F1 comes alive as Vettel and Ricciardo turn the tables on hapless Mercedes duo

Formula One pauses to pay tribute to fallen colleague Jules Bianchi

F1: Vettel supreme in mad Hungarian Grand Prix

NO ONE could have predicted quite what unfolded in last night’s massively entertaining Hungarian Grand Prix.

On a highly emotional day when Formula One paused to pay tribute to fallen colleague Jules Bianchi, the drivers had to quickly reset, don helmets and gloves and wriggle into their F1 missiles.

After qualifying, when the Mercedes did their customary job of locking out the front row, all the talk surrounded the possibility of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo challenging Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari for the last slot on the podium…

F 1-start -1 270715Happy and confident championship leader Lewis Hamilton looked untouchable, having a handy gap over teammate and rival Nico Rosberg, who was clearly struggling with balance issues.

At the Hungaroring, the start is particularly crucial and the action over the first kilometre turfed all the predictions out the window.

Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen powered their red cars past the Silver Arrows, and then Hamilton made a rash outside move on Rosberg and ran off the track, barely missing a barrier and rejoining in 10th.

Meanwhile, our boy Ricciardo’s start was a shocker. He should stop taking his cues from Mark Webber. In the scramble into the first corner Dan climbed over the rear wheel of a Williams, fell to, but was miraculously still going, the car unscathed.

Reeling off a succession of fastest laps, Vettel thumbed his nose at his modest qualifying pace to gap the rest, led by Raikkonen and a lacklustre Rosberg.

Daniil Kvyat, who had jumped Ricciardo in the opening lap chaos, was given a strong hint not to hold up his teammate, and the West Aussie was soon past.

Brilliant late braking moves on Nico Hulkenberg and then Bottas elevated Ricciardo to fourth. He does like the Hungaroring.

Ricciardo -leads -2-270715Hamilton, highly motivated by his self-inflicted woes, inherited some places when the first round of pit stops came into play. He was pressing Ricciardo hard but had to ask the team for another lap of ‘overtaking mode’ to get the job done.

Up front, Vettel was romping away, with Raikkonen unwilling in the role of tail gunner… until the Finn’s Ferrari called in sick later in the race. Kimi has plenty of luck, but it’s all bad.

Hulkenberg exited the race spectacularly when his front wing broke and fell under his front wheels, firing him hard into a tyre barrier and bringing out the safety car (‘virtual’ at first, then the real one). There was a track full of sharp carbonfibre debris to sweep up.

After the restart, Ricciardo went hunting, but Hamilton understeered into the side of the overtaking Red Bull, resulting in the Brit copping a drive-through penalty for causing a collision.

Even with a battered Red Bull beneath him, Ricciardo still had plenty of pace and the field began to close up at the pointy end.

With the laps running down, Ricciardo took a spectacular late lunge under Rosberg, who then powered back in front but clipped the nose of the Red Bull. It proved to be a lurid own goal as Rosberg suffered a rear puncture and headed to pit lane. 

Ricciardo was now in second but had to pit for a new wing, a delay that dropped him to third and put Kvyat into P2.

Vettel’s win was nothing short of stunning, a study in perfection.

Ricciardo -vettel -3-270715Kvyat took his first podium, while Ricciardo could only rue his awful start and subsequent dramas.

“It was definitely an eventful race, but one I am very proud of,” Ricciardo said. “I have mixed emotions but I‘m grateful to be on the podium. It’s been a tough year and to have two cars on the podium is pretty surreal.

“I pushed hard in the last stint when I was on new softs, so the opportunity was there to go for the race win. It’s a shame that Nico and I made contact but I wore my heart on my sleeve and left everything I had on the track.”

Man-child Max Verstappen was a solid fourth while Fernando Alonso’s fifth gave McLaren and Honda a desperately needed boost. 

After his worst race in ages, Hamilton was sixth and profusely (and smartly) apologising to the team for his mistakes. 

Rosberg’s eighth put him further behind in the title chase.

SPA 24 HOURS: BMW breaks Spa drought

THE factory-supported Marc VDS BMW Z4 GT3 driven by Nicky Catsburg, Markus Paltalla and Lucas Luhr scored a one-lap win in the Spa 24 Hours – the manufacturer’s first success there since 1998.

Spa -1-270715The pole-winning WRT Audi R8 LMS of Frank Stippler, Nico Muller and Stephane Ortelli just didn’t have the pace of the BMW in race conditions and had to settle for second.

The race was punctuated by heavy and persistent rain – an Eifel Mountains staple – and 10 safety car interventions.

The winning Z4 came back strongly after a poor tyre choice in the wet and a penalty for a yellow-flag infringement.

It took the lead after the team’s sister car of Maxime Martin, Augusto Farfus Jr and Dirk Werner retired with transmission failure in the 19th hour.

Spa -2-270715Phoenix Racing's new R8 driven by Nicki Thiim, Christopher Mies and Christian Mamerow finished two laps off the lead in third.

The Rowe Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG shared by Daniel Juncadella, Stef Dusseldorp and Nico Bastian cruelly went out with engine issues in the final hour after leading through much of the night. 

Queenslander Liam Talbot was 19th in a Ferrari while V8 Supercars star Shane Van Gisbergen had a troubled race in the Von Ryan McLaren 650 S and was classified 29th.

OVAL RACING: Brabham mixes it up

HIS grandfather Jack began his racing career driving midgets on dirt speedways in Australia, and his father Geoff raced on ovals of all kinds during his IndyCar and NASCAR career.

Brabham -1-270715And it seems third-generation driver Matty Brabham isn’t afraid to mix things up, either; on Saturday night he made his Late Model debut at Tri-County Speedway in Granite Falls, North Carolina (where fellow Aussie George Miedecke won in 2010).

While Brabham’s target is IndyCar, he’s keen to broaden his racing experience and grabbed the chance to compete for NASCAR star David Gilliland.

His debut was ultimately cut short with an electrical issue while he was running solidly inside the top five late in the 125-lap race.

Brabham -2-270715Brabham ran inside the top 10 for most of the race, improving lap by lap as he became more confident in the Limited Late Model car.

“It was really close, tough racing out there; running by yourself does not prepare for the race,” explained Brabham.

Earlier this month, Brabham completed his first test in a Honda-powered Andretti Autosport IndyCar Series car at Iowa Speedway.

SUZUKA 8 HOUR: Stoner’s racing return a massive pain

CASEY Stoner can count himself lucky after a scary high-speed crash which destroyed his Honda in yesterday’s Suzuka Eight Hour endurance race when a jammed throttle flung him into a barrier. 

The two-time world MotoGP champ escaped with just a busted right scapula (shoulder) and fractured left ankle after crashing in a fast right-hander that leads to a hairpin.

Stoner was taken to the infirmary but returned to his pit later swathed in bandages and on crutches.

In his first competitive outing since ‘retiring’ at the end of 2012, Stoner had just ridden into the lead.

But the much-heralded comeback/cameo lasted a mere 15 minutes.

The race, held in punishing 35-degree heat and marred by many crashes, fell to the crack Yamaha team of Kat Nakasuga and MotoGP riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith. 

The quality trio dominated for much of the race, taking Yamaha’s first victory since 1996 in one of the toughest endurance tests in motorcycle road racing.

Young Australian Josh Hook and his Swiss co-rider Dominique Aegerter also shone, leading at different times and taking an impressive second for Honda.

Stoner’s team had to wait until the end of the race for the bike to be returned so it could be examined to establish the cause of the crash.

Data confirmed that the throttle was 26 degrees open before the crash.

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