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Vettel looks to end Ferrari’s 16-year Monaco wait

May 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Championship leader Sebastian Vettel will this weekend seek to increase his advantage and inflict a demoralising blow to his rivals by securing Ferrari’s first win at the Monaco Grand Prix since 2001.

Formula One - Australia Grand Prix - Melbourne, Australia - 20/03/16 - Ferrari F1 driver Sebastian Vettel drives during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne. REUTERS/JASON REED

The four-time champion leads Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes by six points after five of this season’s 20 races, but heads into the classic 78-lap contest on the unforgiving streets of the Mediterranean principality knowing a victory could prove decisive in their tight title fight.

He knows also that there is some concern at Mercedes that their car, with a much longer wheel-base, could struggle to match Ferrari’s agility on the famous tight and twisting track where Hamilton, who loves the challenge, won last year.

The three-time champion will be seeking his third Monaco win after triumphing also in 2008 while Vettel, who won for Red Bull in 2011, is chasing his second win and, learning of Mercedes’ worries, will fancy his chances.

“At the moment, Ferrari has certain advantages there,” said Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda.

“We will have our problems with our longest wheel-base through the tight corners. It will be even worse than in Singapore.”

Despite winning every race in Monte Carlo since 2013, Mercedes appear to be truly afraid that they will start with a disadvantage.

Valtteri Bottas, who has replaced retired world champion Nico Rosberg as Hamilton’s team-mate, warned: “A car with the longest wheelbase on a track with so many slow corners — we could be slower than them.”

Daniel Ricciardo, who lost a near-certain victory last year due to a Red Bull tactical bungle, will also be a threat to the leaders in what is expected to be an intriguing scrap in qualifying and the race.

“Last year was disappointing for me as I felt a win was on the cards,” said Ricciardo.

“But I am old enough and mature enough now to put that behind me and look forward and take back what I lost last year.”

Hamilton, however, will be certain to mount a fierce challenge for victory after winning in Spain two weeks ago and knows that he cannot afford to allow Vettel any chance to build up momentum.

The race will be billed as the 64th running of the Monaco Grand Prix as part of the world championship — though it is the 75th race since 1929 — and will see back-from-retirement former winner Jenson Button, the 2009 champion, replacing two-time champion Fernando Alonso at McLaren.

Alonso will instead be at the Indianapolis 500 while Button, making his 306th F1 start, hopes Honda’s package of upgrades can enable him to make an impressive return for Monaco’s historically most successful team.

Jenson Button hints F1 return still possible

May 15, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Jenson Button, preparing for his one-off comeback with McLaren-Honda at the Monaco Grand Prix, on Monday hinted he could make a U-turn on retirement and make a full-time return to Formula One in 2018.

Button

The 37-year-old 2009 world champion told reporters that he could not rule out a comeback with the team.

“I have a contract with the team to race next year so definitely I would not rule anything out,” he said, when questioned about the future.

A move to retain Button’s services again may be an option for the troubled McLaren outfit if they fail to convince two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso.

Alonso on Monday flew into Indianapolis to start his preparations for the Indianapolis 500 on May 28, when Button replaces him on a one-off basis at the Monaco Grand Prix.

It had seemed Button’s F1 career was over when he held his retirement party at last year’s end of season Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Button said he was contacted by two other teams, offering him a race seat for 2017. “I had so many options to race this year it is hilarious,” he said.

“I am thinking of Monaco as my only race this year. But, obviously, if I am asked again at another point in the year I am here to fill that seat.”

Button has been spending time in the United States this year and on Saturday won his age group competition in an ‘Ironman in California’ contest.

“It is pretty mad really that I am getting back in a Formula One car,” he said. “But there are no negative thoughts going through my head.

“I don’t have anything to gain, but I don’t have anything to lose either. I am there to help the team out and have some fun — and it will probably be one of the most fun Grand Prix for me because there is no pressure. It is a one-off so I am really excited about the challenge.”

Hamilton resists Vettel to claim Spanish GP pole

May 14, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton secured pole position for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix for Mercedes in a closely-contested qualifying session at the Circuit de Catalunya on Saturday.

Lewis Hamilton

The three-time champion Briton resisted a powerful late challenge in the final seconds of Q3 from championship-leading four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.

“It was very close, but well done to Lewis,” said Vettel. “And a big thank-you to my team. I’m afraid it was my lock-up at the end of the lap that made the difference.

“It was a really good lap up to the final chicane.”

A beaming Hamilton, who has bounced back to his best form after a puzzling loss of pace in Russia, said his first lap had been “very, very good, but the last lap was only so-so… But I am super proud that we are back up there.”

Hamilton clocked a best lap of one minute and 19.149 seconds to stay ahead of Vettel, who clocked 1:19.200, by the narrowest of margins after the German had required a rapid engine change shortly before the session began.

It was the 64th pole of Hamilton’s career, lifting him to within one of his childhood hero Brazilian Ayrton Senna, on 65, and four from German Michael Schumacher on 68.

Finns Valtteri Bottas, in the second Mercedes, who also had an engine change on Saturday morning, and Kimi Raikkonen, in the second Ferrari, were third and fourth fastest.

Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, who won last year’s race on debut with Red Bull, was fifth ahead of his team-mate Australian Daniel Ricciardo with local hero Fernando Alonso grabbing a very popular seventh against the odds for McLaren-Honda.

On a perfect, if windy, spring day, the session began with a track temperature of 44 degrees Celsius and Vettel hurrying to join the fray after Ferrari had changed his engine following a water leak problem discovered in final practice.

In his third new power unit of the four permitted this year, Vettel used team radio to thank his mechanics for their efforts before being told “stop the car” on his installation lap.

“Are you sure?” he responded, wisely. After making a ‘driver default’ change in the car, Vettel was soon back up to speed. “Seems better now,” he said, as he clocked an early fastest lap in 1:20.939.

Hamilton trimmed four-tenths off that to set the Q1 pace, with Bottas third ahead of Raikkonen, who soon improved to second.

As Q2 began, Mercedes reminded Hamilton “this is our race start set” of tyres, a message not heeded by Bottas who locked up at Turn One and flat-spotted his tyres, requiring a second hot lap.

Hamilton ran wide at Turn Five, but was fastest in Q2 by a narrow margin –- less than a tenth — ahead of Vettel and Bottas, but the lap that lifted the crowd came from Alonso, who reached the top ten shootout for the first time this year, 24 hours after yet another engine failure on Friday.

For the Spaniard, who is heading to the Indianapolis 500 instead of Monaco later this month, it was a personal triumph four years after his last victory, with Ferrari in Spain, in 2013.

Ferrari’s Vettel guarded over Mercedes switch

May 11, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Championship leader Sebastian Vettel played coy on Thursday when tackled over suggestions that he is considering a switch from Ferrari to Mercedes next year.

Vettel

The four-time champion avoided giving an answer after it was put to him that Italian sources had claimed he was already in talks with the champions.

Speaking at a scheduled news conference ahead of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, Vettel said he was only concerned with leading Ferrari’s challenge this year.

“Is it coming from Italy?” he asked in response to one question. “I don’t know… Maybe you asked the Italians?

“They seem to know more than I do. I think the situation is clear. My main focus is on this year…

“We find ourselves in a very good position and that’s what we want to keep. Everything else is not that important.”

Vettel was in a laid-back mood, joking with home hero Fernando Alonso of McLaren who was sitting alongside him.

Asked about his prospects for success in this weekend’s contest, he was similarly cagey.

“I think we are in a much better position this year, than previous years, but it’s still fairly early.

“This will be an important race. People bring some bits, but if you look at the last 10 years, it’s not anymore a fixed date where you bring a new car. Top teams tend to bring stuff nearly every race.

“Mercedes have had a phenomenal run the past few years and they’re still the ones to beat. If you look race by race, and overall, they’ve been dominant and it’s difficult to beat that, but we’re doing our best.”

After two wins in the opening four races, Vettel leads the championship ahead of three-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes by 13 points.

Pedrosa pips Marquez to Spanish GP pole

May 6, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Dani Pedrosa narrowly edged out world champion Marc Marquez to start from pole for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix after a thrilling duel between the Honda team-mates.

Dani Pedrosa

 

Despite a late final attempt from Marquez to claim his third pole of the season, he fell 0.049 seconds short of Pedrosa’s best time of 1min 38.249sec.

Britain’s Cal Crutchlow completes the front row of the grid, but it was a disappointing Saturday for Yamaha duo Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales. Rossi tops the championship standings after three races, but will start from seventh.

Vinales, who won the first two races of the season in Qatar and Argentina before crashing out at the Grand Prix of the Americas last time out, qualified fourth.

Ecclestone stunted F1, says chief Carey

May 4, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Formula One’s new chairman Chase Carey has accused predecessor Bernie Ecclestone of failing to grow the sport adequately during his four-decade tenure.

Formula One

Carey succeeded Ecclestone in January after Liberty Media’s £6.4 billion ($8.3 billion, 7.6 billion euros) takeover of F1.

While the American admires Ecclestone for building the sport into a multibillion-dollar business, he believes opportunities were missed to increase its global appeal.

“It was very much a sport that got into a habit of saying ‘no’ too much. I want to be saying ‘yes’ to a whole lot more,” Carey told Britain’s Press Association in an interview published on Thursday.

“What is the value of having an idea if the answer to everything you want to do is ‘no’? All it does is create frustration. There are an array of things that weren’t done that needed to be done.

“We felt it was a sport that for the last five or six years had really not been managed to its full potential or taken advantage of what was here.

“All of us make mistakes and nobody is perfect. Bernie took a business from decades ago and sold it for $8 billion. He deserves all the credit in the world for what he has done.

“But in today’s world you need to market a sport. We were not marketing the sport.”

Friday marks Carey’s 100th day at the F1 helm since taking over from Ecclestone, 86.

While he has worked to increase the sport’s social media footprint, to date he has made no significant changes to the grand prix weekend format.

But Carey defended Liberty’s early record and said any changes would be introduced gradually.

“It has been three months and we have been very clear that one of the things the sport has not been served well by is a continued short-term focus,” he said.

“We care more about where the sport is going to be three years from now than three months from now. Bernie was always very focused on the short term and our focus is on building long-term value.

“We want to make sure we have the tools to manage the business as opposed to throwing things out there so somebody has a media story.”

Worth the wait, says winner Bottas at 81st attempt

May 1, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Valtteri Bottas admitted his maiden Formula One victory felt “a little bit surreal” but was worth the long wait after securing a tense triumph for Mercedes in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.

TOPSHOT-AUTO-F1-PRIX-RUS

The 27-year-old Finn, recruited by Mercedes in January as a replacement for retired 2016 champion German Nico Rosberg, resisted intense pressure from Sebastian Vettel to win in his 81st Grand Prix and in his fourth outing with the champion team.

“I felt good, but it’s a little bit surreal this first win,” he said. “Hopefully, the first of many. It was definitely one of my best races ever so it’s a good feeling and I am happy.”

Starting from third on the grid, Bottas made a storming start at the Sochi Autodrom and delivered a powerful opening stint to stay clear of four-time champion Vettel’s Ferrari, the German admitting he could not live with the Finn’s pace at that time.

Bottas had secured 11 previous podium finishes without recording a win and conceded that he made an error in the closing stages when he locked up at Turn 13, a mistake that gave Vettel a chance to attack again.

“It was ok, really, but the main thing for me was the lapped cars, trying to get past those was not so easy,” said Bottas.

“I was not happy on a few occasions and I had one lock-up with 10-15 laps to go, which hurt the pace a bit, but other than that it was alright.

“And, yes, I did ask for radio silence from the pit-wall for me to get on it and get focused.” Bottas is the fifth Finn to win in Formula One and he believes that clearing that hurdle will now enable him to move on and do it again.

“I always knew I could get good results if everything goes right and I always trust in my ability,” he explained.

“But it’s nice to get confirmation that the results are possible. It’s good to continue from here.” Bottas made his debut with Williams in 2013 and spent four years with the British outfit before what he described as his ‘strange’ move to Mercedes.

“It took quite a while, more than 80 races for me, but it’s definitely worth the wait,” said Bottas.

“This strange opportunity came to me in the winter to join the team — and they made it possible. So I really want to thank them.”

Vettel came second ahead of Ferrari team-mate Finn Kimi Raikkonen who claimed his first podium finish since last year’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Bottas’s Mercedes team-mate three-time champion Lewis Hamilton struggled with over-heating problems and finished fourth.

“Our start was probably a match with Valtteri,” said Vettel who started on pole. “Maybe he gained a bit of momentum. He had a massive tow.

“I defended the inside, but when we approached the braking zone, he was in front and able to shut the door on me.

“That is where he won the race. He then had an amazing first stint — and I couldn’t stay with him.” Hamilton said he was confident the problem on his Mercedes could be solved.

“It’s been a very tough weekend,” he said. “I can’t remember having as difficult a weekend as this for a while — the last time I remember was probably Baku last year.

“Ultimately, I was not quick enough, I could not put the car where I was comfortable and then, in the race, it was overheating so I just had to settle for fourth. “

Hamilton ‘real struggle’ as Ferrari end Mercedes run

April 30, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton admitted that he and Mercedes have a battle on their hands and will have to find a solution to their problems in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.

Formula One - Australia Grand Prix - Melbourne, Australia - 20/03/16 - Ferrari F1 driver Sebastian Vettel drives during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne. REUTERS/JASON REED

 

The three-time world champion qualified down in fourth behind pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in Saturday’s qualifying session, with his own Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas lining up third.

“I just wasn’t quick enough today,” said Hamilton.

“I think we have to go back to the drawing board and try and figure out why. Tomorrow it’s still all to play for. I’m still up there in the mix.”

It was Ferrari’s first front row lock out since 2008 and ended champions Mercedes run of 18 pole positions.

Mercedes still the team to beat in Russia – Vettel

April 28, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Championship leader Sebastian Vettel believes his Mercedes rivals remain the team to beat at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix despite Ferrari convincingly topping Friday’s practice times.

Sebestian Vettel

The four-time world champion German and his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen were first and second fastest at the end of an uneven day’s action in Sochi, the Finn having been fastest in the morning.

The Ferraris were more than six-tenths clear of third-placed Valtteri Bottas in the leading Mercedes with team-mate and three-time champion Lewis Hamilton admitting he struggled to wind up a disappointing fourth.

But Vettel said: “It’s a circuit that suits them so they will be strong tomorrow. I think last year people expected Williams to be fastest after Friday, if I remember right, and it turned out Mercedes was the fastest.

“That’s how sometimes you can be misled and I think there’s a lot of things we can play with in the car — fuel loads, engine modes…

“This looks like a Mercedes track. For sure they didn’t show everything today and they didn’t get a lap together.

“So the gap you see, it’s artificial.”

Mercedes have won all of the three previous races held at the Sochi Autodrom and led every lap.

Hamilton, who is seven points behind Vettel after three races, admitted he had endured a challenging day as he bids to keep his title bid on track.

“It was a bit of a difficult day for us,” the Briton said.

“We managed to complete everything that we needed to do on our runs, but in terms of the balance of the car, the Ferrari seemed very, very fast on the long runs.

“So we need to work out how we can improve our pace, but there’s still everything to play for.

Raikkonen, enjoying his revival in form, said: “I’m happy that things ran smoothly with no issues.

“We had quite a good feeling with the car straight away so it’s always more fun like that. So far it’s fine and tomorrow we have to make it a good day and go day by day.”

Dutch teenager Max Verstappen was fifth-fastest despite stopping on the circuit following a loss of power, ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

The Australian admitted that the leading duo of teams had blown Red Bull away with their pace.

“In terms of us here this weekend, we know this is what we have got, so we are trying to do what we can with the current car and package,” he said.

“We have to try to target the top five. When I say that, it is behind Ferrari and Mercedes. To try to be the next best after them is our realistic target.”

Brazilian Felipe Massa, showing some of his best form again this season after taking a U-turn on retirement, was seventh for Williams ahead of Nico Hulkenberg of Renault, Dane Kevin Magnussen of Haas and Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India.

Colombo Super Cross 2017 on May 7

April 27, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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The Colombo Super Cross 2017, a flagship motor sport event organized by the Sri Lanka Navy in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Association of Racing Drivers and Riders (SLARDAR), is scheduled to be flagged off at the Navy motor cross gravel track in Welisara, Colombo on May 7.

The event that would go hand in hand with SLARDAR and Asian Motor Racing Club (AMRC) will provide an ideal platform for the champion racing riders and drivers to unleash their energy on the racing tracks in pursuit of coveted honour.

Some of the salient objectives in organizing this grand scale motor sport event are to, provide state of the art track, of international standard for Sri Lankan motor sport contestants in a bid to sharpen their skills to compete at the international arena; make this venue a cynosure for international event organizers and other interested bodies; facilitate with a full time functional race track for testing and practice purposes and pool funds to uplift the standard of living of naval war heroes through a number of projects.

This racing track which has been built in accordance with international standards and related infrastructure facilities, will undoubtedly be the go – to venue for gravel racing in the country. The car track spreads over 1.2 km with more up hills and down hills together with more drifting corners allowing the competitors to gain an unprecedented experience. In the same vein, the motor bike track is 1.8 km in length with jumps and bends including the longest jump in Sri Lanka.

The topography of the terrain provides an excellent viewing angles to the avid fans of motor sports enabling them to catch the sight of champion riders and drivers from a higher ground level. Further, a thrilling motor sport experience is rest-assured for both constants and fans, what they can experience nowhere else in the country. The elevated platforms on either side of the track can accommodate around 10,000 spectators with ease.

A major share of the expected profits generated through this event is to be utilized for the welfare of the families of Naval War Heroes perished in action and naval personnel disabled during the period of hostilities.

Hamilton determined to avoid Sochi ‘screw-up’

April 27, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton will arrive in Sochi ahead of this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix determined not to lose any more ground in his tightly-contested battle with Sebastian Vettel in this year’s title race.

Hamilton

The three-time world champion knows that even the smallest of errors, by driver or team, can decide the outcome after revealing that he suffered from a minor issue in Bahrain that may have cost him pole in qualifying.

The Briton said his Mercedes car had a slight problem with the engagement of its Drag Reduction System (DRS) during the decisive session and this may have handed his team-mate Valtteri Bottas his maiden pole position.

“It’s painful,” said Hamilton, talking about his realisation that just a fraction of a second may have been so costly in that race.

“I lost two tenths from Turn 10 to 11 when the DRS didn’t engage in qualifying and I lost half a tenth out of the last corner. So, I should easily have been on pole.”

Hamilton’s pain was moderated by the knowledge that four-time champion Vettel was faster in the race in his Ferrari, even though his advantage was only marginal as the Englishman stormed after him in the closing laps.

“I lost position at the start, solely my fault,” added Hamilton.

“Then you’ve got the time lost in the pit-lane and you practice and practice and practice and practice and practice — and you only have 20 opportunities this year.

“So when you screw up, man, it’s painful. There’s no other way of saying it. When you guys mess up in your job, I don’t know how you feel about it, but particularly when it has big consequences, potentially, I’m sure you feel gutted as well.

“And so I try to handle it the best way I can, but it eats you up a little bit inside and you’ve just got to end up trying to cope and move forward.”

Hamilton’s DRS failed to engage on the back straight in Bahrain and, he hopes, he can avoid a similar weekend of frustration back at the Sochi Autodrome, a part-street circuit built around the Olympic Park that hosted the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, by the Black Sea.

History suggests he should start the race as favourite as Mercedes won all three of the previous contests in 2014, 2015 and 2016, Hamilton triumphing in the first two and retired champion German Nico Rosberg last year.

The Mercedes team also enjoyed one-two finishes in 2014 and 2016 while Vettel can point to one podium finish with Ferrari, taking second place in 2015.

It is expected to be a very different contest this time with Ferrari a greater threat in race trim even if Mercedes can maintain their run of three pole positions at the circuit.

After three rounds this year, Vettel and Ferrari have won twice and Hamilton and Mercedes once, an outcome that has put Vettel on 68 points ahead of Hamilton on 61 ahead of the Russian race.

A rueful Hamilton added: “I don’t remember thinking it was necessarily my fault we did not win in Australia, not in the sense that I ran out of tyres and had to pit…

“But in Bahrain there were certain things and if they were perfect, I would have been in a far better position to fight for the win…. And I didn’t put myself in that position.

“It’s only a small percentage, which is what racing should be all about, but we want to operate at the top end.”

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.”

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