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The 2016 Mexican GP Report: With Documentation

A beautiful fall afternoon in Mexico City provided the backdrop for the second race at the newly redesigned Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in front of 135,026 fans today for a 1pm start, but the official results would change twice after the checkered flag waved, and take over 5 1/2 hours to confirm from the time the lights went out on the grid.

After a good start off the line the Mercedes front row was ready to enter into turn one unhampered until pole sitter Lewis Hamilton realized he was carrying too much speed, locking up his right front tire trying to brake too late for the right hander. Missing the entry, he careened across the grass to rejoin the track at turn 3 ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg who was busy making contact with Max Verstappen as slippery track conditions caught most of the grid out. Farther back, the Manor of Pascal Wehrlein made contact with Esteban Gutierrez’ Haas into turn two, launching Wehrlein into Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber, spinning Ericsson off the circuit facing backwards and ending Wehrlein’s race.

Farther along on lap 1, Carlos Sainz, Jr. made contact with the McLaren of Fernando Alonso along the back straight, forcing Alonso entirely on the grass at speed. In an impressive save, Alonso put the car back on circuit, and Sainz would later be penalized 5 seconds for his unsafe maneuver on the circuit.

The majority of teams employed a one stop strategy, opting to complete the majority of the distance on the Pirelli medium tires, which were rated for the entire race distance. Ericsson, who dove into the pits on the first lap after Wehrlein’s contact, was released after a long stop to examine his Sauber for damage, going back out on a Pirelli medium tire compound which he made last for 69 laps to finish 11th.

Hometown favorite and Force India driver Sergio Perez spent much of his race battling Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, initially for 5th position, and later for 10th, ending up behind the Williams drivers for a point.

Both Haas drivers struggled this weekend with slow speed grip, as well as electrical and aerodynamic issues, and finished 19th and 20th, while Jolyon Palmer finished 14th ahead of his teammate Kevin Magnussen after starting from 21st on the grid with a new Renault chassis after a crack had been discovered in his car over the weekend.

Lewis would lead most of the race, trading off with Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel briefly as they came in for medium tires, and in the closing laps a battle ensued for the final podium position as Vettel’s Ferrari was held up by Verstappen’s Red Bull. Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo was on fresher tires and applying pressure from fifth position when Verstappen outbraked himself 4 laps from the end at turn 1, going off onto the grass where Hamilton had done earlier to rejoin ahead of Vettel and Ricciardo. The incident was put under investigation by the race stewards, and Verstappen continued on in 3rd place, refusing to give up a place gained against the advice of his team.

Vettel, who had been pleading with his team to ask the race stewards to allow him past the Red Bull driver, became enraged at a lack of response from the race stewards, and proceeded to have an heated exchange over team radio prompting team principal Maurizio Arrivabene to call for calm at one point after Vettel began to invoke the FiA Race Director Charlie Whiting’s name in a verbal tirade. (Penalties for race incidents are issued after the finish if they occur during the final 5 laps.)

Hamilton and Rosberg took first and second handily, and shortly after crossing the line in 3rd ahead of Vettel, Verstappen left his car in parc ferme, continuing on to the podium staging room. He was then asked to leave after a 5 second penalty was applied by the race stewards, giving the position to Vettel. Timing and scoring was immediately adjusted before the champagne was opened, placing Verstappen 5th behind his teammate Ricciardo. At about the same time, Vettel was said to be out of his car and apologizing to the race director for his comments on team radio, and upon hearing the news of Verstappen’s penalty, Vettel then ran to the podium to join the Mercedes drivers for his 3rd place celebration.

That would have been the end of the story, normally, but yours truly was still here later this evening, when at 5:53pm local time, media was alerted to a report from Mr. Whiting regarding statements from team drivers and representatives in the following memorandum:

In short, Vettel was deemed to have driven in a ‘dangerous or erratic’ manner approaching turn 4 while moving under braking during his battle between the two Red Bull drivers, and the FiA stewards announced that Vettel was discovered to be in breach of regulations, given a 10 second penalty as well as two penalty points for his actions on the circuit. The net result has now put Daniel Ricciardo in 3rd place officially, and word is that the trophy was delivered to the Red Bull team.

This sequence of documents shows the final outcome as determined by the race director, and the official results were announced at 6:40pm local time:

Race winner Lewis Hamilton still trails points leader Nico Rosberg by 19 points, Rosberg (329) has two more races in which to seal his title hopes, with 50 total points left to be decided between Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Hamilton’s win has broken AMG Mercedes F1’s own 2015 record for most race wins in a season with 17, and ties Alain Prost’s record for all time Formula 1 victories with 51.

Current driver’s standings:

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Mexican Momentum: Lewis Takes Pole in Mercedes 1-2

It was a Mercedes 1-2 this afternoon in Mexico City as Lewis Hamilton took pole position with a 1m18.704s lap, more than two tenths faster than his teammate Nico Rosberg.  A Red Bull second row of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo looked like they would split the silver arrows for most of Q3, until Rosberg bested both on his final lap of qualifying for P2.

Both Ferraris were bested by a strong performance by Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India, who took 5th in the closing minutes.  Several teams found yesterday’s cooler temperatures and dusty track surface too difficult to improve their setups on today, with tires and brakes not reaching optimum temperatures.

Trailing by 26 points, Hamilton must finish 10th or better this weekend if Nico wins tomorrow’s race in order to keep his title hopes alive in the final two races later this month in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.  Several mechanical failures have plagued Hamilton this season, but he’s remained focused on the race at hand, sharing later:

“I turned up to do the job and I’m going to try to do the same thing as I did last week here.  So far this weekend has gone well…looking forward to the race, the long runs seem to be good, the car feels great, so I’m just looking forward to getting out on track.”

This was Hamilton’s 59th pole, and both he and Rosberg will start on soft tires tomorrow.

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Formula 1 Through a Veteran NASCAR Crew Chief’s Eyes

Circuit of the Americas, Austin Texas, USA. Friday 21 October 2016. World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Photographic ref: Digital Image _ONZ7532

Circuit of the Americas, Friday 21 October 2016   LAT Photographic

Stewart Haas racing’s VP of competition, Greg Zipadelli, visited the Circuit of the Americas before heading to Talladega for Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race and took some time to look around and observe a Friday in Formula 1 with Haas F1 Team.  Listening to radio communications with a different set of racing experiences coming from stock cars, Greg sat down to share some of what he saw on his first visit to an F1 paddock:

“For myself, this is something different. I’ve grown up with all forms of racing and different series, but you know F1 is looked at as kind of the ultimate.  It’s all over the world.  The way they do things for me is interesting.  This is my first time at race, and I’m here this weekend just to look around.  I just find it very interesting how they do things.  Obviously there are rules and the way things are done that allow them to do stuff a lot differently than we do in NASCAR and I love racing, so it’s interesting and I had the opportunity because it is in the United States.”

With so much specialization and technology in Formula 1, I asked Greg if there was anything he saw that would give him an idea how to do things differently on the NASCAR side?

“I’m mainly observing and trying to figure out how they do things, then there’s the next step:  Can you take any of it and apply any of it?  I got to join their debrief, listen to how they talk, and it’s similar to what we do.  Obviously they have a lot more data to process, so there’s a lot more people who have a little bit more of a particular job to do.  In our series, we don’t have data on race weekends, we get a throttle trace, a brake, and steer through our EFI data, but it’s not live.  We have to download it, and it’s more basic compared to what Formula 1 has here.”

With all the specialization in roles and triple the crew members involved in a F1 pitstop, I was curious to know if there was one tool that Greg saw that he wished he had the most in NASCAR:

“The data, logging, and the way that they do things here.  But that does take a huge element of the unknown out from our standpoint.  I’m listening to [Haas F1 Team] talk about where everyone is on the track using GPS.  If an F1 driver tells the team he’s feeling an issue with the car they can go back and find it in the data logged.  In [NASCAR] we have to go off of what the driver tells us, so you can’t look back and find brake issues that were talking about, or that one lap where they locked the brakes up.  We don’t have that, so a lot of it is about the driver, the driver’s attitude and focus on that day – that’s our data acquisition system.”

Interesting to note that at the heart of a NASCAR team’s success – the open radio communication between driver and crew chief – has lied the source of controversy in Formula 1 over team orders and profanity over live air for fans.  Before he was VP of Competition at Stewart Haas Racing, Greg served as crew chief mainly with Tony Stewart in the longest crew chief-driver pairings in the sport’s history.  Greg went on to add the significance of this relationship, and what having more data might mean for motorsport:

“I think the driver and crew chief’s relationship, their willingness to be very open and candid with each other.  Here I look at it as everything you can control, how much fuel the car is burning, etc.  In NASCAR we tell a driver to save fuel and he spots a light pole along the wall and lifts 200 or 300 feet earlier.  We then try to do the math and figure it out with a calculator.  Here in F1 they are watching [fuel consumption] live, so I think the level of communication on our side is really, really important because we don’t have that data.”

“To F1 having all this data is just another day, but to me its like ‘holy cow’!  How would it change NASCAR?  Would it make racing better?  I don’t know.  It would take some of the suspense I think away, and I hate to say it but also some of the calculated guesswork out of our day to day, which I think makes NASCAR a little more difficult than others because of that element.  I think it also brings some fun and excitement, not really knowing sometimes.”

Recently, there has been talk in the paddock around Romain Grosjean taking interest in driving a stock car, so who better to ask which new skills he thought would be needed to get in order to cope with a new experience on track?

“I don’t know Romain or his driving style that well, some drivers are very adaptable, and some it takes longer.  I think that him getting in one of our cars and having to learn the weight and how much those car move and roll compared to [F1] – that’s a very unsettling feeling.  Our cars don’t feel planted like these cars do, so I think that would be a really big adjustment for him.”

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