Six weekend winners in the wide world of motorsport
Breakthrough victories, more of the same (at least in terms of Formula 1) and simple survival all defined the meaning of ‘winner’ this weekend in motorsport. Here are a half-dozen who have reason to crack a smile this week.
1. Lewis Hamilton
When you’ve won 76 times, it’s perhaps understandable if you don’t go overboard on celebrations (actually that doesn’t count for Michael Schumacher. He did for the vast majority of his 91 F1 victories). But for Lewis Hamilton in Spain on Sunday this was surely one to inspire a sense of quiet satisfaction rather than unabandoned jubilation.
He doesn’t like being beaten by his team-mate (whoever it might be), and Hamilton couldn’t hide his annoyance at Valtteri Bottas’s pole position on Saturday. But the tables were turned on race day when it was Bottas who was left looking like he was sucking a lemon after coming off second best at the start.
Clutch problems from launch left him stuck between Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari. If he held his breath as he braked for Turn 1, we wouldn’t be surprised. But somehow he got through unscathed, even if the race was lost right there.
The duel between the Mercedes pair, following their record fifth consecutive one-two, is becoming increasingly tense. Hamilton knows he has a fight on his hands from this new-spec Bottas, and the Finn looks plain angry when he loses – which is a good sign (for him as well as us). The race on Sunday was hardly a classic, but this rivalry promises sparks in the summer to come.
Oh, and a quick word on Vettel. Yes, his race was compromised by his first-corner desperation – but let’s face it, he had to go for it. He knew it was his only chance to get among the Mercs. As pressure builds within Ferrari, he will increasingly be forced to take such risks – and sometimes they might even pay off…
Victory in Monaco. OK, it’s nowhere near the meaning of a Formula 1 victory in the principality and Formula E uses only about half of the illustrious street track, but Jean-Eric Vergne won’t be quibbling about all that right now.
He inherited pole position thanks to Nissan e.dams driver Oliver Rowland’s grid penalty earned at the previous round, and Jaguar’s Mitch Evans heavy 10-place penalty for what seemed a minor power infraction – but Vergne made the most of his chance to take a rare FE lights to flag victory.
There was plenty of action behind him, but refreshingly less of the usual nonsense as drivers kept contact to a minimum. Why? Because bizarre as it might seem, Monaco is actually fast and wide by FE standards – which says everything about the slow speed of the cars and the tightness of the other city street circuits this pop-up electric series uses.
Still, it must be said: there was a lot more overtaking than you’d see in a Monaco F1 Grand Prix.
At the ninth FE round, reigning champion Vergne became the first double winner of a frenetic season and now leads the points standings by just one from DS Techeetah team-mate Andre Lotterer. This one will go to the wire.
Three winners from Rally Chile this weekend? How come?
Well, Thierry Neuville’s terrifying barrel-rolling crash stole much of the attention, and given his lack of (serious) injury you could argue he and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul were the biggest winners. But the Belgian driver wouldn’t agree because he’s a competitive sportsman and he’s lost his lead at the top the World Rally Championship. That’s what really matters.
Toyota’s Ott Tänak dominated the rally to score his second WRC win of the season and remains very much in contention to win his first title. He was the literal winner.
But just consider for a second who is now on top of the standings. Sébastien Ogier has returned this year to Citroën, the make with whom his WRC career began. The team hasn’t been as competitive in recent years as it was during the incredible Sébastien Loeb era, and for his rivals it seemed Ogier’s own run of consecutive titles – a mind-numbing six so far – might finally be about to end.
But title number seven might well be on the cards after all. He’s on top after a second place in Chile, with legend Loeb third for his first podium for Hyundai.
Ogier took four titles with Volkswagen and a pair with M-Sport’s Fiestas. Now he is on target for another title with a third manufacturer. There’s still a long way to go, of course. But to be at the head at this stage is a sign of just how remarkable he is.
A quick shout-out for the Chinese driver, who took his first victory in the World Touring Car Cup at the Slovakia Ring on Sunday. He and Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo team-mate Kevin Ceccon took four podiums between them over the three races, with Ma topping out with victory in the final one.
This super-competitive series has already witnessed a Chinese car brand making history by becoming the nation’s first to win an FIA-sanctioned race, thanks to Lynk & Co’s debut success in Marrakech last month courtesy of Thed Björk. Now Ma is leading the charge for Chinese drivers, too. The action continues at Zandvoort next weekend.