The gift

The gloves come on! Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

The gloves come on! Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Newly married, World Drivers Championship points leader Nico Rosberg was ‘gifted’ a team-mate-less fight for pole in Germany. However, the season’s new Finnish sensation, Valterri Bottas came close to toppling off the German from P1.

Lewis Hamilton, fresh from a ‘gifted’ win by Rosberg’s retirement in Britain, hit the brakes going into T13 only to find himself smashing the barriers sideways instead of slowing down. Brembo, have confirmed it was a right-front disc failure. Hamilton will start either P15 or from the pit lane.

Aussie Daniel Ricciardo got the better of defending champ Sebastian Vettel, although it was the German who was on top through most of the session. The Red Bulls are P5 and P6. Ahead of them is Kevin Magnussen who put it an astonishing lap to claim P4. He later commented interestingly that McLaren have gained from the FRIC ban.

The start, the expected rain and tyre wear will define the podium tomorrow. Hamilton’s switch to Rosberg’s preferred brand of brake discs i.e. Carbon Industrie might, with some luck, bring back the gift to him.

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P1 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 16.540s
P2 Bottas – Williams Martini Racing 1m 16.759s
P3 Massa –  Williams Martini Racing 1m 17.078s

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It’s Hammertime!

SILVERSTONE REVIEW

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Lewis’ fandom at Silverstone. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Lewis Hamilton bathed in the ecstasy of a home win at the British Grand Prix, after the agony of losing pole position to his team mate in qualifying on Saturday.

Cheered on by a 120,000-strong, partisan crowd he took his 27th career win, equalling Sir Jackie Stewart’s total and is now behind only Nigel Mansell, for most number of wins, by an English driver. It was his fifth win this season.

Two DNFs in Australia and Canada, yellow flags in Monaco, slow pit-stops in Austria and a 29-point deficit to Rosberg before this weekend, did not bode well with Hamilton fans worldwide. They believed the German, was getting the better deal in the intra-team rivalry at Mercedes. At half distance in Silverstone, had they finished as they were, Rosberg would’ve had the luxury of settling for P2 in the next five grand prix without losing the championship lead!

But it wasn’t to be. Nico Rosberg’s W05 sputtered and stopped on Lap 29 with gearbox downshifting issues. Putting an end, to his long streak of consecutive points finishes and any suspicion that Mercedes AMG Petronas were building only one bullet-proof car. It’s worth remembering that the last team order that actually influenced the result of Mercedes’ race was made by Ross Brawn, in the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix. Back then Rosberg was asked to hold station behind Hamilton although he was much quicker –– the team felt Hamilton was nursing a wounded car home and it wouldn’t be fair to race him.

With Nico, registering his first DNF of the season, Lewis is now just four points behind him in the title fight on 161, with 10 races to go.

At the race start, both Mercedes cars got off the grid cleanly. With the performance advantage of his W05, Hamilton was quick to blast past a sluggish Nico Hulkenberg in his VJM07 and a poor starting Sebastian Vettel in the RBR10. On Lap 2 the race was red flagged because of Kimi Raikkonen’s spectacular shunt on the Wellington Straight. The Finn was seen limping away from the site of the accident which also saw the end of Kamui Kobayashi’s and Felipe Massa’s afternoon. During the restart, Hamilton overtook the McLarens of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button, while Rosberg built a gap of 5s to P2.

Meanwhile, behind them the Williams of Valterri Bottas was on a blistering run to attack the final podium position. Overtaking Alonso, Button, Magnussen, Vettel and Ricciardo on the outside of the racing line, he was a racer on form fresh from his P3 finish in Austria.
He ultimately, went one better here in Silverstone.

Back at the front, Lewis brought down the gap to 2.3s to Nico and pitted for fresh rubber after running longer. A problem with the rear left wheel nut however saw him exiting the pits almost 2s slower than his team mate, who now rebuilt the gap back to about 6s.

Lewis, on hard tyres now was expected to be slower. But to everyones surprise, the hard tyres suited the race temperature perfectly and he was able to cut the deficit by almost a second a lap! The home crowd anticipated a big showdown and the atmosphere was electric. Sadly Nico’s gearbox then decided to give up. And the lead was Lewis’ to keep.

A year ago at the same venue, Hamilton was in the lead when his tyres blew and the win was Rosberg’s to cherish.

The crowd’s focus now shifted to the battle for P5 between Alonso and Vettel. An epic fight that involved unbelievably close racing, questionable manoeuvres and numerous radio messages that kept TV audiences entertained too. Alonso, who was flagged down for leaving the track limits repeatedly, received a five-second penalty for overshooting his grid and had numerous complications with the performance of the F14T still managed P6 after Vettel passed him for P5!

Jenson Button charged home to P4 after hounding Ricciardo’s Red Bull in the closing stages in an attempt to give the British fans a fuller weekend. McLaren team mate Kevin Magnussen led home Nico Hulkenberg from Daniil Kyvat and Jean Eric Vergne for positions 7, 8, 9 and 10 respectively.

Eric Clapton, Naomi Campbell, Jude Law and Prince Harry were amongst the celebs present to celebrate Silverstone’s 50th Grand Prix. It was Lewis Hamilton’s victory though, that commemorated the occasion best, as the fight for the championship had now come alive once again.

Hockenheimring in Germany, is up next. Mercedes and Nico Rosberg’s home race. It seems the only team that can stop the Silver Arrow juggernaut from a clean sweep again, is the German team themselves.

_

PODIUM

P1 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 2hr 26m 52.094s
P2 Bottas – Williams Martini Racing
P3 Ricciardo – Red Bull Racing

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The agony…

Could this be an award-winning film writer’s ultimate script?

The season, once seemed to appear a totally predictable one, in which the main protagonists run away into history, with all of the champagne and glory. Ending Red Bull Racing’s utter 4-year dominance.

The Mercedes works cars are the class of the field so far and barring a few issues in the race at Canada and qualifying at Austria, they’ve been untouchable. Splitting wins between them. It still looked quite predictable.

Then this. The British Grand Prix, it’s unpredictable weather and the two ‘characters’, one a German serious-faced intellectual, the other an Englishman who runs on high emotions.

Is Lewis Hamilton playing to a fantasy story line where his title conquest sees him go through the ups and downs of a people’s hero? Are the FIA making the final-race-double-points relevant by forcing this drama?

Or has Nico Rosberg rattled him, big time.

Sunday the 6th of July 2014, could be Hamilton’s last chance to hang in there.
To taste some ecstasy…

P6 at Silverstone Q3. Image Copyright Mercedes AMG.

P6 at Silverstone Q3. Image Copyright Mercedes AMG.

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P1 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 35.766s
P2 Vettel – RBR Renault 1m 37.386s
P3 Button –  McLaren 1m 38.200s

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Mercedes conquer mountains

SPIELBERG REVIEW

Rosberg leads the pack. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Rosberg climbs to T2. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

A scenic return to alpine forests and grassy mountains in Austria, saw the Turbo Hybrids perform against a backdrop of spectacular green landscape. A perfect setting to promote eco-friendly technology and the new green formula.

The circus last visited here in 2003.

Lewis Hamilton seemed unable to do anything about his German team mate’s height -scaling form of recent. He did however botch up two Q3 laps on Saturday and found himself sitting all perplexed on the grid in P9. Was it the W05 that let him down with a sudden spin under braking or was he cracking under pressure as his championship lead had all but vanished?

At the race start though, he was spectacular. Leaping from P9 to P4 in the span of half a lap swallowing the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and the STR of Daniil Kvyat right off the blocks! He was right behind Nico Rosberg in the sister Mercedes on Lap 2 although behind both the fast starting Williams Martini Racing cars.

For Hamilton, though the race had its ups and downs, with agonisingly slow pit stops and ERS K and tyre precautions he was destined to finish behind Rosberg. Again.

His car managed the rear tyre wear better than that of Rosberg’s and he was encouraged to have a go for the lead in the closing stages. But the closest he got was about .562s of car #6 after many attempts.

In this race, he had to battle against the equally Mercedes-powered cars of Felipe Massa and Finn Valterri Bottas too, who were in turn fighting to claim the third step on the podium. The Williams Martini Racing cars came good on Saturday sealing an all Williams-lock-out of the front row. Their chassis seemed to ride the Super Soft Option tyres more effectively than the Mercedes factory team. But the Germans were confident of race pace.

Massa, after taking pole earlier could not match his Finnish team mate’s solid drive to his first ever Formula One podium. Behind him, Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen shone for their teams in what was a technically challenging circuit for the new V6 machines. Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen brought up the top ten. Ricciardo was advised not to use his overtake button as earlier Sebastian Vettel’s car stalled when he deployed it.

Lewis’ attempts on Nico were as futile as Rossi on Marquez in MotoGP. Rosberg had just enough to distance himself in the sectors that mattered.

With this win, Nico Rosberg helped Mercedes achieve their 7th 1-2 of the season. An incredible feat. Next stop is Silverstone. The momentum has firmly swung back into the Rosberg garage as he leads Hamilton by a healthy 29 points now in the championship.

Will he humiliate his nearest competitor on what is his home ground? Or will Lewis reward his fans with a fantastic win? Bring on the British Grand Prix!

_

PODIUM

P1 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1hr 27m 54.976s
P2 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG
P3 Bottas – Williams Martini Racing

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Massa on pole!

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Felipe on pole! Image Copyright © Williams F1

The Williams F1 media team took more than 48 hours to upload images of their driver’s amazing P1 & P2 grid lock out. Well, I don’t think they expected it! Nobody did!

At the Red Bull ring in Austria, Nico Rosberg could only manage P3 as Felipe’s team mate Valterri Bottas sealed P2. A first Williams front row lock out since the 2003 German Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton spun out of Q3 and will now start at P9. Sebastian Vettel shocked home fans with his failure to make it into Q3 while team mate Ricciardo once again out qualifies him on P5.

Can Williams Martini Racing hold on to their starting positions or will it be situation normal for Mercedes once they display their true race pace?

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P1 Massa –Williams Martini Racing 1m 08.759s
P2 Bottas – Williams Martini Racing 1m 08.846s
P3 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 08.944s

 

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Ricciardo beats Mercedes

MONTREAL REVIEW

Daniel Ricciardo celebrates. Image Copyright © Red Bull Racing

Daniel Ricciardo celebrates. Image Copyright © Red Bull Racing

Red Bull Racing’s new signing Australian, Daniel Ricciardo, will never forget his debut win. Choking with emotion over the radio on the slow down lap, Formula One’s newest Grand Prix winner could hardly believe what he had just achieved. A fantastic attacking drive from P6 on the grid signalled the end of the Silver Arrow’s domination and granted Ricciardo the podium’s top step in the last two laps!

The bullet-proof W05s finally broke. The Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve is a renowned car-breaker. But in recent times cutting edge technology, together with stringent regulations by the FIA saw F1 cars achieve solid milestones in reliability. However, 2014 and the Turbo Hybrid cars were a brand new story in Montreal.

It looked like a another Mercedes 1-2 in the making, but after about 45 laps of trouble free running, both drivers reported a massive loss in power from their ERS K units. This amounted to a reduction of speed of almost 3 seconds per lap with the hungry pack of Force Indias, Williamses and Red Bulls on full charge pursuing them.

The Canadian Grand Prix finish was certain to be a belter with the top 7 cars all 10 seconds within each other with just 10 laps remaining.

The ERS K failure on Lewis Hamilton’s car meant another DNF for the Briton as his close trailing of Nico Rosberg in the first half of the race led to overheating rear brakes that subsequently refused to work as the energy recovery system shut down. Nico, on the other hand managed to hold on to his injured car and nursed it back astonishingly to take P2 ahead of Sebastian Vettel who looked pleased with the outcome of the race and his own P3 finish.

On understanding Hamilton’s brake issues the Mercedes team were quick to advise Nico to adjust his car’s brake bias as forward as possible so he won’t face his teammate’s woes. It worked. And towards the closing stages Rosberg drove tactfully through sectors 1 and 3 to ensure he was out of the DRS range of the charging Sergio Perez. Although Ricciardo and Red Bull won the race, Rosberg’s relentless drive might prove crucial in his bid to become champion this year.

William’s Felipe Massa at one point looked most likely to take the win after the Mercedes cars called in sick. But his tyre management meant he would have to work real hard for it in the last stint of the race. During his charge back from his second pitstop he found himself nudging a late turning Sergio Perez into Turn 1. What ensued was a spectacular accident which saw both cars hit the barriers at 27G! Thankfully they’re both out of danger. But the Force India driver incurred a five-second penalty for the next round.

Jenson Button overtook both Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso in the last couple of laps to register an exciting drive to P4 after the retirements of Massa and Perez. While Valterri Bottas, Jean Eric Vergne, Kevin Magnussen and Kimi Raikkonen rounded off the top ten points finishers.

It was a dramatic victory for Daniel Ricciardo, though it became a reality only once it was clear the Mercedes cars were nursing technical issues. But when an opportunity presented itself, the young smiling Aussie grabbed it with both hands. True signs of a champion in the making.

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PODIUM
P1 Ricciardo – Red Bull Renault 1hr 39m 12.830s
P2 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG
P3 Vettel – Red Bull Renault

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The smart banker

One would expect Lewis Hamilton to have learnt a lesson from the epic at Monaco a fortnight ago. It was Rosberg’s banker lap in Q3 back then that won him the race on Sunday.

It could yet again tomorrow at the Canadian Grand prix.

Circuit De Villeneuve. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Circuit De Villeneuve. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

All through the Q1 and Q2 sessions, it was Lewis who held the upper hand over his German team mate. But early into Q3, Nico set a blistering time that became the benchmark to beat for anyone.

No one did. And on his final run he improved marginally – putting it even more out of reach. It was a determined performance that added fuel to the dying flames of his Monaco win. With it he’s rubbished the theory that Montreal belonged to Lewis.
Will he further rub it in tomorrow?

Vettel is in P3 to add to Hamilton’s tensions.

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P1 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 14.874s
P2 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 1m 14.953s
P3 Vettel – RBR Renault 1m 15.548s

 

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Rosberg steals a win

MONACO REVIEW

The Monaco Grand Prix weekend reassured all of us that after three practice sessions, three sessions of qualifying and 78 tours of the principality’s winding circuit, there can only be one victor. Regardless of any controversies or rivalries.

And this time it was Nico Rosberg.

Followed home by Lewis Hamilton who was hounded in the dying moments by Daniel Ricciardo. Rosberg said later, that he had to win this round. Not only because it was his home race, but also because he needed to break the momentum of victories that belonged to Hamilton in the last four outings. With this win, he regains the lead in the Championship standings as well.

The momentum was well and truly broken earlier on Saturday at the Q3-Turn 5 incident which saw Nico run off at Mirabeau and then attempt a reverse gear manoeuvre that yellow-flagged the session. Hamilton was caught unawares. And he wasn’t happy. In fact he repeated the word ‘fair’ to describe his lap, his pace and his race weekend.

Given his current form, P2 was defeat. It was as nightmarish as coming last. His car let him down at Melbourne and now after being robbed of pole he felt his team let him down too. He felt he could’ve been called in earlier than his rival to pit after Sauber driver Adrian Sutil’s crash brought out the safety car. But he also clarified later that the team follows the race-leader-preference policy during pit calls.

Mercedes allow their drivers to race, but it seems they like to play safe when their cars are leading 1-2. That’s understandable. But one wonders if they sense that the momentum of winning is going to swing back to Hamilton at Montreal which is up next.

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Rosberg celebrates at Monaco. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Daniel Ricciardo’s pace towards the end of the race suggests Red Bull Racing may have found some solutions at last. But in Monaco there are no high speed straights…and yet the silver arrows were a good 10 seconds ahead before Hamilton fell back to Ricciardo with an unusual problem. He had some debris in his eye which led him to drive with only one eye open!

Ricciardo was 1.5 seconds faster than the Mercedes but couldn’t find a way past. Which explains what little chances Hamilton had on Rosberg in equally-powered machinery.
It explains further the importance of pole position in Monaco and Nico’s celebrations at parc ferme after nicking it just in time. Although in a hollow sort of way.

Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg pulled off a memorable move on McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen at Portier, a corner that seldom sees overtaking, to finish P5 behind the never-say-die Fernando Alonso who took the checker in P4.

Behind them Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen came home in P6 and P10, a decent performance from the otherwise lack lustre McLaren team. Williams’ Felipe Massa held on to P7 from Lotus’ Romain Grosjean on P8 but behind both of them was a fantastic run to P9 for Marussia Racing in the hands of Jules Bianchi. The team’s first ever points-finish after 83 Grand Prix starts, eclipsed their previous best finish of P12 at Singapore and Brazil in 2012.

After six rounds of the 2014 Formula One championship, it’s evident that Mercedes AMG Petronas are on course to clinch the constructors title. But the battle between it’s drivers both psychologically and physically has made the season a truly gripping one, even though the results are almost predictable. Nico Rosberg has had a glitch-free season and heads the table with 122 points. Lewis Hamilton has had two glitches so far. A mechanical failure which led to a DNF at Melbourne and an aborted flying lap at Monaco qualifying.

He was riding high before the glamorous weekend, but transformed into a monosyllabic, thought-provoking-answering-machine after experiencing a low blow from Nico.
His reaction suggests he’s never taken one before. Whether this punch has left him winded temporarily, or knocked-out permanently we’ll have to wait and see at Canada.

Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve is where Lewis took his maiden triumph in Formula One. It could well announce his second coming.

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PODIUM
P1 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1hr 49m 27.661s
P2 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG
P3 Ricciardo – Red Bull Renault

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Ironic

The stage is Monaco. The scene is Q3.

Nico Rosberg secures pole position in the circuit where it matters most. With a mistake on his ultimate flying lap. Critically, on everybody else’s flying lap too! The irony lies in the fact that his mistake at Mirabeau brought out yellow flags which meant Lewis Hamilton had to abort his ultimate attempt at P1. Leaving the previous lap time set by Nico to be considered fastest of the day.

Nico at Monaco. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Nico at Monaco. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

The irony could go one further tomorrow on race day.

Hamilton is the only driver in the last decade to have won at Monaco from outside of pole position. With his controversial incident, did Nico unwittingly set it up for Lewis and statistics to take over? We can speculate for the next 24 hours only.

St. Devote has never brimmed with such excitement and tension before. Remember theres room for only single file discipline there…

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P1 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 15.989s
P2 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 1m 16.048s
P3 Ricciardo – RBR Renault 1m 16.384s

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Battle of the Benzes

BARCELONA REVIEW

Rosberg rejoined the track 4.8 seconds behind Hamilton with 20 laps remaining. On the faster option tyre. Suddenly the Spanish Grand Prix had come alive and memories of the Sakhir thriller were revisited.

Lewis at times was so anxious with his race engineers that it seemed he was suspecting the team’s strategy and finishing preferences. The pit wall crew calmed him down and let him know exactly where he was losing time to the German. He demanded more info and pit-stop rationale constantly, knowing Nico was gaining on him rapidly.

The gap was down to .663 of a second on the penultimate lap! He had the AMG Hybrid W05 #6 car filling his mirrors menacingly. It wasn’t clear if he was panicking to keep his winning streak intact or whether he felt Nico’s superior car set-up would comfortably clinch the race. Or did he not want to tangle again, banging wheels to decide P1?

But he held on stoically. Win number 26 was his. And fourth on trot from his teammate.

In the post-race conference the mind games were evident. Lewis reiterated that Nico had the better and faster car in Spain. Yet he won. Rosberg insisted he would’ve had Hamilton if there were one lap more. But that’s his theory. If it were one lap shorter Lewis would’ve probably been even more difficult to beat.

Meanwhile team Mercedes AMG Petronas are earning the respect of Formula One fans for allowing their racers to race. That’s as important for the brand as the transfer of technology to their road cars.

LH44 surrenders in victory. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

LH44 surrenders in victory. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Behind the Mercedes intra-team mind games and on-track strategic battles, Red Bull Racing showed first signs of waking up to take the fight. Daniel Ricciardo drove a lonely calculated race to cover any threat from Williams driver Valterri Bottas to record his first podium finish. He finished 49 seconds behind Hamilton and about 27 seconds ahead of his charging World Champion team mate.

Vettel begins to recover. Image Copyright © RBR

Vettel begins to recover. Image Copyright © RBR

Sebastian Vettel drove a fighting race of recovery after being shifted down to start at P15 by the stewards. His car lacking straight-line speed and not working perfectly to his corner-entry preference the four-time champ is making slow but sure progress back to the top. The lack of testing pre-season courtesy Renault’s engine woes has hurt him big time.

We’re experiencing a precision racer being put to the test. It was interesting to watch him make quick work of both the Ferraris and Bottas’ Williams. The RBR10 might come back to him before the season is out but most certainly will not help him fight for the championship with the Silver Arrows, who are in a class of their own. Atleast for now.

At Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen expressed concern about the team’s strategy to pit Fernando Alonso first although he was behind on track position. But the more telling quote from him post-race was “…we cannot be happy with sixth and seventh places, because we are a long way off where we want to be.” The Italian team’s updates at Barcelona weren’t making a visible difference. They could, however take consolation from the fact that their traditional arch rivals McLaren are deeper in performance trouble with Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen finishing P11 and P12 respectively. The Force India’s rounded off the bottom of the top ten finishers with Sergio Perez overcoming Nico Hulkenberg once again.

If there’s one race on the calendar where any of the top six teams have a fairly reasonable shot at victory it is Monaco.

The tight twisty street circuit offers very few overtaking opportunities, so all emphasis will be on qualifying. Both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are now residents of the principality. A win would impress the neighbours mightily. It’s no secret who has the momentum for pole position on Saturdays. But on race Sundays the armco barriers at Monaco have historically taken no prisoners.

Mercedes versus the chasing pack. It’s going to be a classic street fight.

PODIUM
P1 Hamilton - Mercedes AMG 1hr 41m 05.155s
P2 Rosberg - Mercedes AMG
P3 Ricciardo – Red Bull Renault

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