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“FIA F3: Eriksson finally claims maiden win”

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Eriksson dominated at Spa. © FIA / Thomas Suer

Swedish racer Joel Eriksson finally claimed his maiden FIA European F3 victory at Spa-Francorchamps today.

In a dominant display, Eriksson headed Anthoine Hubert (van Amersfoort) for the duration, while George Russell (Hitech GP) outfought Prema Powerteam’s Lance Stroll to the final podium place.

Eriksson immediately launched into the lead when poleman Russell bogged down, dropping momentarily to 13th place. Thereafter Eriksson maintained a narrow but decisive lead of Hubert, with a mature and confident performance that earned Motopark their first win of the season.

Initially Ben Barnicoat (Hitech) and Callum Ilott (van Amersfoort) ran in 2nd and 3rd positions, but both disappeared at the end of the opening lap – Barnicoat with a puncture and Ilott following a spin.

Their misfortune promoted Hubert, Nikita Mazepin (Hitech) and Stroll; however Stroll was quick dispose of Mazepin as he began his chase for the front.
After riding high early on, Mazepin continued to fall down the order, as Cassidy, Russell, Günther and Niko Kari all pushed past. Behind the top group, the recovering Russell disposed of the main gaggle of cars on the opening lap.

Once by the Russian, Cassidy and Russell battled it out for 4th, with the Hitech man nailing the position on lap 8. It would not take long for Russell to catch Stroll, but the Briton had a tougher time with the Canadian.
Eventually getting close to Stroll on lap 14, Russell passed Stroll in the Bus Stop, only for Stroll to re-pass his rival just before Eau Rouge a few corners later. Stroll then clung to the rear of Stroll and danced around the outside of the Prema man at Les Combes to claim 3rd,

The duo did it all over again a lap later following a brief error by Russell that allowed Stroll to retake the advantage; however when Russell took the Canadian around the outside of Les Combes for the second time, there were no mistakes and the battle for 3rd was done.

Stroll eventually took 4th ahead of Cassidy, Günther, Kari, while Mazepin ended the day in 8th, although he still enjoyed enough of an advantage of Mücke duo Mikkel Jensen (9th) and David Beckmann (10th) to maintain his top-eight finish.

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Russell was disappointed with 3rd. © FIA / Thomas Suer

“FIA F3: Russell streaks to Spa victory”

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Russell ran away with race 2 at Spa. © FIA / Thomas Suer

Hitech GP’s George Russell streaked to victory in the second FIA European F3 Championship race of the weekend at Spa-Francorchamps.

Russell headed Motopark’s Joel Eriksson and Mücke’s Mikkel Jensen after 16 laps of the iconic Belgian circuit.

After a solid start, the young Briton was swallowed up on the first run down the Kemmel Straight by Eriksson, Jensen and Hitech teammate Nikita Mazepin.

After a quick move to retake Jensen, luck played into Russell’s hands, as he was then promoted to 2nd at the end of the opening lap when Mazepin’s car came to a halt at the Bus Stop.

Although Eriksson built a reasonable lead of just two seconds early on, Russell drew closer to the Motopark man, before launching an attack on lap five. While not initially successful, Russell eventually passed Eriksson on the following tour as he drafted by his Swedish rival prior to Les Combes.

From there, Russell built a lead of over 7s to claim a well executed victory that draws him back toward the battle for 3rd in the championship with Nick Cassidy (Prema Powerteam) and Callum Ilott (van Amersfoort).
Eriksson struggled for balance as the race aged, but he had enough over Jensen to solidify the podium, while Jensen was not troubled by the battle for 4th behind him.

Anthoine Hubert (van Amersfoort) won that battle for 4th, heading Ilott (5th), Pedro Piquet (6th, van Amersfoort) and Maxi Günther (Prema). It was a fight initially led by Günther, but with the Prema drivers struggling for balance in dry conditions, Günther could only fall back down the order, with the German left to pick up 7th.
Günther’s teammate and championship rival Lance Stroll finished last when a first lap puncture – following a hit from Ukyo Sasahara – took him out of contention. Amidst all this, David Beckmann (Mücke) challenged Piquet for a time, but was forced to pit when a broken front wing dropped him down the order.
Guan Yu Zhou made up for his Race One mistake to take 8th ahead of Ryan Tveter (9th, Carlin) and Niko Kari (10th, Motopark).

Ben Barnicoat (Hitech GP) fought hard to take the final point position from Kari in the latter laps, but repeatedly lost out in the faster sections of the circuit. The Briton could have been in contention for bigger points, but stalled from his 5th on the grid at the beginning of the formation lap.

Eriksson (22) took the lead at the start. © FIA / Thomas Suer

Eriksson (22) took the lead at the start. © FIA / Thomas Suer

“FIA F3: Stroll takes first blood at Spa”

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Stroll wins in Spa. © FIA / Thomas Suer

FIA European F3 Championship leader Lance Stroll extended his points lead over Prema Powerteam teammate Maxi Günther with victory at Spa-Francorchamps.

Stroll headed runner-up Günther and Hitech GP’s Ben Barnicoat at the chequered flag under safety car conditions, however prior to the late race neutralisation, the Canadian was drawing away from the pack with consummate ease.

The race began under safety car when heavy rain created several rivers and pools across the circuit. Eventually starting on the sixth tour, Stroll immediately built a strong lead over Günther, while Barnicoat battled with Nick Cassidy (Prema) over the final podium spot.

For a time, the Barnicoat / Cassidy battle was a fraught one, as the paired dueled from La Source, through Eau Rouge and over the top of Radillon, with Cassidy passing Barnicoat, before the Hitech man retook his Kiwi rival.
Thereafter Barnicoat stretched his gap to Cassidy, but was unable to catch the distant Stroll and Günther. Cassidy consolidated 4th spot to take twelve championship points.

George Russell finished 5th in his Hitech GP entry, but had to battle around Harrison Newey (van Amersfoort Racing) to do it. Newey maintained 6th place – his first top-six finish in Formula 3.

Mücke’s David Beckman secured another points finish in 7th place, but not after a controversial clash with teammate Mikkel Jensen at La Source on lap 8. The clash took Jensen out of the running completely and promoted Ralf Aron (Prema) to 8th, despite the Estonian enduring an off at La Combes on the ninth tour.

Ryan Tveter and Alessio Lorandi (both Carlin) ended the race in 9th and 10th positions respectively. It was not a good day for Carlin – Weiron Tan crashed his Carlin machine at La Combes on the penultimate lap, bringing out the safety car which would eventually end the race.

Callum Ilott (van Amersfoort) could do nothing from his low starting position and crossed the line a disappointing 16th place. Also mixing it up were Anthoine Hubert and Guan Yu Zhou who collided clumsily in the Bus Stop on lap 7, with the subsequent damage finishing Hubert’s race early.

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Race 1 started under safety car. © FIA / Thomas Suer

“Depth of Competition”

Italian chassis constructor Dallara have dominated the Formula 3 category for much of the last two decades. Long term success with Prema Powerteam, Carlin, Signature and Mücke, as well as the departed ART Grand Prix, have seen the company effectively become the defacto manufacturer as time passed.

That’s not to say Formula 3 has become a closed door to other constructors. While the likes of Dome and Mygale has dipped their toes in the water to test the current regulations, only the Russian-based ArtLine Engineering have stepped up to challenge Dallara.

ArtLine have a long road ahead of them and the team admit that their first attempt at a current car was simple in some ways, but controversial in others. Seemingly boxey and rudimentary aero works along the engine cover and sidepods disguise some neat tricks, among them additional turning vanes on the front wing, vertical vanes on the diffuser and neatly curved bargeboard panel.

Their initial exhaust design fell foul of the stewards, mainly due to its concept of exhausts peering either side of the engine cover. That it would have required Neil Brown Engineering to homologate an additional exhaust specifically for that purpose also contravened the regulations.

ArtLine started slowly at the penultimate round at the Nurburgring – they needed to, but they are not so far away from the competition. At only 2.5s off during qualifying at the European F3 finale, ArtLine have made plenty of progress but still have much to do.

Don’t be surprised if they show up in 2016 with more to offer.

“FIA F3: Giovinazzi scores victory and championship runner-up prize”

3 Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312 - Volkswagen), FIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 11, Hockenheim (GER) - 16. - 18. October 2015

3 Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA, Jagonya Ayam with Carlin, Dallara F312 – Volkswagen), FIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 11, Hockenheim (GER) – 16. – 18. October 2015

Antonio Giovinazzi claimed victory at a cool and grey Hockenheimring this afternoon, to secure the runner-up spot in the FIA European F3 Championship.

Giovinazzi’s run was not without its challenges, as the Carlin racer was pressed by 2nd and 3rd place racers Jake Dennis and Felix Rosenqvist for the duration.

Despite this, the Italian racer led from start-to-finish and he vaulted from pole position, although it did look for a moment as if Dennis had the best position as the field poured through the NordKurve.

Defending the lead, Giovinazzi ran well wide over the run-off area, arguably gaining a pace advantage over the chasing pack, with Dennis and Rosenqvist slotting into the next two places. Although Dennis raised the issue over the team radio, the incident went without investigation – a matter that irritated the Prema Powerteam driver no end.

The racing would be halted briefly on lap two when a spinning Alexander Albon brought out the safety car when he car became stuck by the turn one barriers.

Giovinazzi enjoyed a brief stint in the lead when the race ran green from lap four, only for the event to be neutralised again when Nabil Jeffri’s overenthusiastic and ill-judged divebomb on Tatiana Calderon at the hairpin resulted only in a very broken Motopark car and a spun Carlin.

From the lap eight restart Giovinazzi led again with a slightly reduced margin, but it was all to change one tour later when Rosenqvist passed Dennis for 2nd position. Immediately the Swede began to reel Giovinazzi in, with Rosenqvist holding the leader to a gap of 0.6s for several laps.
Giovinazzi did endure one scare on lap ten, when he ran wide at the hairpin, leaving the door wide open for Rosenqvist; however Rosenqvist was not close enough on that occasion to slip by.

Come the two-thirds marker, Rosenqvist started to hit trouble when a failing gearbox began to cost him time and did eventually rob him of 2nd place on lap 17, when Dennis slotted by – admittedly the Englishman was met with no defence.
Thereafter the top two stayed as is, but Rosenqvist’s mechanical woes almost caused to fall behind Maxi Günther, but the Swede had enough over his new teammate to maintain the podium places.
Out front Giovinazzi held a gap over Dennis, with the Italian taking his 6th F3 win of the season and the runner-up position in the European Championship.

Günther enjoyed a battle of his own throughout the race as he held the experienced Alexander Sims at bay for the duration – this despite Sims having a huge off on the opening lap, when the Hitech GP man took his Dallara for a trip through the bumpy run-off area exiting the Mobil 1 corner.
Mikkel Jensen scored a solid 6th place position, helped quite a lot when Albon spun off and Lance Stroll dropped behind the Mücke man. Race One winner Stroll continued in 7th place for the rest of the running, although there was far more excitement over the fight for 8th and 9th, as Sergio Sette Camara fought tooth and nail with George Russell, a fight eventually won by the Brazilian.

Russell was hardly soft in his approach – several times from lap 11-17; the Briton was either alongside Camara or past the Motopark racer, only for the Brazilian to retake the position upon corner exit.
As the pairing held each other up, Markus Pommer joined the fight, but the former German F3 racer ran out of laps to extract more points from the race. In the continuation of another disappointing weekend, Charles Leclerc took 11th and the final point, having fought off the intentions of Callum Illot in the latter stages.

Leclerc’s lowly finish drops the Monegasque racer to 4th in the championship, behind Dennis. With Dennis starting on pole tomorrow and Leclerc starting 16th, it is unlikely that we will see much change in the ultimate when the chequered flag waves on the season tomorrow.

2 Jake Dennis (GBR, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312 – Mercedes-Benz), FIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 11, race 1, Hockenheim (GER) - 16. - 18. October 2015

2 Jake Dennis (GBR, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F312 – Mercedes-Benz), FIA Formula 3 European Championship, round 11, race 1, Hockenheim (GER) – 16. – 18. October 2015

“FIA F3: Stroll takes maiden F3 victory”

Lance Stroll wins at the Hockenheimring. © FIA F3 Media Services

Lance Stroll wins at the Hockenheimring. © FIA F3 Media Services

Lance Stroll controlled proceedings at Hockenheim this morning to claim the first victory of his Formula 3 career.

The Canadian headed a Prema Powerteam 1-2-3-4 finish, with Stroll leading Jake Dennis, Felix Rosenqvist and Maxi Günther across the line.

Stroll got a good start off the line, but teammate Rosenqvist was quicker away from pole position, with the Swede slotting into a comfortable lead through turn one.

Despite the initial advantage, Rosenqvist held steady, allowing Stroll to close up at the exit of the hairpin and as the duo took to the Mercedes corner prior to the stadium section, Rosenqvist drifted wide, leaving the door wide open for Stroll.

Having taken the Formula 3 title in Nürburgring a few weeks ago, Rosenqvist was open to playing the ‘team game’ for the closing round of the season. Afterward both the race winner and Rosenqvist admitted that there was little interest in the Swede mounting too tough a defence.

Stroll would not have much of an opportunity to stretch his legs. A series of clashes and bumps in the lower reaches of the field involving Matt Soloman, Andy Chang, Raoul Hyman and Peter Li, ensured an early safety car period, although thankfully this lasted only two laps.

Thereafter, Stroll continued to lead, but still made occasional errors, such as going wide at the hairpin on lap five. Behind him, Jake Dennis – battling for runner-up in the championship – also found his way by Rosenqvist, setting up an all-Prema top four with the unchallenged Günther falling to 4th at the start.
Dennis struggled to get close enough to Stroll to put him under pressure, with the gap hovering between 0.5s-0.7s for much of the running, before extending to 1.1s-1.5s in the final quarter of the race.

And so it stayed, with Rosenqvist continuously dropping back and then re-catching Dennis, but with orders in place, there was not to be any further movement at the front, as the trio crossed the line covered by 1.6s.
Günther assumed 4th some three seconds adrift of Rosenqvist in what was a promising first drive for the Prema Powerteam squad, following his late departure from Mücke. That Günther took that result so soon after joining the team – he only had his seat fitting on Monday – ensured some positive noise for the German racer.

Alexander Sims enjoyed an interesting first race, with the Hitech racer spinning after he overcooked his rears in the final corner on the way to the grid. From the start, Sims lost two spots to the fast starting Antonio Giovinazzi and Charles Leclerc, although Sims would take advantage of the safety car restart to pass Leclerc for 6th on lap six.
That would become 5th when a four-lap long battle between Giovinazzi and Sims was settled in favour of Sims on lap fifteen. It was almost done two laps earlier, when Sims and Giovinazzi swapped places twice in Mercedes – first on entry and then again on corner exit – but the Briton solidified the place, again in Mercedes, to push Giovinazzi back to 6th. It matters little in the championship stakes – being a guest driver this weekend means Sims scores no points for his top five effort.

Giovinazzi took 6th, but the Italian had to fight off late pressure from George Russell, who had climbed his way up from 10th during the race. Russell gained places when Gustavo Menezes took a drive through penalty for a jump start on lap four and then passed Markus Pommer three tours later.
Russell also made his way by Leclerc on lap sixteen, when – preoccupied by pressurizing Giovinazzi – the Monegasque fell back toward the Briton. Leclerc would eventually claimed 8th, but it is a far cry from the big points he needed in order to press Giovinazzi and Dennis for the series runner-up spot.

That mean Pommer finished 9th, just ahead of Santino Ferrucci – who had started 21st – and Alexander Albon who took the final point in 11th. There were positive signs from Callum Illot who finished 15th after started 32nd. Meanwhile, both ArtLine machines finished the race, with ADAC F4 champion Marvin Dienst and Harald Schlegelmilch finishing 27th and 28th respectively.

Lance Stroll wins at the Hockenheimring. © FIA F3 Media Services

Lance Stroll wins at the Hockenheimring. © FIA F3 Media Services

“Japanese GP: Honda endure home horror show”

The McLaren Honda MP4-30 of Fernando Alonso in the garage. © McLaren Honda F1 Team.

The McLaren Honda MP4-30 of Fernando Alonso in the garage. © McLaren Honda F1 Team.

Famed Japanese firm Honda endured, what can best be described as a horror show at their home Grand Prix on Sunday – and it’s not going to be getting better any time soon.

Where last week’s race in Singapore offered the McLaren-Honda pairing a glimmer of some points, a double retirement under the lights left the Anglo-Japanese effort with nothing to show for their efforts.

Unlike Singapore, both of the McLaren’s saw the chequered flag, albeit outside of the points, much to the dismay of Honda’s chief motorsport office (and R&D senior managing director) Yasuhisa Arai. “Disappointingly, we missed out on 10th position, and the final point on offer,” commented Arai. He added words of encouragement: “Through rain and sunshine, our fans gave us the support we needed throughout the three days of the grand prix weekend. We hope that we’ll be able to give back to them soon, by fighting every step of the way to improve in the remaining races of the season and development for next year. I cannot say thank you enough for everyone’s support.”

At a time when the rest of the field has been making development gains, McLaren-Honda can appear stagnant; however the development is there, but against Mercedes, Ferrari and even the lacklustre Renault, their rate of improvement requires context.
Realistically Honda does appear to have reasonably strong internal combustion engine and their energy recovery unit has also improved, as some of the overheating and other reliability issues have been overcome – albeit not totally, as Singapore made evident. On top of that, there are also apparent issues with energy retention and release, meaning that the McLaren paring are occasionally forced to “turn down their engines” during a Grand Prix.

Alonso's frustrations were clear in Suzuka. © McLaren Honda F1 Team.

Alonso’s frustrations were clear in Suzuka. © McLaren Honda F1 Team.

On Sunday, Fernando Alonso took 11th place, while Jenson Button was adrift in 16th place (not aided by a couple of poor pitstops). Two finishes was a credible effort, but it is not enough when one considers the calibre of talent on hand and Alonso was keen to make that known over the team radio.
Calls that the Honda power unit was comparable with a GP2 Series engine may have brought some sniggers to the viewers, but when watching Alonso and Button get passed on the main straight with such ease, one can understand the frustration of the drivers.
Alonso is a man is expects the best, yet even his patience is being stretched beyond limits. Button, on the other hand, merely appears to have settled into a constant state of resignation, as he waits for a dire 2015 season to draw to a close.

For the McLaren’s to be 15kph and 17kph off the top the top of the speed traps in the fast sector two in Suzuka is not good enough, but such are the regulations, there is precious little that will change until 2016 and even the token system that is in place to monitor power unit development may hold Honda back.

As it stands, Alonso and Button have little choice but to withstand more competitive pain.

Jenson Button in action.  © McLaren Honda F1 Team.

Jenson Button in action. © McLaren Honda F1 Team.

“Japanese GP: Hamilton dominates in Suzuka”

Lewis Hamilton. © MERCEDES AMG F1 TEAM

Lewis Hamilton. © MERCEDES AMG F1 TEAM

Lewis Hamilton dominated this morning’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, after passing Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg on the opening lap.

Sebastian Vettel claimed another podium for Ferrari, after having run 2nd place for a portion of the race.

—-

“It was just a beautiful… it’s like sailing. When you go through the corners here, it’s flowing. Honestly, I wish I could share the feeling with you.”

There is little doubt this was Lewis Hamilton’s day. At the race where he matched Ayrton Senna’s victory total, the Briton was imperious.

After initially getting a good launch from pole position Nico Rosberg, appeared to fall back into the hands of Hamilton, with the pair almost side-by-side as they drew through the first corner.

As turn one unraveled into turn two, Hamilton claimed the inside, forcing Rosberg to the astro turf as the exit of the second corner as they almost clipped wheels. “It was very tight through Turn One but from then on it was just the most beautiful day,” said Hamilton.
Where Hamilton grabbed the lead, Rosberg lost pace and grip in the run-off area, falling backward as a result, with the German adding, “It was very close throughout the corner and on the exit I had to go off the track to avoid a collision, which cost me speed and pushed me back to fourth place…” In just the briefest of moments, the race was won – although there were still 52 laps and sixteen turns remaining.

Lewis Hamilton. © MERCEDES AMG F1 TEAM

Lewis Hamilton. © MERCEDES AMG F1 TEAM

Admittedly, it was hardly the most thrilling of event thereafter, although there was enough happening in the points places and midfield to keep one entertained, but for the victory? Not a chance. However even this couldn’t explain why the Mercedes pair received so little television coverage from the world feed director…

In a nutshell, Hamilton led Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) by 1.6s after one lap with Valtteri Bottas (Williams) a close 3rd, while Rosberg attempted to recover. By the one-tenth distance, it was 3.2s; then 6.04s on lap ten, before stalling at a 7.6s lead for Hamilton when Vettel stopped for a set of new Hard Pirelli tyres on lap 13.

Rosberg, meanwhile, was still struggling to pierce the top three, but Bottas’ place did come to him with the help of some strategy. Pitting on lap 11 for a new set of medium tyres, the Finn found his replacement rubber not to be quite as effective as his old tyres. Losing a half-second to Rosberg on his in-lap and a further one-second to the Mercedes man on their respective out-laps merely helped the German close in on the Williams. Rosberg eventually pitted four laps after Bottas, with the Mercedes man switching to surprisingly effective new hard tyres. He was quick to depose Bottas from 3rd.

Meanwhile Hamilton pitted for new mediums on lap 16 and emerged to clear air and a 6.9s lead, which had extended to over ten seconds by lap 20. Such was Hamilton’s ferocious pace; neither he nor the still 2nd place Vettel could even be seen on the same stretch of road by the halfway mark. Yet despite the prowess on display, not everything was quite plain sailing for Hamilton mid-race, according to Mercedes Executive Director Paddy Lowe. “During the race, there were a few issues to manage with engine temperatures and a flat spot on Lewis’ second set of tyres, which was through to the canvas. As always, even when you’re in a position with apparent control of the race, there are always risks and worries but it was great to get both cars home, which we haven’t done since Belgium.”

Lewis Hamilton. © MERCEDES AMG F1 TEAM

Lewis Hamilton. © MERCEDES AMG F1 TEAM

For the leader content on what has usually been a bogey circuit, he barely even noticed the Ferrari man fall away in his mirrors. “I have struggled every year at this circuit, but I always loved it,” said Hamilton. “When you have the balance and the car is doing what you want it to do, and you’re attacking through the corners, there’s no better feeling. We didn’t have much data to go through after practice, but the car felt unbelievable.”

It would not be long before Vettel’s attention switched to the second Mercedes, now with tyres finally switched on and closing in… Rosberg would ultimately take the 2nd place spot from Vettel, but where he pushed by Bottas on track, the Mercedes man was able to utilise pit strategy to pass the Ferrari. Both drivers began the second stints on new mediums, with the battling duo settling for another set of the option tyres for the final laps; however Rosberg would have to run a scrubbed set compared to Vettel’s new rubber.
It involved a little rejigging of the strategies on the Mercedes pitwall, but with Hamilton so far ahead, there was little chance of any overlap between he and Rosberg – although to pin solely on pit stops would do a disservice to the recovering Rosberg.
Once up to speed after his first stop, Rosberg was simply faster than Vettel – much faster; until he caught the rear of the Ferrari. From a gap of over five seconds, Rosberg logged laps in the low-to-mid 1’38s, while his Ferrari rival was locked in the 1’39s, but then a problem – overtaking Vettel.
With all due respect to Bottas, he is not quite Vettel (yet) and the Williams is certainly no Ferrari this year and Rosberg, while a speedy pilot, lacks that steely-eyed aggressiveness possessed by Hamilton. Now strategy was to come into play.

Nico Rosberg. © MERCEDES AMG F1 TEAM

Nico Rosberg. © MERCEDES AMG F1 TEAM

Both Rosberg and Vettel spent the following laps clicking off similar times (early-1’39s for the most part), while the leading Hamilton kept knocking out laps in the 1’38s-1’39s range. Having tyres two laps younger than Vettel, Mercedes brought Rosberg in on lap 29, one tour prior to Vettel. It would be enough. Where Vettel’s in-lap was slightly quicker than Rosberg’s, the Mercedes drivers out-lap was almost two seconds faster in the second and third sectors than anything Vettel could manage. Job done.
As Vettel emerged from the pitlane, Rosberg by, taking 2nd spot. “The team did also a great job with the undercut of Sebastian, this worked out perfectly with a really hard out-lap on the new tyres,” said Rosberg. Meanwhile the now 3rd place Ferrari driver was rather circumspect about the demotion afterward. “Had we pitted one lap sooner, I think it could have been more interesting and challenging for Nico to get past. It’s not so easy to follow the cars here through the high-speed sections, so I think we had a good chance but probably underestimated the out-lap that he had…” Vettel stayed close to Rosberg for the final stint, but it was never close enough to make a meaningful challenge.

But that was for 2nd place. Hamilton continued to stretch his lead out front. He didn’t need to, but he could anyway. As the laps ticked by, the Briton pulled further and further away, eventually by 18.9s from Rosberg, with Vettel a further 2s adrift.
For a delighted Hamilton, it was all about the rush. “I’m buzzing like you could not believe. As I’m walking through after the race I’ve got this rush but I’m thinking about all the different experiences I’ve been through and the people that have helped me along the way: my family, without whom I wouldn’t be here today, and everyone else that’s helped me – they know who they are.” The reigning champion moves to the Russian Grand Prix in two weeks with a 48-point lead over Rosberg. With only 125 left on the table, Hamilton is looking more and more secure for a third world title.

Lewis Hamilton. © MERCEDES AMG F1 TEAM

Lewis Hamilton. © MERCEDES AMG F1 TEAM

“Conclusions from Singapore invaders”

© Pirelli F1 Media

© Pirelli F1 Media

During the second half of last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, a member of the public breached security and entered the circuit – a moment of madness that could have rewritten the race.

Beyond the obvious alterations to the form of the event – the track invasion necessitated a second safety car period – the wandering man presented a significant safety issue for himself and the drivers.
One only needs to recount the horrific events of the 1977 South African Grand Prix top understand the consequences of a person entering a live track during a active event.

Following the incident, the FIA ordered an immediate investigation, tasking Gabriel Tan – the Clerk of the Course – to compile a report and solutions to the matter.

According to Me Tan’s report, the intruder “entered the circuit […] via a designated Egress Point (EP) along the track on the driver’s right on the Esplanade Bridge. This type of EP is a horizontal slot through which personnel can slide through to gain access the track.” The report adds that the opening is secured in selected locations around the circuit before sessions by locks gate.
This did not deter the track invader, who then “climbed over a 1.1 metre high security fence, gained access to a protected 2-metre-wide Marshal Zone, crossed a carriageway and slid through the opening in the EP.”
What is most frightening about the incident is that it only took ten seconds for the intruder to enter the track, after which he crossed the track at Esplanade Bridge before exiting over the Armco fifteen seconds later.

While a 1.1 metre high fence may not seem on the surface to be a great deterrent, it is of similar height to other fences used at Formula One circuits. It is not unusual for circuits to have only half of their EPs manned throughout the weekend by race officials, while those that are not manned are under the eye of patrolling security personnel or have spectator fences as an additional barrier.

Mr. Tan’s report concluded with recommendations to increase security in certain areas, as well as installing higher spectator fences in the area where the intruder gained access. The report also recommended an increase in the number of marshals covering the event.

From a purely sporting side, the was some luck in that the safety car did not particularly alter the running order, despite what Red Bull Racing may think. This was always Sebastian Vettel’s race – the track invader merely made his and Ferrari’s victory a touch more difficult than it should have been.

© Pirelli F1 Media

© Pirelli F1 Media

“Japanese GP: Rosberg pole amidst Kvyat smash”

© MERCEDES AMG F1 TEAM

© MERCEDES AMG F1 TEAM

Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg secured his second pole position of the season at Suzuka this morning, but only after the session was stopped prematurely following a huge crash by Daniil Kvyat.

Valtteri Bottas (Williams) heads up the second row, with Singapore victor Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) alongside, while the other Williams of Felipe Massa made it two Grove cars in the top five.

Both Rosberg and championship leading teammate Lewis Hamilton were on their final runs when Kvyat smashed his Renault-powered Red Bull into the barrier prior to the hairpin with less than one minute left on the clock.

Eight of the final ten in Q3 had set a time when the red flag emerged, with Rosberg’s first effort of 1:32.584s proving good enough to hold Hamilton in 2nd spot by less than a tenth-of-a-second. Rosberg ended Saturday feeling understandably pleased with his efforts. “I nailed my laps and I was already on another good quick lap when Dani hit the wall. Then the team informed me that he is fine so we were all very happy to hear that. I’m confident for tomorrow.”
The poleman added, “It was difficult to set up the car here for the dry conditions, because we had the two wet sessions yesterday, but when we were able to practise some high fuel and qualifying runs today, I got a really good feeling.” Rosberg did seem comfortable on track – certainly it appeared to be one of his more comfortable runs of the season compared to his teammate, although the 30-year-old’s second run may have been more telling in lap time.

On the other side of the garage, Hamilton’s 1:32.660s may be a lap that he will come to rue. While Rosberg’s quick run was far from perfect, Hamilton made two errors that dropped him behind his German rival; the most significant of which was a lengthy lock-up in the hairpin, causing him to run wide and lost up to two-tenths in laptime.
Come the end of the lap, Hamilton made another mistake in the final corner, costing the championship leader even more time. Despite all this, Hamilton felt his car was in good shape and there is more to look forward to in the Grand Prix itself. “The car feels perfect this weekend. My engineers did a fantastic job and I enjoyed the battle with Nico. He did a great job and it was exciting today. This is a track where you’re constantly fighting to gain more and more; the last lap started so well and I was up by turn seven but the red flag came out in the end.”

Hamilton continued, “Tomorrow is going to be hard; it depends on the conditions. The start will be crucial as you can’t follow closely here and it will be hard to pass but I will give it my best shot.”
The inside line of the front row may not seem like such a bad situation for Hamilton; however the Briton will be wary of having to start in the dirty side of the track, potentially opening the door for the Mercedes-powered Bottas to slip through.

Running some new parts, both of the Williams drivers appear more confident behind the wheel of the FW37; however Massa failed to get the best of his Martini-backed machine when he made was would turn out to be his only timed run. For Bottas, it was a positive day’s work. “It has been a good day. We made some changes after FP3 and those changes were exactly what we needed, so as a team we have really performed well. I feel comfortable with the car and around here that is very important.” Like everyone else, Bottas also knows that the wet Freiday sessions mean limited knowledge of long runs this weekend. “We have limited data on tyre wear due to the conditions yesterday, but starting third we need to target the podium tomorrow.”

Where Ferrari were supreme under the lights last week, Suzuka provided an altogether different challenge for the Scuderia, with Vettel better able to bring heat into the medium-shod Pirelli tyres; however it is clear that the inherent pace that was present in Singapore may be far more difficult to find in Japan. Raikkonen never quite got on top of his tyres through Saturday and settled for 6th overall.
Another podium is looking rather unlikely for Daniel Ricciardo, who secured 7th in his Red Bull. The Australian will lead Lotus’ Romain Grosjean from the fourth row, while Force India’s Sergio Perez claimed 9th, despite not setting a time in Q3. For Grosjean, just making an appearance in Q3 was a positive turn. “I didn’t expect to go into Q3, we thought we were half a second off so this was a great job from everyone!”

All ten Q3 runners were on track when Kvyat left the track after the Degner 2 turn. Having negotiated the corner proper, Kvyat made hat he admitted to be “a rookie mistake” when he placed his left-side wheels on the green painted patch, as the corner began to flick right. Immediately the Russian was pitched hard to the left and into the unforgiving tyre barriers and was then pitched into a roll as his wheels dug into the sandtrap.
Such was the ferocity of the hit; Kvyat’s Red Bull was shorn of both left-side wheels, as well as a portion of the rear of his car. The Red Bull is due to re-enter scrutineering prior to the race, but will start from the pitlane in a completely rebuilt car. The session was red flagged immediately and not restarted following the incident, which left a significant amount of debris – including two wheels – strewn across the track.

With Kvyat unable to take 10th, Carlos Sainz is promoted to the fifth row. The Spaniard initially qualified in 12th place – a disappointing result considering the Italian team’s practice pace – however the team are confident of securing further points in the race.
Pastor Maldonado (Lotus) and Fernando Alonso (McLaren) will take the sixth row, but where Maldonado complained of being unable to get heat into the medium Pirelli’s, Alonso admitting that it was “probably the best lap of my career around Suzuka. I could have fitted 100 more sets of tyres to the car, and I probably still wouldn’t have bettered that Q2 lap-time…”

Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg will start 13th after taking penalty going into qualifying. The grid drop – a result of a collision with Massa last weekend – demoted the German from 11th, where his missed out on Q3 by a tenth to Grosjean. “I think my qualifying lap was pretty good,” said a deflated Hulkenberg, adding, “I felt I was pushing the car to its limit: unfortunately that wasn’t enough, but I know it was our best effort.”

Jenson Button lines up 14th on the grid, although the veteran was publicly displeased with his team for not informing him of what engine settings he was running in Q1.“Every time before we start a timed lap, we’re instructed over the radio to adopt a particular setting, but I didn’t get told, and I went to the wrong setting,” said Button. The Briton would lose any opportunity to set another lap when Max Verstappen stalled his Toro Rosso machine in the latter moments of Q1, eliciting double-waved yellow flags at the exit of the hairpin.
McLaren Racing Director, Eric Boullier, added, “I must apologise to Jenson on behalf of the team. We have a set of procedures ahead of a qualifying lap, and we didn’t follow all of those today. He must feel frustrated to have lost out on his first run, and then not to have got a decent shot at it on his second.”

Sauber also lost out in Q1, when both Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr’s runs were hampered by waved yellows, although both drivers made mistake of their own on their first runs, including a lairy spin for Ericsson in Spoon Curve.
Verstappen’s odd parking position following his Q1 car failure was deemed dangerous by the stewards and the Dutch youngster was handed a three-place grid penalty, dropping him to 17th. Both Manor’s are set to race one year on from Jules Bianchi’s accident at this circuit, with Will Stevens heading Alexander Rossi in 18th and 19th respectively.

Rosberg took pole in Japan. © MERCEDES AMG F1 TEAM

Rosberg took pole in Japan. © MERCEDES AMG F1 TEAM

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