Our Podcast covers racing news as of November 23rd 2017
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Photo courtesy of Jamey Price
“…Very happy, it was a hard slog yesterday with trying a few things, [but the] car is a bit more normal now. I enjoyed qualifying, it’s always a pain when you’re 30 milliseconds behind the car in front but, uh, P9 is not too bad considering the Force India’s pace so far this weekend. I’m very happy with that, in front of both Williams.”
So said Jenson Button to Formula 1 News after carrying through to Q3 and, with just one run, qualifying 9th for the Malaysian Grand Prix. That in of itself is not that big of a deal, but this is Button’s 300th grand prix, which puts him behind Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher and no one else in number of race starts. Tomorrow Button becomes just the third driver in history to achieve such longevity. In fact, his teammate Fernando Alonso is 4th on the list, 32 grands prix behind. McLaren does not currently build quickest chassis nor does Honda manufacture the strong power unit, so Button’s performance deserves accolades.
Even more exciting, Button goes on to say that he thinks he can stay ahead of both Williams and race the folks around him, so perhaps he’ll also finish in the top ten. Finishing in the points would be a well-deserved feather to put in his 300-grand-prix-hat.
Button qualified behind both Force India’s. Perez led in 7th, Hulkenberg right behind in 8th. That means Force India has a Button buffer between them and their closest Constructor championship rival, Williams. Force India is currently ahead by one point, but they now have a chance to widen the gap and tighten their grip on 4th, an admirable feat for the small, Silverstone based team.
Further ahead, Hamilton got serious and once again handily out-qualified teammate Nico Rosberg. But, as Rosberg said in the post qualy press conference. “As we know from this year, second place doesn’t mean that victory is not possible tomorrow. We’ve seen that so many times. Still very optimistic for tomorrow. “ It’s generally advantage Rosberg on race start, he proved it recently in Italy. One key difference I see, however, Hamilton seems laser focused and serious this weekend. I find it harder to forecast a flubbed start.
No matter, even if both Mercedes nail their starts and sail off ahead from the competition, we’ll get to see Ferrari and Red Bull duke it out for the final spot on the podium. Red Bull Racing starts ahead, but Ferrari may have an advantage on race pace and strategy. Definitely one to watch tomorrow.
Photo courtesy of Jamey Price
When the circus finished their last Saturday in Europe at the Italian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton looked unstoppable with a decisive pole lap, clearing teammate Rosberg by nearly half a second. One bad start from Hamilton on Sunday, however, flipped the script and Rosberg took the win and gained seven points on Hamilton.
Here we are, two weeks later, and a near exact mirrored result reflects on Rosberg. He performed brilliantly today and claimed pole by over half a second. Even better for the German, it’s not his teammate sharing the front row. Daniel Ricciardo split the Mercedes with a stonking lap in the Red Bull. Hamilton finished Saturday P3, over seven-tenths behind. But, and this is a big but, both Rosberg and Hamilton have botched starts this season. And looking in the mirror shows us it’s Rosberg’s turn to have trouble when the lights go out.
Rosberg fans can only hope the German immediately dropped to his knees, clasped his hands together, and prayed most passionately to the race start god. Ask the race start god for strong clutch-bite, smooth torque modulation, and minimal tire spin. Beg for quick reaction time, or at least quicker than those around you. Ask for the strength to keep your eyes on turn-one and your mind on the exact start procedure given to you by Mercedes engineers. Rosberg, this is your chance to regain the championship lead. Don’t blow it!
Speaking of championships, both Force India cars qualified ahead of both Williams. Williams currently is ahead of Force India by two, itty-bitty points. So a strong performance by either Hulkenberg or Perez may catapult the team right back to fourth in the constructors championship, a position they grabbed after Belgium and immediately lost it again in Italy.
In a surprise show of form, Toro Rosso qualified ahead both the aforementioned teams, Carlos Sainz in 6th and Daniil Kvyat in 7th. That tells us the chassis is held back the year-old Ferrari power unit. The Italian team currently stands in 7th in the constructors, 3 points behind McLaren. A strong performance could move them up.
Singapore is full of what ifs, a lot of possibilities, and a decent number of potential shake-ups. Let’s not forget that Vettel starts from the back and Red Bull has its best chance of the year to steal another victory from Mercedes.
Jamey Price always shoots with his soul. I know it because the emotion of the moment comes through beautifully in every image. Put him in a place chock full of passion and excitement and the resultant pictures are simply stunning.
Monza and it’s original banked oval. We’ve all seen it, yet it’s a sight to behold every time. The shade of neighboring trees cast their shadow on the otherwise barren concrete. It’s in stark contrast to the age of cigar shaped 160mph rockets blasting by. Memories.
Daniil Kvyat running nearly a car width past the “track limits” of Parabolica. You know, not that long ago Kvyat would’ve been skating off in the grass. Is this real progress? Safer, maybe. But definitely not the same challenge to nail the throttle early while exiting this fast increasing radius corner.
Focusing on Mercedes does put everything else in a blur. According to Jamey, they look incredibly planted compared to the rest. Around Monza, that’s crucial. The lap times prove it.
When Hamilton’s hands touch that wheel, the results devastate the competition. He lapped Monza half a second quicker than Rosberg and third quickest Vettel by nearly nine-tenths.
Race day. No grand prix comes remotely close to the passion seen in Italy, where nearly everyone bleeds Ferrari red. By the way, is that a Finnish flag I see waving atop the prancing horse? Nice.
It’s easy to say in hindsight, but Hamilton looks to lack the intense focus you imagine a driver needs when preparing for the race start.
Rosberg, on the other hand, stayed focused, nailed the start and put on a clinic. Unlike 2014, he kept his wits and didn’t give Hamilton any chance to steal away this race result.
The Italians didn’t care. Look at the near homogeneous Ferrari red in the stands. That image is mirrored at every grandstand. Look at the attention. It’s Ferrari or nothing.
Jamey Price captured the entire grand prix in this shot. You can see the elation in Rosberg, the disgust in Hamilton, and the bewilderment in Vettel. How will Ferrari catch Mercedes? It’s a head scratcher.
Vettel feels the love. And it shows. In Italy, it is Ferrari. If you are part of it, you are a hero.
Photo courtesy of Jamey Price
Once we learned of Mercedes plans for Hamilton this weekend, qualifying lost its appeal. After all, the crew from Brackley added engines six, seven, and eight to the 44 car throughout Friday and Saturday, which means they also added a 55 grid position penalty to it. I think that means Hamilton will start in Brussels on the Rue de l’Ecuyer tomorrow.
With Hamilton’s penalty, Rosberg immediately became the heavy favorite for pole, which he achieved. Yay. (All kidding aside, Spa is a daunting track and competition from Red Bull and Ferrari and Force India proved formidable, so congratulations to Rosberg for the achievement. It’s his 28th, by the way.)
But with Rosberg-on-pole inevitability, qualifying did not disappoint. Max Verstappen, pumped up by legions of Dutch fans who popped across the border to watch, wrung the neck of the Red Bull chassis to grab P2, but a tenth behind Rosberg. Even more stunning, not only did Kimi Raikkonen out qualify his teammate, he came within a couple hundredths of taking P2 away from Verstappen. During post qualy interviews, Raikkonen spoke of a slow run through the chicane that cost him three-tenths during the lap, which meant pole was in reach. When is the last time we heard that from the Finn?
Spa is, I think, the greatest racetrack in the world today. And, starting from the back, Hamilton will put on a show working his way to the front. We also have unusually warm temps to disrupt many team’s tire allocation decisions. It may also rain. So look forward to a stunner of a grand prix. And look for Raikkonen to perhaps stun as well. Race win tomorrow? It’s possible.