F1: From Russia, without much love
LEWIS Hamilton extended his grasp on the Formula One championship overnight, winning a drama-filled race at one of the sport’s most lacklustre circuits.
In the lead-up to the race, Nico Rosberg took pole comfortably, leaving Lewis Hamilton slightly thoughtful. Valtteri Bottas was third in the Williams, ahead of the Ferraris but teammate Felipe Massa was way back in 15th. Daniel Ricciardo qualified about where he reckoned he should, in 10th.
Rosberg got a little assertive at the start but his advantage was soon in ruins, a sticking throttle pedal forcing him out of the race. His title hopes have gone.
Hamilton then took up his usual position in P1, followed by the quick Williams of Bottas and the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, who won a feisty duel with Kimi Raikkonen.
Romain Grosjean crashed out heavily in the early stages.
Vettel zeroed in on Bottas, who dived for the pits and new Pirellis.
The middle of the race was hugely enlivened by some spirited fights. There was Ricciardo versus Carlos Sainz with our man dominant. Later was a Finnish duel between Raikkonen and Bottas; the younger driver winning that one but towing Kimi up to Ricciardo.
Bottas steamed by Ricciardo, but the Red Bull star kept Raikkonen at bay until his suspension broke.
Through it all was Force India’s Sergio Perez, who managed his tyres wonderfully in third ahead of more fancied drivers. Then, with the laps disappearing, Bottas finally powered by.
Into the final lap, Kimi arrived into the contest with his ears burning from Ferrari team exhortations. He lunged at Bottas, bunted him out, but this own goal allowed Perez to scramble back into third while Bottas’s language turned the air blue.
Hamilton won again from Vettel and Perez. Not a bad couple of hours of motorsport, watched on by a couple of despots.
F1: What drives Renault?
AS IS so often the case in the Formula One cocoon, the off-track speculation and rumours preceded the on-track activity at Sochi, the home of the Russian Grand Prix, for the second year.
The big ongoing story, that of the power unit for Red Bull next year, remains unresolved, and is swinging somewhere (according to varying points of view) between positive negotiations and crisis point.
Ferrari has apparently ended negotiations to provide Red Bull with its dominant engines, even 2015 variants. Mercedes is simply too worried that the combination of the best engines with the best chassis with a couple of excellent drivers might be too threatening…
Another story suggests a desperate Red Bull has gone back to Renault cap in hand to seek forgiveness. A Renault engine, goes the theory, is way better than no engine.
Yet another speculative tale hints that because Renault has not yet sealed the deal to take control of struggling Lotus, perhaps the French manufacturer could instead be interested in buying a majority shareholding in Red Bull…
“Nothing is fixed,” said Red Bull’s Christian Horner. “We’re working on a number of different scenarios. Obviously Bernie [Ecclestone] is involved and he wants a solution.
“I believe we will find a solution. We need to, and hopefully one that is right for the team. There are lots of rumours. Pretty much everything is open.”
About staying with Renault, the subject of plenty of salvoes from the unhappy Horner in recent months: “We’re waiting to hear Renault’s plans for the future…. I want to see our cars on the grid and that means talking with all parties to ensure we’ll be on the grid next year.”
Ecclestone, looking increasingly like a pensioner caught in the spotlight, insists that the Red Bull problem is fixed, and, yes, there will be 22 cars on the grid next year. He showed no inclination to elaborate but has said Formula One will be sold and before the end of the year.
Now to matters of racing….
All teams went into the grand prix short of track time at Sochi, after practice sessions were curtailed variously by weather, a careless diesel drop and clean up, and on Saturday, a serious crash involving Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. He slammed into so-called safety barriers, some of which failed and enveloped him. Despite the brutal 46G impact, Sainz emerged okay, his car less so, though it made the Sunday grid.
WEC: Webber barges through for third straight win
MARK Webber, along with regular partners Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley, has won the sixth round of the World Endurance Championship in often appalling conditions at Fuji Raceway – but only after benefitting from Porsche team orders.
The first 40 minutes took place behind the safety car on a wet track with rain still falling.
After starting from pole, Webber and his mates went down a lap from a combination of a slip-up by the Aussie star when he ran wide on the first green flag lap, and the vagaries of full-course yellows and pit stops.
But sensitive to the championship situation, Porsche instructed the then leading #18 Porsche 919 Hybrid to drop back to second. Webber and his mates now lead the drivers’ championship by a single point.
Podium celebrations were rather muted. Did someone say the win was “hollow”?