Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
Ambient 21° Track 24° Humidity 67% Wind 2.0 m/s
Man oh man what a day. Aside from massive hurricanes lashing my home country and the savagely mockable political news, turns out that Kimi Raikkonen’s gearbox was on the Access Hollywood bus with Donald Trump and as such, will have to be replaced. 5 grid spots later and there goes any good feeling Ferrari had left.
And yes, despite best efforts to the contrary, it is proving completely impossible to ignore that relations between Hamilton and the British media have gone from bad to Myspace. After a bit of a contretemps over him amusing his fans with some Snapchatting during the Thursday presser, today he wandered out and basically said he was done with the scrum as however butthurt some of the press were, what they wrote subsequently was so unconscionable that he would no longer play the game. Subsequently, he wandered over to the fans and happily (and somewhat pointedly) answered their questions.
That’s a lot to unpack and suffice it to say that for me personally, given the nature of the event him doing some Snapchats didn’t really bother me, especially contrasted with the thoroughly professional job he did in the post presser quali, which is broadcast and an “event”. I am less keen on his skipping the press as he’s unhappy with them, for a variety of reasons, though his motivation is understandable.
Speaking of controversy, it’s now official that Merc have dialed back their engines a bit and given there’s not much strategic variation in Suzuka (2 stop if all goes to plan) perhaps we’ll get a bit of an inter-team race rather than just an intra-team race to T1.
The dialed back engines might also have effected Williams, as it also emerged that they rolled back to older engines given the underlying mystery that still surrounds the demise of Hamilton’s engine, despite the immediate cause having been diagnosed. Also suffering from mystery engine ailments is Ricciardo, who was said to have lost easily a tenth on the straights as his asthmatic Renault is bleeding power up the hill and on the straights, though once again no one really knows why.
Once again it was Hamilton literally in the hot seat, as he radioed complaints about his seat temperature yet again, prompting the commentariat to wonder if it was code for something else entirely so often has that message been heard.
It’s defo still whisky time here in the states, good luck with the caffeine on the other side of the pond. Sadly, along with any hope of sleep, the chance of rain seems basically to have departed, making the drag to T1 ever more important to the all Mercedes front row. Though I’m no “officially accredited” journo, it would seem to be a requirement to drag Senna/Prost into it given the earlier entertainment in Barcelona.
Cool, overcast and mercurial the weather has done nothing to assuage the larger changes looming in the sport. Bitter fights between RBR and Merc over switching testing to Barcelona, no one really sure what Liberty might bring or whether the sale will be approved at all, change is the only constant and embracing it our only hope.
Bang Bang out went the lights and it was terrible start for Lewis as he was swamped at the beginning having been forced to park on a damp patch. Rosberg into the lead effortlessly followed by Verstappen and Perez.
Nico cranked the lead out, up 0.6s on Verstappen in S2 alone
Vettel pipped Ricciardo for P4 into 130R and as the 2nd lap ticked over it was already 1.5s for Nico at the front and Hamilton in P8 .
Vettel easily took Perez into T1 for P3 but it was Rosberg setting the fast lap, over 2s up on Verstappen as they launched into the 3rd lap.
On replay it was massive wheel spin for Lewis who had been trying to manage a damps side of the track when it all went pear-shaped for him.
With DRS enabled at last Raikkonen, floating ahead of Hamilton, managed to get round Hulkenberg, which was doing him no good as he was losing well over a second a lap. On a move that started into 130R he diced with Hulkenberg all the way to T1 before finally getting the job done and escaping into a bit of clean air.
Up ahead, Raikkonen had tracked down Ricciardo, and managed to make the tifosi catch their breath as he flirted with the gravel trap in Degner in his efforts to get round Ricciardo.
Early radio message seemed to indicate that Merc might be going long with Hamilton’s first stint to try and help him up the grid. Up at the front the gap between Rosberg and Verstappen was fluctuating between 5 and 6 seconds. Lap 10 and Verstappen was already wanting new tyres, though, as he complained of the rears going off. Vettel was withing 2s but it mattered not as young Max brought it in for some new boots as did Ricciardo the following lap.
Astonishing to see them bang both pit stops out without a flaw, and both drivers were out on the Hards, Max P6 and Danny P13. Hulk and Gutierrez followed the next lap onto the Hards, as Hamilton had managed to catch up Raikkonen and was hanging around 1s back.
Rosberg and Vettel both boxed lap 13 as did Perez and Raikkonen, promoting Hamilton to the lead, though he was running in the 39’s as compared to Verstappen in the 37’s on his new tyres.
Further back, Ricciardo finally banged past Palmer, who had stayed out and it wasn’t long for it as Lewis was in lap 14. and he dropped like a stone down the order but crucially he managed to get out back in front of the pair of Raikkonen and Perez as they had been engaged in a battle. Job done by Mercedes pit crew and Lewis set his sight’s on Ricciardo and spent 0 seconds getting by him into 130R and just kept on banging as he took advantage of DRS to also jump the hapless Williams of Massa down into T1.
It was Vettel setting fast laps though, chasing down Verstapppen who was only 3.5s up the road from him as Lewis again took a Williams to task, this time into 130R and Bottas the victim.
As Lewis drove off into a massive font of clean air the battle of the midfield hotted up massively, as Perez began to harass Massa, as Williams apparently had decided that because Pirelli said that the Mediums were good for 20ish laps they were going to run them for 20ish laps, regardless of how fast the cars around them were going. Being rather unimpressed, Perez shot past Massa and a lap later Hulkenberg did the same as the vagaries of Williams strategy continued to elude the onlookers.
Lap 19 and it was Bottas learning that 20 lap old Mediums were not really much of a match for 6 lap old Hards as Sergio made short work of him, and that was before the inevitable pit stop.
Up at the front, Rosberg decided it was time to increase his margin and he set a new fast lap on the 20th go round. Gutierrez had a massive spin and had somehow found himself stuck in P19 while his teammate swanned about in P12. Apparently a victim of missing DRS if I understood the radio message properly.
Lap 20 also saw Hulkenberg easily bypass Bottas, radioing “see you later” as he passed the ever slowing Williams.
Lap 24 and it was Verstappen complaining again of his rears starting to go as Palmer got complained about by Grosjean for making more than the one obligatory move. Duly chastened he reined in his defense and it was not long before Grosjean cleared the Renault, which had yet to make its first stop.
Lap 25 saw Massa in for a set of Hards and the following lap Palmer finally came in for his first and likely only, stop.
Nasr breathlessly flat spotted his tyres, and astonishingly no one cared. More exciting, Raikkonen was brought in for Hards to try and undercut Ricciardo whom he was racing up the road. Bottas too came in and was back out in P13, 1 spot behind his teammate.
Ricciardo elected not to take the bait but Kimi was purpling the entire track as Verstappen complained that no one was paying attention to blue flags. Pro Tip: they never do!
Verstappen was in lap 29 as was Hulkenberg. Ricciardo warned of the cliff rapidly approaching as Raikkonen set fast lap and set Red Bull’s strategy sideways.
Lap 30 and Rosberg was in as the battle between Bottas and Sainz behind was settled firmly in favour of the newer tyres on the Williams of Bottas.
At the front, Vettel continued to lead and Hamilton continued to pare down the gap, to about 6 seconds at the end of lap 31. Massive traffic had Vettel sounding rather stressed on the radio (try the BQE at 5 o’ clock sometime) and it was shaping up to be a race for 3rd between Hamilton and Vettel.
The next lap was a full second gain for Lewis
As the tick tock at the front continued, Perez expressed a bit of bewilderment that Hulkenberg was pitted before him.
Ricciardo dove in lap 33 and it was a slow stop as the Right Front refused to cooperate and by time he was back on track Kimi was running in front of him, happily enough.
In and out and barely ahead of Rakkonen is what you get when your start is crap and off Lewis went as Kimi sank into the 35’s and effectively had forced Mercedes hand, undercut be damned. Good news for Lewis was lots of clean air to drive into and as Lewis gave it the beans Vettel was in and out on new Softs but crucially behind Hamilton, having given away track position for softer tyres.
Hamilton needed no urging and he immediately went purple and set fast lap into the top half of the 35’s with Vettel glued to his gearbox. Telly showed a great shot from Vettel’s car and then inexplicably cut to a shot of a kerb getting run over by a tyre.
Right on it into the chicane but nice exit for Lewis keeps him ahead, into the 2nd lap of the battle as Hamilton tried to burn the tyres off his rival for the podium. Gutierrez and Nasr loomed as traffic into Spoon as Vettel dropped slightly out of DRS. Strategic use of settings by Mercedes perhaps, giving Lewis access to power they would rather not use.
Lap 38 and still Vettel yo-yoed off the back of Hamilton’s DRS window but the ferocity of the battle had brought him within 10 seconds of Rosberg in the lead and just 6 seconds astern of Verstappen, who had not been demonstrating any great ability to take care of his rears on this track.
Lap 41 and Lewis was now just 2.5 seconds behind Verstappen as Max became the latest but hardly the only to complain about compliance with blue flags. Vettel and Kimi added to the litany of complaints as Sainz was targeted for moving a bit more than prescribed by the rules.
Magnussen was the latest victim of Verstappen’s tirade, as he slipped to just 2 seconds in front of Hamilton. Lewis cleared the Renault coming into Spoon and it was game on, 2 seconds between the pair.
Totally forgotten at the front, Rosberg was warned for letting his front tyres get too cold, informed that he was at the bottom of the window. More bad news for Max as not only had Hamilton closed the gap to 1 second between lap 43 and lap 44, but the time in traffic had torpedoed his tyre temps as well.
Lap 45 saw the gap dipping below 1 second and with 7 laps left it was all to play for as Lewis slowly ground out his race. The only other race was between the 2 Williams, as Bottas had closed up to within a second of Massa.
Into the chicane and Lewis was close, but not close enough as Max managed to keep the Mercedes at bay as they launched themselves into the following lap, the scent of 2nd heavy in the air.
Lap 48 and Lewis seemed to back off a bit into the first 2 sectors of the lap, though keeping it within DRS. Again Lewis gained into the chicane, but a stellar exit by Verstappen kept the Mercedes from gaining any advantage into T1.
4 laps to go and it was Palmer to clear and off they went for another go round in the back half of the course as a massive lock up for Palmer forestalled any major complaining.
Slightly further back the remarkably voluble Raikkonen caught an epic battle between Alonso and Sainz that held him up considerably, drawing the ire of the Iceman over the radio.
End of Lap 51 and Hamilton closed it up and for the last 2 laps it was going to be an all out battle. And up to 130 R and it was going into the chicane and Hamilton, going for it up the inside and Verstappen, moving again in the braking area to close him off and forcing Lewis back outside and straight on and bringing an end to the fun.
Rosberg surprised everyone who’d forgotten he was leading by taking the checquers the following lap, and it was Verstappen then Hamilton rounding out the podium and clinching the Constructor’s for Mercedes.
Also, with this win Rosberg took the championship out of Lewis’ hands with Hamilton needing not only to run the table but for Rosbeg to finish worse than 2nd in at least one of the final races.
Lauda post race said FIA were looking into Verstappen’s move in the penultimate chicane and no doubt Bradley Lord was preparing a thesis defense of Mercedes’clutch. Entertainingly silent in the cool down room and it’s Ferrari rounding out the top 5 as 8 places of penalty effectively blew the race for the Scuderia before it ever began.
About McLaren/Honda, the less said the better and it was Force India clearly taking it to Williams, who were already throwing a Hail Mary with their strategy.
Excellent race from Palmer who managed to get his schoolbus to P12 and a most unfortunate effort from Gutierrez, who wound up going P20 to his teammate’s P11.
Thanks, as always, for stopping by.
And remember to play nice in the comments!!
PS to anyone finding grammatical errors etc, it’s 3 AM and I do my own proofreading. Lighten Up!! hahaha