FORMULA 1: Rosberg trumps Hamilton in Mexico
WITH the 2015 title won and Lewis Hamilton still in celebratory mode, the remaining races in the Formula One world championship would never match the tension or importance of the earlier races. But in Mexico, Nico Rosberg was determinedly on a mission to show the world – and himself – that he could beat his world champion team-mate.
For the first time in 23 years, F1 returned to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico, a venue with a chequered history of drama and memories and now back as an F1 venue following circuit re-profiling by Hermann Tilke and new pit and paddock facilities.
Three long straights, broken up by a demanding esses section, gave the bumpy, skatey track its specific challenges. The thin air - 23 percent less dense at a lofty 2285 metres - also ensured that engines, aerodynamics and drivers would be sorely tested. Speeds around 365km/h were not uncommon.
Having claimed the last two races there in 1991 and 1992 with Riccardo Patrese and Nigel Mansell respectively, Williams was on a hat trick of Mexican Grand Prix victories.
Hamilton thought the revised circuit more like a go-kart track in the slow areas. “It's crazy how slippery it is. Because we're so high up in terms of altitude, there's even less grip than in Monza, so the car was just sliding around.”
And all were concerned about their brakes.
The grid assumed a familiar look at the front with another Mercedes shutout. Three ex world champions started at the rear – Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, the latter getting a ridiculous 70-grid spot penalty.
Before a boisterous capacity crowd, a fired-up Rosberg made a handy start and stayed ahead of the menacing Hamilton. But Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari collected a puncture from Daniel Ricciardo in a typical first corner scramble, an event deemed a racing incident.
No-one was sent to the Finn bin either when Valtteri Bottas and Raikkonen thumped together in the esses on lap 23, with the impact breaking the Ferrari’s rear suspension.
Vettel’s wretched race ended with a crash, bringing out a safety car which helped the possibilities of rubber-hungry Williams, struggling on tyres.
The bunching put Hamilton back on Rosberg’s tail followed by Daniil Kvyat, Bottas, Ricciardo and Felipe Massa. It was a 14 lap sprint to the flag.
Bottas jumped the “sitting duck” Russian in the Renault-powered Red Bull to take third as Rosberg led the Mercs to the team’s 10th one-two finish of the season.
The Red Bull pair Kvyat and Ricciardo held fourth and fifth, still hoping and waiting for a firm engine deal for 2016.
It wasn’t a classic race but try telling that to the satisfied Rosberg, who beat Hamilton on equal terms, and the joyous Mexican masses watching.
WEC: Webber and mates take 6 Hours of Shanghai
MARK Webber has moved closer to his first title triumph with a win for Porsche in the Six Hours of Shanghai, the penultimate round of the World Endurance Championship.
It was an edgy, dramatic and see-sawing fight between Porsche and Audi – VW Group stablemates but bitter rivals in the WEC – in a race held in murky, largely hostile weather.
Porsche prevailed, scoring another one-two with its 1000-plus horsepower 919 Hybrids, the win taken by Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard ahead of the sister car Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb.
On Saturday, Hartley and Webber claimed pole for the #17 Porsche crew, ahead of the other 919, the Audis and Toyotas.
On a saturated track, the 31 starters began the race behind the safety car until, after 10 minutes, the cars led by Hartley were cut loose. The Kiwi was immediately ambushed in turn one by the #18 sister Porsche of Lieb, who seconds later spun after a touch from Andre Lotterer’s Audi…
Over the ensuring stint, Lieb fought back to second behind the impressive Hartley. But in awful conditions the manic third hour fell to the Audis with the Webber #17 car back in fourth, its dry-weather dominance neutered by the heavy rain.
As the track dried though, the more powerful Porsches rebounded. Bernhard brought #17 back to the front before handing over to Webber for the two-hour gallop to the finish.
Webber went on to another win for #17, stretching that crew’s lead in the drivers’ title to 12 points. The Audis took third and fourth, the result securing the manufacturers’ championship for Porsche.
Can Webber win his first championship in a long and notable career? We’ll know in Bahrain.
GT3: Fierce rivals Lowndes and Tander join forces for the Bathurst 12 Hour
CRAIG Lowndes and Garth Tander, two of Australia’s fastest and best credentialed V8 Supercars stars, will race a new Jamec-Pem Racing Audi R8 LMS with owner Steve McLaughan in next year’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour on February 7.
Lowndes, a great honorary advocate of the annual sports-car enduro, won the 12 Hour in 2014, when he teamed with John Bowe, Mika Salo and Peter Edwards in a Ferrari.
The return to Audi for Australia’s most popular race driver will be, for him, like pulling on a comfortable pair of runners. He contested the 12-hour with Audi between 2011 and 2013, finishing second the first year after having earlier qualified on pole. He failed to finish the race the following two years before a Ferrari 458 brought him victory.
Lowndes only missed the race this year due to the obduracy of V8 Supercars Australia, which quite deliberately scheduled a test day at Sydney Motorsport Park to block drivers from racing in the rival category. V8SA has since bought the promotional rights to the Bathurst 12 Hour – there will be no date clash next year.
The versatile Tander also has a great record in Mountain enduros, winning the 2002 Bathurst 24-Hour race and finishing second in 2003, along with three victories in the Bathurst 1000.
He is not unfamiliar with GT3 racing either, having successfully raced Tony Quinn’s Aston Martin at Phillip Island and Highlands Park (NZ) last year. He is also set to tackle these two GT races again this year, in a McLaren.
“Fairly reasonable machinery!” Tander suggested in his droll way.
Lowndes and Tander have been rivals for their long careers and this will be the first time they’ve shared a car.
Both are looking forward to that experience in a race they sense they can win.
The international part of the two-car Jamec-Pem assault will be threatening too.
Its second R8 LMS will be steered by two-time Bathurst 12-Hour winner Christopher Mies, fellow German ace Christopher Haase and Italian young gun Marco Mapelli.
V8 SUPERCARS: V8 boss has support for rugby league gig
RUMOURS have been churning in local motorsport circles that V8 Supercars’ CEO James Warburton has been canvassing a move to a senior administrative position in a major local sport.
The recent departure of NRL chief Dave Smith has accelerated the speculation.
Yesterday the rumour went mainstream with an item in Danny Weidler’s well-read Sun-Herald column, which suggested Warburton’s claims on the plum NRL job had support. “The way he runs V8s has attracted the attention of plenty,” wrote Weidler.
Approached for a remark on Weidler’s story, Warburton told Wheels, “I’ll make the same comment I made when the rumour first came around – it's pure speculation, I am loving what I am doing at V8 Supercars and committed to the sport.”
From a television background, Warburton has done a solid job of steering the V8s through trying times, including penning a fresh TV deal and introducing more engine choices to the category. But he does appear to be afflicted by the same numeracy issues as a high-profile predecessor, on the touchy topic of race attendances and international TV figures.
MOTOGP: Rossi feels the criticism, but was he to blame?
CONDEMNATION of Valentino Rossi’s riding during a hot and heated Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang came hard and swiftly, triggered after an elbows-and-knees battle with Marc Marquez ended with the reigning world champ tumbling from his Honda.
Rossi was duly given a penalty that – unless an appeal intervenes – will result in his starting the 2015 title decider at Valencia from the rear of the grid.
Certainly the original race footage from Sepang on that Sunday afternoon didn’t look good for Rossi. He had appeared to become unsettled and frustrated at the Spaniard’s aggravating overtaking moves, which hindered any pursuit of title rival Jorge Lorenzo ahead.
But further footage from different camera angles raise the question whether the early judgement came too quickly.
Before the racing began, Rossi had accused Marquez of helping his countryman Lorenzo in the fight for the championship. Insults flew.
Marquez and Honda were adamant that Rossi had kicked the Spaniard’s bike, sending him to the deck.
Rossi insisted that he didn’t kick Marquez, that his leg only moved after the contact.
Officials said the TV footage was inconclusive on the kick, but applied a penalty on the basis that Rossi’s actions in deliberately running Marquez wide had led to the crash.
Ignoring the fact that Rossi is his Yamaha team-mate, Lorenzo joined the hue and cry from those who wanted a harsher sanction – including Honda’s sponsor Repsol.
Of course, Rossi raced for Repsol Honda for two seasons in the early noughties, winning the title both times.
Rossi even hinted that perhaps he might not bother to turn up at Valencia, where coming from the back of the grid is a very tall order when Lorenzo, seven points behind in the title chase, will almost certainly start on the first or second row.
Rossi has appealed against the “unfair” penalty which he believes has ruined his chances of landing a 10th world title.
“We need to see if I will go [to the decider],” Rossi said to Italian media. “The sanction is almost definitive: to start last in Valencia equals not having any chance of making it.
“This way the championship is distorted. I gave everything to win this title.
“Losing it on track is one thing, this way hurts a lot more.”
But Rossi conceded it had not been smart to make his inflammatory comments about Marquez during a press conference before the Sepang contretemps.
“Maybe it was a mistake but I couldn’t keep quiet,” added Rossi. “When someone wants to screw you, you have to say so.”