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Hamilton conquers all in Spain in F1 thriller

By Peter McKay, 15 May 2017 Motorsport

Hamilton conquers all in Spain in F1 thriller

A bumper weekend of motorsport was capped off with a edge of the seat Spanish Grand Prix

Hamilton takes tight Spanish Grand Prix

Ferrari throws away early advantage

Lewis Hamilton has come from behind Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel to win a tense Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona and close the gap in the fight for the world championship.

Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo scored the final podium spot - his first top three of the season – after a lonely drive. His useful points haul was aided by the departure from the race of his Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen after a clash with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in the first turn.

If Red Bull came to Barcelona optimistic that some car updates would close the gap than it was sadly misplaced. Ricciardo started sixth and finished a sobering 75.8secs away from the winner.

Bottas, the last start winner in Russia, survived until lap 39 when he retired with a blown engine.

After firing from outside the front row past Hamilton to the lead at the start, Vettel quickly opened up a clear lead over Mercedes driver.

By as early as lap 10 the race was looming as a straight duel between Vettel and Hamilton, separated by 2.5 secs, with Bottas dropping back and Ricciardo slipping further behind.

At the end of lap 14, Ferrari pitted Vettel but in a questionable strategy play put him on soft tyres again, committing him to a final stint on mediums.

It put him at a disadvantage when the two title contenders were fighting in the closing stages.

Hamilton extended his first stint until lap 21, switching to the slower mediums for a brief middle stint before taking advantage of a virtual safety car to grab a set of softs for the crucial run to the flag.

A lap later, Vettel too made his second stop for new rubber, but had to opt for mediums, disadvantaging him in the scrap for victory.

With his six-second lead wiped out, Vettel aggressively rejoined with Hamilton alongside. But in a no-prisoners move, the Ferrari driver muscled to the front, edging the Merc off the track. Vettel stayed up front for a few more laps, defying the pressing attentions of the man on better rubber.

On lap 44, though, Hamilton blasted by on the straight and though Vettel pressed on in the vain hope that the Merc might burn up its Pirellis, the Briton was never seriously threatened in the final laps.

“It was the rawest fight that I can remember having in a long-time,” an exhausted yet elated Hamilton reported after his winning drive.

“I loved it; this is why I race. This is what made me get into racing in the first place. This is what the sport needs to be like every single weekend.”

It was Hamilton’s 55th GP victory, his second this year and his second at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. His victory ended a sequence of 10 different winners there in 10 previous races.

The Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon took fourth and fifth in a constructors’ championship-boosting result. Renault's Nico Hulkenberg was sixth.

Fernando Alonso, who remarkably pushed aside his frustrations with the Honda’s unreliability to drag his McLaren up to seventh-fastest in qualifying, finished his first race of the season, though out of the points, in 12th. The Honda, he claims is 50 horses down on the Mercs and Ferraris. It is certainly 13km/h off in straight line speed at Catalunya.

Despite a host of different incidents during the race, the stewards’ new laissez-faire approach to racing hard meant that everyone escaped a penalty, at least until after the flag.

Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein, pinged five seconds for going to the wrong side of a bollard at the pit entry. One-stopping, Wehrlein crossed the line seventh but was relegated to eighth by the penalty.  It was still a terrific result for struggling Sauber.

Stoffel Vandoorne has been handed a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Monaco after colliding with Felipe Massa.

Vettel (104 points) leads the drivers’ championship from Hamilton by six points with Bottas third on 63.

Will Power dominates Indy Grand Prix

Breaks his season’s duck in 500 tune-up

Will Power had to endure a frustrating start to his 2017 IndyCar season but the Australian came good with a vengeance on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's road course.

Power was nigh uncatchable all weekend in his Team Penske Chevrolet. He won the pole Friday and only gave up the lead twice Saturday - both at pit stops - racing away for his 30th IndyCar career victory in an ideal confidence booster heading in the next race, the Fernando Alonso-flavoured 101st Indianapolis 500 on May 28.

It took Power five races to secure his first win of the season after twice going close in early rounds.

At Alabama, victory looked assured after he led for much of the race before a puncture ruined his day. The following weekend at Phoenix, Power hunted his team-mate Simon Pagenaud all race but couldn’t quite pull of a safe pass, settling for second.

On the Indy road course, though, Power reigned supreme, his dominance evident in the bare race stats – he led 61 of 85 laps in a race that was green from start to the chequer.

He comfortably held off Brisbane-born Scott Dixon’s Ganassi Honda to win by 5.283 secs, his points haul spring-boarding him up two places in the championship standings into fifth.

“After a frustrating year, we had the perfect strategy, today,” reported Power.

“I’ve been around motorsport long enough there are good days and bad days, and that the good and bad times never last long.”

Behind Power and Dixon came Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay and the consistent Pagenaud, the defending champion.

Pagenaud retains a 10-points lead over Dixon after five of 17 races, with Team Penske drivers Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves and Power holding the third through fifth spots, respectively.

Matt Campbell on podium in Barcelona Supercup

We knew the kid was good. 

German Michael Ammermüller has won the first two races of the 2017 Porsche Supercup in Barcelona, jumping to an early points lead in arguably the world’s most competitive one-make sports car championship.

But Aussie Matt Campbell shocked the Euros with a pair of poles on Saturday.

But a bad start consigned him to fifth in race one, but he rebounded to claim a close third in the second race of the weekend.

Campbell, 22 - last year’s Porsche Carrera Cup Australia champion and enduro driver with Red Bull Australia – is driving for Swiss-based Fach Auto Tech,  the team with whom now-Porsche works Le Mans driver Earl Bamber won the 2014 Supercup crown. 

The likeable and grounded country boy from Warwick, Queensland, made a dream start to his Porsche Supercup campaign, topping qualifying in Barcelona on Saturday.

Campbell’s fastest two laps were strong enough for him to win pole for both Supercup races with an advantage of 0.02sec for race one, and 0.03sec for race two. Huge margins in the cut-throat world of one-make racing.

Now in its 25th year, the nine-round Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup runs as a support category for the FIA Formula One World Championship and visits iconic locations such as Barcelona, Monaco, Monza, Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps and the season finale in Mexico City.

The Walkinshaw split with Burgess

When love turns sour

Motorsport is a brutal business, especially when things are not going well.

After a frustrating race weekend in Perth for the Walkinshaw-owned HSV team, Ryan Walkinshaw on Friday announced that his operation has terminated of the contract of highly regarded team principal, Adrian Burgess, effective immediately.

Reputations count for nothing in a results-driven business. Friendships are sometimes at risk.

The poor results in WA were the latest in what has been a struggle for the team and drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye. The always candid Courtney described the team’s Perth performances as “embarrassing”.

The tough beginning to 2017 came on the back of the team losing its factory support from Holden, and with it the legendary Holden Racing Team nomenclature.

The well-credentialed Burgess, an Englishman, had worked with Formula One teams including McLaren and Jordan before relocating to Australia in 2008 to take up a position working with rising star Courtney at Dick Johnson Racing.

Burgess and Courtney have been close for many years.

Burgess was a big factor in Courtney winning the Supercars title in 2010, but with the team struggling, he moved to Triple Eight for three seasons. He then hooked up again with Courtney to jump to the then HRT and long service incumbent Garth Tander in 2014.

The team’s performance over the past two years has been very ordinary, with both drivers too frequently qualifying in the back half of the field, making points-scoring awkward.

Tander and Courtney managed just two wins between them in 2016, the former’s win in the Sandown 500 last year being the last triumph for Walkinshaw’s outfit.

The patchy results encouraged Walkinshaw to replace Tander with Pye for this year, and now the purge has claimed the scalp of Burgess.

“It has obviously been a difficult start to the year from a racing perspective, and I came to the conclusion that a fresh start was the way forward. We appreciate Adrian’s focus and hard work over the last three years, and we wish him all the best in the future,” said Walkinshaw in a team statement.

“The entire team will continue to work hard and are extremely passionate about achieving success. It is not in our nature to step back from the challenges that racing in such a competitive category presents us.”

Time and patience had run out at Clayton. Changes had to be made even if it broke up the Courtney-Burgess partnership.

Mathew Nilsson will take on the role of acting general manager of motorsport while Walkinshaw looks for a permanent replacement.

Ryan Walkinshaw says the team needs a fresh start.

“It has obviously been a difficult start to the year from a racing perspective, and I came to the conclusion that a fresh start was the way forward. We appreciate Adrian’s focus and hard work over the last three years, and we wish him all the best in the future,” said Walkinshaw.

F1 fans swamp open pitlane in Barcalona

New open-gate policy…and the race fans love it.

Formula One’s promised drive for greater fan-friendliness and accessibility became an early reality at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday when hundreds jammed into the cordoned-off half of the pit-lane to meet their favourite star drivers, who joined in the fun by stopping for selfies and to sign autographs.

Normally, Thursday is a quiet time at the track but new F1 owner Liberty Media has used the opening day of the first European race of the season to make good a vow for more generous fan engagement.

Bernie Ecclestone probably would not have approved but Liberty boss Chase Carey is going all out to build strong relationships with his drivers as well as those who follow the sport.

F1 legend out of hospital and back home

A Singapore hospital certainly gathered Moss, for 134 days in fact.

Sir Stirling Moss has returned home to Britain after spending more than four months in a Singaporean hospital recovering from a serious chest infection.

Moss, 87, was hospitalised on December 22 last year after travelling to Singapore for a cruise with his wife.

The F1 legend had expected to be laid up for just a week or so but couldn’t get the all-clear from doctors until earlier this month.

Moss, the winner of 16 grands prix has released a statement which said: “He is thrilled to be back where he belongs. He still has a substantial amount of recovery to undertake but says that he has determination and a great pit crew.”