Nico Rosberg lands another punch on team-mate Lewis Hamilton's title hopes; Craig Lowndes sets another record during a weekend of carnage; Eli Evans takes ARC lead; Sebastien Loeb's winning ways in WTCC
NICO Rosberg has won his third Grand Prix of the 2015 Formula One season after beating team-mate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton in a straight fight at the Austrian Grand Prix.
A smart start from the dirty side of the track saw Nico Rosberg establish an early lead in Sunday’s race, after pole-sitter Hamilton’s clearest opportunity to pass his Mercedes team mate was thwarted by the intervention of a safety car after a spectacular coming-together between two ex-world champions saw Fernando Alonso’s McLaren perched atop Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari. Both drivers were fortunately unhurt but Alonso, whose car slid along the top of the Armco barrier perilously close to Raikkonen’s head, described the incident as “scary”. It prompted a six-lap safety car intervention while both cars were craned from the circuit.
Upon the restart, Rosberg steadily built his lead, aided by a five second penalty Hamilton later accrued for crossing the merge line after a pit stop. Felipe Massa, who achieved pole and a good result at this circuit in 2014, inherited the third step on the podium when Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari was delayed by a recalcitrant right rear wheel during a tyre stop. Vettel closed on the Brazilian driver, but couldn't pass him before the 71 laps were completed. Massa’s Williams teammate Valteri Bottas again displayed superb overtaking skills but was unable to equal his 2014 podium, finishing in fifth place ahead of newly-crowned Le Mans vwinner Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India. Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull scraped into a points-paying finish, crossing the line in tenth, after starting in 18th place.
It was unusual to see Ricciardo in the company of the McLarens of Jenson Button and Alonso at the blunt end of the grid after the Aussie was given engine change penalties, a burden also shared by the Perth driver’s Red Bull teammate Daniil Kvyat. Qualifying had been bizarre when both Hamilton and Rosberg spun off the track during the final minutes of Q3, but not before they’d secured their usual one-two positions ahead of perennial podium companion Sebastian Vettel, giving Mercedes-Benz a clean sweep of poles over a twelve month period.
With the absence of a Grand Prix in Germany this year, Austria’s Red Bull Ring was the nearest thing to a home race for Rosberg and Mercedes-Benz (and its Austrian principals Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff), but the next event is in Lewis Hamilton’s back yard at Silverstone where he will hope to increase his championship lead over Rosberg, which has slipped to just ten points.
V8 Supercars, Darwin: Craig Lowndes’ Century Shines Through Carnage
ON the day before his 41st birthday, in the 888th V8 race, Craig Lowndes in his Number 888 Red Bull Holden Commodore won his 100th race, an all time record ahead of Jamie Whincup on 91 and Mark Skaife on 90 victories. Lowndes shone at Hidden Valley, Darwin, on a Saturday otherwise memorable as a crashfest.
There's simply not enough space to write about the Saturday morining carnage, but notable victims included Lowndes and his teammate Jamie Whincup, as well as pole sitter James Courtney and his teammate Garth Tander in Race One. The Smiling Assassin wasn’t looking too chirpy when penalised 15 points, Jamie and James both lost 25 while Jason Bright dropped 25 points twice. Unlike these vastly experienced competitors, young star Chaz Mostert in his Prodrive Ford was able to keep his nose clean by outpacing the field in front of teammate Mark Winterbottom and Rick Kelly’s Nissan who finished ahead of two more Nissans.
In Saturday’s second sprint race, no further penalties were deemed necessary other than a black flag for pole sitter Rick Kelly for taking out Fabian Coulthard. However, it was another demolition derby with the Mercedes-Benz drivers having a family squabble while Jamie Whincup had another dismal outing, unlike his teammate who enjoyed his unique achievement ahead of Tim Slade and Chaz Mostert in third.
Over the weekend Chaz proved to be the most consistent driver in the field by securing second in the 70 lap Race Three behind pole-sitter David Reynolds in the third of the Prodrive Fords, with Coulthard back in third position after having been punted off on the first turn in the previous two races.
In comparison to Saturdays’ two races, the Sunday event was almost free of controversy (other than Reynolds’ quaffing champagne from his sweaty shoe on the rostrum) although Reynolds, while leading, experienced a huge off while lapping a Nissan.
Championship rankings as the circus heads off to Townsville find Mark Winterbottom on 1165 ahead of Craig Lowndes on 1070 and Fabian Coulthard third on 1010, followed by Chaz Mostert up to fourth on 991.
Australian Rally Championship, IROQ, Queensland: Eli Evans Dominant in Caloundra
ELI Evans has taken the lead in the East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship after scoring a resounding victory at the International Rally of Queensland. Crossing the finish line some seven minutes ahead of second-placed finisher Adrian Coppin, Evans now leapfrogs crowd favourite and winner of the last round, Molly Taylor. She finished third in Kandanga South, some two minutes behind Coppin after an event plagued by problems of one sort or another. She considered herself lucky to finish at all, let alone on the podium and now finds her 17 point lead over Eli switched to an eight-point deficit after the third round of the Championship.
The IROQ (International Rally of Queensland) is also a round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, with competitors participating from across the globe. Sweden's Pontus Tidemand in a Skoda Fabia finished four minutes ahead of Kiwi Mike Young’s Subaru, with Indonesian Subhan Aksa’s Mitsubishi in third and Eli Evans fourth overall.
WTCC, Slovakia: For anyone wondering what happened to Sébastien Loeb, he’s still winning
IN only his second season of circuit racing, nine-time former World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb has won for the fourth time after taking out Race Two at the Slovakia Ring.
Loeb moved from eighth on the grid to second by turn one and then passed the enormously experienced Gabrielle Tarquini at the start of the second lap.
Loeb now stands third in the championship standings with 178 points at the season’s halfway mark, still within touching distance of second-placed Yvan Muller (209 points) and current leader Jose Maria Lopez (239 points).
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