Ricciardo victorious in heated Malaysian Grand prix
Hamilton luckless as Merc engine blows chance of win
After a winless 2015, and a shocking team fumble which cost him a certain win in Monaco mid this year, good fortune dovetailed with a brilliant, aggressive drive by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo to land him a much-deserved victory over team-mate Max Verstappen in oppressively hot conditions in a Malaysian Grand Prix thriller at Sepang.
It was the race that Lewis Hamilton looked to have in his pocket. Then 15 laps from the chequered flag waving, the Mercedes engine erupted in a burst of smoke and flames. “Ah… no, no, no!" he exclaimed as he pulled the broken Merc to a halt.
The virtual safety car was called with Ricciardo, and Verstappen, running in close company at the time, using their 40-second margin over third-placed Nico Rosberg to pit for soft tyres for the sprint to the flag.
Instead of joyously reclaiming the lead in a world championship of changing fortunes, the shattered Briton went into something of a meltdown, a post-race outburst on television hinting darkly at conspiracies. Though perhaps understandable considering his appalling luck, his very public assertion that “there are eight Mercedes cars out there and mine is the only one that blows” got his team very agitated indeed.
It was an enthralling, perspiration-drenched race which fascinated from the moment the grid, led by pole man Hamilton fired into the tight turn one/turn two ess bends.
Championship leader Rosberg’s race looked done when he was belted into a spin by the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, and there was also a hint that Verstappen was party to the mayhem. The replay was unclear.
In any case, Hamilton skipped clear, Vettel retired with terminal steering damage, Rosberg had slipped to the rear, and Ricciardo emerged in second, ahead of Verstappen.
After the virtual safety car disappeared, Rosberg immediately began his fightback while the front trio all looked racy.
A fabulous mid-race duel between the Red Bulls, was a highlight, showing how team-mates should race, but also confirming that Ricciardo was not about to easily cede second to the Dutch teenage.
It was a race-winning outcome, leaving Ricciardo in front when Hamilton retired and the two Bull drivers pitted for the final time.
While one British commentator in particular continued to suggest Verstappen was following team orders not to overtake his team-mate, it was obvious that Ricciardo was using his nous to maintain the gap. Verstappen could never get quite within the one-second required before he could use the advantage of DRS to close and overtake.
The stewards bewilderingly hit Rosberg with a 10 second post-race penalty for his wheel-banging pass on Raikkonen but the German quickly got his gap back to the Finn out by enough to keep the final podium place.
“What a day - I’m feeling a bit emotional and overwhelmed!” said Ricciardo, after taking the now-traditional drink of bubbly from a very sweaty driving shoe on the podium, sharing the dubious pleasure with Verstappen and Rosberg. “It’s been a long time between drinks! A couple of weeks ago I said we’d win a race this year but to be honest I didn’t expect a win to come at this circuit. This is probably the sweatiest race to win and do a “shoey”, but for me it’s not so bad, I felt a bit sorry for the others though having to drink from my shoe, but the crowd was encouraging me!
“We had an opportunity today that we needed to capitalise on and I was determined to not let it go. We had a good battle with Max; he is a hard racer and we have that in common. We fought hard and aggressive but I think we showed we can push to the limit but still keep it on the track.
“This year has been an awesome year of progression for the team,” Ricciardo declared. “We started the year a step higher from last year and kept going and getting better, and it really is amazing to win at this circuit.
“I want to thank my parents and my sister as well for the support they gave me growing up. I also want to dedicate the win to Jules (Bianchi), I have been waiting for a victory to dedicate to him. My life definitely changed since that incident and I am extremely grateful and appreciative of everything I’ve got.”
The result was Red Bull’s first one-two in the hybrid car era and the first since 2013.
Red Bull’s Christian Horner praised his drivers: “They were racing all the way to the end. The only instruction was to tell them to keep it clean.”
Horner went on to suggest that Ricciardo, with five podiums from his most recent six starts, is the form driver of moment. “He’s driving incredibly well.”
Rosberg was impressive too. “I thought my race was over [in Turn One] and never thought I'd be able to continue. It felt like an uncontrolled four-time world champion torpedo had hit me! I reported to the pits that it was a pretty hard hit. I was fortunate to be able to fight through the field. But I got the knife between my teeth and went for it. I fought my way through, with some great battles along the way which I really enjoyed, and was pleased to make it back up to the podium. To be honest, I can't believe that I've just been standing up there from last!
Hamilton’s explosive comments after his retirement were later expanded upon in a Mercedes press release that gave some context to his remarks. A form of damage limitation. “As I said in the TV interviews, Mercedes have built 43 engines or however many it might be with the extra three I've had, and I have happened to have most of, if not all of, the failures. So, that is definitely tough to take. But I have 100-percent confidence in these guys. I love it here and without them I would not have won these two championships.
“While the struggle is real right now and has been all year, I honestly feel that it's a test of my will, my spirit and who I am as a person to get back in and keep fighting it head on. It's not how you fall, it's how you get back up. That applies not just to me but to the guys as well. I saw tears in the eyes of my mechanics so I know that we all bear the pain. But, as I said, it's how we re-group.
”There's still five races to go and if I can perform the way I performed this weekend there's still everything to play for. We will learn. The guys will take the engine back and they'll understand what happened. Every time we've had engine issues they've gone away and found out why. It puts us potentially in a better position to make sure it doesn't happen next year.”
Hamilton, perhaps borrowing from Ayrton Senna, even lapsed into spirituality: “I still have faith and hope. That's a powerful thing. It feels a little bit like the man above, or a higher power, is intervening a little bit. But I feel like I've been blessed with the opportunity firstly to be here with so many great people around me, in this great team, to have won these last two championships with lots and lots of victories and records that I'm breaking time and time again.
“Whilst it does not feel great right now, I have to be grateful for all of that. If at the end of the year the higher powers don't want me to be champion after everything I've given towards it, I will have to accept that. As long as I end the year knowing that I've given it everything, done everything I could possibly do and that we've done everything we could possibly do, that's all you can ask for. Don't forget that I'm world champion. I'll be okay.”
Japan should be fun. But not for Vettel who was given a three-place grid penalty for his driving in Sepang.
Ogier/Ingrassia close on fourth WRC
Breakthrough win in Corsica for the rampant VW duo
A dominant drive to his first win in the Tour de Corse – the rally of 10,000 corners – has moved Sébastien Ogier ever-so-close to his fourth consecutive FIA World Rally Championship.
Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia were untouchable in an event of crumbling tarmac requiring accuracy from the driver and pace notes, winning the 10th round of the season by 46.4sec in a Volkswagen Polo R.
The Corse is one of the more challenging events in the WRC. It is said that, during the pre-rally recce, if a crew finds a straight longer than 150 metres then they’re on the wrong island. One corner leads straight into the next in the rally. The landscape is not the only thing that gives Corsica, also known as the “Wild Beauty”, its very specific character. With the exception of the closing Power Stage, every special stage is at least 30 kilometres long – a physical endurance test for the drivers and a mental challenge for the co-drivers, who must call out the pace notes with perfect timing.
Ogier and Ingrassia were the masters across three days and the French ace now needs just 16 points from the next round in Spain to become only the fourth person to win four drivers’ titles.
Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville maintained his strong recent form to finish runner-up in an i20 with Andreas Mikkelsen third in a Polo R, a further 23.6sec back after 390.92km of twisty and bumpy asphalt mountain road action on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
Ogier stamped his authority earlier winning all the competitive stages on Friday and thereafter measuring his pace cleverly through the final two days, when wet roads made conditions tricky.
“What I really wanted was to win this rally,” said Ogier. “It’s my first win in Corsica, on such a historic event. We showed strong pace on the first day and managed the rest of the weekend perfectly. The championship smells quite good for us.”
Despire misgivings about his car’s handling, the Neuville held second from midway through the opening leg, but Mikkelsen was pressing hard until improvements to Neuville’s differential enabled the Belgian in the pink specs to pull clear and climb to third in the drivers’ standings.
Mikkelsen was one of many to struggle with overheating tyres and brakes in the high temperatures, but the Norwegian eased to his first podium since winning in Poland in July.
Jari-Matti Latvala, who won in Corsica in 2015, finished a frustrated fourth after brake issues hampered the pace of his Polo R across the opening two days. Only after experimenting with different pads and set-up for Sunday did the Finn indicate he felt comfortable in the stages.
Impressive Craig Breen excelled on his asphalt debut in a World Rally Car to finish fifth in a Citroën DS 3 ahead of New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon in a Hyundai. The Kiwi, who is happier on gravel, was unhappy with his driving in Corsica and promised to go ‘back to the drawing board’.
Citroen’s Kris Meeke won both Sunday’s tests, taking maximum bonus points in the live TV Power Stage. But he finished a lowly 16th after crashing on Saturday, blaming inconsistent pace noting.
Aussie Mawson is German Formula 4 Champion
And he had to beat the son-of-a-gun to do it
Australian Joey Mawson has continued a tradition of Antipodean successes in European motor sport after winning the 2016 ADAC German Formula 4 Championship, claiming among his scalps Mick Schumacher, son of the former F1 world champion.
The PODIUM-backed driver secured the crown with victory in the opening two races of the final round at Hockenheim.
Mawson carried a 39-point lead into the decider knowing he would be champion if he finished fifth or better in all three races even if closest rival Schumacher was to claim wins in each.
After qualifying on the front row for the opening two races on Friday, Mawson was dominant on his way to victory in race one.
Then in the second race, rain-interrupted, the young Australian scored his 10th race win of 2016 to move out of reach of Schumacher in the standings.
He was taken out of the final race of the weekend (and the season) but it didn’t matter.
"While the final race today didn't go to plan, it's an amazing feeling to know that I've won the championship," said Mawson.
"Mick and I had a great battle all year long,” added Mawson. “We've certainly pushed each other hard on the track to make sure whoever ended up with the title had earned it.”
Mawson thanked a group of supporters back in Australia for helping fund his championship campaign.
"If it wasn't for Tom Warwick and Geoff Morgan and everyone else involved with PODIUM, this year would not have been possible. I can't thank them enough for their ongoing support."
Mawson finished the year on 374 points, 52 clear of Schumacher in the standings. Along with his 10 race wins, he took 15 podium finishes and seven out of a possible 16 pole positions.
Mawson will remain in Europe until mid-December to finalise plans for 2017.
Mawson’s success comes soon after Ferrari-driving Queenslander Liam Talbot secured the overall AM category of Europe’s tough Blancpain Endurance Series for GT cars.
Talbot and his manager David Hardman are now working on a 2017 programme of racing in Europe and Australia.
Jason Doyle’s world championship hopes crash
Speedway GP leader suffers serious injuries in Poland
A frightening crash eliminated Australian Jason Doyle from his opening race in the Torun FIM Speedway Grand Prix of Poland, his injuries ruling him out of the rest of the night and possibly destroying his chances of winning the 2016 world championship.
Doyle went into the meeting leading the championship but crashed hard after hitting the falling Chris Harris. The impact with the wall looked worrying and Doyle was forcing out of the meeting with shoulder, elbow and lung injuries.
American veteran and triple world champ Greg Hancock capitalised by regaining the lead at the world championship summit.
All now hangs on whether Doyle can be fit for the final round in Australia in less than three weeks.
Danish champion Niels-Kristian Iversen won the Torun round, from Hancock, who is now just 11 points away from guaranteeing his fourth FIM Speedway World Championship in Melbourne. But the sporting American was gutted to overhaul Doyle in such tragic circumstances.
“I can feel for Jason because I have been there,” said Hancock. “He’s a tough guy and I hope his injuries are not so serious that he can’t come back in Melbourne. He deserves a fair shot. Seeing his accident hit me inside. I know he didn’t go in there very well.”
Lowndes and Whincup together again at Bathurst
But sharing a Ferrari rather than a Commodore
Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup have raced together – and won Bathurst 1000s before.
But next year the star Supercars pair will drive a Ferrari for Maranello Motorsport at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
They will also be joined in the squad by a yet-to-be-named factory Ferrari GT driver.
Lowndes and Whincup have between then won 10 Bathurst 1000 victories between them in Supercars competition, three of them together (2006, 2007 and 2008).
Lowndes joined Maranello Motorsport to win the 2014 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, but next year’s enduro will be Whincup’s Bathurst 12 Hour and GT racing debut. He’s looking forward to the task of learning to drive a left-hand drive, high-downforce turbo car.
Their regular Supercars squad, Triple Eight Race Engineering, will provide support in the form of an engineer and additional staff.
Maranello Motorsport team principal Mark Coffey said he intends to ensure Whincup and Lowndes get plenty of seat time