Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, Bahrain International Circuit
Vettel’s Ferrari victorious once again; two wins in the first Grands Prix
April 16, 2017: As the Bahrain Grand Prix wound down to the finish, Sebastian Vettel held the lead over Lewis Hamilton with Hamilton closing the gap but Vettel was able to match Hamilton’s speed in the closing laps to win by a margin of 6.6 seconds. Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s teammate had won the pole in qualifying with Hamilton starting alongside but, in the race, he was not quite able to match his teammate’s speed and he had to settle for third.
At the start, Vettel shot past Hamilton to take second place behind Bottas until he pitted on lap 10 of the 57-lap race. Meanwhile Max Verstappen, who pitted a lap later, crashed out of the race when his brakes failed immediately after his stop. A lap later Stroll came out of the pits and the faster Sainz caught him and squeezed him off course. This crash ended Stroll’s day and brought out the safety car.
Both Bottas and Hamilton – as well as Ricciardo – pitted under this yellow but both of the Mercedes cars had slow stops and came back out with Bottas in second place behind Vettel and Hamilton in fourth behind Ricciardo. Worse for Hamilton, he was found to be guilty of slowing too much as he approached his pit stall in an apparent effort to delay Ricciardo and he was assessed a five-second penalty.
Hamilton was able to get past Ricciardo into third place behind Bottas on lap 17. Then, ten laps later the Mercedes strategists ordered Bottas to allow Hamilton past to allow him to run his fastest in hopes of mitigating the time penalty which was bound to be imposed when he made his second pit stop. Hamilton took the lead when Vettel made his second pit stop on lap 33. Vettel came out in third place behind Kimi Räikkönen with Bottas in fifth behind Ricciardo. As this sequence of pit stops wound its way through the cycle the order ended up Hamilton, Vettel and Bottas.
Then, on lap 41, Hamilton made his second pit stop and he came back out in third place behind Vettel and Bottas. Once again Bottas was told to let his teammate past so that he could chase Vettel for the lead. Hamilton was able to gain ground on him, chopping the gap down from about 20 seconds to a six-second margin with three laps to go – but he could not close up any more in those final laps and he had to settle for second behind Vettel.
For Vettel, this was his second win in the first three rounds of the 2017 season compared to Hamilton’s one win at Shanghai and he left Bahrain with a seven-point lead in the championship standings over his rival.
Bottas finished in third place, 14 seconds behind his teammate, while Räikkönen was fourth ahead of Ricciardo.
The Honda-powered McLarens continued to suffer from engine woes. Stoffel Vandoorne engine failed and he was unable to start the race while Fernando Alonso who started from the back of the field after his engine failed the day before and who, despite much complaining about his lack of power, managed to run as high as tenth at one point retired three laps short of the finish with engine problems.
After the race, Sergio Marchionne, Ferrari’s chairman said. "We are now completely confident that our victory in Melbourne wasn't just a one-off and that we will be at the forefront of this world championship until the last (race)."
The next Formula One race is the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday, April 30.
FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Silverstone, Silverstone, England
Toyota regains the lead in the closing minutes to win by a six-second margin over Porsche
April 16, 2017: The WEC races at the start of the season tend to serve as trials in preparation for the Le Mans 24-hour race in June. Last year, the Toyota team suffered a disheartening loss at Le Mans when their car, which was solidly in the lead, failed in the closing minutes of the race. So, you have to imagine that Toyota has returned to the endurance racing scene with a fresh determination to win it all this year.
With two Toyota entries and two Porsche entries in the Le Mans P1 class here the gauntlet was thrown down. This was going to be a hard-fought race even though there were only five entries in the premier class.
The two Toyotas out-qualified the Porsches by over a full second and that was the way the race began. It seemed as if the Toyotas had a small margin of speed in the race and they initially ran one-two. At the end of the first hour the No. 8 Toyota of Sébastien Buemi/Anthony Davidson/Kazuki Nakajima led the No. 7 Toyota of Mike Conway/Kamui Kobayashi/ José Maria Lopez with the two Porsches six-seconds and 20-seconds behind respectively.
This neat order was upset when the No. 7 car first had handing complaints (due to a broken anti-roll bar in the rear?) and then Lopez crashed heavily at Copse. The car was so badly damaged that it was amazing that he was even able to drive it back around to the pits where the team set to work and spent a long time getting it back into running order and back on the track – it finished in 23rd place (out of 24 starters) some 38 laps down. Given that this was a bit more than 70 percent of the race distance they did claim some points towards the WEC championship.
The safety car period which followed Lopez’ crash allowed the Porsches to close back up on the other leading Toyota, making it a race again. In the final round of pit stops No. 2 Porsche of Timo Bernhard/ Earl Bamber/Brendon Hartley did not take on fresh tires which promoted them into the lead ahead of the No. 7 Toyota and the No. 1 Porsche of Neel Jani/André Lotterer/Nick Tandy .
The six-hour race ran for 197 laps. In the final 15 minutes, on lap 190, the No. 8 Toyota (on newer tires) regained the lead and held on to take the win over the No. 2 Porsche and the No. 1 Porsche. The only other car in the LMP1 class, the No. 4 ENSO CLM P1/01 - Nismo of Robert Kubica/ Oliver Webb only completed 155 laps and was not classified.
In LMGTE-Pro, the No. 67 Ford GT of Andy Priaulx/Harry Tincknell/Luis Felipe Derani won the class but not without its troubles. The car was bothered throughout the race by the right-hand door coming partially open. They brought the car in for an early pit stop to try to fix this problem but it persisted to the end. The sister No. 66 car of Stefan Mücke/ Olivier Pla/Billy Johnson did lead for a while after the No. 67 car got off the pit stop sequence but in the end it finished fourth in the class. The No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE of James Calado/ Alessandro Pier Guidi came second in class 15 seconds behind the No. 67 car.
The No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07-Gibson of Ho-Pin Tung/Oliver Jarvis/Thomas Laurent finished fourth overall and first in the LMP2 class, 13 laps off the pace of the race winner.
The No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage of Paul Dalla Lana/Pedro Lamy/Mathias Lauda held the lead for most of the six-hour race. Indeed this car was still leading in class with Lamy at the wheel when it began its final lap but, unfortunately, the No. 54 Ferrari sideswiped him on this final lap. In the ensuing confusion, the No. 612 Ferrari 488 GTE of Weng Sun Mok/Keita Sawa/Matthew Griffin got past them to take the win while the Aston Martin finished second in class. Dalla Lana is a Canadian driver from Toronto
The next WEC race is at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium on May 6. It will be the final race before these cars contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 17-18.
F1: Steve Etherington, Daimler AG
WEC: Marcel Langer