Sunday, 21 September 2014

Hamilton capitalizes on Rosberg misfortune to win in Singapore and take the championship lead

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)

Mercedes AMG F1 Team's Lewis Hamilton took a lights to flag victory in today's Singapore Grand Prix not only taking his seventh win of the season but the 2008 world champion goes to the Japanese Grand Prix with a three point lead in the championship following team mate Nico Rosberg's retirement from the race as a result of a clutch problem caused by a suspected electronics issue. Rosberg was forced to start the race from the pit-lane as a result of the issue.

Speaking following the his victory, Hamilton commented:

'It was great to come here after winning in Monza and start the final leg of the season with such a competitive car. It would have been a really hardcore race if Nico had been at the front, as we clearly had the pace. 

It was all running pretty comfortably until the Safety Car came out, which gave me some problems. I was driving hard to build the gap but then the tyres started dropping off and I wasn’t sure what to do – keep pushing or back off to look after them. So we pitted straight away and I came out behind Seb. 

But I knew they were on a two-stop strategy and that his tyres were old. I went for it down the back straight – the gap was pretty small and maybe I could have chosen another point on the circuit. But I luckily squeezed through and made it stick. Of course, it’s not an ideal result with Nico retiring, so that shows we still have work to do to get on top of reliability. But it’s been a great job from the team at everyone at the factories to make this mega car. Now we need to keep pushing hard for Japan in two weeks’ time.'

Nico Rosberg commented by saying:

'The problems with my steering wheel began in the garage even before the race and it was a difficult moment when I couldn’t pull away from the grid – the car didn’t get out of neutral. When I left the pit-lane, I was only able to change gear – there was no radio, no DRS and reduced Hybrid power. We were hoping that the systems might come back to life, like the radio did, and that we could change the situation.

But after we changed the wheel another time, we had to retire the car. It was a tough day for me and unfortunately another reliability problem for the team. It was at least something good for the team that Lewis was able to take the win. Now we need to analyse what happened and to optimise everything further because reliability is our issue this year.'

Mercedes motorsport director Toto Wolff was delighted with Lewis Hamilton's performance saying:

'What an incredible race from Lewis. After the Safety Car came in, it needed qualifying laps every time round to build the gap – and he did that faultlessly. These are the days when drivers like Lewis show what makes the difference between star drivers and the superstar drivers. 

Congratulations to him. On the other side, it was a bitter afternoon for Nico. It looks like a loom in the steering column failed and that was the root of his problems. When he came back to the garage, I told him we were sorry to have let him down – and he handled the whole situation in a very professional way. We have a missile of a car this year but these reliability issues keep tripping us up. The parts will be sent back to base tonight for forensic analysis by our reliability group. 

We have an excellent team dedicated to quality and we will track down this failure and make sure it does not happen again. Looking at the Championship, the pressure is now on for both drivers with such a small gap and five races to go. It will give us a few more grey hairs – but it’s great for the fans of Formula One.'

Mercedes AMG F1 Team's executive director (technical) Paddy Lowe commented:

'That was a bittersweet afternoon for the team – a fantastic win for Lewis tempered by disappointment at the technical problem with Nico’s car. Although we have not yet fully understood the causes, Nico suffered an electronic problem within his steering column. This manifested itself on his laps to the grid and we changed the steering wheel on the grid in the hope this might resolve the issue. 

But it became clear as soon as he started the race that only his gear change paddles were working. This meant he had no control over the clutch, or the many different functions he manages from the steering wheel. Among other things, he had significantly reduced energy deployment, which meant he couldn’t pass even the slower cars he encountered. At the pit stop, the car became stuck in neutral and we decided to retire because we judged that the mechanism required to restart would have been too dangerous. I can only offer my commiserations and apologies to Nico. 

On the other side of the garage, Lewis delivered a fantastic performance. The pace was strong and our tyre endurance better than that of our competitors. We were backed into a corner by the Safety Car at the mid-point of the race, when others decided to go to the end on the prime tyre. But we stuck to our guns, made the right strategy call to stay out and Lewis did the rest. 

We had hoped to pull the full pit-stop gap over Vettel before Lewis made his final stop but the tyres didn’t quite last long enough. That left Lewis with a little work to do when he emerged from the pits, but he enjoyed a significant performance advantage on fresh tyres and made a good pass into Turn 7. It was a very controlled drive and a hard-earned win.'

It was a great day for Infiniti Red Bull Racing as reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel collected his best finish of the season with a second place finish while team mate Daniel Ricciardo finished the race in third place taking his 7th podium finish of the season. Speaking following the race Vettel said:

'It’s a circuit I like here, the atmosphere‘s great and it’s a tough event. I had a good start and got past Daniel and had a decent race. 

We played a bit with strategy after we got undercut by Alonso, the safety car came at the worst time for us but we made the tyres work at the end which was tough. There was no point fighting Lewis at the end, he was on fresh tyres and I had to manage mine to the end as they were pretty old by then; that was the focus. It was nice to get the cold champagne on the podium.'

Daniel Ricciardo commented by saying:

'We were really close to the Mercedes in qualifying and we expected the race pace to be a bit faster today to be honest. 

We weren’t quick enough in the first stint and we had a few other issues going on, with brakes and some power issues that were coming and going, but in terms of points we still got a good handful to take away from here. It actually feels a bit like a home race here. Singapore to Perth is like Melbourne to Perth, so for West Australians it’s not too far. Suzuka is in two weeks and that’s another track we can be optimistic for, so I’m looking forward to that. All in all it was a solid weekend.'

Infiniti Red Bull Racing Team principal Christian Horner was delighted with the team performance in Singapore saying:

'A tremendous performance by both drivers. After an interesting start, Fernando had to give back the position to Sebastian, but unfortunately not Daniel also, and after that it was all about getting into the race. We went onto the soft tyre at the first stop, by the time we got to the second, Fernando had got the undercut on us, so we went onto the different tyre to change the strategy. 

Then the pace car came out and we were in a horrible situation of having to decide if the tyre could make it to the end, but the drivers did an incredible job today, and got the cars to the finish on what must have been minimal rubber by the end. So, second and third is a great team performance, especially with the double pit stop during the race which was done in an exceptional time.'

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso did a great job to finish the race in 5th place for the Italian team finishing the race just ahead of the Williams Martini Racing Team's Felipe Massa who finished the race in fifth place giving the Grove based outfit another strong points finish extending their advantage over Ferrari in the Constructors championship with five race's to go,

Jean Eric Vergne put in a fantastic drive for Toro Rosso to take 6th place for the Italian team as he chases a drive in Formula One for next season.

Sahara Force India's Sergio Perez did a great job for the Silverstone based outfit as he finished the race in 7th place. The result has put the team back ahead of the McLaren Mercedes team in the Constructors championship. Speaking following the race,Perez commented:

'The race really had everything for me and the final laps were very enjoyable. I was very happy with our performance today and, most importantly, we finished ahead of our direct competitors. Those in front of me at the end had big tyre degradation, but this affected me as well. 

When I caught the train ahead I didn’t have much grip either and this made each one of the overtakes a bit more difficult. We managed our tyres perfectly and to go from P15 to P7 was the reward we deserved. It was a great result for the team; they did a fantastic job with the strategy and it worked very well for both Nico and me. Today was one of those results where the race gives you a fantastic feeling: it’s more than just scoring the points - it’s about how you gained the result. 

Everything gets thrown at you but you don't give up and come back strongly to get the points.'

Kimi Raikkonen had another disappointing race for Ferrari as the Finn ended the race where he started in 8th place after his tyre's gave up towards the end of the race which meant that he a number of positions. He had been challenging McLaren's Jenson Button however, the Britain failed to finish the race as he lost power in his MP4-29.

Nico Hulkenberg finished the race in 9th place in the second Sahara Force India F1 Team. McLaren's Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top ten. Hulkenberg commented by saying:

'It’s good to be in the points and from a team perspective it’s been a successful day. This is always a difficult race, especially from a strategic point of view, and maybe we could have achieved even more today. After the safety car I had to do a 30-lap stint on the soft tyres and like most of the cars ahead I was running out of grip towards the end of the race. With hindsight it would have been better to pit again for fresh tyres and we probably could have finished even higher up, but it’s always a difficult decision for the team with the information we had at the time. The good news is that we got two cars home in the points.'

Sahara Force India team principal and managing director Dr Vijay Mallya commented on yet another double points finish for his team:

'To come away from Singapore with eight points in our pocket and fifth place in the championship is a fantastic result. It was an eventful race, especially for Checo, and it was only in the closing laps that the race came back to us. We had to make some difficult decisions on the pit wall today, but I think on the whole we made the right ones. 

There was a bit of luck, too, but we made the most of our opportunities and Checo and Nico drove extremely well. It sets us up well for the final five races where it’s crucial that we continue to score well with both cars'.

Williams Martini Racing's Valtteri Bottas was left disappointed as the Finn failed to finish in the points after his tyre's gave up right at the end of the race to finish the race in eleventh place. 

Pastor Maldonado was left disappointed as the Venezuelan missed out on scoring his first points of the season for the Lotus F1 Team finishing the race in 12th place just ahead of team mate Romain Grosjean.

Toro Rosso's Damiil Kvyat was left disappointed as he finished the race in 14th place.

It was a fantastic day for the Caterham F1 Team's Marcus Ericsson took his best ever Formula One race result as he finished the race best of the 'new teams' in 15th place just ahead of the Marussia F1 Team's Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton. 

It was another disappointing weekend for the Sauber F1 Team as neither Esteban Gutierrez nor Adrian Sutil finished the race as they apparently suffered from identical issues with the ERS in the C33. Speaking following the race Gutierrez commented:

'There is not much to say about the race. At the moment it is almost impossible to achieve good results. We have to extract 120 percent from what we have, but with these issues we are having it makes things complicated. There is nothing that I can do to guard against these problems at the moment. We have to look forward to the next races and need to take every chance that we get. Keep fighting will be the most important objective for us as a team at the moment.'

Adrian Sutil commented by saying:

'It is very frustrating to retire again due to a technical failure. Today we were in a good position to score points. It was a difficult race, as we had problems with the engine at the beginning. However, we were able to fix it and continue with our planned strategy. Regarding the contact with Sergio (Perez), there is not much to say besides that suddenly he drove into the back of the car. Luckily the car was not damaged.'

Sauber F1 Team principal Monisha Keltenborn stated:

'That was a very disappointing race. Esteban particularly was in a good position, but he was forced to retire from the race once again due to a problem with the power unit. As Adrian’s car had a water leak, the team decided to retire him from the race so not to risk an engine failure. We now have to analyse the reason for this.'

Sauber's head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall'Ara commented:

'Sadly once more our race finished before the chequered flag due to reliabiliy issues. On Esteban’s car there was, once again, an electrical problem with the power unit. Adrian experienced a water leak which forced us to stop him as a precautionary measure so not to damage the engine. 

Before that the race itself was going more or less the way we were expecting. Esteban was on a two stop strategy, but his race ended too early to know whether it would have worked. 

Adrian was on a three stop strategy, and I think we played it well during the safety car period in order to bring him back into the race, but then he had to stop. This was one of the races where we tried to cover all different possibilities, and in this sense everything was going according to plan. In the past we have seen that just getting the car to the finish line can be rewarded, but in this we failed, due to the reliability issues.'

Kamui Kobayashi was left disappointed as he failed to start the race in the Caterham.

Drivers Championship standing's heading to Japan

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG F1 Team 241 points
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG F1 Team 238
3 Daniel Ricciardo Infiniti Red Bull Racing 181
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 133
5 Sebastian Vettel Infiniti Red Bull Racing 124
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams Martini Racing Team 122
7 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes 72
8 Nico Hulkenberg Sahara Force India Formula One Team 72
9 Felipe Massa Williams Martini Racing Team 65
10 Sergio Perez Sahara Force India Formula One Team 45 
11 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 45
12 Kevin Magnussen McLaren Mercedes 39 
13 Jean Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 19
14 Romain Grosjean Lotus F1 Team 8
15 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 8
16 Jules Bianchi Marussia F1 Team 2

Constructors Championship standing's heading to Japan

1 Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 479 Points
2 Infiniti Red Bull Racing 305
3 Williams Martini Racing Team 187
4 Ferrari 178
5 Sahara Force India Formula One Team 117
6 McLaren Mercedes 111
7 Scuderia Toro Rosso 27
8 Lotus F1 Team 8
9 Marussia F1 Team 2

© Ben Johnston 2014

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