Ambient 15° Track 25° Humidity 66% Wind 1.5 m/s
Polar opposite to yesterday. Cool with steel grey skies and pouring rain early in the morning set the stage for a completely different set of tyre problems with graining likely for teams that struggle to get heat into the tyres. Slick tyres for the start of the race though as the track dried quickly. Bigger issues for Mercedes as the SuperSofts on Ferrari and Red Bull seem to come on quicker than the Ultras the Silver Arrows start with, never mind how rapidly the pavement shreds them.
Pit Lane start for Kvyat and Massa, who suffered damage in quali and penalties for Nasr, Palmer and Haryanto for ignoring the double waved yellows whilst Hullkenberg managed to skate. Due to the application of penalties, Rosberg actually starts P6 due to application of penalties with Vettel P9 because of the order in which they incurred their gearbox changes.
Of course the real issue is that tyre pressures are now being measured BEFORE the tyres are mounted to the car, and Pirelli expect the first stint to be most revealing. Mercedes seemed to be at the head of the pack in regards to managing tyre pressures so it will be interesting indeed to see what they’ve been able to come up with. Hamilton has yet to get a decent start and so it looked to be an excellent race between his poor starts and and Ferrari’s strategists remarkable ability to lose races they ought to have won.
The red kerbs are officially being blamed for wrecking all those rear suspensions, quite possibly to due the not the sausage kerbs, but it maybe that the vibrations created by running on the two different surfaces are contributing as well. No action taken by Whiting despite the special pleadings of many a team and driver.
Lights out and even before the start Wehrlein missed his grid spot and had to reverse back, apparently not against the rules. Great start for Hamilton and Button and Holy 2012 batman! Raikkonen into 3rd as Hulkenberg finally figured out which direction to drive. Already a second up by T6 the race looked to be Hamilton’s to lose as Rosberg moved up a place to P5. Alonso and Grosjean made it interesting with Vettel up to P8 and Verstappen ahead of Ricciardo, not likely to make the Colgate kid happy.
Lap 3 saw Kvyat off the track and out of the race with a lurid spin. So much work for his mechanics wasted. I suggest 2 cases of beer for them now Danii!!
Button on the Ultras continued to hold Raikkonen at bay as the Finn hovered close but was unable to close the deal. Rosberg first then Verstappen slid past Hulkenberg in 2 consecutive turns and as the race turned lap 7 finally Kimi made it past the McLaren of Button.
Slightly further back Vettel hopscotched Ricciardo and then pounced on Hulkenberg, with Ricciardo following suit neatly. Rosberg continued to progress easily getting past Button with Verstappen managing the same feat as the asthmatic Honda proved unable to play with the big boys.
Hulk was in lap 10, along with Button for the Supers as Lewis set fast lap, now trailed by the more usual suspects of Raikkonen and Rosberg.
Not for long though as Rosberg was in for Softs the next lap with Hamilton continuing to set representative times at the front with the benefit of clean air. Wehrlein was up to P6 thanks to the pit service whilst Massa and Gutierrez put on a show and and with the Haas car coming better lap 12 with Gutierrez up to P8.
Lap 14 was the end of Wehrlein’s adventure at the front as he hit the pits, whilst Rosberg threaded his way through traffic. Ricciardo boxed lap 15 onto the Softs as Perez and Sainz diced at the back of the field.
Back out behind Rosberg for the Red Bull with Verstappen coming in and putting both the Red Bulls onto the Soft tyre. Hamilton continued to stay out on the Ultras floating about 3.5s ahead of Kimi. Behind him those with the Soft tyres were circulating about 0.5s faster per lap as Mercedes continued with their tyre magic.
Lap 20 saw Rosberg almost into Lewis’ pit window with Button having fetched up in P9. Grosjean and Nasr ahead of him had yet to stop, along with the trio at the front.
Lap 22 saw Lewis in and out with a slow stop and as a result Rosberg was by him as he exited the pit. Raikkonen followed into the pits lap 23 also out on the Soft tyre, leaving Vettel in the lead, followed by Rosberg and Hamilton. Raikkonen lost big time as both Verstappen and Ricciardo managed to get by him on exit.
Bit of drama at the back as Wehrlein complained rather correctly that Magnussen was weaving all over the road and it was no surprise to hear that was being investigated. Meanwhile it was becoming a day of woe for Hulkenberg as he pitted again and completed his journey from 2nd to next to last and then BANG!!! tyre failure for Vettel lap 27 and out came the Safety Car. Oh dear, Hembery likely to have a busy afternoon following that. As, no doubt will the Ferrari PR machine defending their strategy of leaving their drivers out until they can’t possibly win. On replay it was the right rear that just failed catastrophically, not gradually coming apart, on the Start/Finish straight.
Rosberg was trailing Vettel when the Seb’s tyre went and Nico hit the debris and as they followed the Safety Car he radioed the team for a pressure check. Behind Rosberg, Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Raikkonen filled out the rest of the top 5.
Nasr and Grosjean took advantage of the Safety Car for what amounted to a free pit stop, ala Melbourne and were running P7 and P9 respectively, with Grosjean in between.
The Safety Car was in end of lap 31 and Rosberg got a great jump on Lewis, almost a full second. Further back, Perez got by Magnussen and then Alonso on the restart as well to leap up to P11. Magnussen got officially dinged for his poor defending as Rosberg hammered around the circuit, well into the 1:09’s as Lewis hung nearly 2s back.
Back in P10, Massa found himself being gradually backed up into the clutches of Perez by a slower Grosjean, who was penalised for speeding in the pitlane, a 5 second hit that he could ill afford.
Back at the sharp end, Lewis dropped the hammer a bit and stabilised the gap at 2s, but it was Nasr stealing the show in a slow Sauber that was well out of place in P7. Button got close lap 38 and it wasn’t till lap 39 that he stuck the knife in and streaked away.
Perez and Massa continued the action on lap 42 as drops of rain began to appear on the onboards. Hamilton and Rosberg traded fast laps in their personal pas de deux and Grosjean was the next to get by the Sauber of Nasr, with Massa queued up. Lap 44 saw Hamilton into Rosberg’s DRS after Nico went wide at T2. Race Radio played a message to Lewis warning him that suspension loads were critical on the kerbs in T9 and to stay clear. Rosberg’s off track excursion looked to have caused some minor damage, but it was not the least bit apparent in his lap times.
Button’s run continued as he was up to P7 and closing in on Bottas, who was looking more and more ordinary as the race progressed. The only good news for Williams was that Force India seemed to have lost the plot even more. Lap 51 saw Hulkenberg into the pits for the 3rd time as he complained of massive vibrations and as he put the Ultras on, he also served his 5s penalty for pitlane speeding before departing. Bottas was in as well and back out onto the Supers, P13 and with some work to do the last 20 laps.
Kimi woke up around lap 55 and decided to have a go at Ricciardo and Mercedes undercut Rosberg by pitting Hamilton first. Lewis was out just ahead of Ricciardo but behind Verstappen, which did him no good at all in his efforts to take P1. Nico came in the following lap and it was a breathless moment for the team but Rosberg was out ahead with the gap unchanged and Rosberg on the faster SuperSoft tyre, as he had a fresh set left, unlike Lewis. That’s gonna be a fun time for Mercedes on Twitter, no doubt.
Away from the drama, Raikkonen finally got the job done on Ricciardo lap 58 with a sweet little duel, eventually taking advantage of a small mistake by Danny Boy to slip up the inside and head off towards the podium positions.
Easily overlooked at that point was the fact that Verstappen continued to lap at the front and as Lewis closed the gap to Rosberg, Nico was coming right up on the gearbox of Verstappen, who was not of a mind to make his life easy as lap 60 ticked over.
Rosberg took Verstappen on the outside lap 61 but it was damage done for Lewis as Verstappen held him up releasing his teammate up the road. In fact, it wasn’t until lap 63 that Hamilton got by on the outside of T2, with 1.5s to catch up to Rosberg. 1.3s at lap 65 between the two whilst Button in P5 (wait whut!!) found himself defending against Ricciardo on very fresh Ultra Softs, briefly at least before Ricciardo used his new tyres to good effect and flashed by. Williams took advantage of the action to quietly retire Massa, holy foreshadowing maybe? Alonso followed him out of the race as the gap between the 2 Mercedes remained right on 1 second with 4 laps to go.
Raikkonen continued to close on Verstappen and Max went a bit wide, gifting a little extra time to the Ferrari driver. Meanwhile, Hamilton had finally closed to DRS and the gap was down to bare tenths with traffic approaching for both the drivers. 2 laps to go and still within a half second for the Merc duo with Rosberg’s tyres finally starting to shred and his car beginning to develop a bit of understeer. Then, into the final lap and Hamilton took advantage of a poor exit from Nico on T1 and nabbed the slipstream. Lewis carried his momentum advantage into the outside of T2 and then on exit Toto Wolff’s worst nightmare came true, contact between the two with Rosberg on the inside clattering off the Lewis’ car shoving Lewis completely off the track. Again they came together as Lewis rejoined the track with wing bits everywhere and Hamilton again into the lead. Rosberg’s front wing was mostly off and partially lodged under his wheel and first Verstappen and then Raikkonen came through. During the high drama at the Perez crashed out almost completely unnoticed with some kind of failure.
“He crashed, not me” was Lewis’ succinct reply when congratulated for the win, a view borne out when it was announced Rosberg was going to be investigated not only for causing a crash but also for dragging his wounded car round to the finish. On the podium, Hamilton announced it was a brake issue, which the stewards might or might not by. Massive boos for the Brit as it turns out Germans prefer to see Germans win. Go figure. Nico, apparently in a less forgiving mood, put the whole thing on Hamilton for turning in during post race interviews, perhaps thinking of races past where he’d been on the outside.
Great job by Button to finish P6, though that likely won’t save his spot at Mclaren and Pascal Wehrlein scored a single championship point for Manor, the first for them since Bianchi in Monaco, thus raising the question of which naughty Mercedes driver he will ultimately replace. Between the strategy and collision and Lewis’ loss of 3 seconds in pit stops, Mercedes’ PR is no doubt melting down at this very moment, so do have fun hashing all that out. Likely as not it was down to Rosberg having brake issues and tyres that didn’t quite last, collision wise. Strategy wise, it was originally a 1 stopper converted to a 2 stopper for the Death Star, not that that will make any difference to most fans. Boring I know but I still feel compelled to toss it out there. Worst of all, the Totonator was already on camera threatening team orders before saying he loved letting the drivers race. His comment on the incident was “Brainless” but he refused to specify which driver would be sat on the naughty step. Here’s hoping they work it out in private, as that was actually an entertaining battle for the lead.
Pirelli pulled their tweet that it was debris that caused Seb’s blowout so yet another string to be pulled and just for fun, and with the brake issues being suffered by several teams, perhaps time to revisit brake specs given how much faster the cars are than predicted. Oh, and don’t forget Ferrari strategists, because that’s always a fun pinata to whack!!
And remember to play nice in the comments!!