2017 Chinese Grand Prix Review: Kimi Raikkonen & Ferrari

Shanghai was the scene of the second round of 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship. The major talking points were:

  • Sebastian Vettel’s questionable starting position
  • The first ever implementation of the standing start procedure after circulating for a few laps behind the safety car in damp conditions
  • Kimi Raikkonen and his relationship with Ferrari, with his team’s refusal to pit him at least five laps earlier for his second tyre stop. It almost certainly costed him P3 and the sight of Sergio Marchionne and Maurizio Arrivabene calling for talks over his form was extremely unpalatable
  • Valtteri Bottas’ laughable spin behind the second safety car
  • Antonio Giovinazzi crashing twice: first in Q1 and second on lap 4 in the race
  • Ferrari SF70H’s optimum operating range clearly being in hotter, sunny conditions
  • FIA succeeding in their criterion of implementing racing which consisted of higher quality, instead of higher quantity, of overtakes, particularly in the non-DRS zone around Turn 6
  • The late race Red Bull battle between hard-chargers Max Verstappen & Daniel Ricciardo
  • A dominant, composed drive from Lewis Hamilton
  • Kevin Magnussen’s surprise result of P8.

2017 Australian Grand Prix: A Measured Response

The new regulations presented themselves with a few pros, but some deeply stark cons. It was great to see the drivers enjoying the grip and sensation of pushing every lap, but agonisingly discouraging to see the cars struggle in dirty air once they reached within 2.5 seconds of cars in front of them. The new, wider, harder tyre compounds witnessed cars on the limit through every corner on every lap, but it meant the race was restricted to one stoppers, so strategy was indistinguishable throughout the field. Fernando Alonso stated the drivers had to be incredibly sharp in their responses to any tank slappers or slides, “So you have half a tenth of a second to react. Last year you had four seconds – in the corner you could take a coffee in those cars!”

Whilst last year’s narrow track chassis combined with fragile Pirelli compounds proved monotonous and frustrating for the drivers, at least spectators were treated to close racing with opportunity for passes albeit at corner speeds adjacent to Formula 2. This cars have not only seen dramatic rise in corner speeds, but also drastically reduced braking distances, much more aggressive steering lock approaches, earlier re-application of throttle responses on corner exits, increased acceleration out of braking zones and heavily multiplied drag levels.

So what is the solution? It would be egregious to return to last year’s slower regulations, that was dismissed by fans, drivers and personnel alike as mickey mouse-like and regressive. However, a number of options for 2018 need to be considered and these include:

  • An increased power unit capacity, with a switch to either 2.0L- 2.4L V6/V8 turbo hybrids or 3.5L- 4.0L V10 naturally-aspirated internal combustion engines (although the latter option has been ruled void by FIA president Jean Todt)
  • A removal of the multiple elements on the front wings, with a rule mandating that only two separate elements with a single slot gap separating them. This is highly recommended, as this is a probable solution to the issue of the dramatically increased turbulence the cars have been suffering in the 2017 specs
  • A narrowing of the chassis from 2 metres to 1.8 metres, in order to decrease drag and force the size of the wings to be reduced by 10%.

Some fans heavily bemoaned the durable tyre compounds reducing the number of pit stops to just one during this year’s Australian GP, but the sight of Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg having confidence in their tyres to endure moving offline to overtake an ailing Fernando Alonso without last year’s worries of regular flat-spotting was very promising.

However, there also needs to be a technical change which can adversely affect the balance of the cars. Of course, some may argue that the sight of drivers losing the rear end of the cars may occur more commonly, as seen by Jolyon Palmer’s and Daniel Ricciardo’s crashes last weekend. However, others have argued drivers will eventually become familiarised with the handling and the limits in which they can extend the boundaries of their machinery. With that in mind, it is highly likely the necessity for the drivers to attack to maximum will see the margins between the top drivers and the merely good extend to much wider in comparison to last year: the time gaps between Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, Renault’s Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer & Williams’ Felipe Massa and rookie Lance Stroll are proof of how much talent and experience will count this year. This is something that will be welcomed by certain fans, who have admonished cars of the past five years as little better than souped up GP2 cars.

The sight of at least a dozen elements on the front wings has had some fans criticising the technical aspect of the sport having become esoteric. Former prominent F1 supremos such as Flavio Briatore have been openly scathing in their criticisms about these issues, stating clearly that the sport should prioritise entertainment for viewers over what he saw as a self-indulgent pet project for engineers. The loss of downforce through the removal of elements and narrowing of cars and wings could be compensated with the return of ground-effects, albeit with a FIA-standardised venturi-shaped floor which every team must fit to the underneath of their chassis.

Practice on Friday saw Mercedes domination, which many saw as sad harbinger of what may follow this season. Non-Mercedes fans’ worst fears of a fourth consecutive seasons appeared depressingly real, but Saturday displayed the hallmarks of a Ferrari challenge. Although Lewis Hamilton grabbed the 62nd pole position in his 189th attempt, Sebastian Vettel hauled his scarlet Ferrari within 0.268 seconds of the Mercedes. It proved to be a miracle as qualifying was ran in mild conditions, with a sprinkle of rain appearing in the early minutes of Q3, which had threatened to kill off competition for pole ten minutes early.

Sunday saw Daniel Ricciardo ominously break down in front of his home crowd on a warm-up lap, thanks to an electronic sensor locking his transmission in sixth gear. He was fortunate the rescue crew extricated his stricken Red Bull and returned it back to the pits, but when he re-ignited his Renault power unit, his car had already been lapped twice. Toro Rosso stablemate Daniil Kvyat faced the threat of an extraordinary third consecutive DNS in-as-many-events at Melbourne due to a fire extinguisher emptying itself, but his mechanics saved his bacon in prompt manner. Nico Hulkenberg embarrassingly parking his Renault two inches ahead of his demarcated grid slot, enforcing a second formation lap, which may have frayed a few anticipatory nerves. The race start was clean, but the collision between Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson at Turn 3 was the result of the Dane clipping his rear right tyre over the kerb, causing a sudden tank-slapper that left him nowhere to go but clobber the startled Sauber driver.

The race for the lead was a cat-and-mouse affair between Hamilton and Vettel. Taking a cue out of the 2016 strategy book, the Briton pitted early on lap 17, as the Mercedes tacticians naively believed the undercut would work like last year despite Hamilton still having 30% tread remaining on his first stint compounds. With clean air to scythe through, Vettel duly capitalised, whilst Hamilton emerged behind a beguiled Max Verstappen, who made his struggling Red Bull as wide as possible for five laps before the Briton inevitably used DRS to speed past. Unfortunately for Mercedes, Vettel pulled enough of a margin so that when he cleared a confused Lance Stroll and pitted, he had a comfortable enough margin which he never relinquished. Hamilton would spend the remainder of the race complaining of dirty air, something which his Mercedes cars of previous years undoubtedly proved inferior in terms of dealing with in comparison to the opposition (but rarely mattered due to its absolute domination). With the improvements Ferrari have made intertwined with the new regulations, this is an issue which will provide many headaches at Brackley during breaks between races.

Valtteri Bottas fell progressively behind in the initial stint, but his second stint proved more productive, where he eventually finished less than 1.5 seconds behind his illustrious team-mate. Kimi Raikkonen, sadly, seemed to flounder as the race progressed, as fifteen laps from the race’s end his arch-nemesis of last year, Max Verstappen, closed in ominously, but could not even attempt to facilitate a consideration to overtake the embattled Finn due to the excessive turbulence in following the wake of the rejuvenated Ferrari package. The Iceman’s P4 is a solid start, but already his critics were condemning his performance, slamming it as half-arsed, lazy and other slurs which have become all-too-commonly aimed at the 2007 world champion.

An “un-retired” Felipe Massa drove as if he’d never retired, as he brought home a vital 8 points. Motivation will be key for the 35-year-old Brazilian, as Williams cannot be sure his dilettante team-mate Lance Stroll is capable of scoring points whatsoever judging by his underwhelming Grand Prix debut. Running 13th, the young French-Canadian eventually parked his car in the pits with failing brakes, but whether this was a genuine mechanical gremlin or a result of his inexperience with handling carbon F1 brake discs remains to be seen.

Despite an overweight new VJM10 chassis, where drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon were forced to lose weight before the race, they respectively finished 7th & 10th, proving the Silverstone squad had not regressed on last year’s remarkable results. Toro Rosso debuted their STR11s with drivers Carlos Sainz & Daniil Kvyat finishing eighth & ninth, however both questioned the handling and balance of their chassis throughout the weekend, so tweaks could be forthcoming.

Stand-in Antonio Giovinazzi drove an impressive Grand Prix debut, admitting he had pace to spare after finishing P12 due to lack of experience with this year’s durable Pirelli compounds. Hulkenberg tried to overtake Ocon in the closing laps, but yet proved an umpteenth driver unimpressed with the dirty air produced in the wake of a fellow competitor. Stoffel Vandoorne finished P13 and last, clearly unable to adapt to his MCL32’s dreadful package, as his far smoother driving style could not correct the understeering tendencies which his illustrious team-mate Alonso has famously combated with stunning success thanks to an infamously aggressive initial turn-in. The Spaniard had been running an awe-inspiring P10 before debris caught under his car’s floor would leave him as a sitting duck for the advances of Ocon & Hulkenberg. A resultant broken floor would force an unsurprising retirement from Alonso, who made no secret of his frustration at McLaren & Honda’s apparent regression in development over the winter.

The Turn 3 incident between Magnussen & Ericsson would see the Dane retire 11 laps from the end with suspension damage, whilst the Swede would soldier on with hydraulics damaged in the incident that failed after 21 laps. Daniel Ricciardo would see his car retire after 25 laps, thanks to a fuel pressure issue unrelated to his pre-race electronic sensor failure or his crash in qualifying the previous day.

Jolyon Palmer, who had the weekend from hell, retired with his brake-by-wire system failing to register his car’s electronics and hydraulics together properly after 15 laps. Star of qualifying Grosjean saw a water leak end his day with just 13 laps completed, having started 6th, an all-time best for Haas.

2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Review: NICO ROSBERG WORLD CHAMPION

DRIVER OF THE DAY

Sebastian Vettel (P3, Ferrari)

He hasn’t had the finest season in his career, but after a tricky start to the race, the quadruple world champion underlined his status with sterling overtakes on Raikkonen & Verstappen.

WINNERS

Nico Rosberg (P2, Mercedes)

World champion. ‘Nuff said.

Max Verstappen (P4, Red Bull)

Dumb move on Hulkenberg at the start, but recovered brilliantly after making his used supersofts last 21 laps, despite the damage sustained from spinning after contact with the Force India driver.

REJECT OF THE DAY

Jolyon Palmer (P17, Renault)

The final ROFD goes to Jolyon again. Hotheaded collision with Sainz resulted in a 10 second race time penalty and retirement for his Spanish rival. How Palmer has a contract with Renault for 2017 is comparable to one of the world’s great wonders.

LOSER

Lewis Hamilton (P1, Mercedes)

Never has a race winner succeeded in being placed in the losers section of any race review, but congratulations blessed one, you’ve made it. Yes, I understand Lewis played within the rules by holding Rosberg up, but the symbols of desperation were deeply etched on the Briton’s face within his helmet. Hahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahaha.

2016 Brazilian Grand Prix Review: Amazing Max

DRIVER OF THE DAY 

Max Verstappen (P3, Red Bull)

On a day of superlative drives from so many drivers in adverse conditions, Verstappen shone above the rest yet again. I’ll personally admit to being biased against the young Dutchman, but his save on the start-finish straight and quickfire overtakes will stick in the memories of those who witnessed them.

WINNERS

Nico Rosberg (P2, Mercedes)

Despite being obliterated by his illustrious triple world champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg’s championship lead was only cut to twelve points. Some may see the 31-year-old German as a mediocre world champion, but his consistency and persistence has paid dividends. If Rosberg becomes world champion, he will be thoroughly deserving of it.

Sergio Perez (P4, Force India)

Mexico’s brightest hope toppled his outgoing Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, as the Silverstone-based team further consolidated their P4 status in the constructors’ standings.

Carlos Sainz (P6, Toro Rosso)

Another outstanding performance from Spain’s next superstar.

Felipe Nasr (P9, Sauber)

Finally! After a disastrous season with lack of finances and development, Nasr produced a coruscating race as the heavens opened. With numerous retirements and spins from his rivals, the Brazilian was elevated to an inconceivable P6 in the latter stages. Inevitably, Sainz and Hulkenberg overtook him, but those valuable prize money dollars will alleviate Sauber’s ailing fiscal woes.

Fernando Alonso (P10, McLaren)

Not the greatest performance of his career, yet the manner in which he opened a 37 second lap between himself and team-mate Jenson Button in the last 20 laps was spellbinding.

Esteban Ocon (P12, MRT)

Despite throwing away P10, which would have not costed Manor P10 in the constructors’ standings, the 20 year old Frenchman wowed onlookers and destroyed equally highly-touted team-mate Pascal Wehrlein, who struggled in the torrential conditions. His early transition in F1 has proven tricky, but he proving his backers right.

REJECT OF THE DAY

Romain Grosjean (DNS, Haas)

Crashed out whilst driving to the starting grid. Leadership material he is not.

SPECIAL MENTION

Felipe Massa (RET, Williams)

He may have ended his race in disappointing circumstances, but his guard of honour proves how special and unique he is.

2016 US & Mexican Grand Prix Review- Winners & Losers

US GRAND PRIX

DRIVER OF THE DAY

Carlos Sainz (P6, Toro Rosso)

Astute driving from the Spain’s rising tyro. Capitalised upon his pit strategy superbly, although he was undoubtedly a beneficiary of the VSC caused by Max Verstappen. He lost P5 to Fernando Alonso on the final lap, however his compatriot required the track extended run-off to beat Sainz.

REJECT OF THE DAY

Jolyon Palmer (P13, Won’t be at Renault for 2017)

You’re shit.

MEXICAN GRAND PRIX

DRIVER OF THE DAY

Marcus Ericsson (P11, Sauber)

Beat his team-mate Nasr by four places and outpaced the McLaren-Hondas.

REJECT OF THE DAY

Sebastian Vettel (P5, Ferrari)

FERRARI: Charlie said…

VETTEL: Yeah? Here’s the message for Charlie: F**k off. Honestly. F**k off!!

Seb, I know you’ve had a miserable season but you allowed the pressure to get the better of you. To desperately swerve into the path of Ricciardo- ironically replicating one of Verstappen’s questionable weaving brake manoeuvres whilst furiously excoriating the young Dutchman on his radio- was literally unfathomable and hypocritical. Ridiculous and disgraceful of a four-time world champion.

Losers

F1 Authorities (P-Clueless, LOL)

Banning weaving under braking was always going to cause tension amongst drivers and so it proved with the distribution of penalties. Max Verstappen’s driving has verged upon excessive at times, but to apply explicit penalties for such manoeuvres will detract new fans from F1. Verstappen, Sainz & Kvyat received post-race penalties of five seconds added to their race time.Sebastian Vettel received a ten second penalty and two licence points to add to the malaise, but it was well deserved in lieu of the events of the race.

 

Post-Japanese GP review & news: Perez, Sainz & Vandoorne to Ferrari for 2018?

DRIVER OF THE DAY

Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari, P5)

Another race, another lost cause. It may seem bizarre Kimi bothers with F1 anymore, but his majestic overtakes reminded everyone of his passion and resolve. The Finn proved he has unfinished business and his double overtake on Sergio Perez and Jolyon Palmer is proof that the fire continues to flicker in the Iceman’s belly.

Winners

Nico Rosberg (Mercedes, P1)

33 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the driver’s world championship.

Max Verstappen (Red Bull, P2)

Underlined his credentials of a future F1 legend once again. A peerless drive was illuminated by his feisty defence in the closing laps, where his block move against Lewis Hamilton out of 130R into the Casino Triangle chicane raised eyebrows again from critics. However, his perfect exploitation of the regulations showed: the Dutchman used the racing line to go wide on the exit of 130R, but swerved left to position himself onto the orthodox line for the run to Casino. The rules state a driver is allowed one move on the straight leading to a corner; therefore Max cunningly utilised the regulations to his advantage by promptly interpreting his exit line out of 130R as entirely separate from his defensive manoeuvre on the run-up to Casino. Hamilton took the inside line, but FIA regulations deemed Verstappen eligible to chop him off and cover the inside line. The most splendid aspect of Max’s move was how subtle and graceful it was: unlike his hasty, abrasive defensive manoeuvres on Raikkonen on the run-up to Les Combes in Spa, the Dutchman has adapted his defence technique in a very short space of time.

Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari, P4)

Ignoring his foul-mouthed performance on his radio, the 29 year-old German drove as well as could. The decision to gamble on softs in the final stint was, however, yet another example of Ferrari’s never-ending incompetence regarding pit strategy. Relationship breakdowns rumours are escalating and opinions within the Italian media of Vettel are rapidly deteriorating.

Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull, P6)

Not one of his finest races, but his outside chances of winning this year’s drivers’ championship have extinguished. The Australian struggled with car balance and tyre degradation in a race where his team-mate illuminated the headlines again.

Sergio Perez & Nico Hulkenberg (Force India, P7 & P8)

The Mexican continued his domination over his highly-touted German team-mate with another narrow finish in front of him, as Force India collected ten points to extend their advantage over Williams in their quest for P4 the constructors’ standings with just four races remaining. Hulkenberg confirmed his move to Renault this Friday, whilst Perez continues at Silverstone-based squad for 2017. Some feel Perez is occupying his seat for one more year in the hopes of a seat at Ferrari for 2018, as the contracts of Raikkonen and Vettel end next season. Other believe he has an eye on a seat at McLaren, but his relationship with the Woking-based squad was tarnished by his poor 2013 season with them.

Felipe Massa & Valtteri Bottas (Williams, P9 & P10)

An average season continues for this Banbury-squad, as retiring veteran Massa finally got one over his fledgling tam-mate Bottas. The Finn is rumoured to be lined up for the second seat at Renault, who are looking to revamp their team after a dismal 2016. Rumours of Lance Stroll & Felipe Nasr continue unabated, but outsiders such as Daniil Kvyat, Romain Grosjean & Pascal Wehrlein remain in the frame for seats at Williams.

REJECT OF THE DAY

Esteban Gutierrez (Haas, P20)

The 25 year-old Mexican’s hopes of a seat for 2017 continue to plummet by each passing race. Despite vowing to end his hoodoo of continually finishing P11, Gutierrez succeeded to outsmart himself and limp home in P20, a staggering ten places lower than where he started. The Haas car may be difficult to drive in race conditions, but he surely isn’t going to attract any suitors after this farcical performance.

Losers

Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes, P3)

The Englishman went into Japan ill-affording more points conceded to his arch-nemesis Rosberg, but once again Hamilton was completely trumped. There may be 100 points still available, but Rosberg can now finish P2 in the remaining four Grands Prix and win his first drivers’ championship, so Hamilton is in dire need of divine intervention. Speculation over what caused his poor starts left conspiracy theorists raging again, ranging from the damp surface on his particular gird slot of P2, where FIA had explicitly banned any drying of the start-finish straight 30 minutes before the race’s start, to his clutch slipping again. There was consternation over Verstappen’s defensive manoeuvre on the penultimate lap, however in hindsight, Hamilton could have chosen the outside line to avoid such a hoodwink. This will prove academic if Rosberg wins just one more race and seal this year’s title emphatically.

McLaren Honda (P-Nowhere)

In the space of just one Grand Prix weekend, McLaren swing from a double-points finish at Sepang to a horror return to the atrocious displays of their annus horribilis of 2015. Somehow, they failed to find a suitable set-up for Suzuka and this time they could not blame Honda; their chassis never achieved an optimum level of grip and handling required for the elevation changes in the fast corners, leaving Alonso and Button to perform even more abjectly in front of the “home” crowd than they did last year.

Blue Flags

On the tight, twisty confines of Suzuka, traffic was always going to be a major gremlin for front-runners, but the non-existent attrition rate of this year’s display left the big boys fuming in disgust. Depending on your criteria, this year’s Japanese Grand Prix is only the fifth in F1 history (and second race this season after Chinese Grand Prix) to have all starters finish past the chequered flag and classified, whereas if you include last year’s race (where Felipe Nasr’s Sauber was classified despite retiring two laps shy of the full distance) and the dubious 2005 US Grand Prix (where only six cars started and finished after the Michelin-shod cars withdrew before the start), this is the seventh race in F1 history to have all starters classified.

Pascal Wehrlein (Manor, P22)

The German joins Hans Hermann, Narain Karthikeyan and Jolyon Palmer on the ignoble list of drivers who finished last in races where starters finished. Of course, Patrick Friesacher and Felipe Nasr join the list if you include the classification of the actual starters and retired cars classified having completed at least 90% of the race distance.

2016 Malaysian Grand Prix Review: Up In Smoke

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DRIVER OF THE DAY

Nico Rosberg (P3)

A superb comeback after having been tapped around at Turn 1 on the first lap by Sebastian Vettel, thus being dropped to 21st. He may have been lucky in regards to Lewis Hamilton’s engine failure, which extended his championship lead to 23 points, but his tenacious overtakes were a sight to behold. His final pass of the race on Kimi Raikkonen was awe-inspiring in its execution, which was greeted by tumultuous approval from spectators. The stewards strangely decided to punished him with ten seconds added to his race time, but this was rendered academic by the German’s finishing margin of 13 seconds over the Finn. It was a performance of an increasingly probable world champion.

REJECT OF THE DAY

Lewis Hamilton (Ret, Engine)

Someone doesn’t want me to win this year but I won’t give up.

We have so many engines, but mine are the only ones failing. Someone needs to give me some answers.

A plethora of conspiracy theorists returned when the Briton appeared to insinuate accusations of sabotage within his Mercedes team. Hamilton is once again playing the victim card in the vein of his idol Ayrton Senna, leaving neutrals perturbed. The race result leaves the Briton requiring him to win all five remaining Grands Prix in order to win the WDC as a minimum requirement, barring any misfortunes for his embittered team-mate.

THE REST OF THE FIELD

Red Bull secured their first 1-2 since 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix, with a thrilling tussle through turns 5-8 on lap 39, but the Virtual Safety Car summoned on lap 41 due to Hamilton’s engine denotation saw team orders enforce a processional finish. Daniel Ricciardo took a well-deserved first victory since 2014, whilst Max Verstappen was content with a strong display. Kimi Raikkonen had an average race with P4, whilst Valtteri Bottas brought cheer to his beleaguered Williams team, finishing P5 after starting P11. Sergio Perez again toppled team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, as the Force India achieved P6 and P8, which consolidated P4 in the constructors’ standings and stretched their lead over Williams by three points. McLaren highlighted their immerse progress once again, with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button securing P7 and P9. Button’s qualifying lap of 1:34.518 was a staggering seven seconds faster than his 2015 qualifying lap at Sepang of 1:41.636. Alonso started P22 thanks to an egregious 45-place grid penalty, but pounced at the chaos at turn 1 in order to elevate himself to P12 when the Virtual Safety Car was enforced on lap 1. Jolyon Palmer finally scored his first ever point in F1, which atoned for his lamentable spin in Hungary where he had been running P10 likewise. The lack of horsepower of 2015-spec Ferrari engines proved a major nuisance for Toro Rosso, whose drivers Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat coasted home in P11 and P14. Marcus Ericsson drove a composed race to P12 for Sauber, but Felipe Massa suffered a hellish race, where his car’s throttle failed temporarily on the parade laps and his race was littered by tyre punctures and various maladies, finishing P13. The Manors of Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon had a feisty dice throughout the race, finishing P15 and P16, last of the classified finishers. Haas had a calamitous day, with Romain Grosjean’s brakes failing on lap 8 whilst running P10 and Esteban Gutierrez forced to park up after his insufficiently secured wheel came loose on lap 40. Sebastian Vettel was eliminated with his overzealous lunge on Verstappen at turn 1, where contact with Rosberg wedged his front-left wheel askewed. The stewards punished the 29 year old German with a three grid penalty retrospectively for the next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. Kevin Magnussen and Felipe Nasr were the two other retirees, with power loss and brake failures respectively.

DOFD

Grosjean (2) Rosberg (3) Magnussen (1) Verstappen (3) Ricciardo (2) Bottas (1) Perez (1) Raikkonen (1) Alonso (1) Vettel (1)

ROFD

F1 Authorities X2 Williams X1 Vettel X1 Kvyat X1  Rosberg X2 Hamilton X3 Hulkenberg X1 Gutierrez X1 Palmer X1 Verstappen X2 Nasr X2 Ericsson X1

2016 Singapore Grand Prix: Max Mania Continues

DRIVER OF THE DAY

Sebastian Vettel (P5, Ferrari)

In a trouble-filled weekend with pace and reliability issues, the German’s drive from P22 to a solid P5 is testament to his combativeness. It would be easy for the four time champ to lose his marbles at the Scuderia’s state of affairs, but Vettel continues to preach belief and positively in his media statements.

WINNERS

Nico Rosberg (P1, Mercedes)

A very worthy candidate of Driver of the Day himself. This weekend, Rosberg decimated teammate Lewis Hamilton in a manner rarely seen throughout their partnership of the past four years. In the closing stages, Rosberg may have slipped up at the sight of a rampant Daniel Ricciardo looming in his mirrors in previous seasons, but the German held firm. Once seen as a certain nearly-man of F1, Rosberg has transformed his critics’ opinions and maybe 2016 could finally be his crowning glory.

Daniel Ricciardo (P2, Red Bull)

The Honey Badger continues his upturn in form since mid-July, this time comprehensively defeating tyro teammate Max Verstappen emphatically. His economic usage of supersofts underline his ascendancy, consolidating his credentials for a potential championship challenge in 2017. In the closing laps, Ricciardo sliced the deficit to Rosberg rapidly, but arguably if the race had lasted a lap longer, the Australian could have been toasting his first victory of the season with a “shoey”. Ricciardo was also awarded the fastest lap of the race, his third of the season.

Lewis Hamilton (P3, Mercedes)

The Briton had a strange weekend. Completely overshadowed by Rosberg amidst rumours of sabotage on social media, Hamilton’s race worsened when Kimi Raikkonen pounced and overtook adroitly on lap 32 to leave red faces within the Mercedes garage. Ferrari’s perplexing decision to switch Kimi’s softs to used ultrasofts ultimately saved Hamilton’s bacon, but momentum has now swung firmly in Rosberg’s favour.

Kimi Raikkonen (P4, Ferrari)

Another case of what if. The Iceman has a patience of gold, as surely an average driver would lost his frustration at the Maranello squad’s mounting foibles. A superb drive that deserved so much more, especially when considering how Kimi outpaced Vettel in all three practice sessions.

Fernando Alonso (P7, McLaren-Honda)

The polarising Spaniard continues his 2016 revival, as Alonso thoroughly exploited the precise characteristics of his McLaren chassis to another solid points haul, making his soft compounds in his final stint last 27 laps. Why Ferrari didn’t follow this tactical decision with Raikkonen is an utter mystery.

Sergio Perez (P8, Force India)

After his petulant display in Saturday’s qualifying, where he repeatedly blocked cars and failed to slow for yellow flags, Perez exploited the first lap safety car to switch to softs, making his second set of softs on his final stint last a mammoth 42 laps. The Mexican’s market value is booming again.

Daniil Kvyat (P9, Toro Rosso)

In a difficult 2016, where the Russian’s motivation has come under question, this was the feisty performance he desperately needed to prove his doubters wrong. His overtake and subsequent defending against his swap partner Max Verstappen had the hallmarks of an intense rivalry, but also defiance from Kvyat against his finicky employers. If Dany is to remain in F1 for 2017, it is almost certain to be with a non-Red Bull affiliated outfit, so it was vital for the Russian to sell himself with an exhilarating display.

Kevin Magnussen (P10, Renault)

2016 has been a continuous series of underwhelming results from the Enstone-based squad, so it was vital Magnussen picked up the team’s first points since Russia. A scintillating start followed by his consistent stints on supersofts is a welcome change in the Dane’s undistinguished recent performances.

REJECT OF THE DAY

Max Verstappen (P6, Red Bull)

The Dutchman sited clutch issues as the source of his pathetic start, but it was inexcusable how he blocked off Carlos Sainz, causing a fast approaching Nico Hulkenberg to smash into the Spaniard’s Toro Rosso and end the German’s race. The remainder of Verstappen’s Grand Prix saw him humiliated in a fascinating tussle with Kvyat, whose staunch defence served a taste of the bratty youngster’s own medicine. Finishing the race 70 seconds behind surging teammate Ricciardo and struggling heavily with tyre degradation, Max’s late charge did little to disguise his poor day.

2016 Italian Grand Prix Review

Driver of the Day

Nico Rosberg

Controlled a processional race from start to finish. Trails Lewis Hamilton by only two points in the world championship.

Reject of the Day

Felipe Nasr

Stupid move on Jolyon Palmer, which ended the Sauber driver’s race and the resultant damage to the Renault eventually forced the Briton to quit. You plonker.

2016 Belgian Grand Prix Review: The Dawn of a New Villian

After a months’ break, I actually lost interest in F1 completely. Therefore, I only realised there was a race proceeding at 1355BST today! By this time, I was perplexed to see Raikkonen, Vettel & Verstappen significantly beneath their grid positions within the race order. I was shocked further to see only sixteen laps having completed. The horrific colossal crash of Kevin Magnussen was cataclysmic and replay videos on social media stupefied numerous users, as shards of carbon fibre disintegrated and exposed the survival cell of his Renault.

However, replays of what happened on the first lap angered me so much, I proceed to retweet posts attacking an overconfident and severely conceited driver. Of course, I will give my view of the collision within my notorious Reject of the Day section, where I will provide justified condemnation of the culprit (clue: it’s not a Ferrari driver).

Nico Rosberg drove a composed race to lead from lights to flag, cutting Lewis Hamilton’s points lead to nine. The Briton himself drove eloquently, however, his progress had been assisted by the multitude of collisions within the mid-pack and Mercedes’ astute pit wall vaulted his car through the order with adroit pit stop timing. Daniel Ricciardo continued his renaissance, firmly reestablishing his status as team leader at Red Bull. The Honey Badger remains the closer challenger to Merc drivers within the WDC, as he sits 81 points behind Rosberg with 8 races and a maximum of 200 points remaining. It would take a brave soul to bet in favour of a Daniel Ricciardo world championship, which would be almost certainly be the greatest upset in F1 history. The Australian has still yet to win a race this season, coming closest in Monaco, where his calamitous pit stop debacle costed him victory as Red Bull’s engineers infamously forgot to instruct the mechanics to bring out the nominated tyre compounds, due to a poorly-timed impromptu call by the team to tell Ricciardo to enter the pits so soon. Keke Rosberg won his first and only race of his 1982 World Championship victory at round 14, the so-called “Swiss Grand Prix” held in Dijon, France. It is up for contention amongst historians, if Ricciardo won his first victory of 2016 at Singapore Grand Prix (Round 15) or even later, if that particular race victory would be considered as “first victory of a world championship victory won at the latest stage of the season” as 1982 only had sixteen races (so therefore Keke won his first race with only two races (12.5%) remaining), whilst 2016 has 21 scheduled races.

Force India had a marvellous race, as 4th and 5th clocked up 22 points, vaulting them above Williams into 4th place in the Constructors’ standings, an all-time high for the SIlverstone-based squad. It is a historic achievement and an emotional fillip for its owner Vijay Mallya, who has had a tumultuous year, having been deported to his home country of India to face charges of money laudering. The result further consolidates the reputation of Nico Hulkenberg, still a podium virgin despite being so highly regarded, whilst Sergio Perez ponders a move to his team’s aforementioned rivals or Renault. Williams, however, will be mildly satisfied with 8th and 10th for Bottas and Massa, having reversed a steady decline into the midfield pack during previous races, but attention will turn to 2017 so a fightback for 4th will be mostly half-hearted.

Driver of the Day 

Fernando Alonso (6th, McLaren-Honda)

The wizened Spaniard proved himself again to be arguably F1’s most complete driver, expertly slicing his way into points-paying positions, having starting last due to power unit component changes. One might suggest that Ron Dennis and his cronies would be wise to extend Alonso’s contract into 2018, as any major improvements next season would spur their star driver to stick out for a potential third and final WDC to crown a glittering career.

REJECT (Cunt) of the Day

Max Verstappen (11th, Red Bull and somehow not disqualified)

*Deep breath*

Let’s look at the photographic evidence of the Lap 1 incident at La Source.

It’s been made very clear by the FIA that breaching track limits will see offending drivers punished accordingly. Some defendants may argue that as Max’s front left tyre was on the outside of the white line and had marginal contact will the grey asphalt, he was entitled to use almost the whole kerb to overtake Raikkonen on the inside. Others would argue a more experienced driver would brake earlier and wait to attempt a manoeurve on the run up to Les Combes, an argument I firmly agree with. The main proponent of the defendant’s argument were that Vettel had squeezed Raikkonen back onto the inside too much, but his mirrors clearly could not show him Verstappen approaching and taking an almost illegal tight inside line at La Source.

Was Max Verstappen at fault for Lap 1 La Source collision? GUILTY

This photo displays Max Verstappen’s full view of where both Ferrari were positioned on the entry to La Source. A fully responsible, mature driver would eschew such a heedless attempt to regain position after such a poor start from the front row.

The aftermath of the incident shows the right sided tyres of Verstappen’s car were positioned outside of the yellow and green rumble strips of the kerb he was using. This surely is a blatant breach of FIA’s track limit regulations and arises suspicions of prospective favourism towards their fledgling poster boy.

Max Verstappen’s worst crimes, however, were committed on Laps 12 and 13 in the run up to Les Combes. On both laps, he jinked to the right frantically when he saw Raikkonen approaching the inside line and the gif of his block on Lap 13 illustrates clearly how the Dutchboy has no regard for his competitors’ livelihood.

Astonishingly, Max wasn’t finished with Raikkonen. He proceeded to clearly push the Finn off onto the run-off area at Les Combes, even driving his own four tyres off-track to block his rival off! How Kimi restrained himself from badgering Max with vitriol post-race, I’ll never know, but it proves the extreme moral control he has is something I admire passionately.

We mustn’t forget Verstappen doing exactly the same stunt on Sergio Perez later in the race…

…. seriously Charlie Whiting, Jean Todt and any other FIA delegates, you have a clear agenda to promote this starlet as F1’s future by indulging his whims!

Let’s hope I’m in a substantially improved mood by the conclusion of next week’s Italian Grand Prix.