FORMULA 1: Rosberg trumps Hamilton in Brazil, if anyone cares
LEWIS Hamilton arrived in Sao Paulo under the weather and trying to ignore the controversy of a road crash back in Monaco a few days earlier. The triple world champ’s Pagani Zonda cannoned off three parked cars, the Brit unwisely blaming his discomfiture on an unrelenting round of partying since sealing the 2015 title in Austin. “It was a result of heavy partying and not much rest for 10 days,” he said somewhat guardedly. Still, not a great look for a driving role model.
Hamilton’s ordinary week continued into the race, with Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg extending his slick late-season form. Hamilton was second, but frustrated from the moment Rosberg made a forceful, elbows-out start.
The Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen followed in third and fourth, the race outcome replicating their starting positions.
If the grand prix sounds boring, you’re right, though Rosberg thought otherwise: “Wow – another great win in front of another great crowd! I'm so happy with that one – especially at this great circuit with all this history, which makes it extra fun. It was a perfect weekend for me. I was able to control the race the whole time and won with a comfortable margin to Lewis in the end.”
The Brazilian Grand Prix, a race our Mark Webber won in 2009 and 2011, had a slightly different face this year. Some wholesale re-profiling of kerbs meant the drivers had to use quite different lines through some tighter corners.
Rosberg stormed to his fifth consecutive pole position, pipping Hamilton by 0.078sec. Quick, meaningless stat: only 12 drivers have previously posted five poles back-to-back.
Daniel Ricciardo moved to an upgraded Renault power unit over the weekend but reported no discernible difference. His car was slower than that of teammate Kvyat down the straight – back to the drawing board, Regie. Daniel qualified ninth but a 10-place grid penalty put him 19th with but a distant view of the starting line.
The Aussie was better off than Fernando Alonso who used three Honda engines across the weekend, making 12 for the season. The Spaniard started at the rear after taking a 35-place grid penalty, although he was set to start 20th and dead last anyway after failing to set a qualifying time.
Ricciardo pitted strategically on lap four to put the soft tyre obligation behind him. “In the first few laps we made up some positions and did what we could and then we went for an aggressive first stop,” said the driver from Perth. “When we put the primes on, we didn’t really have the tyre life we thought we would so we still had to do a three-stop race, running at a pretty similar pace to the cars around us.”
Daniil Kvyat finished in seventh to extend his points advantage in the battle of the Red Bull drivers.
“Clearly my grid penalty didn’t help today” Ricciardo observed, “but Abu Dhabi’s next and that has always been a good circuit for us. I enjoy it a lot so for the last race of the season we’ll hopefully finish strong and in the points.”
At least Ricciardo departed Brazil knowing that Red Bull has secured an engine for next season.
Details are to be confirmed but according to independent F1 news site The Judge13 the tip is that the base engine will still be supplied by long-suffering Renault, while a new Red Bull engine division headed by Mario Illien (one half of Ilmor) will develop it separately along the team’s own hybrid energy harvesting systems.
This arrangement, which gives Red Bull and Renault face-saving positions after their acrimony this year, re-unites Illien and Adrian Newey, after the two adventurous engineering geniuses were involved with the McLaren-Mercedes partnership of the late ’90s to early 2000s.
WRC: Grieving Ogier peerless in confronting conditions in Britain
THE 2015 world championship was well and truly in the pocket of Sebastien Ogier and Volkswagen heading to the final event. But Rally Great Britain in Wales is always a blue ribbon conclusion to the season, even when, like this iteration, it’s conducted in consistent rain, lakes of standing water and a shroud of fog.
Ogier was keen to obliterate the embarrassment of the previous event when he crashed out of a good lead on the final stage of Rally Catalunya, handing a maiden win to his team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen. This time there would be no glitches.
Though distracted by the murderous events in Paris, Ogier was faultless, establishing a handy lead early and then controlling it to the finish, winning his seventh WRC event of the year by 26sec from Citroen’s Kris Meeke, with VW’s Mikkelsen third.
Out of contention early in Wales was Jari-Matti Latvala who slipped off in greasy conditions and nosed his Polo alarmingly into a very deep and wet ditch.
This elevated Meeke to second, to continue his fight to impress enough to secure a drive next season (and ultimately to hold off Hyundai in the fight for second in the manufacturers’ championship). “I like to fight for wins but that’s not possible at the moment, so second is good,” declared Meeke.
Ogier, as is his way, majestically dominated the opening day. But on the Saturday morning, the French star admitted that driving no longer really meant much in the context of the mass slaughter of innocents in Paris overnight.
“Moments like this make you all too aware of just how insignificant what you are doing actually is,” Ogier said.
“Despite this, Julien and I decided this morning that we would continue with the rally. We feel this is the right decision, rather than quitting – which would be giving in to the perpetrators. It was obviously very difficult to concentrate on driving today,” he admitted.
Even with his heart not in his job, Ogier continued to control proceedings, finishing the second day 35.7sec ahead of Northern Ireland’s Meeke.
Torrential rain, gale-force winds and ever-changing grip levels demanded the utmost concentration. It will be a day remembered too for Neuville’s huge rollover after his Hyundai clipped a stack of timber.
The final day brought freezing horizontal rain but no mistakes from Ogier in front of a large bunch of hardy fans.
Meeke took a strong second but still doesn’t know what’s in store for him in 2016, despite a breakthrough win this season.
Mikkelsen’s third in Britain was matched by his third in the championship, behind team-mates Ogier and Latvala.
Hyundai’s Dani Sordo and Hayden Patton slid to fourth and fifth in the Wales’ mud and are hoping a new car in 2016 will power the South Korean manufacturer closer to the dominant VW Polos.
So, the focus is now redirected to next year and the WRC expansion to 14 events across five continents with China, the world’s biggest car market, returning in September for first time since 1999.
Rally GB is moving back to late October to allow Australia to host the final and hopefully deciding round in mid-November. It will be followed by a glamorous gala finale to the season in Sydney.
FORMULA 1: US GP under threat… again
Formula One’s future in the United States is again in jeopardy after the Texas state government has cut its annual funding to Austin’s Circuit of the Americas.
Since the venue – one of F1’s few interesting modern layouts – started hosting a world championship grand prix in 2012, the state government tipped in $US25 million per year as a nod to the race’s economic benefit to the region.
But a new governor has indicated his generosity has been trimmed by a different economic value calculation, and that in future the contribution would be reduced by 20 per cent to $US19.5 million.
Track chairman Bobby Epstein told Autosport of his concern about the future, COTA already hit hard by falling attendances, poor weather, and a hike in the race hosting fee.
To cover the loss of funding, the F1 race would need to attract another 30,000 spectators.
Epstein said he has spoken with F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone, who is sympathetic, though his toughness in fiscal matters is legendary.
F1 in the US has had a chequered history across the decades with many and varies venues including Indianapolis (oval, and road course), Sebring, Watkins Glen, Phoenix, Dallas, Long Beach, Detroit, Las Vegas…
COTA looked to be a worthy and classy venue and, finally, a permanent F1 home. But maybe not.
To Americans, motorsport should be like their food… simple, fast and cheap.