Hamilton resisted Vettel challenge to take Sepang pole

Sepang 2015 F1 qualifiers

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton edged out Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari to pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix by less than a tenth of a second in a rain-affected qualifying.

Hamilton’s first flying lap on intermediate tyres in Q3 proved enough to secure P1, as Vettel split the reigning Formula 1 world champion from his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg with second.

The Silver Arrows drivers appeared to get in each other’s way in the crucial closing stages of Q3, and Hamilton failed to improve on his final run while Rosberg’s final lap was only good enough for third.

The Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat will line-up fourth and fifth, just ahead of the Toro Rosso of super rookie Max Verstappen, who rounded out the top six.

The drivers who began the delayed Q3 session on full wet tyres and had to switch to intermediates filled the remaining spots in the top ten.

Romain Grosjean’s Lotus split the Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, who could only manage seventh and ninth fastest times respectively, while Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber rounded out the Q3 times.

A thunderstorm in the early stages of Q2 effectively reduced the second segment of qualifying to a single-lap shootout, and delayed the final session by 30 minutes.

The big casualty of the scramble for track position to get one dry lap in before the rain came was Kimi Raikkonen.

The 2007 world champion was delayed at the final corner trying to pass Ericsson’s Sauber – the last car to make the cut in tenth –  and by being passed by Hamilton’s Mercedes at Turn 1, and wound up only P11.

Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus, the Force Indias of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez – who both ran on used medium tyres – and the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr – who impressively matched Vettel in setting the fourth quickest time in Q1 – were also eliminated.

Australian Grand Prix star Felipe Nasr had a troubled Q1, having struggled to get comfortable with his Sauber’s handling since taking his car back from Ferrari junior driver Raffaele Marciello after the first practice session.

The Brazilian qualified almost three tenths adrift of Perez and that same time margin ahead of Jenson Button’s McLaren-Honda.

Yet again, this was a difficult qualifying session for McLaren. With both cars knocked out in Q1. Making his Formula 1 return is Fernando Alonso but this was a shock to the double world champion to only be down in P18.

Manor GP has at least completed some track running this weekend, but failed to qualify within the 107 per cent cut-off in Q1.

Roberto Merhi set a time almost half a second too slow to make the cut-off. 7.4s shy of the outright pace compared to the leading Mercedes.

While a fuel system problem discovered in final practice confined his team-mate Will Stevens to the garage, so no lap time was set in qualifying.

Despite that, Stevens registered a lap quick enough to make the cut in the second free practice session.

Previously the stewards have allowed cars to start the race in such circumstances, even if they haven’t posted a time in qualifying.

The wet weather tried to spice up the establishing order of Formula 1 and yet the same result reveals Mercedes still the quickest car. Ferrari are a close competitor and it’s encouraging to see Vettel splitting the Silver Arrows.

As for Max Verstappen, this talented 17-year-old is doing a solid job for Toro Rosso. Hopefully his car can get to the end and score his first championship points.

Hamilton Sepang 2015

Qualifying times from Sepang:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m49.834s
2    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m49.908s
3    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    1m50.299s
4    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m51.541s
5    Daniil Kvyat    Red Bull-Renault    1m51.950s
6    Max Verstappen    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m51.980s
7    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m52.473s
8    Romain Grosjean    Lotus-Mercedes    1m52.980s
9    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    1m53.179s
10    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m53.260s
11    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m42.173s
12    Pastor Maldonado    Lotus-Mercedes    1m42.197s
13    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    1m43.022s
14    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m43.468s
15    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m43.700s
16    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    1m41.308s
17    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    1m41.635s
18    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m41.745s
19    Roberto Merhi    Manor-Ferrari    1m46.677s
20    Will Stevens    Manor-Ferrari

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Hamilton victorious in Australia

Australian GP 2015 winner

Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton scored his 34th career victory in Formula 1 with a commanding drive in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

This was the perfect result for the reigning world champions. Hamilton dominated this race from pole, while Nico Rosberg gave chase but had to settle for second, resulting in a one-two finish for Mercedes.

Hamilton led away from P1 in Melbourne and only momentarily lost the lead to his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg during the pitstop sequence before securing the first win of the new season.

Rosberg crossed the line second, 1.3 seconds adrift, and yet the advantage from Mercedes was impressive. Over 30 seconds clear of the field.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished in third on his debut with the Scuderia. The German benefitted from a mid-race pitstop to jump ahead of Felipe Massa’s Williams.

Just 15 cars started the Australian Grand Prix, with McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat stopping on their way to the grid with mechanical issues.

Valtteri Bottas had already been ruled out on medical grounds because of a back injury sustained in qualifying, while neither Manor ran all weekend as it continues its efforts to get back into the sport.

The field was further depleted after just a few corners, when Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was clipped by Carlos Sainz Jr’s Toro Rosso at Turn 1.

That nudged the Ferrari into Felipe Nasr’s Sauber, which then hit into Pastor Maldonado, spinning the Lotus driver into the barriers and out of the race.

That brought out the safety car and yet, it was further misery for Lotus after just one lap when Romain Grosjean was forced to retire due to a power issue on the formation lap.

Rookie Felipe Nasr provided Sauber with a sensational end to what has been a difficult weekend, which saw the team involved in a legal battle with Giedo van der Garde, as he finished a brilliant fifth.

It was an impressive debut for the Sauber racer, who was 12 seconds clear of home crowd favourite Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull.

Nasr’s team-mate Marcus Ericsson, who started P16, pulled off a late move on Sainz at Turn 13 to finish eighth, which failed to score a single championship point last season.

Nico Hulkenberg scored points for a Force India team that managed just two-and-a-half days of pre-season testing because of delays with the production of the 2015 chassis as ‘The Hulk’ finished seventh.

Sainz crossed the line ninth to score points on his debut, having lost a lot of time with a slow pitstop, while Force India’s Sergio Perez, who had a messy race, round out the top ten.

The Mexican spun, dropping to the back of the field, and then found himself facing the wrong way when he clumsily hit McLaren’s Jenson Button when attempting an opportunistic pass at Turn 3.

Button narrowly missed out on giving McLaren-Honda a remarkable points finish as he crossed the line P11 – and last.

And yet, it was the first time McLaren had managed to complete a race distance with its new car, following a troubled pre-season testing.

Raikkonen was on course to finish fourth, but during his second pit-stop his Ferrari team failed to fit the left-rear tyre properly.

The Iceman rejoined, but pulled off the track a few corners later and retired with his engineer saying “Sorry, Kimi” on team radio.

Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen, who became Formula 1’s youngest driver by taking the start, retired when running ninth with smoke pluming from the rear of the car.

It was a disappointing end for the Verstappen after an impressive 32 lap stint. He was on target to finish the race in the points, but his car let him down.

So a fantastic result for the world champions. Win number 30 for the Brackley-based team and 34 for the reigning world champion. The W06 Hybrid is one seriously fast car. Can anyone stop the Silver Arrows? We shall find out over the course of the season.

Hamilton car 2015

Australian Grand Prix, race results after 58 laps:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1h31m54.067s
2    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    1.640
3    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    25.523s
4    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    29.196s
5    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    1m26.149s
6    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1 Lap
7    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    1 Lap
8    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1 Lap
9    Carlos Sainz Jr.    Toro Rosso-Renault    1 Lap
10    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1 Lap
11    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    2 Laps

Retirements:

Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    Retirement
Max Verstappen    Toro Rosso-Renault
Kevin Magnussen    McLaren-Honda    Not started
Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    Withdrawn
Daniil Kvyat    Red Bull-Renault    Not started
Romain Grosjean    Lotus-Mercedes    Retirement
Pastor Maldonado    Lotus-Mercedes    Collision
Will Stevens    Manor-Ferrari    Withdrawn
Roberto Merhi    Manor-Ferrari    Withdrawn

Drivers’ championship:

1    Lewis Hamilton    25
2    Nico Rosberg    18
3    Sebastian Vettel    15
4    Felipe Massa    12
5    Felipe Nasr    10
6    Daniel Ricciardo    8
7    Nico Hulkenberg    6
8    Marcus Ericsson    4
9    Carlos Sainz Jr.    2
10    Sergio Perez    1
11    Jenson Button    0

Constructors’ championship:

1    Mercedes    43
2    Ferrari    15
3    Sauber-Ferrari    14
4    Williams-Mercedes    12
5    Red Bull-Renault    8
6    Force India-Mercedes    7
7    Toro Rosso-Renault    2
8    McLaren-Honda    0

Next race: Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang. March 27-29.

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Hamilton begins his title defence with Australian GP pole

AusGP 2015

Reigning Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton got his title defence off to a perfect start with pole position in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver edged his team-mate Nico Rosberg by almost six tenths of a second. His first flying lap was solid. One minute, 26.419 seconds was enough for provisional pole and that affect Rosberg, who ran wide onto    grass at the penultimate corner.

The 2008 and 2014 champion improved by just under a tenth on his final Q3 run to apply further pressure on Rosberg. The time? One minute, 26.327 seconds. Earning Hamilton his 39th career pole.

Felipe Massa claimed third on the grid for Williams, edging out the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel by just 0.039 seconds on his final run.

The Scuderia looked to have an advantage over Williams in the early stages of qualifying, but Massa found a crucial improvement at the end.

Kimi Raikkonen made it a Ferrari top five, lapping on the same tenth as Vettel and Massa, while the Williams of Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top six.

Bottas looked strong through the early stages in the session, but struggled with the brakes on his FW37 in Q3 and wound up over three tenths slower than his team-mate.

Home crowd favourite Daniel Ricciardo recovered from a pooe set of practice sessions to grab seventh spot on the grid, ahead of Toro Rosso rookie Carlos Sainz and the Lotus E23s of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado, which completed the top ten.

Sauber’s Felipe Nasr fell less than a tenth shy of beating Maldonado into the top ten shootout, on what has been a miserable weekend off-track for the team, but the Brazilian’s best lap was good enough for P11 on the grid.

Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen looked a genuine Q3 contender early on, but complained of some discomfort in the cockpit of his STR10 in Q2 and suffered a “big moment” at Turn 5 on his final flying lap, which was only good enough for P12.

Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat couldn’t recover sufficiently from a difficult final free practice session to make to Q3. The Russian wound up a lowly P13, two tenths clear of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez.

The Force India team-mates were separated by just 0.001 seconds as both VJM08s dropped out in Q2.

Manor GP failed to get its cars running in time for qualifying, meaning only three of the remaining entries could be eliminated in Q1.

After troubles in pre-season testing, McLaren-Honda faced an uphill struggle in Melbourne. Qualifying revealed the full result with Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen knocked out in Q1.

Button managed to lap within 0.046 seconds of Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber, which was the other victim of the Q1 cut-off.

However, the Swede lapped almost a full second slower than his team-mate Nasr, who was the slowest of the drivers to make it through to Q2.

So a fantastic start by Mercedes. Strongest car with so much speed advantage. Williams and Ferrari are the closest challengers. Should be an exciting race at Albert Park come race day.

AusGP 2015 sparks

Qualifying positions, Australian Grand Prix:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m26.327s
2    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    1m26.921s
3    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m27.718s
4    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m27.757s
5    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m27.790s
6    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    1m28.087s
7    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m28.329s
8    Carlos Sainz Jr.    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m28.510s
9    Romain Grosjean    Lotus-Mercedes    1m28.560s
10    Pastor Maldonado    Lotus-Mercedes    1m29.480s
11    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    1m28.800s
12    Max Verstappen    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m28.868s
13    Daniil Kvyat    Red Bull-Renault    1m29.070s
14    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    1m29.208s
15    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m29.209s
16    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m31.376s
17    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    1m31.422s
18    Kevin Magnussen    McLaren-Honda    1m32.037s

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Red Bull Racing unveils 2015 colours

RB11 colour front

Red Bull Racing has revealed its revised colours scheme for the upcoming Formula 1 season, over it’s unique black and while camouflage look.

The Milton-Keynes based outfit ran a spectacular camouflage livery during pre-season testing in Spain.

But for the new racing season, the team has tweaked its normal Red Bull colours.

An increase in purple hue, for title sponsor Infiniti, plus a larger Red Bull branding along the side of the nose.

Team principal Christian Horner mentioned a revamp to the Red Bull Racing livery that would pleased fans following the camouflage version.

They won’t be disappointed, because the livery will be even stronger,” he said.

“The livery is different every year – although you may not have noticed. Every year it has evolved, so just wait and see.”

I have to admit, the back and white camouflage Red Bull looked quite striking. At least this is more colourful!

RB11 colour side

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Force India finally reveals the VJM08 following delays

VJM08 F1 car

Following delays in the build of the new VJM08, Force India has finally revealed images of their 2015 challenger.

The Silverstone-based outfit were unable to take part in the two test sessions at Jerez and Barcelona but now the new car is ready, just in time for the final pre-season test before racing starts in the Australian Grand Prix next month.

Force India did some track running using the 2014 car at the Circuit de Catalunya and it was vital for the team and drivers in preparation for the new Formula 1 season.

Ahead of the final pre-season test which begins at Barcelona, Force India have now released the first image of the VJM08 and confirmed the car will arrive in Spain on the second day of running.

“The VJM08 will arrive in Barcelona on Friday morning and the final set-up will take place in the garage at the track,” Force India’s chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer said.

“We are aiming to get out on Friday and the new car will run as much as possible over the weekend.”

Szafnauer said the delayed build process had made rapid progress of late.

“It has progressed well over the last few days and the car has now been fired up at the factory,” he said.

“That’s always the key moment when the car truly comes to life.

“We have seen a tremendous effort from every department over the last few months to get us to this stage and we’re looking forward to seeing the car take to the track later this week.”

Although the team unveiled their newly “aggressive” livery for this season back in January, the first rendered image of the VJM08 reveals a shorter nose design than seen before.

Force India are once again powered by Mercedes power units and will field drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez.

VJM08 side

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Camouflage look for Red Bull Racing

RB11 front

Red Bull Racing’s new 2015 challenger has emerged for the first time at Jerez, with a distinctive and yet awesome camouflage livery.

The four-time champion outfil decided not to carry out any form of official launch or car unveiling for the Renault-powered RB11, instead heading straight out of the garage in the surprise colour scheme without any fanfare.

Daniel Ricciardo takes the honours of shaking down the RB11 on the first day of running at Jerez.

Scuderia Toro Rosso graduate Daniil Kvyat replaces Ferari-bound Sebastian Vettel as his team-mate for 2015.

RB11 car

Red Bull Racing’s chief engineering officer Rob Marshall, who has stepped into the new role following Adrian Newey’s change of emphasis, said that the majority of changes from the 2014 would be hard to spot, but that significant steps had been made.

“There are some changes that affect the shape of the front of the car but beyond that most of the changes are under the skin,” he said.

“We’ve identified the areas where we can make improvements and we’ve worked hard on these.

“There won’t be a lot that’s visible to the naked eye but a lot of hard work has gone into the bits that are hidden.”

Team boss Christian Horner had previously admitted that Red Bull Racing had opted for its tightest-ever car build programme in order to ensure that maximum developments were on the RB11.

RB11 side

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Mercedes officially unveil their title defender, the W06 Hybrid

W06 Hybrid front

The 2014 world champions Mercedes AMG Formula 1 have officially unveiled its W06 Hybrid at Jerez, ahead of the first pre-season test.

Mercedes hopes that this car can help defend their drivers’ and constructors’ crowns in the upcoming Formula 1 season, as testing kicks off.

“The launch of a new car is an exciting moment for everybody involved,” said Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport. “To see the product of all that hard work turn a wheel for the first time is a great source of pride – and rightly so.

W06 Hybrid car

“However, there is a long road ahead before we reach the first race. We must build a fast, reliable racing car to be able to compete with rivals whose ability and competitiveness can never be underestimated. At this point, every team is on zero points.”

The Silver Arrows completed a brief shakedown run earlier at Silverstone and the social media channel released a few initial ‘spyshots’ of the W06 Hybrid.

Title-winner Lewis Hamilton and championship runner-up Nico Rosberg tried the W06 Hybrid during the Silverstone run, with Rosberg set to carry out the first full test at Jerez before handing over to his team-mate for more development work.

W06 Hybrid car rear

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Toro Rosso launches STR10 on the eve of pre-season testing

Toro Rosso STR10

This is the new Scuderia Toro Rosso STR10 unveiled on the eve of the pre-season Formula 1 testing at Jerez.

The Renault-powered STR10 will be driven by all new line-up featuring two youngsters in the shape of Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen.

It’s a big risk from Toro Rosso to have two Formula 1 rookies. An experienced hand would have helped but the team decided not to retain Jean-Eric Vergne. As for promising Daniil Kvyat, he has been promoted to the Red Bull Racing for 2015.

Scuderia Toro Rosso’s team boss Franz Tost has declared the “unique” STR10 the best race car yet.

Toro Rosso STR10 side

“I am convinced it will be the best car we have ever built at Toro Rosso,” he said.

There has been a lot of hard work and a lot of investment in a unique design.

“The design looks clean. And if it looks clean and nice it should be fast.”

Carlos Sainz Jr will have the unique opportunity to shakedown the STR10 first come pre-season testing on February 1.

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Scuderia Ferrari unveils the SF15-T

SF15-T car

The most famous motor racing outfit has unveil their 2015 challenger with the SF15-T.

Ferrari hopes that this new Formula 1 car can get back into the winning circle thanks to a driver line-up in the shape of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.

After a disappointing 2014 season that has prompted a major management and staffing overhaul, the Maranello-based outfit is determined that the changes it has made will help move it back up the grid.

The James Allison-designed SF15-T features a long protruding nose and an aggressive sidepod concept.

Allison has commented that the main focus from the team is to resolve the issue regarding the “unacceptably large gap in our performance” last season, when Ferrari failed to win a race for the first time since 1993.

“We’ve tried to make sure the weaknesses we felt were particularly notable on the ’14 car were put right for the ’15 car,” he said.

SF15-T drivers

Allison added that the team have made major gains with the packaging of the car at the rear.

“The back of the car is something that is noticeably different from the 2014 car where we have been successful in pulling the bodywork much tighter to everything underneath the skin,” he explained.

“That’s been done through a lot of work not just in the wind tunnel but also in the design heart of the company to try and find radiator designs that were fundamentally more efficient. So for every square centimetre of radiator we’re able to extract more cooling this year than last and therefore able to close the car down at the back significantly.”

The front of the SF15-T features a long, smooth nose which is familiar from other designs which have already appeared following another change in the regulations.

“I think all the cars on the grid this year are going to be more appealing around the front,” said Allison, “because after after a few years of trying I think we’ve finally invented a regulation that gets what we wanted from a safety point of view but also doesn’t create the rather unappealing features of the last few years”.

“So I think everyone will look a lot prettier from the front and the 2015 Ferrari is, I think, nice in that regard.”

New signing Sebastian Vettel will be given the unique opportunity to shakedown the car in the first official run at Jerez.

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Sauber C34 goes bold and blue

Sauber C34

This is the new bold look for Sauber. The familiar fifty shade of grey over the last couple of seasons has been replaced by blue as the team unveiled images of its new C34 online.

Following a disappointing 2014 Formula 1 campaign, where it failed to score a single world championship point, the Swiss-based outfit is hoping it can rediscover the form that had it fighting for podiums in previous seasons.

Sauber has opted for a fresh new look for the 2015 championship ahead, with its colour scheme switching from white and grey to blue and yellow.

The Ferrari-powered car also has a striking nose design – featuring a more rounded front edge than seen on the other 2015 cars so far.

Sauber’s design team has focused on three areas for improvement over last year’s car: better performance in slow-speed corners, weight reduction and improved braking stability.

The car features slimmer sidepods compared to the C33, and the team has overhauled its radiator concept and now mounted them horizontally.

Packaging around the rear of the car is much tighter, and Sauber’s quest to get under the weight limit to allow maximum ballast has been boosted by the raising of F1’s minimum weight limit to 702kg.

The team also has an all-new driver line-up for 2015, as Marcus Ericsson joins Formula 1 rookie Felipe Nasr in place of Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez.

Ericsson will be the first man to drive the car when he takes to the track at Jerez on Sunday.

Sauber plans to use an interim version of the car for the first test, which will include some parts still from the C33. These will be replaced with bespoke 2015 components ahead of the season.

Sauber C34 side

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