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

Racing yellow for Renault F1

Reanult F1 yellow main

This is the definitive colour scheme for the Renault R.S.16 racing car in the upcoming Formula 1 season, as opposed to the launch livery which was unveiled on the eve of pre-season testing.

The initial look from the French manufacturer was complete black with flashes of yellow.

Renault, which took over Lotus name towards the end of last year following protracted negotiations, ran with that livery throughout the two pre-season tests at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.

But it has always been Renault’s intention to return to its more traditional roots in terms of its colour scheme.

The R.S.16 now sports a matt yellow body, with the front and rear wings in black and some small touches of gold towards the rear.

Reanult F1 yellow side

“Today is about what’s in the season to come, and the important thing is the colour, that it says a lot about your identity and who you stand for,” said Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul at the livery launch in Melbourne’s docklands area on March 16.

“Tonight is about our identity and what Renault stands for.

“I look around and it looks like people are trying to disappear from the tarmac, so we’ve gone for something different.

“I think it works well. We’ve gone for yellow, which has been the colour of Renault since 1946, so we’ve been true to our history.”

The colour is similar to that used on the Renault RS01 sportscar for its launch.

It is believed the matt finish across the entire car means a weight-saving of almost half a kilogram compared to the use of gloss.

Kudos to Team Enstone in adding a bold and vibrant colour as most of the Formula 1 grid are just shades of black and grey. The yellow livery definitely stands out.

Hopefully a bright colourful outlook can match the team’s performance during the 21-race calendar.

Reanult F1 yellow drivers

Channel 4’s exciting new presenters for Formula 1 2016 coverage

Channel 4 F1

Terrestrial television armchair Formula 1 fans are in for a treat with Channel 4 announcing a host of sporting and broadcasting stars to front the upcoming season.

Ex-Formula 1 driver Mark Webber, four-time world champion Alain Prost and commentator legend Murray Walker have joined a twelve-strong on-screen Channel 4 presenting team.

The channel is taking over the free-to-air television rights in a three-year deal from 2016 after the BBC ended its agreement early due to budget issues.

Channel 4’s first recruit, David Coulthard will be joined in the commentary box by Ben Edwards, continuing their partnership following a four-year stint at the Beeb.

Webber and former Williams development driver Susie Wolff will be analysts alongside Coulthard, with ex-BBC commentator Walker and Lewis Hamilton’s brother Nicolas also part of the line-up.

C4F1 Susie

Wolff said: “I’m very proud to be part of the Channel 4 team this season.

“The start of the Formula 1 season is not far away and we’re all raring to go.”

Prost will be part of the team at selected races, as will ex-BBC analyst Eddie Jordan, who will combine the role with his Top Gear duties.

Ex-HRT driver Karun Chandhok and Lee McKenzie will be the pitlane reporters while former Williams driver Bruno Senna will attend selected races as a guest pundit.

As for the main presenter, former T4 and X Factor USA host Steve Jones will anchor the coverage, with Coulthard the chief analyst alongside his commentary duties.

“I’m beyond excited to be part of Channel 4’s coverage,” said Jones. “I’m honoured to be working with such a line-up of names.”

It is thought Channel 4 will tweak the typical presentation model by rotating its talent team across the season.

Channel 4 will screen ten Grands Prix live and without advertising breaks per season, with the remainder to be shown as highlights.

So a big group of presenters to front the show. All big motorsport names. Plus the classic Fleetwood Mac ‘The Chain’ will be the signature tune. Bring on Channel 4 presents Formula 1.

Murray Walker C4F1

Scuderia Toro Rosso reveals 2016 paint job

Toro Rosso STR11

This is the new colour scheme for Scuderia Toro Rosso, which was unveiled at the Circuit de Catalunya on the start of the second pre-season test.

With a change from Renault to the Ferrari power unit, Toro Rosso was forced to delay the livery in order to focus on integrating the new engine. Hence the dark, plain look for the STR11 in the first pre-season test.

Ahead of the second and final test at the same venue, Toro Rosso drivers Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen rolled a cover off the new car in the pitlane.

The livery is once again predominantly dark blue, with an artistic ‘Red Bull’ on the engine cover.

On the rear wing, to replace former partner in oil company CEPSA, is Red Bull’s soft drink cola, ‘Simply Cola’, along with a variety of other Red Bull-based companies.

STR11 drivers

Toro Rosso completed a solid first week of running, with Verstappen and Sainz clocking up 231 and 216 laps respectively.

The combined total of 447 was second only to Mercedes whose drivers in Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg racked up an impressive 675 laps between them.

Toro Rosso said it had to use guesswork in accommodating the Ferrari engine at such a late stage, and it will – like the rest of the field – run new parts during the second test.

Toro Rosso STR11 front