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FORMULA 1

LCH HITS A GRAND SLAM IN CHINA

The Mercedes ace notched up the landmark achievement by taking pole position, leading from start to finish, and setting the fastest lap.

Ironically, the Brit did that on lap 44, in car number 44 — which is his lucky racing number.

Hamilton’s victory in Shanghai was his fifth in 10 years at the track and drew him level with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the championship after the German’s win in Melbourne.

Hamilton said: “It has been a dominant weekend. It has been remarkable that this is my 10th year here and I have had six poles and five wins.

“I have a great record he and I have been very fortunate to work with some intelligent and hard-working people who have helped elevate me to the top step.

“This is a track that suits my driving style, whether it is in the wet or the dry and I am really happy with how I performed today.

“The strategist made the right decision in terms of coming in for tyres and the guys in the garage did a fantastic job with the stops, so it was a very on-point weekend.”

FORMULA 1

LCH BEATS VETTEL TO POLE POSITION IN CHINA

LCH claimed his second successive pole position of the new season in China. He was, however, pushed to the limit again by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who finished second, just one-thousandth of a second in front of Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton saved the best to last, setting a flawless pole lap on his final run in Q3 that Vettel was unable to match. But Ferrari have proved once again they have the pace this season to match Mercedes and with rain forecast for Sunday in Shanghai, the race could be a feisty spectacle.

“We knew it was going to be close,” said Hamilton. “It was going to mean we would have to pull out all the stops and really have a very, very perfect lap. I managed to just chip away at it from session to session. No major issues. But the last lap was my best lap, which is always the plan.

Lewis Hamilton’s battle with Sebastian Vettel could match F1’s great rivalries
“It is more exciting than ever for me because we are really fighting with these guys. It is amazing and that is what racing is all about, and it really pushes you to raise the bar every time you go out, which I love.”

The second Ferrari, driven by Kimi Raikkonen, will start from fourth but the best Red Bull could manage was fifth, with Daniel Ricciardo over a second back from the pole-sitter’s pace. Max Verstappen, suffering from a power problem in his Red Bull, was knocked out of Q1, and will be 17th on the grid.

Vettel, however, who started from second at Melbourne and went on to win, was optimistic for Sunday. “I think we can still improve. Let’s see what the race looks like tomorrow. The conditions will be quite different,” he said. “I think it should be an exciting race. The car is good, so I’m confident, no matter the conditions that the car is working, and we will try to do the fastest race.”

Hamilton has not driven on the full wet tyre this season, having not done so in testing due to an electrical fault on his car. Should the rain come on Sunday – and the forecast is that it is very likely – it will bring a fresh challenge.

“Tomorrow will be a new lesson for me to learn if it is wet and it will be interesting to see,” he said. “Ferrari have a very, very strong car, particularly a step up more so in the race pace and how they treat their tyres, particularly when it’s warm, so it will be interesting to see what the weather brings us tomorrow. Whatever the case it’s going to be close between us and that bodes well for one of the most exciting days to come for a long time.”

This was the 63rd pole position of Hamilton’s career, putting him only two behind Ayrton Senna and five behind Michael Schumacher in the single lap discipline. Hamilton’s time of 1.31.678 was two tenths in front of Vettel – with the new regulations having seen the previous lap record, 1.32.238, set by Schumacher in 2004, comprehensively demolished. The top four were separated by less than four tenths and clearly the pace Ferrari showed in Australia was not a one-off peculiar to Albert Park.

“It is more exciting than ever for me because we are really fighting with these guys,” said Hamilton. “It is amazing and that is what racing is all about, and it really pushes you to raise the bar every time you go out, which I love.

F1Weekly podcast # 723

CLARK AND NASIR ARE SOOOO DELIGHTED WITH FERRARI’S WIN IN MELBOURNE AND CAN’T BELIEVE THE HONDA MCLAREN DISASTER NOW IN IT’S THIRD YEAR! TO CHEER UP FERNANDO WE HAVE A WONDERFUL CONVERSATION WITH FORMER FORMULA ONE DRIVER NICK HEIDFELD AND THE F1W GURU AT THE 12 HOURS OF SEBRING.

Nick Heidfeld was racing Motocross bikes with his brothers Tim and Sven before the age of five. He tried karting at a circuit near the Nurburgring and showed promise, and received his first kart when he was eight.

After eight years’ karting including European and World Championship competitions Heidfeld, aged 17, moved into the German Formula Ford championship. Eight wins from nine starts made him class champion in 1994. The following year he was International German Formula Ford champion and moved up to Formula Three.

He spent two years in the German F3 series with Opel Team BSR. The first season saw him take three wins and finish third overall, the title being won by future F1 driver Jarno Trulli Heidfeld returned in 1997 and went into the final two races at the Nurburgring three points behind Timo Scheider. But with a pair of wins Heidfeld snatched the title with 224 points to Scheider’s 218. He also won the Monaco Formula Three race.

He got his first Formula 1 test the same year with McLaren-Mercedes and moved up to Formula 3000 with the team’s support. Heidfeld finished runner-up to Juan Pablo Montoya in 1998, having won three times. The next year Heidfeld dominated the category, winning four of the first six races and comfortably beating Jason Watt to the title. He also made further testing appearances for McLaren and it was believed the team were grooming him for a race seat.

Prost

But when Heidfeld arrived in F1 in 2000 it was with Alain Prost’s team. It was a difficult debut with a slow, unreliable car and a very experienced team mate in Jean Alesi.

Heidfeld compared well with his team mate, but the pair collided in the Austrian Grand Prix when Alesi tried to pass him.

Sauber

The following season Heidfeld switched to Sauber where he partnered rookie Kimi Raikkonnen. Heidfeld scored his first podium on his third outing for the team and out-scored Raikkonen 12 points to nine, but McLaren were impressed by the young Finnish driver and signed him instead of Heidfeld to partner David Coulthard for 2002.

Heidfeld said: “It’s not a big disappointment especially because everyone has seen it coming over the last couple of weeks, but of course I was surprised. They should know what they are doing, but I don’t know – I don’t think I’ve done a lot wrong. I didn’t do a worse job than [Raikkonen].”

He stayed at Sauber for another two seasons, first with Felipe Massa as his team mate, then Heinz-Harald Frentzen. But the team were slipping down the field and Heidfeld found himself at Jordan in 2004. It was another team on the verge of being taken over but Heidfeld managed to claim a pair of points finishes.

Williams

That attracted the attention of Williams and engine partners BMW, who tested Heidfeld alongside Antonio Pizzonia for a 2005 race seat. Despite Pizzonia having driven for the team as a substitute in 2004, Heidfeld won the 2005 seat with support from BMW’s Mario Theissen.

Heidfeld quickly repaid their faith, scoring podiums at Sepang, Monte-Carlo (following a gutsy pass on Fernando Alonso) and the Nurburgring, having started from pole position at the latter. Late in the year he suffered a crash in testing at Monza and then a cycling accident, causing him to miss the final five rounds.

BMW

Jenson Button, Nick Heidfeld, 2008, Monte-Carlo, 470313

Williams and BMW went separate ways at the end of 2005, with BMW taking over Sauber to set up their own F1, team, and taking Heidfeld with them. He was comfortably quicker than Jacques Villeneuve in the first half of the season before the 1997 world champion was replaced by Robert Kubica.

Heidfeld got the new team on the podium at the Hungaroring but his rookie team mate was third at Monza. Heidfeld publicly admitted that Kubica had forced him to raise his game and as 2007 got under way it certainly looked as though he had.

With BMW comfortably the third quickest team Heidfeld was regularly chasing the McLarens and Ferraris and occasionally claiming a scalp – as when he passed Alonso at Bahrain to take fourth place off the McLaren driver. He ended the year fifth with 61 points to Kubica’s 39.

Heidfeld spent most of 2008 struggling to match Kubica’s pace, especially in qualifying. But he was extremely consistent, taking a classified finishing in every round and breaking Michael Schumacher’s record for most consecutive finishes. But he also extended his record for most second place finishes without a victory, while Kubica scored his and BMW’s maiden win at Montreal.

By the end of the year Heidfeld was back on terms with and even ahead of Kubica once again. The pair remained at BMW for 2009 but their new car was well off the pace and racing for wins was out of the question.

Heidfeld managed to out-score Kubica but with BMW quitting the sport both men moved on to new teams in 2010. Heidfeld joined the new Mercedes Grand Prix team as the reserve driver alongside race drivers Schumacher and Nico Rosberg.

Mercedes released Heidfeld halfway through 2010 so he could conduct tyre testing for new official F1 tyre suppliers Pirelli.

Sauber

Nick Heidfeld, Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber, Suzuka, 2010
Heidfeld reappeared at Sauber again in 2010 alongside Kamui Kobayashi

2010

Shortly afterwards he re-joined Sauber to replace Pedro de la Rosa for the final five races of the year.

However he was replaced by Sergio Perez at the end of the season.

Renault

Nick Heidfeld, Renault, Sepang, 2011
Heidfeld claimed a podium finish in Malaysia for Renault

2011

An opportunity to continue race in F1 presented itself when Kubica was badly injured in a rally accident in February.

Heidfeld was drafted in to take the Polish driver’s place at Renault from the start of the season.

His year got off to a promising start with a podium finish in Malaysia. But he tended to qualify behind junior team mate Vitaly Petrov and despite scoring most of the team’s points was dropped after 11 races.

[audio:http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/mp3.f1weekly.com/podcasts/03-27-17f1weekly723.mp3]

FORMULA 1

SAHARA FORCE INDIA DRIVERS AUSTRALIAN GP PREVIEW

Sergio Perez revs up for the new season and one of his favourite races in the calendar.

Sergio: “The first race of the year is always good fun. We’ve had a long winter to recharge the batteries, but now I just want to go racing again. Australia is the best place to start the season: it’s a great country and I really enjoy going there. There is so much to do in Melbourne and it’s a fun weekend, even if it’s busier than some of the other races.

“It’s important not to get distracted: we want to start well and get back into the race weekend rhythm, and get on with our work. The track itself is quite enjoyable and it’s a challenge to drive because it’s almost a street circuit. It starts the weekend very green and as you go on, you get more grip and more confidence in your new car.

“I am confident we can do well and score points from the first race: Australia is a place where anything can happen and we have seen some very unpredictable races there in the past. You never know what opportunities turn up in a race so you have to be ready at all times to take them.”

Esteban Ocon prepares for his Sahara Force India debut and his first full season in Formula One.

Esteban: “I am feeling great after a long winter and I’m very excited to go to Melbourne. It will be the first time racing at Albert Park for me, so I do not really know the track, but last year I went there and I liked what I could see. It’s a proper old-school track and those are the sorts of circuit I really enjoy. Of course it’s not easy when you don’t know the track in advance, so it’s especially important to learn quickly in the Friday sessions and listen to the feedback from the engineers – whether it’s where I can be faster or where we can make the car quicker. I think I have all the tools and all the people around me to do that.

“Joining this team has gone very smoothly from my perspective. The team welcomed me and made me feel at ease straight away. I feel very comfortable about the way we work and I feel this will help me give my best in Australia.

“I think we did a good job as a team during winter testing and I also feel confident because of all the simulator work we did over the winter. We continue to push on the simulator and I was at the factory a few days ago doing the final preparation for Melbourne. I was very open to the team – I told them I’d be available at HQ as much as they needed me over the winter and I feel satisfied with the work we’ve done together so far. I think we’re on track to extract everything we can from the car, which is our objective. We’ll go out and do the best we can and see where we are.”

FORMULA 1

WILLIAMS APPOINTS PADDY LOWE AS CHIEF TECHNICAL OFFICER

Williams Grand Prix Holdings PLC (Ticker: WGF1) is pleased to announce the appointment of Paddy Lowe as Chief Technical Officer for the Williams Group.

Paddy will join Williams today, 16 March, and will take overall management responsibility for the engineering operation at Grove. Paddy will also join the company’s Board of Directors and take a shareholding in the company, underlining his passion and commitment to working with Claire Williams and Mike O’Driscoll to drive the Williams Group forward.

Paddy moves to Williams from current Formula One Constructors’ Champions Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, where he held the position of Executive Director (Technical) since June 2013 and helped lead the Mercedes team to record dominance in the Formula One Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championships.

Paddy started his Formula One career with Williams in 1987 as a control systems engineer, working with Sir Patrick Head and Adrian Newey. In his six years with the team he helped pioneer the active suspension system that took Nigel Mansell to the 1992 World Championship in the FW14B. Paddy then moved to McLaren in 1993 and spent two decades at the Woking based team in the positions of Head of Research and Development, Chief Engineer, Engineering Director and finally Technical Director, helping the team secure three Drivers’ Championships and one Constructors’ Championship during that time.

During his 29 years in the sport, Paddy has contributed to 158 race wins, 7 Drivers’ Championship titles and 5 Constructors’ Championship titles: an impressive CV making him one of the leading engineers in the Formula One paddock.

Commenting on his appointment Paddy Lowe said; “I‘ve always had a deep respect for Williams – my first team in Formula One. It is a huge honour to return in this leadership position and to have the opportunity to become a shareholder. I am extremely motivated to play my part in bringing success back to the team. The vision for the future set out by the Williams Board is powerful and has compelled me to join an organisation committed to building on its unique legacy and to reaching the pinnacle of Formula One once again. I’m looking forward to this exciting new phase to my career working with Claire, Mike and Nick and with the rest of this great team – especially Frank himself, who is one of the most committed “racers” I know!”

Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal, added; “I am delighted that the team is welcoming Paddy back to Williams in the role of Chief Technical Officer. Having someone of Paddy’s calibre and engineering competence is not only a morale boost for everyone at Williams, but I know it will also significantly support our efforts to return this team back to the front of the grid. Our ambitions at Williams are unwavering, we want to win races and championships, but to do that you need the best talent in the business. In Paddy we believe we have just that as well as a leader who will drive change. This is a game changer for us and once again makes us extremely excited about this team’s future.”

Commenting on Paddy’s appointment to the Board of Directors, Chairman of the Board, Nick Rose added: “Paddy will be a great addition to our Board bringing his deep technical expertise and overall business knowledge and management skills. Alongside Claire and Mike, he will be one of the three key executive directors running our business day-to-day.”

INDYCAR SERIES

FLORIDA FRESH. FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG.

BOURDAIS AND COYNE RACING ARE HOT ON A COOL BREEZY DAY.

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series got off to a great start with the opening round won by Sébastien Bourdais over French countryman and 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud. Scott Dixon was third, the Kiwi still not successful here after 13 attempts.

Penske-star Will Power started from his seventh St. Pete pole position, next to him was Dixon, the Ganassi team now powered by Honda. Josef Newgarden, the man from Tennessee, qualified on the second row in his first drive for Penske. Sato-san was fifth, having jumped from Foyt’s stable to Andretti Autosports.

Setback & Comeback

Sébastien Bourdais crashed his Coyne operated car in qualifying and was relegated to the back of the grid. Compadre Pagenaud also did not fare well, qualifying only 14th.

Power led the first few laps before the Mayor, James Hinchcliffe, laid down the law and took the lead. This was just the beginning of Power’s problems; a puncture, running over air hose and fuel-feed issues led to his retirement.

Bourdais avoided tangle with other competitors and on lap 37 passed Pagenaud for the lead. The Penske driver started his charge in the closing stages of the race but the ex-Toro Rosso F1 racer kept his cool and gave Coyne racing team a well deserved win, a very happy reunion not only for the two and but also for the driver and crew chief Craig Hampson – the last time they worked together was in their glory days at Newman-Haas.

Behind Dixon in third, Florida native Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato completed the top five.

Victory for Le Mans-native & St. Pete-based Bourdais was 36th of his stellar career on this side of the pond and elevates him to 6th on the all time wins list.

Look back

Paul Tracy was the winner of the inaugural St. Petersburg event in 2003, then held under the CART umbrella. Helio Castro Neves is the only three-time winner of the event, 2006/7 & ‘12. And, surprisingly, Graham Rahal is the only American winner.

Penske has been the dominant team here with eight wins, but their winner from the past two years, Juan Pablo Montoya, was missing in action but will be activated by the Captain and self ‘percolated’ during the merry month of May.

American heavy weights in Indy Lights

The future of IndyCar racing is bright as two young Americans won their first race in the series in dominating fashion. The season opening race was led from start to finish from pole position by Wisconsin native Aaron Telitz. Last season he won the Pro Mazda (formerly Star Mazda) championship.

F1Weekly will feature an exclusive interview with this young talent in an upcoming podcast.

On Sunday, second generation and 16-year-old driver Colton Herta took victory after a race long duel with Santiago Urrutia, the Uruguayan driver is in his second year in the series. Colton made papa Bryan proud by becoming the youngest ever winner in Indy Lights history.

— Nasir Hameed

Photo: IndyCar.com