Lewis unstoppable at Austin

AUSTIN REVIEW

“Epic drive mate, epic drive” said Lewis’ race engineer over the radio. The epic drive was faultless and fearless. It didn’t seem to bother him that he was starting from the dirty side of the track in P2 nor that he would be trailing his team mate for the first half of the race. He knew he was going to be lethal on prime tyres in the second stint.

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Peace out! Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Pulling off a commanding win from P2 on the grid, Lewis Hamilton seemed at ease in Austin, Texas – home of the USA Grand Prix. Losing pole to Nico Rosberg earlier on Saturday in Qualifying he worked his race craft to attack an unsuspecting team mate on Lap 24 at T12. Rosberg was caught napping. He was rudely woken up outside the racing line over the kerbs.

Nico later confessed he hit the wrong button whilst looking in his mirrors. Somehow these confessions in recent times don’t help in portraying him as a strong title contender. If he is taking the consistency route hoping for another technical failure on his rival’s car he might just end up being crowned world champion. But surely not a very popular one.

For Formula 1â„¢ it would be destructive PR. To have a champion crowned because of a questionable double-points system introduced by the commercial rights holder to spice up the show will only add to the negative headlines the sport has attracted of late.

Behind the all-conquering Mercedes duo, a race was on.

Firstly between the Williamses of Valterri Bottas and Felipe Massa. Bottas lost out to Massa at the start. Massa should have gone on to take the final podium spot with Mercedes power. But yet again a slow-thinking Williams pit wall had him lose out to a fast-thinking Red Bull team that has the most sensational driver of the season strapped in. Daniel Ricciardo drove the wheels of his underpowered Renault RB10 to come home a fighting P3. He had an exciting dice with Ferrari’s Alonso en route and nearly clipped Bottas in a late braking manoeuvre at T1.

Sergio Perez though, was unsuccessful in a similar dive into a hairpin in an attempt to overtake Kimi Raikkonen who ultimately endured a lack lustre afternoon. Nudging the Ferrari from its original line the Force India careened into Adrian Sutil’s Sauber. The clash took out both cars from the USA Grand Prix on Lap 1! And brought out the Safety Car.

Behind the Safety Car at the restart Rosberg simply disappeared leaving Hamilton almost 2s behind. At this point, it seemed the German-polesitter had the race in his bag, in total control. But Hamilton’s smooth and confident pass showed that he had Austin covered in his game plan.

Sebastian Vettel, the only other driver to have won the USA Grand Prix in Texas, was having a horrid time initially with an erratic RB10, but after his fourth pitstop on Lap 49 he made up six places in six laps on fresh tyres to come home in P7 very nearly beating Alonso to P6. His was an aggressive strategy that the Williams team should study closely.

Lewis Hamilton is now the most successful British driver of all time. He has 32 wins. The same as Fernando Alonso. In equal machinery in 2007 he amassed the same number of points as him. And he is most likely to win the title again this year. Which will draw him level there too with the Spaniard. Fernando as we know is considered the hottest property in the F1™ market.

So that makes Lewis’ achievements till date even more special then.

PODIUM

Hamilton –  Mercedes AMG Petronas 1hr 40m 04.785s
Rosberg – Mercedes AMG Petronas
Ricciardo –  Red Bull Racing

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Hamilton’s 7th heaven

SINGAPORE REVIEW

If your title rival, your nearest threat, your intra-team nemesis, your thunder-stealer begins to suffer your share of bad luck will you feel satisfied? Will you feel the world and it’s populace isn’t really on your case? Will you rediscover the real you?

It appears that Lewis Hamilton has begun to rediscover his genius. The genius that brought him into this massive spotlight called F1â„¢. At Singapore a few nights ago his stride had a bounce in it. A proper fashionista swagger. Alighting from his shiny chauffeur-driven AMG he walked unescorted towards the Paddock gates and responded to a fan’s ‘you all right Lewis?’ with a ‘Yeah I’m great, thanks!’.

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Hipster Hamilton arrives at the Marina Bay. Image Copyright © Ajit Devadason

Fresh from the feisty conquest at the temple of speed, Hamilton revelled in another completely dominating weekend leaving Rosberg trailing by 3 points in the Championship.

Rosberg suffered a start-line nightmare when his steering wheel all but failed. He couldn’t engage the clutch and his paddles were double-shifting. While the rest set off on the formation lap Mercedes #6 was wheeled away into pit lane.

When the lights went out, Hamilton floored it to perfection taking T1 well before the chasing pack. Behind him Alonso jumped both Red Bulls from P5 with no real intention of braking to make the corner! He went off but came back onto the racing line holding onto P2. Which he decided to give back to a fast-starting Vettel who in turn capitalised on Rosberg’s empty Mercedes grid slot ahead of him.

On Lap 4, positions 1,2 and 3 were held by champions. All past winners of all the Singapore Grand Prix. Meanwhile the pit-lane-starting Championship leader Rosberg, was making no impression on the Caterhams and Marussias running ahead of him. His MGP W05 was truly in a lot of pain and woefully out of pace. The street circuit notorious for lack of overtaking space wasn’t helping either.

Between him and the leading trio a train of battles ensued between Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Massa, and further back Button, Bottas and Magnussen. The Toro Rosso team mates duelled too – Vergne getting the better of Kvyat while on Lap 10 Rosberg was still in P20. Three laps later Vettel, Alonso and Ricciardo all pitted in succession. Hamilton, by this time had built a large enough gap to Vettel that he exited ahead of the German after his first pit stop.

On Lap 14 Rosberg came in for his pit stop but the steering trouble was terminal.
A big moment for the Championship shoot-out had just unfolded at Singapore! Mercedes’ boss Toto Wolff was later quoted as saying “…we have built a missile but we must make it more reliable”.

In the next successive laps Ricciardo, Hamilton and Alonso traded fastest laps with each other and Alonso, closed in rapidly on Vettel. It was soon time for the second round of pit stops and Alonso, Vettel and Raikkonen dived in for fresh rubber. This left Hamilton out in front ahead of Ricciardo by 17 seconds. By the time he and Ricciardo made their second stops the gap to P2 was down to 7 seconds.

An incident between Force India’s Perez and Sauber’s Sutil wrecked the Mexican’s front wing and strewed debris all over the track. Considering how the Pirellis can shred nowadays, the Safety Car was deployed as is inevitable on a street circuit.

The race wasn’t going to remain as straight forward as it initially appeared. The long Safety Car period meant tyre strategies needed re-thinking! Red Bull and Williams believed they could stick with a two-stop strategy to catch Mercedes whose big lead was reduced to nothing. Mercedes however required to pit again for prime tyres! This meant Hamilton had to build a gap of over 27 seconds to Vettel. He did so. Lapping almost 2 seconds faster than anyone else at times, he began a relentless chase to the finish line. He stopped and exited just behind Vettel on fresh tyres. In the space of a lap and a half he overtook the German aggressively through T7 and secured a deserving win for Mercedes amidst spectacular fireworks.

For the seventh time this year.

PODIUM

P1 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 2hr 00m 04.795s
P2 Vettel  – Red Bull Racing
P3 Ricciardo – Red Bull Racing

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Win #23, Car #44

MALAYSIA REVIEW

Team celebrations at Malaysia. Image Copyright © 2014 Ajit Devadason

Team celebrations at Malaysia. Image Copyright © 2014 Ajit Devadason

When the chequered flag brought the 16th edition of the Malaysian Grand Prix to an end an interesting statistic developed. The last time Mercedes finished a race in P1 & P2 respectively was way back in 1955! As a works team that is.

Ferrari, a fully-fledged works team too, must be frustrated. Alonso finishing in P4 has become a common sight in recent years. His battle with the Mercedes powered Force India of Hulkenberg kept the fans at Turns 1,2 & 3 in Sepang enthralled. But the fact that he was nowhere close to the Bulls or Mercedes in true pace was telling. Raikkonen had his work cut out by a fighting Lotus in the hands of Grosjean. Both drivers finishing out of the points eventually. The Scuderia believe they’ll have an advantage at the circuits that consume more fuel as their engine is more efficient but somehow that doesn’t sound like a convincing way to go challenging for a championship.

Felipe Massa and Valterri Bottas raced intensely for Williams Martini Racing to P7 & P8. Whether or not Felipe should have let his teammate through to attack the McLaren of Jenson Button for P6 is to be seen. Malaysia once again, throws up the controversy of team orders and the disobeying of them!

In the other Red Bull RBR10 it’s all turning into a game of luck for Daniel Ricciardo in 2014. After all he has gotten into the seat of another Australian famed for bad luck. How the best crew for fastest, most-efficient pit stops last season could release him from his box without securing a wheel nut is anyones guess. Then his front wing played up on a kerb. And finally retirement. A DNF after a DSQ. Poor Dani.

Hamilton on fresh rubber. Image Copyright © 2014 Ajit Devadason

Hamilton takes on fresh rubber. Image Copyright © 2014 Ajit Devadason

The champion’s RBR10 however, held on together nicely. At one point even challenging the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg for P2. Has Sebastian Vettel finally got a car that’s there, but not really there? And will he have to dig deep to hold on to his crown? Whether he likes that or not, the fans all over are relishing a good fight. Nobody wants predictable dominance. Unless of course you’re Toto Wolff.

Watching his team take a dominant win with Lewis claiming pole, setting fastest lap and leading every lap from start to finish, followed home by Nico, one wonders how things are going to develop towards the end of the season. If Mercedes AMG Petronas can keep on winning like this with a 25 second advantage over the field and dominate all proceedings like they have done in rounds 1 & 2, which driver will they back for ultimate honours.

And most importantly how will they go about it?

It could get louder than the engines of 2014 for sure. Bring on Bahrain!

PODIUM
P1 Hamilton - Mercedes AMG 1hr 40m 25.974s
P2 Rosberg - Mercedes AMG
P3 Vettel – Red Bull Renault

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