Hamilton cruises at Sochi

SOCHI REVIEW

Champagne for the champions. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Champagne for the champions. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Consider it a 19 round bout by knockout in the World Heavyweight Championships. Rounds 1, 6, 8 and 10 have gone to Nico Rosberg – 7, 11 and 12 to Daniel Ricciardo – 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 13, 14, 15 and 16 to Lewis Hamilton.

He’s the one throwing the maximum punches. The one with the most effective combinations. And his rivals seem to have no answer. Red Bull aren’t helping Dani with radical strategies anymore. The RB10’s lack of outright pace means he isn’t going to surprise-leapfrog any of the Silver Arrows soon. And their refocussed approach towards getting those 1-2 finishes means the best he can aim for is a podium. Which of late has been William’s territory.

Nico, seems to have dug himself into a psychological pit. One that Hamilton frequently visited post-Monaco. But has successfully climbed out of recently!

When the lights went out at Sochi, the Black Sea resort venue of the Russian Grand Prix, Rosberg had Turn 2 covered. He thought. But instead of turning in earlier than his team mate, he got mixed up adjusting his safety harnesses and braking so late that his front wheels locked up making for spectacular photography! It’s going to be a lasting image in everyone’s memories of Sochi. Two Silver Arrows in formation…one sliding out in trails of thick smoke.

So severe was his lock up that he flat spotted both tyres which led to vibrations so extreme that he had to pit immediately. On Lap 1.

“What’s our strategy now?!” yelled Nico on the radio. “We’ve to race on the mediums till the end Nico” was the reply.

It was a combination of Rosberg’s smooth driving style, Sochi’s new non-abrasive surface and Pirellis super-conservative approach to tyre construction that saw the Championship contender drive the rest of the race without a pit stop! What his drive did underline was the supremacy of the 2014 Mercedes W05 Turbo Hybrid. And it was only fitting that with both cars taking their 9th one-two finish – they sealed the Formula 1 World Constructors Championship. With three rounds to spare.

Lewis Hamilton won in cruise mode. Making him the most successful driver in Britain. He now has 31 wins like Mansell, with a few more to come his way this season for sure.

Barring a few dices between Daniil Kvyat and Nico Hulkenberg, Sebastian Vettel and his team mate Daniel Ricciardo, Jean Eric Vergne and Kevin Magnussen the race was quite a disaster on the entertainment front.

On Lap 32, Rosberg flew past a bewildered Valterri Bottas to reclaim P2. The Williams pit wall reassured their Finn that Mercedes #6 was bound to have degradation issues sooner or later and that “we’ll get the position back…!”. They were playing chess with their estimations of the wear and tear of Mercedes’ Pirellis. They were not alone in their thinking. Jenson Button in the McLaren in P4 was also intrigued about Rosberg’s medium compound pace and durability. To his surprise and to many around the world, the second W05 tucked in behind race leader Lewis Hamilton who was now about 13s ahead to finish in P2.

It’s a wonder that both Williams and McLaren hadn’t taken the Mercedes radio discussion seriously! Rosberg was always one-stopping.

When asked if he liked to party the Russian way by the podium interviewer, Lewis said he loves Vodka. So why not. He’s now joined an elite group of greats who have won 9 or more times in a single season. But that won’t do for Hamilton to sew up championship number two. He has to ensure he keeps the pressure on Rosberg to make more mistakes right till the end.

From what we’ve seen so far, that shouldn’t be too difficult.

PODIUM

Hamilton –  Mercedes AMG Petronas 1hr 31m 50.744s
Rosberg – Mercedes AMG Petronas
Bottas –  Williams Martini Racing

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Lewis conquers Suzuka

SUZUKA REVIEW

Formula 1™ and the FIA have come under close scrutiny after a dramatic Japanese Grand Prix began and ended behind the Safety Car on Sunday. The race was red flagged on Lap 44/53 after both the Medical Car and the Safety Car were despatched.

Initially, only Adrian Sutil’s stricken Sauber was visible on the live FOM feed as it was hauled out by a JCB tractor. Moments later it was evident from bits of body work being removed – that the crash site had witnessed another accident. Jules Bianchi’s Marussia had aquaplaned in an almost identical fashion to the Sauber. Only he wasn’t as lucky.

The Frenchman, is believed to have submarined into the rescue vehicle at speeds in excess of 100mph! An ambulance was on the scene quickly and he was soon shifted out by road to the Mie University Hospital, where he is currently declared to be in a critical but stable condition. [Updates from Marussia F1]

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When the Japanese Grand Prix did get underway, pole-sitter Rosberg pulled away cleanly from the rolling start behind the Safety Car. Hamilton kept the gap down to under two seconds from his team mate ducking out of Nico’s spray every time he could. Jenson Button pitted first for intermediate tyres. A choice which almost rewarded him a podium in the end. He had to settle for P5.

LH#44 signs off at Suzuka. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG Petronas

LH#44 signs off at Suzuka. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG Petronas

The Williams team watched their Mercedes power advantage disappear as the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo made short work of them in the span of a few laps. Christian Horner remained quietly confident post-qualifying on Saturday – both his RB10s were set up for a wet race. This thinking paid off against the superior Mercedes-powered teams who qualified in higher positions. And they ended up P3 and P4. Fernando Alonso suffered his second DNF in three races with the F14T shutting down all systems on the formation lap. With Kimi Raikkonen finishing down in P12, Ferrari recorded their first non points-scoring finish in 82 races!

In stark contrast the Mercedes factory team with their massive downforce advantage this season, were in a race of their own. And Hamilton, a cut above that. After a failed DRS attempt on the earlier lap he then found some extra grip on the outside line passing Rosberg going into T1 on Lap 29 never to look back again. He built up a gap of almost 10s to car #6 before the Safety Car was deployed again. This time for the Marussia crash.

By winning in Suzuka for the first time Hamilton joins 7 other Formula One greats after taking his 30th career win. It was his 8th win this season, Rosberg’s 8th second place and Mercedes’ 8th one-two of the season! Next up is the inaugural Russian Grand Prix at Sochi.

With three consecutive wins now, Hamilton is back firmly in command on top leading Rosberg by 10 points. He has double the number of wins than his German rival. But with the FIA’s new double-points being awarded in the final round this year, there’s everything to race for till Round 19. At this point it might be worth looking back at Nico’s father’s title winning year – 1982. Keke Rosberg registered just a single victory the whole season but was crowned champion for his consistency.

Lewis will be wary of that stat!

PODIUM

P1 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 1hr 51m 43.021s
P2 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG
P3 Vettel  – Red Bull Racing

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Typhoon Phanfone

Rosberg in the Suzuka sun. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Rosberg in the Suzuka sun. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

In the slow motion replays onscreen, his front left wheel lock-up created a miniature ‘typhoon’. For himself. It disrupted a clean lap until then, but he was outside Nico’s time through the entire mid-sector anyway. So pole may have been out of the question for Roscoe’s master in the Japanese Grand Prix qualifying sessions.

Rosberg’s superb lap he said, was thanks to the unbelievably-quick car Mercedes have strung up this weekend. The only piece of news that overshadowed team Mercedes’ 8th front row lock-out this season was from their countryman.

Sebastian Vettel.

The quadruple & defending world drivers champion announced today that he’s not planning to continue with Red Bull in 2015! It was long rumoured that he would eventually  replace Fernando Alonso at Ferrari. Who in turn is rumoured to be moving to McLaren/Honda next year. But no other details were revealed – so for the moment everyone is certain about Phanfone and its furious arrival but nothing is certain about the German and Spaniard’s future team identities.

Drama in Suzuka. A storm that could affect the whole race. World Champions who are being cagey about their drives next season. And teammates, who may just replicate a ‘Senna-Prost-Turn-1-incident’ to influence the 2014 world championship.

You cannot afford to blink.

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P1 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 32.506
P2 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 1m 32.703
P3 Bottas –  Williams Martini Racing 1m 33.128

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