Formula One: Hamilton SMASHES Bahrain Lap Record!

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Lewis Hamilton smashed the Bahrain International Circuit lap record earlier this evening setting a sensational pole position lap time 0.077 seconds faster than teammate Nico Rosberg. The previous lap record for the Bahrain International Circuit, held by Mark Webber, was set in 2005 during the V10 era of the sport. A time which many regard as the pinnacle of unconstrained design.  Hamilton’s Pole time was 0.034’s clear of the previous lap record, serves to add further weight to arguments that current F1 engine technology should be regarded as true works of excellence.

Also noteworthy is that Lewis’ 2016 pole time was 3.078’s faster than the 2015 pole lap.  Much of this improvement could be attributed to the super soft tyre being used for the first time in Bahrain, but such an step in performance over a 12 month period demonstrates the capabilities of both the Mercedes AMG Petronas team and the entire grid.

With performance evolving at this rate, perhaps the FIA and Strategy group should reconsider the need to fundamental regulation changes for the 2017 season.

Lewis Hamilton
I’m really happy with that – the last lap was so much fun! Throughout practice and most of qualifying my laps weren’t quite perfect and Nico would be ahead by a tenth here and a tenth there – whatever it might be. So, to finally put it all together when it counted was really satisfying – and quite a relief! There was big pressure too, as I went off on the previous lap and knew I had to make a big improvement. A massive thank you to everyone here at the track and also back at the factories in Brackley and Brixworth for this car. It’s really very special. It will be important to get a good start tomorrow, like always, especially as there’s a longer run down to turn one here than in Melbourne. It’s something we’ve been working on – but we’ve only had a couple of weeks since the last race, so I don’t expect big improvements. Hopefully it’s better than last time – we’ll see.

Nico Rosberg
My lap felt good and I was sure that I had got pole when I crossed the line – but then the guys told me that Lewis was just a bit quicker. He did an incredible lap at the end, so a good job from him. The good news for me is that this is one of the tracks where pole position counts for the least. Strategy tomorrow will be important and maybe even quite messy, so there are still a lot of opportunities. You have a few more places to overtake here than at other tracks too, so I’m quite confident for tomorrow. Tyres are going to be a big issue. We have softer tyres here than last year and it will be interesting to see how long they last and when they will start graining. It should be an entertaining race, so I’m looking forward to it.

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
Leaving aside any comment on the qualifying format itself, the actual battle today between our two cars – and also between ourselves and Ferrari – was very close and really exciting. It was only in the final part of Q2 and Q3 that Lewis and Nico hooked everything up – and for Lewis it came down to his final Q3 lap after he ran wide on his first run. What he produced was a stunning lap, the fastest ever on this circuit – quicker even than the V10 era – and more than three seconds faster than last year’s pole. Really impressive. Nico came very close to beating it and fell less then a tenth short in the end after his fastest lap of the session. My feelings about this qualifying format haven’t changed and there is nothing to add to what I’ve already said about it. Now we focus on tomorrow’s race, on getting off the line well – and what I am sure will be a very tight battle with Ferrari.

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
A fantastic competition between our two drivers and the two Ferraris – the result of having four cars very close in performance here. There was a lot of excitement building up to those second Q3 runs, with Lewis making a mistake in the final corner and adding extra pressure to his second lap. All four cars made it out for another run and it was a closely fought thing, with terrific laps from Lewis and Nico to lock out the front row. There’s a great sense of pride in seeing this car set an all-time lap record tonight. There’s a lot of negative talk around at the moment, with suggestions that these cars aren’t fast or exciting enough. In fact, they’re now proving to be quicker than those of the V10 era – previously the fastest machines in Formula One history. All credit to the men and women on both the chassis and Power Unit side of this project for their innovative, record-breaking work.

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Formula One: Kvyat “There were a few surprises today”

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DANIIL KVYAT 
First Practice Session: Position: 5, Best Time: 1:34.541, Laps: 30
Second Practice Session: Position: 7, Best Time: 1:32.703, Laps: 34

“All in all it was a good Friday for us which was crucial after what was a pretty disastrous weekend in Melbourne.  We were aiming to do good mileage, which we achieved and we have a lot of data to go through tonight. We hope to continue this form into tomorrow and maybe make a couple of steps forward.  There were a few surprises today in terms of pace, obviously McLaren was one of them. There may be some more surprises tomorrow depending who makes it click overnight but I’m pretty confident we will be in good shape.”

DANIEL RICCIARDO 
First Practice Session: Position: 4, Best Time: 1:34.461, Laps: 27
Second Practice Session: Position: 9, Best Time: 1:32.870, Laps:  23
“Dany is probably happier with his Friday than I was with mine. This morning wasn’t too bad but from the very first lap this afternoon I locked the front into Turn 1 which killed that set of tyres. We couldn’t use that set for the long run which compromised our afternoon programme. With the super softs on the low fuel we still needed to find a bit more balance, and with the high fuel run, we were interrupted with the virtual safety cars. We still have some homework to do but we’ll see how tomorrow goes. I think Q3 will be on the edge for us, but the race will be better.”

Formula One: Renault target huge PU upgrades in Canada

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Renault have confirmed that both the Renault Sport F1 Team and Red Bull Racing team will receive a substantial performance upgrade in their Power Units in time for the Canadian Grand Prix. Whilst timing of this upgrade has been known for some time, Sky Sports F1’s Ted Kravitz confirmed during Free Practice 2 coverage of the Bahrain Grand Prix that the upgrades will be focused on the introduction of a Homogeneous charge compression ignition system.

Homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI) formed the basis of the Mercedes Power Unit upgrade seen at the Italian Grand Prix in 2015. The impact of this system for Mercedes bought performance in line with V10 power units of old. HCCI s a form of internal combustion in which well-mixed fuel and oxidizer (typically air) are compressed to the point of auto-ignition. As in other forms of combustion, this exothermic reaction releases chemical energy into a sensible form that can be transformed in an engine into work and heat.

Such an upgrade with the Power Unit will likely also see fuel and lubricant supplier, Total,  introduce new fuel compounds, which could further improve the performance. Through 2015 Total were able to reduce the levels of oil and lubricants required for the Renault power unit by 50% delivering a substantial weight saving for teams.

For more information on HCCI check out the Wikipedia definition here

Formula One: Radio Restrictions Damaging Racing

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The 2016 Australian Grand Prix saw the first race in which the FIA mandated restrictions around team to driver radio communications were implemented. The restrictions, whilst dramatically watered down on the eve of the race itself, left drivers with far less support behind the wheel and almost entirely unaware of the performance of rivals and team mates.  This leads to such situations as that in which Ferrari were unable to inform Vettel of the reason for his teammate’s retirement.

Whilst purists may argue this simplified approach to racing places the onus of responsibility back towards the driver, is it actually damaging the racing we see on the track and the narrative commentators provide to an event?

One particular story emerging in the aftermath of the Australian Grand Prix was that race winner Nico Rosberg was actually nursing a critical front brake issue which in ordinary situations the team may have considered retiring the car over.

Mercedes AMG Petronas explain the issue here:

Owing to the restrictions in radio communication the team were unable to communicate with Nico on the problem and unable to assist in remedying the situation. Whilst it is hugely commendable that Nico was able to manage the issue and go on to win the race, the true excellence of this performance went largely unnoticed.  With the team not communicating with Nico over the issue, the broadcasting world feed had no opportunity to learn of the issue and discuss the challenge. Had commentators been aware of the issue there can be no doubt Nico’s achievement would have received far more praise. As the narrators of sport, commentators build drivers into legends not knowing what a driver is having to deal with, leaves the commentators and as a consequence fans somewhat blind.

In addition to the team not being able to inform Nico Rosberg of the issue and assist in finding a solution, they were of course also unable to inform his teammate Lewis Hamilton. The lack of radio communication, also means this element is absent from the World Feed and so Ferrari and other teams were also unaware the race leader had a problem. It would be unfair to suggest their knowing may have changed the overall race result since Nico was able to lap at the same pace as his teammate despite the issues, but had Lewis and Sebastian been aware of the issue they may have taken a different approach to the closing stages of the race. There are vast differences in the mentality of a driver knowing the car in front is managing a performance issue compared to believing it is capable of the same performance as your own car. By removing this level of communication drivers had little incentive to risk their existing position.

It was reassuring to see that the FIA are in constant dialogue with teams over this and other issues, as demonstrated with the softening of the regulations before the race itself. With the regulations having now been tested in a race situation perhaps it is time to revisit the rules once again.

Formula One: Too much of a good thing?

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The 2016 Motorsport Season kicks in to high gear this weekend with over 20  premier races taking place from locations all around the world.  As qualifying for second round of the Formula One Championship is taking place in Bahrain, the Long Beach round of Formula E will be getting under-way. This coupled with the opening rounds of the World Touring Car championship coming from Paul Ricard, the British Touring car championship from Brands Hatch. The second round of the Indycar championship, not mentioning the V8SC racing from Australia, Moto GP,2, &3 races and the World Super Bikes How can a be expected to keep up?!

With so many races taking place over a single weekend it will be almost impossible to keep track of the scheduling and results let alone any form of clear narrative from each event. On the scheduling front MsportXtra does an amazing job of keeping the motorsport super fan up to speed on what we should we watching next.  Although looking at that daunting  Sunday schedule I’m not sure there is much allowance for sleep!

 

 

For fans to commit to a series they need to feel a pull, a storyline, a driver or team to attach themselves too. Sure each series has its own unique pull, In the World Touring Cars people are curious to see if the returning Volvo can threaten the overly dominant Citroen as they enter their final year as a works team. In the British Touring Cars, will Team BMR and their new Subaru partnership we able to win from the work go? Coming from Phoenix, is it really safe for Indycar to return to the short oval? Will the winglets in MotoGP continue to create overtaking issues for riders? And in Formula E, can anyone challenge the dominance of Renault? So with all this going on how to you decide what to watch?

Do you commit to certain racing series now and stick with them for the season? If so which? Perhaps more fundamentally, has this wealth of racing categories forced organisers to look at racing as you would entertainment, focusing on the show rather than the sport?

Over the close season fans are desperate for track action, now we are left questioning how on earth can we find time to fit it all in? With Social Media, the water cooler of motorsport, it has become nigh on impossible to avoid results. So, similar to every other motorsport obsessive, I find myself hoping for a rainy day at home on Sunday, so I can sit back in my armchair, watch everything I can, then spend the next five days trying to make sense of it all!