Sunday, December 6, 2015

Williams Martini Racing Signs Canadian Lance Stroll as Development Driver

Photo Credit: Williams Martini Racing

The last time the Canadian flag was flown by a driver in Formula 1 was in 2006 when Jacques Villeneuve drove for the BMW team. Though there has been no shortage of talented Canadians attracting the attention in Europe such as Bruno Spengler and Robert Wickens, the latest leading hopeful for seeing the maple flag flown in the top open wheel racing series currently rests in Lance Stroll. A young driving prospect from a well-off family (the latter being an important component for access to Formula 1) Stroll has spent the past few years in a transition from karting to smaller open wheel development series. Supported by the Ferrari Driver Academy in recent years, 17-year-old Lance Stroll is now under the umbrella of Williams Martini Racing heading into 2016.  

Lance Stroll’s addition to the Williams Martini Racing’s Young Driver Development Program was announced on November 26th. "I’m really honoured to be part of such a great team and one with so much history and success. I cannot wait to start working with Williams and very much hope we can achieve great things together in the coming years.” said Stroll adding how reaching Formula 1 is a top career goal. Willams Martini Racing’s Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams commented on their new development driver saying, "We have identified Lance as a promising talent for the future and we are happy to provide our support to his development as a driver. We look forward to working with Lance in 2016 and to the success he can achieve in the future."

Graduating from Italian F4 as the champion in 2014, the 2015 saw Stroll involved in the wild and competitive FIA F3 European Championship for Prema Powerteam. The turbulent rookie year for the 17-year-old Canadian in F3 has been marked with some bumps in the road. Enduring a wild crash at Monza that was ruled his fault, Stroll would eventually claim victory in Race #1 at the Hockenheimring. Concluding the 2015 season by scoring 6 podium spots, Stroll has already pledged a return to Prema Powerteam for the 2016 FIA F3 European Championship. Also racing for M2 Competition in New Zealand in 2015, Stroll captured the Toyota Racing Series crown. Realizing his career is still a young one, he believes the resources provided by the Williams Martini Racing Young Driver Development Program could best serve him in his progression up the motorsport ladder.  

Leaving the Ferrari Driver Academy in favour of Williams Martini Racing’s program, the move comes after questions regarding his former development program circulated in late August. There had been rumours earlier this year suggesting Scuderia Ferrari was considering cuts to their Driver Academy. This speculation was strongly denied by Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene.

Stroll’s move to Williams Martini Racing is not without some historical reflection. The Williams Formula 1 team also recruited Canadian Jacques Villeneuve from IndyCar for the 1996 on route to a 1997 championship. Time will determine if Lance Stroll will be a future pilot with the nine-time championship-winning constructor.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Nico Rosberg Wins Abu Dhabi as Light Dims on Formula 1 Racing for 2015

Photo Credit Mercedes AMG 

The final 55 laps for the 2015 Formula 1 season took place with this weekend's running of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit.

As a 19-event race calender neared closure, the prosperity of teams and drivers on the Formula 1 grid has been well-established since the opening race in Australia. Again, Mercedes AMG has practically left the rest of the other teams in the dust. With exception of a few events, the superiority of Mercedes AMG's F1 W06 Hybrid has left contention of most races between the organization's pilots Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Hamilton enters the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix having clinched the 2015 World Drivers' Championship three races prior in the United States. Point scored reflected his dominance in a year highlighted by 10 grand prix victories. In the shadow of Hamilton for much of the 2015 season, Nico Rosberg has emerged into the light after the United States Grand Prix taking both races in Mexico and Brazil. With the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix starting in daylight and ending in the darkness of night under artificial lighting, another Mercedes AMG front row result in qualifying, neither driver wanted to be eclipsed in the final race of the season.

Twenty cars on the grid of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix were led by Nico Rosberg for the sixth consecutive time this season. As the lights went out to start 55 laps at the 21-turn, 5.554-kilometer race track the pole-sitting Mercedes AMG of Rosberg shot to an early lead. Among the top-starters, positions remained unchanged into the first lap. Deeper in the field, misfortune met Lotus F1 Team driver Pastor Maldonado early in the event in a chain reaction collision. After contact with the Sauber-Ferrari of Felipe Nasr, Fernando Alonso's McLaren-Honda hit the Lotus-Mercedes. While Maldonado faced retirement for an incident not of his making, Alonso was assessed a drive-through penalty for the contact with the Lotus F1 Team vehicle. In post-race, Alonso expressed unhappiness with the penalty placing blame on Nasr for hitting him.


On a lap 8 pit stop, the second McLaren race car was involved in another collision. As the McLaren-Honda of Jenson Button was entering his pit, Williams' Valtteri Bottas came contact with the car as he was released by his team. An immediate, unscheduled pit stop on the next lap for a new nose and a five-second time penalty took Bottas out of contention for points in the final 2015 race. The fault for the Finnish Bottas would result as costly in the season-end standings.

For parts of this season, Ferrari led by four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel had demonstrated an ability to effectively counter the pace of the Mercedes AMG squad. However, after a difficult qualifying on Saturday, Vettel started 16th place and would have to fight feverishly Spending an extended time on his first set of Pirelli race tires pitting more than 10 laps later than the leaders. Climbing to fourth place by lap 29, this would be the endpoint of the Ferrari's recovery from a poor qualifying spot. Finishing a full 20 seconds ahead of 5th place, Vettel crossed the finish line more than 24 seconds later than the driver who took the last podium spot.

In the final for the 2015 season, Formula 1 spectators were treated one last battle between the Mercedes AMG teammates. At the front, Nico Rosberg controlled of the pace for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix but was challenged by Lewis Hamilton through the midway portion of the race. Extending his period on track after his first pit stop, Closing on Rosberg's #6 car, Hamilton was hovering outside the one-second DRS range of his German teammate just before the lead car pitted. For 10 laps, Lewis Hamilton led the race but his older Pirelli tires gambling he could preserve a large enough gap to obtain the lead following an upcoming pit stop. When Hamilton pitted on lap 41, Nico Rosberg retook the top position maintaining a sizeable gap that eventually led him to victory. Crossing the finish line 8.271 seconds ahead of second-place Hamilton. His third win, Nico Rosberg reflected on the end of his 2015 season. "This is the perfect ending to the season for me - something I hoped for so much after a tough year. To finish with six poles and three wins in a row is awesome. I am so happy that I found some performance at the end of the season. I also made my peace with this track after the toughest moment of my career here last year, which is a nice feeling." said Rosberg. Scoring 7 points more than Hamilton in the each of his three race wins, Rosberg narrowed the first-second place gap in the World Drivers' Championship to 59 markers.


Though Hamilton had to play runner-up to his teammate for a third-straight event, the Brit finishes 2015 in a familiar place of honour after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. With second place at the Yas Marina Circuit, Lewis Hamilton's second-consecutive title-winning season ended with him missing the podium on only two occasions. Replying that he wasn't able to finish the season as strong as he started, Hamilton is still grateful to his Mercedes AMG team for propelling him to the 2015 championship and pledges to come back stronger next season.

Joining the Mercedes AMG teammates on the podium for the final 2015 grand prix celebration is the 2012 winner of the Abu Dhabi event. For what has been an up-and-down year for Kimi Raikkonen, 2015 concluded as a better season than 2014 where the former Formula 1 world champion settled with a 12th place in the overall standings. Benefiting with the use of a better Ferrari race car in 2015, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was Raikkonen's third podium of the season. Climbing substantially in the final drivers' point tally, Kimi Raikkonen ended 2015 in a strong claiming fourth place thanks partly to Williams Valtteri Bottas' struggles in the final race. The before-mentioned finish of Sebastian Vettel in the other Ferrari in Abu Dhabi allowed the Italian race team to symbolically end the season in the position better than almost every team with exception to Mercedes AMG.  

In 5th and 7th place, the Force India concluded the season strong on the Yas Marina Circuit. Sergio Perez led the team effort in the final race while Nico Hulkenberg fended off 8th through 11th place that finished within 10 seconds to second Force India-Mercedes racer. Force India teammates sandwiched a respectable effort of Daniel Ricciardo driving his Red Bull-Renault to sixth. Ricciardo as well as Daniil Kvyat displayed some brilliance this season that is considered an overall disappointment for Red Bull Racing. Garnering headlines mainly on a feud with engine supplier Renault and possible 2016 engine options that included Honda, Mercedes-Benz as well as Ferrari, Red Bull Racing's on track effort was not without some moments of worthy spotlight. However, the season ends without a Red Bull Racing team victory (first time since the 2008 Formula 1 season).

Two final Mercedes-Benz powered machines rounded-out the top-10 finishers. Williams Martini Racing's Felipe Massa ended with an 8th place run at Abu Dhabi. Last season, Massa placed in the runner-up spot at this final race on the calender. The Williams-Mercedes showed strength at times in 2015 but seemed to have lost some ground with the factory-supported Mercedes AMG operation.

After a very weak 2014 season, Lotus F1 Team's switch from Renault to Mercedes-Benz power for 2015 gave the outfit a better comparison. Not a breakthrough season, the latter part of the season led to concerns whether the team would be able to finish the year in competition. With a likely buyout by Renault pending for 2016, the team is also bidding farewell to Frenchman Romain Grosjean. Having started his career with the team when it was previously the Renault factory team, driver Grosjean ended his season with an 8th place result. Romain Grosjean will drive for the newly-formed Haas F1 Team next year,

The upcoming 2016 Formula 1 is set to start in its customary kick-off in Australia on March 20th.

2015 Formula 1
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Race Results

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
3 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
4 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari
5 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
8 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes-Benz
9 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Mercedes-Benz
10 26 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Renault
11 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
12 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda
13 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
14 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
15 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari
16 33 Max Verstappen Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
17 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda
18 28 Will Stevens Manor Marussia Ferrari
19 98 Roberto Merhi Manor Marussia Ferrari
20 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus Mercedes-Benz

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Final Pole for 2015 Formula 1 Season Captured by Rosberg in Abu Dhabi

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

A 19-race 2015 Formula 1 season has landed in its final destination as they arrive in the United Arab Emirates. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on the 21-turn, 5.554-kilometer Yas Marina Circuit delivers a symbolic close to the season as a race where drivers and teams transition from daylight into night time. Saturday's qualifying in dusk-like conditions gave 20 drivers of the current Formula 1 one final moment to mount total driving efforts on a single lap. With almost the entire Formula 1 grid in place for the 2016 season even before the final race of 2015, a good deal of drivers are returning to their current rides. However, some drivers are confronted with a last chance to prove themselves in surroundings they have grown comfortable with after 18 races.

The last qualifying session of the season resulted in another battle between the Silver Arrows piloted by Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Close in all three time trial sessions, Hamilton held the top spot through Q1 and Q2 holding a narrow 0.221-second advantage on Rosberg after the latter session. In the deciding Q3 session, Nico Rosberg once again showed his newly-recovered championship calibre performance. With each hot lap, Hamilton and Rosberg bettered each other on track. Setting the last lap was the Mercedes AMG race car driven by the German who took the pole position in last minute of qualifying. His final 1-minute, 40.237-second lap time was 0.377 seconds quicker than the best effort of teammate Lewis Hamilton.

On pole for the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg's sixth consecutive success in qualifying equals him in third-place overall in the Formula 1 record books with Nigel Mansell and Niki Lauda (Lauda is currently the Mercedes AMG non-executive chairman). Earlier this year, Lewis Hamilton set the mark of seven consecutive poles that was derailed by the Singapore Grand Prix.

Continuing with the ongoing tale for much of the 2015 season, Mercedes AMG has been operating in a league of their own in qualifying.  Almost half a second slower than Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen timed in third with his Ferrari. Teammate and three-time 2015 winner Sebastian Vettel will be capping off his first season with Ferrari deep down in the grid. Starting in 16th place, Vettel faulted a misjudgement in qualifying where another car was said to have interfered with his timed lap,

Photo Credit: Ferrari S.p.A.

Starting alongside Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez is rounding out the 2015 Formula 1 season strong with Force India. Since gaining an updated race chassis for the British Grand Prix, Perez has missed out on scoring points on just 3 occasions over 10 races. At the start of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Perez is in striking distance of a second potential podium finish. The second Force India-Mercedes race car of Nico Hulkenberg will be positioned in the seventh place position. There may be a chance that this race could be the final one for the Force India team as we know it. Rumours indicate the race organization could be rebranded as under the Aston Martin umbrella.

Daniel Ricciardo will roll off the grid of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in fifth place able to make full use of his Red Bull race car's updated Renault power unit gained in Brazil. Renault registered fairly well in qualifying at the Yas Marina Circuit with two other vehicles from the French automaker posting a top-10 effort in time trials (Daniil Kvyat's Red Bull in 9th and the Toro Rosso team driver Carlos Sainz 10th spot). Ricciardo will start alongside Williams' Valtteri Bottas who is battling intensely for the fourth place in the overall world drivers' standings with Kimi Raikonen. Following an exclusion in the final results after the Brazilian Grand Prix due to a tire temperature, Felipe Massa will start his Williams-Mercedes in 8th place.


Deeper in the grid for the final Formula 1 race of 2015 is teams with ongoing struggles. McLaren Honda is reaching an end of an exceptionally difficult debut year for the Honda powerplant. Jenson Button will start in 12th place while Fernando Alonso is positioned in 17th. With questions whether or not their team will exist in any form for 2016, the Lotus F1 Team is also bidding goodbye to Romain Grosjean leaving for the new Haas F1 Team. In qualifying, Pastor Maldonado out-performed Grosjean posting a 13th place effort compared to the Frenchman's 15th.

With no grid penalties suffered by any drivers or teams, the starting line-up for Sunday's race is a mirror of qualifying at Abu Dhabi. A 55-lap event, the grand prix on the Yas Marina Circuit will start at 5:00 PM local time (8:00 AM in the eastern time zone).

2015 Formula 1
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Starting Line-up

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
3 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
4 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault
6 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
8 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes-Benz
9 26 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Renault
10 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
11 33 Max Verstappen Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
12 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda
13 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus Mercedes-Benz
14 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari
15 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Mercedes-Benz
16 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari
17 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda
18 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
19 28 Will Stevens Manor Marussia Ferrari
20 98 Roberto Merhi Manor Marussia Ferrari