Rosberg on top in Baku
Drivers on best behaviour in first-ever grand prix in Azerbaijan
There were predictions of wild racing on the unusual six kilometre, anticlockwise Baku track with 20 turns looping around the city’s historical centre, heralded as the fastest street circuit in the world. In parts it was as claustrophobic, and narrow, as Macau or Monaco – just eight metres across in Turn Eight.
Huge shunts and safety cars were inevitable, said the experts and the drivers.
Instead, what we got was some very precise driving from the supposed best drivers in the world. It was a largely uneventful European Grand Prix, back on the calendar after a four-year absence, and relocated to an all-new street circuit in capital city of oil-rich Azerbaijan. One of the more picturesque settings in Formula One racing, Baku is on the Caspian Sea, west of Turkey and north of Iran.
There were no crashes on race day; no interventions from safety cars.
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg took off from pole and dominated this 23rd European Grand Prix, round eight of the 21-round 2016 world championship, winning easily from the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel and Force India’s Sergio Perez.
As is usually the case in every grand prix, it was all about the tyres.
For Baku, Pirelli made available the supersoft, soft and medium tyres. The teams went into the weekend using sophisticated simulations but with lots of guesswork and F1 knowledge for their particular rubber selections. But most teams were hoping to make just one stop.
Daniel Ricciardo blotted his copybook with a light shunt in practice, inflicting considerable rear-end damage. But he wasn’t alone, the two more significant wall-bangers coming from Sergio Perez in final practice and Lewis Hamilton in Q3. Perez’s car needed a replacement gearbox, meaning he copped a five-grid place penalty, frustratingly after he posted his best-ever qualifying result – second fastest.
Hamilton brushed the wall and damaged his steering, leaving him 10th on the grid. “There were no excuses: “I had fantastic rhythm yesterday and zero today.”
This left Rosberg was on pole with a margin, with Ricciardo uncorking another under-pressure stunner to be third quickest, thus maintaining his 100 per cent qualifying dominance at Red Bull this season. So with Perez’s unfortunate demotion, the Aussie would start on the outside of the front row. Sebastian Vettel lined-up third, with Kimi Raikkonen alongside.
Ricciardo’s RBR team-mate Max Verstappen was ninth and complaining that Valtteri Bottas twice ruined his fast laps.
Race day was hot. Bloody hot.
Ricciardo made a great start to shadow Rosberg into the first turn, with Vettel, Raikonnen and Perez following. That was as close as anyone got to Rosberg.
The Mercs, Ferraris and Force Indias took good care of their tyres while the Red Bulls ate them in no time.
Just as obvious too was the speed of the Mercedes-engined cars on the long, bent straight. Conversely, the Renault-powered Red Bulls were often sitting ducks, although Ricciardo and Verstappen did overtake Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) late in the race.
Ricciardo and Verstappen made three stops each, finally switching to the hardest available (Mediums) to get to the finish - in seventh and eighth respectively
Perez put in another stirring drive, passing Raikkonen on the last lap (although Kimi had already incurred a five-second penalty for crossing the pit entry line) and would have been demoted to fourth anyway.
Hamilton’s GP, already compromised by his starting position, disintegrated when his dash lit up like Sydney Vivid. With coaching on the radio now banned, he was more than agitated as he attempted to restore some missing ERS (energy recovery system) power. The reigning champ finished fifth, ahead of Bottas in the Williams.
Hamilton now trails Rosberg by 24 points.
Caruso and van Gisbergen win in Darwin madhouse
Championship lead to Whincup as Frosty hit with TWO drive-throughs…
Maybe there were too many cases of driver heatstroke in the steamy Territory. How else to explain some of the on-track craziness during the Darwin round of the V8 Supercars Championship?
Saturday was wild; Sunday dissolved into utter chaos.
Saturday unleashed some hard fast action in the 34 degree heat, and the 10th winner from 12 races – a delighted Michael Caruso. It was his first win since he notched his initial victory in 2009, also in Darwin. And a handy win it was for Nissan, at a time when the Japanese brand is considering its future in the category.
Earlier, Shane van Gisbergen took his first pole of 2016, and first for Red Bull this season. From the outside of the front row, Caruso led into the first corner but a brouhaha involving a whole bunch of cars immediately brought out the safety car. A penalty for not respecting the safety car rules during the subsequent restart ruined van Gisbergen’s race.
Still, Caruso’s victory was due to genuine pace – he set the fastest lap of the race – and a lightning pit stop. Credit too goes to the team for its unrelenting development program to improve the Altimas.
Jamie Whincup pushed in his usual ten-tenths way to take second ahead of Chaz Mostert, Will Davison and Scott Pye.
The temperature cranked up on Sunday, and so did the madness.
There were wrecked cars everywhere, Lee Holdsworth was hospitalised after a heavy slam into the wall, the race order was constantly reshuffled, and out of all the delinquent behaviour emerged pole man The Giz.
Todd Kelly, from an impressive position two, nailed the start, but then a few corners later came a melee that just kept evolving. Cars went everywhere, gyrating, hitting things, followed by a safety car and more mayhem in an overcrowded pitlane. At the restart, Lowndes gifted van Gisbergen the lead after a mistake while Kelly was rear-ended by Mark Winterbottom. The carnage just kept coming.
In the run to the flag, van Gisbergen was uncatchable while Slade continued his strong form to hold second from an ever-eager Lowndes. Then came Davison, an inspired James Courtney (from way back in the pack), Caruso, Scott McLaughlin, Whincup, Davy Reynolds and James Moffat.
Said van Gisbergen: “Yesterday we had a fast car and didn’t make the most of it, so today was awesome. We qualified on pole; we didn’t lead from the front but we managed what we had. It was exciting in pit lane for the first stop but the way we did that middle stint with Craig (Lowndes) was enjoyable. We were pushing hard and made a gap and in the last stint we came out in front which was a surprise and managed the tyres all the way. It was awesome to fight at the front all day and I'm stoked to get 150 points on the board.”
The battered Holdsworth broke his pelvis in the first lap wallbanger, and will miss the next round in Townsville. Other than the prominent non finishers Mostert, Pye and Fabian Coulthard, the big losers were defending champ Winterbottom who finished 20th after two drive through penalties, and Todd Kelly who was bumped back to 13th.
Whincup, despite a frustrating Sunday, now leads Lowndes by 30 points in the title hunt. Winterbottom has dropped to fourth behind McLaughlin.
Smart driving lands Ryan two wins in the International Rally of Queensland
Muddy fight in Australian Rally Championship
Forgetfulness cost Australian rally star Simon Evans an opening heat win in Rally of Queensland on Saturday – he was penalised 3m10s for leaving his helmet on the roof of his Subaru WRX as he sped off on a liaison stage.
A fired-up Evans was the day’s excitement machine, bouncing back spectacularly after a broken suspension, a flat tyre and the strange time penalty, driving like a demon through Saturday’s slippery conditions, to finish fourth behind Ryan Smart (Mitsubishi Evo), Harry Bates (Toyota Corolla S2000) and Nathan Quinn (Evo). Remove that penalty and four-time champ Evans would have won heat one.
Smart finished among the top three in every stage to claim a 21.7 sec victory over Bates. Molly Taylor was fifth on Saturday in her near-production Subaru WRX STI.
An eventful heat two unfolded to a backdrop of torrential rain leading to shortened and cancelled stages and too many incidents, including Simon Evans rolling on SS11.
Smart eventually landed the double, beating Bates by 59.6secs.
Operating on a tight budget, Smart used just eight tyres for the entire event.
“To be honest I didn’t expect to be on the pace,” he remarked. “I haven’t done a rally in 18 months, and I had only done a quick shakedown of the car just before I started the rally. I wanted to come out and have some fun and see if I still had some pace.”
WA’s Tom Wilde took the final podium spot in a Subaru Impreza WRX STI, from Taylor and Quinn.
Youngsters Bates and Taylor are now provisionally first and second in the Australian Rally Championship.
Mawson wins two from three at Oschersleben
Schumacher and Aussie Mawson in torrid fight for German Formula 4 Championship
Australian Joey Mawson has extended his lead in the 2016 ADAC German Formula 4 Championship, winning two of the three races at the Oschersleben circuit at the weekend.
Mawson now has five wins and nine podium finishes from 12 races.
A non-finish in the final race was not ideal but Mawson nevertheless pushed out his championship lead over son-of-a-gun Mick Schumacher to 20 points.
Mawson won the opening race from third, having to twice overtake Schumacher.
Race two was even better, Mawson leading from pole and controlling throughout.
But the third race was a very different story with Mawson starting from 10th on the grid. He made a good start but a tough with another car broke his front right wishbone, ending his charge prematurely.
Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.
Want free access to 5 years of Wheels archive content? Sign up now!