Brought to you by TheJudge13 reporter Adam Macdonald (@adamac39)
The rain of the previous day was long gone as the Mercedes cars showed once more the battle this will be left for best of the rest. Nico Rosberg encountered problems with telemetry; tyre marbles stuck in the front wing and a first lap contact with Valtteri Bottas, but still managed to recover to 2nd demonstrating the might of the Silver Arrows.
Off the grid
Fernando Alonso made his customary flying start, catapulting himself up into 3rd position after the first corner, save for a contact with Felipe Massa who played a dangerous game of weaving through the starting traffic down into the first corner. The Brazilian could count himself fortunate to still be running given the force of the impact with his former teammate, although little did he know what was to come later.
At the end of the first lap Lewis Hamilton had pulled out a 1.514 second lead on the chasing Sebastian Vettel, with the Briton’s teammate down in 6th. The misery of Bahrain looked set to continue for the McLaren boys as they continued to struggle compared to the other Mercedes cars languishing outside the top 10.
Nico Rosberg tried to fight back through the field, but took until lap 4 to overtake Massa who had been holding up Rosberg on the previous lap. With Rosberg now up to 5th, his fightback to 2nd could commence into some free air allowing him to hunt down the two Red Bulls and Alonso ahead.
Lewis Hamilton continued to pull away from the chasing pack, as Alonso’s front left tyre showed some graining relatively early on (lap 5). Hamilton’s former friend, Adrian Sutil, failed to make it past lap 5 with accident forcing him into a retirement for a third weekend in a row. A penny for his thoughts would be invaluable right now to see his former team, Force India, fighting at the front of the grid as he currently fights to merely finish a race.
No challenge – no problems
Lewis Hamilton continued to control the race from the front as he reported that graining was “not causing any problems” even though the rest of the field were reporting tyre wear to be an issue. Nico Hulkenberg continued to catch Felipe Massa, as the German hunted down another top 6 place. On lap 8 Jenson Button was the first driver to box for a scheduled stop, seemingly going onto a 3 stop strategy as he took on the slower but more durable medium tyre.
Lap 10 saw Romain Grosjean pit from 10th position, having made Q3 for the first time this year. The following lap saw the concertina effect of one driver pitting triggering Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa to also dive into the pits. The latter had a disastrous stop with tyres not being ready as well as his left rear tyre taking a long time to come off the car. It wrecked his race leaving him firmly down in 21st position.
Lap 12 saw Alonso and Hulkenberg box and rejoin in 7th and 11th position respectively with cars ahead that had still not stopped. When Vettel pitted and rejoined he lost out to Fernando Alonso due to the undercut and the Spaniard never looked back. Hampered by the poor straight line speed (22kmph slower than others) meant that track position was always going to be of paramount importance for the Milton Keynes cars.
Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne stayed out for an extremely long stint on their first set of tyres, which would pay dividends later in the race. Lap 16 finally saw Daniel Ricciardo pit and rejoin in 5th place, just behind his teammate. With all other cars having taken their first stops by now, Lewis Hamilton was enjoying a 31.376 second lead on lap 17, but was forced to pit a lap later with the rubber on his Pirellis wearing thin by now.
A 2.9 second stop meant no dramas for the man from Stevenage, who comfortably rejoined in first place. At the same time Rosberg hunted down the now sitting duck Sebastian Vettel in 3rd place, easily passing him with DRS and the greater straight line speed. 1 lap later and it was the turn of Daniel Ricciardo to challenge the 4 time World Champion. When Vettel was told to let the Australian through, he first asked what tyre he was on before responding with “Tough Luck” when finding out they were on the same tyre.
Rocky, Vettel’s engineer soon put him into line with Vettel letting Ricciardo through at the first corner. While the McLarens continued to fight, with Kevin Magnussen passing Gutierrez for 14th they showed little promise of breaking into the points. Rosberg continued to go in search of a 2nd place in what had turned into a weekend of damage limitation for him.
On lap 28 the bad luck continued for Romain Grosjean who had lost 4th gear and continued to lose more until his retirement a lap later, at the same time as Vettel struggled with his tyres but was told to stay out and endure the pain eventually switching to a 2 stop strategy. Lap 34 would see Vettel’s frustration at an all-time high as Kamui Kobayashi took the opportunity to unlap himself on fresher rubber.
The impressive rookie display continues
In what became somewhat of a procession towards the end, all the front running cars pitted with no major dramas for any of them. At lap 40 the impressive start for Daniil Kvyat looked set to continue for another points finish, now 3 from his first 4 Grand Prix.
Lap 43 saw Rosberg take 2nd place from Fernando Alonso in what had seemed inevitable for some time prior to the overtaking move. Rosberg had made it up alongside of the Spaniard even before the DRS zone. Alonso managed the gap back to Ricciardo to claim a welcomed podium for all at Maranello, even though the man from Perth got close towards the end.
Never one to miss out on the action, Pastor Maldonado briefly held up Ricciardo which cost him somewhere in the region of half a second.
The final laps saw the biggest fight for 6th and 7th between Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas in a repeat of the final laps in Melbourne back in March. This time it was the Hulk who came out on top to hold of the Williams driver.
Sober and sultry
The post-race holding room prior to going out to the podium was a dour affair with the tension between the two Mercedes drivers palpable. Rosberg managed to grimace and carry a smile on the podium, but the disappointment was seemingly impossible to hide as Rosberg’s Championship lead was cut to 4 points following a dominant display from Hamilton.
There will be a lot more to come on this battle in the near future. Not the most interesting race, but it would have taken something remarkable to impress following the excitement of Bahrain previously. The biggest story to take from the weekend is Ricciardo finishing 25 seconds up the road from Vettel who has some work to do to adapt to the 2014 cars.
It seemed the way the drivers pulled into the parc ferme perfectly demonstrated the way the weekend had gone for the top 3 drivers. Lewis Hamilton had pushed ahead and never looked back, pushing his position marker even further ahead than it was placed. He really seemed to be in cruise control towards the end of the race, knowing it was in the bag to take him into the top 10 all time GP race winner with 25.
Nico Rosberg pulled in and was a far less animated figure than that of Hamilton. 2nd place must have felt like a country mile away from his teammate. And finally, the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso pulled into the final position wonkily but he got there in the end. It may not have been the perfect weekend, but the Spaniard made it there in the end.
As he was oh so keen to point out on the podium, he is now in 3rd place in the Championship which looks to be the most fiercely competed position in the standings. Whether the Spaniard can deliver the goods in 3 weeks in Barcelona will be a completely different story…
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:42.232||27.100||2|
|5||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:44.109||47.800||2|
|6||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:44.147||54.3||2|
|9||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:44.387||82.6||2|
|10||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1:44.136||1 lap||2|
|11||Jenson Button||McLaren||1:45.101||1 lap||2|
|12||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1:44.748||1 lap||2|
|13||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren||1:47.282||1 lap||2|
|14||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus||1:44.743||1 lap||2|
|15||Felipe Massa||Williams||1:44.103||1 lap||2|
|16||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber||1:44.374||1 lap||3|
|17||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham||1:46.808||1 lap||3|
|18||Jules Bianchi||Marussia||1:47.597||1 lap||2|
|19||Max Chilton||Marussia||1:44.834||2 laps||3|
|20||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham||1:47.275||2 laps||3|
|R||Romain Grosjean||Lotus||RETIRED||26 laps||2|
|R||Adrian Sutil||Sauber||RETIRED||48 laps||1|
World Drivers Championship
World Constructors Championship