Lewis Hamilton was unstoppable today as he led Mercedes to their first 1-2 since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix. The Briton had narrowly taken pole position from Sebastian Vettel in the soaked Qualifying session yesterday, but he was untouchable today as he led proceedings from the lights to the flag.
The rain which flooded the circuit during Qualifying was gone, but the threat still existed and a mid-race rain shower could not be definitively ruled out. While the team strategists fretted over this news, it was completely irrelevant to Sergio Perez whose Force India stalled during a practice start about half an hour before the race was due to start. The team failed to get the car going again and he missed the race.
For the remaining twenty-one drivers, there was no repeat of the aborted start as there was in Australia two weeks ago. Despite a few slow starts, the installation lap got underway and everyone, bar Perez, took their respective places on the starting grid.
Lights out and Hamilton shot away while Rosberg ducked up the inside of Sebastian Vettel, who pushed his countryman towards the pitwall in an attempt to keep him behind. He had to fight team-mate Daniel Ricciardo simultaneously and inevitably lost the position to Rosberg who jumped into second. However, a wobble nearly sent Rosberg into the gravel at turn 3 and he had to defend hard against the Red Bull duo into turn 4.
The grid, somehow, made it through the tricky turn 1 and 2 sequence unscathed, but Pastor Maldonado and Jules Bianchi came together at turn 4 when the Frenchman outbraked himself. The two were forced to pit for a replacement tyre and front wing respectively, before both retiring afterwards. Before he pulled into the pitlane to end his race, Bianchi became the first driver to earn a five second stop/go penalty.
Nico Hulkenberg challenged Fernando Alonso on the second corner of lap two, moving himself up the order. When Kevin Magnussen tried to do the same to Kimi Raikkonen, his front wing punctured Raikkonen’s rear right tyre, giving the Finn a puncture and earning the Dane a five second stop/go penalty.
As the drivers got settled into their positions, Williams deployed team orders against Valtteri Bottas while Felipe Massa tried to overtake Jean-Eric Vergne. He had been forced to back out of potential overtakes due to the threat of Bottas behind him, taking to the team radio and complaining. The team told Bottas to hold back.
Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo scrapped for fourth and Alonso pulled an incredible move on the Red Bull into the first corner. Daniil Kvyat also made in-roads after pulling a dummy on Esteban Gutierrez and swooping up the inside.
The first round of pit stops came and went and Hamilton kept his lead from Rosberg, who himself led from Vettel. As Jean-Eric Vergne dropped from the race, Ricciardo was told to drop further behind Vettel in order to save the tyres. On top of this, he was back ahead of Alonso after the pitstops, but was slowly falling into the clutches of the Ferrari as his fuel sensor failed. This left Red Bull using the FIA fuel monitors, which they blamed for Ricciardo’s disqualification at the Australian Grand Prix.
As if this wasn’t bad enough for Ricciardo, when he pitted for the second time, he was released from his pitbox without his front left tyre being properly attached. He pulled in further up the pitlane and waited, shaking his head, as his mechanics sprinted to the car and pushed it back down the pitlane to tighten the wheel nut. After everything, he had lost a full second to Alonso, who he led before the pitstop and who was directly ahead of him when he left the pits.
But Ricciardo’s bad luck wasn’t over with yet – his front wing, possibly damaged by the front jack in the pitlane, snapped on the start/finish straight and left him crawling around the entire circuit before having it replaced. He was subsequently awarded a ten second stop/go for the unsafe release. The end of a miserable day came with three laps left as he pulled into his garage.
The Saubers both failed to finish, the first double-DNF for the Swiss team since the 2011 Italian Grand Prix. Adrian Sutil pulled over on the exit of the last corner, a lap before his team-mate, smoking, pulled into the Sauber garage.
Nearer the back, the Caterham drivers spent their day holding off a surprisingly off-the-pace Raikkonen. Eventually he passed them and finished his race battling his former team-mate, Romain Grosjean, who will be celebrating eleventh – the race distance is probably the longest running the car has had this season.
Williams ended the race the way it started: with team orders. After several laps of ordering Massa to move over for Bottas, he had not moved over and Williams then told Bottas to fight his way past him to chase Jenson Button in sixth. Eventually, Bottas couldn’t get past his team-mate and the duo finished the race seventh and eighth.
Back at the front, though, it was Lewis Hamilton who took top honours as he crossed the line, in a league of his own, to take his 23rd career victory and his 100th points finish. Nico Rosberg followed his team-mate across the line, and secured the first Mercedes 1-2 since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel filled out the podium.
- Lewis Hamilton
- Nico Rosberg
- Sebastian Vettel
- Fernando Alonso
- Nico Hulkenberg
- Jenson Button
- Felipe Massa
- Valtteri Bottas
- Kevin Magnussen
- Daniil Kvyat
- Romain Grosjean
- Kimi Raikkonen
- Kamui Kobayashi
- Marcus Ericsson
- Max Chilton
- Daniel Ricciardo
- Esteban Gutierrez
- Adrian Sutil
- Jules Bianchi
- Pastor Maldonado
- Sergio Perez
Image courtesy Mercedes AMG F1 Team.