Hamilton peerless in US Grand Prix in Austin
Rosberg takes a lucky second from Our Daniel after help from the virtual safety car
Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One championship assault is back on track after the Englishman uncorked a perfect drive to lead from start to finish in the US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
“This is always a good hunting round for me,” said Hamilton, winner in Austin on four occasions. This was his 50th GP victory and he did it easing up.
But in what his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg described as “damage limitation”, the German took second to maintain a handy points lead heading to Malaysia.
Despite whipping around the outside of Rosberg to grab second at the start, Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo had to settle for third place after a virtual safety advantaged Rosberg.
“The start went to plan – the plan was to get both Mercedes but we got Nico, which was a bonus,” Ricciardo said post-race. “Nico was able to jump me under the virtual safety car, so sorry about that.”
Ricciardo’s frustration with Mercedes’ strategy was plain in the wake of the safety car period. “They [Mercedes] got a free pit stop basically?” he asked over the team radio. “Yes,” was the reply. Ricciardo’s response can’t be repeated.
Non finishes by Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari, shortly after he was sent out of the pits with a wheel gun still attached) and Max Verstappen (Red Bull, engine failure sparking the virtual safety car) allowed opportunity to knock for teams usually shut out of the top six.
The race was notable for a bizarre “phantom” pit stop from Verstappen who thought he heard an instruction to “box”. He arrived to discover his mechanics completely unprepared. In the end it didn’t matter as his car faltered with a mechanical issue.
Sebastian Vettel finished a distant fourth for Ferrari after Raikkonen’s bungled pit stop, and retirement.
Fernando Alonso put in a stirring aggressive drive to fifth in the McLaren Honda, though one of his moves – on Felipe Massa – was subject to a post-race investigation.
The Red Bull pair looked fast in free practice, but couldn't live with Mercedes drivers in qualifying, where Hamilton slammed in a stunning 1m34.999s lap to bag pole from Rosberg. Yep, another Merc one-two.
Marquez falls and Crutchlow reigns at the Island
Big charge from Rossi nets second; Lorenzo back in sixth
After dominating qualifying and taking pole, and then leading in the early part of the Australian MotoGP at Phillip Island, it all went wrong for Honda’s Marc Marquez on lap 10.
He was more than two second up on his pursuers when he crashed out for his first non-finish of 2016.
Independent Honda rider Cal Crutchlow went on to take his second victory of the season, the gritty Briton holding off Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi, who made a electrifying charge through from 15th on the grid to take second.
Maverick Viñales (Suzuki) was third and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) fourth, on a day when the weather finally shone brightly on the MotoGP circus after some heavy rain showers and belting wind in the lead-up.
Defending champion Jorge Lorenzo continued his poor form taking sixth.
Substituting for the injured Dani Pedrosa, veteran Nicky Hayden was in a great battle for seventh with Scott Redding, Danilo Petrucci, Bradley Smith and Jack Miller when the Aussies mix of aggression and enthusiasm led to the American copping a touch at turn four on the penultimate lap. So ended a great run from Hayden.
Miller finished 10th and fellow Australian Mike Jones scored a point on his Avintia Racing machine, impressing once again.
Whincup and van Gisbergen share Surfers spoils
They won a 300km race apiece at the weekend but the Kiwi is close to his first title
It’s a fascinating fight for the title, isn’t it?
Shane van Gisbergen and his French co-driver Alex Premat fought back to overcome a 10-second penalty to win the first leg of the Gold Coast 600 on Saturday. And the Pirtek Cup for the best performances across the three (co-driver) endurance races - Sandown, Bathurst and Surfers.
At the same time van Gisbergen moved even closer to winning his first Australian Supercars title.
But some of the glory from their superb drives on the ridiculous racing circuit mapped out around the streets of Surfers Paradise was lost in the distraction of a controversial incident late in the race when the HRT’s Garth Tander appeared to flick DJR Team Penske’s Fabian Coulthard into a frightening 250km/h wallbanger on the front “straight” (actually a gentle curve, for those who embrace pedantry).
The Falcon was seriously banged up, and Tander was hit with a drive through penalty plus a demotion of 10 grid sports for the Sunday race.
The shunt was a massive topic of interest on social media (and Ten and Fox) with all manner of sensible observations mixed with the usual stupidity from trolls.
Initially defiant against accusations that he was the perpetrator, Tander’s resistance eased somewhat overnight after confronted with countless replays which seemed to show that Coulthard had maintained his line, and that the Holden driver had turned into the Ford’s rear quarter panel.
It was unnecessary and the DJR-Penske team pointed out that if GT couldn’t resist the impulse to take out Coulthard, he should have tried in at a low-speed corner where the safety implications would not have been as significant.
But let’s restore some lustre to the performance of the winners… Premat and van Gisbergen drove flawlessly bar Premat’s mistake at a restart which brought on the penalty.
They each put in some lightning laps to make up the 10 seconds imposed at the final pit stop, and get back to the lead in the 300km, 102 laps race on a track marked with high kerbs and close walls.
A close second was the Volvo of Scott McLaughlin/David Wall, while van Gisbergen’s nearest Supercars Championship rival, Red Bull Racing team-mate Jamie Whincup (with co-driver Paul Dumbrell) was third.
Whincup never takes losing on the chin, and there was no surprise when on Sunday he put in one of his more memorable qualifying laps to pip van Gisbergen to take pole in the Top 10 Shootout.
It was the second impressive sight on Sunday after DJR-Penske rolled out the rebuilt Coulthard Falcon, looking immaculate after its tear-down/rebuild overnight. Coulthard finished qualifying in 18th, a few spots better than on Saturday.
At the pointy end, in a mainly co-driver line up of starting drivers, Dumbrell made an ideal jump to the second 300km race, heading Premat until the first inevitable safety car and pit stops. Double stacking cost Premat/van Gisbergen nine spots but their Saturday form demonstrated that this was not impossible to overcome.
Into the final part of the race, after the last round of pit stops, Whincup looked to be in the box seat though faced (again!) with a request from the team to save fuel.
This he managed to the end, to win his first enduro race for a couple of years and pull back 12 meagre points to van Gisbergen, who was second.
Another Kiwi, McLaughlin, was also in great touch, coming back from 11th to claim scalp after scalp to make the podium for the second time over the weekend.
McLaughlin’s move under Winterbottom was a corker, the Volvo sliding with rears and the unloaded front locked and burning, before he managed to steer it around the left hander. Frosty helped by being in self preservation mode and move out of the line of fire.
With just two race weekends to resolve the championship, van Gisbergen’s 148-point gap looks huge considering the form he is in. He’s close to joining fellow New Zealanders Robbie Francevic and Jim Richards as winners of Australian touring car/Supercars championships.
He’ll be extra hard to crack next up at Pukekohe.
Premat goes home with two surfboard trophies and pride in landing four podiums from four endurance race starts.
Chris Holder breaks four-year drought to win Australian Speedway GP
Greg Hancock takes the world title before bizarre exclusion at Melbourne’s Etihad
Former world champion Chris Holder ended his four-year wait for Grand Prix glory when he stormed to success in the final round of the year at a makeshift track constructed inside Melbourne's Etihad Stadium.
The Sydneysider, whose last victory came in the British GP in August 2012, has been battling a succession of injuries in recent seasons, but was in brilliant touch in his home grand prix, powering back to the form that earned him a world title in 2012.
Holder won five of his seven races to bank 17 points including a stunning victory in the final. But he missed out on overall third in the championship to rising star, Poland’s Bartosz Zmarzlik, by just two points.
Holder defeated Tai Woffinden, Zmarzlik and Antonio Lindback in an all-action final.
American superstar Greg Hancock had earlier secured his fourth world championship with a win in his first ride of the night. But Hancock, 46, pulled out of the meeting in protest following his controversial third heat when he finished second but was mystifyingly excluded for not trying his best.
The racing throughout the evening was spectacular, and the large crowd treated the Holder win as a huge bonus.
Amongst the crowd watching Holder take his fifth GP victory was Mark Webber, another Aussie who has bagged wins at world championship level.