There was a race this weekend in Singapore, but as is always the case in the Christine's Rankings championship, we are more interested in what happened off the race track than on it. This time out, we've got points for watching a magic show, also for trying a couple of new dishes in Singapore, and celebrating your own wedding.
The Singapore Grand Prix was a long race, as usual, and we saw a safety car, as usual, although this time it came out almost instantly the race began. Romain Grosjean had a brake failure which meant he couldn’t even start the race, whilst Nico Hülkenberg tangled with a Toro Rosso and crashed into the pit wall mere seconds after the lights went out.
Nico Rosberg secured pole position for the night race in Singapore, with Lewis Hamilton having to settle for third. Daniel Ricciardo earned second place and a front row start for the race tomorrow after a lengthy qualifying battle, with Max Verstappen in fourth place.
Free Practice 1 in Singapore was led by Max Verstappen, as Red Bull’s expected pace managed to shine through round the lengthy street circuit. Lewis Hamilton ran the halo device early on, and finished the morning fourth, whilst Rosberg was slightly down on his teammate but more down on luck – he crashed into the wall and damaged his front wing. Jenson Button also stopped out on track after just three minutes of the session, causing a virtual safety car thanks to a fuel system issue.
From the moment qualifying finished, it was clear the Italian Grand Prix wasn't going to deliver a classic, and that's exactly how it played out. The only thing it did do for us for the 2016 season is close up the championship even further. Given the close fight at the top, and the fact all eyes are on Singapore to provide some entertainment to boost us at this late point in the season, the real question that matters this weekend is whether Mercedes have found some performance around the difficult Marina Bay circuit.
Ruth Buscombe gained a modicum of notoriety after helping the Haas F1 team make a cracking start to their season. Two top six finishes were helped along by Buscombe, who sat on the pit wall for the American team as race strategist. She moved to a factory position before departing the team altogether and has now joined Sauber to pick up her strategist role once more.
The Italian Grand Prix itself might not have been the classic we wanted, but events surrounding the weekend certainly made up for any lack of on-track action. Drivers had little time to prepare for the race, jumping straight over to Monza from Spa, but they still found time for a spot of football on the home straight, and there appeared to be plenty of cake in the paddock for birthday celebrations.
Nico Rosberg converted his front row grid slot into a comfortable race win in Monza, as Lewis Hamilton was forced to recover from a very poor start. The Brit dropped from pole position down to sixth place off the line, but was able to use the superior speed of the Mercedes to claw his way back up to second. The result means Nico Rosberg is now within two points of Hamilton in the fight for the championship, so it’s closer than ever at the top whilst still being very much a two horse race.
Jenson Button has announced he will be taking a step back from a full time race drive in Formula One after this season has been completed, but he’s not retiring completely. Unlike Felipe Massa, who confirmed his retirement from the sport this week, Button intends to remain with McLaren and work with them on what they are calling an “innovative three-driver strategy.”
Qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix kicked off with a failure for the Manor driver Esteban Ocon, in only his second qualifying appearance. His teammate, however, Pascal Wehrlein, managed to get through to the second session, winding up 14th on the grid in the end.
It’s no surprise to see Mercedes ahead on pace at a track that is notably reliant on power units for good performance. Nico Rosberg was the fastest man for the first session, beating his teammate and then the Ferraris who were a second off the pace. Fernando Alonso had a gearbox problem during the session, whilst Felipe Massa picked up an energy recovery issue. Jenson Button, Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez all ran the halo concept device at one point or another, and Nico Hülkenberg sat out the session in favour of Friday driver Celis Jr.
Bernie Ecclestone confirmed a three year contract extension for the Monza circuit to host the Italian Grand Prix, although signing the contract hasn’t actually taken place yet for geographical reasons. Bernie said: “Regretfully we cannot sign it here legally, but more importantly we have reached an agreement after a few months of negotiations between the lawyers.” He also added that he’d prefer the race to have a century’s worth of contract but will settle for three years for now.
Williams called a special press conference today with Felipe Massa and deputy team principal Claire Williams present, announcing the Brazilian’s intention to retire from Formula One at the end of the current season. Having spent fifteen years in the sport, the last three with Williams, Massa has had highs and lows, successes and struggles, and is ready now to take a step back.
The FIA have given Magnussen permission to race in the Italian Grand Prix, as the Danish driver passed all the medical tests required. The Renault driver was involved in a high-speed crash in Spa, hitting the barriers heavily at the top of Eau Rouge. He escaped from the crash remarkably unscathed, although did limp away from the car and was later taken to hospital for checks.
Formula One kicked off in big style after the summer break hiatus - but perhaps not in the way we might have imagined. Hamilton did some serious damage control in Belgium to stay in the lead of the championship but Rosberg closed the gap. Magnussen suffered a huge crash, whilst Max Verstappen turned heads every which way, and Pirelli came under fire yet again. Just one short week later and we're back racing at the fast and furious Monza, where Ferrari will be cheered to the bitter end by the passionate fans flooding the track.
All eyes were on Max Verstappen at his substitute home grand prix this past weekend in Belgium, and the pressure was on the young driver to make a good impression in front of a passionate crowd. Unfortunately, a first corner incident with two Ferraris and subsequent jostling for position with Kimi Räikkönen has dulled his reputation somewhat.
After spending lots of time in the sunshine and recharging their batteries, the drivers returned to work this weekend. They had time to share some of their activities (more driving for some, training for others, messing about in the ocean for many) but then got on with the business of preparing to race. I've handed out points for celebrating in style but taken them away when those celebrations go over the top.
The Belgian Grand Prix kicked off with a chaotic first lap that saw Max Verstappen drop back to battle with the two Ferrari drivers into the first corner. The three were squeezed together, with contact which saw Sebastian Vettel spin around, and Kimi Räikkönen pick up some damage. Kimi’s car later caught fire in the pit lane, but the Finn continued racing, had yet more incidents in combat with Verstappen, and he got to the end of the race in the top ten.
The drivers only had four weeks off over the summer, but it felt like they were all starting from scratch again this weekend. The high temperatures and tyre pressures meant no one was quite sure how strategies were going to unfold, and there was plenty of jostling for position throughout the race. After first corner chaos, one red flag period, a high speed crash and another round of Räikkönen versus Verstappen, we finally managed to get the race finished and another three drivers soaked in champagne.
Nico Rosberg took pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix after a fight to the top against Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, and Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen. The top five in the final top ten shoot-out were split by less than half a second, proving how competitive this weekend has been so far.