rosberg beat Hamilton in Q1. And in Q3, the FIA disallowed Hamilton’s first time because he exceeded track limits. So when the 44 Mercedes set-off for the second time, it was do or die. Much to the joy of the large crowd of Brits, it was do. Hamilton’s fastest lap of the day actually came during Q2. His time of 1:29.243 beat everyone else by at least seven-tenths of a second.
During each qualifying session, the safety stewards cracked down on exceeding track limits. Other then the aforementioned Hamilton lap during Q3, both Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso lost their respective fast laps at the time. This, in my opinion is a stupid rule. If you don’t want drivers to drive beyond arbitrary limits, make the edge of the track less arbitrary. How about a meters width of grass before you reach the paved run-off? Drivers won’t want to touch that, so job done. Even worse, the stewards decided to eliminate laps only if driver’s ruffled their track limit feathers in turns nine and fifteen. Some cars egregiously left the track in different corners, no problem. So the FIA took a stupid rule and inconsistently enforced it.
The FIA didn’t stop there. Complaining that teams are saying too much over the radio, they plan to penalize chatter that they deem outside the rules. The fuzzy, complicated rules. The rules that cost Perez a race finish in Austria because Force India couldn’t tell him about the car’s failing brakes. When the FIA decides to penalize someone for radio talk, especially if that penalty changes someones race result, I expect instant and harsh anger from fans and teams alike. Silly rule.
Ferrari just resigned Kimi Raikkonen for the 2017 season. He thanked Ferrari by out-qualifying his teammate and placed the car P5. In even better news, Raikkonen’s new deal means that I am not older than the oldest driver in the sport for another year. Phew.
Another point that’s worth repeating: Pole time of 2016 is three seconds faster than last year and the fastest time ever recorded on this configuration of Silverstone, which F1 started running in 2010. As you can see from the table below, the hybrid V6 now comfortably outpaces the V8 cars.
2016 pole lap: 1:29.287
2015 pole lap: 1:32.248
2014 pole lap: 1:35.766
2013 pole lap: 1:29.607
2012 pole lap: 1:51.746
2011 pole lap: 1:30.399
2010 pole lap: 1:29.615
The British Grand Prix will entertain, but how? Will Hamilton drive off into the proverbial sunset? Or will Verstappen win a second grand prix because Rosberg and Hamilton collect each other again? These days it’s a roll of the dice.
Photo courtesy of Jamey Price.
Is Lewis Hamilton a good teammate? Those relationships never seem to end well. In his formula 1 history, he’s had a few of them. In fact, here’s a table:
Each one of these pairings started joyous, or at least professional, and ended strained, or worse. 2016 is the first year that Hamilton has the same teammate four years in a row. When this partnership started in 2013, Nico Rosberg and Hamilton were friends and they immensely respected each other as drivers. But once Mercedes built the clear front-runner in 2014, the two sparred, aggressively, and the friendship began to erode.
Then came the 2014 Belgium Grand Prix. On the second-lap the two collided with each other. Mercedes, and most everyone else, blamed Rosberg, but clearly both drivers played a role. From that point on any faint resemblance of a bond between the Mercedes duo vanished, Rosberg and Hamilton no longer friends, but work colleagues.
At the time of Spa, 2014, Rosberg led the championship. Now in 2016, we see similar circumstances. Rosberg is ahead, hungry for his first title. But he feels massive, unrelenting pressure from Hamilton. So far, Rosberg has raced better this year than ever before, his drive in Baku was brilliant. But after the incident in Spielberg, he and Hamilton collided three times, including Spain and Canada.
Who’s to blame? Rosberg, most say. But I’m less certain. I think, in aggregate at least, both drivers deserve equal blame. And both require an equal tongue thrashing from Toto Wolff. In my view, Rosberg defends with extreme aggression and Hamilton overtakes with comparable extreme. Roles reversed in Canada and Rosberg ended up in the grass, lucky not to damage the car.
Maybe it’s as simple as this: Hamilton is faster, Rosberg needs to deal. Or maybe Hamilton refuses to respect his teammate, and uses his status as team favorite to steer blame towards that teammate. Hamilton is faster, undeniably. But could he be better.
Oh, by the way. Great race!
photo courtesy of Jamey Price
The suspension carnage we saw at the Red Bull Ring convinced me the street course at Baku must have made a deal with Spielberg to finish its work. The destruction at the European Grand Prix seemed eerily absent as most everyone expected to see many more chards of carbon before that checked flag flew.
Alas, this time round we have curbing, not walls to blame. Dietrich Mateschitz recently repaved the Ring, and installed new curbing as well. That combination, along with yet another new tire pressure mandate, managed to put unforeseen stress on suspension members as no less than four different teams suffered failures:
- Max Verstappen, Red Bull, practice
- Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, practice
- Sergio Perez, Force India, qualifying
- Daniel Kvyet, Toro Rosso, qualifying
To pump up the drama further, rain started falling near the end of Q2, putting an abrupt end to the already stunted session as both Toro Rosso cars failed spectacularly. Kvyat, with the aforementioned suspension failure, caused a massive crash and red flag period. Kvyat was unharmed. And Sainz Jr. blew a power unit, which resulted in local yellows in sectors one and two as the clock ticked to zero. But almost miraculously, rain stopped before Q3. This made for order-shuffling drying conditions and in the last four minutes, teams even switched back to dry weather tires.
In the end, Lewis Hamilton nabbed the number one spot, besting Rosberg by over half a second. The top Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel, secured fourth, but he, nor anyone else, could compete with Force India. This time Nico Hulkenberg timed things right and took the third position, shaking off any disappoint from the last GP. Jenson Button put on a marvelous last lap to qualify fifth, beating Raikkonen by one-thousandth of a second.
Frankly though, none of these laps impressed as much as Pascal Wehrlein, who not only got the Manor into Q2 for the first time, but solidly so, he will line-up tomorrow 12th on the grid. Manor lacks the downforce of the top teams, but enjoyed some of the best straight-line speeds in the field. Rio Haryanto will start 19th.
Both Rosberg and Vettel received five-place grid penalties for replacing gearboxes. That means Hulkenberg actually starts along side Hamilton on the first row. And Button alongside Raikkonen on the second row. If Hamilton bogs the start, the Hulk could well lead the pack in to turn one.
No matter what happens tomorrow, Austria put on quite the show today. And left us with interesting questions. Will the FIA do anything about the carbon cracking curbs? Will more weather come and continue to shake up the field? And, had it been dry all-day Saturday, just how fast would pole time been? Last year’s was 1:08.455. This year we beat it by over half a second, and the track was damp.
Photo courtesy of Jamey Price JameyPricePhoto.com
How did it happen? After all the carnage on Friday, several mistakes on Saturday, and two yellow flag ridden GP2 races, most everyone thought the Baku street course would invite many drivers to take the moped ride of shame from their mangled cars to pit garage, helmets hung low. But no, aside from the occasional local flag flown for cars set to DNF, the race ran clean and green, lap one through fifty-one.
Nico Rosberg won the race, easily, his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, finished in fifth, nearly a minute behind. For a large chunk of the race, Hamilton suffered from a “d-rate” issue, a problem that reduces electric motor output, and indeed total power. This particular fault merely took some fiddling with settings on the steering wheel to fix. But here’s the perplexing bit, the team couldn’t tell Hamilton which settings to change because current FIA rules forbid such topics of discussion over the radio.
Kimi Raikkonen suffered similar troubles in his Ferrari. He bemoaned the FIA’s rules, publically and repeatedly. And I have to agree with him, what purpose do these rules serve? Improving the show? I don’t think so. For the Finn, it’s unclear whether fixing the problem would’ve allowed him to keep Perez over five seconds behind him and stay in third (he received a five-second penalty for crossing the pit-in line without pitting in). Alas, he managed fourth and received 12 points for his efforts, overtaking Ricciardo for fourth in the Driver’s Championship.
Mercedes carried the widest performance gap from its competitors we’ve seen this season. Sebastian Vettel, finished second, but 17-seconds behind. Force India showed major pace in Baku, with Sergio Perez stepping on the podium in third. Hulkenberg botched qualifying and performed so-so in the race, finishing ninth. On the whole though, great day for the Silverstone based team. They scored 17 points, comparing favorably to both Red Bull and Williams, who scored 10 and 9 points, respectively.
Just outside the points, Button finished 11th for McLaren, Alonso exited the race early with a problem. Among the small teams, Sauber finished well, Felipe Nasr snagged 12th ahead of top Haas driver, Romain Grosjean.
In many ways, the European Grand Prix was flawed. Held the same weekend as Le Mans, which is poor form. And the street course came with a couple corners with questionable safety standards. But we saw 230 mph top speeds—on a street course! That’s crazy good. And the fact that F1 held a race on a track that eschews the bland trend towards homogenization? That’s crazy better.
Photo courtesy of Jamey Price, http://jameypricephoto.com/
Baku City street circuit sparked controversy among many of the drivers. The fast street course and fresh pavement also cracked its fair share of carbon fiber, bent a bit of metal, and checked a few egos.
Most notably, Lewis Hamilton’s. The winner of the previous two grands prix suffered through a miserable Saturday. He made mistakes every qualy session. In Q2, a major lock-up with two and a half minutes to spare threatened Hamilton’s ability to even attempt for the top ten. Just in time, the Brit got back on track and pulled off a quick enough lap. Friday, Lewis was the pacesetter, so a pole run is what most expected. Not so, with two minutes and five seconds left, Hamilton turned-in too early, clipped the wall, and ended his day in tenth with a bent right-front corner.
Rosberg, in contrast, stayed clean and on-track. He efficiently and consistently improving his time, and used fewer tires than his teammate to do it. Not only did Rosberg comfortably take pole position, he retained more fresh rubber for the race tomorrow.
The other team to split performance was Force India. Nico Hulkenberg failed to understand his engineer and didn’t push on his final Q2 lap, bailing after a small lock-up early in the run. As a result he starts 12th. Sergio Perez not only made it to Q3. He pulled off a blistering lap and managed to take outside pole. A gearbox penalty pushes the Mexican back five positions, so he’ll grid seventh. But everyone, including the top team principals, saw his brilliant performance.
And a shout-out to Daniel Ricciardo for putting the Red Bull in P3, he’ll start on the front row courtesy of the Perez penalty. Two takeaways from his performance: One, you just can’t keep the Australian down. Two, Renault has a competitive power plant this year.
Baku will almost certainly be a memorable grand prix, and just may set a new record for most damaged front wings and suspension arms.
Photo courtesy of Jamey Price, jameypricephoto.com
Maybe it’s my love of poutine, or the northern air, or even the US friendly time zone, but Montreal always delivers a great Grand Prix. It’s a street course, and a permanent racetrack—sort of, at least. It combines Long straights, memorable corners, with the infamous Wall of Champions. Tire, pit, and race strategy are often novel and different. A wonderful Quebecois twist on the normal, at times even formulaic, racing we see. I’m sure Hamilton agrees; he’s now won five of the ten Canadian Grands Prix he entered. That’s right, in Canada, Hamilton winning carries the same odds as tails on a flipped coin.
Rosberg, however, likely left Montreal without even a quick stop for a smoked meat sandwich. The German once again colliding with his teammate, no damage to the car this time, luckily, but he did bruise his ego. On lap 51, Rosberg suffered a tire puncture. Upon re-entering the race, he couldn’t get past Max Verstappen in fourth place, spinning the car in one final desperate attempt. Rosberg started the season with four wins, but only scored 16 points in the three races since.
Verstappen also stayed ahead of his teammate, as Ricciardo dealt with more nonsensical Red Bull behavior and straight bad luck. Despite qualifying ahead of the Dutchman, Rosberg’s lap-one off track incident caught Ricciardo out and put him behind. Then more shenanigans in the pits dropped him to seventh. With each new race comes a new weight on Ricciardo’s shoulders. Perhaps another team will better suit his driving and help him retain that million dollar smile.
Ferrari qualified well in Canada. Showing their power unit is competitive with Mercedes. And while Vettel lead part of the race, his pace, and perhaps strategy, couldn’t quite keep up with Silver Arrows. With perspective and a bit of hindsight, I hope Ferrari left North America satisfied that their car, team, and driver development are all headed in the right direction.
Finally, a heart felt shout out to Williams, congratulations on a well-deserved podium.
For full results, click here
Photo courtesy of Jamey Price, http://www.jameypricephoto.com
Saturday in Montreal brought a touch of rain for, at times, a mildly damp track, which added to the drama, but not the lap time. Here are six highlights:
- Fernando Alonso made it to Q3, if only just. Jenson Button did not. During his last Q2 lap he locked up, which cost some time, but Button blames his P12 on not getting a tow (a draft) from another car. Instead, Alonso got Button’s tow, the Britain claims.
- Ricciardo ahead of Verstappen, for now. Once again Verstappen seemed to have the edge on Ricciardo in qualifying. But, as in Spain, the Australian pulled out a killer time in Q3 to take P4 and it took a brush of the Wall of Champions to do it. Lucky for Ricciardo, it didn’t damage the car.
- Gutierrez edged Grosjean to take P14. Grosjean complained of his car’s balance as “miles off,” which “means you can’t drive the car as you like.” No matter, his fast lap was a quarter of a second longer than his teammate, only good enough for P15. Far from the early form Haas began the season, but more akin to what everyone expected.
- Kvyat bests Sainz by six seconds to start 13th on the grid. Of course Sainz hit the wall of champions early on in Q2, so never set an actual lap. His lap in Q1 was a 1 min 14. 714 sec, over a tenth quicker than his Russian teammate.
- Mercedes back in front, but by less of a margin than many expected. Hamilton won pole with his first flying lap as Rosberg couldn’t quite match it and suffered a big lock up on his second attempt.
- Pole time last year, Hamilton at 1 min 14.393 sec, this year: 1 min 12.812 sec, that’s 1.6 seconds faster! (1.581 seconds)
This is the tightest run for pole we’ve seen in a while. It’s very encouraging to see six tenths of a second cover the top five. Enough so, we may see an honest to goodness fight for the lead in the race. And not just between teammates, either Ferrari or Red Bull could challenge. For full results click here.
As Jamey Price said, Monaco supersedes Formula 1. The culture and atmosphere is larger than life. The pomp and circumstance is uncanny. And the racing is the most wonderfully absurd. Jim and I watched, loved, and produced an over hour long podcast about Monaco. Jamey Price did better. He Spent five days at the principality and shot amazing photography. Below is but a glimpse at Jamey’s work.
Monaco at night, basically backlit money. What a scene, what a place. In this electric photo, the entire principality is alive, land and sea.
After consistently beautiful weather, race day brought heavy rain and the green flag flew with safety car lights flashing.
Seven laps later, the Mercedes with doors drove aside and Daniel Ricciardo immediately pulled a gap from second place Nico Rosberg and built a comfortable lead.
But as the track dried, the fateful Red Bull pitstop occurred. Hamilton now ahead of Ricciardo, if only just.
And Lewis Hamilton carried on to win his 44th Grand Prix, his second at Monaco. Incredible drive, he was happy.
Daniel Ricciardo wearing his trademark, entrancing smile…before the race.
And his facial expression after the race…man, that’s hard to see.
But we end on a happier note. Unrelated to the drama in front, the elated Mexican, celebrates a Monaco podium.
Sergio made his father proud. That is bone deep joy he feels for his son, uncontrollable happiness.
To see more of Jamey’s pictures goto: http://www.jameypricephoto.com
The Monaco Grand Prix always entertains. Today the small fishing village turned racetrack set an entirely new path for the 2016 championship. Here are five things that stood out:
- Lewis Hamilton’s win and Nico Rosberg’s seventh place finish change the trajectory of the championship. Hamilton outpaced Rosberg in the wet, so much so Mercedes ordered Rosberg aside. Later on we learned Rosberg suffered brake trouble and couldn’t push. He went on to finish seventh, earning six points. Now Hamilton is within one race win of taking the championship lead.
- Red Bull Racing cut a deep fissure in the bond with their Australian superstar, Daniel Ricciardo. Two races in a row now, team decisions cost him a win. In Spain it’s easy to see the team’s side of the call. Not today. Ricciardo paced Monaco at a winning speed, but when he arrived in the pits mid-race the crew did not have tires waiting. This mistake cost Ricciardo at least five seconds and quite possibly the win. On the podium, the Australian looked dejected and was dismissive and downbeat.
- Max Verstappen showed his age…again. Quite simply he pushed too hard, locked up, and hit the wall. After the win in Spain, it’s excusable. But perhaps this is the beginning of too much pressure placed upon a too youthful soul. Canada will be telling for the soft drink magnate’s team’s health.
- Sauber in deep trouble. Already financially strapped, the teammates took each other out. Nasr refused to follow orders to let the faster Ericksson by, then Ericksson got anxious and looked for a gap that didn’t exist and ruined both their races. Who deserves more blame? I say Nasr. What do you think?
- Double points for McLaren. Button finished ninth, Alonso fifth. A strong result for the team that continues to crawl toward the front. More to come from McLaren? I think Canada will give a great indication of how the Honda pulls. If it does, it will be good. Very good.
Hamilton and Ricciardo dominated coverage. But so much more happened. I always love the Monaco GP. And this year was better than most.
Qualifying at the Monaco Grand Prix produced two red flags, a first time pole sitter, a wrecked car, a blown engine, and a lapse in Mercedes dominance. It was thrilling. Here are six of my favorite facts from Qualifying at the Monaco Grand Prix:
- Red Bull very nearly bookend the grid today. Verstappen finally acted his age and made a mistake, damaged the car, and will start on the back row.
- Ricciardo collected his first ever pole position with a stunning lap of 1 min 13.6 secs. That’s 1.5 seconds faster than last year’s pole time, when Hamilton laid a 1 min 15.1 sec lap.
- Rosberg out qualified Hamilton, who once again suffered from engine trouble. Within the first few seconds of Q3, Hamilton radioed his team with engine trouble, the team scrambled to get the car back out with six minutes to spare. All was not well, however, as Hamilton took several laps before making a real attempt at pole. His first two sectors were quickest of all, yet he came three-tenths short at the checker. Something was clearly still amiss.
- Ferrari’s laps couldn’t compete with the top two teams, meaning there’s still work to be done to gain downforce. In fact splitting the two prancing horses, Nico Hulkenberg nabbed an impressive top five. The German showing, yet again, he deserves a top team ride.
- Carlos Sainz is two-for-two in out qualifying Kvyat. The Russian unable to convince anyone he still deserves his recently lost seat.
- And McLaren continues to inch forward with Alonso setting a fast enough time to make Q3, even if only just.
Rain or no, Monaco is, once again, set to be a thriller.