Hamilton extends championship lead after win in Bahrain

Hamilton Bahrain GP 2015 winner

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton scored his third victory in four races with a commanding drive in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver was always in control at the front and yet the battle behind was thrilling. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen came out on top to take his first podium of the season.

Nico Rosberg finished third, ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel. The latter experiencing a tricky race – running off track and damaging his front wing.

Hamilton made a clean start from pole position, with Vettel going defensive and successfully holding on to second. That backed Rosberg up, allowing Raikkonen to snatch third place.

However, Rosberg battled his way back past Raikkonen and then took advantage of Vettel running wide at Turn 1 to close and then pass at the same corner next time around.

Ferrari successfully used the undercut to jump Rosberg at the first round of pit-stops, but Vettel was then distracted by Hamilton exiting the pit lane and Rosberg took advantage – diving down the inside of Turn 1 to retake second place.

The Scuderia repeated the undercut trick at the second  round of pit-stops and yet again it worked, with Vettel jumping Rosberg. But another mistake by Vettel, this time running wide at the final corner, allowed Rosberg back through.

That error also caused front wing damage for the Malaysian Grand Prix winner and Sebastian was forced to pit for repairs.

Raikkonen then started catching Rosberg in the final stint of the race, as he was running the softer of the two compound tyres.

And The Iceman capitalised when Rosberg – who also had brake problems – ran wide at Turn 1 in the closing laps, allowing the Ferrari to grab second.

Vettel dropped to fifth with his extra pit-stop and could not get back past Bottas despite a long chase.

Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault power unit let go spectacularly out of the final corner of the last lap, but he managed to cross the finishing line to take sixth for Red Bull Racing.

Romain Grosjean scored points for the second successive race with seventh for Lotus, ahead of Sergio Perez.

The Force India driver recorded some points thanks to a two-stop strategy working well compared to the three-stopping rivals in the midfield.

Daniil Kvyat rescued some points with ninth in the Red Bull, having started in P17, with Felipe Massa completing the top ten and recovering well from a pit lane start after stalling on the grid.

The Williams driver ran eighth late on but his very long final stint on his two-stop strategy proved ambitious and his tyres faded.

Fernando Alonso equalled McLaren’s best finish of the season in P11, while his team-mate Jenson Button did not even make the start after a problem was detected with his energy recovery system.

Sauber’s Felipe Nasr was P12, one position ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg with Marcus Ericsson P13, having run in the points before losing at least twenty seconds during a pit-stop when his team struggled to fit the front-left tyre.

Pastor Maldonado was also in contention for points but he was delayed in the pits with smoke pouring from the front brakes of the Lotus and he ended up P15.

Manor got both cars to the finish for the second successive race, with Will Stevens P16 and Roberto Merhi P17.

But this was a disappointing race for Toro Rosso. Both   Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen were forced to retire from the Bahrain Grand Prix.

So an entertaining race in the twilight and yet the the champions reign supreme. This was Hamilton’s 36th career victory in Formula 1 and is now 27 points ahead of his championship rival and team-mate.

Mercedes extends their lead in the constructors’ standings over the Scuderia. Formula 1 will return in three weeks time and the start of the European leg in the fascinating season.

Mercedes Bahrain GP 2015

Bahrain Grand Prix, 57 laps:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1h35m05.809s
2    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    3.380s
3    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    6.033s
4    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes     42.957s
5    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    43.989s
6    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m01.751s
7    Romain Grosjean    Lotus-Mercedes    1m24.763s
8    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1 Lap
9    Daniil Kvyat    Red Bull-Renault    1 Lap
10    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1 Lap
11    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1 Lap
12    Felipe Nasr         Sauber-Ferrari    1 Lap
13    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    1 Lap
14    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1 Lap
15    Pastor Maldonado    Lotus-Mercedes    1 Lap
16    Will Stevens    Manor-Ferrari    2 Laps
17    Roberto Merhi    Manor-Ferrari    3 Laps
–    Max Verstappen    Toro Rosso-Renault    Retirement
–    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    Retirement
–    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    Not started

Drivers’ standings:

1    Lewis Hamilton    93
2    Nico Rosberg    66
3    Sebastian Vettel    65
4    Kimi Raikkonen    42
5    Felipe Massa    31
6    Valtteri Bottas    30
7    Daniel Ricciardo    19
8    Felipe Nasr    14
9    Romain Grosjean    12
10    Nico Hulkenberg    6
11    Max Verstappen    6
12    Carlos Sainz    6
13    Sergio Perez    5
14    Marcus Ericsson    5
15    Daniil Kvyat    4
16    Fernando Alonso    0
17    Jenson Button    0
18    Roberto Merhi    0
19    Will Stevens    0
20    Pastor Maldonado    0

Constructors’ standings:

1    Mercedes    159
2    Ferrari    107
3    Williams-Mercedes    61
4    Red Bull-Renault    23
5    Sauber-Ferrari    19
6    Lotus-Mercedes    12
7    Toro Rosso-Renault    12
8    Force India-Mercedes    11
9    McLaren-Honda    0
10    Manor-Ferrari    0

Next race: Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona. May 8-10

Four out of four poles for Hamilton

Bahrain GP qualifying 2015

Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton maintains his dominance in Formula 1 qualifying with his fourth successive pole position at the Bahrain International Circuit.

The Mercedes driver was a class of the field and achieved a superb Q2 lap that was 0.5 seconds quicker than last year’s pole set by his team-mate Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton found a tenth of a second on his only run in Q3 to secure P1 and beating Sebastian Vettel in the process.

Vettel is a major threat to the Silver Arrows and for the second time this season (just like Sepang), the Ferrari driver relegate Hamilton’s team-mate Nico Rosberg to third spot.

Rosberg, who qualified on pole for the Bahrain Grand Prix for the last two years, lost crucial time in the first sector and wasn’t able to recover, ending up 0.147 seconds slower than Vettel, but just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.

Williams locked out row three, with Valtteri Bottas marginally quicker than team-mate Felipe Massa.

Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo qualified less than a tenth adrift in seventh place, but with a gap of over six tenths to the remainder of the top ten.

Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India recorded a superb eighth, just 0.012 seconds clear of the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr, while Romain Grosjean’s Lotus completed the top ten, just 0.022 seconds further back.

Both Force Indias made it through to Q2 for the first time this season, with Sergio Perez edging out his team-mate by two tenths of a second in Q1.

But Perez just missed out on joining Hulkenberg in Q3 during a tight battle in the middle part of qualifying.

Perez looked on course to make the top ten as the session finished, but lost out Sainz Jr by just 0.063 seconds so will start in P11.

That meant the Sauber missing out in Q3 – with Felipe Nasr just 0.033 seconds slower than Perez in P12.

Marcus Ericsson made an error on his best lap so was almost three tenths further back in P13.

Despite that, Ericsson was only fractionally faster than Fernando Alonso, as McLaren-Honda made it through to Q2 for the first time this season.

Alonso qualified in P14, just ahead of the Toro Rosso of Max Verstappen, who complained of a lack of power at the start of Q2.

Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus, the Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat and Jenson Button’s McLaren-Honda joined the Manor in filing through the Q1 exit door.

A problem with Maldonado’s Mercedes power unit meant he missed the cut by just 0.024 seconds, having looked strong throughout practice.

A poor lap from Kvyat, who lost much of third practice session when he beached his RB11 in the gravel, meant the Red Bull driver will start the race in P17. His worst qualifying result so far.

Will Stevens again comfortably outpaced team-mate Roberto Merhi, as Manor qualified off the final row of the grid thanks to more technical problems for Button’s McLaren.

Button’s car, which suffered reliability dramas throughout practice, stopped exiting Turn 3 on his out-lap with a suspected electrical problem, so the 2009 world champion failed to set a time.

Bahrain GP 2015

Qualifying standings:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m32.571s
2    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m32.982s
3    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    1m33.129s
4    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m33.227s
5    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    1m33.381s
6    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m33.744s
7    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m33.832s
8    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    1m34.450s
9    Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso-Renault    1m34.462s
10    Romain Grosjean    Lotus-Mercedes    1m34.484s
11    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m34.704s
12    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    1m34.737s
13    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m35.034s
14    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m35.039s
15    Max Verstappen    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m35.103s
16    Pastor Maldonado    Lotus-Mercedes    1m35.677s
17    Daniil Kvyat    Red Bull-Renault    1m35.800s
18    Will Stevens    Manor-Ferrari    1m38.713s
19    Roberto Merhi    Manor-Ferrari    1m39.722s
20    Jenson Button    McLaren/Honda    No time

Hamilton leads home Silver Arrows one-two in China

Mercedes China 2015

Reigning world champions Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes reconfirm their superiority over Formula 1 with a commanding victory at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Nico Rosberg had to settle with second position, but was not too happy with his team-mate during the Chinese Grand Prix, blaming Hamilton on intending to slow him down…

At least the Silver Arrows finished ahead of rival Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen gave chase throughout the race and yet it wasn’t really an entertaining Grand Prix.

Hamilton had made his intentions clear by aiming his car very aggressively towards Rosberg’s on the starting grid.

The pole sitter duly held his lead off the line, with Rosberg and Vettel stringing out behind the defending champion through the first stint.

The situation became more tense in the middle stint of the two-stop race, as both Rosberg and Vettel closed on the race leader.

A frustrated Rosberg got on the radio to Mercedes asking if Hamilton could speed up, as his tyres were wearing out too much whenever he got closer than two seconds away from his team-mate’s rear wing.

When Ferrari brought Vettel in for his second pit-stop ahead of the Silver Arrows, Rosberg was pitted a lap later in an effort to prevent the Malaysian Grand Prix winner getting an undercut on his new tyres.

But rather than his rivals’ earlier pit-stops putting Hamilton at a disadvantage, he was able to raise his pace considerably on his final laps on soft tyres.

Hamilton ran two laps longer than Rosberg and rejoined with a six-second cushion rather than the two-second advantage he had held prior to the pit-stops.

Rosberg reduced Hamilton’s lead slightly before the chequrered flag.

A safety car appearance with just two laps to go – caused by Max Verstappen’s Toro Rosso parking on the pit straight in a cloud of smoke – made things even more comfortable for Hamilton, as the race finished under yellow caution.

Vettel was not a match for the Mercedes once all were onto medium tyres and dropped away in third place.

The Ferrari driver then came under late pressure from his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

The Iceman quickly cleared both Williams on the opening lap to make up for his qualifying frustration, and though he could not keep pace with the top trio initially, he ran long in his middle stint and made up lost ground.

Raikkonen was still 1.4 seconds behind Vettel when the late safety car came out and had to be content with fourth.

Williams ran a lonely and distant fifth and sixth with Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, a minute behind the leaders prior to the field being bunched up.

Lotus achieved its first championship points of the year with Romain Grosjean in seventh position, but it was a crazy race for his team-mate Pastor Maldonado.

Maldonado got ahead of his team-mate in the first pit-stop sequence, before going down the pitlane entry escape road at his second pit-stop.

A spin while trying to recover left him even further behind, and Pastor was then involved in a spectacular battle with the McLarens of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.

After several laps, this came to a conclusion when Button hit the back of the Lotus at Turn 1, ending Maldonado’s race and prompting a stewards’ investigation.

The race stewards didn’t take too kindly on Button and decided to add two penalty points on his license.

Despite that, McLaren still got its first double finish of the season with Alonso and Button’s battered cars P12 and P13.

Until his late engine failure, Verstappen was on course for eighth position, having sliced through the field with some very bold overtaking.

But his problem completed a terrible day for Renault and the Red Bull-owned teams.

Daniel Ricciardo had tumbled to P17 after a terrible start and was having great difficulty in coming back through the field to ninth between the Saubers of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson, which scored again.

Daniil Kvyat was also out early with a suspected engine failure, while Carlos Sainz Jr spun at Turn 1 in the opening laps and later lost time with a gearbox problem before finishing between the McLarens and Manors in P14.

Force India spent a while in the points as a unique three-stop strategy for Sergio Perez shook out, but in the end 11th was his limit.

A gearbox failure ended team-mate Nico Hulkenberg’s race.

So not a thrilling race but it’s fascinating to see that the same three drivers have finished on the podium three times already.

Lewis Hamilton is riding on a crest of confidence, while Sebastian Vettel appears to be a close challenger.

As for Nico Rosberg, he needs to turn this situation already and start reducing the points gap to his Mercedes team-mate.

Hamilton 2015 China winner

Chinese Grand Prix, 56 laps:
1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1h39m42.008s
2    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    0.714s
3    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    2.988s
4    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    3.835s
5    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    8.544s
6    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    9.885s
7    Romain Grosjean    Lotus-Mercedes    19.008s
8    Felipe Nasr    Sauber-Ferrari    22.625s
9    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    32.117s
10    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1 Lap
11    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1 Lap
12    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1 Lap
13    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    1 Lap
14    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    1 Lap
15    Will Stevens    Manor-Ferrari    2 Laps
16    Roberto Merhi    Manor-Ferrari    2 Laps
17    Max Verstappen    Toro Rosso-Renault    Engine
–    Pastor Maldonado    Lotus-Mercedes    Collision
–    Daniil Kvyat    Red Bull-Renault    Engine
–    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    Retirement

Drivers’ championship:
1    Lewis Hamilton    68
2    Sebastian Vettel    55
3    Nico Rosberg    51
4    Felipe Massa    30
5    Kimi Raikkonen    24
6    Valtteri Bottas    18
7    Felipe Nasr    14
8    Daniel Ricciardo    11
9    Romain Grosjean    6
10    Nico Hulkenberg    6
11    Max Verstappen    6
12    Carlos Sainz    6
13    Marcus Ericsson    5
14    Daniil Kvyat    2
15    Sergio Perez    1
16    Jenson Button    0
17    Fernando Alonso    0
18    Roberto Merhi    0
19    Will Stevens    0

Constructors’ championship:
1    Mercedes    119
2    Ferrari    79
3    Williams-Mercedes    48
4    Sauber-Ferrari    19
5    Red Bull-Renault    13
6    Toro Rosso-Renault    12
7    Force India-Mercedes    7
8    Lotus-Mercedes    6
9    McLaren-Honda    0
10    Manor-Ferrari    0

Next race: Bahrain Grand Prix, April 17-19.

Hamilton achieves hat trick of poles this season with P1 in China

Hamilton China 2015

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton scored his third successive pole position this season after fending off his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg by four hundredths of a second to take P1 at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Hamilton had been the favourite for the top spot after setting the quickest lap in all three practice sessions plus Q2.

His first Q3 run with a time of one minute, 35.782 seconds underlined his status as number one. Rosberg was unable to compete and was three tenths behind.

The gap between the Silver Arrows was reduced to 0.042 seconds in the final Q3 run, set by Rosberg but last season’s runner-up was left feeling frustrated on missing out on P1.

Malaysian Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel was nearly a second off Hamilton’s pole time in third position for Ferrari.

That denied the Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, which were top-three contenders but ultimately found themselves three tenths and half a second down on Vettel respectively.

They still managed to beat Kimi Raikkonen, who was sixth ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

His Red Bull team-mate Daniil Kvyat failed to reach Q3 and will start the race in P12.

Romain Grosjean was eighth for Lotus, while Pastor Maldonado missed out on Q3 by just 0.007 seconds and will line up in P11.

The most improved team in qualifying was Sauber. Both Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson will the start the Chinese Grand Prix on row five ahead of Toro Rosso.

After scoring his first championship point in the last race, Max Verstappen made a mistake when locking up heavily on his final run. His team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr will share row seven.

McLaren’s encouraging practice times proved deceptive as Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso found themselves out in Q1 and on row nine, just 0.004 seconds apart.

At least McLaren-Honda was within a tenth of the Force Indias. Nico Hulkenberg only got ahead of Button with a final Q1 effort, while Sergio Perez scraped through into Q2 then languished seven tenths off the Toro Rossos.

The Manor-run Marussias were three seconds off the tail of the field but made the 107 per cent target in Q1 so are both clear to start the Chinese Grand Prix, Will Stevens ahead of Roberto Merhi.

So pole position number 41 for Lewis Hamilton. The reigning world champion has serious speed and confidence in the Mercedes this season.

It’s going to be fascinating if his team-mate Nico Rosberg can challenge for race victory but will Sebastian Vettel spoil the party once again, just like Malaysia? We shall find on on race day in China.

Hamilton China 2015 pole

Qualifying positions, Chinese Grand Prix:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m35.782s
2    Nico Rosberg    Mercedes    1m35.824s
3    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m36.687s
4    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m36.954s
5    Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes    1m37.143s
6    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m37.232s
7    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m37.540s
8    Romain Grosjean    Lotus-Mercedes    1m37.905s
9    Felipe Nasr          Sauber-Ferrari    1m38.067s
10    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m38.158s
11    Pastor Maldonado    Lotus-Mercedes    1m38.134s
12    Daniil Kvyat    Red Bull-Renault    1m38.209s
13    Max Verstappen    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m38.393s
14    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m38.538s
15    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m39.290s
16    Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes    1m39.216s
17    Jenson Button    McLaren-Honda    1m39.276s
18    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m39.280s
19    Will Stevens    Manor-Ferrari    1m42.091s
20    Roberto Merhi    Manor-Ferrari    1m42.842s