Still Not Good Enough

Fernando Alonso celebrated his second podium (and best result) of the season today when he crossed the line second behind Daniel Ricciardo. The Spaniard had held the led for most of the race distance, after a wet start and two Safety Car stints threw strategy and order into the air. He lost his lead however, when Daniel Ricciardo breezed past him into turn 1 with three laps remaining. He managed to fend off Hamilton though, which saw him equal his best result since the Singapore Grand Prix last season.

Fair enough, Fernando drove what must have been an exhausting race, particularly towards the end where he fought hard to keep Hamilton and Ricciardo behind him. So celebrate away Fernando and Ferrari – but tomorrow, the fun stops and the work commences. Or at least it should, because there is no real reason to celebrate in Italy.

Looking at the result on face value, one could say that Ferrari are finally getting their act together – Alonso’s last five results read 5th, 6th, 5th, 6th, 2nd. It looks like the Scuderia are on for a strong second half to the season if they can keep their act together. Maybe they could even win their first race under Marco Mattiacci before the season is out.

Wrong.

Today’s result does not signal an improvement for Ferrari, or show that they now posses a race winning car. All today proves is that when a track is very wet, one of the fastest cars on the grid starts from the very back, when two Safety Car periods wipe out huge advantages accumulated by two different leaders and when Ferrari happen to be at the right place, that they can finish second. Not even first!

The reason Ferrari finished on the podium today is a mixture of damned good luck on their part, bad luck on the part of several others, and the fact that Fernando Alonso is such a talented driver. To prove my point, Raikkonen finished only sixth in the same car. I’ve made no secret of my absolute belief that Alonso is the most talented and capable pilot in Formula One, so you’ll have to trust that I’m not being biased when I make these points.

Ferrari still haven’t given him a race winning car. Inheriting the lead, almost accidentally, and then managing to fend off the fierce competition from the cars behind, was down to driver talent, rather than the dog of a Ferrari that Alonso has been given to operate with.

I’m reminded of the scene in Rush where Daniel Bruhl (as Niki Lauda) returns to the pits and promptly says “it’s terrible – it drives like a pig!”, much to the disgust of the Ferrari worker who replies with “you can’t say that – it’s a Ferrari!”. So given the aura around Ferrari, and the team’s history and prestige, it’s with sadness that I write about how bad the Ferrari is. Of course, I should temper that by saying that “bad” for Ferrari means not podium material. “Bad” for another team would mean not points material.

But for a team with the resources that Ferrari have, including the estimated €400 million budget that they have to play with every year, it’s incredible that they can continue to miss out on podiums, never mind wins. Granted, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but even still it seems like Marco Mattiacci has had little effect on the team he was brought in to lead to greatness once again. Then again, having never managed a motorsport team before, his appointment was always going to be questionable.

I think Ferrari need to do several things. Firstly, (if they haven’t already done so), they need to get on the phone to Ross Brawn (the same man who revived Ferrari in the 90s and brought Mercedes to the front) and offer to give him whatever he wants to come out of retirement and rejoin to the outfit. Secondly, they need to offer the same to Adrian Newey. Rumours suggest that they have already reached out to Red Bull’s aerodynamic guru, but their calls have fallen on deaf ears. But with Red Bull supposedly back-benching Newey from next year, however, Ferrari should be pushing with all their might at dragging Newey to their team.

Thirdly, they need a huge overhaul in their aerodynamic department. Ironically it was Jules Bianchi using a Ferrari engine who put his Marussia through to Q2 on Saturday, knocking Raikkonen out in the process. Alright, so it’s not a fair match, rather a cocky strategy call gone wrong, but Marussia are doing wonderful things with their Ferrari unit (on a much lower budget) so surely it’s not a problem with the engines. Finally, they should be putting their next World Champion, Jules Bianchi, in the car next year. Although Kimi has a contract until 2016, and Alonso a contract until even longer, both will have performance clauses in their contracts which mean they can leave if Ferrari are not performing well. Although Fernando will understand the prestige of Ferrari and the huge honour that would come with winning  a Championship with them, for four years running they have failed to give him a Championship winning car. Like I said already, talent on the driver side is not the issue. If one of their drivers does not leave at the end of this year, then they need to push one of them, probably Kimi, and give Bianchi the seat.

What Ferrari really need to do is buy another engine. Abandon their pride and, until they can get the package together in other departments, they should run with a Mercedes or Honda. This won’t happen, however, because of the pure, but admiral, stubbornness of the Scuderia to do it all themselves. And, of course, it would look bad if the most famous car brand in the world needed the help of another brand to win a race….

The bottom line is that, until Newey or Brawn goes to the team, or they can have some other radical reform brought in, they are going to continue to struggle behind Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams in a spectacle which is both embarrassing and painful to watch.

Photo courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari. 

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Double Negative For Force India

Force India leave the Hungaroring this evening with a double retirement to reflect on, after both their drivers crashed out of the race.

Nico Hulkenberg spun himself out of the Hungarian Grand Prix after outbraking his VJM-07 in tricky conditions, before sliding into his team-mate. While Hulkenberg crashed into the barriers at turn 14, Perez displayed incredible car control to keep his car under control during the accident. Although he appears to have suffered slight damage in the incident, it was not terminal damage and he continued to race.

But then, just after the marshals had finished clearing Hulkenberg’s stricken car, Perez spun out of the same corner when he got a wheel on the wet grass which lines the circuit. Losing control, he crossed the track and smashed into the concrete barriers in front of the Mercedes and Red Bull pit wall.

After the race, a dejected Nico Hulkenberg reflected on the crash with his team-mate, and the lost potential from the Grand Prix: “It was not the best day in the office and I’m feeling very disappointed. The track was drying out and I was quite close behind Checo when I made contact with him at the final corner.  I made contact with his car, lost my front wing and went straight on into the barrier. It was my mistake and I’ve apologised to the team. It’s especially frustrating because there was a lot of potential in this race, but I guess it was one of those days when things didn’t go our way.”

Sergio Perez was similarly downbeat over his race as he too reflected on his early exit from the race, but he did temper this by saying that the positives from the Grand Prix will be focused on: “It’s a very disappointing end to our weekend, just when it looked like we could have scored some big points. I went a little wide on the exit kerb of the final corner, lost the rear and that was it – I was in the wall. It was a very unfortunate end to our race and I feel sorry for the team because they deserved some points today. Conditions were very difficult, the track was drying and improving, and it made you want to push to the limit, but there were some wet patches that could catch you out. We’ll take the positive elements of this weekend and get back in the points in the next race.”

Like Perez said, there are positives to be taken from the Grand Prix. The last race before the mid-term break is perhaps the worst time to have a double DNF as it leaves the team feeling dejected and unmotivated during what tends to be a critical time for car development. Indeed, the development on the RB9 and the changing in the construction of the Pirellis during last year’s summer break saw Sebastian Vettel win every Grand Prix afterwards. Force India must focus on the positives from the race, such as their points-potential, rather than the downside – that they lost some of their advantage to McLaren in the Constructors Championship as a result of the double DNF.

Image courtesy of Sahara Force India. 

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Ricciardo Victorious In Enthralling Hungarian Grand Prix

Daniel Ricciardo took victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix this afternoon, in a race affected by rain, stopped by two Safety Cars, and with a myriad of race leaders. Ricciardo had gained the lead after the first Safety Car, but lost this lead when a crash for Perez prompted the Safety Car again. Alonso led the race from that point on, but Ricciardo was unstoppable and pulled two late overtakes, on Hamilton and Alonso, to secure his second Grand Prix victory.

The rain that was expected to interrupt the race arrived early, soaking the track about fourty-five minutes before lights out. The track was still wet at 2pm local time for the race start, so all drivers started on the green intermediate tyres. At lights out, Rosberg maintained his lead as the drivers behind him battled through the spray thrown up by the tyres. Valtteri Bottas started well, as per usual, and jumped second-placed Vettel into turn 1. The entire grid emerged unscathed from the first corner while Kevin Magnussen, Lewis Hamilton and Daniil Kvyat set off from the pitlane – Magnussen and Hamilton opting to start from the pit lane following qualifying, and Kvyat starting from the pitlane after getting stranded on the grid.

Nico Rosberg leads at the start (c) Red Bull/Getty Images

Hamilton was keen to start cutting his way through the grid, but with cold brakes on his Mercedes, he spun at turn 3 and dropped behind the grid. Back at the front, Rosberg was leading with a comfortable gap to Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel, who were sliding around in the slippy conditions.

Rosberg’s lead looked solid, and only set to increase dramatically, when Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson spun out of turn 3 and speared the barriers, destroying his car which swiveled to a halt on the side of the track. The Safety Car was deployed for the incident but Rosberg was too far past the pits to act on the news, meaning that those in the top four had to do another lap with reduced speed while the rest of the grid pitted for dry tyres. Thus, Daniel Ricciardo inherited the lead, ahead of Jenson Button on the inters tyres and Felipe Massa. Then, as the Safety Car was preparing to pit Romain Grosjean lost control of his Lotus in the same spot as Ericsson, hitting the barriers and spinning to a halt on the opposite side of the track. The Safety Car subsequently stayed out for longer as the wrecked Lotus was cleared away.

Second time around, Ricciardo led Button on the restart, but with the McLaren driver on the wet tyres, he swept clean past the Aussie and into the lead. But on the very next lap the tables were turned as Button was told that the expected rain would not materialise, and that he would need to pit soon. By the end of the second lap after the restart, his tyres were dead and Ricciardo had regained the lead.

Further down the order, the Force India duo were scrapping for position when Nico Hulkenberg locked up into the final corner and t-boned his team-mate, spinning himself out of the race. At the same time, Maldonado was getting too eager on the brakes and slid into Marussia’s Jules Bianchi, t-boning the Frenchman and spinning himself. Unlike Hulkenberg, however, the Venezuelan recovered his race and lived to fight another day.

Just as Hulkenberg’s car was cleared from turn 14, his team-mate spun out of the same corner and hit the barriers on the start/finish straight, throwing debris all over the track. Although Ricciardo had accumulated an impressive lead to this lead, his advantage was annihilated by the reappearance of the Safety Car. As Kobayashi parked his Caterham on the side of the track, the rest of the grid were led away by Fernando Alonso when the race restarted.

With the mixed-up order from two Safety Cars, Alonso now led the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne who was celebrating his fiftieth Grand Prix. The Frenchman was keen to keep his place on the podium and acted as a rolling roadblock for third placed Nico Rosberg who, incredibly, couldn’t find a way past the slower car. This allowed Sebastian Vettel to close up on the Mercedes, and was soon joined by Hamilton and Ricciardo who slotted in behind. The collection of race winners and Championship contenders behind Vergne didn’t faze him and he continued to lead the duo. Although Vergne didn’t make a mistake, Vettel spun out of the final corner as Rosberg pitted, mirroring Perez’s crash at the same spot. Luckily for Vettel, he missed the pitwall by inches, but unluckily for Rosberg, the spin had freed Hamilton.

Kimi Raikkonen fights with Pastor Maldonado (c) Scuderia Ferrari

Hamilton made short work of Vergne when given the chance, pulling a ballsy move on the Toro Rosso around the outside of turn 4. Meanwhile, Alonso pitted from the lead and Gutierrez became the sixth retirement of the race when he parked in his garage. Hamilton also pitted, and although he maintained his lead over Rosberg, a slow stop had put him behind Alonso. His position wasn’t solidified though, as his team began to radio him to let Rosberg through, as they were on different strategies. He consistently refused to, however, as Rosberg was not close enough behind him, meaning he would lose time to Alonso ahead of him if he slowed to let Nico through. Although Rosberg continued to ask why he wasn’t being let past, Mercedes eventually gave up trying to enforce their team order.

Ricciardo pitted from the lead of the race, and was soon followed in by Rosberg, who had still not passed his team-mate. Rosberg came out further down the order, but Ricciardo was flying on his fresh softer compound tyres and was catching Hamilton at an almost unbelievable pace. He was soon on the back of Hamilton who himself was up the gearbox of a struggling Alonso, but nobody could get past each other and Alonso maintained his lead.

After several laps of shutting down overtake attempts, Hamilton went wide at turn 1 and allowed Ricciardo to challenge him into turn 2. Pushing Ricciardo offline, Hamilton handed him the inside line for turn 3, where Ricciardo squeezed up the inside and up to second. With the faster Mercedes cleared, Daniel set his sights on the Ferrari ahead – breezing past him at the end of the pit straight. Ironically, he took the lead of the race with three laps remaining, as he did at the Canadian Grand Prix earlier this season.

Hamilton failed to get past Alonso, and Rosberg closed up on the rear of the the battle, leaving Alonso, Hamilton and Rosberg to cross the line with the smallest of gaps between them. It was fifth for Massa whose race wasn’t overly exciting, but will come as a welcome relief after three faultless retirements out of four races. Sebastian Vettel finished the race in seventh, but knows he could have placed much higher had he not spun on the straight. Jean-Eric Vergne marked his fiftieth Grand Prix with ninth place, while Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top ten.

As a result of the race, Hamilton has cut Rosberg’s lead in the Championship – an unbelievable feat given their respective qualifying performances. Now, the two must face a month with just their thoughts as F1 enters it’s one-month summer break. The next race is the Belgian Grand Prix on the 24th of August.

Hungarian Grand Prix Race Results:

  1. Daniel Ricciardo
  2. Fernando Alonso
  3. Lewis Hamilton
  4. Nico Rosberg
  5. Felipe Massa
  6. Kimi Raikkonen
  7. Sebastian Vettel
  8. Valtteri Bottas
  9. Jean-Eric Vergne
  10. Valtteri Bottas
  11. Adrian Sutil
  12. Kevin Magnussen
  13. Pastor Maldonado
  14. Daniil Kvyat
  15. Jules Bianchi
  16. Max Chilton
  • Esteban Gutierrez
  • Kamui Kobayashi
  • Sergio Perez
  • Nico Hulkenberg
  • Romain Grosjean
  • Marcus Ericsson

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Hamilton Maintains Advantage In FP2

Lewis Hamilton maintained his advantage over Nico Rosberg as he finished practice on Friday afternoon with nearly three tenths over his team-mate. At a track where Rosberg has never finished about fourth but where Hamilton has won four times, the latter is looking to take victory in order to reel in the gap to his Championship-leading team-mate. The other Mercedes man was predictably second and held a four-tenth lead over the-best-of-the-rest Sebastian Vettel, whose pace became evident after he swapped to the softer, quicker tyre compounds mid-session. Fernando Alonso was three-tenths shy of Vettel, losing time to the Red Bull in the first two sectors where the several sweeping corners put the Red Bull at an advantage. Kevin Magnussen in fifth split Alonso from his team-mate in sixth, while Daniel Ricciardo narrowly took seventh from Williams’ Valtteri Bottas who looked a lot faster than he had this morning. Jenson Button and Felipe Massa finished ninth and tenth respectively, as they did in the first session.

The Toro Rosso duo narrowly missed out on the top ten and thus qualified eleventh and twelfth, Kvyat leading Vergne, who is celebrating his fiftieth Grand Prix this weekend. Nico Hulkenberg couldn’t better thirteenth while his team-mate Perez sandwiched former Force India driver Adrian Sutil, who finished fourteenth. Pastor Maldonado survived an early spin to finish seventeenth, but his team-mate was forced to sit out most of the session as his car underwent work in the Lotus garage. Esteban Gutierrez finished eighteenth, ahead of Kamui Kobayashi, who proved to be the quickest of the back-markers. The Marussias of Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton finished twentieth and twenty-first, leaving Marcus Ericsson to fill out the back of the grid.

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team. 

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Hamilton Quickest In Opening Practice

Lewis Hamilton took the top spot during Friday morning’s free practice session ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix. The Briton’s lead from team-mate Nico Rosberg, which was nearly two tenths, is the first step in his mission to win this weekend’s Grand Prix and reel in Championship leader Rosberg. With the two Mercedes men taking up their usual position at the top of the time sheets, it was Kimi Raikkonen who proved to be the best-of-the-rest as he lapped six-tenths shy of Hamilton’s quickest effort, with his Alonso a further four tenths behind, in fourth. Vettel was fifth for Red Bull as Kevin Magnussen finished the session in sixth. Jean-Eric Vergne was seventh, just ahead of former team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who dedicated some of his run plan to drifting around the circuit when his tyres ‘hit the cliff’. Jenson Button complained about a complete lack of rear grip but brought his McLaren to ninth, while Massa rounded out the top ten.

Esteban Gutierrez took eleventh, almost poetically symbolic of the struggle Sauber are having in scoring a point this season, with former Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg in twelfth. Daniil Kvyat lapped in thirteenth, and Maldonado in fourteenth, while Valtteri Bottas was surprisingly down the order in fifteenth. Sergio Perez’s Force India leads the Lotus of Grosjean and the Sauber of Sutil (the latter spinning in the final seconds of practice), with Kamui Kobayashi leading team-mate Marcus Ericsson, and the two Marussias of Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi. Chilton finished ahead of Jules, particulalry impressive as he had time for only one flying lap following a fire on his installation lap saw him park in the pits and walk back to the garage. During the later stages of practice, Marussia tried to get him out, but it wasn’t until the fourth attempt that he successfully got back out.

So, for now, the advantage is held by Hamilton at a circuit where he has enjoyed success before, in comparison to the less successful memories his team-mate has of the track. However, with three consecutive races of botched Qualifying, Hamilton will need to take full advantage of practice to find the perfect set up to ensure he has the edge come Saturday afternoon.

Free Practice One results:

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Nico Rosberg
  3. Kimi Raikkonen
  4. Fernando Alonso
  5. Sebastian Vettel
  6. Kevin Magnussen
  7. Jean-Eric Vergne
  8. Daniel Ricciardo
  9. Jenson Button
  10. Felipe Massa
  11. Esteban Gutierrez
  12. Nico Hulkenberg
  13. Daniil Kvyat
  14. Pastor Maldonado
  15. Valtteri Bottas
  16. Sergio Perez
  17. Romain Grosjean
  18. Adrian Sutil
  19. Kamui Kobayashi
  20. Marcus Ericsson
  21. Max Chilton
  22. Jules Bianchi

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Idiocy, Not Conspiracy

Adrian Sutil leads his team-mate, shortly before his spin

Adrian Sutil leads his team-mate, shortly before his spin

The German Grand Prix this weekend showcased a master class in driving as drivers such as Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton repeatedly went wheel to wheel as they battled for both position and bragging rights. But it also showcased complete idiocy and irresponsibility by the race control when they decided not to neutralise the race following a spin for Sutil, which left a car in a dangerous position on track.

Adrian Sutil spun out of the final corner as his car battled a failing engine, leaving him stranded diagonally across the right hand side of the grid. After determining that his Sauber had called time on his race, Sutil climbed from the cockpit and strolled back to the pits. Lewis Hamilton pitted for a new set of tyres, taking advantage of what was sure to be a Safety Car period, and I’m sure every team in the paddock had strategists calculating if it was worth pitting behind the Safety Car, with only fifteen laps to go.

But Hamilton’s gamble went unrewarded and the hurried strategy decisions proved useless as the Safety Car stayed parked in its standby position at the end of the pit lane. Instead, the stricken Sauber stayed stationary on the grid while yellow flags waved frantically on the pit straight.

There were two things which I found quite frustrating about this.

Starting with the lesser of the two: the delay in clearing his car. Unless Sutil parked his car in the marshal’s cafeteria, he couldn’t have put it any closer to an abundance of marshals – the pit lane is quite literally crammed to the brim with these volunteers, yet none ventured onto the track to recover the car. It was a full two minutes and fifty-five seconds between the moment Sutil spun and the time that the first marshals arrived on the scene. In the meantime, an assembly of officials gawked stupidly at the abandoned car from the safety of the pit wall. Finally, three ballsy men ran from the other side of the track, across the racing line, to push the car towards the gap in the pit wall, mere metres away.

Obviously, there was nothing the marshals could do: they can’t simply walk onto the track if they feel like it. Instead, the men and women in orange must wait for an order from race control. It is race control who must answer for the farcical delay in removing the hazard.

I joked on Twitter that perhaps Bernd Maylander was using the toilet at the time, and so could not drive the Safety Car to neutralise the race. Obviously, he wasn’t. The Safety Car had not broken down and Bernd sat ready to go, as per usual. So why wasn’t he used? It made absolutely no sense to leave that Sauber dangerously placed on the grid, when a Safety Car for a lap or two could have it cleared safely out of the way.

“A Safety Car would have normally come out in situations like that,” said Lewis Hamilton, echoing the sentiments of the other drivers in the paddock. “In fact, there should have been a Safety Car,” he told Sky Sports. “How on earth a car can be sitting in the middle of the road for a couple of laps and not come out…but I think you know why.” It’s clear that Hamilton has convinced himself that Race Control has it in for him, that they purposefully left the Safety Car in the pits in case it would hurt Rosberg’s lead in the race. It’s a ridiculous suggestion, and one I have seen echoed by a lot of people, (particularly British fans, strangely). But although the idea is outrageous and highly unlikely, I’m at a loss to find another reason why Race Control wouldn’t bother using the Safety Car.

The second (and most important thing) that frustrated and concerned me was the blatant disregard for the safety of drivers, marshals and anyone within range of debris which would be thrown up by a car smashing into the parked Sauber.

I simply can’t get my head around the logic of those who are in charge of the races. This is the same sport which only two weeks ago postponed a Grand Prix for a full hour while minor damage to a small piece of Armco barrier, the odds of which being hit again was millions to one, was repaired. How can the same apparently safety conscious organisation spend an hour repairing a barrier in one race, only to shrug off a big car parked diagonally across a track. It’s lunacy. Also, I hope the irony that Sutil’s car was parked beside a CGI road safety message was not lost on you.

For me, this almighty cock-up was merely the act of an incompetent Race Control. I would like to see a statement from them, explaining their decision, but I know that they won’t bother. The truth of the matter is that there is no excuse for not bringing out the Safety Car for a blockage on track when we have seen the AMG SLS brought out for as little as a front wing endplate out on the track. On the other hand, the officials in Race Control were simply failing in their duty to keep the competitors safe, rather than maliciously endangering the drivers in an attempt to help Rosberg, whose talent and speed on the day was enough to see him win the race comfortably, regardless. But, the British press will, I imagine, continue to rant and rave about a mixture of conspiracies and the worst of luck for Hamilton (the latter being nothing short of a case of bad sportsmanship) because, on the day, their man lost.

Image courtesy of Sauber Motorsport AG.

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Rosberg Eases To Dominant German GP Victory

Nico Rosberg breezed to victory at the German Grand Prix this afternoon, leading unchallenged from pole to flag. His only realistic rival, team-mate Lewis Hamilton, had been effectively ruled out of contention after a crash during the first part of Qualifying on Saturday, meaning he started twentieth on the grid. An alternated strategy for the Briton as a result of contact with former team-mate Jenson Button, saw him finish third behind Valtteri Bottas, who celebrated his third consecutive podium.

The five lights came on and went out, and the grid raced towards turn 11. Jules Bianchi had bogged down which forced the Caterham behind him to dive around him, while up the front, Rosberg had maintained his lead towards turn 1. Kevin Magnussen was looking to jump Felipe Massa into the first corner but the Dane ran out of room and his wheel connected with Massa’s, flipping Massa’s car and sending it scraping across the gravel in the run off at turn 1. Ricciardo was sent wide by the incident and narrowly avoided the inverted Williams, but rejoined far down the order while the Safety Car was deployed.

The Safety Car came in at the end of the second lap and Rosberg bolted away from the Williams of Valtteri Bottas behind him. In the mid-field, Ricciardo was told that Hamilton was behind him and pushing hard, following the Briton’s crash in Qualifying and subsequent penalty, which caused saw him starting from twentieth. Engaged in their own battle, Ricciardo and Hamilton came up behind Sutil, where Ricciardo pushed past into turn 6. When Hamilton tried to follow the Red Bull past, Sutil turned in and made light contact with Lewis.

Soon after, Ricciardo and Hamilton had left Sutil trailing and had caught up to the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. The Red Bull took the outside line while the Mercedes locked up the inside and sailed into the Ferrari, causing slight damage to the Ferrari’s front wing. Nonetheless, Hamilton had secured the position and had advanced two places.

Kimi was sandwiched into turn six again a few laps later when Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, repeating their close battle from the British Grand Prix two weeks ago, arrived behind the Finn. Again Kimi took slight damage in the scrap for position, which left Alonso in the lead and debris on the track.

Behind them, Perez was getting inventive with his overtakes: he pulled a move on Romain Grosjean into turn 8 which had him ahead briefly, before Grosjean moved back past the Mexican at the exit of the 9-10 section. While Grosjean came close to exceeding track limits during the overtake, Vergne had been abusing the track limits and was handed a five-second stop/go penalty for same. Grosjean soon became the race’s second retirement when his Lotus broke down on lap 28.

After pitting for the first time, Hamilton emerged in eighth, and behind his sparring partner from the beginning of the race. Making short work of Ricciardo second-time-round, he came up behind Button who provided a tougher opposition for his former team-mate. Again at turn 6, Hamilton dived down the inside of Button, but hit the McLaren’s sidepod on the exit and damaged his front wing. With a subsequent drop in performance, his team began looking for an alternate strategy.

Behind him, Alonso had caught up to Ricciardo and was looking to squeeze past. Together they passed the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg into turn 6, and then resumed racing on the clear track ahead of them. They were denied the chance to fight into the track’s permier overtaking point, turn 6, when Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso burst into flames on the back straight and parked in the run-off area of turn 6. The Russian jumped clear of his fiery cockpit and punched a barrier in frustration, rueing the lost opportunity to score some valuable points for his team.

Adrian Sutil also ended his race prematurely when he spun out of the last corner and reported that there was a problem with his car. The yellow flags were shown again, and his Sauber was in a very dangerous position but, incredibly, the Safety Car stayed park. It was not even deployed when Sutil resigned himself to a DNF and climbed from his cockpit, strolling to the pitwall and back to the paddock. Instead, the Sauber sat dangerously across the grid until some brave marshals sprinted from the opposite side of the track and wheeled it to the pitlane, two laps later. It was a farce by Race Control and an unnecessary risk.

Hamilton, on his alternate strategy to try to combat the damage caused to his front wing, expected a Safety Car and came into the pits for a fresh set of soft tyres. Ricciardo and Alonso were still battling behind him, and Alonso eventually managed to get past Ricciardo into turn 6, but the Aussie pushed back mid-corner and regained the lead of the Spaniard. This was repeated at turn 7 where Alonso pulled a ballsy move on the Red Bull, only to lose the position to Ricciardo again. Finally, Alonso moved past into turn 6, and kept Ricciardo behind him at turn 8.

Bottas and Hamilton were also fighting for position, but the Finn kept control of the battle and closed out the race merely half-a-second ahead of the faster Mercedes. Up the front, where he had been since the race start, Rosberg was completely unchallenged, and breezed across the line in front of his adoring home crowd. Bottas followed him twenty seconds later to secure his third consecutive podium, while Hamilton shadowed him as he took third. Sebastian Vettel took fourth for Red Bull while Alonso came home fifth ahead of Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Button, Magnussen and Perez to round out the top ten.

Race Results:

  1. Nico Rosberg
  2. Valtteri Bottas
  3. Lewis Hamilton
  4. Sebastian Vettel
  5. Fernando Alonso
  6. Daniel Ricciardo
  7. Nico Hulkenberg
  8. Jenson Button
  9. Kevin Magnussen
  10. Sergio Perez
  11. Kimi Raikkonen
  12. Pastor Maldonado
  13. Jean-Eric Vergne
  14. Esteban Gutierrez
  15. Jules Bianchi
  16. Kamui Kobayashi
  17. Max Chilton
  18. Marcus Ericsson
  • Adrian Sutil – spin
  • Daniil Kvyat – fire
  • Romain Grosjean – mechanical failure
  • Felipe Massa – collision

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