Ambient 26° Track 41° Humidity 70% Wind 1.5 m/s
AS the race start approached, an ominous thick black cloud appeared on the horizon, threatening all manner of chaos and disarray, suggesting a wide variety of metaphors. EU investigation, the disintegration of the Red Bull and Renault partnership, even the impolitic remarks by FIA president Jean Todt this weekend. Je suis Paris and Nous sommes Paris but JT seems to have lost track of that particular fact in an effort to protect his precious road safety campaign publicity, much to his and the FIA’s discredit.
Well, well in an utterly shocking result, both McLaren-Honda’s actually finished the race. As a result of beating his teammate, Button was in position to be asked how he felt about the fact that this week’s grid featured both grid girls AND grid boys, brainchild apparently of Mrs. E herself. Way to go F1 journos!
Also on display yet again was the fairly tragic TV direction as the 10 laps Lewis was in DRS of Rosberg and challenging for the lead of the race featured almost not at all on the telly. It was so bad that SKY suggested if you had their coverage you could switch over to their app and watch the onboards. And it was quite a challenge by Lewis, but at the end of the day Nico had all the answers and Mercedes more strategy questions as once again the tightrope between being fair and controlling the outcome has come under the microscope.
Other entertainments include Massa’s tyre warmers mistaking his race tyres for a side of beef at a churrascaria, as they were measured at a temperature of 137°C, well over the FIA mandated limit. A visit to the stewards is still pending. Also apparent at the penultimate race is the shape of the WCC for the year: Mercedes, Ferrari, and a Williams seems to be the order of the year. Bottas hopped up 3 positions at the start and both Vettel and Raikkonen finished where they started, allowing Williams to confirm 3rd in the WCC and slightly further down the grid Hulkenberg pulled off a P6 that confirmed Force India for P5.
Lotus stayed ahead of Toro Rosso as Grosjean kept it ahead of Verstappen, but yet again young Max got the overtake of the race with his lap 32 overtake on Perez through T1-T2. Not the same for his teammate, as Sainz couldn’t make the start and after getting out the pits half a lap down, immediately ground to a halt making it more than half a dozen non-finishes for the rookie. Maldonado worked hard to stay out of the points again this weekend and if you had him down for contact in this race you should go collect your winnings.
Ferrari did mount a strategic challenge to Mercedes which flipped the whole race from a 2 stop to a 3 stop, but Mercedes was never really threatened. Unfortunately, the slight chance of a race at the end for P1 was ruined when Hamilton flat spotted his tyres with a big lockup getting past Grosjean, ending the race at the top on lap 57. Actually, that was pretty much where they could’ve stopped the whole race, as nothing of note, save Verstappen getting by Maldonado lap 68 happened from that point on. No doubt this race will be rated bring in extremis, but that flash in the middle is what all race fans are holding their breath for. Sadly, it doesn’t look at the moment like the regulation changes looming in 2017 will do much to change the lack of overtaking and difficulty following that currently plagues F1.
In the meantime, hats off to Nico Rosberg for a well run race that nailed first loser in the Driver’s championship (lightheartedness aside, still quite a thing to do) and good luck solving F1’s problems in the comments. Remember to play nice or Toto Wolff will force you to have endless meetings with your teammate about the new rules of engagement.