Friday evening at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi and with both free practices complete, Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have yet to emerge to the awaiting media at the back of the team garage.
For the British Hamilton, it had been a very good Friday – top of both sessions was good; consistently quick through his longer runs was better; well ahead on pace of any other team was best.
But this was only Friday.
Come the following day, Rosberg topped the final practice and then – again – qualifying, while the Williams duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa also began to show their hands. The Martini un-liveried cars were certainly causing a few wrinkles at Mercedes, but whether they could prove as potent in the race…
Through the Sunday evening spectacular, Hamilton needed to finish at least 2nd to secure the title and a lightning start gave him an instant lead.
There were, of course, some worries that reliability would spoil the event and to a degree it did when Rosberg’s ERS failed on lap 23, muting his challenge with immediate effect.
Hamilton won the title, but Massa’s strategy gave the Brazilian a shot at the race, but realistically that was more down to Hamilton’s power unit being ‘turned down’ than anything.
But before all that, the media waited – the gathered throng keen for words and analysis. On Friday evening, the crux of these stories were still to be woven; their tales to be told.
By Sunday night, the full-stop had been applied and a breathless Lewis Hamilton departed a double-world champion.
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Colombian racer Julián Leal has committed to a fifth season in the GP2 Series and a 2nd with Carlin.
The 24-year-old scored two podiums at the beginning of the season in Bahrain, but found life tough going thereafter and eventually finished 10th in the standings.
While the results on paper may not instantly impress, the former Italian Formula 3000 champion did show improved speed and was more than occasionally close to his F1-bound teammate Felipe Nasr.
In a statement Leal was keen to press home how vital Carlin were in his development this year. “With all the teams I have worked with this is the best one for me,” said Leal. “It’s a team that listens to what you say and follows you and advises you and this is good for me because I can learn a lot in a good environment.”
Team boss Trevor Carlin added, “Based on the pace we have as a team and Julian has as a driver, together we should have had better results this year. Next year we intend to deliver our full potential with Julian who is a delight to have at Carlin; he is a great team player and great to work with.”
It would be interesting to note if Leal thinks he a genuine title contender or a driver keen to learn more before moving on to pastures anew. Back to Leal: “I’m very happy for this opportunity. I want to prepare a lot and work hard for next year and get the car as perfect as we can. I want to start the year as we did this year [with a podium] but then maintain that performance for the whole season.”
Leal enjoyed a reasonable three days testing at Abu Dhabi, with the Colombian setting plenty of times around the mid-table range – but since when has that ever told the story in testing.
“It’s very hard to soak all this up,” exclaimed a clearly tired and exultant Lewis Hamilton.
Following a nervous and tense Brazilian Grand Prix two weeks, ago, the Englishman went into this weekend’s double-points finale still as favourite, but also with plenty on ones mind.
While Mercedes teammate, team-rival and fellow championship contender Nico Rosberg was imprerious at Interlagos, Hamilton was also guilty of blowing the race, by spinning on lap 28. “When you’re going through the race, when you’re coming here this weekend, there’s so much pressure from around you, you’re just trying to ignore it, trying to keep your eye on the ball.”
A champion now in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton’s words did not always flow easily. Sometimes they poured; others times they seemed like slow stutters eeping out, as the double-world champion checked himself.
The 29-year-old has let his emotional state get the better of him before and has been burnt by criticism as a result, but now in the post-race press conference, the strengths, frailties and triumphs and losses were exposed.
That is not necessarily a bad thing of course. Hamilton’s emotional reactions add so much flesh to his person. It devides opinion, drives conversation and occasionally arguments, and fuels the passionate.
For a sport that so often is criticised for possessing sterile personalties, this can only be good for the sport. Meanwhile, Hamilton continued: “Niki [Lauda] was right, I didn’t sleep last night. I went to bed at about 1am and woke up at like 5am this morning and I went for a run […] and a massage and everything.
“I thought for sure I’m going to be tired when it gets to the race but somehow I felt composed and my family came and surprised me at breakfast, which was really a great thing.”
Rosberg needed to win at the Yas Marina circuit – of that there is no doubt. Had Hamilton suffered another spin like he had at Interlagos, or had a first lap incident as he had at Spa-Francorchamps, or even a race ending mechanical issue as he had at Melbourne or Montreal, then the 50 points for the victory could have played into Rosberg’s hands.
“Coming to the last race, knowing it’s double points, which… jeez… do you think it was a good idea? Didn’t feel like a good idea when we came into it. I’ll take the points though…” Yet a champion is declared over the course of a season and not a single race. Realistically Hamilton has performed the better of the two Mercedes driver’s this year and had he lost the title to a gimmick, then Formula One would only have been damaged.
Unlike the youthful Hamilton who emerged in 2007, this champion is a far more reflective person and despite the fires lit by a UK media so often desperate for a story to flog trees and digitals figures.
“Spa was a low, the lowest point,” he admitted. “This is the highest. By a long, long, long way. I said coming into this weekend that I wouldn’t change the season, the way it’s gone, for anything really because I’ve learnt a lot. If anything, I felt very, very strong with the way I came out of the good and the bad.”
There is little doubt that Hamilton is beginning to hit his peak and that the Stevenage-native is only getting better. Of that, his rivals must contemplate, for as he becomes one of the sport’s elder statesmen, it is their futures that may be cast in shadows.
Although occasionally clumsy, Hamilton rarely sprout words simply for the sake of it; there is far more to the man than that. Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone could do much to learn from Hamilton’s example.
It is douybtful anyone would have said that following Hamilton’s first title in 2008, but then again, the Lewis Hamilton of 2014 is a very, very different animal – and far more potent too.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this evening and with it his 2nd world championship title.
Williams duo Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas rounded out the podium – the team’s first double podium in nine years.
Hamilton jumped teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg off the line, leading for much of the race thereafter.
Unfortunately for Rosberg, there was little chance of a fight back. The German racer held close to the leader for a time, with both opting to stop on laps ten and eleven for fresh tyres, briefly allowing Massa into the front.
Once the status quo had set again, but as the race aged Hamilton began to edge away from the German. This all changed when on lap twenty-four Rosberg, his Mercedes machine suddenly humbled by an ERS failure, began to slow dramatically.
Losing 2-3 seconds per lap, Hamilton sped into the distance, while Rosberg was helpless to defend against the onslaught of a healthy field drawing in with each tour.
With the Rosberg threat evaporating with every single lap, Mercedes ‘turned down’ Hamilton’s power unit to help prevent a similar issue on the champion’s machine.
The Mercedes man dropped to 2nd when he stopped for a 2nd time on lap 31; however where Hamilton reveled on fresh rubber, Massa continued to set a solid pace on aging Pirelli rubber.
Indeed the lowering temperatures helped Massa’s cause a great deal. With heat gently evaporating from the road surface and fuel tanks emptying at a steady rate, so the Williams FW36 powered at the front, maintaining a 15s gap to Hamilton.
As Massa and Hamilton continued to set the order, Rosberg’s decent down the timing screen made Hamilton champion by default.
In feisty mood, Hamilton set several fastest laps from lap 41 onward, prompting Williams to react and bring Massa in for supersofts come the 43rd tour, allowing Hamilton back into the lead.
On fresh rubber, Massa fought back with four fastest laps in a row, but Hamilton upped the tempo once again and capped the distance to Massa at just over 3s through the final few circulations.
This was more than enough to give Hamilton the title – admittedly the artificial add-on of double points served to inflate the gaps in the points standings somewhat, but ultimately the result would have remained the same.
A deserved champion, Hamilton’s crowning glory was this fabulous performance under the Middle East lights – at the pinnacle of motorsport, there is precious little more valuable than winning to take the title.
Rosberg’s machine, however, was humbled in the final stint. Hampered by an ailing car, the German dropped out of sight and the contender was lapped on the 53rd lap as he dropped to a lowly 14th position.
Massa settled into 2nd place, missing out on the victory by just 2.5s after 55 tours, but in reality Hamilton had the Brazilian covered.
His teammate Valtteri Bottas scored another podium with 3rd place in his Williams machine – the first double-podium for the Grove team for nine years. Bottas’ result comes despite a dreadful start that dropped the Finn from the second row to 8th by turn one.
Stopping after only ten laps allowed Bottas to play an aggressive strategy giving him a clear pace advantage when clear air made itself available. Yet Bottas’ aggressiveness did not destroy his tyres, as his naturally smooth nature
As tyre stints unfolded, Bottas rose back up the order, taking Red Bull duo Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo (twice) along the way.
It proved an important podium for the Finn, who secured 4th in the Drivers’ Championship thanks to his sixth podium finish, but more than anything this was startlingly good drive by Bottas, who kept his head as the race appeared to fall apart at the start, once again marking himself out as a racer who should be feared in the future.
Ricciardo ended the day 4th, despite starting 20th on the grid after his exclusion from qualifying. The Australian persevered through a long opening stint, that only saw him make the move for tyres at the halfway mark.
Such was Ricciardo’s care, from lap seven to his eventual stop twenty tours later, the Red Bull man registered sixteen laps in the late-to-mid 1’48s, as his calm approach and intelligence behind the wheel allowed him to pick off competitors as strategies fell away.
Jenson Button enjoyed a good race to 5th in what may be his final Grand Prix. Nico Hulkenberg headed a force India 6th-7th- in front of Sergio Perez, despite Hulkenberg taking a five-second stop-go penalty in his first pitstop.
The German was found guilty by the stewards of causing an avoidable collision on the opening lap, when he momentarily lost control of his Force India over the kerbs at the exit of turn five and clattered Magnussen.
Like Ricciardo, Vettel was forced to start from the rear of the field due to a technical infringement in qualifying, although the four-time world champion could do no better than 8th place.
Ferrari endured a tough time at Abu Dhabi with Fernando Alonso leading Kimi Raikkonen him to 9th and 10th place finishes during what could be best described as anonymous events.
Outside the points, Magnussen ended the day 11th, with the Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) just behind in 12th.
Lotus’ Romain Grosjean led the charge of the lapped cars in 13th. The Frenchman’s miserable season ended with just the hobbling Rosberg (14th), , Sauber duo Esteban Gutierrez (15th) and Adrian Sutil (16th) behind, while Caterham’s one-off driver Will Stevens rounded out the rear of the field.
The other Caterham of Kamui Kobayashi retired from what might be his last Grand Prix thirteen laps from the end. He went further than Pastor Maldonado – who Lotus machine caught fire in spectacular style – and Daniil Kvyat – who Toro Rosso ground to a halt with a suspected electrical failure after only thirteen laps.
Stoffel Vandoorne took his fourth GP2 Series victory in superb style at the Yas Marina circuit today.
Series champion and DAMS man Jolyon Palmer finished 2nd, while RUSSIAN TIME’s Mitch Evans completed the podium.
From pole, the ART Grand Prix man led the field with relative ease, as Palmer, Felipe Nasr (Carlin), Evans and Stéphane Richelmi (DAMS) fought to settle the top five positions early on.
Vandoorne was in the process of building an early lead while the tussling continued, with Nasr easing past Palmer on the far end of the circuit to slot into 2nd spot.
This lead would be slashed early doors however, when an over-optimistic Rene Binder clattered John Lancaster in the turn 9/10 chicane, with the stranded duo also collecting the innocent Marco Sørensen in the process.
After two-and-a-half laps, Vandoorne raced back into the lead, while the Nasr / Palmer battle continued in his mirrors.
It would prove crucial, for while they turned and posed, with Palmer retaking 2nd place, Vandoorne made good his escape, with the Belgian building a 4.1s gap to the chasing man. Nasr followed Vandoorne in – the pair ridding their machines of the supersoft Pirelli tyres at the end of six tours.
Now leading the pack, Palmer gapped the now 2nd place Evans, but only to the tune of 2.5s, as the soft tyre shod Vandoorne slipped to 11th, but in clear air for a time. With temperatures having plateaued, Palmer set a solid pace, but Vandoorne held a gap of approximately thirty seconds to the DAMS racer, but with laps ticking away, Vandoorne would have to make hay.
Some time was lost behind the struggling Artem Markelov and Jon Lancaster, with Vandoorne clashing with Lancaster’s Hilmer machine as he swept by at the beginning of lap fourteen.
Again in clear air, Vandoorne excelled, while Palmer’s pace began to drop away – only slightly, but enough to push DAMS into an earlier than desired pitstop. Come lap 23, Palmer and Evans took to the pitlane; however a sluggish getaway and a rear-end fling into the path of Evans upon his exit almost cost the Briton a drive through penalty…
That Palmer emerged eight seconds adrift of the leading (again) Vandoorne may be viewed as punishment enough for the Englishman. On fresh supersofts, Palmer pushed hard and had closed the gap to Vandoorne to 5.5s – setting the fastest lap in the process – but after six laps, his tyres had cried enough.
Vandoorne’s steady pace and intelligent drive, especially in the early part of his second stint earned the Belgian more than enough air to easily clear the opposition and with Palmer’s tyres fading, Vandoorne made a 12.1s gap to the next man by the flag.
It is a result that allows the McLaren to leapfrog Nasr in the standings, with Vandoorne taking a nine-point gap into the final race tomorrow morning.
Palmer settled into the runner-up position, a long way ahead of Evans, whose tyres had also faded in the later laps.
Evans was fortunate though. Unable to capitalise following his stop, Nasr lost precious time to the front of the field and also spent too long attempting to take Lancaster and Markelov. That Nasr finished only 3.04s adrift of the podium is an indication of how much the Brazilian lost in the middle of the race, where he was often up to 1.5s-2.5s per lap slower than Vandoorne…
Stéphane Richelmi drove a feisty race in the early stages, but the Monegasque driver will rue a poor start, during which he fell from 3rd to 5th. On paper, Richelmi made no further moves from there, but like Nasr, the 24-year-old became locked in the midfield at the very time he needed to push harder.
Richelmi did take Johnny Cecotto Jr in the final tours, demoting the Colombian to 6th, while Stefano Coletti made the most of an early stop from the medium tyres to claim 7th.
Coletti looked as if he might drop back prior to the end, but Arthur Pic did not have enough time to take his Racing Engineering rival, with the Frenchman coming home just 0.245s adrift of Coletti at the final flag. If nothing else, Pic will lay claim to the reverse grid pole position.
Rio Haryanto took a competent 9th for Caterham, while Danïel de Jong passed a struggling Raffaele Marciello on the last lap to claim the final point.
The race was not without its silliness. André Negrão retired from the race when an ill-conceived move of Pierre Gasly effectively took Negrão out of the event, while also having damaged Gasly’s front wing.
Lewis Hamilton headed both of today’s free practices ahead of the 2014 Formula One finale in Abu Dhabi, while Nico Rosberg topped Saturday’s session.
The Briton led his Mercedes teammate and title challenger Rosberg in both sessions, with Hamilton securing the peak with a 1:43.476s (FP1) and a 1:42.113s (FP2), although Rosberg fought back come the third session (1:41.424s).
During what was a standard and reasonably uneventful series of sessions for the Brackley team, during which they displayed significantly kind tyre preservation, Hamilton took to the front of FP1 with a half-hour remaining in FP1 and then doing the same with one hour left in FP2.
Rosberg made the most of the final session, which is often geared toward qualifying set-ups; however a slide during Hamilton’s final run means we will never know if the points leader could have overhauled his rival.
Of Friday, Hamilton said, “We’ve run the same programme as we run every race weekend but this time we had the whole of both sessions to work with the tyres, look at long runs, analyse setup and the countless other things you need to assess in practice which was great.”
On what is generally a low wear circuit, the Pirelli tyres held up under scrutiny, despite the temperature rising as the afternoon wore on.
Indeed, Hamilton was able to find performance for three-to-four laps in the Pirelli supersoft tyre – a tyre that was initially thought to only have one lap’s worth of life.
Despite this, the Briton believes there is still more to come. “We made good steps forward with the setup but, as always, there is still more time to be found. We’ll keep chipping away at it and look to improve in every area possible but the car feels great – the best I’ve ever driven here without doubt.”
Realistically Hamilton only needs to finish 2nd in Sunday’s race to claim the title, but the Mercedes man is keen to take the race by the scruff of the neck. “I’ll just drive the way I always drive and what will be, will be. So far it’s all moving in the right direction so I just have to keep working away at it.”
On the other side of the Mercedes garage, Rosberg was not prepared to consign his title run to history yet, although the German did concede that his opening practice day had been less than perfect. “It’s been a good day today but I really haven’t got my best lap together yet,” noted Rosberg, while adding, “There is still a lot of work to do over the rest of the weekend. In general the car felt great out there today. I just need to fine-tune it so that the set-up is exactly to my liking, then go for it and get the job done.”
The prospect of an interloper splitting the Mercedes battle took a significant dent during both of today’s sessions. Indeed, the closest anyone got to the silver machines was Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso (FP1) and Kevin Magnussen (McLaren) in FP2; however they were 1.71s and 0.78s adrift respectively.
For the Spaniard, he set his best on new tyres, while the Silver Arrows took theirs on used Pirelli rubber and while the gaps will conceivably close as the circuit continues to come to life, the chance of a non-Mercedes runner getting in between the contenders is incredibly slim.
Indeed Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo said it best when he commented, “Mercedes are … yeah I won’t even mention them! But anyway, they’re fighting for the title so we’ll let them go, but as for the rest it looks pretty tight as always for third place…”
Koiranen GP’s Dean Stoneman took the first GP3 Series race at Abu Dhabi today, jumping to 2nd in the championship ahead of rival Marvin Kirchhöfer as a result.
The Briton jumped the former-German F3 champion off the line and immediately took control of the race, while Dino Zamparelli beat Emil Bernstorff and series champion Alex Lynn into the opening corner.
The competition would be neutralised approximately halfway around the first tour when the slow starting Patrick Kujala attempted an unrealistic move on Mathéo Tuscher into the turn nine chicane, who as a result was pitched into Luís Sá Silva.
Stoneman initially marched away from Kirchhöfer at the restart. In fact, he jumped so early, he came close to overtaking the safety car before the Mercedes SLS before it had taken to the pits.
It would be crucial. From the restart, Stoneman led Kirchhöfer by 1.9s come the end of lap four; however the German teenager quickly began to eat away into the lead. Kirchhöfer pulled half-a-second out of Stoneman on the following lap and an additional three-tenths on the next lap.
As the race aged, the pace settled with the leading pair locked into the 1’57s for much of the running, allowing Stoneman to stabilise the gap to Kirchhöfer.
Kirchhöfer did close to with less than-a-second, only to outbrake himself at the turn 9/10 chicane on the penultimate tour, effectively ending any chance of catching Stoneman.
The Koiranen GP driver drew his lead to the line and while Kirchhöfer closed the gap back to eight-tenths, the race was lost. Stoneman’s fifth victory of the season vaulted the 24-year-old back to the runner-up place in the championship, as he now holds a two-point lead going into tomorrow’s finale.
If nothing changes tomorrow, Kirchhöfer’s runner-up finish will at least gift him 3rd in the championship; however there is little chance the German is ready to settle.
Zamparelli enjoyed a quite race behind Kirchhöfer. With a good start in the bag, the Bristol-native held sway ahead of Bernstorff and Lynn and while both pressed Zamparelli for a time, neither truly placed the ART Grand Prix man under significant pressure.
Bernstorff took 4th, but also pulled away from Lynn as the race aged, while the latter faced off Alex Fontana toward the end of the race. Although Fontana pressurised the champion, the Swiss driver spent much of the early running keeping countryman Patric Niederhauser (7th) at bay.
Once Fontana had built a reasonable gap to Niederhauser, the Arden man began to come under scrutiny from Status’ Nick Yelloly, with the Englishman ending the event just one second adrift come fourteen laps. It gave Yelloly reverse grid pole for the Sunday Race 2.
Kevin Ceccon took 9th for Jenzer thanks to a good start that saw him claim two spots. Ceccon held a feisty Jimmy Eriksson off toward the conclusion, after the Swede bullied his way past teammate Santiago Urrutia on lap nine to take the final point.
While Carlin still lead the Teams’ Championship, the performances of Kirchhöfer and Zamparelli mean ART Grand Prix are now only five points adrift of the British rivals, although the reverse grid may just play into Carlin’s hands come Sunday.
Jayde Kruger success in the MSA British Formula Ford championship was confirmed this week when The National Court dismissed an appeal from runners-up Harrison Scott and Falcon Motorsport.
The appeal derived from an incident during the second race of the final round at Brands Hatch, when Kruger clashed Harrison, taking the latter out of the race.
Kruger continued and eventually won, only for the stewards of the meeting to throw the South African out of the race; however JTR and Kruger successfully appealed the decision to the MSA, with the UK governing body concluding that the clash was merely a ‘racing incident.’
The overturned decision gives the 26-year-old Kruger the title by just six points over Harrison and although Kruger was also reprimanded by the stewards and had two penalty points applied to his licence, it is less likely that the South African will be too concerned by that outcome.
Irrespective of the decision, this is a messy and ugly way for British Formula Ford’s legacy to have been curtailed.