The inaugural Mexican Grand Prix had all the promise of an excellent race, with recently crowned champion Hamilton starting behind his team-mate. Could he mount a challenge? We’ve already heard the Judge’s view (http://thejudge13.com/2015/11/02/mercedes-cost-hamilton-a-better-shot-at-the-mexico-race-win/) , but here’s a (slightly) different take…
2015 – TJ13 reader score – 4.7
The two Mercedes traded fast laptimes at the front of the field and utterly dominated. Rosberg was able to keep Lewis pegged just out of the DRS zone until the first (and only planned) pitstop and had good pace on his new tyres to prevent Lewis from emerging ahead. On the same strategy, Lewis looked powerless to make any inroads and a processional drive to the flag was in store.
That was until the Mercedes strategists on the pit wall intervened. With concerns over tyre life towards the end of the race and with such a dominant margin over the rest of the field, the team enforced a second pitstop on both their drivers. Rosberg dived to the pits and they ordered Lewis to follow suit, but smelling an opportunity to best his team-mate he ignored the order and stayed out. After a heated conversation on the team radio, he pitted on the next lap but was clearly underwhelmed by the decision. He emerged behind Rosberg and the status-quo was resumed.
That would have been an acceptable outcome for the team that could easily be smoothed over, but only a few laps later Sebastian Vettel’s bizarre spin into the barriers and resulting safety car changed everything. If Lewis had been allowed to stay out he would have been able to take a free pitstop. His six-lap fresher tyres might have given him enough of an edge to at least challenge Rosberg.
That seems to be unfair and has led many to cry foul, but don’t forget this situation was created artificially. Nico Rosberg did not want to pit either, but the team phrased the order on safety grounds and so duly obliged. If they hadn’t enforced the stops previously, they would likely have stacked the two cars in the pits when the safety car emerged, which might actually have cost Lewis more time and the situation would have been the same regardless.
The famous Mercedes’ “rules of engagement” policy does tend to produce dull races. Once a stalemate on track has broken out, there is no scope for either driver to change strategy to attempt to gain an advantage. This is fine when they are the dominant team, but this policy will hurt them more when Ferrari get closer and start to regularly challenge for victories (remember Malaysia?). The team made absolutely the right strategy calls to protect their interests, but continue to rob us of any thrilling climaxes to otherwise dull races.
Driver of the Weekend – Nico Rosberg – 31%
The simple fact is that Nico Rosberg was the dominant force over Lewis Hamilton this weekend and thus rightly takes the victory in your vote. It was a fantastic way for the German to signal his intent to keep on fighting after the disappointment of Austin. Anyway… You can’t look sad in a Sombrero!
Bottas was also worth a mention with a fine, yet eventful, third place. The safety car brought him back into contention to challenge Daniil Kvyat (who has definitely had the measure of his honey-badger team mate recently). The Williams, with the superior top speed of his Mercedes donkey, effortlessly breezed past.
The same could not be said for his pass on Kimi Raikkonen though! Bottas put himself in an excellent position, challenging around the outside of the left hander to gain track position for the coming right, but Kimi has decided he likes the taste of carbon fibre and turned in on him. Kimi was taken out on the spot but Bottas cruised on like nothing had happened. I’m sure a wry smile came across the face of a number of people at Williams on that one.
And Finally… Catman’s team member of the Weekend – a one off award to the person who designed and built Valterri’s super strong left front suspension. Whoever you are, you deserve a medal. How that car made it to the finish I will never know. Congratulations!