NICO Rosberg has retaken the lead from Lewis Hamilton in the Formula One world championship, but his biggest threat in a nail-biter Singapore Grand Prix was not his Mercedes-Benz teammate. Instead, it was Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo, who finished less than half a second behind.
Rosberg successfully held off Ricciardo’s stirring late charge and now leads his unfriendly teammate by eight points after a strangely lacklustre Hamilton took third.
Bafflingly, the renowned night owl Hamilton never looked a chance under the mega-wattage of the Singapore street circuit. He struggled right from the start on Friday when he lost track time with a hydraulic failure. He then qualified only third behind Rosberg and Ricciardo.
Rosberg achieved his aim of holding off Ricciardo at the start, after which his race went according to plan. Mercedes switched to a three-stop strategy, and Red Bull followed suit for Ricciardo.
After the final set of tyres, Ricciardo rejoined almost half a minute back from Rosberg with 16 laps to run. But the Australian quickly went into attack mode, carving huge chunks out of the gap.
Rosberg hung on, doing a smart job of managing fading brakes. The final margin was frustratingly tight for Ricciardo, but it may prove telling in the title duel between the Mercedes drivers.
“It was close today,” said a satisfied Ricciardo. “We did everything we could and I thought it was pretty much a perfect race. The only thing that would have been better was to get Nico at the start. Then throughout the race I wasn’t really thinking about what happens when I catch him, I was just focusing on trying to catch him and put some pressure on.
“I knew his engineer had been on his radio saying ’Ricciardo is catching you, two seconds a lap’. It’s not a nice feeling to hear that, so I was just trying to keep on pushing and keep the crowd entertained. I pushed so much at the end on the supersoft and really tried to do something but it wasn’t close enough. I don’t really leave here with any regrets.
“Obviously we came here to win and we didn’t but I felt we left it all on the track.”
Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner commented: “Tyres and strategy were always going to be key and in the end opting to go to a three-stop strategy with the tyres that we saved from earlier in the weekend brought Daniel tantalisingly close to Nico.
“Lewis triggered the final round of pit stops with Kimi covering him and then us in turn covering Kimi. That gave Daniel roughly 27 seconds to hunt down Nico who did a good job to manage his pace to the end but Daniel drove an outstanding race to finish 0.5 seconds behind him, splitting the two Mercedes. Overall a positive weekend; we’ve extended our [margin] over Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship, we’ve scored another second place finish and produced an enthralling end to the grand prix.”
Ferrari’s challenge suffered when Sebastian Vettel was forced to start from the rear after a suspension failure in qualifying. He came through in his usual forceful way to finish a stunning fifth, one position behind teammate Kimi Raikonnen, who got to third after getting by Hamilton early in the race. But Hamilton leapfrogged the Ferrari at a pit stop and the Finn had to settle for fourth.
One fascinating vignette during the race was Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat’s vigorous defence against Max Verstappen, the driver who usurped his place in the main Red Bull team this season. After some tough exchanges, Red Bull pitted Verstappen to give him some track space. He finished sixth.
In his 200th grand prix start, it was Rosberg’s night. “That was a fantastic weekend,” said the German. “In the past the Singapore track has not treated me so well, so this win is a very special one and an even more emotional one for me.
“The weekend started perfectly with a good qualifying session. Then, I had a good start and was able to keep the Red Bulls and the Ferraris behind me – both of which had beaten us comfortably last year. It was a bit tight at the end after Daniel did a clever pit stop timing-wise.
“If I would have also pitted I would have come out behind him because I was stuck in traffic on my in-lap, so we chose the best strategy to stay out and a big thanks to the team for that. It's great that we learned from our mistakes last year and won at what is clearly a Red Bull track.”
Supercars: Tander and Luff win dramatic Sandown 500
Garth Tander and Warren Luff have overcome the weather gods, a damaged Commodore and their Holden Racing Team’s problematic future to win the Sandown 500 endurance race, staying cool to keep a purposeful Shane van Gisbergen at bay in the run to the chequer.
As well as the threat of van Gisbergen, Tander also had to deal with the front guard on his car blowing out, and potentially attracting unwelcome attention by race officials who could have disqualified him for damaged bodywork. It’s Tander’s first-ever Sandown 500 victory, and the second-closest Sandown 500 in history. It was also the first time the race has been red-flagged.
Fortunately for Tander and Luff, there was no black flag. "The last 10 laps was a real struggle ... [the damaged guard] completely ruined the car balance," he said.
"I wanted this one on the CV; I didn't have it yet."
The win was Tander's first in Supercars for two years and way more satisfying given Holden's recent decision to end the factory support from the team we have known for years as HRT. The team’s last win was at the Clipsal 500. Tander’s own driving future is also unknown but the great win at Sandown certainly gives the veteran some bargaining power.
After a contest of many dramas including a huge race-stopping crash involving Supercars’ rookie James Golding on the opening lap, Red Bull Racing’s van Gisbergen’s second place means he has moved seven points ahead of his teammate Jamie Whincup in in the close battle for the 2017 championship.
A sporting van Gisbergen, who shared his Commodore with European co-driver Alex Premat, said his would have been a hollow victory had officials disqualified Tander over the front guard issue.
"I'm glad they let it run," he said. "Alex (Premat) had really great speed so we moved forward early.
“I am glad they didn't black flag that [HRT] car because they typically would have. It wouldn't have been a nice way to win if they did. It would have been a fun battle if there had been one more lap."
Will Davison and Jonathan Webb claimed third for Tekno Autosports.
The 2017 edition of the 500 was compelling from start to finish. Making his first Supercars start, the 20-year-old Golding hit the tyre wall at 149km/h in the Volvo driven this year by James Moffat. He walked away unhurt. The other Volvo shared by Scott McLaughlin and David Wall finished fourth.
The race resumed after repairs to the barrier, with the remaining 25 cars scrapping spectacularly whilst dealing with occasional showers messing with team strategies and also turning the already slippery surface into shiny, dark grey treachery.
Many drivers had tales of woe to relate afterwards. In a few cases, the co-drivers brought in for the enduro were at fault.
Whincup went into the Sandown 500 in the title ahead in points but lost the lead with a poor 13th place finish after co-driver Paul Dumbrell was slammed with a drive-through penalty for popping his seatbelt early when entering the pits.
It certainly wasn’t our day,” Whincup recalled. “We win as a team and we lose as a team.
“We didn’t do a good enough job today, we pitted at the wrong time and the drive-through penalty certainly didn’t help. We made an error and there are no excuses for that. We did try hard this weekend, so hopefully we come back stronger next time around."
Defending champ Mark Winterbottom's title fight may be over too after his offsider Dean Canto, on slicks, slipped off the greasy track one lap before the end of his stint. They finished 24th.
Prodrive Racing Australia's Chaz Mostert, sharing the Supercheap Auto FGX Falcon with Steve Owen, was pleased with yet another consistent result – fifth and first Ford – after being forced to double-stack.
The unpredictable weather brought some good and bad calls by teams. The DJR Team Penske Ford of Fabian Coulthard/Luke Youlden came up with a hard-fought sixth place finish after the MightyMite Special Falcon started 11th with Youlden at the wheel and he ran a double stint. A bold strategy call to put Coulthard on slicks on a wet track paid off as the track dried and put the #66 Ford back into contention.
But the day belonged to Walkinshaw Racing’s HRT and Tander and Luff. Just.
Sandown 500 results
1. Garth Tander and Warren Luff (Holden)
2. Shane van Gisbergen and Alex Premat (Holden)
3. Will Davison and Jonathon Webb (Holden)
4. Scott McLaughlin and David Wall (Volvo)
5. Chaz Mostert and Steve Owen (Ford)
Supercars Championship standings
1. Shane van Gisbergen (Holden) - 2248 points
2. Jamie Whincup (Holden) - 2241 (-7)
3. Craig Lowndes (Holden) - 2091 (-157)
4. Scott McLaughlin (Volvo) - 1989 (-259)
5. Mark Winterbottom (Ford) - 1902 (-346)
WEC: Webber and his mates win in Texas
Reigning world endurance champs Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard, and Brendon Hartley have taken a hard-fought victory in the Six Hours of COTA, in Austin, the multinational trio scoring a third consecutive WEC win after a gruelling race held in challenging, tropical conditions.
Race six of nine championship rounds quickly slipped into an exciting strategic battle between all of the LMP1 prototype manufacturers, Audi, Porsche and Toyota. Ultimately, all three were represented on the podium with the #8 Audi of Lucas Di Grassi,/Oliver Jarvis/Loic Duval claiming second and the #6 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS 050 Hybrid of Mike Conway, Stephane Sarrazin and Kamui Kobayashi took third.
In taking its fifth win of 2017, Porsche has extended its lead in the manufacturers’ standings of the FIA WEC. Porsche now leads the manufacturers’ standings with 238 points ahead of Audi (185) and Toyota (137).
Testing drivers and mechanics, the race started at 5pm Texas time with ambient temperatures soaring beyond 35 degree Celsius.
A day earlier the Audis had blocked out the front row, with the #7 R18 of Marcel Fassler/Andre Lotterer/ Benoit Treluyer nailing Audi’s third pole position in a row with an average lap of 1m45.842, just 0.141 ahead of their teammates in the #8 car.
The Audis relished the heat early, building a lead of more than 45 seconds in the opening 90 minutes. But when conditions cooled after sunset, the Porsche 919 Hybrid came on strong.
The winning Porsche started from third position and had a largely uneventful run. Thanks to a well-managed pit stop strategy, the winning trio took the lead sometime after mid distance.
This year’s Le Mans winners, Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb, experienced a rather mixed race in their #2 Porsche, finally taking fourth but banking enough points to stay in the lead in the tight drivers’ championship fight. They are 37.5 points ahead of the best Audi trio, Duval/Jarvis/Di Grassi.
The mid-season hat trick of wins for the #1 Porsche marks a dramatic turnaround in fortunes after a demoralising start to the 2017 championship campaign.
“It was tough racing with fair battles today and Timo’s and Brendon’s drives were awesome,” said Webber afterwards.
“After the start we got into a rhythm. In the middle of the race the situation looked stable.
“The Audis in front were extremely quick in the heat, but this was no surprise. We knew we had to do a clean race and if they had stayed that strong we would have pushed them over the line. But then Audi had a problem and we have been lucky when the timing of a full course yellow played into our hands.
“Despite the heat, our guys in the garage did a great job again in the pit stops.”
It was the seventh WEC win for the three amigos, Bernhard/Hartley/Webber, and the third consecutive win at CotA.
The full course yellow referred to by Webber came with 2 hours and 9 mins remaining after two slower cars got together. Hartley was able to pit under yellow and re-emerged with a 25-second lead.
Bernhard, Webber and Hartley completed one more lap than 2015 – 186 versus 185 laps. The trio set a record last year for the most consecutive wins in a row in the FIA WEC: four. They can equal that record with another victory at the next round at Fuji.