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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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.

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PODIUM

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

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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!

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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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