Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
To a Mouse
BY ROBERT BURNS
On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785
On a blue-skyed jewel of a day the sun beat mercilessly down on the tarmac as the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve did what no competitor had yet to achieve, bring the might of Mercedes to their knees. In an absolute monster of a race that began and ended under the Safety Car, with only 11 competitors actually crossing the line, a new constructor graced the top step of the podium for the first time this season. It was the sunny smile of Daniel Ricciardo representing Red Bull and not the four time World Champion finally achieving his first win and making up for the disappointment of Melbourne.
Turn One loomed large today and as the lights went out it appeared that Lewis Hamilton had the advantage on his team mate. Rosberg responded by immediately taking Hamilton off track through the first turn, perhaps in payback for Bahrain. Having apparently taken Lauda’s warning to heart, Lewis decided to not push the issue though it cost him a spot to Vettel.
The real drama was provided by Marussia, who after a fantastic showing in Monaco tasted the opposite end of the spectrum with a spectacular crash that immediately brought out the Safety Car. Going into turn one Chilton lost the rear of the car and shoveled Bianchi straight into the wall, taking himself and his magnificent record out with one simple mistake.
The Safety Car collected the field with Lewis still behind Vettel and much of the next 7 laps was dominated by frantic radio calls between Lewis and Bonnington, his race engineer, seeking the best strategy for the restart. Still, it was all tears for Lewis as at the actual restart he had let quite a gap grow between himself and Sebastian. It took Hamilton a lap and a half to reel in the former World Champion, but once caught he rapidly passed the Red Bull and in no time was onto the gearbox of Rosberg, where he planted himself and stayed. Further down the field Williams was maintaining good position as Vergne began to stack up traffic and by lap 12 both Ferraris and both Force Indias were desperate to get by. As Ricciardo began to force the issue with Massa, Vettel complained of graining brought on by the extended Safety Car period. Responding to these concerns Ricciardo came in for new tyres two laps later kicking off a mad scramble amongst all the teams looking for the scraps from Mercedes.
By lap 16 Bottas, Button, Vettel as well as Vergne had all boxed, releasing the Ferraris and Force Indias to make up places, though the best laps of their tyres had long since gone by. Massa led the next round into the pits, with a fatefully long stop that saw him emerge behind Kvyat. Alonso responded one lap later. The Force Indias continued their move through the field with pit strategy to take possession of 4th and 5th with Vettel closing up in 6th. Massa began undoing the damage from his poor pit stop sweeping past Kvyat as Alonso distanced himself from Vergne. Up at the front Mercedes began their first round of pit stops with nary a hint of trouble. Rosberg led the way on lap 19 with a 3.1 second stop that very nearly featured his untimely exit from the race. Leaving the pits on cold tyres he just managed to miss the wall. Lewis lit the track up with a fastest first sector, trying to take advantage. Still, it was a bit of a waste as his stop a lap later was a 3.6second stop and the half second or so he had eked out vanished into the ether of the garage.
Behind the Mercedes there might have been a race, but as Lewis emerged the full focus was on the rivalry. Lewis lost a bit of time on cold tyres, but on the subsequent lap he began to rein in his teammate lap by excruciating lap. Rosberg was unable to halt the bleeding as Lewis squeezed the gap shut. Further down only Force India had yet to pit and the shape of their strategy began to take shape as a clear one stop. By lap 25 DRS was in play for Hamilton as Kamui distracted everyone briefly with a solo spin due to a rear suspension failure.
As the pressure on Rosberg increased he made a major error coming into the chicane and went straight through. Wasting no time after their offensive in Monaco two weeks ago, Sky jumped all over this pointing out that Rosberg managed to set fast lap with his mistake and no doubt hoping to continue to stoke the Hamilton-Rosberg feud and keep the ad revenue streaming in. Despite this, the special judge of fact responsible did his actual job and referred the matter to the stewards, who ultimately took no further action. Regardless of the fairness to Hamilton, nary a complaint was heard from him over the radio. Instead, he just stepped on the go-faster pedal and within a few laps he had dragged Rosberg back into DRS range. While this soap opera was broadcast an actual race was taking place. Button finally got past Kvyat for 12th on lap 29 and Vettel remained trapped behind Hulkenberg.
Perez led the Force India pit stop parade as he finally had had enough of the Super-Softs on lap 35. Sadly enough for Vettel, Hulkenberg had started on the softs and wasn’t planning to stop anytime soon. The slowing of Hulkenberg had brought Bottas into contact with Vettel and he started having peeks over Vettel’s shoulder, though he was unable to actually pull anything off.
Hamilton’s relentless pressure paid dividends in the meantime as by lap 34 a panicked Rosberg was seeking to confirm his brake settings matched his teammates, no doubt forgetting for the moment that braking has always been the area where Hamilton displays his particular driving genius. Hulkenberg soldiered on as his strategy slowly ate away Vettel’s and sure enough three laps later and despite the undercut, his teammate would edge him coming out of the pits. Hamilton had dropped out of DRS in the meantime, prompting speculation that he might be saving tyres or fuel after his big go at Rosberg.
But that was not that case as the racing gods were just about to drop the hammer of fate onto Mercedes and particularly Lewis. A call from Hamilton hinted that all was not well, and as he began to come back to his teammate Rosberg confirmed there was a serious issue with both cars and they were 2-3 seconds slower than all the other cars on track and easily 20 kph slower on the straights. Raikkonen went for a mystery spin as the crowd held its breath to see if Mercedes could resolve their issue.
Hulkenberg finally cleared the way on lap 42 as tremors of long forgotten possibility raced up and down the paddock. As both Mercedes fell down the ladder the decision was made to pit them, but having already lost the pit window they both emerged behind an utterly surprised Massa. A lengthy stop for Rosberg saw him lose a place to his teammate and they were wheel to wheel when Lewis overcooked the hairpin and lost the position to Rosberg. Still not yielding, Lewis took advantage of his DRS to catch up Massa and going in to turn one had once again gained the advantage on his teammate. His victory was short lived as he cut the chicane, completely unable to slow the car. A tell-tale puff of smoke from the back of his car confirmed a rear brake failure and his day was done.
Rosberg continued on and as Massa was unable to make his tyres last he resumed the lead with a pack of cars closing in, led by the Force India of Perez. On lap 49 Kvyat gave up the ghost as he parked his car, joining a rapidly growing list of retirements. Vettel was told to wait for the last 10 laps and make the best of his tyres.
By lap 54 Rosberg was in the clutches of the ravenous pack led by Perez, but his one stop strategy combined with an electrical problem was hanging him just out of reach of first place. Ricciardo meanwhile, having sensed the weakness of Perez, closed up and began giving him a really good go. As the laps ticked breathlessly by it seemed as if Rosberg might somehow get away with it and continue the Mercedes streak. But at last on lap 66 Ricciardo found his way past, with Massa on fresh tyres having caught up to the back of Vettel. Further back Button was on a similar strategy cutting a brutal swath through the field. Lap 67 sounded the death knell for dreams of a perfect Mercedes season as Ricciardo under DRS dispatched Rosberg with ease. Still with Vettel and Massa behind it wasn’t over for Rosberg by any stretch. Lap 69 saw Vettel finally solve the problem of Perez, whose tyres and engine were both making life harder. In an attempt to not lose Vettel, Massa closed up down the straight and going into turn one there was contact between the right front of Massa and left rear of Perez.
In an instant Massa was in the wall across the chicane, narrowly missing Vettel as Perez car lay limp and broken. Fortunately both drivers appeared uninjured but the rapid appearance of the medical car signified the likelihood that one or both of the G metres carried by the drivers had been set off. With the appearance of the Safety Car the results were confirmed and Daniel Ricciardo had won his first F1 race for Red Bull with his teammate Sebastian Vettel having come third. Sandwiched in between was Nico Rosberg, whose post-race swagger confirmed that he is learning the lesson that it’s even better to be lucky than good having added another 18 points to his lead over Hamilton. Both Williams and Force India lost a lot today, though it will be down to the stewards to assign blame. There will no doubt be many a conversation over what might have been, but one thing is sure. This season and this championship is far from over.
|1||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:37.919||1:39:12.830||2|
|3||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:38.699||5.2||2|
|5||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:41.320||12.7||1|
|8||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1:44.370||27.7||2|
|R||Sergio Perez||Force India||RETIRED||1|
|R||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||RETIRED||2|