Verstappen becomes youngest F1 winner on Red Bull Racing debut

Max Verstappen made Formula 1 history by taking victory at the Circuit de Catalunya on his first appearance as a Red Bull Racing driver.

On his debut drive for Milton Keynes-based team after recently swapping seats with Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso graduate Verstappen became the youngest driver to win a race at the age of 18 years and 227 days, beating Sebastian Vettel’s record by more than two years.

Verstappen led for the final 32 of the 66 laps as he completed a two-stop strategy to perfection, finishing just 0.6 seconds ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in his Ferrari, with Vettel third, a further 4.9 seconds down.

While such an achievement was unforgettable, the Spanish Grand Prix will be go down in motor sport history as to what unfolded between Hamilton and Rosberg.

From second on the grid Rosberg enjoyed a slightly better start than Hamilton on pole and passed his team-mate around the outside at Turn 1.

Out of Turn 3 Hamilton managed to gain a superb launch, moving into Rosberg’s slipstream and across to the right as he aimed for an overtake.

Rosberg aggressively covered off what was an ambitious move by Hamilton, who had managed to get his front wing aligned with his team-mate’s right-rear tyre.

Trying to avoid a collision Hamilton took to the grass, but immediately went into a slide and careered into Rosberg, sending both into the gravel at Turn 4.

Hamilton immediately covered his visor with both hands, and after a period of reflection sat in his car, later flung his steering wheel out in a fit of anger.

The incident immediately brought out the safety car, with Daniel Ricciardo leading new team-mate Verstappen, followed by the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr, who had started eighth, and the Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen.

After Vettel and Raikkonen eventually passed Sainz, a tense Red Bull versus Ferrari battle began.

They matched tactics at their first pit-stops for mediums, before both teams then split strategies.

Leader Ricciardo returned to soft rubber after his second stop – immediately indicating a three-stop plan – and was covered off by third-placed Vettel a lap later.

Verstappen, who had closed to within seven tenths of Ricciardo, and Raikkonen remained out, not pitting until laps 34 and 35 respectively and taking on medium tyres to commit to a two-stop strategy with a long stint to the finish.

After just eight laps on the softs, Ferrari made a tactical move by bringing in Vettel again for his third pit-stop, and moving back to the mediums.

Leader Ricciardo, following a poor few laps, took on his set of mediums after 43 laps, emerging some distance behind third-placed Vettel, with Verstappen holding on to a one-second cushion to Raikkonen at the front.

Despite constant pressure from Raikkonen, Verstappen stayed ahead to the chequered flag for a remarkable win.

As the lead quartet bunched up, Ricciardo attempted a pass on Vettel for third into Turn 1 with seven laps left, only to slightly overcook it and allow the four-time champion back through.

Vettel was forced to take evasive action to avoid hitting Ricciardo, and yet again an expletive-laden radio rant from the Ferrari driver.

Ricciardo kept pushing, but on the penultimate lap his right-rear tyre gave way, forcing him into the pits for a late change, and with such a significant gap to fifth-placed Valtteri Bottas in his Williams, he still claimed fourth.

Behind Bottas came Sainz, followed by the Force India of Sergio Perez, Felipe Massa’s Williams – charging from P18 on the grid – Jenson Button for McLaren, with Kvyat taking the final point with tenth.

Nico Hulkenberg was forced to retire after 21 laps following a small fire and with smoke coming from the back of his Force India, with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso following suit 25 laps later, bemoaning “no power”.

So a dramatic Spanish Grand Prix. The Mercedes self-destruct will be the major talking point as both Rosberg and Hamilton not given an inch. Yet, the feel good story from Barcelona is Verstappen winning his first race.

The youngest winner in the sport. On his debut with Red Bull Racing. Fantastic achievement. Here’s to many more for the Mad Max in Formula 1.

Spanish Grand Prix, race results after 66 laps:

1    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1h41m40.017s
2    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    0.616s
3    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    5.581s
4    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    43.950s
5    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    45.271s
6    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m01.395s
7    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m19.538s
8    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m20.707s
9    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    1 Lap
10    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1 Lap
11    Esteban Gutierrez    Haas-Ferrari    1 Lap
12    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1 Lap
13    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1 Lap
14    Kevin Magnussen    Renault    1 Lap
15    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    1 Lap
16    Pascal Wehrlein    Manor-Mercedes    1 Lap
17    Rio Haryanto    Manor-Mercedes    1 Lap
–    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    Retirement
–    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    Retirement
–    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    Retirement
–    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    Collision
–    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    Collision

Drivers’ standings:

1    Nico Rosberg    100
2    Kimi Raikkonen    61
3    Lewis Hamilton    57
4    Sebastian Vettel    48
5    Daniel Ricciardo    48
6    Max Verstappen    38
7    Felipe Massa    36
8    Valtteri Bottas    29
9    Daniil Kvyat    22
10    Romain Grosjean    22
11    Carlos Sainz    12
12    Fernando Alonso    8
13    Sergio Perez    8
14    Kevin Magnussen    6
15    Nico Hulkenberg    6
16    Jenson Button    3
17    Stoffel Vandoorne    1
18    Jolyon Palmer    0
19    Esteban Gutierrez    0
20    Marcus Ericsson    0
21    Pascal Wehrlein    0
22    Felipe Nasr    0
23    Rio Haryanto    0

Constructors’ standings:

1    Mercedes    157
2    Ferrari    109
3    Red Bull-Renault    94
4    Williams-Mercedes    65
5    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    26
6    Haas-Ferrari    22
7    Force India-Mercedes    14
8    McLaren-Honda    12
9    Renault    6
10    Sauber-Ferrari    0
11    Manor-Mercedes    0

Next race: Monaco Grand Prix, May 26-29. Monte Carlo.

Hamilton strikes back with Spanish Grand Prix pole

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton responding to his critics with pole position at the Circuit de Catalunya.

The Mercedes driver beat his team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg to P1. While Ferrari slipped behind in competitive form compared to Red Bull during qualifying.

Both Silver Arrows drivers made errors on their first flying lap in Q3, with Hamilton locking his brakes heavily at Turn 10.

But the defending champion recovered to grab pole position on his second run by 0.280 seconds from Rosberg.

Daniel Ricciardo qualified third quickest for Red Bull Racing, six tenths behind Rosberg’s Mercedes and just over two tenths clear of new team-mate Max Verstappen, who had split the Mercedes after the first runs in Q3.

Ferrari suffered a disappointing session, after a promising form in practice.

Kimi Raikkonen was only fifth quickest, just 0.026 seconds slower than Verstappen, while team-mate Sebastian Vettel qualified 0.221 seconds further back in sixth.

The Williams of Valtteri Bottas beat Carlos Sainz Jr’s Toro Rosso to seventh place by just over a tenth, with the Force India of Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso’s McLaren-Honda rounding out the top ten.

This was McLaren’s first top ten appearance and to have both Spanish drivers at the mid-range of the pack will give the home supporters a cheer.

Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India split the McLaren-Hondas, failing to make the pole shootout by just 0.011 seconds.

Jenson Button was P12, just under a tenth clear of Toro Rosso returnee Daniil Kvyat.

Romain Grosjean sat inside the top ten after the first runs in Q2, but fell back to P14 after disappointingly failing to improve on his second run.

He was split from Haas team-mate Esteban Gutierrez by another impressive performance from Renault’s Kevin Magnussen, who qualified P15 in his under-developed car.

The Williams of Felipe Massa fell unexpectedly in Q1, after he aborted his second run. A timing issue was the cause of the early elimination which affected his qualifying.

He ended up P19, just behind the Renault of Jolyon Palmer, who briefly looked set to make it through to Q2 before a late improvement by Button’s McLaren.

Sauber and Manor brought up the rear of the grid. As Marcus Ericsson trailed Felipe Nasr after their first runs, but improved substantially on his second to finish 0.377 seconds clear of his Sauber team-mate.

Pascal Wehrlein also turned tables on Manor team-mate Rio Haryanto during their second runs, with a lap that put him 0.194 seconds clear and less than two tenths shy of Nasr’s Sauber.

Spanish Grand Prix, qualifying times:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m22.000s
2    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    1m22.280s
3    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m22.680s
4    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m23.087s
5    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m23.113s
6    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m23.334s
7    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    1m23.522s
8    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m23.643s
9    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m23.782s
10    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m23.981s
11    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    1m24.203s
12    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    1m24.348s
13    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m24.445s
14    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m24.480s
15    Kevin Magnussen    Renault    1m24.625s
16    Esteban Gutierrez    Haas-Ferrari    1m24.778s
17    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1m24.903s
18    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m24.941s
19    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m25.202s
20    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    1m25.579s
21    Pascal Wehrlein    Manor-Mercedes    1m25.745s
22    Rio Haryanto    Manor-Mercedes    1m25.939s

Rosberg victorious for the seventh time

Championship leader Nico Rosberg dominated the Russian Grand Prix was ease to record his seventh straight victory in Formula 1.

His Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton was able to recovery from tenth to finish second. Despite a brief mid-race water-pressure scare.

Kimi Raikkonen took third for the Scuderia, which was the team’s 700th podium result in the sport.

As for his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel, he was out on the first lap no thanks to a double bash from ‘Russian torpedo’ Daniil Kvyat.

Vettel was attempting to pass Daniel Ricciardo for fifth up the inside into the Turn 2 on the opening lap, with Sergio Perez making it three wide on the outside line.

Vettel appeared to have made the move, only for Kvyat to tap the rear of the Ferrari and pitch it sideways and into Ricciardo, who in turn hit Perez and gave the Force India a right-rear puncture.

The Ferrari was then hit in the rear again by Kvyat in the fast Turn 3, pitching Vettel into the wall and out of the race and prompting a few F-bombs over the team radio.

Kvyat, who like team-mate Ricciardo had to pit for a new front wing, was given a ten-second stop and go penalty for causing the two collisions.

 

The safety car was deployed to clear up the wreckage of the Ferrari and the consequences of a separate incident in which Esteban Gutierrez hit Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India.

While Rosberg had the lead, Hamilton was running fifth, which became fourth position when he passed Felipe Massa’s Williams at Turn 2 at the restart.

Hamilton then dived up the inside of third-placed Kimi Raikkonen into Turn 4 on lap seven after The Iceman had a poor run out of the previous corner while chasing Valtteri Bottas.

Bottas was able to keep Hamilton behind when he pitted at the end of lap 16 of 53, with Hamilton emerging just behind after stopping a lap later.

But two laps later, the reigning champion was able to take second up the inside into Turn 2 even though Bottas also had the use of the DRS on the run to the corner thanks to the yet-to-stop Fernando Alonso being ahead.

Once in clear air, Hamilton did close on Rosberg, reducing the gap to 7.5 seconds by two-thirds distance prior to being warned of the water pressure issue that led to him easing off while it was checked.

The gap quickly extended to just over 13 seconds, with Rosberg eventually crossing the line 25 seconds clear after setting the fastest lap of the race on his penultimate time round the Sochi circuit.

Bottas lost out on the final podium position to Raikkonen, who ran four laps later in his first stint and emerged from his sole pitstop just in front of the Williams driver.

Massa had a lonely race to fifth, with the Williams team bringing him in for a late and risk-free stop at the end of lap 46 to switch to super-softs, presumably in case a safety car closed up the field again and he was able to attack.

He had a comfortable advantage over Fernando Alonso, who took his first points finish since last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

The double world champion capitalised on Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen retiring from sixth place with an engine problem.

Kevin Magnussen delivered a strong race to take his and Renault’s first points of the season in seventh, prevailing in a tight five-car battle for the minor points positions.

He led home Romain Grosjean, who took the new Haas team’s third points finish in four races.

Perez recovered to ninth, with Jenson Button passing Carlos Sainz Jr for the final point late on. Scoring a double points finish for McLaren.

Ricciardo could only recover to P12 ahead of Jolyon Palmer after initially switching onto medium rubber following the first-lap problems and then making a second stop to bolt on softs.

Team-mate Kvyat was P15, behind Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, after serving his penalty.

So four wins out of four for Nico Rosberg. The Mercedes driver is looking the clear favourite for the championship. Can Hamilton fight back? We shall see.

Russian Grand Prix, race results after 53 laps:

1    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    1h32m41.997s
2    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    25.022s
3    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    31.998s
4    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    50.217s
5    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m14.427s
6    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1 Lap
7    Kevin Magnussen    Renault    1 Lap
8    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1 Lap
9    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1 Lap
10    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    1 Lap
11    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-TAG Heuer    1 Lap
12    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1 Lap
13    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1 Lap
14    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1 Lap
15    Daniil Kvyat    Red Bull/TAG Heuer    1 Lap
16    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    1 Lap
17    Esteban Gutierrez    Haas-Ferrari    1 Lap
18    Pascal Wehrlein    Manor-Mercedes    2 Laps
–    Max Verstappen    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    Retirement
–    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    Collision
–    Rio Haryanto    Manor-Mercedes    Collision
–    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    Collision

Drivers’ standings:

1    Nico Rosberg    100
2    Lewis Hamilton    57
3    Kimi Raikkonen    43
4    Daniel Ricciardo    36
5    Sebastian Vettel    33
6    Felipe Massa    32
7    Romain Grosjean    22
8    Daniil Kvyat    21
9    Valtteri Bottas    19
10    Max Verstappen    13
11    Fernando Alonso    8
12    Kevin Magnussen    6
13    Nico Hulkenberg    6
14    Carlos Sainz    4
15    Sergio Perez    2
16    Jenson Button    1
17    Stoffel Vandoorne    1
18    Jolyon Palmer    0
19    Marcus Ericsson    0
20    Pascal Wehrlein    0
21    Felipe Nasr    0
22    Esteban Gutierrez    0
23    Rio Haryanto    0

Constructors’ standings:

1    Mercedes    157
2    Ferrari    76
3    Red Bull-TAG Heuer    57
4    Williams-Mercedes    51
5    Haas-Ferrari    22
6    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    17
7    McLaren-Honda    10
8    Force India-Mercedes    8
9    Renault    6
10    Sauber-Ferrari    0
11    Manor-Mercedes    0

Next race: Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Catalunya. May 13-15.

Rosberg on pole as trouble hits for Hamilton

Rosberg Russia qualifying 2016

Championship leader Nico Rosberg achieved his twenty-four career pole position in Formula 1 with ease at Sochi, while a power unit failure affected his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in taking part in the shoot out for P1.

Hamilton had a slight edge over his title rival in the first part of qualifying, but was trailing by nearly half a second in Q2 when he suffered a recurrence of the MGU-H failure that ruined his efforts at Shanghai.

That left Hamilton tenth and without a lap time in Q3, while Rosberg enjoyed a clear path to the front, beating Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari to the top spot by more than seven tenths of a second.

To further Hamilton’s misery, he faces a trip to the race stewards to explain why he failed to follow the proper procedure for rejoining from the Turn 2 run-off area after a Q1 error.

Rosberg was able to lap the Sochi circuit in one minute, 35 seconds mark in Q2 and Q3 comfortably. The Mercedes driver was on for a better lap at the end of Q3 before locking up his brakes and running off track at the end of the long back straight.

Vettel chipped his way into the low one minute, 36 seconds, but the team and the new, updated combustion power unit had no answer for the Silver Arrows’ impressive speed.

Vettel will start seventh following a penalty for changing his gearbox after Friday practice.

That means Williams driver Valtteri Bottas will enjoy his first front row start since the 2014 German Grand Prix, after outpacing fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen by 0.127 seconds.

Felipe Massa was fifth fastest, almost half a second adrift of his Williams team-mate, while Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull rounded out the top six.

Sergio Perez impressively split Ricciardo from Red Bull team-mate Daniil Kvyat by going seventh quickest.

Max Verstappen’s Toro Rosso lapped 0.124 seconds slower than Kvyat to end up ninth.

A late improvement from Kvyat in the final moments of Q2 pushed the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr to P11.

Sainz was unable to improve on his last run but remained half a tenth clear of Jenson Button in the better of the McLaren-Hondas.

Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was P13, reckoning a lap that was nearly half a second adrift of Perez in Q2 to be “as good as it gets”.

As for Fernando Alonso, the double world champion was 0.036 seconds slower in P14, and yet ahead of the Haas pairing of Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez, who were separated by less than a tenth as Grosjean continued to complain about the unpredictability of his car.

The Renaults of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer were more than two tenths away from making the Q2 cut, but separated by less than a tenth in P17 and P18.

Sauber’s Felipe Nasr lay above the cut-off after his first run in Q1, but he went off at the start of his second run and failed to improve his time.

Nasr wound up just 0.009 seconds shy of Palmer’s time but well clear of Pascal Wehrlein in the best of the Manor-Mercedes.

Marcus Ericsson seemed set to avoid a back-of-the-grid start after a last-gasp improvement, but Rio Haryanto hit back with a late show of his own to return the struggling Ericsson to the bottom of the grid.

Rosberg Mercedes Russia 2016

Qualifying results, Sochi:

1    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    1m35.417s
2    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    1m36.536s
3    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m36.663s
4    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m37.016s
5    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-TAG Heuer    1m37.125s
6    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m37.212s
7    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m36.123s*
8    Daniil Kvyat    Red Bull-TAG Heuer    1m37.459s
9    Max Verstappen    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m37.583s
10    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes   No time
11    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m37.652s
12    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    1m37.701s
13    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    1m37.771s
14    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m37.807s
15    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m38.055s
16    Esteban Gutierrez    Haas-Ferrari    1m38.115s
17    Kevin Magnussen    Renault    1m38.914s
18    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1m39.009s
19    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    1m39.018s
20    Pascal Wehrlein    Manor-Mercedes    1m39.399s
21    Rio Haryanto    Manor/Mercedes    1m39.463s
22    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m39.519s

*Five-place grid penalty for gearbox change

Rosberg scores hat trick of victories in China

Rosberg China 2016 winner

Nico Rosberg continued his winning form this season with his third victory for Mercedes at the Chinese Grand Prix.

This was Rosberg’s sixth consecutive victory, beating his team-mate Lewis Hamilton since last year’s Mexican Grand Prix.

This latest achievement means he opens up a 36-point lead over Hamilton.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished in second position, despite a clash with his Ferrari’s team-mate caused by Daniil Kvyat, who was able to complete the podium for Red Bull Racing.

As for Hamilton, starting from the back of the grid after a MGU-H failure during qualifying and subsequent power unit change post session, the reigning champion could do no better than seventh position.

But that’s only half the story of what was a chaotic race at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Chinese GP 2016 race

Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo took the lead into Turn 1 after beating polesitter Rosberg off the line from his own front-row position.

Behind the lead duo, Kimi Raikkonen locked up marginally at the first corner, forcing Ferrari team-mate Vettel to make a slightly evasive move.

But with Kvyat charging up the inside, Vettel manoeuvred his way back into his team-mate, sending The Iceman off the track and into the pits for repairs.

Vettel was angry over the team’s radio, blaming Kvyat as “a madman” who had made a “suicidal” move and arguing with him after the race.

Hamilton had made up five position into Turn 1, but after running over a piece of Raikkonen’s front wing, the champion was then hit by Felipe Nasr and ended up with his own front wing lodged under his Mercedes.

That caused damage to his Silver Arrows, resulting in a loss of downforce and hampering Hamilton’s recovery.

Leader Ricciardo’s hopes were dashed on lap three when, powering down the back straight and with Rosberg behind, he sustained a puncture to his left-rear tyre caused by debris on the track.

Shredded rubber on that part of the circuit prompted a safety car, and brought Raikkonen and Hamilton back into contention at the rear of the pack.

During the five laps the safety car was on track, Hamilton made two stops for tyres, taking on super-softs for one lap, and then back to another set of softs, the compound on which he had started, giving him free choice of Pirelli tyres for the rest of the Chinese Grand Prix.

Once the safety car was released, behind leader Rosberg a number of key players were out of position, with Vettel P15, Ricciardo P17, Raikkonen P19 and Hamilton P21.

What followed was an easy Sunday drive for Rosberg, while those behind attempted to work out the best strategy and tyres for any given part of the race, with positions changing constantly.

Kvyat ran second to Rosberg for most of the race, with Vettel using a brief hard-charging stint on super-softs to make progress through the traffic and catch him again.

They swapped positions immediately after the final pit stops, where Ferrari put Vettel on softs and he was able to quickly attack on the medium-shod Red Bull.

At one stage prior to his fourth pit stop after 21 laps Hamilton was running third as others pitted, but two further stops followed – for a total of five – dropping him down the order on both occasions.

Hamilton came back through to push Felipe Massa’s Williams for fourth, but was eventually passed by a flying Ricciardo and Raikkonen.

Ricciardo ultimately claimed fourth for the third successive race, with Raikkonen fifth, followed by Massa, Hamilton, the Toro Rosso pair of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr, with Valtteri Bottas completing the top ten.

Despite the numerous incidents, all 22 cars completed the race, with Jolyon Palmer for Renault the last of those to see the chequered flag.

So a dramatic Chinese Grand Prix. Mayhem on the opening lap with three champions receiving damage. The top drivers fighting back through the field and yet the championship leader extends the points lead with a great win.

Mercedes China 2016 win

Chinese Grand Prix, race results after 56 laps:

1    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team    1h38m53.891s
2    Sebastian Vettel    Scuderia Ferrari    37.776s
3    Daniil Kvyat    Red Bull Racing    45.936s
4    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull Racing    52.688s
5    Kimi Raikkonen    Scuderia Ferrari    1m05.872s
6    Felipe Massa    Williams Martini Racing    1m15.511s
7    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team    1m18.230s
8    Max Verstappen    Scuderia Toro Rosso    1m19.268s
9    Carlos Sainz    Scuderia Toro Rosso    1m24.127s
10    Valtteri Bottas    Williams Martini Racing    1m26.192s
11    Sergio Perez    Sahara Force India F1 Team    1m34.283s
12    Fernando Alonso    McLaren Honda    1m37.253s
13    Jenson Button    McLaren Honda    1m41.990s
14    Esteban Gutierrez    Haas F1 Team    1 Lap
15    Nico Hulkenberg    Sahara Force India F1 Team    1 Lap
16    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber F1 Team    1 Lap
17    Kevin Magnussen    Renault Sport F1 Team    1 Lap
18    Pascal Wehrlein    Manor Racing MRT    1 Lap
19    Romain Grosjean    Haas F1 Team    1 Lap
20    Felipe Nasr    Sauber F1 Team    1 Lap
21    Rio Haryanto    Manor Racing MRT    1 Lap
22    Jolyon Palmer    Renault Sport F1 Team    1 Lap

Drivers’ standings:

1    Nico Rosberg    75
2    Lewis Hamilton    39
3    Daniel Ricciardo    36
4    Sebastian Vettel    33
5    Kimi Raikkonen    28
6    Felipe Massa    22
7    Daniil Kvyat    21
8    Romain Grosjean    18
9    Max Verstappen    13
10    Valtteri Bottas    7
11    Nico Hulkenberg    6
12    Carlos Sainz    4
13    Stoffel Vandoorne    1
14    Kevin Magnussen    0
15    Sergio Perez    0
16    Jolyon Palmer    0
17    Marcus Ericsson    0
18    Fernando Alonso    0
19    Jenson Button    0
20    Pascal Wehrlein    0
21    Felipe Nasr    0
22    Esteban Gutierrez    0
23    Rio Haryanto    0

Constructors’ standings:

1    Mercedes    114
2    Ferrari    61
3    Red Bull-TAG Heuer    57
4    Williams-Mercedes    29
5    Haas-Ferrari    18
6    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    17
7    Force India-Mercedes    6
8    McLaren-Honda    1
9    Renault    0
10    Sauber-Ferrari    0
11    Manor-Mercedes    0

Next race: Russian Grand Prix, Sochi. April 29-May 1.

Mercedes front and back in China qualifying

Rosberg China 2016 qualifying

Championship leader Nico Rosberg recorded his twenty-third career pole position at the Chinese Grand Prix while his title rival Lewis Hamilton suffered a technical issue and will start last.

A five-place grid penalty for the reigning world champion Hamilton meant he was never going to start on pole, but his Mercedes failed to even figure in the battle thanks to an energy recovery system (ERS) problem that meant he was unable to escape Q1.

Friday practice pacesetter Kimi Raikkonen was on provisional pole after the first runs in Q3, but he made a mistake at the penultimate corner and couldn’t improve.

Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel only made a single run in Q3, but the end result was just fourth position.

China 2016 qualifying

Ricciardo therefore grabbed this opportunity with a superb final effort in his Red Bull, 0.055 seconds faster than Raikkonen’s Ferrari but over half a second down on Rosberg, who got through Q2 on soft tyres and can consequently start the race on a different strategy to the other front running cars.

So second position for Daniel Ricciardo is an impressive achievement. The potential for Red Bull and the honey badger looks good.

The Williams of Valtteri Bottas was fifth quickest, slightly slower than Vettel, while Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top six.

Sergio Perez was seventh fastest for Force India, ahead of the Toro Rosso pair of Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen.

Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten, but Force India will likely be penalised for an unsafe release after his car shed its left-front wheel in the closing minutes of Q2.

That prevented any drivers from completing second runs in this segment, and meant Felipe Massa’s Williams missed out on the top ten by just 0.014 seconds to Hulkenberg.

The McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, Romain Grosjean’s Haas, and the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr completed the top 16 in that order.

Alonso groaned repeatedly with frustration when told over McLaren’s radio that he would have to abort his second run, while team-mate Button’s response was “Are you kidding me?! One day we’ll show our true pace”.

Kevin Magnussen’s Renault and the Haas-Ferrari of Esteban Gutierrez both fell at the first part of qualifying, thanks to late improvements from the Saubers.

Magnussen, who lost most of Friday’s dry running to a rear suspension problem, almost did enough with his final flying lap, but Nasr bumped him out by less than a hundredth of a second.

Gutierrez ended up P18, paying the price for Haas completing its second Q1 runs too early as the track improved.

Renault’s Jolyon Palmer was nearly eight tenths slower in P19, but well ahead of Rio Haryanto’s Manor-Mercedes.

Hamilton’s ERS problems meant he failed to set a time in qualifying, but he will start last on account of a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix.

Bahrain qualifying star Pascal Wehrlein also failed to set a time, after the DTM champion lost control of his slick-shod car over a wet patch on the start/finish straight and glanced the barriers in the early stages of Q1.

That accident caused a lengthy delay to the session as marshals attempted to dry out this part of the circuit with a track sweeper.

So a Silver Arrows bookend. Championship challenger on pole position while defending title winner at the back. The honey badger can fight for glory. Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix is going to be exciting.

Rosberg China 2016

Qualifying standings, Chinese Grand Prix:

1    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    1m35.402s
2    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-TAG Heuer    1m35.917s
3    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m35.972s
4    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m36.246s
5    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    1m36.296s
6    Daniil Kvyat    Red Bull-TAG Heuer    1m36.399s
7    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m36.865s
8    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m36.881s
9    Max Verstappen    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m37.194s
10    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    No time
11    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m37.347s
12    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m38.826s
13    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    1m39.093s
14    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m39.830s
15    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m40.742s
16    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    1m42.430s
17    Kevin Magnussen    Renault    1m38.673s
18    Esteban Gutierrez    Haas-Ferrari    1m38.770s
19    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1m39.528s
20    Rio Haryanto    Manor-Mercedes    1m40.264s
21    Pascal Wehrlein    Manor-Mercedes    No time
22    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    No time

Rosberg extends lead in championship with Bahrain victory

Bahrain GP 2016 winner

Nico Rosberg extending his lead in the Formula 1 world championship with victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

This was Rosberg’s fifth consecutive victory and two on the trot this season. His Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton recovered from a first-lap clash against Valtteri Bottas to finish third.

Rosberg made the most of polesitter Hamilton’s slow getaway to lead into the first corner and then was relatively comfortable at the front, finishing 10.2 seconds clear of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen under the lights at Sakhir.

Hamilton bogged down at the start but was second into Turn 1 before the Mercedes driver was hit from the side by Valtteri Bottas, dropping him to ninth.

The reigning world champion suffered front wing damage in the moment but was able to continue, carving his way back through the field to rescue third and remain within 17 points of title rival Rosberg.

Raikkonen also recovered from a poor getaway but didn’t quite have enough speed to seriously challenge Rosberg for the lead in the closing stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Meanwhile, his team-mate Sebastian Vettel did not even make the start after suffering an engine failure on the formation lap.

It was very unfortunate to see Vettel had to pull out before the Bahrain Grand Prix got started. If the Ferrari was reliable, if would be fascinating to see the four-time champion fighting against the Silver Arrows.

At least Romain Grosjean provide some racing action, as he continued Haas’s brilliant start to the season with a superb fifth, having done three stints on the super-soft tyres, one position behind Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen bolted on a set of super-soft tyres late and surged past Felipe Massa to take sixth, with Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat also passing the Williams on the penultimate lap to take seventh.

Massa ran second early on after an impressive start, but dropped down the field as Williams opted for a two-stop strategy with two stints on the medium and he ended up eighth position.

Bottas, who had a drive-through penalty for causing a collision with Hamilton at the start, was ninth while McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, standing in for the injured Fernando Alonso, scored a point on his F1 debut with tenth.

This was a superb effort from the GP2 champion. Out qualifies his world champion team-mate Jenson Button and scores a point for himself and the McLaren-Honda team. We shall see if Vandoorne has another chance to drive in Formula 1 after this debut.

Kevin Magnussen was P11, ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, who had a feisty battle with team-mate Felipe Nasr, with the two making contact in the early stages.

The Sauber driver came out on top and ended up P12, with Nasr finishing down in P14 and complaining on team radio that the car “is terrible to drive”.

Pascal Wehrlein finished an impressive P13 for Manor with the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg P15 and P16 respectively.

Carlos Sainz Jr looked well-placed when the highest runner on the softs early on, but he picked up a puncture when he was clipped by Perez and later retired.

While Grosjean scored points for the second successive race, there was heartache for Haas team-mate Esteban Gutierrez who was running in the points one position behind Grosjean before pulling into the pits and retiring the car.

Jenson Button retired with an ERS problem while Renault’s Jolyon Palmer pulled into the pits at the end of the formation lap with a hydraulics issue.

So another victory for Nico Rosberg and Mercedes. The driver and car are in harmony. Lets see if this winning form continues.

Mercedes Bahrain GP 2016 race

Bahrain Grand Prix, after 57 laps:
1 Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    1h33m34.696s
2 Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    10.282s
3 Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    30.148s
4 Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-TAG Heuer    1m02.494s
5 Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m18.299s
6 Max Verstappen    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m20.929s
7 Daniil Kvyat    Red Bull-TAG Heuer    1 Lap
8 Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1 Lap
9 Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    1 Lap
10 Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    1 Lap
11 Kevin Magnussen    Renault    1 Lap
12 Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1 Lap
13 Pascal Wehrlein    Manor-Mercedes    1 Lap
14 Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    1 Lap
15 Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    1 Lap
16 Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1 Lap
17 Rio Haryanto    Manor-Mercedes    1 Lap
– Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    Retirement
– Esteban Gutierrez    Haas-Ferrari    Retirement
– Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    Retirement
– Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    Not started
– Jolyon Palmer    Renault    Not started

Drivers’ standings:
1    Nico Rosberg    50
2    Lewis Hamilton    33
3    Daniel Ricciardo    24
4    Kimi Raikkonen    18
5    Romain Grosjean    18
6    Sebastian Vettel    15
7    Felipe Massa    14
8    Max Verstappen    9
9    Nico Hulkenberg    6
10    Daniil Kvyat    6
11    Valtteri Bottas    6
12    Carlos Sainz    2
13    Stoffel Vandoorne    1
14    Kevin Magnussen    0
15    Jolyon Palmer    0
16    Marcus Ericsson    0
17    Sergio Perez    0
17    Pascal Wehrlein    0
19    Felipe Nasr    0
20    Jenson Button    0
21    Rio Haryanto    0

Constructors’ standings:
1    Mercedes    83
2    Ferrari    33
3    Red Bull-TAG Heuer    30
4    Williams-Mercedes    20
5    Haas-Ferrari    18
6    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    11
7    Force India-Mercedes    6
8    McLaren-Honda    1
9    Renault    0
10    Sauber-Ferrari    0
11    Manor-Mercedes    0

Next race: Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai. April 15-17.

Hamilton strikes back to grab Bahrain Grand Prix pole

Bahrain GP 2016 pole

Defending champion Lewis Hamilton edged out his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to secure pole position, breaking the lap record at the Bahrain International Circuit in the process.

Ferrari was a keen competitor to the Silver Arrows in qualifying, unlike at the previous race in Melbourne when the team had to order their drivers not to take part as a way of conserving tyres.

Hamilton was only fourth fastest after running wide at the final corner on his first attempt in Q3, but he produced the fastest lap of the weekend so far – a time of one minute, 29.493 seconds – when it counted to take the 51st pole of his Formula 1 career.

Rosberg led the way following the first runs in Q3, just under two tenths clear of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari. Rosberg improved by more than three tenths of a second on his second attempt, but Hamilton remained 0.077 seconds clear.

Bahrain GP 2016 qualifying

Vettel took third position, improving only slightly on his first Q3 effort, while team-mate Kimi Raikkonen dropped time in the first sector on his final lap so ended up fourth.

The rest of the Q3 runners only had sufficient time to complete single runs, thanks to the controversial elimination format being retained for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull was best-of-the-rest, nearly three tenths clear of the Williams of Valtteri Bottas.

Felipe Massa was just 0.002 seconds down in seventh, while Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India completed the top eight.

Romain Grosjean’s Haas and the Toro Rossos of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr all paid the price for staying in the pits after making single runs in Q2.

Hulkenberg was the only driver to attempt two runs in this segment and his second flying lap was enough to lift him to eighth position and knock Grosjean out of the final Q3 spot.

The lack of effort to return to the track despite having time to do so suggested Haas and Toro Rosso strategically preferred free choice of tyres for the race start, rather than higher grid positions.

Less than three tenths of a second covered Grosjean in ninth to Jenson Button in P14.

Verstappen and Sainz ended up P10 and P11, ahead of McLaren-Honda rookie Stoffel Vandoorne – who outqualified team-mate Button on his Formula 1 debut – and the Haas of Esteban Gutierrez and Button.

Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat endured another disappointing qualifying session, ending up P15 in a car comfortably quick enough for Q3.

Sergio Perez and the works Renaults of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer dropped out in Q1, along with both Manors and Saubers.

Perez only had time for one run, which proved insufficient to make the cut as others improved.

Pascal Wehrlein was the star of qualifying and was able to place his Manor-Mercedes in P16 with a last-gasp effort. Great achievement considering the DTM champion was less than three tenths shy of being good enough for Q2.

Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber was 0.034 seconds slower in P17, ahead of Perez, Magnussen (who will start from the pitlane after missing the weighbridge in practice) and Palmer.

Rio Haryanto’s Manor and Felipe Nasr’s Sauber propped up the timesheet.

Both were well adrift of the rest after completing solitary runs and had no time for a second effort.

Nasr’s lap was spoiled by a big lock-up under braking at Turn 1, so he ended up slowest.

The elimination qualifying was out in force for the second time despite unfavourable opinions from the drivers, team bosses and fans. The mixed up grid did not shuffle the pecking order and yet again Mercedes secured the front row.

Hopefully the sport’s rule makers can see this and reinstate the previous qualifying format. Seeing no cars on track as the minutes tick by brings no excitement, thrill or drama. For the television viewers and fans watching track side.

As for Lewis Hamilton, this 51st pole position is a grand achievement not only for the advancement in Formula 1 technology but the ability to fightback. Bring on the Bahrain Grand Prix and the duel in the desert.

Mercedes Bahrain GP 2016

Bahrain Grand Prix, qualifying positions:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m29.493s
2    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    1m29.570s
3    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m30.012s
4    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m30.244s
5    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-TAG Heuer    1m30.854s
6    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    1m31.153s
7    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m31.155s
8    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    1m31.620s
9    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m31.756s
10    Max Verstappen    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m31.772s
11    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m31.816s
12    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    1m31.934s
13    Esteban Gutierrez    Haas-Ferrari    1m31.945s
14    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    1m31.998s
15    Daniil Kvyat    Red Bull-TAG Heuer    1m32.241s
16    Pascal Wehrlein    Manor-Mercedes    1m32.806s
17    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m32.840s
18    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m32.911s
19    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1m33.438s
20    Rio Haryanto    Manor-Mercedes    1m34.190s
21    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    1m34.388s
22    Kevin Magnussen    Renault    1m33.181s

Rosberg takes victory in dramatic Australian Grand Prix

Rosberg AusGP 2016 winner

Nico Rosberg kicked off his new season with style with a fourth successive Formula 1 victory in a dramatic Australian Grand Prix which featured a nasty crash involving Fernando Alonso.

The Mercedes driver achieved his 15th career win, continuing his triumph form since the Mexican Grand Prix from 2015.

Rosberg finished eight seconds ahead of his team-mate and reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, while early race leader Sebastian Vettel had to settle with third for Ferrari.

The Australian Grand Prix, though, will be remembered for Alonso walking away from a lap 19 crash in which his McLaren  Honda ran into the back of Esteban Gutierrez’s Haas, slammed into the wall and then rolled violently through the gravel trap, forcing a red flag and a twenty minutes stoppage.

Following the elimination qualifying, which will revert back to the old format from the Bahrain Grand Prix after an urgent meeting of team bosses prior to the start, the race overall was a shot in the arm for the sport, despite the latest Mercedes one-two.

It started with Vettel making a brilliant start to come through between the front-row duo of Hamilton and Rosberg to take the lead into the first corner.

Behind the four-time champion, Rosberg edged Hamilton wide at Turn 1, and doing so allowed Raikkonen to nip through on the inside to claim second.

Hamilton was relegated to sixth position behind not only the Ferraris and Rosberg, but also Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen and Felipe Massa’s Williams.

It took four laps for Hamilton to overtake the Williams, and though soon up behind Verstappen he was unable to get close enough to pass, which allowed the leading trio to pull away by the first round of pit-stops.

The tyre choice was fascinating as Vettel and Raikkonen remained on the super-softs Pirelli, while Rosberg switched to softs, with an adrift Hamilton on mediums as Mercedes tried to get him to the end of the race on a one-stop strategy.

Alonso big crash AusGP 2016

The race was then transformed with the crash involving Alonso and Gutierrez, with all cars returning to the pits and many taking advantage of the red flag period to change tyres.

Rosberg followed Hamilton onto mediums, but the Ferraris stuck with super-softs and Daniel Ricciardo and the Toro Rossos softs as they restarted behind the safety car in the order Vettel, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Carlos Sainz Jr, Hamilton and Massa.

Raikkonen soon retired from third, his Ferrari appearing to suffer a power-unit failure, leading to flames emerging from the engine cover as he stopped outside his garage.

Vettel could not pull away on his super-softs and pitted on lap 35 of 57, handing the lead to Rosberg.

Hamilton was promoted to third by Vettel and the Toro Rossos stopping for tyres, then moved down the inside of the soon-to-pit Ricciardo for second with 16 laps to go, leaving him ten seconds behind his team-mate.

Rosberg managed to hold his ground over the closing laps to clinch his 15th win in Formula 1.

A small mistake by Hamilton on lap 51 brought Vettel into play for second, but the champion kept his rival at bay to claim the runner-up spot, helped by the Ferrari locking up and running onto the grass at the penultimate corner with two laps to the flag.

Ricciardo claimed fourth, followed by Massa, with Romain Grosjean scoring points for Haas on its debut, the first new team to do so since Toyota with Mika Salo in 2002.

Grosjean benefited from being able to make his sole tyre change under the red flag, meaning he effectively completed the race without pitting.

Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was seventh, followed by Valtteri Bottas for Williams, both unable to pass Grosjean despite following the Haas for half the race.

Sainz and Verstappen caught this group after their pitstops, and had a minor clash near the end that resulted in a spin for Verstappen.

Neither Renault scored on the works team’s return as Jolyon Palmer could only managed P11 while Kevin Magnussen suffered  a first-lap puncture but made it to the flag in P13.

For the second successive year in Melbourne Daniil Kvyat retired before the start, with the Red Bull grinding to a halt just behind the safety car as the grid formed.

So an exciting race and yet a familiar result on the podium. If Ferrari can challenge Mercedes on a consist basis, then we are set for a good season ahead.

Mercedes AusGP 2016

Australian Grand Prix, 57 laps:

1    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    1h48m15.565s
2    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    8.606s
3    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    9.643s
4    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-TAG Heuer    34.330s
5    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    58.979s
6    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m12.081s
7    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    1m14.199s
8    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    1m15.153s
9    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m15.680s
10    Max Verstappen    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m16.833s
11    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1m23.399s
12    Kevin Magnussen    Renault    1m25.606s
13    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m31.699s
14    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    1 Lap
15    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    1 Lap
16    Pascal Wehrlein    Manor-Mercedes    1 Lap
–    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    Retirement
–    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    Retirement
–    Rio Haryanto    Manor-Mercedes    Retirement
–    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    Collision
–    Esteban Gutierrez    Haas-Ferrari    Collision
–    Daniil Kvyat    Red Bull-TAG Heuer    Not started

Drivers’ standings:

1    Nico Rosberg    25
2    Lewis Hamilton    18
3    Sebastian Vettel    15
4    Daniel Ricciardo    12
5    Felipe Massa    10
6    Romain Grosjean    8
7    Nico Hulkenberg    6
8    Valtteri Bottas    4
9    Carlos Sainz    2
10    Max Verstappen    1

Constructors’ standings:

1    Mercedes    43
2    Ferrari    15
3    Williams-Mercedes    14
4    Red Bull-TAG Heuer    12
5    Haas-Ferrari    8
6    Force India-Mercedes    6
7    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    3
8    Renault    0
9    McLaren-Honda    0
10    Sauber-Ferrari    0
11    Manor-Mercedes    0

Next race: Bahrain Grand Prix, Bahrain International Circuit. April 1-3.

Hamilton achieves 50th career pole in new, confusing qualifying

Hamilton AusGP 2016 qualifying

The defending world champion Lewis Hamilton kicked off the new season with his 50th pole position at Melbourne, as the sport experimented with a new qualifying format for the first time since 2006.

In order to improve the show, new rules have been added so that the drivers will be under pressure to perform and more track action.

The elimination on each driver at every 90 seconds was a bid to mix-up the grid.

This created a rush to do fast lap times early on each session, and yet left insufficient times for slower runners to react to the threat of elimination.

Sure, there was a sense of excitement in Q1 and Q2, but the most important Q3 was an anti-climax.

In fact, the final qualifying segment was disastrous as the two Mercedes bothered to attempt second runs. Rival Ferrari just gave up after one run…

So the end result was Mercedes taking the front row thanks to Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg with challenger Sebastian Vettel third quickest.

That’s the same top three as last season’s qualifying without the new elimination format…

Hamilton led the way after the first runs and that time was already good enough for pole before he improved on his second attempt, thanks to team-mate Nico Rosberg falling short of the world champion’s earlier benchmark with his own final effort.

The remaining Q3 runners sat in their garages to watch themselves be eliminated from contention, and the pressure to get in and out of the pits in time for the Silver Arrows’ second runs meant there were no cars on track for the final two minutes of the session.

The Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen locked out row two, but ended up well adrift of the Mercedes, despite being promisingly close in final practice.

Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen qualified an excellent fifth, narrowly ahead of Felipe Massa’s Williams but over a second clear of Carlos Sainz Jr.

Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top eight, just 0.007 seconds slower than Sainz.

The McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, and the two works Renaults of Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen, were the early victims in Q2 with none of the four bothering to attempt second runs.

Alonso ended up in P12, just under two tenths faster than Button, while rookie Palmer edged Magnussen out by 0.141 seconds.

Sainz managed to escape elimination, on the edge of being dropped out after his first flying lap, but Valtteri Bottas failed to improve before the clock ran out on his Williams so he ended up P11, behind Force India pair Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg.

Both Manor drivers were sitting in their garages when Q1 elimination began, before Haas’s Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean were the first drivers to be eliminated while still on-track, after running out of time while attempting to go faster on a second set of tyres.

Daniil Kvyat was the highest profile casualty, ending up P18 fastest in a car easily good enough for the top ten…

The Red Bull driver was seen walking through the pitlane as his elimination time came up.

Sauber’s Felipe Nasr also ran out of time while on track, ending up P17.

That left Palmer battling Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson for the final Q2 spot.

Palmer vaulted up to P14, just ahead of Magnussen, with his final flying effort, while Ericsson locked up heavily at the penultimate corner so dropped to P16 and into elimination.

The new qualifying format was a complete joke. Confusing and unnecessary for the sake of the sport in an attempt to make it more exciting and unpredictable. In the end, the top drivers and teams qualified where they should be, rather than a mixed up grid.

The sport’s governing body needs to tweak this format to make it work but it was uncalled for. There are many issues with Formula 1 at the moment and qualifying is not one of them. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix!

Hamilton AusGP 2016

Qualifying results, Melbourne:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m23.837s
2    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    1m24.197s
3    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m24.675s
4    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m25.033s
5    Max Verstappen    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m25.434s
6    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m25.458s
7    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m25.582s
8    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-TAG Heuer    1m25.589s
9    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m25.753s
10    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    1m25.865s
11    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    1m25.961s
12    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m26.125s
13    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    1m26.304s
14    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1m27.601s
15    Kevin Magnussen    Renault    1m27.742s
16    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m27.435s
17    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    1m27.958s
18    Daniil Kvyat    Red Bull-TAG Heuer    1m28.006s
19    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m28.322s
20    Esteban Gutierrez    Haas-Ferrari    1m29.606s
21    Pascal Wehrlein    Manor-Mercedes    1m29.642s
22    Rio Haryanto    Manor-Mercedes    1m29.627s