Daniel Ricciardo

2016 Singapore Grand Prix Review

Photo: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1

The heat, The humidity and the back drop of a beautiful brightly lit city alongside the Marina bay set the scene for a Singapore Grand Prix that had a tense feeling in the air. The final third of championship was to begin here and the heat is now well and truly on.

Unfortunately for Romain Grosjean the race didn’t even get going after brake by wire issues hampered his attempts to even make the grid, this meant a DNS for the frenchman who clearly isn’t happy with his current situation, especially after  qualifying describing his VF-16 as “The worst he has ever driven”.

As the rest of the drivers lined up in their respective grid slots, the tension was palpable. 

When the lights went out Nico Rosberg got a great start while everyone else bogged down especially Max Verstappen, while Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg went to pass the slow Dutchman, it was Hulkenberg getting squeezed into a gap that swiftly closed, causing massive damage including a hit into the pit wall. No one was at fault for the incident, it was just an unfortunate set of circumstances.

Jenson Button and Valtteri Bottas also got caught up in the melee, while Button moved to avoid the spinning Hulkenberg he clipped the rear of Bottas’ Williams, this meant a broken front wing, damaged brake ducts and broken floor for the McLaren driver while Bottas luckily only suffered a puncture.

As a safety car was called to slow the pack down so marshals could collect the wrecked Force India, due to the amount of shattered carbon fibre across the pit straight the cars were ordered to travel through the pit lane to avoid the huge chucks of debris. 

In a strange set of circumstances messages from race control on lap two appeared confusing and the safety car ducked in at the end of that lap, however that message either wasn’t passed on correctly or that race control got the call wrong, but this led to a marshal running for his life at turn one as Rosberg led 20 other Formula One cars at full speed as the race restarted. No doubt there will be a swift investigation as to how on earth this happened.

With the race still in it’s infacy both Mercedes cars already were managing brake issues, while brakes are always on the limit in Singapore managing them this early on was a concern for those in the team.

Despite starting on the red marked supersoft tyre, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo couldn’t quite keep up with Rosberg in the early stages of the race allowing Rosberg to get away, this however would later change.

While the race continued to be a slow burner and the strategies played out, we were treated to a great tussle between Max Verstappen versus the man he replaced at Red Bull; Danil Kyvat. The Russian did not give a quarter to Verstappen at all, you could get the sense this was personal for him, to prove he can race and be just as good as he has shown before. 

Valtteri Bottas had a very strange issue with his seatbelts coming undone on lap 30, despite pitting immediately to get them done back, unfortunately he had to retire five laps later with mechanical issues, Jenson Button also had to retire following damage to car causing too many issues with his Mclaren caused by the first lap clash with Bottas avoiding the spinning Hulkenberg.

However when all thought the race was run after the second stops were made, it all burst into life on lap 45 when Mercedes ignited an inspired strategy to help Hamilton get back third place from Raikkonen, this triggered the Ferrari to stop the Finn the next lap in an attempt to prevent the powerful undercut on fresh tyres. Despite the Scuderia’s efforts Hamilton made the outlap count to pass Raikkonen as he exited the pitlane.

Because of the respective stops Hamilton and Raikkonen made, this allowed Red Bull to pull the trigger and try to do the same for Ricciardo to catch Rosberg. With the undercut being so strong the Mercedes strategists had to make a do or die call whether to pit the leader or keep him out and gamble with the race victory, or put him for fresh tyres and risk losing the lead to fight with the Red Bull for the final 14 laps.

Mercedes decided to stay out and gamble, meanwhile Ricciardo was using his fresh supersofts to full effect, closing Rosberg down at two to three seconds a lap. It was starting to look as if the win was in jeopardy because the gap between the two was in freefall, however in the final five laps Rosberg was granted a repreive in the shape of lapped traffic.

This allowed Rosberg some breathing space while Ricciardo had to make his way through it at some of the slower points of the circuit, by the time Ricciardo got clear of the traffic it appeared his tyres were beginning to scream enough and he would not make it to Rosberg. On the final lap he gave it everything he could, the nailbiter in all of us would of watched as he gained through every corner, the gap was visibily shrinking every second. 

Despite all of his efforts Ricciardo lost out by just 0.488 of a second in his hunt for victory (pictured above), both drivers looked exhausted not only through the physical endurance of the event, but also through how much they had put in to fight for that win.

Other inspirational performances from the race were Sebastian Vettel, definitely deserving his driver of the day award after coming back from last to fifth with an inspired strategy to get through the field, also a great result for Fernando Alonso in seventh place giving McLaren a boost. Danil Kyvat also made the points helping his fight to keep his F1 career alive and Kevin Magnussen who got Renault’s second points finsh of the season.

The 2016 Singapore Grand Prix was a race of many stories which culminated in a nailbiting finish, I was certainly happy with what the race has to offer and it’s given another twist in tale of the drivers chanpionship too. With Nico Rosberg taking his eighth win of the year and snatching the lead of the championship in the process, the onus is now on Lewis Hamilton to make a comeback if he wants that fourth title and to prevent Nico taking his first.

Next stop is in Malaysia. I wonder what’s next in the magical story of the 2016 championship, no doubt there will still be twists to come. 

2016 Belgian Grand Prix Review

Photo: Red Bull Racing

The hills, the forest, it calls to them. A sacred ribbon of tarmac that weaves it’s way through the forest of the Ardennes. Many drivers have conquered the legendary 7.004km Spa-Francorchamps circuit, come rain or shine. The weekend certainly saw the bright sunshine and the unusually hot conditions that made this a Belgian Grand Prix we won’t forget.

During the free practice sessions on Friday, the unfamiliar high temperatures were causing the drivers a great deal of problems in managing their Pirelli rubber through the high speed nature of the demanding Spa circuit, it was clear the race was never going to be straightforward from then on.

For qualifying while Lewis Hamilton was out of the running for pole position after his three power unit changes left him at the back of the grid with penalties, it was up to the Ferrari’s and Red Bull’s to challenge the other Mercedes of Nico Rosberg for the front row. It turned out that no one could, Rosberg had just enough in hand to keep pole position but not by much. 

Heading into Sunday with the hot tempretures not abating, it was clear that tyre strategies were going to play a great role in how the drivers and teams negotiated the 44 laps of the day. Rosberg, Ricciardo and both Ferrari’s were smart in Q2 to utilise a strategy of starting of the yellow marked soft tyres to start the race with in the hope it would benefit them at the start of the race.

As the lights went out Max Verstappen got a poor getaway and tried to repass Kimi Raikkonen on the inside of La Source, unfortunately both were pinched by Sebastian Vettel making his way around the outside of both drivers, this led to a three way collision that damaged all three cars.

With Vettel left stranded at La Source waiting for the rest of the field to pass, Verstappen fought side by side with Raikkonen down the hill to Eau Rouge. On the other hand Rosberg made a great getaway and missed out on all the shenanigans going on behind.

Unfortunately it didn’t end there, into Les Combes Manor’s Pascal Werhlein ended up in the back of Jenson Button’s McLaren ending both of their races, this is a shame considering both of their great efforts from qualifying, luckily Werhlein’s new team mate Esteban Ocon managed to avoid the debris.

Kimi Raikkonen pitted to change his broken front wing but in the process of his mechanics trying to fit a new one, the underside of the car kept trying to catch fire, thankfully they managed to put it out and get the wing on.

On Lap 6 the race took a turn, after making a great start both Renaults of Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen were running in the top ten and doing well, unfortunately on the exit of Radillion Magnussen lost the rear of his car and spun at high speed into the barrier, luckily he managed to hobble out of the car despite a noticeable limp. Thankfully after checks in the medical centre and more later at the local hospital, he only suffered a cut to his left ankle and should be fine to race in Monza next week. 

Unfortunately his R.S16 Renault was a total write off, the most concerning part of his accident as that the head rest that bolts to the inside of the cockpit came loose from it’s fixings and left the car with quite a bit of ease. The FIA are going to look into the incident to find out why it happened and to perhaps see if there is something that can be learned from it.

With the barriers needing repair a red flag was called, prior to this Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton had made their way through the pack to end up fourth and fifth respectively, not a bad effort from the back of the grid.

As the race got underway once more, Nico Rosberg had swapped to medium tyre and quickly made a break for it to escape the clutches Hulkenberg who was under immediate pressure from Ricciardo. It didn’t take him long to pass the Force India in front and try to hunt down Rosberg, however the Mercedes had the pace to eventually sprint away.

Jolyon Palmer suffered after the red flag due to high temperatures to his car much to his dismay, the British rookie really hasn’t enjoyed much luck in F1 since his arrival.

As the race wore on Verstappen and Raikkonen found themselves on the same piece of tarmac once again, this time with the Finn on the offensive, Verstappen makes a late defence move to protect his position much to the dismay of the 2007 world champion. Verstappen faced further criticisms when he ran Raikkonen and Sergio Perez off the road at Les Combes with defensive manoeuvres that led to him not even staying on the race track himself. 

At the final set of pit stops Hamilton was chasing Hulkenberg for third and passed him quite quickly leaving the German still without a podium finish from his 107 starts so far in Formula One.

Fernando Alonso managed to hold off the advances of both Williams and Raikkonen in latter stages of the race after a very impressive drive, with Honda having brought updates to the car, it certainly showed at Spa, however Monza will be the ultimate proving ground as to whether they’ve made true ground on their rivals.

Ultimately Hamilton only lost ten points in the title battle with his team mate and he’ll certainly be grateful for the race he had, while Rosberg will wondering what else he’ll have to 

Just nine points seperate them with eight races left to go, 1 dnf apiece, 6 pole positions and 6 victories between them, it could hardly be a closer run in, there is still plenty of action, speed and no doubt controversy yet to come.

Monza up next!

2016 German Grand Prix Review

Photo: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1

Finally! Formula One returned to Hockenheim for the German Grand Prix. After last season the Nurburgring couldn’t afford to pay the fees for the race to be held there. 

It was safe to say that everyone was glad to be back even if attendance figures have been down in recent years, the turn one grandstands had been covered over because of the lack of ticket sales. However on race day the stadium section up to turn one was almost full which was great to see. 

In qualifying it was Nico Rosberg who stuck it on pole with an incredible lap after his first run in Q3 was hampered by an electrical glitch that affected his throttle capabilities, something that’s on the list of things you never want as a driver. Lewis Hamilton couldn’t quite make his final run count and both of the Red Bull’s were certainly a lot closer than first thought, this made race day a very appetising prospect.

On race day the tension was palpable with both Mercedes on the front row looking to get into turn one first. As the lights went out Rosberg got a shocking start after lighting up his rear tyres and fell back to fourth, Hamilton made the better get away into the lead. Verstappen managed to get past his team mate round the bold outside move into turn one also. 

Felipe Massa was unfortunately hit by Jolyon Palmer on the opening lap and left the Brazilian with a poor handling Williams before retiring on lap 36. Sergio Perez had a very poor start from starting ninth on the grid but fell to as low as 16th before climbing back through the field.

Back at the front of the field, Rosberg couldn’t find a way around Ricciardo and had to settle into the first part of the race to perhaps try a different strategy. 

With the supersoft tyres degrading fairly quickly, Verstappen and Rosberg were the first to blink on lap 11 and both bolted on more supersoft tyres to try and undercut their respective teammates up the road.

Ricciardo stopped a lap later to cover off the fast charging Rosberg and managed to maintain track position over the German. Hamilton stopped on lap 14 but wasn’t under threat after managing to create a big enough gap. 

Lap 29 proved to be a contentious one when Rosberg dived up the inside of Verstappen in an attempt to take third place, however he nearly didn’t make the corner and in the stewards eyes forced the young Dutch driver off the circuit, I personally felt it was a tough, bold but just on the limit move. The decision from stewards however to give Rosberg the five second penalty was more likely because of his precedent from his clash with Hamilton in Austria and not just because of the move itself.

The hard work Rosberg put in for that middle stint to pass and gap the Red Bull’s was put to waste when Rosberg served the penalty at his next pit stop, the Mercedes pit wall unfortunately timed his penalty wrong by accidentally waiting eight seconds instead of the five it was supposed to be. 

In the dying laps, the final points positions became a great watch as Williams gambled on keeping Valtteri Bottas out on severely old soft tyres trying to make a two stop strategy work, while Nico Hulkenberg made his three stop work in his favour to pass the Finn towards the end of the race.

Both McLarens had a tough end to the race, with the Honda power unit in the back proving that while the several upgrades have come in recent races; it is still very thirsty on fuel. Despite this fact while Fernando Alonso had to keep saving fuel and fell out of the points, but with the Williams of Bottas having hit the cliff of those Pirelli tyres, Jenson Button managed to gain eighth place by the chequered flag.

With the summer break now here and teams having to shut their factories for two complete weeks, their hardworking personnel can go home and enjoy time with families to refresh themselves for final nine races that lie ahead.

I don’t know about you? But I’m surely excited to see what the rest of this season has to offer, because one thing for sure is that this title battle is far from over!

SC

My top 5 moments of 2014

5. Daniel Ricciardo’s first season at Red Bull/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014/12/img_1538.jpgWe all thought when Daniel was announced at Red Bull it would be a tough challenge to beat Sebastian in his first season at the senior team, but with the changing of regulations and Mercedes dominance, Daniel took full advantage of the car’s capabilities and used them to his own advantage, his first win in Canada came at the expense of the Mercedes MGU-K failures but he had worked hard to put himself in the situation to begin with, wins Hungary and Belgium were fully deserved also, finishing 3rd in the drivers standings can’t be a bad achievement in his first season at Red Bull

4. Williams Resurgance/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014/12/img_1539.jpgAfter what can only be described as a calamitous 2013 season for the Grove squad, 2014 must have been a dream turnaround. I admit I have a soft spot for Williams (who doesn’t?), being still a privateer team and their huge success in doing so. The FW36 was an outstanding success by any standard, a reshuffle of the team, switching to Mercedes power units and finally designing a good chassis underneath them, Bottas came close to a podium in Australia had he not clipped the wall, but the highlight of the season was Austria, the circuit played to the car’s strengths in straightline speed and Massa took pole with Bottas alongside to secure their first front row lockout since 2004. Since then the car went strength to strength, they didn’t take a win but the car was solid all year, 2015 can hopefully be a step up once more.

3. Hybrid Success
/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014/12/img_15081.jpgAfter all the criticisms from so many of F1 fans and even Bernie Ecclestone himself (surprised?) the new 1.6l V6 Turbo Hybrid era of Formula 1 in my eyes was a success. With the combustion engine, turbo and ERS battery power combining to create a new sounding Formula 1 hybrid monster. Luca Di Montezemelo called it “Taxi driving” in Bahrain and no one liked the noise to start with, but come seasons end with some great reliability by some teams and epic racing, the critics soon piped down, except Bernie of course who seems to want to go back a step to the V8s and V10s. (See a previous article)

2. Lewis Hamilton’s Title Win/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014img_1540.jpgAfter years of close calls and near misses Lewis finally gets his hands on title number 2. A year of so many highs and lows, the 4 wins early on to the mid seasons struggles, A British GP then 5 more on the bounce after Spa’s calamities, Lewis kept his head strong, a strength not normally seen. Nico out qualified Lewis for the season and that is a stat not many would have guessed would happen. A lot of learning, hard work and perseverance really showed in Lewis’ race pace this year. Nico will no doubt come back stronger in 2015, but i’m sure Lewis will no doubt be upping his game too. Nico vs Lewis is far from over.

1. Mercedes openness and Bahrain Fight./home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014/12/img_1543.jpgAfter pre-season testing it was clear Mercedes had a pace advantage over the field, but the dominance we saw was unprecedented. The fight in Bahrain really showed their pace but more importantly their willingness to let them race. Not for a long time have we seen two drivers lap after lap go hammer and tongs for the win, but Paddy Lowe told them they were free to race as long as they didn’t touch. It transpired that Nico and Lewis would contend for the Driver’s crown, but despite all the on track battles, wars of words and mind games, Mercedes never defined team orders despite Hungary’s mid race confusion. They let them go at it, I commend them for that as the sport and fans benefitted from such great on track action and a title fight to remember.

@SteveF1C