Lewis Hamilton takes first victory for Mercedes at Hungarian Grand Prix

With his first win for Mercedes now under his belt, Lewis Hamilton has now emerged as a serious title contender, taking a commanding victory in Hungary.

After his pole position yesterday, the Brit remarked that it would be a “miracle” if he could cling onto the lead by Lap 2. He did more than that though, stretching out a lead to his rivals during the race, and eventually cruising to the chequered flag.

At the start, Lewis got a clean start, while Sebastian Vettel was pressurised by Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg. Romain was squeezed off the racing line by the Red Bull, while Nico swiftly went backwards – clipping Felipe Massa’s front wing at Turn 5, and falling to 12th place. Grosjean then firmly held off Fernando Alonso, almost shoving him off the road to hold his position.

Up front, Hamilton and Vettel toyed with the DRS zone, but the Mercedes’ straight-line speed was enough for now. Grosjean kept the pressure on Vettel in the opening laps, but couldn’t get close enough to make a move.

It was expected that Mercedes would be forced to pit first, and there were few surprises when Hamilton pitted on Lap 10. He emerged behind Jenson Button, who would turn out to play a massive role in the development of the Grand Prix. Not wanting to be held up by his former teammate, Lewis executed a pass on the McLaren the following lap – which probably won him the race.

Like the race leader, Vettel also emerged behind Button, who had started on the prime tyres. However, Sebastian’s poor straight-line speed was to cripple his chances for victory, as while Hamilton sped away up front, the Red Bull languished behind an increasingly lacklustre McLaren. The same fate befell Grosjean, and the two could only watch as Lewis pulled out a 10 second gap.

A tense battle began to form, with Grosjean stalking Vettel, who in turn was watching Button’s pace carefully. Sebastian pounced first – on Lap 23, he pulled a brave move on Button at the unlikely spot of turn 4. Grosjean was eager to also put a move on Jenson, but whacked his wheel off the McLaren’s in the process, earning him an investigation by the stewards. Fernando Alonso, who by now had caught up to this battle, swiftly passed Button one turn later to continue his charge.

With possible wheel damage, Romain pitted on Lap 25 to check for any issues. He emerged behind Felipe Massa, and wasted no time trying to pass the Ferrari. While he pulled a fantastic move around the outside of turn 4, he had put all 4 wheels off the track while doing so, and suddenly he was under investigation again.

A few laps later, the Lotus driver was handed a drive-through for the Massa incident, while the Button clash would be investigated after the race. This scuppered any chances of a race win, but handed the advantage to his teammate, who had executed a 2-stop strategy plan to perfection.

Amidst the tense battles between Vettel, Grosjean, Button and Massa, Raikkonen had quietly used a longer second stint to leap into second place. He wasn’t the only one either – Mark Webber started on primes, and despite not making a single notable pass all day, he had crept up to 5th place, after temporarily leading the race earlier.

Annoyed after losing so much time, Vettel was forced to chase Raikkonen for second. But there was more than a slight chuckle heard in the Lotus garage soon after, after Vettel pitted from his second stop, and emerged behind Button yet again. Luckily, Jenson pitted within 2 laps, but even more damage had been done to the Red Bull’s chances.

After Vettel’s third pit stop of the day, he was left with 15 laps to close the gap to Kimi. With the advantage of fresher tyres, he quickly caught the Lotus, but passing it was another matter. Another tense battle ensued, with Sebastian having a look almost every single lap, but not being able to complete the pass. He had one final shot with 2 laps to go, trying to go around the outside of Turn 4, but Raikkonen slammed the door in Vettel’s face. In Kimi’s mind, this was payback for Sebastian beating him to the line in Germany the race before.

While it was mostly plain sailing for Hamilton in the second half of the race, there was a huge scare with 6 laps to go. Nico Rosberg, who had never really recovered from his first-lap shenanigans, suffered an engine fire and retired from the race. Worried faces were aplenty on the pit wall, but Lewis was unfazed, and took the chequered flag for the first time in 2013.

Raikkonen took second, as he does every time Hamilton wins in Hungary. Vettel was disappointed with 3rd, while Fernando Alonso just didn’t have the pace to keep up with the leaders in 4th. Romain Grosjean put the Ferrari under pressure in the final stint, but was held back. A 20-second time penalty for hitting Button negated any gains he would have made anyways.

Webber was 6th, Button 7th, Massa 8th and half a minute behind his teammate, Perez 9th, while Pastor Maldonado took the first point for Williams this season, although he was helped by Rosberg’s late retirement. Nico Hulkenberg was handed a drive-through penalty for pit lane speeding, so he could only manage 11th. Daniel Ricciardo couldn’t convert a good qualifying position into a result, and finished 15th.

The championship battle is now more interesting than ever. While Vettel now has a slightly better lead over Raikkonen and Alonso, he now must deal with the threat of Hamilton and Mercedes in time. The question is, can Lewis recover the 48-point deficit in time?

Hamilton scrapes unlikely Hungary pole position

After an entire weekend struggling with a car that was supposedly off the pace, Lewis Hamilton has enjoyed a sudden turnaround in luck, with a surprise pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes team languished in both Friday practice sessions, but were able to claw back the deficit to Red Bull and Lotus, with Hamilton and Rosberg taking 1st and 4th on the grid. A potential McLaren resurgence failed to materialise, while Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed another impressive qualifying performance.

Q1

Immensely hot conditions met the drivers on Saturday afternoon, with track temperatures approaching 50 degrees Celcuis for the entire session.

Esteban Gutierrez and Sergio Perez, both of which missed running in Saturday morning practice, were both able to compete. The Sauber driver locked up his tyres on several of his flying laps though, and qualified 17th.

Paul di Resta suffered another torrid session, and was knocked out of Q1 for the third time in 4 races. This time, the team were not to blame, as a simple lack of grip left the Force India sliding all over the track.

Caterham appeared to have pulled out a gap to Marussia over the 3-week break, with Pic and Van der Garde finishing comfortably ahead of Bianchi and Chilton.

Drivers knocked out of Q1:

17) Esteban Gutierrez – 1:21.724

18) Paul di Resta – 1:22.043

19) Charles Pic – 1:23.007

20) Giedo van der Garde – 1:23.333

21) Jules Bianchi – 1:23.787

22) Max Chilton – 1:23.997

Q2

In a turn of events as shocking as the Pope announcing he’s a Catholic, Mark Webber suffered a KERS failure and electrical issue in Q2, ruining any chances of competing at the front. His final lap put him 7th, but the team were unable to fix his issues for Q3.

Searing lap times from Sebastian Vettel and the Mercedes duo dropped the lap times below the 1:20 mark, while further back the gap between 8th and 12th places was less than a tenth of a second.

Daniel Ricciardo did his chances of a Red Bull drive no harm with another Q3-reaching effort, alongside Sergio Perez, although Jenson Button didn’t do as well. Their last-gasp attempts put Adrian Sutil and Nico Hulkenberg out of the final session.

Drivers knocked out of Q2:

11)  Adrian Sutil – 1:20.569

12) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:20.580

13) Jenson Button – 1:20.777

14) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:21.029

15) Pastor Maldonado – 1:21.133

16) Valtter Bottas -1:21.219

Q3

Both Rosberg and Hamilton, as well as Alonso and Raikkonen, did their first Q3 laps on scrubbed soft tyres, resulting in their lap times nearly a second off Vettel’s pace. Mark Webber made no appearance in this session, the team deciding that his car issues negated any advantages to setting a time.

Sergio Perez set a very slow time, albeit on the medium tyre, giving him a strategic advantage for tomorrow’s race. Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo lined up ahead of the McLaren driver.

The top 6 all went for one last attempt in the final few minutes, all on new soft tyres. Oddly enough, despite going extremely fast in the first sector, both Rosberg and Grosjean were unable to unseat the Red Bull. Fernando Alonso took what would become 5th position, with Kimi Raikkonen one place behind.

Lewis Hamilton had played down his chances of a win earlier this weekend, but pole position was still in reach, as demonstrated with a 1:19.388 lap time – just 0.038 seconds faster than Vettel. The Red Bull driver will start from the dirty side of the grid, but watch out for Romain Grosjean in 3rd, who has looked threatening all weekend.

Austrian Grand Prix set to return to 2014 F1 calendar

The Austrian Grand Prix is set to make a return to the F1 scene after a 10-year absence, after a deal was announced between the circuit and FOM today.

The Red Bull Ring, which formerly went under the name of A1 Ring, and previously the Osterreichring (in a different layout), is set to take place on the 6th of July 2014. The circuit was only reopened in 2011, after it was bought out and renovated by Red Bull.

It is reported that an agreement has been reached between Bernie Ecclestone and Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz to host the Grand Prix next year, although it is unclear for how many years the race will run for.

The track in its current layout is 4.3km long, but only has 10 corners. It is believed that there will not be any extensions to the circuit, meaning that it will almost certainly be the quickest lap on the F1 calendar next year.

FIA introduces new safety measures after cameraman accident

The FIA has decided to enforce new rules regarding the pit lane for the Hungarian Grand Prix onwards, after an FOM cameraman was struck by a wheel during last week’s German Grand Prix.

Paul Allen suffered a broken collarbone, broken ribs and a concussion after Mark Webber’s stray right rear wheel detached and hit the FOM employee. He is in a stable condition, but the FIA has decided to introduce measures to try to prevent this from happening again.

Only marshals and team personnel are allowed in the pit lane, while FOM approved media crew have been moved to the pit wall. Helmets are now mandatory for all team members involved in pit stops.

The reduction in pit lane speed limit – from 100kph to 80kph – has been fast-tracked so that it will be enforced at the next race. It is unclear whether the current 60kph speed limit during practice or qualifying will be changed.

The Singapore, Monaco and Australian Grands Prix circuits will have 60kph limits instead, since they feature much narrower pit lanes.

These measures were fast-tracked by Jean Jodt, who instructed the World Motor Sports Council to immediately ratify these changes. However, several complaints have already been voiced over these measures, noting that Allen wearing a helmet would not have prevented any injury. The death of Henry Surtees in 2009 after a wheel strike backs up this claim.

 

Vettel survives Lotus onslaught to win German Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel has taken his first ever home victory at the Nurburgring, defending valiantly against Kimi Raikkonen in the closing stages.

Both Vettel and Mark Webber swamped pole sitter Lewis Hamilton at the start, Mark almost snatching the lead, but was quickly pushed wide at Turn 1 by his teammate. Felipe Massa made a decent start, moving up to 6th, but a self-inflicted spin on Lap 4 resulted in yet another embarrassment for the floundering Ferrari driver.

Fernando Alonso didn’t perform well in the opening stint either. He was only 7th after the start, and made little progress on his opening set of prime tyres. However he seemed to gain pace after the first stop, and soon began to catch the leaders.

Webber kept up with Vettel’s pace after the start, but yet another botched pit stop ruined his race. Again, the rear left wheel wasn’t secured, and disaster struck when it fell off and collided with an FOM cameraman in the pit lane. Mark was wheeled back into his box, dropping him a lap down, while the cameraman was sent to hospital for checks.

High track temperatures meant both Lotus drivers were on fine form, with Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean putting heavy pressure on Hamilton in the first stint. An early pit stop for Grosjean propelled him into 2nd place, but Raikkonen wasn’t so lucky. He was stuck in the back of a train, led by Nico Rosberg, who hadn’t pitted quite as early, and held up his teammate and the Lotus up massively.

Nico was eventually instructed to release Lewis, which he eventually did on Lap 14, but the damage was done for Mercedes. Once Kimi got past the German, he quickly dispatched of Hamilton, and had to chase Grosjean down for 2nd.

In the middle of all these battles was Jenson Button. The McLaren driver ran a huge first stint, running as high as 4th up until Lap 20. The same strategy was applied by Nico Hulkenberg, another driver who appeared to be outperforming his car this weekend.

Romain had the advantage of a batter tyre strategy when chasing Vettel, but a Safety Car appearance ended that. It came out for a bizarre reason – after parking his Marussia with an engine failure, Jules Bianchi soon watched from the track barriers at the final chicane as his car began to roll across the track, almost colliding with race leader Vettel.

With all the frontrunners pitting earlier than expected, Grosjean’s advantage over Vettel was wiped out. Red Bull gained massively from the SC appearance, as Mark Webber was allowed to regain a lap, and was now able to fight his way back through the field.

Soon after the safety car, Vettel had to weather another problem – this time from his own car. His KERS began to malfunction, and Sebastian was forced to alternate between constant changes of the brake bias and occasional bursts of KERS to keep the system running. This allowed Grosjean and Raikkonen to close up on the leader.

Despite his KERS issues, Sebastian was able to fend off both Lotuses in his third stint. Lotus then opted for a split strategy to attack the Red Bull – Romain attempted to undercut Vettel, while Kimi ran a longer stint to outpace him.

Amazingly, neither worked. While Raikkonen may have been able to run until the finish, his team brought him in with 12 laps to go, surrendering the lead and possibly the win for a set of used soft tyres. Grosjean was ordered out of his teammate’s way, to allow a final attack.

Raikkonen wore down Vettel’s lead in the closing laps, getting tantalisingly close by the end, but was forced to concede defeat by the final corner. Sebastian extended his lead in the championship to 34 points, while Lotus took an impressive 2-3 finish, with Grosjean finally putting in another good drive this year.

Further back, Alonso put in blazingly fast laps on his last two stints to fight his way to 4th place, almost catching Grosjean in the process. Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were locked in a last-lap battle for 5th, until a slow Caterham lost Button time and the position. Jenson was left fuming, saying: “When you’re fighting for position, you expect the backmarkers to move over, even if they’re fighting for position themselves.”

Off-camera, Mark Webber had a spirited drive, recovering all the way to 7th place. Sergio Perez and Nico Rosberg couldn’t keep up with their teammates at all, while Nico Hulkenberg blasted his way from 15th to 10th in the final few laps, after pitting late for the option tyre.

This was a stunning win for Vettel – in a car not as fast as the Lotus, or as reliable as the Ferrari. Despite an extremely tense 30-lap battle, Sebastian remained cool and composed throughout, and this victory will be a huge stepping stone towards a potential fourth championship.

FOM cameraman hospitalised after pit lane accident

The FIA has confirmed that an FOM cameraman has been injured and taken to hospital, during an incident during today’s German Grand Prix.

Paul Allen was operating in the Lotus pit box, when he was struck by a stray wheel from Mark Webber’s Red Bull. He has since been trnasferred to hospital, and is reportedly conscious and talking to doctors.

The FIA statement reads as follows:

"During the German Grand Prix, an FOM cameraman in pit lane was struck by a loose 
wheel. Paul Allen was hit on the left hand side.

Remaining conscious, he was treated at the circuit medical centre and then 
transported by helicopter to Koblenz Hospital.

The Briton has been kept there, under observation. Further information from the 
hospital will be provided as soon as it becomes available.

Hamilton scrapes pole position for German Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton endured severe pressure from Sebastian Vettel to take pole position at the Nurburgring.

Teammate Nico Rosberg was hugely frustrated to be knocked out in Q2, while Ferrari are taking up an alternate strategy for tomorrow’s race. Here is what happened:

Q1

Williams suffered a disastrous performance at their 600th Grand Prix weekend, with both drivers failing to make the cut.

Drivers knocked out of Q1:

17) Valtteri Bottas – 1:31.693

18) Pastor Maldonado – 1:31.707

19) Charles Pic – 1:32.937

20) Jules Bianchi – 1:33.063

21) Giedo van der Garde – 1:33.734

22) Max Chilton – 1:34.098

Q2

Vettel’s 1:29.992 initially put him fastest, and indicated that the frontrunners were even faster than predicted. An impressive time from Romain Grosjean put him within 0.01 seconds of Vettel’s time.

The two Ferraris and Raikkonen soon knocked the Red Bull off its pedestal. However, the biggest shock of the session was when Nico Rosberg decided to stay in the garage, blinked, and found himself lying in 11th place. The Mercedes team were confident they would get through, but such was the pace of Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Button, Rosberg will start from 11th place.

Drivers knocked out of Q2:

11) Nico Rosberg – 1:30.326

12) Paul di Resta – 1:30.697

13) Sergio Perez – 1:30.933

14) Esteban Gutierrez – 1:31.010

15) Adrian Sutil – 1:31.010

16) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:31.104

Q3

With Rosberg out of the running, Hamilton was left to defend against both Red Bulls in Q3.

Both Ferraris and Jenson Button went out on the medium tyres, indicating that they didn’t feel that they were in the running. With Nico Hulkenberg opting not to set a time, this resulted in Daniel Ricciardo sealing an excellent 6th place on the grid.

A 1:29.622 for Vettel put him on provisional pole, with Hamilton soon retaking the lead. Webber’s first two sectors were faster, but a mistake at the end of his lap put him 3rd.

Sebastian’s final attempt put him a tenth ahead of Mercedes once again, but a stellar 1:29.398 from Lewis sealed his pole position. Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean didn’t have enough pace to challenge, and lined up 4th and 5th.

Where now for Formula 1 and Pirelli?

It’s obvious that the tyres failures that marred today’s British Grand Prix were extremely dangerous, and preventive measures must be put in place for the future. Although today’s debacle was not entirely their fault, the fact that the tyres have been delaminating in previous races as well proves that Pirelli needs to put in some serious work if it is to survive in this sport.

In both the Malaysian and Bahrain Grands Prix, Lewis Hamilton suffered tyre blowouts at high speed. Seeing as how the Mercedes is known to impose heavy wear on their tyres, it wouldn’t be out of the question to assume that degradation – a feature intentionally implemented by Pirelli – is contributing to these incidents.

However, the high degradation was requested by the FIA, in order to shift racing to a Canada 2010-style of tyre strategy. While this has worked (mostly), the consequences of high-fragility tyres are now clearly visible.

Pirelli are unlikely to revert to “concrete” tyres, as it would hurt their brand imaging to do such a u-turn in the public eye. However, it is completely unfeasible to keep the tyres the way they are, with such huge safety concerns having arisen this weekend.

Motorsport director Paul Hembery has already stated that the company’s new bonding method to construct the tyres is not the fault, so there is something more fundamental to blame. It is possible that the Turn 4 kerbs contributed to these incidents, but they are no different to any other kerbs on the calendar.

Therefore, it is likely that the 2013-spec tyres are reacting poorly to high levels of wear at demanding tracks like Silverstone. If this is the case, there wouldn’t have been a problem this weekend if Pirelli had originally had their way – the teams vetoed their suggestion to race more conservative constructs from early on this year.

In desperation, they turned to in-season testing, which I’m sure you’ve heard all about. Two tests were completed after Bahrain – one with Ferrari at the Sakhir circuit, and the infamous one with Mercedes in Barcelona. This only resulted in even more negative PR for the company that was only trying to fix a mess they were forced into.

If the drivers and teams are looking to ensure their safety on track, then they must be more willing to allow Pirelli to introduce changes. It is widely believed that Ferrari and Lotus vetoed Pirelli’s plans in order to gain an advantage over their rivals – and this must be stopped if the drivers’ safety is to be ensured.

At the very least, the next race at the Nurburgring will be much easier on the tyres than in Silverstone, as will the Hungaroring. Hopefully this will allow the teams, the FIA and Pirelli to work out a safe solution, not one that is manipulated in order to gain speed advantages at the cost of safety.

Points standings after British Grand Prix

Driver Standings

Driver Points
1 Sebastian Vettel 132
2 Fernando Alonso 111
3 Kimi Raikkonen 98
4 Lewis Hamilton 89
5 Mark Webber 87
6 Nico Rosberg 82
7 Felipe Massa 57
8 Paul di Resta 36
9 Romain Grosjean 26
10 Jenson Button 25
11 Adrian Sutil 23
12 Jean-Eric Vergne 13
13 Sergio Perez 12
14 Daniel Ricciardo 11
15 Nico Hulkenberg 6
16 Pastor Maldonado 0
17 Valtteri Bottas 0
18 Jules Bianchi 0
19 Charles Pic 0
20 Esteban Gutierrez  0
21 Giedo van der Garde  0
22 Max Chilton  0

Constructor Standings

Team Points
1 Red Bull 219
2 Mercedes 171
3 Ferrari 168
4 Lotus 124
5 Force India 59
6 McLaren 37
7 Toro Rosso 24
8 Sauber-Ferrari 6
9 Williams-Renault 0
10 Marussia-Cosworth 0
11 Caterham-Renault 0

Nico Rosberg wins bizarre British Grand Prix

Nico Rosberg has taken an unexpected victory today at Silverstone, after 4 tyre blowouts and a shock engine failure for other drivers gifted him first place.

Lewis Hamilton initially led proceedings, until the first of many tyre failures rocked his race. His left rear tyre was blown to bits, and the Mercedes driver dropped to last place after only 8 laps.

This granted Sebastian Vettel what appeared to be an easy victory. However, he was kept under pressure from Nico Rosberg throughout the race. While tyres were exploding left, right and centre, both Sebastian and Nico hung on, until a shock engine failure for the Red Bull put him out of the race, and granted Rosberg victory.

At the start, Rosberg had been jumped by Sebastian, while Mark Webber was shunted off the racing line by Romain Grosjean, and dropped to 14th place. Felipe Massa had a terrific start, leaping past his teammate up to 5th place.

Hamilton’s tyre failure destroyed his chances of victory soon after though, and Massa’s Ferrari suffered a similar fate only two laps later. This resulted in worried faces across the paddock, which was only made worse after Jean-Eric Vergne suffered a tyre explosion on the Hangar Straight on Lap 15.

The safety car was deployed to clear rubber debris, while team engineers examined tyre data from the first pit stops. Red Bull noticed that Vettel’s tyre had unusual cuts in the sidewalls, meaning they got extremely lucky with their pit stop.

Some engineers blamed the kerbs, the outside of which may have been causing unusual damage to the sidewall of the tyres. Others simply believed that the Pirellis weren’t standing up to regular wear, which is odd considering how the medium and hard compounds were being raced. Either way, it seemed as if a repeat of Indianapolis 2005 was on the cards.

The safety car peeled off on lap 22, with Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso becoming embroiled in a battle with Lewis Hamilton, who had recovered from last place. Alonso had made his way up from 10th on lap 1, getting past Daniel Ricciardo, Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta in quick succession earlier on.

Hamilton later had a fantastic battle with di Resta over 11th place, after his second stop. Up front, Rosberg began to slowly catch Vettel, but it proved to be unnecessary, as the Red Bull suffered a catastrophic engine failure, pulling over on the pit straight.

With the safety car out for the second time, Rosberg, Alonso and Webber all pitted. This time, it was Nico who was granted good luck, as it was revealed that his tyres were developing blisters near the end of his stint. With 10 laps to go, Rosberg led Raikkonen – who hadn’t pitted – , Adrian Sutil, Daniel Ricciardo, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber.

The second Red Bull driver swiftly found a way past the Ferrari, and set his sights on the leaders. Together with Fernando, they carved up Sutil and Ricciardo in a matter of minutes, and were immediately all over the back of Raikkonen battling for a podium finish.

Kimi was left to rue not pitting under the safety car, as he was dropped from 2nd to 4th. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton charged up the field from 9th place, making his way up to 5th by the final few laps.

With the Force India and Lotus dispatched, Webber began a last-gap charge to catch Rosberg, getting to within the 1-second window in the final lap. Depsite a nail-biting push, Nico just hung on to take his second win of the year by only 0.7 seconds, with Webber and Alonso joining him on the podium.

Sergio Perez – the fourth victim of Pirelli delaminations – was forced to retire in the closing laps. Hamilton passed Raikkonen for 4th place, while Felipe Massa recovered from last to 6th place, pipping the Force India of Sutil, who had been gunning for a podium finish.

Ricciardo and Paul di Resta were left stranded in 8th and 9th, while Nico Hulkenberg scraped a point for the struggling Sauber team. After 64 consecutive points-scoring finishes, McLaren have now failed to score a single point in the last 2 races.

While this race will be rembered for a thrilling finish and the closing up of the championship contenders, there must also be serious steps taken to ensure that these tyre failures never happen again.

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