The Iceman is back! Kimi Raikkonen takes Monaco Grand Prix pole

Kimi Raikkonen claimed his first Formula 1 pole position since 2008 in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix for Scuderia Ferrari.

This has been a long time coming for The Iceman. Formula 1 has gone through so many sport regulations such as groove tyres, KERS, DRS and now hybrid power units. Raikkonen has been in this game for a while so it’s refreshing to see Kimi back on top.

Raikkonen’s Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel had set the pace in practice (in FP2 and FP3), but Raikkonen moved ahead in Q2 and stayed there, eventually claiming the top spot by just 0.043 seconds as Vettel just fell short in Q3.

Valtteri Bottas was third in the best of the Mercedes, just 0.002 seconds behind Vettel, while team-mate Hamilton was forced to watch from the sidelines.

Lewis Hamilton struggled for speed throughout Q1 and Q2, and almost crashed twice after losing the rear end of his Mercedes at Massenet and Casino Square.

The triple world champion was down in P14 in Q2, as Ferrari set the pace, but looked on a lap good enough to make Q3 before Stoffel Vandoorne crashed his McLaren-Honda at the Swimming Pool.

That forced Hamilton to abandon his lap and means he will have a challenging Monte Carlo race in the midfield.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified fourth in Hamilton’s absence, a big advantage over team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

A late improvement from Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz in Q3 lifted him to a season’s best sixth, ahead of Sergio Perez’s Force India and Romain Grosjean’s Haas.

Jenson Button qualified ninth on his return to Formula 1 in place of Fernando Alonso, but Button’s McLaren-Honda will drop to the back of the grid thanks to a 15-place penalty for engine component changes ahead of final practice.

Button’s team-mate Vandoorne rounded out the top ten, though he failed to participate in Q3 after that Q2 crash.

He will drop three places on account of a penalty for clashing with Felipe Massa at the previous race in Spain.

Vandoorne’s shunt also prevented the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat from improving at the end of Q2, so one of the stars of Thursday practice wound up only P11 in qualifying.

Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault was P12, ahead of Kevin Magnussen’s Haas (which wasn’t affected by the yellow flags), Hamilton and the Williams of Massa, who also hadn’t set a representative time before having to abort his final flying lap thanks to the Vandoorne incident.

A last gasp effort from Grosjean knocked Esteban Ocon out in Q1.

Grosjean spun at Mirabeau in the early stages of that session, but ultimately did enough to progress.

Force India repaired Ocon’s car following a final practice crash in time to complete the final ten minutes of Q1, and Ocon looked safely through to Q2 until Grosjean’s late show.

Ocon missed the cut by 0.202 seconds but was well clear of the second Renault of Jolyon Palmer, who complained of too much understeer as he struggled to P17.

Lance Stroll’s Williams was almost two tenths slower in P18, the Canadian having to cut short his run thanks to a hydraulic leak.

He ended up ahead of only Sauber pairing Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, who clouted the barrier at the Nouvelle chicane on his final Q1 lap and had to pull off into the escape road with a broken left-rear wheel.

So a fantastic result for Scuderia Ferrari. An all red front row with the sport’s most popular driver in pole position. Overtaking in Monaco Grand Prix is very difficult and Kimi Raikkonen has a good chance of scoring that long overdue victory.

Qualifying results, Monaco Grand Prix:

1    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m12.178s
2    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m12.221s
3    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    1m12.223s
4    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m12.496s
5    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m12.998s
6    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m13.162s
7    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m13.329s
8    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m13.349s
9    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m13.516s
10    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    1m13.628s
11    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    1m13.959s
12    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    No time*
13    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m14.106s
14    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m20.529s
15    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    1m14.101s
16    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1m14.696s
17    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    1m14.893s
18    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    1m15.159s
19    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m15.276s
20    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    1m13.613s*

*Grid penalties for the McLaren drivers. Stoffel for crashing into Massa at Spanish Grand Prix. Button with a change to power unit.

Hamilton victorious in Spain by beating Vettel

Lewis Hamilton won a thrilling battle with Sebastian Vettel to win the Spanish Grand Prix and close the points gap to his rival in the Formula 1 drivers’ standings.

Hamilton recovered from losing the lead to Vettel at the start by reclaiming first place on track in a final-stint battle that included the two champs banging wheels.

Mercedes driver Hamilton crossed the line 3.4 seconds clear of Vettel’s Ferrari, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo completing the podium.

Valtteri Bottas, who won the previous race in Russia, was on course to finish third, but retired when his Mercedes power unit expired with a third of the race to go.

Bottas had earlier triggered the exits of last year’s Spanish Grand Prix lead players of Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen, when he tagged Raikkonen into the first corner of the race and sent the Ferrari sideways into Verstappen’s Red Bull.

While Bottas continued, Raikkonen and Verstappen were out with heavy damage.

Ahead of that incident, Vettel had made a sensational getaway from second on the grid to move ahead of Hamilton into Turn 1.

Vettel went about gradually increasing his lead before pitting for another set of softs at the end of lap 14 of 66 and suffering a minor delay on the front left.

Mercedes decided to keep Hamilton out, and he immediately pumped in the fastest lap of the race and stretched his stint by an extra five laps.

When he did come in, Hamilton took on the medium tyres – and he was helped by Bottas staying out even longer and holding Vettel up for a spell until a bold pass in which Ferrari jinked from one side of the pits straight to the other and brushed the grass before completing the move.

The race swung back to Hamilton when Mercedes pitted him just as a virtual safety car – caused when Stoffel Vandoorne ended up in the gravel at Turn 1 after banging wheels with Felipe Massa – ended.

Hamilton rejoined on soft tyres, 24 seconds behind Vettel.

Ferrari immediately pitted Vettel for mediums on the next lap, but Hamilton was alongside as he rejoined.

Hamilton kept his foot in and tried to go around the outside but Vettel squeezed him and they touched, with Hamilton taking to the run-off.

The three-time world champion regrouped, got back on the attack and five laps later – on lap 44 no less –  the move was done with DRS help around the outside into Turn 1.

Hamilton then controlled the gap to Vettel behind to take his second victory of the 2017 season.

Behind the lonely Ricciardo, Force India continued its impressive start to the season with Sergio Perez fourth and Esteban Ocon a career-best fifth.

Nico Hulkenberg secured his best result for Renault with sixth.

A brilliant drive on a unique one-stop strategy brought Pascal Wehrlein up to seventh on the road for Sauber.

Although a five-second time penalty for failing to stay to the correct side of the pit entry bollard meant he lost that position to Carlos Sainz, Wehrlein’s late burst of speed meant he still secured eighth rather than falling right out of the points as initially seemed likely.

Sainz spent most of the race in a spectacular battle with Kevin Magnussen, who lost a likely point when contact with Daniil Kvyat left him with a puncture.

Kvyat and Romain Grosjean completed the top ten.

After his heroic qualifying performance, Fernando Alonso immediately fell back from his seventh place having made contact with Felipe Massa at the first corner.

While Massa had to pit with a puncture, Alonso continued in P11 but his pace faded later on before a late third stop for fresh softs allowed him to charge back to P12 – his first race finish of 2017.

Overall, a fantastic result for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton. That wheel-to-wheel duel with Sebastian Vettel was entertaining and I look forward to the next race as the two champions fight for title honours.

Spanish Grand Prix, race results after 66 laps:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1h35m56.497s
2    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    3.490s
3    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m13.978s
4    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1 Lap
5    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    1 Lap
6    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    1 Lap
7    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    1 Lap
8    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    1 Lap
9    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Renault    1 Lap
10    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1 Lap
11    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    2 Laps
12    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    2 Laps
13    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    2 Laps
14    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    2 Laps
15    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    2 Laps
16    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    2 Laps
–    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    Power Unit
–    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    Collision
–    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    Collision
–    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    Collision

Drivers’ standings:

1    Sebastian Vettel    104
2    Lewis Hamilton    98
3    Valtteri Bottas    63
4    Kimi Raikkonen    49
5    Daniel Ricciardo    37
6    Max Verstappen    35
7    Sergio Perez    34
8    Esteban Ocon    19
9    Felipe Massa    18
10    Carlos Sainz    15
11    Nico Hulkenberg    14
12    Pascal Wehrlein    6
13    Romain Grosjean    5
14    Kevin Magnussen    4
15    Daniil Kvyat    4
16    Marcus Ericsson    0
17    Lance Stroll    0
18    Fernando Alonso    0
19    Antonio Giovinazzi    0
20    Jolyon Palmer    0
21    Stoffel Vandoorne    0

Constructors’ standings:

1    Mercedes    161
2    Ferrari    153
3    Red Bull-Renault    72
4    Force India-Mercedes    53
5    Toro Rosso-Renault    19
6    Williams-Mercedes    18
7    Renault    14
8    Haas-Ferrari    9
9    Sauber-Ferrari    6
10    McLaren-Honda    0

Hamilton beats Vettel to Spanish pole by a margin of 0.051 seconds

Lewis Hamilton beat his Formula 1 championship rival Sebastian Vettel to pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix by less than one tenth of a second after a thrilling qualifying duel.

Ferrari had set the pace in final practice at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, but Hamilton’s Mercedes held the advantage in qualifying after the first runs in Q3, setting a time of one minute, 19.149 seconds that would eventually became pole when Hamilton failed to improve on his second run.

Vettel suffered from a de-rating of his Ferrari’s energy recovery system during his first Q3 run, and was a distant fourth quickest as a result, but he was lapping comfortably faster than Hamilton’s pole time on his final run before locking up at the final chicane.

Vettel eventually cut the timing beam in one minute, 19.200 seconds, half a tenth down on Hamilton, apologising to Ferrari on the radio for the mistake.

Russian Grand Prix winner Valtteri Bottas was third fastest, recovering from a wild slide exiting the chicane on his first Q3 run to ultimately lap 0.173 seconds slower than Vettel with a small improvement on his second run.

Bottas described his performance as “not good enough”, but it was enough to beat his fellow countryman, Kimi Raikkonen to fourth.

The Ferrari driver suffered an oversteer moment at Turn 12 on his first Q3 run and lost time in sector two on his final effort.

Max Verstappen was well clear of Daniel Ricciardo in the private battle between Red Bulls to be fifth, while Fernando Alonso produced an awesome performance to haul McLaren-Honda into Q3 for the first time this season and qualify seventh fastest.

The home crowd favourite had a difficult start in practice with an oil leak. Alonso was so fed up with this McLaren-Honda technical issue that he returned back to hotel to play tennis! Come qualifying, Fernando produced miracles to qualify in seventh place.

Force India got both its cars into the top ten again, sandwiching Felipe Massa’s ninth placed Williams.

Sergio Perez was eighth and Esteban Ocon tenth, Ocon feeling his lost two tenths after failing to engage DRS at a crucial moment.

Kevin Magnussen missed out on making the top ten by less than a tenth, while Haas team-mate Romain Grosjean wound up down in P14 after losing the rear end of his car and going off at Turn 13 and the chicane on his final Q2 lap.

Carlos Sainz looked in excellent shape through Q1 and the initial runs in Q2, where he was always inside the top ten, but he only found 0.015 seconds on his final Q2 run so ended up P12.

The Toro Rosso driver felt he extracted the maximum from the heavily updated car, finishing just ahead of Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault, which failed to make Q3 for the first time since the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, provoking an angry response from Hulkenberg on team radio.

Pascal Wehrlein’s Sauber was P15, having done very well to win a tight scrap to escape Q1.

Less than a second covered 14 cars in that fight, with Perez’s Force India the only car outside the top six not required to make a second run.

Wehrlein edged out Sauber team-mate Marcus Ericsson by just 0.005 seconds to make the cut, while Jolyon Palmer’s Renault, Lance Stroll’s Williams, Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren and Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso all missed out.

Congratulations to Lewis Hamiltonn in recording pole position but the star of qualifying is Fernando Alonso. Seventh position in the McLaren-Honda is remarkable and fingers crossed the car stays reliable in the race.

Qualifying positions, Spanish Grand Prix:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m19.149s
2    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m19.200s
3    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    1m19.373s
4    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m19.439s
5    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m19.706s
6    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m20.175s
7    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m21.048s
8    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m21.070s
9    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m21.232s
10    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    1m21.272s
11    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    1m21.329s
12    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m21.371s
13    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    1m21.397s
14    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m21.517s
15    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    1m21.803s
16    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m22.332s
17    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1m22.401s
18    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    1m22.411s
19    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    1m22.532s
20    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m22.746s

Alonso makes McLaren IndyCar appearance

The McLaren racing orange made its first public appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as double world champion Fernando Alonso steps behind the wheel of the Andretti Autosport-run Dallara-Honda in prepartion for the Indy 500.

Alonso will compete in IndyCar’s major race at the famous 2.5-mile oval instead of the Monaco Grand Prix, which is on the same weekend.

The McLaren and Andretti Autosport’s IndyCar is entirely bedecked in traditional orange colours, as used when it last won the Indianapolis 500 with Johnny Rutherford in 1976, bar a silver strip at the front of the nose section.

Alonso conducted a rookie orientation programme in preparation for the Indy 500. The Formula 1 racer completed a series of runs, steadily improving his speed as Fernando gained confidence on the oval.

Event rookies have to complete laps within prescribed speed ranges to be eligible for participation in the 500 and before they are allowed to run at full pace.

Alonso’s target was to cover ten laps at 205-210mph, 15 laps at 210-215mph, and then 15 laps between 215mph and 220mph.

He achieved this over a total of 51 laps spread across four runs in his first hour on track in his McLaren/Honda/Andretti-entered Dallara, posting a fastest average lap speed of 219.654mph.

Speaking after completing the rookie programme, Alonso said: “It was fun, it’s a good way to start, to build the speed.

“It was probably a little bit difficult in the beginning to reach the minimum [speed], but then on the next stages it felt good.

“Now hopefully we can put some laps in and start feeling the car – at the moment the car is driving myself, I am not driving the car.

“I do feel more comfortable, just because with 30 laps, 40 laps in the pocket you can fine tune the lines, which gear to use in which corner.

“At the moment everything looks good, but now starts the real thing.”

So a good first day feeling after a series of runs. It’s going to be a challenge for Alonso to qualify and then race in the Indianapolis 500. Best of luck Fernando.