Rosberg cruises to victory after Hamilton’s messy start
Defending champ Hamilton’s lead reduced to two points
Like too many races in the modern era of Formula One, the Italian Grand Prix was decided within moments of the lights going out, when pole man Lewis Hamilton duffed the start, gifting his Mercedes-Benz team-mate and rival Nico Rosberg a relatively easy run to his first win at Monza.
But the positive news emerging from 53 laps bereft of much in the way of excitement is that with the European season of F1 over, Hamilton and Rosberg are now just two points apart after 12 races.
There was little joy for Ferrari, despite the promise of more speed from an engine upgrade. Sebastian Vettel took his first podium since Baku, and Kimi Raikkonen was fourth ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. But the Mercs were supreme. Again.
Hamilton’s sluggish start left him slipping backwards to sixth, as Rosberg, and the Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen all got away well and safely, followed by Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Ricciardo.
Max Verstappen also went backwards, from seventh to 12th, ruining his race. At least he didn’t hit anyone.
Hamilton immediately set out after the fast-disappearing Rosberg, flying past Ricciardo on lap two, and some laps later, Bottas, to move to fourth. Already, though, the Brit was 11 seconds back from his team-mate.
Most of the cars in the top 10 seemed to be set on a one-stop strategy, although some rehearsed radio chat appeared to goad Ferrari into switching to two stops.
Also on a two-stop plan, Ricciardo spent much of the race chasing but not quite threatening Bottas. But this changed on lap 47 of 53, when the Aussie finally got within DRS range and then pulled off what commentator Martin Brundle described as the “overtake of the year” in the first chicane. Ricciardo was clinically efficient, coming from a long way back and braking hard and late without a hint of tyre smoke. Job done. Fifth place. His fellow Red Bull driver Verstappen was seventh.
“You hope for a podium every race but realistically, coming here, we thought Ferrari would have an edge on us,” Ricciardo said afterwards. “We also thought Williams and Force India would be strong and we targeted fifth place. For us to finish in fifth and seventh represents championship damage limitation here at Monza. I was pretty close to Bottas in the middle of the race and knew I could race hard from that position. It was a really enjoyable overtake.”
Ricciardo said he had a three hour drive home after the race and didn’t want to spend the whole journey regretting not trying it.
But at the home race for Ferrari, Mercedes left the Scuderia and the others fighting for modest returns, the Rosberg-Hamilton double act posting its fourth one-two finish of the season.
A day earlier, the writing was on the wall. Though expected to perform at a high level in its home grand prix, Ferrari was blitzed by the Mercs and forced to occupy the second row. The only consolation was the lack of pace from constructors’ championship rivals, Red Bull. Both were outsped by the Williams of Valtteri Bottas, with Ricciardo back in sixth and Verstappen seventh.
Monza’s low-downforce straights don’t do the modestly powered cars any favours.
Since the previous week’s controversial Belgian Grand Prix, so much has centred on teenager Verstappen and whether or not he need to be officially censured for his part in the first-corner fracas and a couple of other questionable defensive moves.
That he escaped any penalty from race officials appeared to give Verstappen some added self-belief. Though he’s not an overtly boastful young bloke, it’s not as if he is deficient in confidence.
It doesn’t help either that television commentators, desperate for a new wonderkid and certainly hopeful of a ratings boost, talk up the kid at every opportunity.
Verstappen is a rare talent, but at this stage of his development as a F1 driver, it might be useful if he understood that a little more race experience and a better understanding that impetuous actions can invite disastrous consequences.
Some of the older drivers would not be thrilled to be beaten by a youngster, even one of the maturity shown in many (though not all) ways by the Dutchman. But that’s not to say he shouldn’t heed the advice heading in his direction.
Let’s hope Verstappen’s private talk with F1 race director Charlie Whiting hit the spot.
WEC: Webber and his mates win Mexican thriller
The six-hour race went right down to the wire with the weather the wild card
Intermittent rain, good and bad tyre decisions, some brilliant driving – and some errors – kept the outcome in doubt right to the end of a tense Six Hours of Mexico, round five of the World Endurance Championship
Audi should have, could have, but didn’t, take the win. And despite a couple of glaring mistakes from the normally reliable Timo Bernhard, the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid emerged with the victory at the WEC’s first visit to the Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.
Bernhard and his two buddies in the #1, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber, have now won the last two WEC races, but still lag in the drivers’ championship.
Two periods of rain forced the teams to adjust their strategy to cope with the changing conditions.
The #1 Porsche took the lead early in the second hour and remained ahead until the fourth hour when Bernhard was given a drive-through penalty for crossing the pit entry line.
This left the pole-winning #8 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval and Oliver Jarvis in the lead. But Jarvis slid off at high speed when a front wheel-bearing failed.
Bernhard gave his team-mates and supporters a scare with just six minutes remaining when he was caught out by rain and slid off.
But his margin was big enough to allow him to recover and take the flag with just over a minute in hand over the Audi R18 of Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler.
Lotterer had charged back at the Porsche when, in the fifth hour, he locked up and clouted the wall, throwing away a likely win with the consequent pit stop.
Overcoming a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact, Toyota took third with the TS050 HYBRID shared by Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin.
Championship leaders Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas were fourth in the second Porsche on when they clearly struggled with the varying conditions.
Porsche now leads the manufacturers’ standings with 201 points ahead of Audi (158) and Toyota (112).
The 4.4-kilometre track is noted for its combination of long high-speed straights and slower corners, and because the circuit sits at an altitude of 2285 metres, breathing is sometimes hard for the drivers and their cars alike.
Those watching the ever-changing fortunes of the drivers and cars on track were equally short of oxygen.
MotoGP at Silverstone springs another first-time winner
The year of history-making continues as Viñales takes brilliant maiden victory
Suzuki’s young star rider Maverick Viñales – heading to Yamaha at the end of 2016 to partner Valentino Rossi – has taken an emotional win in the premier class at Silverstone.
It was Suzuki’s first victory since returning to the championship.
The 2013 Moto3 world champion was untouchable at the British Grand Prix, becoming the seventh winner so far in 2016.
Viñales, who scored his first podium in Le Mans in the French GP, pulled away from an almighty battle behind, eventually winning by 3.4 seconds once away in the lead/
Home hero and pole sitter Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), making his 250th 500cc/MotoGP start, completed the podium.
The race took two attempts to get underway after a frightening crash on the opening lap when an incident between Loris Baz (Avintia Racing) and Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha tech 3) brought out the red flag and the two riders went to the medical centre.
On the restart, the front row of the grid of Crutchlow, Rossi and Viñales fought for the lead, with Crutchlow taking the position early before Viñales got through to pull away.
On Saturday, Crutchlow carried forward his stunning winning wet-weather form from Brno to snare a slick home pole position. Rossi took P2, with Viñales completing the front row in a big improvement in the wet conditions.
Australia’s Jack Miller, returned to action of sitting out two races due to injury, qualified 12th on his Honda and finished 16th.
With Marc Marquez – fourth at Silverstone – now leading the standings by 50 points ahead of Rossi, MotoGP heads tor Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli next weekend.