Mercedes chief fears collision as Valtteri Bottas beats Lewis Hamilton for Spain pole

Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas celebrates after securing the pole position after the qualifying session at the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo in the outskirts of Barcelona. (AFP)
Updated 11 May 2019

Mercedes chief fears collision as Valtteri Bottas beats Lewis Hamilton for Spain pole

  • Crash saw both Mercedes men out of the race three years ago
  • Bottas completed a hat-trick of pole positions Saturday when he outpaced Hamilton

MONTMELO, Spain: Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff admitted Saturday that he fears a possible reprise of Lewis Hamilton’s spectacular 2016 opening lap collision with Nico Rosberg in this Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.
Wolff winced at the memory of the crash that saw both Mercedes men out of the race three years ago.
“I hope we will not be coming back to 2016,” he said.
“These guys (Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas) are in a totally different place with each other and they know how important it is to stay out ahead. Barcelona is a track where it is so difficult to overtake.”
But, he admitted, he was concerned.
“A bit nervous is probably the right way to describe my state of mind,” he said.
Hamilton and Rosberg’s crash in 2016 gifted a maiden victory to Max Verstappen on debut with Red Bull.
Bottas on Saturday grabbed pole position by beating Hamilton by six-tenths of a second in final qualifying, leaving them with a Mercedes front row lockout.
Wolff’s anxieties were raised by seeing the battle in Baku last month, when the pair fought for the lead on the opening lap at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
“We might have a little chat about that,” said Wolff, of his plans for Sunday’s pre-race briefing.
“But they know exactly what to do and not do.”
Bottas completed a hat-trick of pole positions Saturday when he outpaced Hamilton in a tightly-contested qualifying.
The Finn, who leads defending five-time champion Hamilton by a single point in this year’s title race, completed a treble after taking the prime grid position in both China and Azerbaijan.
Bottas clocked a stunning track record lap in 1min 15.406sec to finish six-tenths clear of his teammate in the top 10 shootout on a dry and gusty day at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari was third ahead of Max Verstappen of Red Bull, Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari and Pierre Gasly in the second Red Bull.
Romain Grosjean was seventh ahead of his Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen, Russian Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso and Daniel Ricciardo in his Renault.
“I really enjoyed that,” said Bottas. “The adrenaline rush you get from laps like that is great so I am really pleased.
“The season has started well, the way I hoped for, and I feel better in the car.”
Hamilton congratulated Bottas and conceded that he had been unable to extract the maximum from his car on a circuit where he was hoping to land his own hat-trick of three straight Spanish poles.
“My final laps in Q3 just weren’t strong enough. Ultimately, I didn’t do the job,” Hamilton said.
“It’s great to have another Mercedes 1-2, but I can reverse it tomorrow that would be great.”
Vettel was also disappointed as Ferrari failed to deliver the pace that could bring an end to Mercedes domination.
“The car doesn’t feel too bad, but obviously we are not quick enough,” he said. “It seems to be more than an achilles heel here... I spoke to Valtteri and they were happy with their car.”
In cooler conditions than on Friday, the opening Q1 session saw several cars struggling for grip, not helped by a gusty wind.
Nico Hulkenberg ran off track in his Renault at turn four and after traversing a gravel-trap hit the barriers. He managed to recover and, after pitting for a new front wing, rejoined the fray.
His efforts were in vain, however, and he was eliminated in 16th place along with Lance Stroll of Racing Point, Antonio Giovinazzi of Sauber and the two Williams men, British rookie George Russell and Robert Kubica.
“Thanks again everyone for getting the car ready and apologies for FP3,” said Russell on team radio, referring to his final practice crash that required a gearbox change and will land him a grid penalty.
As if to signal his intentions, Hamilton was first out for Q3, but it was Bottas who showed the way in 1:15.406 to take pole on his first run, six-tenths ahead of his Mercedes teammate.

Exciting opportunity for the world to see the real Saudi Arabia: sports chief

Updated 8 min 14 sec ago

Exciting opportunity for the world to see the real Saudi Arabia: sports chief

  • A combination of sandy stretches and gravel await the event’s thrill-seeking competitors

RIYADH: Organizers of the Dakar Rally Saudi Arabia 2020 have officially confirmed route details of the world’s most challenging rally race, which comes to Asia for the first time from Jan. 5 to 17 next year. 

Welcoming it as “an event of immense global appeal” that shows the Kingdom’s passion and obsession of motorsport, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Sport Authority (GSA),  said: “We have the privilege of launching chapter 3 of the Dakar story, introducing the race to Asia for the first time, where no country better describes the diversity of the desert terrains this continent has to offer than Saudi Arabia.

 “Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 will go through various terrain and scenery, and will be an exciting opportunity for the world to see the real Saudi Arabia, to meet its generous people and to experience first-hand how we are driven by ambition, professionalism and the steadfast desire to succeed at the highest levels,” he added.

 Addressing more than 200 media outlets and broadcasters at a special press conference on Wednesday at the Arab World Institute in Paris, Prince Khalid bin Sultan Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Arabian Federation of Motor and Motorcycle Sports, and the rally’s director, David Castera, confirmed details of the 12 Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 stages.

 “Saudi Arabia and the Dakar Rally come together to write a new chapter of achievements in the world of motorsports, a chapter headlined by the challenge of discovering a new land and written by the warm hospitality the Kingdom and its people have to offer,” Prince Khalid said.

 “Through this inaugural rally, the world will see our breath-taking desert, our vast land, and will also meet its generous people.

 “We want the world to see our fascinating desert waiting for the adventurous stories to be told. We want the world to see, first-hand, the warm and generous hospitality the people of Saudi Arabia have to offer. We are eager to welcome the world to our country, and to witness our vision, capability and professionalism in hosting the biggest sporting events at the highest levels,” he added.

 Extending over 7,500 kilometers of the Kingdom’s vast and unexplored desert, Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 gets under way in Jeddah before drivers and crews navigate their way through the fast and winding dunes and stones for 752 kilometers.

 The intimidating challenge continues north along the coast for nearly 900 kilometers through the Red Sea Project, until it reaches the futuristic megacity of Neom, where the marvelous journey reaches its highest point at an altitude of 1,400 meters amid a series of canyons and mountains.

 A combination of sandy stretches and gravel await Dakar’s thrill-seeking competitors as they cruise next through 676 kilometers of the formidable trip from Neom to Al-Ula in Dakar’s fourth stage before the sandy hills of Ha’il put the navigation skills of competitors to the test while descending south onto Riyadh.

A rest day in the capital will be followed by Dakar Saudi Arabia’s next stage of 741 kilometers as the route takes a turn to the west in the center of the Kingdom’s enormous desert before looping back toward Haradh in the eastern governorate of Al-Ahsa, marking the entrance to the Empty Quarter and building up to the grand finale in Qiddiya, a future entertainment, sports and cultural destination, where the winner will be crowned.

Highlighting the magnitude of competing in the Dakar Rally and finishing the unnerving challenge, Castera said: “Crossing the Dakar finish line is nothing short of living the dream. You can do it on your first go, and sometimes your hopes may be dashed, but ultimately perseverance and clever strategy are most often rewarded. The happiness of these drivers and co-drivers also translates to the satisfaction of the organizers.

“In Africa, then in South America and now in Saudi Arabia for the launch of this new chapter, this extraordinary rally has always strived to accompany its competitors in the ultimate quest,”
he added.

Drivers from more than 62 different countries have registered to experience the unchartered and spectacular terrain of Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020, where they will drive specially modified vehicles, trucks, quads, SxS, and motorbikes, designed to handle 12 stages of challenging terrain.