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Vettel triumphs in Bahrain as Hamilton pays penalty

April 17, 2017 by · 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.

Ferrari’s Raikkonen makes F1 splash as Hamilton sits tight

March 3, 2017 by · 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 by · 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.”

Ferrari extend Raikkonen for next season

July 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Ferrari extended Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen’s contract for another year, ending months of speculation.

The announcement came on Friday, ahead of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

With no confirmation of Raikkonen’s future, many rival drivers were linked to the Ferrari seat, but both the driver and the team confirmed that the Finn, nicknamed ‘The Iceman’ will return next season.

“The driver line-up for the 2017 racing season will still consist of the Finnish driver and Sebastian Vettel,” the Ferrari statement said, according to AFP.

Raikkonen also made a statement saying, “If I wasn’t motivated, I wouldn’t be here wasting my own time or the team’s time. I’ve always said, nearly 10 years ago, that my last team would be Ferrari and it’s still like that.”

“What happens in the future I don’t know. Time will tell, but I usually don’t make plans for a very long future,” Raikkonen was quoted as saying.

Rosberg on top in second practice

May 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Nico Rosberg’s golden run continued unbroken on Friday when he topped the times ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in second free practice session for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Rosberg

The 30-year-old German leader of this year’s title race, who is 43 points ahead of defending three-time champion Hamilton, clocked a best lap in one minute and 23.922 seconds.

This enabled him to outpace Finn Raikkonen by 0.254 seconds and Hamilton by seven-tenths, ample proof that he has the pace and edge to extend his winning sequence to five races this year and eight in all in Sunday’s contest at the Circuit de Catalunya.

“It’s great to be back in Europe and to be back in Spain,” said Rosberg. “It was a good start for us today with two good sessions. Times were looking good on the long run and also on the shorter stints.

“I feel very comfortable with the car, with some new parts added, and they seemed to have worked well. Ferrari also looked very strong around this circuit so I’m looking forward to Saturday’s third practice as well as qualifying and to see how we perform.”

Rosberg’s confidence was as clear as Hamilton’s hesitancy on a day that supplied, as expected, a continuation of this year’s form to date.

“That wasn’t an easy day for me,” said Hamilton. “I struggled with the car balance throughout the day — and this afternoon, in particular, it felt really tricky to drive.

“I had traffic on my quick lap, so the lap times don’t tell the full story, but it’s clear we have plenty of work to do this evening to get the car driving like I want it to.

“But we will get our heads down this evening and work through the data — and I’m confident we can pull things around for tomorrow.”

Rosberg had been third-fastest in the morning, half a second behind the two Ferraris led by Raikkonen’s team-mate, four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.

That saw the two Ferraris head the Mercedes men and the two Red Bulls with Australian Daniel Ricciardo leading an impressive Max Verstappen in fifth and sixth places, an effort the Dutch teenager almost reprised in the second session.

Vettel was down to fourth in the afternoon ahead of a resurgent and inspired Spaniard Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso, Ricciardo and local hero, two-time champion Fernando Alonso of McLaren.

They all improved to push Verstappen down into eighth in the second Red Bull ahead of the two Force Indias of Mexican Sergio Perez and German Nico Hulkenberg.

“I think this afternoon was a bit more tricky,” said Vettel. “Not as good as the morning, but I think still we can work on the car and improve overnight. We are strong at doing that.

“Even if today was not the perfect day, I think it should be ok.”

Verstappen was satisfied with his runs to sixth and eighth.

“I think I can be happy,” he said. “I did all the procedures, I was enjoying it. I was getting used to the car still, but it was all going very positive.”

Russian Daniil Kvyat, demoted to Toro Rosso to make room at Red Bull for Dutchman Verstappen, struggled to 15th place.

But, on a day when 10 drivers from Vettel to 13th-placed Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Haas, clocked tightly-packed times in the 1min 25sec’s, it was barely of great significance.

Rosberg was, as Vettel had been in the morning, the only driver to dip under the 1:24 barrier in the afternoon with Raikkonen and Hamilton in close pursuit — a scenario that means Hamilton needs to make a quantum leap overnight if he is to close the gap in Saturday’s qualifying session.

Rosberg romps to fifth win in a row

April 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Germany’s Nico Rosberg romped to his fifth win in a row for Mercedes on Sunday and ended Formula One champion team mate Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of a third successive Bahrain Grand Prix victory.

Formula One - Bahrain F1 Grand Prix - Sakhir, Bahrain - 03/04/16 - Mercedes F1 driver Nico Rosberg of Germany celebrates after winning the Bahrain GP. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

In a race that at times resembled a demolition derby, with bits of bodywork flying as cars collided, Rosberg seized the lead from the start and enjoyed an easy evening under the floodlights.

“It’s been an awesome weekend. The key was really at the start, I made a great getaway and from then on I was trying to control the pace,” said Rosberg of his first win at the desert track where he made his F1 debut a decade ago.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, whose team mate Sebastian Vettel failed to start after his car’s engine let out a plume of smoke on the formation lap, finished 10.2 seconds behind to repeat last year’s second place.

Hamilton, a distant third and never in a position to challenge for the lead, made a slow start from pole position and tangled with the Williams of Valtteri Bottas at the first corner as the Finn tried to go past on the inside.

That left him having to battle back from seventh place at the end of lap two with a damaged car, while stewards gave Bottas a drive-through penalty for causing the collision.

Hamilton had also started on pole in Australia two weeks earlier, when both Mercedes drivers were jumped by the Ferraris before eventually finishing one-two.

“Two separate incidents, both equally painful — perhaps today more painful,” said Hamilton.

“We still managed to get the car up there and get some points,” added the Briton. “So, again, damage limitation, congratulations to Nico, an easy race for him I would assume but I’m glad it wasn’t more points.”

Rosberg stretched his lead over Hamilton at the top of the standings to 17 points after two races.

The win was the 16th of the German’s career, lifting him level in the all-time lists with British great Stirling Moss, and the eighth in a row for champions Mercedes.

All but the top six cars were lapped, with 17 finishers.

Red Bull’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo was fourth for the second race running, with Frenchman Romain Grosjean performing more heroics for the new U.S.-owned Haas team by finishing fifth after sixth in Australia.

Dutch teenager Max Verstappen finished sixth for Toro Rosso, with Russian Daniil Kvyat seventh for sister team Red Bull and Felipe Massa eighth for Williams ahead of Bottas.

Belgian rookie Stoffel Vandoorne, standing in for Fernando Alonso at McLaren after the Spaniard was ruled out on medical grounds after his big crash in Melbourne, scored on his debut with 10th place.

The points were McLaren’s first of the season and capped a great weekend for the reigning GP2 champion, who also out-qualified 2009 world champion team mate Jenson Button. The Briton retired on lap seven.

With Vettel and Alonso not starting, that left three of the sport’s five active world champions watching from the sidelines.

Manor rookie Rio Haryanto became the first Indonesian to finish a Formula One race, in 17th and last place.

Ferrari test ‘halo’ head protection device

March 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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A prototype “halo” head protection device made its Formula One test debut in Spain on Thursday, with Kimi Raikkonen declaring visibility to be “okay” after lapping with it attached to the cockpit of his Ferrari.

Formula One - Barcelona tests - Barcelona-Catalunya racetrack, Montmelo, Barcelona, Spain - 3/3/16.Ferrari F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen takes a curve. REUTERS/ALBERT GEA

The governing FIA has said a version of the device, which is fixed to the cockpit at three points including a central pillar right in front of the driver, could be introduced next year.

A Ferrari spokesman said the version tested was a provisional structure to test lines of sight, with Raikkonen completing two laps. “Kimi said it was ‘okay’ in terms of visibility,” he added.

Most drivers favour the device, designed to protect against potentially lethal flying debris, although some have reservations about how quickly they could get out in an accident.

“It’s important for safety and I am totally in favour. I think we need that,” Williams driver Felipe Massa, who suffered a near-fatal head injury while driving for Ferrari in Hungary in 2009, told Reuters last week.

“It doesn’t look good but it’s for a great reason,” McLaren’s Jenson Button told Sky Sports television at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.

“I’m not sure how we are going to get out in 5 seconds but I think it’s something that is needed in the sport.”

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg said it was potentially a “massive step in safety”.

“I think it’s definitely needed. OK, visually you can say that it’s not quite as good as now but from some angles … it looked very cool actually,” said the German.

Red Bull principal Christian Horner, whose team are planning to test a different version next month, said it was good that teams were trying it out but had reservations.

“We’ve tried it on our simulator,” he said. “We’re concerned with some visibility issues on it.

“Personally I’m not a fan of that system, I think we can do better than that with something a bit more elegant rather than a big piece of carbon fibre right in front of the driver’s face.”

Formula One has been weighing up the pros and cons of the halo compared with completely closed canopies, an option that some fear could trap the driver in the event of a crash.

Improving head protection became a priority after the deaths last year of Briton Justin Wilson, a former F1 racer who suffered head injuries from debris in an IndyCar crash, and Frenchman Jules Bianchi.

Bianchi, Formula One’s first driver fatality in 21 years, died in July, nine months after suffering severe head injuries at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix when his car hit a recovery tractor.

Ferrari boss sees ‘phenomenal’ Raikkonen in 2016

December 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne says he has seen a new Kimi Raikkonen emerge this year and believes the 2007 Formula One world champion could be set for a ‘phenomenal’ 2016.

Raikkonen

“If I can give you some encouraging information, it’s that I have seen a huge change in Kimi during the season,” he told a pre-Christmas news conference at Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters on Monday.

“We were talking with some of our colleagues over the past three or four days, and we are beginning to look at a different Kimi.”

Marchionne said the 36-year-old Finn, now a proud father, was a lot more settled in his private life and that would help him be more competitive.

Raikkonen ended the 2015 season in fourth place overall and with 150 points, compared to team mate and four times champion Sebastian Vettel who finished third with 278 points after winning three races.

The Finn — who had looked in danger of losing his seat but ended up being retained for another season — improved steadily over the year, however.

Marchionne compared him to a movie whose second half was better than the first and said he expected Raikkonen to be more engaged next year.

“It happened to Seb. He has had a phenomenal year in his first year and I am expecting that Kimi will rise up to the challenge and have a phenomenal season in 2016,” he said.

Vettel engine penalty boosts Hamilton’s title hopes

October 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of winning his third Formula One world championship at the U.S. Grand Prix were boosted on Thursday when closest rival Sebastian Vettel said he would have a 10 place penalty on the starting grid.

Vettel

Vettel’s Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen will take a similar penalty, which will further reduce the team’s chances of beating Hamilton’s Mercedes unless the weather, which is expected to be wet, intervenes.

“We will have the hit of a 10 places penalty for a new engine at this event but it has always been the plan, it’s not a big secret,” Vettel told reporters at the Circuit of the Americas.

“Obviously if you look at just this race in isolation, for sure it’s not great news but then you have to look at the whole project, the whole season and it was always the plan to have a fresh engine until the end of the season (from) here,” added the German.

Britain’s Hamilton, who has won nine of the 15 races so far, leads Vettel by 66 points in the standings with four races remaining.

His Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg is 73 points adrift, which means Hamilton needs to score nine points more than Vettel and two more than Rosberg to be sure of his second successive crown.

A Mercedes one-two, with Hamilton winning, would do that but Rosberg said the Briton would still face a battle with him in Sunday’s race.

“There is nothing to lose. I want to win and I have the opportunity to win,” said the German.

“It makes it more simple for us, the weekend,” he said of Ferrari’s penalties. “But they are still a threat even from where they are because you never know with the weather or whatever.”

Hamilton has won two of the three races in Austin to date and three of the last four in the United States, with Vettel taking the other.

Vettel has won three grands prix this year, the same number as Rosberg, and he and Hamilton are the only drivers to have won in Austin since it first hosted the championship in 2012.

The German, who won his four world championships with Red Bull, has also started twice on pole in Texas.

The new engine will be Vettel’s fifth of the season, incurring a penalty because it exceeds the allocation of four, but Ferrari have already hit their targets for the season after failing to win a race last year.

“The priority was always to have maximum power at every single race and that has been our plan and I think it worked very well so far,” said Vettel.

“Obviously we have to take the hit here but then we should see the positive and the fact we were able to make big steps.”

Monza leaves glass half full for Ferrari boss

September 7, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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The glass was half full for Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene after Sunday's Italian Grand Prix, even if Kimi Raikkonen filled it almost to the brim before sloshing the contents around.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in action. Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Hoch ZweiLivepic

With Sebastian Vettel taking second place in his first race in Italy in red Ferrari overalls, the home team could hold their heads high even if they never came close to catching Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes.

Raikkonen, Ferrari's 2007 world champion, had outqualified Vettel and started on the front row to the delight of a legion of tifosi — including Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne.

Then it all went wrong.

The Finn was left standing as everyone else pulled away, cars veering around him to the left and right, before getting going and entering the first corner in last place.

He ended up fifth after a strong fightback, helped by a rare Mercedes engine failure that denied Nico Rosberg a place on the podium.

Ferrari remained second overall in the constructors' championship, with Mercedes disappearing into the distance.

"Yesterday, Kimi had done a great qualifying and we were all pleased," said Arrivabene. "Today he got, most probably, messed up a bit, we need still to check but most probably messed up a bit with the finger (in releasing the clutch).

"But during the race he overtook many, many other cars and his race was fantastic I have to say."

So too was Vettel's race, with the four times world champion thrilled to be back on the Monza podium and in front of the heaving wave of cheering fans spilling out of the stands onto the pit straight.

"It’s the best second place I ever had. The emotions on the podium are incredible," the German told reporters.

"If we take this (circuit) away from the calendar for any… money reasons I think you are basically ripping our hearts out."

The circuit, which has hosted races since the 1920s and featured on the calendar in every season but one since the world championship started in 1950, faces an uncertain future with its current contract ending next year.

Raikkonen, a fan favourite, said he had never experienced a start problem like Sunday's before and had not done anything different to usual.

"Obviously it's not ideal," said the Finn with his usual understatement. "You’re in a good position for the start and then after a few seconds we were last so the front row didn’t help us a lot did it?

"The weekend has been good apart from that issue and then obviously its fine to get back to fifth, when you start from second place, with that kind of start."

Raikkonen in dreamland after new Ferrari deal

August 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Kimi Raikkonen expressed his love for Ferrari on Wednesday after the Formula One team said the Finn would be staying with them next year in an unchanged lineup with Germany’s Sebastian Vettel.

“What can I say?…for me, to be able to stay another year at Ferrari means that the dream goes on,” the 35-year-old told the team website after an announcement that caught the sport off guard.

“The Scuderia (team) is my family, as I always said, it’s here (that) I want to end my career. I am more committed than ever and I want to say thank you to the people who gave me this chance.”

Raikkonen was out of contract at the end of 2015 and facing an uncertain future, with media speculation already focusing on who might replace the ‘Iceman’ at one of the most coveted seats on the starting grid.

Instead, a short statement from Maranello forced a rethink.

“Scuderia Ferrari announces that it has renewed its technical and racing agreement with Kimi Raikkonen,” the team said as the paddock regrouped in Spa-Francorchamps for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.

“The driver lineup next season will still consist of the Finnish driver and Sebastian Vettel.”

Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion who returned to Ferrari in 2014, had always made clear he wanted to stay but team principal Maurizio Arrivabene had been keeping his options open about one of the sport’s highest paid drivers.

“We believe that extending Kimi’s contract into the next season will provide further stability to the team,” said Arrivabene, well aware that an announcement now will relieve Ferrari of unwanted hassle at next month’s Italian Grand Prix.

“This (stability) has been our guideline, also considering the very good relationship between Kimi and Seb. On our side, this shows our great confidence in him and I expect this confidence to be well rewarded,” added Arrivabene.

Had Raikkonen been dropped, it would have triggered a driver merry-go-round as well as the likely farewell of one of Formula One’s most popular, if least talkative, drivers.

Raikkonen’s compatriot Valtteri Bottas, currently with Williams, had been considered a frontrunner with speculation in the Finnish and Italian media having suggested Bottas has an agreement with Ferrari for 2017, if not next year.

Italy’s Corriere dello Sport newspaper last month claimed Ferrari had agreed to pay Williams some 12 million euros (£8.46 million) for releasing Bottas early from an option on his contract.

That is clearly not the case, and Bottas is likely to remain at Williams for at least another year.

Raikkonen, eclipsed by Spaniard Fernando Alonso at Ferrari last year, has been outperformed by Vettel in 2015 with the German scoring 160 points to the Finn’s 76.

Four-times world champion Vettel, who moved from Red Bull at the end of last year, has already won two races for Ferrari while Raikkonen has not triumphed since he was at Lotus in 2013.

The Finn, who can now look forward to his sixth year at Maranello after first joining from McLaren in 2007 and then being dropped at the end of 2009, has made just one podium this year — second place in Bahrain.

Raikkonen says he has the speed that Ferrari need

July 24, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Kimi Raikkonen believes he still has the speed that Ferrari need despite reports that the Formula One team are lining up a replacement for 2016 in fellow-Finn Valtteri Bottas.

Ferrari's Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen (R) arrives in the paddock ahead of the weekend's Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang circuit near Kuala Lumpur. (AFP)

“Everybody has their own view, but I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I had the speed,” the 2007 world champion told reporters at the Hungarian Grand Prix on Thursday.

“There is no point to be racing, if I didn’t believe I have, and I am sure I have (the speed),” added the 35-year-old, who is out of contract with the Maranello team at the end of the season.

Ferrari have an option on retaining him alongside four times champion Sebastian Vettel, however, and are weighing up how to proceed.

Vettel, who joined this season from Red Bull, is currently third overall and has scored 59 points more than his team mate.

Reports in Italy last week suggested Bottas was set to switch from Williams but neither Finn indicated that was anything more than speculation.

“I don’t know any more than I knew at the start of the year,” said Raikkonen. “For me, the whole thing hasn’t changed for months. If I knew I would easily say, unfortunately I don’t know.

“Somehow I end up every year in the same position, and it makes no difference if I have a contract or not. There is no contract, but there is an option now,” he added.

“I have made it very clear to the team what I would like to happen, and it is to be here next year.”

Raikkonen has not won a race since he was at Lotus in 2013 but the Finn, the most popular driver in Formula One according to a recent global fan survey, was second in Bahrain in April.

Bottas, 10 years younger, has been on the podium once this season when he finished third in Canada in June.

“Obviously there are a lot of rumours,” Bottas said when asked about his situation. “For me there is nothing new to tell you since I was asked last time.

“Of course as a driver you want to know as soon as possible, but sometimes you need to wait.”

Ferrari make a step up despite Canada setbacks

June 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Ferrari failed to finish on the Formula One podium for the first time this season in Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix but still found positives in the performance.

Ferrari Formula One team principal Maurizio Arrivabene walks in the pit at the end of the first free practice session at the Monaco F1 Grand Prix May 21, 2015. REUTERS/MAX ROSSI

Team principal Maurizio Arrivabene said it was clear an engine upgrade had delivered even if champions Mercedes dominated the race.

“If you look at the pace of Seb (Vettel) during the race, it’s quite clear we were there,” he told reporters. “So I think in terms of performance it’s fine.

“But when you get points but not the podium you cannot say you are satisfied.

Arrivabene said the upgrade had given the team “the positive answer that we were asking for” but circumstances had not allowed the sport’s oldest and most successful team to make the most of it at a circuit that rewards engine power.

“It’s a long way to go. We need to recognise that at the moment they (Mercedes) are stronger than us without thinking that we closed the gap so we can beat them every race,” added the Italian. “This is not realistic.

“But the answer that we got during this weekend, especially with the race of Seb, was quite good.”

Ferrari remain comfortably second in the constructors’ standings with 180 points to Mercedes’s 285. Mercedes-powered Williams are third on 104.

Vettel, a four times world champion with Red Bull, finished fifth after starting in 18th place because of power unit problems in qualifying and a five place penalty incurred for overtaking while red flags were waved in practise.

Kimi Raikkonen, who ended up fourth after starting third, finished 45.6 seconds adrift of winner and world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel did well in fighting through back marker traffic and past Mercedes-powered rivals Force India and Lotus but Raikkonen hurt his chances with a spin that forced a change of strategy from one stop to two.

The Finn still set the fastest lap, however.

Mercedes motorsport director Toto Wolff, whose drivers finished one-two for the fourth time in seven races this season, said the setbacks had masked the gains Ferrari had made and warned against complacency.

“I think we must not under-estimate the (engine) upgrade they have brought because we have seen a very strong pace on the Friday,” said the Austrian.

“My assumption is that we haven’t seen the best of Ferrari. So let’s not under-estimate them. I think that they will bounce back strong in Austria (next week).”

Hamilton savours Canada win after Monaco blow

June 8, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton put Monaco misery behind him on Sunday with a controlled Canadian Grand Prix victory that sent the Formula One world champion 17 points clear of Mercedes team mate and title rival Nico Rosberg.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton reacts after winning the Canadian F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal June 7, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

The Briton’s fourth victory in seven races this season, and fourth career win in Canada, denied Rosberg a third triumph in a row and provided the perfect response to losing out in the showcase race two weeks ago.

There he had been leading comfortably from pole only to lose out after a needless late pitstop when the safety car was deployed.

There was no need for the safety car on Sunday, at a circuit that has seen it plenty of times in the past, and there was little in the way of drama either — other than a startled groundhog appearing on the track — as Hamilton led from pole.

Rosberg was never close enough to attack, finishing 2.2 seconds behind after having to manage his brakes while Hamilton also had to coast at times to save fuel.

The rest of the field was in another race entirely, with Hamilton lapping all but six of the cars behind him at the circuit where he took his first F1 win in 2007 with McLaren.

Finland’s Valtteri Bottas was third for Williams, a massive 40.6 seconds behind Hamilton, to become the first driver from outside Mercedes or Ferrari to appear on the podium this year.

“I love Montreal,” Hamilton told the crowd as he stood on the podium after his 37th career win. “Nico was quick but I felt like I always had it under control.

“Did I need this?” he asked the spectators to raucous cheers. “I think so.”

On his way to victory, Hamilton also replaced 1992 champion Nigel Mansell as the British driver to lead most laps in Formula One history.

Bottas moved up one place from where he started, beating his fellow-Finn Kimi Raikkonen after the Ferrari driver spun following a pitstop, and looked forward to more podium appearances.

“I think we really needed this result,” he said.

“Like last year we saw that it really boosts confidence. We know again now that we are a top team and that we can fight for podiums.”

Raikkonen finished fourth, ahead of team mate Sebastian Vettel who fought his way through the field from 18th at the start.

Bottas’s Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa finished sixth after starting 15th, and provided some of the more memorable ovartakes.

Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado scored his first points of the season for Lotus in seventh place and Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg limbered up for his Le Mans 24 Hours debut next weekend with eighth place for Force India.

Russian Daniil Kvyat was ninth for Red Bull and Frenchman Romain Grosjean took the final point for Lotus after a late coming together with Manor Marussia’s Will Stevens.

Neither of the McLarens finished the race, with Spain’s double world champion Fernando Alonso expressing his frustration over the radio at being told save fuel.

“Already I have big problems now. Driving with this, looking like amateur. So I race and then I concentrate on the fuel,” Alonso told his race engineer.

Ferrari to play ‘carrot and stick’ with Raikkonen

April 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Ferrari Formula One Driver Kimi Raikkonen drives during Bahrain's F1 Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit, south of Manama, April 19, 2015. REUTERS/HAMAD I MOHAMMED

Ferrari are prepared to play a game of ‘carrot and stick’ with Kimi Raikkonen to keep Formula One’s top Finn performing at his best.

The 2007 world champion, still Ferrari’s most recent title winner, is out of contract at the end of the year although the Italian team have an option of keeping him alongside Sebastian Vettel.

Team principal Maurizio Arrivabene, who took on the job last November, told reporters at the Bahrain Grand Prix that the decision would depend on the 35-year-old’s performance on the track.

Raikkonen responded immediately by finishing second on Sunday for his first podium finish since he was at Lotus in 2013 and first for Ferrari since 2009.

“Every driver here in the paddock wants to drive for Ferrari, this is normal. Even guys that were quite a lot of time world champion. I’m happy with the drivers that we have,” commented Arrivabene afterwards.

“This does not mean that I am going to sign with Kimi tomorrow,” he added with a smile, having announced that he felt the real Raikkonen was back, the one who seized his championship against the odds with a string of late wins rather than the one who sometimes looked a bit bored in 2009.

“We are very clear. I repeat again: I said to Kimi, ‘look, It depends on your performance’ and he has demonstrated that he’s a great driver. So if you ask me now, does he deserve to renew the option, now today I am going to say yes.

“But if I am going to say yes, I don’t want the driver to fall asleep. So I want to keep him up. Kimi is giving the best when he is a bit in trouble,” said the Italian, making clear that the contract was the carrot being dangled.

“This is a psychological approach. So the paper at the moment is white. Sometimes I have to take the pen, then take it back. And Kimi is going to the podium.”

Raikkonen, who returned to Ferrari last year, has said he is enjoying life at Ferrari more than ever.

“This year is the best that I have had in any team; how the team works together, how people work together, how the atmosphere is and how things are being run. That tells you a lot. I’m very happy,” he said last week.

(Reuters)

Hamilton pulls away after three wins in four races

April 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain celebrates his victory on the podium with the winner's trophy after Bahrain's F1 Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit, south of Manama April 19, 2015. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton won the Bahrain Grand Prix for the second year in a row on Sunday with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen back on the podium to deny Mercedes another one-two finish under the floodlights.

The Briton’s flying pole-to-flag victory at the desert track was his third win in four races this season and 36th of his career.

The 30-year-old increased his lead over Rosberg in the standings to 27 points, with the Briton now having 93 points to the German’s 66 as the championship heads back to start the European season.

“I am gunning for it,” Hamilton told triple world champion Jackie Stewart, doing the podium interviews, when reminded that he could also be a three-times champion by the end of the season.

“The Ferraris gave us a real good run for our money, and out there it was really difficult to look after the tyres in these conditions,” he added after spraying the fizzy rose water that replaces champagne in Bahrain.

He did so with less reckless abandon than in China last weekend, when photographs of him aiming a jet of fizz in the face of a hostess triggered a controversy and accusations of sexist bullying.

“Fortunately I was able to keep the car together, keep the tyres as healthy as possible and got it through… I think we showed that Mercedes are still the best,” said Hamilton.

Unlike last year, when he beat team mate Nico Rosberg from second place on the grid in a wheel-to-wheel battle, Hamilton was untroubled by the German who finished third after fighting the Ferraris.

Rosberg was holding second place until two laps from the end when he lost his brakes, went wide and gave Raikkonen the chance to speed past on his fresher soft tyres and pull away to the chequered flag.

Rosberg had been passed by Raikkonen at the start, regaining the place four laps later, in the first move of a prolonged struggle with the Ferraris.

The second place was the Finn’s first appearance on the podium since 2013, when he was at Lotus, and first for Ferrari since 2009.

He also set the fastest lap, equalling four-times champion Alain Prost’s tally of 41 and joining the Frenchman in second place on the all-time lists.

Finland’s Valtteri Bottas finished fourth for Williams with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel fifth after starting on the front row but suffering front wing problems when he made a mistake late on and veered across the gravel.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo was sixth for Red Bull, with the car’s Renault engine expiring in a belch of smoke just before he crossed the line, and Frenchman Romain Grosjean was seventh for Lotus.

“All the fireworks went off and the engine felt like it needed to join in,” Red Bull principal Christian Horner commented wryly.

Mexican Sergio Perez finished eighth for Force India while Russian Daniil Kvyat was ninth in a Red Bull and Brazilian Felipe Massa took the final point for Williams after a problem on the grid left him starting from the pit lane.

Britain’s Jenson Button did not start the race at all, due to electrical problems in the Honda power unit, but Spanish team mate Fernando Alonso finished 11th.

(Reuters)

FIA details new super licence system for 2016

January 7, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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(Reuters) – Formula One’s governing body has kicked up a controversy with a new super licence points system for 2016 that, if applied in the past, would have kept even Ayrton Senna waiting for a debut.

The revamped criteria, in an appendix to the international sporting code buried inside the fia.com website and published quietly last month, will ensure all drivers are over 18 and experienced enough.

They must have earned at least 40 points, on a scale set by the FIA, through competing in other series over the previous three seasons.

There is currently no age limit and drivers can satisfy the experience requirement by completing 300km in a recent F1 car over a two-day test period and demonstrating ‘outstanding ability’.

The new rules would have kept out 17-year-old Dutch racer Max Verstappen, who is due to make his debut in Australia in March as the sport’s youngest ever driver, on all counts.

They would have forced 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen to wait for his 2001 debut while Brazilian Senna, the late triple champion who debuted in 1984, would also have acquired insufficient points.

“My main F3 rival and I went (British) F3 directly to F1,” commented former racer Martin Brundle on Twitter. “New 2016 Super Licence rules prevent that. Ayrton Senna turned out to be quite good though…”

Others pointed out that seven times world champion Michael Schumacher would have faced an obstacle when he made his comeback with Mercedes in 2010 after three seasons in retirement.

Britain’s 2009 world champion Jenson Button, who made his debut with Williams in 2000 as a 20-year-old, would have fallen short on experience too.

Drivers whose places have owed more to cash than talent may also find it harder to obtain a licence in future.

The FIA said that from next year, any new applicant for a super licence must hold a valid driving licence and be at least 18 years old.

Only five series will offer the chance to acquire 40 points in one year, and the one with the most on offer does not yet exist: The ‘future FIA F2 championship’. The others are GP2, European F3, the world endurance championship and Indy Car.

The winners of the GP3 and Formula Renault 3.5 world series, both of which have served as a springboard into Formula One, will get only 30 points.

Verstappen finished third in last year’s European F3 championship, meaning he would have had insufficient points to qualify for a super licence as well as being too young.

Change underway at Ferrari, says Mattiacci

July 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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(Reuters) – Ferrari will be a different Formula One team next year with changes already being made at Maranello, principal Marco Mattiacci said after Sunday’s British Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso finished only sixth for the Italian team at Silverstone while Kimi Raikkonen crashed out on the opening lap of a race won by Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes.

Asked about the future of Ferrari engine head Luca Marmorini, with some reports in Italy last week indicating he had left the team, Mattiacci refused to comment.

“I don’t want to point to any individual. We are redesigning the team, we are reinforcing the team,” the boss, who replaced Stefano Domenicali at the helm in April, told reporters. “I don’t make comments about individuals.

“We don’t have to make any announcements,” he continued. “The best announcements are results… we are not happy to be sixth. The weekend was bittersweet, a lot of emotion and positive things but we are not happy to be sixth.

“Starting from here we need to prepare a different team for 2015. Do we need to do an announcement? No. Do we need to improve? Continuous improvement, yes. That is our position.”

Ferrari are third in the championship but now only three points clear of Williams, who might have ended the day ahead had Brazilian Felipe Massa’s car not been badly damaged when Raikkonen crashed out.

Mattiacci praised Alonso’s race from 16th on the grid, and Raikkonen emerging unscathed from his big accident, as positives.

Alonso, a double world champion, has been on the podium just once this season while 2007 champion Raikkonen has finished no higher than seventh.

Ferrari are 220 points behind leaders Mercedes in the constructors’ championship with 10 races remaining.

The fire and ice driver pairing had been a talking point before the season but they have instead been also-rans with the title battle now a duel between Mercedes team mates Hamilton and championship leader Nico Rosberg.

Mattiacci said Ferrari were working hard to improve “what is improvable” on the car.

“We have brought a lot of aerodynamics improvement in the last races that found a positive effect on the track so this is a good starting point,” he said.

Hamilton wins British GP as Rosberg pulls up

July 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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(AFP) – Lewis Hamilton delighted a 120,000 crowd of enthusiastic home fans when he revived his world championship bid on Sunday with an emphatic victory in a dramatic incident-filled British Grand Prix.

The 29-year-old Briton took full advantage of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg’s first non-finish of the season, due to gearbox problems, to reduce the German’s lead in the title race to just four points.

Driving with great elan and speed, the 2008 champion Hamilton came home 30 seconds clear of second-placed Finn Valtteri Bottas of Williams, who started from 14th on the grid.

It was Hamilton’s second home win at the British Grand Prix, his fifth of the season and the 27th of his career drawing him level with fellow-Briton three-time champion Jackie Stewart in the record books.

“You can’t touch this Lewis — home Grand Prix,” said Hamilton’s race engineer on the team radio. “England! What a great feeling guys I couldn’t be happier, I’m sorry about yesterday, but a fantastic job today, as ever!” responded Hamilton.

Later, from the podium, he added: “This just proves you should never give up! I have got so many mixed feelings and you never want to see a team-mate go out.”

Australian Daniel Ricciardo, of Red Bull, finished third ahead of 2009 champion Briton Jenson Button, of McLaren, defending four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel in the second Red Bull and two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari.

Alonso’s team-mate Finn Kimi Raikkonen was involved in a spectacular high-speed opening lap accident that halted the race for an hour, for repairs to the barriers. He lost control, spun, hit the barriers and collided with Brazilian Felipe Massa’s Williams.

Both escaped serious injury, but Raikkonen, whose car was massively damaged, limped away and required later x-rays on his right ankle. Massa was forced out with a damaged car.

Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen finished seventh for McLaren ahead of German Nico Hulkenberg of Force India, Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso and 10th-placed Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne in the second Toro Rosso.

The race began in mild and breezy English summer conditions with an air track temperature of 17 degrees and track temperature of 34, almost perfect for the contest which exploded into dramatic life on the opening lap.

Rosberg had made a near-perfect getaway from his fourth pole of the season while Hamilton, from sixth, swifly rose to fourth before the race was red-flagged to a halt when Raikkonen lost control of his Ferrari, spun across the track and crashed heavily into the barriers on the Wellington Straight.

Massa took rapid action but could not avoid a collision that tore off the rear left wheel of his Williams car while Raikkonen’s Ferrari was almost destroyed. The Finn, however, managed to climb out of the cockpit and limp away.

When the race re-started, Rosberg streaked. Hamilton, from fourth, charged after him, passing the McLarens of Magnussen and Button on successive laps to take second.

By lap 10, the field was settling down, but with the spectacle of Bottas rising to sixth from 14th and Alonso to seventh from 16th before the Spaniard was handed a five-second penalty for re-starting the race from the wrong position behind the Safety Car.

Rosberg pitted from the lead after 18 laps, for a stop of 2.7 seconds, and Hamilton took over the lead, extending it to more than 15 seconds within three laps as he stayed out on his original tyres.

Rosberg reported a gearbox problem following his stop, but it did not affect his speed as he rejoined second and chased after Hamilton, who finally pitted after 24 laps, a slow one in 4.1 seconds. He rejoined second behind Rosberg, but ahead of Bottas and Button.

Rosberg’s problems worsened and by lap 29 he was struggling to survive as his gearbox began seizing up, Hamilton grabbing his chance to sweep into the lead. “There’s a problem with the upshift,” said the German. “Consider slowing me down just to get me to the finish line.”

Within seconds, it was all over. Rosberg coasted to a halt at Becketts and switched off, leaving Hamilton with the prospect of a clear run to the flag and a chance to cut a lump out of his team-mate’s 29-point pre-race advantage in the title race.

“Just look after the car as best as you can,” Hamilton’s race engineer told him, as he enjoyed a 24-second advantage over Bottas, who dropped to third behind Vettel when he pitted on lap 32.

A Vettel stop then gave Bottas second again and, in turn, gave Hamilton a lead of more than 40 seconds on the Finn. Having rejoined, Vettel found himself in a furious scrap with Alonso, who defended fifth place with vigour. “I could have crashed into him,” complained Vettel after one rebuffed attack.

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