THE MOTORSPORT LAP
Title chases under way in all racing categories
The Baku street circuit was the backdrop of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix this past weekend and the fourth race of the 21-race season. Ferrari has been dominant so far having won three consecutive races with Sebastian Vettel at the helm. Having qualified on pole for the race ahead of Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes-AMG) and Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes-AMG) it was a case of getting cleanly off the line towards the first corner with no incidents. It was an eventful race with both Red Bull Racing cars retiring having crashed into each other, something that has occurred before and which places the team on the back foot in challenging for the championship.
The race played into the hands of Hamilton following teammate Bottas’s puncture after driving over debris Hamilton won ahead of Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) and Sergio Perez (Force India). Hamilton now leads the championship by just four points with a total of 70, followed by Vettel on 66 and Raikkonen with 48. The next race is in Barcelona on May 13.
The Paris leg of the Formula E championship also took place. Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah) won ahead of Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler) and Sam Bird (DS Virgin Racing).
"It was the race I wanted to win this year and to have done it in such a good way today from pole position was absolutely amazing," said Vergne. "I don’t think about the title yet, it’s too far away, and I take one race after another — anything can happen in Formula E. I don’t want the team to think they can relax, and I will push them very hard until the very last race."
Vergne leads the championship with 147 points, followed by Bird on 116 and Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra Racing) with 86 points. The next race is in Berlin on May 19.
It was also the WRC (World Rallying Championship) Rally of Argentina this past weekend where Ott Tanak (Toyota) won the South American race ahead of Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) and Dani Sordo (Hyundai). Sebastien Ogier leads the championship with 100 points followed by Neuville with 90 and Tanak with 72. The next race is the Rally of Portugal on May 19.
Johan Kristoffersson (PSRX Volkswagen Sweden) extended his lead in the FIA World Rally-cross Championship after taking his second straight win of the season in the Bompiso World RX of Portugal this past weekend. Sebastien Loeb (Team Peugeot Total) was second and Petter Solberg (PSRX Volkswagen Sweden) was third in the final, run in a blizzard at the end of a weekend of mixed weather.
"I felt like I had great pace all weekend and from the semi-final my PSRX Volkswagen Sweden Polo R worked very well," said Kristoffersson, who won his first World RX final in Portugal three years ago. "It was snowing in the final and it was very slippery but I had a great launch and was able to get into the first corner in the lead. From there I just kept pushing as hard as I could for five laps so I could take the Joker on the last lap."
In WEC (World Endurance Championship) news, 2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button has been announced as the latest driver to take on the challenge of the top-tier sports prototype racing. The British driver will race for the full Super Season (except Spa this week-end) for SMP Racing in the LMP1 category alongside Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov and against a strong field which includes fellow F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso.
Button will make his debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and will combine his WEC commitments with the Super GT Series in Japan.