Alonso to race in the WEC and Le Mans 24 Hours with Toyota

Double Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso will have the unique opportunity to compete at the famous 24-hour Le Mans race and other selected World Endurance Championship rounds this year, his McLaren team confirmed.

Alonso is chasing his dream of winning motorsport’s ‘Triple Crown’ – the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours. He has won the Formula 1 street race twice.

Following his debut sportscar appearance at Daytona last weekend, a deal has now been reached for Alonso to race for Toyota in as many WEC events as possible.

However, McLaren and Alonso have agreed that his priority remains Formula 1 – so he will miss the Japanese race at Fuji on October 21 because it clashes with the United States Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso commented that he was delighted at the opportunity to take part in sportscar racing alongside his Formula 1 ambitions.

“I’ve never been shy about my aim of winning motorsport’s ‘Triple Crown’ – the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We tried for Indy last year, came close, but just missed out,” he said.

“This year, I have the chance thanks to McLaren to race for the win at Le Mans. It is a big challenge – much can go wrong – but I am ready, prepared and looking forward to the fight.

“My deal to race in WEC was only made possible through the good understanding and strong relationship I have with McLaren, and I’m very happy that they listened and understood what this means to me.

“In no way will this challenge take away from my main target of Formula 1 with McLaren. In 2018, my aim is to be competitive at every grand prix, and I feel sure that we are closer to achieving that.”

McLaren executive director Zak Brown said his team had no problem in giving Alonso permission to race elsewhere, because it felt a boost to his motivation would be beneficial to its Grand Prix hopes.

“It’s no secret that Fernando has wanted to contest the Le Mans 24 Hours. And I think everybody within our organisation appreciates that a motivated, hungry and happy world-class driver such as Fernando is a formidable asset for any team in F1,” said Brown.

“Last year, we came to the joint decision to go racing with Fernando at the Indy 500 rather than at the Monaco Grand Prix. But we’ve always said that we would consider each opportunity on a case-by-case basis, and we both know that, in 2018, our core priority is success in Formula 1.

“Like Fernando, at McLaren we’re racers at heart, and our team is built on a brave heritage of competing and succeeding in different forms of the sport. Equally important is the confidence that nothing detracts from our number one goal of Formula 1.

“After proper evaluation, we are satisfied that this campaign does not do that, and that McLaren’s best interests prevail.”

This is exciting times for the motorsport fans as the most complete Formula 1 driver – in terms of experience and skills – is racing at the most famous 24-hour event. Best of luck to Fernando Alonso and I hope he can emulate Nico Huldenberg by winning Le Mans.

Bottas signs off Formula 1 season with victory at Abu Dhabi

Valtteri Bottas held off his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to win the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina.

Bottas retained the lead from pole at the start and though he lost it briefly when he pitted first, he resisted the pressure from Hamilton to secure his third win of the season.

World champion Hamilton crossed the line 3.8 seconds adrift, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel completing the podium in third.

Once Bottas got through Turn 1 in the lead, he quickly opened up a one-second lead over his team-mate before gradually building it up to two seconds before the stops.

He was the first of the Mercedes drivers to pit, swapping the ultra-softs for super-softs and rejoining in second place.

Hamilton stayed out for three further laps, clocking the fastest lap in the process, but couldn’t make up enough ground and rejoined behind Bottas.

The world champion attacked his team-mate, briefly getting within DRS range, but locked up at Turn 17, running off track before rejoining.

Hamilton kept up the pressure and even got within 0.5 seconds after Bottas had a lock-up of his own, but his team-mate responded by putting the hammer down and pulling away.

The result was Mercedes’ third one-two of the season. The perfect sign off to a successful, winning season.

Vettel had a quiet race in a lonely third place ahead of Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was on course to finish fourth, but pulled off track and retired the car with a hydraulic problem shortly before the halfway point.

His team-mate Max Verstappen finished fifth, just 0.8 seconds behind Raikkonen with Nico Hulkenberg sixth to secure sixth place in the constructors’ championship for Renault.

Hulkenberg escaped with a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage when battling Sergio Perez on the first lap.

By the time Hulkenberg took the penalty at his pitstop, he had comfortably built enough of an advantage to negate it.

His team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr retired for the fourth time in six races after the team did not attach the front-left tyre properly at his pitstop.

But for the incident, Sainz had been on course to leapfrog Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa into ninth place by running long before pitting.

Perez finished seventh, 6.8s clear of Force India team-mate Esteban Ocon.

Alonso signed off the McLaren-Honda partnership with ninth place, securing the team’s third consecutive points finish.

Massa completed his 269th and final Grand Prix in the points in 10th and celebrated with a few doughnuts after the chequered flag.

He had been ahead of Alonso in the first stint but the McLaren passed the later-stopping Williams on its out-lap.

Romain Grosjean was involved in the race’s most entertaining battle, squabbling with Lance Stroll over P13 in the first stint and eventually coming out on top after multiple passes and repasses.

The Haas driver finished P11, ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne, with Kevin Magnussen recovering from a first lap spin that dropped him to the back of the field to finish P13.

Stroll ended up making three pitstops on a day everyone else stopped once and fell to last.

And so ends Formula 1 2017. Well done to Valtteri Bottas in winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. That victory will boost his confidence over the winter break, ready to mount a challenge for next season.

Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes on winning the titles. Better luck next time Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari. Fingers crossed next season the racing will be exciting and competitive.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix race results:
1    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    55    1h34m14.063s
2    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    55    3.899s
3    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    55    19.330s
4    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    55    45.386s
5    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    55    46.269s
6    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    55    1m25.713s
7    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    55    1m32.062s
8    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    55    1m38.911s
9    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    54    1 Lap
10    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    54    1 Lap
11    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    54    1 Lap
12    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    54    1 Lap
13    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    54    1 Lap
14    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    54    1 Lap
15    Brendon Hartley    Toro Rosso-Renault    54    1 Lap
16    Pierre Gasly    Toro Rosso-Renault    54    1 Lap
17    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    54    1 Lap
18    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    54    1 Lap
–    Carlos Sainz    Renault    31    Wheel
–    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    20    Hydraulics

Final drivers’ standings:
1    Lewis Hamilton    363
2    Sebastian Vettel    317
3    Valtteri Bottas    305
4    Kimi Raikkonen    205
5    Daniel Ricciardo    200
6    Max Verstappen    168
7    Sergio Perez    100
8    Esteban Ocon    87
9    Carlos Sainz    54
10    Nico Hulkenberg    43
11    Felipe Massa    43
12    Lance Stroll    40
13    Romain Grosjean    28
14    Kevin Magnussen    19
15    Fernando Alonso    17
16    Stoffel Vandoorne    13
17    Jolyon Palmer    8
18    Pascal Wehrlein    5
19    Daniil Kvyat    5
20    Marcus Ericsson    0
21    Pierre Gasly    0
22    Antonio Giovinazzi    0
23    Brendon Hartley    0

Final constructors’ standings:
1    Mercedes    668
2    Ferrari    522
3    Red Bull-Renault    368
4    Force India-Mercedes    187
5    Williams-Mercedes    83
6    Renault    57
7    Toro Rosso-Renault    53
8    Haas-Ferrari    47
9    McLaren-Honda    30
10    Sauber-Ferrari    5

Bottas grabs Abu Dhabi Grand Prix pole from Hamilton

Valtteri Bottas scored his fourth career pole position, beating his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to the top spot at the Yas Marina circuit.

It seems Hamilton was the favourite for the top spot after leading the way throughout free practice, and was fastest in Q2 as well, but Bottas was fractionally quicker than Hamilton in Q1 and got back ahead during the first runs in Q3, taking provisional pole with a one minute, 36.231 seconds lap.

That proved enough for top spot when neither Mercedes driver found time on their second runs, Hamilton falling short by 0.172 seconds.

Sebastian Vettel was third fastest in the best of the Ferraris, improving to a one minute, 36.777 seconds best on his final Q3 run but ending up almost four tenths down on the Mercedes pair.

Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was provisionally fourth quickest until a last-gasp effort from Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull displaced Raikkonen from the second row by just 0.026 seconds.

Max Verstappen rounded out the top six, 0.353 seconds down on Raikkonen.

Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault was best of the rest in seventh, less than a tenth clear of Sergio Perez, who in turn was only 0.023 seconds clear of team-mate Esteban Ocon.

Ocon was compromised by battling for track position with Bottas on their final Q3 out-lap.

Felipe Massa’s Williams completed the top ten, 0.153s further back after only completing one run in Q3.

Massa was one of only six drivers to find time on his second run in Q2, which proved enough to bump his old Ferrari colleague Fernando Alonso out of the top ten by 0.071 seconds.

Carlos Sainz Jr was another of those to find time after a “poor out-lap” ruined his first run. He got his Renault up to P12 ahead of the second McLaren-Honda of Stoffel Vandoorne, despite suffering a problem with his engine at the last corner.

Kevin Magnussen was P14 for Haas, almost half a second adrift of Vandoorne but well clear of Lance Stroll, who could not lap faster than one minute, 39.6 seconds however hard he tried.

Stroll at least made Q2 for the eighth time this season, his passage from Q1 coming at the expense of Romain Grosjean, whose Haas missed the cut by just 0.013 seconds as Stroll pulled the first of those one minute, 39.6 seconds laps out of the bag at the end.

“Oh God that was everything!” said Stroll over the radio upon learning he’d made the top 15.

Pierre Gasly put the best of the Toro Rossos P17, two tenths slower than Grosjean and two tenths clear of Sauber pair Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, who were separated by just six hundredths of a second.

Brendon Hartley qualified slowest of all by some distance in the Toro Rosso. Porsche’s World Endurance champion delivered a “scruffy” first lap, improved on his second run, but finished the session nearly half a second down on Ericsson.

Qualifying last negates Hartley’s grid penalty for taking a ninth MGU-H on his Renault engine ahead of practice.

So a fantastic way to sign off Mercedes’ qualifying result this season. 15 poles and another front row slot. It’s going to be a fascinating race at Yas Marina with the fight for the runner up spot between Bottas and Vettel.

Qualifying positions, Yas Marina:

1    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    1m36.231s
2    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m36.403s
3    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m36.777s
4    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m36.959s
5    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m36.985s
6    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m37.328s
7    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    1m38.282s
8    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m38.374s
9    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    1m38.397s
10    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m38.550s
11    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m38.636s
12    Carlos Sainz    Renault    1m38.725s
13    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    1m38.808s
14    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    1m39.298s
15    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    1m39.646s
16    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m39.516s
17    Pierre Gasly    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m39.724s
18    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    1m39.930s
19    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m39.994s
20    Brendon Hartley    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m40.471s

Vettel victorious in Brazil

Sebastian Vettel achieved his fifth victory of the season after a masterclass drive for Ferrari at the Brazilian Grand Prix, to defeat Valtteri Bottas.

Vettel passed pole-sitter Bottas on the inside into Turn 1 and had the speed to fend off an attack from his Mercedes rival to secure Ferrari’s first victory since the Hungarian Grand Prix in July.

Bottas crossed the line second, 2.7 seconds adrift, with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen holding off a charging Lewis Hamilton, who had started from the pitlane, to finish third for the third race in succession.

Vettel made a great start from second on the grid and though Bottas gave him a squeeze into Turn 1, the Ferrari driver made the move stick.

Further down the field, Kevin Magnussen squeezed Stoffel Vandoorne towards Daniel Ricciardo exiting Turn 2.

Ricciardo was spun round, dropping him to the back of the field, but he continued while Vandoorne and Magnussen retired immediately.

That incident sparked a safety car and was not the only clash on the opening lap – Esteban Ocon suffered the first retirement of his Formula 1 career after being tagged by Romain Grosjean, who lost control of his Haas at Turn 5.

Grosjean continued, but was handed a 10-second time penalty for causing the collision, and ultimately finished P15.

At the restart, Vettel retained the lead from Bottas, Raikkonen and Max Verstappen, with Felipe Massa delighting his home crowd with a pass around the outside of Fernando Alonso into Turn 1 for fifth.

Hamilton, running on soft tyres, made good progress through the field and was up into the points by lap nine, passing Pierre Gasly for P10.

Bottas was the first to pit for softs, with Vettel pitting a lap later and rejoining just ahead of the Mercedes driver, managing to hold him off into Turn 4.

As those who started the race on the super-softs pitted, Hamilton inherited the lead and pushed on until lap 43, when he pitted, rejoining P15 – 19 seconds behind Vettel.

The four-time world champion was the fastest driver on the track, catching and passing Verstappen around the outside on the run to Turn 4 with 12 laps to go.

He then rapidly caught Raikkonen but a lock-up into Turn 1 dropped him back and he could not attack the Ferrari before the race’s end.

Verstappen, who struggled with his tyres in the closing stages leading to a late stop for super-softs, was fifth ahead of Red Bull team-mate Ricciardo.

Massa held off Alonso to take seventh in his final Brazilian Grand Prix and penultimate race of his Formula 1 career.

Sergio Perez took ninth, crossing the line right behind Alonso, with Nico Hulkenberg scoring Renault’s first point since Singapore with P10.

So a fantastic result for Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari following a couple of difficult races. Losing the championship was a big blow to rival Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. But this Brazilian Grand Prix victory should boost morale in fighting for title glory next year.

Brazilian Grand Prix race results, after 71 laps:
1    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1h31m26.260s
2    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    2.762s
3    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    4.600s
4    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    5.468s
5    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    32.940s
6    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    48.691s
7    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m08.882s
8    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m09.363s
9    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m09.500s
10    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    1 Lap
11    Carlos Sainz    Renault    1 Lap
12    Pierre Gasly    Toro Rosso-Renault    1 Lap
13    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1 Lap
14    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    1 Lap
15    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    2 Laps
16    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    2 Laps
–    Brendon Hartley    Toro Rosso-Renault    Retirement
–    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    Collision
–    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    Collision
–    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    Collision

Drivers’ standings:
1    Lewis Hamilton    345
2    Sebastian Vettel    302
3    Valtteri Bottas    280
4    Daniel Ricciardo    200
5    Kimi Raikkonen    193
6    Max Verstappen    158
7    Sergio Perez    94
8    Esteban Ocon    83
9    Carlos Sainz    54
10    Felipe Massa    42
11    Lance Stroll    40
12    Nico Hulkenberg    35
13    Romain Grosjean    28
14    Kevin Magnussen    19
15    Fernando Alonso    15
16    Stoffel Vandoorne    13
17    Jolyon Palmer    8
18    Pascal Wehrlein    5
19    Daniil Kvyat    5
20    Marcus Ericsson    0
21    Pierre Gasly    0
22    Antonio Giovinazzi    0
23    Brendon Hartley    0

Constructors’ standings:
1    Mercedes    625
2    Ferrari    495
3    Red Bull-Renault    358
4    Force India-Mercedes    177
5    Williams-Mercedes    82
6    Toro Rosso-Renault    53
7    Renault    49
8    Haas-Ferrari    47
9    McLaren-Honda    28
10    Sauber-Ferrari    5

Bottes scores Brazilian Grand Prix pole position

Valtteri Bottas scored an important pole position for Mercedes as his team-mate Lewis Hamilton crashed out in qualifying.

New champion Lewis Hamilton was one of the favourites for pole after leading Friday practice sessions, but Hamilton crashed heavily at the high-speed Ferradura right-hander on his first flying lap in Q1.

Hamilton lost the rear of the car suddenly mid-corner and slammed hard into the barriers rear first.

He apologised to his team on the radio before emerging unscathed, but took no further part in the session.

Hamilton’s first Q1 exit since the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix cleared the way for Bottas to battle the Ferraris for top spot.

Bottas was fastest in Q1, but trailed Sebastian Vettel in Q2 and after the first runs in Q3.

Vettel failed to improve on his final run in Q3, but Bottas found 0.120 seconds to beat Vettel to pole by just 0.038 seconds, with a best lap of one minute, 08.322 seconds.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was third quickest, just under two tenths slower than Vettel, while Max Verstappen’s Red Bull was the only other car to lap below one minute, 09 seconds in fourth.

Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull was fifth, but he faces a 10-place grid penalty for an MGU-H change ahead of practice.

Sergio Perez’s Force India completed the top six, ahead of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren-Honda, the Renaults of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr, and the Williams of Felipe Massa, who almost crashed after gesticulating at Sainz in Q3.

Esteban Ocon failed to make Q3 for the first time since  Singapore Grand Prix, missing the cut by less than a tenth to Sainz.

Romain Grosjean broke into the one minute, 09 seconds for the first time this weekend and briefly occupied a provisional Q3 spot, but fell to P12 as others improved at the end of Q2.

Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren-Honda and Grosjean’s Haas team-mate Kevin Magnussen ended up P13 and P14 respectively, both paying the price for failing to break through the one minute, 10 seconds barrier.

Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley was P15, but he used Q2 to practice his start procedures rather than set a time, knowing he faces a 10-place grid penalty for an MGU-H change ahead of practice.

Hartley managed to drag himself narrowly into Q2 at the expense of Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein and Toro Rosso team-mate Pierre Gasly, who all lapped in one minute, 10.6 seconds in Q1.

Wehrlein was left feeling disappointed to miss the cut by just 0.053 seconds. Gasly, who faces a 10-place grid penalty for an MGU-H change ahead of practice, missed it by 0.061 seconds.

Hamilton’s crash gave Williams extra time to finish preparing Lance Stroll’s car after changing its engine and gearbox ahead of the session, but Stroll could only manage P18, less than a tenth slower than Gasly.

Stroll will take a five-place grid penalty for that gearbox swap.

Marcus Ericsson was another tenth further back in the second Sauber, beating only Hamilton’s Mercedes, which failed to set a time.

So a brilliant qualifying result for Valtteri Bottas. His third pole position this season when the pressure was on after his team-mate crashed out. The Mercedes driver delivered the result and the fight is on for the runner-up position in the championship.

Qualifying positions, Brazilian Grand Prix:
1    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    1m08.322s
2    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    0.038s
3    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    0.216s
4    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    0.603s
5    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1.276s
6    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1.295s
7    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    1.381s
8    Carlos Sainz    Renault    1.483s
9    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1.519s
10    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    1.508s
11    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1.557s
12    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    1.794s
13    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    1.832s
14    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    2.356s
15    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1.008s
16    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    2.553s
17    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    2.454s
18    Brendon Hartley    Toro Rosso-Renault    –
19    Pierre Gasly    Toro Rosso-Renault    2.364s
20    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes

Verstappen wins Mexican Grand Prix as Hamilton takes title

Max Verstappen took race victory in a dramatic Mexican Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton survived a collision with title rival Sebastian Vettel to score his fourth world championship.

The Red Bull driver boldly passed pole-sitter Vettel into Turn 1 at the start, escaping contact with the Ferrari driver to continue and dominate the race at Mexico City.

But behind him, Vettel had suffered minor front wing damage, and Hamilton got ahead of the Ferrari through Turn 2. Vettel then tagged the right-rear tyre of Hamilton on the exit of Turn 3, further damaging his own wing and giving Hamilton a puncture.

That forced both drivers to limp back to the pits, leaving Verstappen clear to defeat Valtteri Bottas by 19.6 seconds to take his third Formula 1 win.

Though Vettel recovered to fourth position to cut Hamilton’s championship lead to 56 points, there are only 50 remaining in the final two races, meaning Hamilton won the championship despite only battling back to ninth.

While Hamilton struggled to close back up to the pack, Vettel made quick progress through the field, recovering up to seventh before the race was neutralised by the virtual safety car when Brendon Hartley’s retired with an engine problem.

Race leader Verstappen took the opportunity to pit from the lead, with Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen, who had climbed up to third following early stops from Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez and Hulkenberg’s retirement with an engine issue.

The trio rejoined in the same positions, with Vettel and Hamilton also pitting for fresh Pirelli and taking ultra-softs and super-softs respectively with a little over half of the race to go.

The championship rivals restarted their recovery drives, with Vettel passing Kevin Magnussen to take seventh, while Hamilton passed Romain Grosjean, Pascal Wehrlein, Pierre Gasly and Marcus Ericsson to run P12.

Vettel lunged down the inside of Perez to take sixth at Turn 4 and made short work of Stroll into Turn 1 to snatch fifth, before setting off in pursuit of Ocon.

The Ferrari driver caught the Force India quickly and used DRS to blast past Ocon into Turn 1 for fourth place, with team-mate Raikkonen a further 24 seconds up the road with 14 laps to go.

When he heard the size of the gap, Vettel replied “Mamma mia, that’s a little bit too much” and he ultimately crossed the line fourth.

Hamilton, who came out on top in a brilliant battle with Fernando Alonso late on to take ninth, joins Vettel and Alain Prost on four world titles, with only Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio ahead on the all-time list with seven and five respectively.

Ocon equalled his best-ever Formula 1 result with fifth, ahead of Stroll, Perez and Magnussen.

Daniel Ricciardo recovered from starting P16 – following grid penalties for engine component changes, to run seventh early on, but his race lasted just five laps as he suffered yet more problems with his Renault engine.

Marcus Ericsson spent the early part of the race just inside the points, but retired in the closing stages after reporting a brake-by-wire failure and retiring the car.

Renault suffered a double retirement, with Carlos Sainz Jr stopping late on after reporting his car was pulling on the straights.

So a fantastic result for Red Bull and Mercedes. Max Verstappen winning his third race of the season while Lewis Hamilton achieved a dream result of four championship titles.

As for Sebastian Vettel. Brave fight back but alas, it was too much. Hopefully Ferrari can strike back with better reliability and no big mistakes next year.

Many congratulations to Lewis Hamilton. Now the most successful British Formula 1 driver with four titles.

Mexican Grand Prix race results, 71 laps:
1    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    71    1h36m26.550s
2    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    71    19.678s
3    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    71    54.007s
4    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    71    1m10.078s
5    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    70    1 Lap
6    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    70    1 Lap
7    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    70    1 Lap
8    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    70    1 Lap
9    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    70    1 Lap
10    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    70    1 Lap
11    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    70    1 Lap
12    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    70    1 Lap
13    Pierre Gasly    Toro Rosso-Renault    70    1 Lap
14    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    69    2 Laps
15    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    69    2 Laps
–    Carlos Sainz    Renault    59    Retirement
–    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    55    Power Unit
–    Brendon Hartley    Toro Rosso-Renault    30    Power Unit
–    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    24    Retirement
–    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    5    Retirement

Drivers’ standings:
1    Lewis Hamilton    333
2    Sebastian Vettel    277
3    Valtteri Bottas    262
4    Daniel Ricciardo    192
5    Kimi Raikkonen    178
6    Max Verstappen    148
7    Sergio Perez    92
8    Esteban Ocon    83
9    Carlos Sainz    54
10    Lance Stroll    40
11    Felipe Massa    36
12    Nico Hulkenberg    34
13    Romain Grosjean    28
14    Kevin Magnussen    19
15    Stoffel Vandoorne    13
16    Fernando Alonso    11
17    Jolyon Palmer    8
18    Pascal Wehrlein    5
19    Daniil Kvyat    5
20    Marcus Ericsson    0
21    Antonio Giovinazzi    0
22    Pierre Gasly    0
23    Brendon Hartley    0

Constructors’ standings:
1    Mercedes    595
2    Ferrari    455
3    Red Bull-Renault    340
4    Force India-Mercedes    175
5    Williams-Mercedes    76
6    Toro Rosso-Renault    53
7    Renault    48
8    Haas-Ferrari    47
9    McLaren-Honda    24
10    Sauber-Ferrari    5

Vettel scores 50th pole position in Mexico

Sebastian Vettel achieved his 50th pole position in the sport with  a dramatic qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix, knocking Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen off top spot at the end.

Verstappen was quickest on the first runs in Q3 with a one minute, 16.574 seconds, but lapped three-tenths slower on his final attempt.

This allowed Ferrari driver Vettel to snatch pole with a lap of one minute, 16.488 seconds, having been just over a quarter-of-a-second slower on the first runs.

Lewis Hamilton was third fastest for Mercedes after a moment in the Turn 12 right-hander which cost him time in the final sector, meaning the championship leader had to rely on his first-run time.

This put him ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who posted a lap good enough for fourth having had to abandon his first run without setting a time.

This was because of a lockup at Turn 13 after passing the slow Verstappen.

Kimi Raikkonen was fifth ahead of Esteban Ocon, with Daniel Ricciardo failing to improve on his final lap and ending up seventh.

The Renault duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr were eighth and ninth ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez.

Williams team-mates Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll were the only drivers among the five eliminated in Q2 to post a lap time.

Massa ended up P11, missing out on a place in Q3 thanks to lapping 0.231 seconds slower than Perez.

Stroll was over a second behind his team-mate in P12, with much of the time lost with a scruffy run through the stadium section late in the lap.

Brendon Hartley, on his second Formula 1 appearance for Toro Rosso, reached Q2 for the first time but ended up P13 thanks to stopping with a loss of power exiting Turn 3 on his first flying lap.

With Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne carrying grid penalties of 35 and 20 position respectively, McLaren opted not to mount a serious assault on Q2 with both drivers completing a token run without attempting a flying lap – leaving them P14 and P15.

Sauber duo Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein were fastest of those eliminated in Q1 in P16 and P17 respectively.

Both did three runs in Q1, but Wehrlein was bumped into the dropzone by Vandoorne late on, moments before Ericsson jumped ahead of him.

Wehrlein did not improve on his final lap but still ended up ahead of Haas duo Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, who also both squeezed three runs into Q1.

Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly did not run in qualifying on his return to Formula 1 action after engine problems struck in final practice.

The 21-year-old already carries at least a 15-place grid penalty thanks to power unit component changes during practice, and completed only 12 laps on his first appearance at Mexico City.

So a fantastic result for Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari. The last time the Scuderia was on the front row at Mexico was Clay Regazzoni in 1970… Fingers crossed this qualifying result will be the start of Vettel’s championship fight back.

Qualifying positions, Mexican Grand Prix:

1    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m16.488s
2    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m16.574s
3    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m16.934s
4    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    1m16.958s
5    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m17.238s
6    Esteban Ocon    Force India/Mercedes    1m17.437s
7    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m17.447s
8    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    1m17.466s
9    Carlos Sainz    Renault    1m17.794s
10    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m17.807s
11    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m18.099s
12    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    1m19.159s
13    Brendon Hartley    Toro Rosso-Renault    –
14    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m19.176s
15    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    1m19.333s
16    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    1m19.443s
17    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m19.473s
18    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    –
19    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    –
20    Pierre Gasly    Toro Rosso-Renault    –

Hamilton scores Mercedes constructors’ title with victory at Austin

Lewis Hamilton is within striking distance to winning his fourth Formula 1 world championship with a commanding victory in the United States Grand Prix at Austin.

The Mercedes driver lost the lead to his title rival Sebastian Vettel at the start, but got back past the Ferrari driver early on to score his ninth victory of the season and fifth in six attempts at the Circuit of Americas.

Vettel finished second, 10.1 seconds adrift, and now trails Hamilton by 66 points with only 75 remaining, with Max Verstappen snatching third from Kimi Raikkonen with an incredible pass on the final lap of the race.

However, Verstappen was given a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage when completing that overtake, which demoted him to fourth with Raikkonen promoted back to third.

Valtteri Bottas finished fifth as his Mercedes team clinched its fourth successive constructors’ championship with three races still remaining.

Vettel made a great start from second on the grid to dive up the inside of Hamilton into Turn 1, despite Hamilton’s efforts to defend the line.

Hamilton reported that his tyres felt good and after a couple of laps had got back within DRS range before launching an attack down the back straight.

The Mercedes nipped down the inside to take the position and though Vettel attacked through the twisty section that followed, Hamilton held the Ferrari off.

Vettel pitted at the end of lap 16, swapping the ultra-softs for softs, but Hamilton chose to stay out three laps longer before pitting for fresh set of Pirelli.

Vettel set a series of fast laps, but ran wide at the penultimate corner as Hamilton pitted, with the Mercedes emerging from the pits just ahead into Turn 1 to stay ahead.

Max Verstappen ran a long first stint, having started P16, and rose through the field to take the lead as others made their pit stops.

Hamilton quickly caught the Red Bull driver and used DRS to make the pass on cut back at Turn 14 to retake a lead.

Verstappen pitted at the end of lap 24, taking the soft tyre and rejoining fifth. Red Bull then went aggressive by pitting him for a second time 13 laps later.

The Red Bull driver took the super-softs and stayed fifth, such was the gap to Esteban Ocon behind, with Vettel responding and taking the same compound, rejoining fourth having run second.

That promoted Bottas to second with Raikkonen third, but the Mercedes driver was struggling for speed and after a series of attacks, Raikkonen finally made one stick at the end of the back straight to snatch second.

Vettel used fresh tyres to close back up to Bottas, passing the Mercedes driver around the outside of Turn 1 to take third with five laps to go.

Raikkonen was informed by his team that Vettel was now the car behind and promptly moved over at Turn 1 to allow his team-mate to take second position.

He then lost third in the final sequence of corners when Verstappen dived down the inside of the long right-hander on the final lap only to be given the position back following the Red Bull driver’s penalty.

It was a bad day for Verstappen’s team-mate Daniel Ricciardo who retired early on, having had a great battle with Bottas for third, with a suspected engine problem.

Ocon absorbed pressure from Carlos Sainz Jr to hold on to sixth, with the latter scoring points on his first start for Renault in seventh.

Sergio Perez, who was frustrated with his Force India team when he felt he was being held up by Ocon midway through the race, ended up eighth with Felipe Massa and Daniil Kvyat completing the top ten.

Brendon Hartley finished P13 on his Grand Prix debut with Toro Rosso, 26 seconds behind Toro Rosso team-mate Kvyat.

Nico Hulkenberg retired after suffering a loss of oil pressure, while Fernando Alonso’s race was ended with an engine problem.

Pascal Wehrlein also failed to finish after contact with Kevin Magnussen at the start while his Sauber team-mate finished P15, having incurred a five-second penalty for causing a separate collision with Magnussen.

With this victory at the Circuit of the Americas, Lewis Hamilton is just ten points away in sealing his fourth world championship. It’s going to be a really difficult for Sebastian Vettel to wrestle this title back but anything can happen in Formula 1. Roll on Mexico.

United States Grand Prix, race results after 56 laps:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    56    1h33m50.993s
2    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    56    10.143s
3    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    56    15.779s
4    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    56    16.768s
5    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    56    34.967s
6    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    56    1m30.980s
7    Carlos Sainz    Renault    56    1m32.944s
8    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    55    1 Lap
9    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    55    1 Lap
10    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Renault    55    1 Lap
11    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    55    1 Lap
12    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    55    1 Lap
13    Brendon Hartley    Toro Rosso-Renault    55    1 Lap
14    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    55    1 Lap
15    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    55    1 Lap
16    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    55    1 Lap
–    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    24    Retirement
–    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    14    Retirement
–    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    5    Retirement
–    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    3    Retirement

Qualifying masterclass from Hamilton at Circuit of the Americas

Lewis Hamilton achieved his 72nd Formula 1 pole position with a masterclass performance in qualifying for the United States Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver was fastest in all three segments of qualifying, ending up 0.239 seconds clear of title rival Sebastian Vettel.

This was despite a poor final sector from Hamilton’s second Q3 run preventing him from improving, meaning the one minute, 33.108 seconds he set on his first attempt was good enough for pole.

Vettel was only fourth on the first runs in Q3, but he recovered with a strong second lap to jump ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who also lost time in the final sector and did not improve on his first run time.

Daniel Ricciardo was fourth fastest thanks to setting his lap time before Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, the duo setting identical marks of one minute, 33.577 seconds.

Max Verstappen, who has a 15-place grid penalty, was sixth quickest and is the only driver from the top ten in qualifying who will start on super-softs rather than ultra-softs having used the slower Pirelli compound to set his Q2 time.

Esteban Ocon was seventh fastest, a second off Verstappen, while Carlos Sainz Jr completed only one run in Q3 thanks to only having one set of fresh ultra-softs, ending up eighth.

Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez – who only had used tyres for his first Q3 run – rounded out the top ten.

Felipe Massa was eliminated in Q2 after a late improvement from Perez, missing out by less than half-a-tenth and ending up P11.

Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat was P12 ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne, who has a five-place grid penalty thanks to the upgraded Honda power unit that was introduced at the start of the US GP weekend, and Romain Grosjean.

Nico Hulkenberg ended qualifying P15 having opted not to run in Q2 for what the team described as “strategic” reasons because of his 20-place grid penalty for engine component changes.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was the quickest of the drivers to be eliminated in Q1, missing out thanks to being just seven-thousandths slower than Grosjean.

That put him ahead of Lance Stroll, who complained over the radio of a deployment problem on his final run that he subsequently said cost him eight-tenths on the back straight.

The Williams driver is also being investigated by race stewards for impeding Grosjean, having jinked to his right and off the track while the Haas driver was attempting to go around the outside of him near the end of the lap.

Toro Rosso debutant Brendon Hartley, who has a 25-place grid penalty, was P18 having briefly lifted himself out of the dropzone early in the final-run flurry before being shuffled back.

The New Zealander was ultimately only 0.054 seconds off a place in Q2, having lapped eighth-tenths slower than team-mate Kvyat’s Q1 time.

Pascal Wehrlein was P19 for Sauber, with Kevin Magnussen slowest for Haas.

Magnussen is also being investigated by stewards for impeding Perez through Turns 13/14.

So a commanding performance by Lewis Hamilton. Quickest in all the practice sessions,

Congratulations Hamilton on setting a new track records, his 72nd pole in the sport and his 117 front row. Impressive set of achievements.

Qualifying positions, United States Grand Prix:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m33.108s
2    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m33.347s
3    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    1m33.568s
4    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m33.577s
5    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m33.577s
6    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    1m34.647s
7    Carlos Sainz    Renault    1m34.852s
8    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m35.007s
9    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m35.148s
10    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m35.155s
11    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m35.529s
12    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m35.870s
13    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m36.842s
14    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    1m36.868s
15    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    1m35.641s
16    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    1m37.179s
17    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    1m37.394s
18    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m33.658s
19    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    –    –
20    Brendon Hartley    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m36.889s

Hamilton edge closer to the title with Suzuka victory, as Vettel retires

Lewis Hamilton has one hand on the Formula 1 championship trophy thanks to victory in the Japanese Grand Prix, beating Max Verstappen as Sebastian Vettel’s title hopes took a major blow with retirement.

Hamilton converted pole into an early lead while second-placed Vettel began to drop back immediately, minutes after his Ferrari team had taken the engine cover off the car on the grid to check a spark plug problem.

Vettel’s lack of pace meant Verstappen, who passed Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo off the line, picked off Vettel at the hairpin on the opening lap, before the Ferrari dropped another three places at the start of the second lap.

After a brief safety car period, caused by Carlos Sainz crashing his Toro Rosso at Turn 6, Vettel dropped down to eighth before getting the call on the radio to pit and retire the car on lap 4.

This retirement is a real blow to Vettel’s title hopes and it’s a real shame that the championship looks over after so many problems at Ferrari.

Hamilton then extended his lead to just over four seconds before Verstappen pitted to change his supersofts for soft tyres on lap 21, with Hamilton covering off the undercut on the following lap.

Bottas began to hold up Mercedes team-mate Hamilton after Ricciardo made his pit-stop, allowing Verstappen to close within a second of his rival, but the gap grew again when Bottas allowed Hamilton through at the Casio Triangle chicane at the midway point and started to hold up Verstappen.

It wasn’t until lap 30 that Bottas pitted for supersofts by which time Verstappen had fallen 3.4 seconds adrift.

The Red Bull driver then managed to cut Hamilton’s advantage to a little over two seconds, but couldn’t keep up the pace until Hamilton found himself being held up by Fernando Alonso on lap 51.

That allowed Verstappen to close to within a second at the start of the final lap, but more traffic allowed Hamilton to escape once more and seal the win by a slight margin.

Ricciardo completed the podium in third after a succession of fastest laps late on but couldn’t make further inroads after switching to supersoft tyres on lap 25.

The sole surviving Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth, recovering after dropping to P15 on the opening lap when he was forced wide at Spoon Curve by Nico Hulkenberg.

The Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished sixth and seventh. Ocon had run as high as third early on after passing Ricciardo on the opening lap, but was soon demoted to fifth on successive laps by Ricciardo and Bottas.

An aggressive late move at Turn 1 on the Williams of Felipe Massa gave Kevin Magnussen eighth place, with Haas team-mate Romain Grosjean following through to grab ninth.

Fernando Alonso finished P11 in the final home race for Honda as engine partner to McLaren, ahead of Jolyon Palmer’s Renault and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly.

This was Palmer’s final race for Renault as he steps down from the driving seat to make way for exciting new talent, Carlos Sainz Jr.

Stoffel Vandoorne came home P14 for McLaren after dropping to the rear on the first lap.

Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein was the only other finisher in P15, his team-mate Marcus Ericsson crashing out early on at Degner 2.

Lance Stroll retired when an apparent failure on the front-right of his Williams sent him skating across the gravel late on, while Nico Hulkenberg’s DRS refusing to close forced him out.

So the perfect result for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes at Suzuka. The reality of winning the 2017 Formula 1 world championship is getting real. The speed, reliability and strategy from the Silver Arrows has been impressive and it will be such an achievement to win the title.

As for Sebastian Vettel. This was a major disappointment to retire from the Japanese Grand Prix with this spark plug problem. So much bad luck and technical issues from Ferrari. It’s going to take a miracle for Vettel to win the title with this setback.

Japanese Grand Prix, race results after 53 laps:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1h27m31.193s
2    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1.211s
3    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    9.679s
4    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    10.580s
5    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    32.622s
6    Esteban Ocon        Force India-Mercedes    1m07.788s
7    Sergio Perez      Force India-Mercedes    1m11.424s
8    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    1m28.953s
9    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m29.883s
10    Felipe Massa        Williams-Mercedes    1 Lap
11    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1 Lap
12    Jolyon Palmer        Renault    1 Lap
13    Pierre Gasly    Toro Rosso-Renault    1 Lap
14    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    1 Lap
15    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    2 Laps
–    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    Retirement
–    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    Retirement
–    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    Spun off
–    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    Power Unit
–    Carlos Sainz        Toro Rosso-Renault    Spun off