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Marquez takes fifth Americas pole in a row

April 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Four-time defending Moto Grand Prix of the Americas champion Marc Marquez captured his fifth consecutive event pole in dramatic style Saturday, edging series leader Maverick Vinales on his final qualifying lap.

MArquez

Honda rider Marquez saved the best for last to complete the fast lap in 2mins 2.741 secs to edge his Spanish compatriot, a Yamaha rider who won this season’s two opening races at Qatar and Argentina, by 0.130 of a second.

“This pole makes me feel really good because I honestly didn’t expect it,” Marquez said. “Actually I thought it would be difficult. In fact, even considering that this circuit suits my riding style, I’ve been struggling a bit this weekend.

“We knew that our opponents were very strong on new tires and we worked a lot on race distance and I felt better on race pace than on qualifying pace.

“But anyway, this is a track I love, so I told myself, ‘Let’s try,’ and on my last lap I pushed to my maximum, doing my best, and we got another pole here in Austin which is very good.”

Vinales’s teammate, Italy’s Valentino Rossi, completed the front row in another late charge for third in 2:03.673.

Marquez’s late run foiled Vinales, who also had seen no hope Marquez would claim the pole again.

“Honestly, I thought I had the pole,” Vinales said. “When I looked at the screen and saw that Marc was behind Valentino I said “Ah, maybe he will do it,” and in the end he did, so congratulations to him, because it was a nice lap for sure.

“We pushed at 100 percent and the bike was working really good. I’m also happy about the race pace. I think we did a great job and we can be there for sure.”

The front-row fight sets the stage for a showdown of the Spaniards in Sunday’s race over a 20-turn layout where Marquez has swept every GP race contested but Vinales has swept the 2017 start, winning two weeks ago in South America after Marquez crashed out early.

“We changed many things on the bike over the weekend and step-by-step we regained some confidence,” Marquez said. “So this afternoon we just focused on keeping a good pace and it worked well.”

Spain’s Dani Pedrosa, a Honda rider who has twice made trips to the Americas podium, was fourth and will be joined on the second row by French rookie Johann Zarco (Yamaha) and Spain’s former world champion Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati).

Italy’s Franco Morbidelli, seeking his third Moto2 win in a row to boost his season points lead, took the pole in 2:09.379 with compatriot Mattia Pasini 0.167 of a second back in second. Spain’s Alex Marquez was third in 2:09.671 with Japan’s Takaaki Nakagami fourth as the fastest five qualifiers were Kalex riders.

Spain’s Aron Canet smashed the Moto3 one-lap circuit record by seven-tenths of a second to grab his second career pole in 2:14.644.

The Honda rider, seeking his first victory, beat Spanish series points leader Joan Mir, winner of the season’s first two races riding a Honda, by .987 of a second with defending race champion Romano Fenati of Italy, also on Honda, in third, another .01 adrift.

Vettel triumphs in Bahrain as Hamilton pays penalty

April 17, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Sebastian Vettel moved clear at the top of the world championship on Sunday when he claimed a well-judged victory for Ferrari in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Sebestian Vettel

The 29-year-old four-time champion came home seven seconds ahead of three-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, who made a late charge for victory after collecting a five-seconds penalty for a pit-lane misdemeanour.

Hamilton’s new Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished third, after starting from his maiden pole position, ahead of compatriot Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and fifth-placed Australian Daniel Ricciardo.

It was Vettel’s third win in Bahrain and the 44th of his career.

‘Brave warrior’ Hamilton wins Formula One Chinese GP

April 11, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton boldly christened himself “brave warrior” after winning the Chinese Grand Prix but the three-time world champion will have more than just title rival Sebastian Vettel to contend with this week in Bahrain.

Lewis Hamilton

As Hamilton celebrated a third Shanghai victory in four years with his Mercedes team, he unveiled a new tattoo on the left side of his ribcage bearing the Chinese characters “Brave Warrior” and “Love”.

But the Briton’s thunder had already been stolen by a jaw-dropping drive from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who finished third behind Ferrari’s Vettel after starting near the back of the grid.

The 19-year-old Dutchman began in 16th after an engine misfire in qualifying and tore past nine cars on the first lap alone, suggesting fears that the sport’s new rules had made overtaking harder were premature.

Both Hamilton and Vettel, who himself produced two breath-taking passes, will be casting nervous looks in their rear-view mirrors at Verstappen.

“He is right up there with all the best drivers,” said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, who noted that Verstappen’s odds of reaching the podium after qualifying stood at 33-1.

“If it had not been insider trading, I’d have had a flutter. Max has a sixth sense in the wet. He is fearless. He explores all the boundaries of the track to find where the grip is.”

Verstappen’s aggressive approach has quickly made him a fan favourite and he has been compared with Formula One great Ayrton Senna, particularly after a seat-of-the-pants drive in Brazil last year when he stormed to third in pouring rain.

By the same token, he has ruffled feathers since making his F1 debut two years ago at just 17 with Ferrari’s Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen both letting rip.

But Hamilton, who recognises a kindred spirit in Verstappen, retorted: “This young dude has been a real breath of fresh air for everyone.”

Wider cars and fatter tyres were supposed to make overtaking a dying art, but Verstappen and Vettel went some way to exploding that myth in China.

On a track still slick after morning drizzle, Verstappen pulled off an audacious piece of skill to pass Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, braking late to lunge inside on turn six.

Equally as impressive were Vettel’s pass on Raikkonen after early frustration, and his wheel-to-wheel clash in overtaking Ricciardo, which recalled the days before one team dominated the sport.

Mercedes have enjoyed a stranglehold over Formula One for the past three years, the German team winning all but two races in 2016.

Before that, Vettel won four successive titles with Red Bull on a streak so monotonous he was repeatedly booed on the podium.

But Formula One suddenly has a title race with Vettel and Hamilton heading to Bahrain tied on 43 points after the German’s stunning victory in the season opener in Australia.

Verstappen is placed third on 25, with Valtteri Bottas on 23 for Mercedes, Raikkonen on 22 and Ricciardo 12, adding spice to this week’s dust-up in the desert.

Ex-Formula One star Webber backs Hamilton over Vettel

April 8, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton, Formula One’s racing rock star who is a master of all conditions, has the edge over championship-leader Sebastian Vettel and remains favourite for this year’s title, according to former star Mark Webber.

Hamilton

Australian Webber, now 40, knows Vettel as a racer and a team-mate after their strained but glorious years together at Red Bull.

He believes the battle of the two multiple champions will be the centre-piece of the 2017 season as Ferrari and Mercedes slug it out in a development war with the ‘fatter and faster’ cars that made a record-smashing debut in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

“The CVs are getting similar aren’t they? That can re-fire the candle for Seb,” Webber told AFP.

“And don’t forget, Lewis can sometimes be a bit off it, not feeling quite right on a Friday.

“But ultimately, I think Lewis has more outright skill than Sebastian. He’s so good, so very, very good, in the rain and in all conditions.

“But if Seb gets a sniff of success, he can be frightening. I know about that! But for outright skill, it’s Lewis -– and Mercedes are the stable team, the team to beat.”

A veteran of 215 Grands Prix with Minardi, Jaguar, Williams and Red Bull, Webber was a team-mate of Vettel during the German’s four-year pomp as champion and close rival to the younger pre-Mercedes Hamilton.

This weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, where Hamilton seeks his first win of the season and his fifth at Shanghai despite the poor weather conditions, is expected to give a much more accurate guide to the year ahead than the race in Melbourne where, after dominating qualifying, Hamilton was held up in traffic and finished second.

Webber admitted it was Hamilton’s record-breaking charge to pole position that left the most serious impression.

“What we have seen is a supremely confident Lewis who, at 32, has been exceptional,” he said. “Remember, he hadn’t been there for 12 months and he went straight out there and he was just… exceptional!

“He was so confident. I think he looked like he was going to crash the car. He was that quick and that confident. He was on the edge straightaway.”

He was not, he said, surprised to see Vettel end Ferrari’s 18-month winless drought in Melbourne.

“I think Ferrari are going to win races, but a season? I think they’ve got Sebastian engaged again and that is crucial.

“The ‘marriage’ is back on, but if they are not winning consistently in the next eight months he will be looking over the fence.”

Webber, now working as an ambassador for Rolex amid other commitments, believes also that Vettel’s new life as a family man may have an effect on the battle with the Englishman.

“Sebastian, he is a very human guy,” he said. “He’s very private. We all love our families, of course — and I think he’s always had the big picture in his mind.

“Having said that, deep down, he is still a very tough competitor and he loves winning.”

Vinales top in Argentina as Rossi, Lorenzo struggle

April 8, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Spain’s Maverick Vinales, who won the season-opener in Qatar, continued his blistering form on Friday by setting the fastest time in practice for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Argentina as his rivals struggled.

vinales

The 22-year-old clocked a best time of 1min 39.377sec after two sessions on the hot and dusty Termas de Rio Hondo circuit with defending world champion Marc Marquez second fastest on a Honda, 0.301sec behind.

Unheralded Czech rider Karel Abraham, on a Ducati, was third fastest at 0.403sec off the lead.

“I feel very positive. I feel great on the bike and physically I‘m really fit,” said Vinales.

“Step by step we are improving and we still have some work to do for the race, but I think we have the speed, so that’s really important.”

Marquez, the 2013, 2014 and 2016 world champion, recovered well after managing a mediocre 11th best in the morning run which saw the Spaniard suffer a fall.

“As always happens here in Argentina, today the track was quite slippery in the beginning, and I crashed this morning because I was pushing a little too hard and went a bit off line,” he said.

“Anyway, after that we worked really hard and found a promising setup. We’re still missing something, and tomorrow we’ll try to improve in the second sector, especially the acceleration at turns 3 and 4.”

However, it was a miserable two sessions for nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi, the teammate of Vinales, who was down in 16th in both sessions and ended the day 1.054sec behind his Spanish Yamaha partner.

“We have a lot of problems to enter the corners fast with this bike and I don’t feel comfortable,” admitted Rossi, the winner at the track in 2015 and second 12 months ago.

Former champion Jorge Lorenzo, whose decision to join Ducati created the Yamaha vacancy for 22-year-old Vinales, fared even worse, ending the day in 18th place, 1.122sec off the pace.

Rossi was third in the Qatar Grand Prix two weeks ago but Lorenzo, the 2010, 2012 and 2015 world champion, was a disappointing 11th in a race where his Ducati factory teammate Andrea Dovizioso was runner-up.

Mercedes on red alert as Wolff backs Hamilton

April 5, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has backed Lewis Hamilton to exact swift revenge at Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix after a chastening defeat in Formula One’s season opener in Australia.

Formula One

 

Sebastian Vettel’s comprehensive victory for Ferrari has put Mercedes on red alert ahead of the Shanghai race weekend but Wolff insists Hamilton has the steel to strike right back after finishing second in Melbourne.

“Lewis is the best Lewis that I’ve seen in the last four years — both on and off the track,” said the Austrian. “He’s become a pillar of this team and he proved that in Melbourne.

You need to be careful to manage your own expectations.

If you think you are going to cruise to victory in the future, based on a track record of success, you’ll be proven wrong very quickly. You need to put the finger in the wound, identify your weaknesses and then respond.”

Ferrari’s Vettel masters Hamilton to win Australian GP

March 26, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Sebastian Vettel out-manoeuvred Lewis Hamilton and the world champion Mercedes team with a stunning victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Sunday.

Vettel

Vettel won by almost 10 seconds from Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in a commanding victory of tactics and superior speed around the Albert Park street circuit.

Ferrari hadn’t won in Melbourne since Kimi Raikkonen’s 2007 victory and it was Vettel’s second triumph in Australia after winning the 2011 race with Red Bull.

It was also a major fillip for the fledgling season and the new generation of quicker cars after Ferrari’s superior pre-season test times as they chase their first world constructors’ title since 2008.

The victory was the German four-time world champion’s fourth for Ferrari and his first since Singapore in 2015 and his 43rd career win.

“A title challenge is a long way ahead. For now we are just over the moon at the start we have made here today,” Vettel said.

“I was not entirely happy with my start, there was a bit of wheel spin, but I was trying to keep the pressure on to give the message that we are here to fight.

“There was a bit of luck that Lewis came out in traffic.”

Ferrari got the better of Mercedes in the sole round of tyre changes which ultimately decided the race.

Hamilton’s early stop meant he rejoined behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen which allowed Vettel to open up a decisive gap at the head of the field.

“A big congratulations to Ferrari and Sebastian,” Hamilton said.

“In the race, I struggled with the tyres. I had to stop very early and I got stuck behind one of the Red Bulls, but that’s just the way it goes.”

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was fourth with Verstappen fifth ahead of Brazilian Felipe Massa in the Williams.

Australia’s big hope Daniel Ricciardo had a heartbreaking day with gear box problems ending his race on the 29th lap after he was forced to start from pit lane when his Red Bull car broke down on the warm-up lap.

Hamilton, who went into the race on his fourth successive pole in Melbourne, got away safely and avoided trouble into the notorious right hander out of home straight.

But Kevin Magnussen in a Haas clipped the kerb and slid into the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson on the first turn. Both cars continued on in the race.

Hamilton grabbed a 1.5sec gap on Vettel after nine laps ahead of Bottas, Raikkonen and Verstappen.

Hamilton made his first pit stop after lap 17 to change to soft tyres on his Mercedes to hand the lead over to Vettel and rejoined the race in fifth spot behind Verstappen.

“Race critical that you pass Verstappen,” Hamilton was told over the team radio to which he testily responded “how do you expect me to do that right now?” as his pace slowed behind the Red Bull.

Vettel came into the pits to change tyres and rejoined the race just squeezing in ahead of Verstappen and Hamilton.

When Verstappen came into the pits Vettel had opened a six-second lead over Hamilton at mid-distance.

Ricciardo’s traumatic race came to a sorry end on the 29th lap with his Red Bull coming to a stop with lingering gearbox problems.

“Sorry mate – the car’s done,” the Red Bull team told the disconsolate Ricciardo over the radio.

Vettel extended his lead over Hamilton to over nine seconds after 41 laps with the triple world champion seemingly unable to reel him in.

Bottas was pressuring Hamilton and was only just over two seconds behind in third place with Raikkonen struggling in fourth place ahead of Verstappen.

Mercedes had no answer to the pace of Vettel, who posted a new fastest lap of 1:26.638 in the final laps of the race.

Lewis Hamilton ‘in league of his own’ after F1 practice blitz

March 24, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton was hailed as being “in a league of his own” on Friday as he burned off his rivals in the year’s opening practice sessions at the Australian Grand Prix.

Hamilton

The triple world champion bossed the field and held a half-second gap over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and his new Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the afternoon session.

Britain’s Hamilton followed up his field-leading fastest lap of 1 minute, 24.220 secs in the morning run with a blistering 1:23.620 in the late afternoon.

It was around one-tenth of a second off Vettel’s circuit record of 1:23.529, posted for Red Bull in qualifying ahead of his 2011 race victory.

“Hamilton is in a league of his own at the moment,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said.

“His one-lap pace was really good and he took the ultrasofts for 17 laps and was stable. I’m happy.”

Ferrari were expected to press Hamilton and the Mercedes team after superior times in pre-season testing, but on the evidence of the opening two sessions Hamilton is again the driver to beat in Sunday’s season-opener.

“I’m super-happy to be back in the car, particularly after a first day like that. It was 99 percent perfect,” Hamilton said.

“We’ve shown good form so far on both the long and short runs and we got every lap done that we wanted to. The tyres performed really well today too.

“I’ll be pushing as hard as I can to win this race.”

Hamilton’s time was more than three seconds faster than his best lap in last year’s corresponding free practice in Melbourne.

Finland’s Bottas slotted smoothly into the Mercedes team environment with a best lap of 1:24.176.

“I definitely feel like I can make a step forward tomorrow. It’ll be a busy evening for us looking through all the data to see where we can improve, but it’s a reasonable start,” Bottas said.

Ferrari improved markedly on their opening practice, with Vettel unleashing the second best lap time in FP2 with 1:24.167 while team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was fourth with 1:24.525.

“We (were) very happy at testing — times looked good, but here is where it matters,” Vettel said.

“The car hasn’t changed much and it’s good to be back but we can still improve.”

The Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were over a second behind Hamilton and half-a-second off Vettel’s Ferrari.

“We can still get more out of it. This morning was promising but we tried a few things this afternoon and they didn’t work as much as we’d like,” said Ricciardo, bidding to become the race’s first Aussie winner in 37 years.

“Mercedes sure are quick but it’s more Lewis than Valtteri. I think we can be up there. Pole (position) may be a stretch but we’re in that next little group.”

Verstappen missed out on the later long runs after damaging his car’s floor when running over the gravel on the exit of turn 10.

“I had a bit of understeer, so went off the track and damaged the floor,” Verstappen said. “We tried to find a better balance and we are just a bit too slow. We are where I expected us to be.”

The second session was stopped after a big crash for Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, who lost the rear of his car on the last corner and spun into the barriers.

“I’m fine,” Palmer told his team over the radio. The shunt damaged the car’s rear suspension, while the rear wing was detached.

Palmer missed the remainder of the session, in a blow to his preparations for the weekend race.

Brazilian Felipe Massa stopped his Williams car at Turn 11 after reporting he could not engage gears, and walked back to the team garage.

The troubled McLaren team had no on-track breakdowns on the opening day with Fernando Alonso finishing in a respectable 12th place.

Rossi revs up for 10th world title tilt in Qatar

March 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Valentino Rossi will rev up for a 10th world title tilt amid a field of young rivals including new Yahama teammate Maverick Vinales as the 2017 MotoGP season roars into action in Qatar this weekend.

Rossi

The floodlit Losail Circuit in Doha will host the only night race on the 18-stop world championship calendar on Sunday.

The sandy, windswept track on the outskirts of Doha is one which the 38-year-old Italian superstar knows well, having won on four occasions in 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2015.

But the veteran Yahama rider — winner of seven MotoGP world titles and two in 125cc and 250cc — finished off the podium last year in Doha with former teammate Jorge Lorenzo taking top spot.

Rossi’s glittering 20-year career has been tempered by frustration in recent years and he has not won a world championship title since 2009.

He finished runner-up for the past three years amid a tense rivalry with Lorenzo, 29, with Rossi even accusing current world champion Marc Marquez of conspiring to help Lorenzo win the title in 2015.

Lorenzo has since moved to Ducati, leading to rising star Vinales joining Rossi at Yamaha, whilst Andrea Iannone made way at Ducati to move to Suzuki.

Vinales proved he could be a challenger to the veteran maestro as he outshone Rossi in winter testing at Sepang, Phillip Island and Qatar earlier this month.

“I’m still not very fast I have to work,” said Rossi.

But Vinales was delighted with how he handled the Yahama M1.

“If we do the same in the first GP as we did in the test, we can fight for the victory,” warned 22-year-old Vinales, who finished fourth in his second season in the top category in 2016.

A record nine drivers won a grand prix in 2016 and Rossi expects an open championship.

“I think at minimum six riders can win this year,” predicted Rossi.

“It will be very interesting this season because three top riders change bike.”

Marquez — a five-time world champion with three in MotoGP — fared less well falling of his Honda three times in Qatar practice.

“The first race of the season is always a special one because you’re a bit more nervous than usual,” said the 24-year-old Marquez.

“One of the main things to consider is the sand, which can make the surface quite slippery as soon as you get out of the best line.”

Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa — a former world champion in 125cc and 250cc — has had six MotoGP podiums but none since 2013.

“The track is very dusty and the place is quite windy, so the grip is generally not very very good,” said Pedrosa, who had his worst season in 2016 in a decade competing in the top class.

“There’s a long long straight where we typically have a headwind and therefore you need a strong engine.”

Hamilton looks for fast start to new season

March 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton will look to put his stamp on the new Formula One season at this week’s Australian Grand Prix, as he seeks to regain the world title following the shock retirement of reigning champion Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton

Ten years after his F1 debut at Albert Park, Hamilton arrives at the downtown circuit as the leading light of a sport now under new management and featuring wider and faster cars.

Hamilton, 32, was beaten to last year’s title by Mercedes team-mate Rosberg, who quit the sport five days later citing the intense pressures of competing.

This year, Hamilton will be face renewed competition from Ferrari and Red Bull, who are expected to close the gap on dominant Mercedes, as well his new team-mate Valtteri Bottas of Finland.

Hamilton is revelling in the new generation of quicker cars, which coincides with American group Liberty Media’s takeover and the exit of long-time ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone.

“I’m finding the car is much more physical to drive than in the past,” said Hamilton, who is seeking his fourth world title after victories in 2008, 2014 and 2015.

“It’s so much faster in the corners. The force you feel on your body and on your neck is much higher. I’ve got bruises and bumps where I’ve never really had them before.”

An overhaul of technical regulations has ushered in wider cars with broader tyres, which are expected to be noisier and provide faster racing, but also put greater physical demands on the drivers.

“Having spoken to the drivers, these machines are violent — just like Formula One cars should be,” said Mercedes chief Toto Wolff.

“The target with these new regulations was to make this generation of F1 cars the quickest in the history of the sport.

“And looking at the results from testing, we’re well on the way to achieving that. It’s something that’s never been done before and that’s a radical change.”

Hamilton and Rosberg had a fractious relationship in the Mercedes garage, but Wolff said the Briton and Bottas were “in a great place”.

“They have a respectful and friendly relationship from what we’ve seen in our team briefings so far,” he added.

Bottas is yet to win a race but he is confident of improving on his best finish of fifth around the Melbourne circuit, for his former team Williams in 2014.

“It’s a big challenge and I’ll definitely need to prove myself to a lot of people and my team that I deserve the place,” Bottas said.

“But I see it very positively. It’s a great opportunity for my career to fight for the wins and even for the championship.”

While the Silver Arrows have dominated F1, winning the drivers and constructors titles over the last three years, pre-season testing pointed to other teams pushing hard.

Ferrari topped the timesheets at testing in Barcelona, with Kimi Raikkonen fastest ahead of team-mate Sebastien Vettel.

Ferrari last won at Albert Park in 2007 through Raikkonen, who went on to win the championship that year — the last time the Italian team lifted the drivers title.

“It’s impossible to predict anything,” said Ferrari’s Vettel, a four-time champion with Red Bull from 2010-2013.

“Even the tests in Barcelona only give a basic idea where you stand.

“It is only in the first race that you will know how well you and the others have worked over the winter. We will only get real clarity after three or four races.”

Daniel Ricciardo, attempting to become the first Australian F1 world champion since Alan Jones in 1980, believes Red Bull can loosen Mercedes’ grip on the titles.

But Ricciardo, who finished third behind Rosberg and Hamilton in last year’s standings, said it would be tough to win in Melbourne.

“Can we be the quickest? I think we can. Will it be by Melbourne? Probably not,” he said. “We haven’t quite been the fastest in testing so I would say we’re not the quickest as we stand here today.”

But he added that Mercedes would have a “target on them”.

“If we can get close to them and get a few wins and somehow end up in a championship fight towards the end of the season then that’s what I want.”

Alonso hints at McLaren exit after nightmare test

March 11, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso ruled out retiring until he is handed a competitive car as his beleaguered McLaren-Honda suffered more reliability problems to end pre-season testing on Friday.

Alonso

The Spaniard broke down twice as electrical faults again restricted his running to just 43 laps and the 11th fastest time of 13 drivers.

Alonso’s contract with McLaren expires at the end of the season. “I want victories and podiums and if it all goes wrong, I will attack next year,” Alonso, 35, told reporters.

“It will give me more motivation to continue. I will not stop driving without a good result, which I think is what I deserve.”

Ferrari’s Raikkonen makes F1 splash as Hamilton sits tight

March 3, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen posted the fastest time on a track artificially soaked to test wet conditions as Lewis Hamilton’s first week of testing fizzled to a premature end on Thursday.

Raikkonen

Raikkonen’s best time of 1min 20.872 came late in the day in Barcelona as the track dried out after trucks dumped water on the surface overnight and again during the lunch break.

The Finn was also fastest on Tuesday and is hopeful Ferrari’s pre-season pace will continue come race time later this month — unlike in 2016 when they failed to win a Grand Prix.

“I’ve got the feeling that we learned some lessons from last year and at the moment we can’t complain,” said Raikkonen.

Three-time world champion Hamilton didn’t even get out of the Mercedes garage as an electrical fault with his car prevented him from running as scheduled during the morning.

“Shame not to drive but it’s been a great few days. The guys have done an awesome job. Can’t wait to be back in the car next week,” Hamilton tweeted.

New Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas did manage to run in the afternoon, but was way down the timesheets in eighth fastest for his 68 laps.

However, Bottas’s time of 1min 19.705sec on Wednesday remained the fastest for the opening week of testing.

“Unfortunately the day was a little bit shorter than we were hoping for, but overall it has been a very good four days for us,” said the Finn, who has stepped in after world champion Nico Rosberg abruptly retired from the sport.

“As a team we really made the most out of this week. We’ve done a lot of mileage and I learned a lot.”

In a recurring theme over the first few days of pre-season testing, Red Bull were the best of the rest behind Ferrari and Mercedes as Dutch wonder kid Max Verstappen was second fastest.

“I think Mercedes might still have an advantage on us in terms of power at the beginning of the season but we’ll be catching up,” warned Verstappen.

British driver Jolyon Palmer was third quickest for Renault.

The beleaguered McLaren team had a more positive day in terms of mileage as Belgian rookie Stoffel Vandoorne completed 67 laps, but F1’s fallen giants remain well off the pace.

Williams also called an early end to their first test after damage suffered to the FW40 in rookie Lance Stroll’s crash on Wednesday.

“A second chassis will be prepared at track this afternoon, as originally planned, with the team aiming to be back on track for the second test next week,” Williams said in a statement.

The second and final four-day test before the season-opening Grand Prix in Australia on March 26 also takes place in Barcelona, from March 7 to 10.

Raikkonen fastest as Hamilton battles physical toll

March 1, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen showed promising signs for Ferrari by outpacing a Lewis Hamilton bruised by Formula One’s more powerful cars for the 2017 season in Tuesday’s second day of pre-season testing in Barcelona.

Raikkonen

The greater speed afforded by radical rules changes showed when Raikkonen posted a best time of 1min 20.960sec for a lap at the Circuit de Catalunya circuit since 2013.

Even more encouragingly for Ferrari, Raikkonen’s time came on a slower soft tyre compound to the supersofts Hamilton used in posting his best effort of 1min 20.983sec.

However, Mercedes, who have won the last three drivers’ and constructors’ world championships, remained out in front when it came to mileage.

Hamilton managed 68 laps in the morning session before handing over the reins of the Mercedes W08 to new teammate Valtteri Bottas.

“I’m finding the car is much more physical to drive than in the past. It’s so much faster in the corners,” said Hamilton.

“The force you feel on your body and on your neck is much higher. I’ve got bruises and bumps where I’ve never really had them before.

“Physically I feel fine, though, as it’s only half a day of testing. I’ve trained enough over the winter to be ready for more.”

Bottas didn’t trouble the top of the timesheets with only the seventh fastest lap, but did log an impressive 102 laps in just a few hours.

The former Williams driver even shrugged off a minor spin to complete a full race simulation.

“I had a small off but it wasn’t anything serious,” said Bottas.

“I lost the rear end with a gust of tail wind that was quite sudden. This is testing – you need to find the limits.”

That sort of reliability is something the beleaguered McLaren-Honda team can only dream of as they suffered another day dogged by reliability problems.

Belgian rookie Stoffel Vandoorne managed just 40 laps to add to the limited 29 former world champion Fernando Alonso completed on Monday.

Vandoorne also had to have the power unit completely replaced on his MCL32.

Only Williams suffered a more disappointing day as Canadian Lance Stroll registered just 12 laps before a spin into the gravel brought a premature end to his day before lunch.

Dutch wonder kid Max Verstappen had a quietly effective day for Red Bull with the third fastest time and 89 laps, albeit well over a second behind Raikkonen and Hamilton.

“For us it’s not about showing how quick we can be at the moment,” said Verstappen.

“It’s the first test week and the second day, so it’s much more important to get some mileage in and to check if all the parts are okay.

“The speed difference compared to the cars from last year is a good step; it’s definitely more enjoyable through the faster corners.”

Red Bull were the only team to deny Mercedes a clean sweep of 21 race victories last season as Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo claimed one won apiece at the Spanish and Malaysian Grand Prixs respectively.

And Ricciardo believes Mercedes can be beaten this season.

“We can beat them,” the Australian told Sky Sports. “We’ve got the same set of rules as everybody else so there’s no reason why we can’t across the course of the season.”

F1 needs fresh start after ‘dictator’ Ecclestone – CEO

January 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Bernie Ecclestone’s four-decade reign as a “dictator” of Formula One had to end if the sport is to get the fresh start it needs, new chairman and chief executive Chase Carey says.

FILES-FOR-F1-GRAND-PRIX-OF-USA-QUALIFYING

Ecclestone’s time as the colourful ringmaster of the Grand Prix circuit was effectively finished on Monday when US-based Liberty Media completed its takeover of motorsport’s most prestigious brand in a deal valued at about $8 billion.

While the 86-year-old Ecclestone, a former car salesman, was widely credited with transforming Formula One into a multibillion global business, there have been growing complaints in recent years that the sport has failed to modernise under the Englishman’s no-nonsense leadership.

There has also been the view inside and outside the sport — and a concern shared by Carey — that it is wrong for one man to wield as much power as Ecclestone did in Formula One.

Despite sidelining Ecclestone to an advisory role as “chairman emeritus” Carey stressed to the BBC that he had “tremendous respect” for Ecclestone and will value his input.

But he said that F1 “needs to be run differently than for the last four or five years”.

“He has run this sport for his entire adult life and I respect completely that this is a difficult change,” Carey said.

“We have tried to deal with him with the respect he’s due, which is why we offered him the chairman emeritus title.

“He calls himself a dictator. He has run it as a one-man dictator for a long time. I think the sport needs a fresh perspective.”

The American Carey, a vice-chairman of the 21st Century Fox media conglomerate, has a proven record in expansive sport-media growth and expertise in the value and exploitation of sports rights, notably in the US market, where Formula One has struggled to gain a foothold.

But he stressed the new owners would protect historic races, insisting there would still be a British Grand Prix amid speculation the Silverstone course — which has had several run-ins with Ecclestone over staging fees — would be stripped of the event in 2019.

“We needed a sport that while respecting what made it great has a sense of energy and innovation,” Carey said.

“In many ways, in a simplistic sense, the sport said ‘no’ too much and we have to start saying ‘yes’ — not gimmick it up but find ways to do new and exciting things to have the sport continue to grow and interest and excite people.”

As part of the new management structure, Carey will have highly respected former Mercedes F1 team boss Ross Brawn and Sean Bratches, once a sales executive with North American sports television channel ESPN, running the sporting and commercial sides of F1 respectively under him.

Alex Kelham, head of the sports business group at London law firm Lewis Silkin, said the Liberty takeover could create a “host of new opportunities” for a sport that has struggled to attract a new generation of fans and failed to fully embrace social and digital media.

Critics also say the races have become too predictable.

“Teams are likely to welcome the change as an opportunity to re-negotiate some of the terms Bernie Ecclestone historically refused to move on,” Kelham told AFP.

“While Bernie made terrific strides in developing interest in the sport in emerging markets, Liberty’s takeover will likely herald a much greater focus on building new audiences in the US — both through traditional media and online channels — which will further enhance the sport as a key target for brands.”

Murray Walker, the commentator long considered the voice of Formula One in Britain, said the sport owed Ecclestone “an immeasurable debt”.

“The most important thing under Bernie’s rule was the safety aspect,” Walker told the BBC. “Formula One has been absolutely transformed. “

Ecclestone out, Carey in as Liberty complete F1 deal

January 24, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Bernie Ecclestone’s long reign as Formula One’s ringmaster came to an end Monday as Liberty Media completed its multi-billion-dollar takeover of motorsport’s most prestigious brand.

Carey

Colorado-based Liberty confirmed in a statement that American Chase Carey had been appointed chairman and chief executive of F1, with Ecclestone moving into an advisory role as “chairman emeritus”.

Ecclestone, 86, had already signalled the end of his near 40-year reign as head of Formula One in comments to German magazine Auto Motor und Sport earlier Monday.

“I was dismissed today,” Ecclestone told the magazine. “I no longer run the company. My position has been taken by Chase Carey,” he said.

He said his new chairman emeritus role was “a kind of honorary president” position, but added: “I have this title without knowing what it means.”

Ecclestone, a former car salesman who transformed F1 into a multi-billion dollar business, was initially reported to be staying on after news of the Liberty deal emerged last year.

However in a statement confirming completion of the takeover, valued at around $8 billion, Liberty president Greg Maffei confirmed Ecclestone would be leaving his role as chief executive.

“We are delighted to have completed the acquisition of F1 and that Chase will lead this business as CEO,” Maffei said.

“There is an enormous opportunity to grow the sport, and we have every confidence that Chase, with his abilities and experience, is the right person to achieve this,” Maffei added, paying tribute to the “tremendous success” of Ecclestone in helping to grow FormulaOne.

Carey, a vice-chairman of the 21st Century Fox media conglomerate, said he was looking forward to running a sport which had “huge potential with multiple untapped opportunities.”

“I have enjoyed hearing from the fans, teams, FIA, promoters and sponsors on their ideas and hopes for the sport,” Carey said.

“We will work with all of these partners to enhance the racing experience and add new dimensions to the sport and we look forward to sharing these plans overtime.”

Carey also praised Ecclestone’s role in developing Formula One, adding that he would seek to utilise the octogenarian impresario’s advice in future.

“The sport is what it is today because of him,” Carey said of Ecclestone. “I am grateful for his continued insight and guidance as we build F1 for long-term success.”

McLaren executive director Zak Brown was among the first to lead the tributes to Ecclestone.

“Today we should all pay tribute to a remarkable entrepreneur,” Brown said on McLaren’s Twitter feed. “He will be a very hard act to follow.”

In separate comments on the pitpass.com website, Brown said Ecclestone had turned Formula One into a “sporting powerhouse.”

“Indeed, I can’t think of a single other person who has had anything like as much influence on building a global sport as he has,” he said.

The takeover gives Liberty, which is backed by US media titan John Malone, control of a global and highly profitable sport that rakes in billions from advertisers and broadcasting rights.

Formula One-branded merchandise also brings in millions, but some F1 teams are plagued by financial problems and the sport has limited activity in the social and digital media platforms crucial to courting the next generation of fans.

Carey has a proven record in expansive sport-media growth, and expertise in the value and exploitation of sports rights, notably in the US market.

The 20-race 2017 Formula One season gets underway in Australia on March 26 and ends in Abu Dhabi on November 26.

Valentino Rossi eyes 10th title in wide open 2017 MotoGP season

January 19, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Motorcycling superstar Valentino Rossi expects at least six challengers as he targets an elusive 10th world title in a new MotoGP season dominated by riders switching allegiances and thereby changing bikes too.

Rossi

After a tense rivalry over the past four years with Jorge Lorenzo, which peaked when veteran Rossi accused current world champion Marc Marquez of conspiring to help Lorenzo win the title in 2015, Lorenzo has jumped ship to Ducati.

Lorenzo’s move triggered a domino effect as Maverick Vinales joined Rossi at Yamaha, whilst Andrea Iannone made way at Ducati to move to Suzuki.

“It will be very interesting this season because three top riders change bike,” said Rossi, who last won the title in 2009, at the launch of the YZR-M1 bike in Madrid on Thursday.

“I think Lorenzo was a historical move. After eight years with Yamaha it will be very interesting, but not more easy.”

A record nine drivers won a grand prix in 2016 and Rossi expects another open championship.

“Maybe nine different riders is hard because it is very strange, but it is good for MotoGP. I think at minimum six riders can win this year.”

Rossi has finished second in the championship each of the last three seasons, but it was 2015 that stung the Italian most as he was involved in a series of bust-ups with Marquez, including kicking the Spaniard off his bike in Malaysia as Lorenzo came from behind to snatch the title by five points.

And with the far less experienced Vinales, 22, now by his side, Rossi is hoping for less drama this season.

“The rivalry on the track is always very hard, especially with your teammate.

“After there is a different relationship off the track. I think we can have a good relationship, yes (with Vinales).

“From 2013 when I went back to Yamaha my relationship with the racers was not so bad for all the years.

“We had some problems at the end of the 2015, so I think we can have a good relationship and we can work together on the bike to improve the bike.”

Rossi has even talked up Vinales as a potential title challenger after finishing fourth in the world championship last season.

Yet, even at 37, he admitted he can learn from his mistakes last season to finally land his much-awaited 10th world title.

“Last year I had good speed, I was competitive in a lot of tracks and a lot of conditions, but I made some mistakes, sometimes I was unlucky,” he added.

“It is very important don’t stop working and don’t stop improving. It is quite similar to last season, but make the small details better.”

The 18-race MotoGP season gets underway in Qatar on March 26.

No word on Rosberg successor till January: Mercedes

December 16, 2016 · Leave a Comment 

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Mercedes will not name Nico Rosberg’s replacement until January, the team said on Thursday, amid reports they are chasing Valtteri Bottas from Williams.

Rosberg

It comes with French media saying Felipe Massa is in talks with Williams about reversing his decision to retire, which would free up 27-year-old Bottas to switch to Mercedes.

“There will be no announcements from us until next year and nothing is planned for the period between now and our return to work on January 3,” Bradley Lord, head of the Mercedes team communications, said in a WhatsApp message to reporters.

The delay will ramp up speculation about who will take the vacant seat alongside Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes following world champion Rosberg’s shock retirement earlier this month.

Reports in Britain and elsewhere say Mercedes want flying Finn Bottas — whose best season came in 2014 when two runners-up spots helped him to finish fourth overall — to step into Rosberg’s racing boots.

Williams all but confirmed this later on Thursday as the deputy team principal Claire Williams told the BBC Bottas could leave but only if they could secure the services of an experienced driver such as Massa.

“I’m delighted to see that a team like Mercedes lists Valtteri as a potential replacement for Nico,” said Williams, who is team chief Frank’s daughter.

“We have always known Valtteri is one of the sport’s key talents and are proud that the championship leaders recognise this.

“However, Williams has its own ambitions and we must always ensure we give our team the best opportunity to move forward. Any changes would only be made if Williams remains in a strong position to compete and develop in 2017.

“If we did allow Valtteri to leave, we would only do this if an experienced, credible alternative was available, such as someone like Felipe Massa, for example.

“Whatever we decide, it must be in the best interests of this team,” added the 40-year-old.

Massa, 35, retired from Formula One at the end of the season last month, but French sports daily L’Equipe on Thursday said he was in talks for another year with Williams.

One of the two seats at Williams has already been taken by rookie Lance Stroll, 18.

World champion Rosberg announces shock retirement

December 3, 2016 · Leave a Comment 

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Nico Rosberg quit Formula One on Friday, just five days after winning the world title for Mercedes in a move that stunned motor racing.

Rosberg

The 31-year-old German, who beat off teammate Lewis Hamilton in the finale, is the first reigning champion to quit since Alain Prost in 1993.

Rosberg made the bombshell revelation in Vienna ahead of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) annual awards ceremony.

“I have decided to end my Formula One career here,” said Rosberg, who claimed the title at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday when he came second to Hamilton.

He said he made the decision in the aftermath of his championship triumph.

“It was a process on Monday,” Rosberg added. “I didn’t know if I had the b****, and I took a bit of time.”

“But I am done. End of story, and the next step is being a dad and a husband and I am very much looking forward to that.”

In capturing the title Rosberg emulated his father Keke who won the F1 crown in 1982.

Rosberg began karting aged six. He and Hamilton met as rivals in 1997 and became team-mates in 2000.

In 2002, he moved to the German Formula BMW championship and won the title.

Rosberg arrived in F1, with Williams, via the Formula 3 Euro Series and winning the inaugural GP2 title in 2005.

Before joining Williams, he turned down a place at Imperial College, London, to study aeronautical engineering.

Rosberg claimed his first podium at the 2008 Australian Grand Prix, sharing the moment with a victorious Hamilton who had arrived in F1 with McLaren a year earlier.

In 2010, he moved to the rebranded Mercedes team created by the German manufacturer’s takeover of the 2009 champions Brawn.

He recorded consistent finishes as team-mate to returning Michael Schumacher before the seven-time champion’s final retirement and the arrival, in 2013, of Hamilton.

Their partnership ignited the team’s spell of dominance. Though Hamilton beat him to be champion in 2014 and 2015, the methodical Rosberg finally took the crown in 2016.

Rosberg takes his leave of Formula One with 23 race wins and 30 pole positions.

He is now relinquishing life in the fast lane to spend time with his wife, his childhood sweetheart Vivian Sibold with whom he has a daughter, Alaia, born in August last year.

Rosberg foils Hamilton to claim maiden title

November 28, 2016 · Leave a Comment 

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Nico Rosberg clinched his maiden world title on Sunday, finishing second in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix despite Lewis Hamilton ignoring team orders in his quest to foil the German.

Rosberg

The 31-year-old Rosberg concluded the longest season in the sport’s history with a nail-biting second place under intense pressure after leader and ultimate race winner Hamilton had slowed the field to create a difficult finish.

Hamilton reeled off his 10th win of the season –- the most by any driver not to win the title -– and the 53rd of his career, but his gamesmanship upset his team and his team-mate in the closing laps.

His final lap was nine seconds slower than the lap that carried him to pole and was clearly designed to push Rosberg into a vulnerable position as Sebastian Vettel closed in in his Ferrari.Hamilton ignored two instructions from the team to increase his speed at the front, but was unable to create a situation in which Rosberg could be attacked and passed.

Rosberg joined an exclusive club by becoming only the second son of a former champion to take the title, his father Keke having won the championship 34 years ago with the Williams team.

Briton Damon Hill did the same when he won the title with Williams, following his father Graham’s achievements, in 1996.

Rosberg also became Germany’s third champion.

The tension was palpable as the drivers headed for the podium after the race in which Vettel finished third for Ferrari ahead of Dutchman Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Rosberg celebrated by giving F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone a massive bear hug, lifting the diminutive octogenarian high into the air, as Hamilton stared glumly at the floor.

Rosberg reliving the final tense laps, said: “With the guys (Vettel and Verstappen) coming up behind me the end was not the most enjoyable.

“I’m very proud to have done the same feat as my Dad achieved.”

On the podium Hamilton’s good grace returned and he gave his former teenage go-carting companion a handshake and a hug.

“Big congratulations to Nico, good job man,” said Hamilton.

Of his own attempted spoiling tactics, Hamilton said simply: “We were fighting for the championship, I was in the lead so I control the pace…. That is the rules.”

Briton Jenson Button, the 2009 champion, and Brazilian Felipe Massa made emotional exits after competing in their final races of long and successful careers.

Button was forced into retirement after only 12 laps while Massa placed ninth.

As the sun descended at the end of a hot, dry and dusty day at the Yas Marina circuit, Hamilton made a perfect start from his 61st pole position to lead away from Rosberg.

In a frantic opening lap, Verstappen spun after touching the Force India car of German Nico Hulkenberg, dropping him to 17th as he rejoined and advanced through the pack.

After a series of pit stops and mid-field scraps Hamilton was left in control by lap 34 ahead of Rosberg by 1.3 seconds with Verstappen third and Vettel, setting fastest laps, climbing back to fifth to launch himself in pursuit of the two Red Bulls.

“Ok, Lewis, we really need to pick up the pace,” Hamilton is told by his team. “Vettel is a threat.” For the defending champion, it was the news he wanted to hear, even if for Mercedes it presented a dilemma.

With 10 laps remaining, it was obvious Hamilton was driving as cautiously as he could to compress the field and create a threat behind Rosberg.

“Ok, Lewis, this is an instruction – we need 45.1 – this is for a win, said the team on Hamilton’s radio on lap 46. “You should just let us race,” he replied.

Mercedes technical team chief Paddy Lowe followed on the radio. “Lewis, this is Paddy. We need you to pick up the pace to win this race. That’s an instruction.”

“I am actually in the lead right now,” said Hamilton. Lowe’s face on the pit wall fell in despair.

On lap 51, Vettel passed Verstappen for third with a bold move to increase the tension, leaving Hamilton backing Rosberg back towards the charging Ferrari, but he survived to take his title.

Hamilton edges Rosberg for Brazilian pole

November 13, 2016 · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton enhanced his hopes of taking the title fight down to the wire on Saturday when he outpaced Mercedes team-mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg to grab pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Hamilton

The defending world champion Hamilton, who was suffering with a cold, must stop the German from winning on Sunday to take the title race to the final grand prix of the season, at Abu Dhabi in two weeks.

It was the perfect moment for the Briton to become only the third driver ever to secure 60 Formula One pole positions, behind Hamilton’s hero Ayrton Senna (65 poles) and Michael Schumacher (68).

The three-time world champion clocked a best lap in one minute and 10.736 seconds to pip Rosberg by 0.102 seconds as the pair duelled in the final seconds of a tense qualifying session.

“Honestly, I felt quite comfortable all through qualifying as I have all weekend,” said a cool and calm Hamilton, despite suffering from a cold.

“Nico’s been going quicker and quicker, but I’ve generally had it covered. This is the best I could have hoped for coming to Brazil.

“It’s always been a track I’ve struggled at so I’m glad to be up there at the front.”

Hamilton, who has never won in Brazil, said he was not worried by the forecasts of rain for Sunday at Interlagos.

“I don’t mind at all, I’m ready for whatever,” he said.

Rosberg has one hand on his first F1 title.

He took pole and won in Brazil in 2014 and 2015 and will secure the championship at last if he completes a hat-trick of wins.

“It was exciting and it was very close,” said Rosberg.

“Lewis was marginally quicker than me in the end. But that’s ok, pole isn’t always the guy who wins the race so I’m still optimistic for tomorrow.”

Behind the two Mercedes, Kimi Raikkonen produced an unexpected fast late lap to take third for Ferrari narrowly ahead of Dutch teenager Max Verstappen of Red Bull, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel in the second Ferrari and Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull.

“Well done mate, great job,” Ferrari told Raikkonen. “That’s a surprise because the first part of the lap was no good,” replied the Finn.

When his race engineer congratulated him, he added: “Thanks, I was pretty average!”

Frenchman Romain Grosjean was seventh for Haas ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and his Force India team-mate Sergio Perez, with two-time champion Fernando Alonso taking 10th for McLaren.

Heavy clouds had threatened rain as the Q1 session began with Hamilton heading the queue out of the pit lane ahead of Rosberg.

The Mercedes pair were soon setting the pace, Hamilton going top with a lap in 1:11.511, giving him an advantage of three-tenths on Rosberg’s first flying run behind him.

They stayed there while the rest slithered and scrapped for times, Jenson Button failing to make the cut for McLaren in a lowly 17th place.

Hamilton was out rapidly again for Q2 and Valtteri Bottas gave Williams a boost by going third temporarily before Felipe Massa, in his last home race, radioed in to say he felt that his Williams had a puncture.

“The front tyres aren’t working,” he said.

The session ended in drama as the home hero failed to make the cut along with team-mate Bottas, qualifying in 13th and 11th respectively.

For retirement-bound Massa, in his 13th and final Brazil race, 13th will be the worst grid position of his career for his home event.

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