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“FIA F3: Günther wins 76th Grand Prix de Pau”

Maxi Günther claimed the 76th Grand Prix de Pau this afternoon, but only after early leader Lando Norris crashed out.

Prema Powerteam’s Callum Ilott trailed home in 2nd place, challenged by Hitech GP Ralf Aron to the flag.

For the first eighteen of the twenty-eight laps, the race was all about Norris. Having suffered from repeated poor starts this season, the Briton cut across the front of Günther as the lights went out, and eased into a dominant lead.

Indeed Ilott’s first lap was such; he pulled a 1.2s gap on the opening tour, which had then extended to 4.2s by the end of the eighth lap. The race was neutralised by the safety car a lap later when David Beckmann crashed on the Allée Alfred de Musset, while pressuring Guan Yu Zhou for 14th place.

The safety car brought Günther back into play when the race restarted on lap 11, but only for a moment, as once again Norris sprinted away, building a gap of nearly 3.0s by the turn of lap 18.
It was not to be for Norris, who crashed out at Foch on the nineteenth tour after his suspension gave way, causing him to lock up on entry, hitting the barrier front on.

From there, Günther drew a gap to the chasing Ilott, holding at approximately 2.0s until the flag, where he secured his 2nd win of the day and the season. It is a result that propels him to 3rd in the championship – just two points behind the tied Norris and Joel Eriksson – and gives him the prize of the 76th Grand Prix de Pau.

Ilott kept a feisty Aron at bay for much of the race. Initially the Prema Powerteam man had Harrison Newey (van Amersfoort Racing) and Eriksson on his tail, only for Aron to push his way passed both when Eriksson attempted a move on Newey on lap 11.
From there, Aron kept the pressure on Ilott, but his challenge began to fade in the final few laps, as the Estonian solidified his first podium of the weekend.

Newey and Eriksson followed home in 4th and 5th respectively, while Ferdinand Habsburg recorded a respectable 6th place. Tadasuke Makino scored his first points of the year by coming home 7th – he led a small train that contained Pedro Piquet (8th, van Amersfoort) and Jake Dennis (9th, Carlin).
Zhou eventually closed out the points for Prema Powerteam by coming home 10th ahead of the only other three finishers – Jehan Daruvala (11th, Carlin), Mick Schumacher (12th, Prema Powerteam) and Marino Sato (13th, Motopark).

Jake Hughes and Joey Mawson both pitted to retire on lap nine, capping a horrific weekend for both, while Andreas Kayvan binned his Motopark machine on lap 15. Nikita Mazepin pitted with mechanical issues on lap 17, ending his race immediately.

The series reconvenes in Budapest in three weeks time for its first round with the DTM. It will be interesting to see if Günther can continue this run of form on a far more “regular” circuit.

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“FIA F3: Günther secures first 2017 win at Pau”

Maxi Günther finally got his 2017 FIA European F3 Championship campaign going with victory in Race 2 at Pau.

The Prema Powerteam man kept a feisty Lando Norris at bay in the early laps, while Prema Powerteam stablemate Callum Ilott completed the podium.

Günther won out following a tense and exciting opening three laps at the French street circuit. Once again, Norris made a sluggish getaway, allowing Günther to slip down the inside on the run down through Tribunes, before the German made sure of the position into Virage de la Gare.

It did not end there however, as Norris fought hard over the next three laps, particularly on lap two, when the Briton got a good run on Günther as the leading duo made their way to Pont Oscar.
Incredibly, Norris pulled himself alongside Günther on the outside of Oscar and held that as it switched to the inside of Lycée. Despite being only centimetres apart, the pair played it hard and fair and did not touch, as Norris stayed halfway up the inside of Günther along the Allée Alfred de Musset and around the Courbe du Parc Beaumont, before Günther finally made sure of his lead.

Norris tried again on the following lap – and was clearly taking aggressive lines through Poeymirau, Virage du Buisson and the Descente – but the Carlin man could not make it count as Günther solidified his advantage.

From there Günther slammed his authority home and drew a lead of over 3.1s by lap 22, before easing off slightly in the final seven tours, eventually winning by 1.9s come the chequered flag. It was a marvelous performance by both drivers, showcasing the very best that Formula 3 has to offer on one of the toughest circuits on the calendar. Bravo.

Ilott was 3rd having fought off the intentions of Joel Eriksson for the first half of the race. Indeed while Günther and Norris were dicing, Ilott had to work hard to keep his Swedish rival at bay, as he too attempted overtakes at any place possible.
As the race aged, Ilott pulled away from Eriksson and had built more than a 1s gap by the 13th tour; however the position was solidified further when Eriksson crashed in Foch on the 23rd lap, leaving Ilott unchallenged for the remainder of the race,

Eriksson’s incident promoted Harrison Newey to 4th place – his best ever finish in European F3. The van Amersfoort racer had to work hard to keep Ralf Aron behind, with the duo less than 1s apart for the majority of the race. In the later laps, Jake Hughes closed in on the Newey / Aron fight, but was unable to break into the top five.

Nikita Mazepin (Hitech GP) continued to his showcase his progress by holding Carlin duo Ferdinand Habsburg and Jehan Daruvala off for 7th, 8th and 9th places. On his way to 9th, Daruvala committed the sole overtake in the race, as he took Jake Dennis on lap 12.

There were few other incidents. Marino Sato clumsily clattered into the back of Andres Kayvan on lap 17, after which Sato retired. Two laps later, Guan Yu Zhou pitted to retire with front-end damage, following a battle with David Beckmann over 16th and 17th places. Joey Mawson again retired, this time on lap 25 when he pitted with damage after a battle for position with Dennis.

“FIA F3: Eriksson takes Race One win at Pau”

Joel Eriksson took his third win of the FIA European Formula 3 Championship season at Pau this morning.

The Motopark racer pipped Carlin’s Lando Norris to the flag by just two-tenths of-a-second. Maxi Günther filled out the podium for Prema Powerteam.

From the second row, the super-fast Swede jumped Norris and briefly trailed initial leader and polesitter Callum Ilott. However Ilott lost control of his Prema Powerteam machine on the exit of Pont Oscar and pitched the left-front of his Mercedes-powered entry into the barrier, gifting Eriksson the lead.

Thereafter Eriksson drew a lead of just over 1s, when a charging Norris began to reel the Motopark man in. Just as Norris closed to with four-tenths, a full-course yellow was called when Guan Yu Zhou crashed out on lap six.
Moving Zhou’s stricken car proved more difficult than originally though and the safety car was eventually called, neutralizing the race until the eleventh tour.

Once again Eriksson made a quick getaway to build a lead to over 1.0s, but again Norris closed in to around half-a-second, when a second safety car was called.
At first, the Hitech GP racer of Jake Hughes crashed out at the exit of the Foch Chicane, but when it looked like that might be handled by the marshals, 3rd and 4th place runners Joey Mawson and Jake Dennis ran wide through the Descente and hit the barrier in independent incidents.

The safety car stayed out for just three laps and upon the restart, Eriksson gained four-tenths over Norris to ease into a comfortable lead on the final lap. It was almost too comfortable for Eriksson, as he slowed to take the chequered flag, Norris closed to within two-tenths, creating something of a scare for the winner.

Following the Mawson/Dennis exits, Günther took the final podium spot. The German had started 4th, but fell behind the quick starting Dennis into the first few corners. Günther came close to regaining 4th on the lap 11 restart, when Dennis attempted to go around the outside of Mawson into the Virage de la Gare – the pair touched slightly, causing Dennis to slow and Günther to close right in; however the Prema racer could not complete the pass.

Nikita Mazepin took an excellent 4th, having started 9th. The Force India junior took two places at the start and gained three more when Dennis, Mawson and Hughes ruled themselves out. Often criticised, Mazepin made few mistakes and kept a solid pace to keep close to Günther through the race.

Ralf Aron secured 5th in his Hitech. He took enjoyed a good start, jumping Zhou, Pedro Piquet and the crashed Ilott. Thereafter the Estonian benefitted from later retirements to take his first top-five finish of the year.
Harry Newey was the highest van Amersfoort runner in 6th spot, following teammate Mawson’s crash. Newey headed home teammate Piquet (7th) and the battling Mick Schumacher (8th, Prema Powerteam) and Ferdinand Habsburg (9th, Carlin), although both Schumacher and Habsburg are currently under investigation for overtaking each other under yellow flags at the beginning of the race.
Jehan Daruvala took the final points score in 10th, although he is under investigation for overtaking under safety car conditions just as the Mawson/Dennis incident was called.

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“FIA F3: Ilott wins in Monza to relaunch title campaign”

Callum Ilott took a stellar victory at Monza this afternoon, keeping a feisty Lando Norris at bay.

Maxi Günther secured is first podium of the weekend, after he escaped the clutches of Joel Eriksson during the 20-lap race.

Ilott made a stunning start from 3rd on the grid to slot between Eriksson and Norris, while Guan Yu Zhou came through from 4th to temporarily slot in behind Ilott. Zhou held 2nd spot for the first four laps, as Eriksson, Norris and Günther passed and repassed each other for 3rd, 4th and 5th.

Norris was the first to break Zhou, when he took 2nd from the Chinese driver on the entry into Lesmo 1 on lap five. It would take another five laps for Eriksson and Günther to take the Prema man, when the Swede passed Zhou after Curve Grande and Günther did the deed after Ascari.

Meanwhile out front Ilott’s lead over Norris continued to fluctuate between 1.0s and 1.6s, as the Carlin man closed in on Ilott, only for the leader to draw away again. But the margins were mere tenths.
For a time the pair swapped personal best laps, before settling into a consistent run in the mid-to-late 1’44s. Where Norris closed up in sector one, a change of brake pads prior to the race gave Ilott more confidence in the second sector, allowing him to rebuild the gap.

Norris did close in on the lead in the final four laps, with the Carlin man sitting just 1.0s adrift of Ilott in the last miles; however he could not close on Ilott, who was simply imperious.

Günther’s slow start to the season took a slight upward turn, as he took the flag just 1.9s after Norris to complete the podium. Once past Zhou, the German racer pressured Eriksson, while Zhou, Hitech’s Ralf Aron and Carlin’s Ferdinand Habsburg latched onto their tails. Eriksson could only fend Günther off for two laps and the Prema Powerteam racer stole 3rd place on lap twelve and built a significant gap thereafter.

Although he leaves Monza with a championship lead of one point, this was a disappointing end to Eriksson’s weekend considering he started on pole with two fresh left tyres.
After he was passed by Günther, he dropped 6.3s behind the Prema racer, but did manage to keep a fighting Habsburg at bay until the end.

After spending much of the race at the tail end of the points, Mick Schumacher scored a solid 6th place for Prema Powerteam. The German made the most of the tussle between Zhou, Pedro Piquet and Nikita Mazepin to jump from 9th to 7th on lap 15, before deposing Aron of 6th on lap 17.

Piquet followed through a lap later and claimed 7th, when Aron lost three places two tours from the end. Aron would at least take one spot back when he passed Zhou on the penultimate lap to finish 8th, while Jehan Daruvala also took Zhou to score a 9th place finish.
It was a lucky result for Daruvala, who was involved in a right front/left rear wheel locking clash with Keyvan Andres Soori on lap 7. Thereafter Daruvala passed Joey Mawson, Marino Sato and Mazepin to claim two points.
Zhou eventually crossed the line a disappointing 10th place – a disheartening result considering how high he ran early in the race.

Jake Dennis and Jake Hughes both retired at the end of the first lap, following an incident, while Harrison Newey blew a decent qualifying position when he ran off at Curve Grande on the opening lap. The weekend only got worse for van Amersfoort Racing at the end, when Mawson and Sato collected each other in the Retifilo chicane, ending Mawson’s race there and then.

The victory lifts Ilott to 3rd in the point standings, just 28 behind Eriksson as the series moves to the streets of Pau in three weeks time.

“FIA F3: Eriksson beats Norris in Monza Race 2”

Joel Eriksson secured his 2nd FIA European F3 race win of the season at Monza this morning, heading Lando Norris following a tense battle between the duo.

After a good start, Mick Schumacher came home 3rd to score his first Formula 3 podium.

On paper, it must have seemed like an easy effort for Eriksson. The Swede initially got away well, only to lock up on the approach to the Retifilo chicane, but led from start-to-finish thereafter, while Norris and Schumacher fought over 2nd place. This allowed Eriksson to build a crucial 3.3s lead in the first eight laps.

In his mirrors, Schumacher jumped Norris off the line, as once again the Briton struggled was slow away. The Carlin man also briefly lost a place to Callum Ilott at the beginning of lap two, only for Ilott to miss the Retifilo chicane and drop back behind Norris.
From there, Norris chased Schumacher and ran him close until lap six, when he forced a way past the Prema Powerteam racer in Lesmo One.

Once in clear air, Norris asserted himself and began to take minor chunks out of Eriksson’s lead, bringing it down to 3.1s by lap ten and then 2.0s by the end of lap 15. Now in the slipstream, Norris made some inroads, even setting the (then) fastest lap just two tours from the end and was within one second of the lead when he eventually ran out of time.

Eriksson for his part drove a sublime race. Always maintaining a smart pace in the early-to-mid 1’44s, the Swede proved his ability to maintain tyre life, while setting a speedy enough pace to keep Norris at bay.
In the final two laps, Eriksson closed in on Joey Mawson – delayed by a mid-race pitstop – and gained enough of a tow to help steady the gap to Norris and win by just 0.7s after twenty tours.
The win gives Eriksson a seven-point advantage over Norris after five races, with the Motopark man starting from pole position for race 3 later today.

After falling to 3rd, Schumacher enjoyed a quiet race, with the German teen dropping over 9s down to the race winner, but still holding a 4.5s gap to 4th placed man Maxi Günther.
Günther started 7th which became 6th when Ferdinand Habsburg through his Carlin off the road exiting Curve Grande on lap one. That became 5th when Ilott went off the track on lap five and then 4th when he passed Jake Dennis a lap later.
For a time, a large train collected behind Günther and he momentarily dropped back a place when a charging Harrison Newey joined the fight for 4th, but the German retook the position on lap ten and held it to the flag.

The fight behind Günther was intense, with Newey, Dennis, Ilott and Guan Yu Zhou all joining the fight, followed closely by Jehan Daruvala and the recovering Habsburg. Dennis and Newey would take each other out of the reckoning with a collision on lap 13, while Habsburg passed Daruvala (lap 8), Zhou (lap 12) and Ilott (lap 13) to jump back up to 5th.
Amidst this Ilott lost out to Zhou and spent some of the final laps keeping Daruvala at bay and the trio would eventually take the chequered flag line-astern, with Zhou (6th) leading Ilott (7th) and Daruvala (8th).

Ralf Aron came home 9th in the Hitech GP machine, ahead of teammate Nikita Mazepin, who took 10th despite starting a lowly 15th due to penalties in qualifying.

David Beckmann pitted early, while Mawson (both van Amersfoort) pitted early leaving them a lap behind. Pedro Piquet made it another tough day for van Amersfoort when he spun out on lap six.

“FIA F3: Norris takes Monza opener”

Lando Norris took his 2nd win of the FIA European Formula 3 Championship at Monza this morning, winning out following a frantic battle with Carlin teammate Jehan Daruvala.

Ferdinand Habsburg made it a Carlin 1-2-3 following his own tight fight with Joel Eriksson, Guan Yu Zhou, Mick Schumacher, Jake Dennis and Callum Ilott.

From the front row, Norris got a good start initially, but bogged down as he went through the gears, allowing poleman Daruvala to escape into an early lead. Norris fell to 4th, behind Dennis and Habsburg, with Ilott also pressing the Carlin man from behind.

From there, Norris scraped with Habsburg and pushed by the Austrian on lap 2, before Dennis missed the Retifilo chicane on the following tour, with Norris assuming 2nd place once Dennis rejoined the circuit.
Dennis continued to press Norris however and the pair swapped positions again on lap 5, with Habsburg also getting in ahead of Norris on the same lap. Habsburg himself then fell two positions on the sixth tour, bringing Norris to 3rd, and then 2nd when he took Dennis a lap later.

Norris then recorded three fastest laps in a row, shrinking Daruvala’s lead from 2.4s to 1.5 by the halfway point in the race. The gap continued to close in the laps afterward, with Norris closing to within half-a-second on lap 14.
Thereafter the Briton continued to push and pressure his Carlin stablemate, with Daruvala becoming more and more defensive, until Norris finally slipped through to the lead in the first chicane on lap 16.
Daruvala did not allow Norris to escape however and the Indian held close to the new leader, but was unable to get close enough, as he dropped vital time through Ascari in the remaining laps.

With Daruvala unable to close the gap, Norris took the win, but just by 0.6s, while the trailing Habsburg secured his first podium – and points – some four seconds further back.
The win gives Norris joint championship lead with Eriksson; both of whom have taken 67 points, some 22 ahead of Ilott and Maxi Günther.

For Habsburg, it seemed as if the race had gone away from him. Falling to 6th on lap six, the Austrian passed Ilott on lap seven and then did the same to Dennis two circulations later.
Thereafter Habsburg chased Eriksson close, but only lost the podium spot on lap 17, when he locked up at the Roggia chicane, allowing Habsburg through. Eriksson stayed close to the rookie, but was unable to force his way back through and trailed Habsburg by just 0.4s over the line.

There was a larger gap to Zhou, who claimed 5th after a long battle with Schumacher, Dennis, Ilott and – later – Günther. The group effectively circulated as a gap for much of the race and changed positions with each other on several occasions, but did so in a clean manner and without unnecessary contact.
As they crossed the line, Zhou headed Schumacher by just 0.6s, while Günther ended the day 7th, just 1.3s further behind. It marked a solid result for Günther, who had started the race back in 14th.

Dennis was amidst the group until a late tap from Günther forced the Carlin man to the pits and out of the race, while after a good early push and fight with Habsburg, Ilott’s pace faded, and he began to slip down the order, eventually finishing 9th.
In between Günther and Ilott, Ralf Aron sneaked up to take 8th place, while Jake Hughes climbed back to 10th, following a bad start that dropped him to the lower reaches of the pack.

David Beckmann pulled out after just seven laps with a technical issue, while Pedro Piquet also retired following a clash with Keyvan Andres Soori two laps from the end. Piquet was involved in an earlier incident with Joey Mawson, which resulted in a drive through penalty for the Australian.

© FIA.

“Chinese GP: “Hamilton tastes success in Shanghai”

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes struck back at Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari to win the Chinese Grand Prix this morning.

Vettel did eventually take 2nd place after early-race strategy cast him adrift at the bottom of the top six early doors.

Max Vertsapen made it three manufacturers on the podium in a race partially dictated by cool and, initially, damp conditions; although the Dutch had a tough job to hold his teammate Daniel Riccairdo at bay in the closing laps.

In a race that started as damp and greasy, Hamilton led from the beginning, but the pack was close together in his mirrors, as Vettel edged out Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) around the outside of the first turn and Ricciardo slotted into 4th ahead of Kimi Raikkoenen (Ferrari).

A second lap virtual safety period was triggered when Sergio Perez (Force India) pitched Lance Stroll into the gravel early on, ending Stroll’s race as his Williams became stuck in the gravel. This prompted Vettel to pit for soft Pirelli tyres, while the rest of the front runners stayed out, dropping the Ferrari to 6th.

This proved costly, as only moments after the lap four restart, Antonio Giovinazzi crashed hard on teh pit straight, bringing out a full safety car, allowing the remaining front runners to pits for fresh tyres.
Vettel gained one position under safety car when Bottas spun while warming his tyres, dropping the Finn to 12th position and picking up some damage in the process. Amidst all this, a great start and a cool headed strategy brought Verstappen to the Dutch teen to the top four, despite starting towards the rear.

Under the lap 13 restart, Hamilton pulled away from the now 2nd Ricciardo, while Verstappen passed Raikkonen for 3rd. Verstappen quickly made the 2nd place a short while later and began to chase Hamilton for the lead.
Now 3rd, Ricciardo began to struggle for pace, leaving the leading pair to stretch away. Thereafer Riccirdo, Raikkonen and Vettel closed in for a tight fight until the latter forced his way into 4th on lap 20 with an audacious move in turn six. Vettel made that a podium spot two laps later when he and Ricciardo went wheel-to-wheel through turn six, touching momentarily, as Vettel passed.

Out front, Hamilton stepped up the pace and pulled away from Verstappen, while the now free Vettel closed in on the Dutchman. Within six laps, the Ferrari was in range to attack; however this was nullified when Verstappen ran wide in the turn 13 hairpin, allowing Vettel to slot through into 2nd spot. Vettel closed in on the lead, as Hamilton began to struggle on ageing tyres, with gap reducing from 11s to 8s in a few short tours.
Anticipating stops, Vettel was called in for softs on lap 35, with Hamilton pitting two laps later; however this briefly split the pair as Hamilton continued to lead from the yet-to-stop Raikkonen and Vettel in 3rd.

Vettel took another second out of Hamilton and soon disposed of a struggling Raikkonen, but from there Hamilton stabilised the gap to the chasing man and even extended it slightly. The Mercedes man managed the race pace after that, rubber-stamping his authority on the Grand Prix and take the win.
The result leaves both Hamilton and Vettel on 43 points as they head to Bahrain next weekend and puts Mercedes in the lead of the Constructors Championship.

The fight for 3rd was more intense toward the end. Pitting on lap 30, Verstappen took another set of super-softs, falling to 6th momentarily. That became 5th when the Red Bull man passed the struggling Bottas , which became 4th when Riccairdo pitted for new softs on lap 34.
Eventually a frustrated Raikkonen was pitted on lap 40 – an inconceivable strategy, considering the Finn was losing over 2s per lap at that stage – bringing Vettel and Verstappen to 2nd and 3rd respectively, although the gap between the pair was significant enough for Vettel to only need to concentrate on the lead.

Ricciardo’s late race pace on super-softs brought him back into the game and he closed in on Verstappen as the race drew to a close. The Australian was helped somewhat by Verstappen’s inability to catch and pass the lapped Romain Grosjean (Haas), causing the Red Bull to suffer significant understeer.
Ricciardo spent the final laps under the rear wing of Verstappen, but despite constant pressure and a late lunge from Ricciardo, Verstappen did not budge. A good result for Red Bull on one hand; however the duo still ended the day half-a-minute adrift of the leading man.

Kimi Raikkonen’s tyre struggles rendered him a bit player, as he followed the Red Bull’s behind in 5th. His late stop gave him pace in the final laps, but it was too late to make a difference to those ahead. Bottas’ race never really recovered after his early race problems and the Mercedes man took a very disappointing 6th place.

Carlos Sainz finished 7th place following a topsy-turvy race that saw him battle with Bottas and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso on occasion. Sainz endured a torrid opening lap though. Starting on super-softs in damp conditions, the Spaniard drifted off the road in turn one, spun around in turn two and the clattered the barrier slightly as he recovered to the track, but battled his way back up the order, helped by starting tyre. As the rest of the field changed from intermediates to dry tyres during the safety car period, Sainz stayed out on his super-softs, and climbed up the order as others peeled away.
Kevin Magnussen (Haas) won a tight battle for 8th place, as he nabbed Perez in the closing tours. Perez pitted with only three laps to go, fearing losing chunks of time – it worked, keeping the Mexican ahead of his teammate come the chequered flag. They bested Esteban Ocon (Force India) who took another 10th place finish, after the Frenchman passed a struggling Felipe Massa (Williams) toward the end of the race.

Romain Grosjean recovered from a post-qualifying penalty and was the first non-points finisher in 11th, after a tough move on Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) in turn six gave him sight of the top ten. Hulkenberg endured a horrid race – after a poor start, the German illegally overtook cars under both virtual safety car and safety car to garner 15s of penalties in his first stop. Jolyon Palmer came home 13th from last following a post-qualifying penalty, while Massa fell to 14th on destroyed tyres by the chequered flag. Marcus Ericsson had a quiet drive to 15th and last.

Alonso retired just after halfway with mechanical issues in his McLaren. Once again, the Spaniard was running in the points at the time in a car that probably should not have been there. Daniil Kvyat’s day ended early when the power steering system failed on his Toro Rosso, while Stoffel Vandoorne made it an awful day for McLaren, when he parked with a fuel feed usage problem.

Although it is still early, the championship is beginning to hot up at this early stage, but with the cool, damp conditions for today’s Grand Prix, we may need to wait until Bahrain next week before we see a true reflection of the order in optimum conditions.
For now, Hamilton will take in the glory in Shanghai, but expect Ferrari to respond.

“Chinese GP: Hamilton takes Shanghai pole”

Lewis Hamilton became only the 2nd driver in Formula One to take six consecutive pole positions.

The Briton matched the record by his hero Ayrton Senna to stretch his impressive run of pole positions. His time of 1:31.678s also ensured it was his sixth pole position in China.

The Mercedes racer turned it on when he needed to, after Ferrari set the pace in the opening sessions, but when it came to the ultimate fastest lap, Hamilton edged his machine ahead of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.

Vettel fell just two-tenths short of Hamilton, but pipped the other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas by one-thousandth of-a-second to secure another Mercedes-Ferrari front row. The German admitted he lost time in his first run when he was affected by a gust of wind in turn twelve. Kimi Raikkonen took 4th in the other Ferrari, as he felt he lost time due to slippiness around the rear.
The Ferrari’s were the only team to run with just softs in the opening qualifing session, whereas all other eighteen competitors set times on the Pirelli super-softs, allowing the Scuderia to save a set of super-softs for the race.

Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) and Felipe Massa (Williams) secured the third row, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg (Renault, 7th) and Sergio Perez (Force India, 8th); the latter of whom only recorded a single Q3 run.
Daniil Kvyat claimed 9th in his Toro Rosso, with the top ten completed by Lance Stroll (Williams). Stroll also only completed a single run in Q3, with the Canadian teen appearing more at home with the FW40 this weekend.

Carlos Sainz missed out on Q3 by just six-hundredths, when a late improvement by Perez dropped him out of the top ten. The Toro Rosso man’s best lap was some 1.9s down on the fastest Q2 lap by Raikkonen and only one-tenth off of teammate Kvyat.
Kevin Magnussen (Haas) will partner Sainz on the sixth row, after his last effort was not quite quick enough, while McLaren’s Fernando Alonso could only manage 13th overall, despite driving “like an animal”.
Marcus Ericsson was again the quickest of the two Sauber’s, although this was no real contest as he was only Sauber to set a time in Q2. The first qualifying session was ended prematurely when Giovinazzi crashed exiting the final corner. The Italian was on his final lap and was due to set a quicker lap when he ran over the kerb on teh approach to teh start/finish straight, pitchging the Sauber racer hard into the barrier. As Giovinazzi had done enough to qualify for Q2, the Italian’s absense from the rest of qualifying meant he would do no better than 15th.

Giovinazzi’s crash nullified last moment efforts for Stoffel Vandoorne (Mclaren, 16th), Romain Grosjean (Haas, 17th), Jolyon Palmer (Renault, 18th), Max Verstappen (Red bull, 19th) and Esteban Ocon (Force India, 20th).
Grosjean had spun earlier in the session, when he also looped it around exiting the final corner, destroying his first set of tyres. It was especially disappointing for Verstappen, who not only lost time in the final third of Q1 when he was pulled in for a weight check, but was then slowed on his final run due to an engine software issue. Ocon was course to easily progress into Q2, when the session was ended. Both Grosjean and Palmer are also under investigation for not slowing enough under yellows in the final sector.

“Chinese GP: Ferrari head FP3 in Shanghai”

Ferrari duo Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen headed proceedings for third free practice of the Chinese Grand Prix this morning.

Following the near non-running on Friday, FP3 was proved an extremely busy session as teams aimed to compress as much weekend running as possible into sixty minutes.

Vettel’s best of 1:33.336s came late in the session and the his Finnish teammate was only five-hundredths adrift come the chequered flag, as the Scuderia let loose in the final half-hour.

Through their fast laps, the Ferrari’s looked balanced and quick and a touch more stable than their Mercedes rivals, who endured a patchy session. Although Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton secured teh 3rd and 4th best times respectively, Bottas’ best was nearly four-tenths off of vattel’s quickest; however on two of his quickest runs, the Finn dropped significant time due to errors in the final corner.

Bottas missed a chunk of the session too, when his T-wing collapsed and fell off his Mercedes in the early moments – he stayed in the garage while the team rebalanced his machine.
Hamilton also lost time on his final run, when he lost approximately four-tenths due to an error in the final sector while following another car.

Felipe Massa (Williams, 5th) was significantly adrift of the top four with a best of 1:34.773s; however it likely that drivers and teams were also focussing much of their running on race pace and Sunday set-up.
The Red Bull duo of max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were 6th and 7th respectively, with the latter running fastest in the first half hour, as he concentrated on qualifying running early on.

Jolyon Palmer took 9th, despite spinning his Renault at one point, while Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso, 15th) was the only driver to set his best time on soft tyres – all other drivers set their quickest on teh Pirelli super-softs.
It was another difficult session for McLaren. Fernando Alonso lost time in the garage, as the team investigated an issue linked to his Honda power unit. Both he and teammate Stoffel Vandoorne could do no better than 17th and 19th respectively.

“Chinese GP: Fog halts FP2 running”

The second practice session of the Chinese Grand Prix elapsed with no running this morning, due to heavy fog.

The conditions were such that it was deemed too dangerous for the medical helicopter to land at the designated Shanghai hospital, based 38km from the circuit.

As such, FP2 ended with thirteen minutes still on the clock in a session that saw no cars enter the circuit. With the first session only seeing 27 minutes of action for similar reasons, this marked a barren Friday for the fans in the grandstands.

For the teams, this will put a premium on running in Saturday morning’s one-hour final practice session.

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