Vettel wins street fight against Raikkonen to triumph at Monaco

Sebastian Vettel clinched victory in the Monaco Grand Prix over his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. While Formula 1 title rival Lewis Hamilton finished down in seventh.

Pole-sitter Kimi Raikkonen led the opening part of the race, but Vettel stayed out five laps longer before his pit-stop, and rejoined ahead of his team-mate.

Raikkonen could not respond with Vettel stretching his lead before the safety car was called into action when Jenson Button collided with Pascal Wehrlein at Portier, pitching the Sauber onto its side against the barrier.

But once the Monaco Grand Prix got back under way, Vettel was able to build a gap and crossed the finishing line 3.1 seconds clear of his team-mate to secure Ferrari’s first win at Monte Carlo since 2001.

Daniel Ricciardo, who survived hitting the wall at Sainte Devote after the race restart, also ran a long first stint, enabling him to jump the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and his own Red Bull team-mate of Max Verstappen to take third place.

Hamilton, who started P14, was the last driver to pit, switching from ultra-softs to super-softs and rejoining seventh.

The three-time world champion pressured Carlos Sainz in the closing stages, but could not find a way past, which means he leaves Monaco 25 points adrift of Vettel in the drivers’ championship.

Raikkonen made a brilliant getaway to lead away from pole, with Vettel fending off a half-hearted attack from Bottas to retain second.

The Iceman built a gap of around 2.1 seconds, but Vettel began closing that down and was within a second before Raikkonen was called into the pits.

Vettel pumped in a series of quick laps ahead of his stop and rejoined around a second clear of his team-mate, with Raikkonen seemingly giving up on the win from there.

Verstappen was furious when he found out Ricciardo had jumped him, labelling the situation a disaster, and though he pressured Bottas for much of the second stint, he couldn’t find a way past.

With 18 laps to go, Button, who was filling in at McLaren while Fernando Alonso competes at the Indianapolis 500, tried an ambitious pass on Wehrlein into Portier.

The two, who had run nose-to-tail for the entire race, made contact, with Wehlein’s Sauber flipped onto its side against the barrier, while Button pulled over at the exit of the tunnel with the front-left corner of the car heavily-damaged.

Wehrlein climbed out of the car, once it was righted onto its wheels, and was able to walk away unaided but went to the medical centre for precautionary checks.

It was a frustrating day for Sauber, with Marcus Ericsson carrying too much speed into Sainte Devote and hitting the wall when trying to pass the safety car to unlap himself.

Romain Grosjean finished eighth for Haas, ahead of Felipe Massa with Kevin Magnussen completing the top ten.

Stoffel Vandoorne was set to finish in tenth position and score McLaren’s first point of the season but he slid off at Sainte Devote when Sergio Perez attacked down the inside.

Perez, who had his race compromised when he was forced to pit early with a damaged front wing, then tried a bold pass on Daniil Kvyat at Rascasse for ninth.

The pair made contact, with Kvyat retiring and Perez pitting for another front wing, bringing to an end his 15-race point-scoring streak.

Jolyon Palmer was the sole finishing Renault in P11 with his team-mate Nico Hulkenberg retiring with a gearbox problem when running tenth.

So not the greatest Monaco Grand Prix. After an exciting qualifying session in which the sport’s most popular driver was on pole position, the main event was a let down. Kimi Raikkonen’s race was screwed over due to Ferrari’s pit-stop strategy and that allow Sebastian Vettel to benefit the most. Victory and 25 points in the championship.

Monaco Grand Prix, race results after 78 laps:
1    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    78    1h44m44.340s
2    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    78    3.145s
3    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    78    3.745s
4    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    78    5.517s
5    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    78    6.199s
6    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    78    12.038s
7    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    78    15.801s
8    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    78    18.150s
9    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    78    19.445s
10    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    78    21.443s
11    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    78    22.737s
12    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    78    23.725s
13    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    78    39.089s
14    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Renault    71    Collision
15    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    71    7 Laps
–    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    66    Spun off
–    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    63    Spun off
–    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    57    Collision
–    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    57    Collision
–    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    15    Gearbox

Drivers’ standings:
1    Sebastian Vettel    129
2    Lewis Hamilton    104
3    Valtteri Bottas    75
4    Kimi Raikkonen    67
5    Daniel Ricciardo    52
6    Max Verstappen    45
7    Sergio Perez    34
8    Carlos Sainz    25
9    Felipe Massa    20
10    Esteban Ocon    19
11    Nico Hulkenberg    14
12    Romain Grosjean    9
13    Kevin Magnussen    5
14    Pascal Wehrlein    4
15    Daniil Kvyat    4
16    Jolyon Palmer    0
17    Lance Stroll    0
18    Marcus Ericsson    0
19    Fernando Alonso    0
20    Antonio Giovinazzi    0
21    Stoffel Vandoorne    0

Constructors’ standings:
1    Ferrari    196
2    Mercedes    179
3    Red Bull-Renault    97
4    Force India-Mercedes    53
5    Toro Rosso-Renault    29
6    Williams-Mercedes    20
7    Renault    14
8    Haas-Ferrari    14
9    Sauber-Ferrari    4
10    McLaren-Honda    0

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.

Bottas achieves first victory by holding off Vettel

Valtteri Bottas fended off a late charge from four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel to secure his first Formula 1 victory in the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi.

The Mercedes driver crossed the line just 0.617 seconds ahead of Vettel’s Ferrari with Kimi Raikkonen taking his first podium of the season with third.

Lewis Hamilton finished a disappointing fourth position.

Bottas made a storming start from third on the grid, benefiting from a slow-starting Raikkonen and then passing Vettel on the run to Turn 2 to take the lead.

The race was then neutralised shortly after when the safety car was deployed following a collision between Romain Grosjean and Jolyon Palmer at Turn 2.

At the restart, Bottas put the hammer down and gradually went about building up a lead over Vettel that grew to just over four seconds.

Bottas caught traffic ahead of the pitstops, allowing Vettel to cut the gap to 2.5 seconds before Mercedes called Bottas in at the end of lap 27 of 52 to swap ultra-softs for super-softs.

Vettel stayed out for an extra seven laps, with his pace remaining competitive, and rejoined just over four seconds adrift of Bottas following his stop for the super-softs.

Championship leader Vettel slowly chipped away at that, getting the gap down to just under a second at one stage to set up a grandstand finish.

But Bottas, who asked for “less talking” on the team radio in the closing laps, kept his composure to fend off Vettel and take his first victory in his 81st Formula 1 start.

Hamilton had a frustrating race, making a good start initially but struggling in the second phase of acceleration as he stayed in fourth.

The three-time world champion complained consistently that his car was overheating in the first half of the race and after the pit-stops, he was unable to catch Raikkonen and ended up a distant fourth position.

Max Verstappen was out on his own, too, in fifth, well adrift of the leading quartet but comfortably ahead of Sergio Perez.

Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo retired with an early rear brake problem.

Force India scored points with both cars for the fourth race in succession as Esteban Ocon took seventh behind team-mate Perez.

Nico Hulkenberg was eighth, with Felipe Massa on-course for sixth before he was forced to make a second pit-stop late on because of a slow puncture that dropped him to ninth.

Carlos Sainz completed the top ten.

Williams racer Lance Stroll finished his first race, just missing out on a point in P11 after a first-lap spin.

It was a miserable weekend for McLaren, with Fernando Alonso failing to start the race after stopping his car at the entry to the pits on the formation lap.

Honda suspects the loss of power was down to an ERS issue, but is still investigating.

The other McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne was P14, ahead of the two Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

So not a thrilling Russian Grand Prix, with a lack of overtaking. Valtteri Bottas takes a well deserved race victory and resisting the huge pressure from a four-time champion was impressive.

Russian Grand Prix race results, after 52 laps:

1    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    1h28m08.743s
2    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    0.617s
3    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    11.000s
4    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    36.320s
5    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m00.416s
6    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m26.788s
7    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    1m35.004s
8    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    1m36.188s
9    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1 Lap
10    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    1 Lap
11    Lance Stroll    Williams/Mercedes    1 Lap
12    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Renault    1 Lap
13    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    1 Lap
14    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    1 Lap
15    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1 Lap
16    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    1 Lap
–    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    Brakes
–    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    Collision
–    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    Not started
–    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    Collision

Drivers’ standings:

1    Sebastian Vettel    86
2    Lewis Hamilton    73
3    Valtteri Bottas    63
4    Kimi Raikkonen    49
5    Max Verstappen    35
6    Daniel Ricciardo    22
7    Sergio Perez    22
8    Felipe Massa    18
9    Carlos Sainz    11
10    Esteban Ocon    9
11    Nico Hulkenberg    6
12    Romain Grosjean    4
13    Kevin Magnussen    4
14    Daniil Kvyat    2
15    Pascal Wehrlein    0
16    Lance Stroll    0
17    Antonio Giovinazzi    0
18    Jolyon Palmer    0
19    Stoffel Vandoorne    0
20    Fernando Alonso    0
21    Marcus Ericsson    0

Constructors’ standings:

1    Mercedes    136
2    Ferrari    135
3    Red Bull-Renault    57
4    Force India-Mercedes    31
5    Williams-Mercedes    18
6    Toro Rosso-Renault    13
7    Haas-Ferrari    8
8    Renault    6
9    Sauber-Ferrari    0
10    McLaren/Honda    0

Vettel leads Ferrari front row lock out since 2008

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel claimed Scuderia Ferrari’s first pole position of the 2017 Formula 1 season, as both he and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen defeated the Mercedes drivers in a competitive Russian Grand Prix qualifying battle.

Ferrari had led the way throughout the three practice sessions, but trailed rival Mercedes through Q1 and Q2, when both Vettel and Raikkonen made an extra run compared to Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in the latter segment.

And yet Scuderia turned things around in Q3, when Raikkonen sat on provisional pole after the initial runs, just ahead of Bottas and Vettel, with Hamilton trailing in fourth position after twice snatching the inside front brake on his hot lap.

The Iceman looked set to claim his first pole since the French Grand Prix of 2008, which was coincidently the last race Ferrari locked out the front row, but went wide at the final corner on his last lap so failed to improve.

That allowed Sebastian to snatch pole by just 0.059 seconds with a last-gasp effort of one minute, 33.194 seconds.

Bottas also failed to find time on his final qualifying run, but his earlier lap was still good enough for third position on the grid, just 0.036 seconds adrift of Raikkonen – albeit slower than he went in Q2.

Hamilton’s first run in Q3 was compromised by a track position with Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault. Hamilton improved on his final run, but dropped a lot of time in the final sector and ended up almost half a second slower than his team-mate Bottas.

Daniel Ricciardo was fifth for Red Bull, but over a second slower than Hamilton, while Felipe Massa scored a sixth for Williams, just 0.051 seconds ahead of Max Verstappen.

Hulkenberg was eighth for Renault, just over a tenth further back, while the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon completed the top ten.

Both Force Indias made Q3 for the first time this season, with Ocon claiming the final spot in the top ten shootout by 0.219 seconds from the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz, who complained of a “very strange” lack of grip on his final set of tyres.

The Williams of Lance Stroll split Sainz from his Toro Rosso team-mate Daniil Kvyat, as all three drivers lapped within 0.020 seconds of each other.

Kevin Magnussen’s Haas was less than half a tenth further back inP14, well clear of the underpowered McLaren-Honda of Fernando Alonso, who maintained his remarkable record of getting McLaren-Honda into Q2 at every race so far this season.

Renault’s Jolyon Palmer missed the cut by less than a tenth, but had already failed to improve on his final run before crashing heavily at Turn 4 after clipping the inside kerb.

Stoffel Vandoorne, who will start last after a grid penalty, found time on his final run but it was nowhere near enough to escape Q1. His time was only P17 fastest and six tenths away from the Q2 cut off.

Pascal Wehrlein was P18 for Sauber and was lucky to survive a spin unscathed at Turn 13 at the end of Q1.

Team-mate Marcus Ericsson was just under two tenths further back, while Romain Grosjean’s Haas brought up the rear of the grid.

Grosjean struggled with the brakes and balance of his car throughout free practice, and was also unhappy at the start of qualifying, but was on a better lap before Palmer’s crash.

So a fantastic result for Ferrari after so many countless Grands Prix. An all-red front row thanks to the talent of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. It’s going to be interesting to see who will win the Scuderia battle on race day at Sochi. Game on.

Qualifying positions, Russian Grand Prix:

1    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m33.194s
2    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m33.253s
3    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    1m33.289s
4    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m33.767s
5    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m34.905s
6    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m35.110s
7    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m35.161s
8    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    1m35.285s
9    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m35.337s
10    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    1m35.430s
11    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    1m35.964s
12    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m35.968s
13    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    1m36.017s
14    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m35.948s
15    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m36.660s
16    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1m36.462s
17    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    1m37.332s
18    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m37.507s
19    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m37.620s
20    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    1m37.070s*

*Grid penalty for changing power unit

Vettel beats Hamilton to win in Bahrain

Sebastian Vettel claimed his second victory of the 2017 Formula 1 season in the Bahrain Grand Prix, assisted by a five-second time penalty for Lewis Hamilton.

The Ferrari driver crossed the finishing line 6.660 seconds ahead of Hamilton, who had slashed his advantage from twenty seconds after making his second pitstop, while pole sitter Valtteri Bottas had to settle with third.

Bottas held the lead at the start, with Vettel making a better getaway than Hamilton to draw alongside him on the run to the first corner and then sweep around the outside on turn-in to run second.

Vettel then pressured Bottas in the early laps, the Mercedes driver struggling for rear grip thanks to high rear tyre pressures caused by a faulty generator used to help set them on the grid, with Hamilton just behind and keeping the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo just behind him.

With Hamilton eventually slipping out of DRS range of Vettel, the Ferrari driver became the first of the frontrunners to stop on lap ten and committed to a two-stop strategy by taking a second set of super-softs.

Verstappen followed Vettel into the pits a lap later, but suffered a brake problem on his outlap and went off at Turn 4, his race ending in the barrier.

The safety car was deployed on lap 13, when Williams driver Lance Stroll was hit by Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso.

Sainz had just made his first pitstop, but closed rapidly under braking for Turn 1, hitting Stroll’s from the side as the Williams took the apex.

The contact put both out of the race, and triggered a series of pitstops that allowed Vettel to take the lead.

Mercedes had to pit both Bottas and Hamilton under the safety car, with both having slow stops lasting just over six seconds, and Ricciardo able to emerge from the pits between them.

Hamilton, who knew he would have to queue behind his Mercedes team-mate, slowed on the entry to the pitlane thereby delayed Ricciardo, leading to a stewards’ investigation and subsequent five-second penalty.

Vettel led from Bottas at the restart on lap 17, with Hamilton jumping Ricciardo for third on the run to the first corner, followed on the run to Turn 4 by Williams driver Felipe Massa.

Bottas, who opted for super-softs at his previous stop, made his second pitstop to take softs 13 laps later, emerging seventh behind Sergio Perez and quickly moving ahead of both the Force India and Massa to run fifth.

While Vettel gradually extended his lead to over six seconds from Bottas, Hamilton chased his team-mate before taking second place up the inside into Turn 1 on lap 27.

At that point, Vettel had a 6.3 seconds lead, but Hamilton had cut that advantage to just under four seconds when the Ferrari driver pitted for softs at the end of lap 33.

Vettel emerged from the pits in third place, 17 seconds behind Hamilton and three behind Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

Three laps later, Vettel passed a compliant Raikkonen. At that point, he was 15.5 seconds behind Hamilton on the road, but in real terms just 10.5 seconds thanks to Hamilton’s penalty.

Vettel had closed to just 9.5 seconds behind Hamilton on the road when the Mercedes driver made his second stop with 16 laps to go, including a five-second hold to serve the penalty, and returned to the track on soft rubber.

Hamilton re-emerged in third, 10.5 seconds behind second position Bottas, with Vettel twenty seconds clear, but with fresh softs he had a significant pace advantage of the two cars in front.

It took Hamilton just five laps to catch and pass Bottas, diving up the inside of his team-mate at Turn 13.

At that point, Vettel’s advantage was 13 seconds, and although Hamilton was able to lap faster than the Ferrari he never got within five seconds of the leader.

Bottas had a comfortable advantage over Raikkonen, and even though the gap was just two seconds at the flag he was never under serious threat.

Raikkonen started fifth and was shuffled back to seventh behind both Verstappen and Massa at the first and fourth corners respectively, but recovered to fourth.

He passed Massa shortly after the restart following the safety car, finishing 16.8 seconds ahead of Ricciardo.

Massa was best of the rest outside of the big three teams, with Force India driver Sergio Perez finishing seventh despite starting P18.

After a good first stint, Perez jumped to seventh under the safety car and maintained control of the position to the end on a two-stop strategy.

Haas driver Romain Grosjean claimed his first points finish of 2017 in eighth place, making his second pitstop before Nico Hulkenberg to undercut his way past the Renault driver.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon finished P10 for the third race in succession, with an advantage of 24.2 seconds over Sauber returnee Pascal Wehrlein, who held off Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso’s attacks in the closing laps of the race.

Renault’s Jolyon Palmer was the final driver running at the finish in P13, with McLaren driver Fernando Alonso, who was part of a close three-way battle with the pair for much of the race, classified P14 despite pulling into the pits with two laps remaining.

Marcus Ericsson retired the other Sauber in the closing stages of the race, while Haas driver Magnussen also joined Sainz, Stroll and Verstappen on the retirements list on lap nine when he pulled off with a mechanical failure.

Stoffel Vandoorne was unable to start the race thanks to what is suspected to be a problem with the MGU-H on his Honda engine.

So a fantastic result for Sebastian Vettel. The four-time world champion leads the drivers’ standings over his rival by seven points. As for Ferrari, this result showcase the pure speed and can genuine challenge Mercedes for the championship.

Bahrain Grand Prix race results, after 57 laps:
1    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    57    1h33m53.374s
2    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    57    6.660s
3    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    57    20.397s
4    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    57    22.475s
5    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    57    39.346s
6    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    57    54.326s
7    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    57    1m02.606s
8    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    57    1m14.865s
9    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    57    1m20.188s
10    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    57    1m35.711s
11    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    56    1 Lap
12    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Renault    56    1 Lap
13    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    56    1 Lap
14    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    54    Not running
–    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    50    Gearbox
–    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    12    Collision
–    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    12    Collision
–    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    11    Brakes
–    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    8    Electrical
–    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    0    Not started

Drivers’ standings:
1    Sebastian Vettel    68
2    Lewis Hamilton    61
3    Valtteri Bottas    38
4    Kimi Raikkonen    34
5    Max Verstappen    25
6    Daniel Ricciardo    22
7    Felipe Massa    16
8    Sergio Perez    14
9    Carlos Sainz    10
10    Romain Grosjean    4
11    Kevin Magnussen    4
12    Esteban Ocon    3
13    Nico Hulkenberg    2
14    Daniil Kvyat    2
15    Pascal Wehrlein    0
16    Antonio Giovinazzi    0
17    Jolyon Palmer    0
18    Stoffel Vandoorne    0
19    Fernando Alonso    0
20    Marcus Ericsson    0

Constructors’ standings:
1    Ferrari    102
2    Mercedes    99
3    Red Bull-Renault    47
4    Force India-Mercedes    17
5    Williams-Mercedes    16
6    Toro Rosso-Renault    12
7    Haas-Ferrari    8
8    Renault    2
9    Sauber-Ferrari    0
10    McLaren-Honda    0

Bottas earns his first pole position for Mercedes

Valtteri Bottas claimed his first Formula 1 pole position by edging out his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in a tight Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying duel.

Hamilton had taken P1 in the past two races this season and led the way again through Q1, Q2 and the initial runs in Q3 at Sakhir, but Bottas hit top position on his final run with a lap of one minute, 28.769 seconds.

Hamilton lost a chunk of time in the second sector of his final lap, and also had an oversteer moment at the final corner, so was unable to improve. He ended up second quickest by just 0.023 seconds.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was almost half a second further back in third, suggesting he “tried a bit too hard” on his final Q3 run, which was slower than his first.

Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull split the Ferraris by setting the fourth fastest time on his final run, just 0.022 seconds clear of Kimi Raikkonen.

Max Verstappen was a tenth further back, while Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg beat Felipe Massa’s Williams to the seventh fastest time, with a lap that was within two tenths of Verstappen’s.

Romain Grosjean again got the Haas team into Q3, ending up eighth quickest, well down on Massa and three tenths clear of Jolyon Palmer’s Renault.

Palmer made Q3 for the first time in his Formula 1 career, but eventually qualified over 1.2 seconds down on Renault team-mate Hulkenberg.

Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat missed out on making the top ten shootout by less than half a tenth of a second, running wide at the final corner and failing to improve on his final Q2 run.

Lance Stroll made only one run after his Williams spent a long period making adjustments in the garage and he ended up only P12.

Pascal Wehrlein qualified a brilliant P13 in the Sauber, on a track he starred at last season for Manor, ahead of the Force India of fellow Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon, and the McLaren-Honda of Fernando Alonso, who didn’t set a time in Q2 after “we broke the power unit”.

Alonso scraped his McLaren-Honda into Q2 thanks to the Toro Rosso of fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz stopping at the final corner in the final moments of Q1.

This relegated Sainz to P16 thanks to rivals earlier improving their times, and it also forced Sergio Perez to back off while on a hot lap in his Force India.

Perez still improved by nearly four tenths of a second, but this still left him down in P18, 0.005 seconds behind the second McLaren-Honda of Stoffel Vandoorne, who had outpaced Alonso fractionally during the initial runs in Q1.

Marcus Ericsson was only P19, over half a second slower than Sauber team-mate Wehrlein, while Haas’s Kevin Magnussen qualified slowest of all after aborting his final flying lap for the yellow flags displayed for Sainz’s stricken Toro Rosso.

So a fantastic performance by Valtteri Bottas. His first pole in the sport and earning his Mercedes team a front row grid slot with Lewis Hamilton slotting in second. It’s going to be fascinating to see who will have the upper hand in the race. Bring on the Bottas versus Hamilton desert duel.

Bahrain Grand Prix, qualifying positions:

1    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    1m28.769s
2    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m28.792s
3    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m29.247s
4    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m29.545s
5    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m29.567s
6    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m29.687s
7    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    1m29.842s
8    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m30.074s
9    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m30.763s
10    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1m31.074s
11    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m30.923s
12    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    1m31.168s
13    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    1m31.414s
14    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    1m31.684s
15    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    No time
16    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m32.118s
17    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    1m32.313s
18    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m32.318s
19    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m32.543s
20    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    1m32.900s

Alonso to race in the Indy 500

Double Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso will compete in this year’s Indianapolis 500, missing the Monaco Grand Prix due to a date clash.

Following weeks of secret talks involving Honda, McLaren and Alonso, an agreement has been reached for the Spaniard to race in America while the Formula 1 paddock is in Monaco.

Alonso will race a McLaren entry run by the Honda-affiliated Andretti Autosport IndyCar team, headed by former McLaren F1 racer Michael Andretti.

“I’m immensely excited that I’ll be racing in this year’s Indy 500, with McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport,” said Alonso.

“The Indy 500 is one of the most famous races on the global motorsport calendar, rivalled only by the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Monaco Grand Prix, and it’s of course a regret of mine that I won’t be able to race at Monaco this year.

“But Monaco will be the only 2017 Grand Prix I’ll be missing, and I’ll be back in the cockpit of the McLaren-Honda MCL32 for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal in early June.”

The shock decision by McLaren to allow its top driver to contest the Indianapolis 500 comes at a time when Alonso’s future is uncertain, as his contract expires at the end of this season.

It will be Alonso’s first attempt on IndyCar’s most famous race and his first experience of oval racing.

McLaren has twice won the Indy 500 as a team, in 1974 and 1976 with Johnny Rutherford, while a Penske-run McLaren chassis won in 1972 with Mark Donohue.

Executive director Zak Brown says Alonso’s entry “will be decked out in the papaya orange livery made famous by our founder Bruce McLaren, and in which Johnny Rutherford drove McLaren IndyCars to Indy 500 victory”.

The last time a driver raced in both Formula 1 and the Indianapolis 500 in the same season was in 1994, when Nigel Mansell made four Grand Prix starts with Williams alongside his full-time Indycar campaign with Newman/Haas Racing.

Exciting times for motorsport fans and best wishes to Fernando Alonso in his new IndyCar adventures at the Brickyard.