Brought to you by TJ13 contributor @F1TheaJ
Rate the race: Readerscore: 6.45
Well this year’s race scored a lot higher than the race of 2015 which was a paltry 4.7, but then again the driver championship hasn’t yet been won for this year.
There’s still ‘all to play for’ in this year’s championship (provided of course that Hamilton wins all the remaining races and some misfortune befalls Rosberg, preventing him from coming second twice and third once in the remaining races.)
Rosberg had had a poor start to the weekend but managed to dig deep and pull a front row start out of the bag in the nick of time and started in P2 behind Hamilton on Pole.
There was a bit of a kerfuffle at the start which took on greater significance as the race progressed: Hamilton had a glazed front brake which caused him to have a massive lock up into turn one. He cut the chicane via the grass and emerged in P1, same has he was before this incident. No advantage gained , no penalty applied. Meanwhile Rosberg was being pushed off the track by Verstappen who also didn’t receive a penalty. Rosberg didn’t receve a penalty for leaving the track as he also didn’t gain anything by it (other than avoiding a collision with said Verstappen) as he maintained his position in second place.
Further back on the grid there was more contact, this time between Gutieres, Ericson and Werhlein, resulting in Werhlein retiring from the race. Again no action deemed necessary by the judges.
Vettel thought he had picked up a puncture (same as last year); a virtual safety car was deployed followed by an actual safety car, during which several drivers took advantage and pitted for fresh tyres (the most notable of which being Ricciardo who went on to a set of medium tyres, the hardest available compound- but more of that later)
That was pretty much it for the next 60+ laps. However, as is often the case, we were rescued from a totally dull race by our Driver of the Weekend.
Driver of the weekend: Max Verstappen 29.52% of reader vote.
It was pretty clear by lap 50 or so that most drivers were on a one stop strategy and that the two Mercedes would take the first two podium positions. Ricciardo, who had pitted during the first lap safety car moved onto a two stop strategy on lap 51 when he pitted onto fresh soft tyres, coming out in front of Raikonen into P6 and quickly passed Hulkenberg for P5. We now had a race on our hands for the third place on the podium, as Ricciardo chased down Vettel and he in turn chased Verstappen.
By lap 63 Vettel was running 9/10ths per lap faster than Verstappen who was on medium tyres 20 laps older than Vettel. ‘I see him coming’ was Verstappen’s response to his team’s message that Vettel was not far behind. By Lap 64 Ricciardo was only 7 seconds behind Vettel and would certainly catch both Vettel and Verstappen before the end of the race.
Verstappen caught and overtook Ocon on Lap 64, who obligingly got out of the way. By lap 67 Vettel was 2.7s ahead of Ricciardo and 0.8s behind Verstappen. ( an incident between Raikonnen and Hulkenberg saw Hulkenberg take a spin, leave the track and return having lost a couple of places but still intact.)
On lap 68 Vettel got into the slipstream of Verstappen who locked up, missed the corner and ran wide off the track, cutting the corner as he ran over the grass, coming back onto the track way ahead of Vettel. Verstappen then slowed down, trying to get the muck off his tyres which played straight into Ricciardo’s hands. Verstappen then received a message to give the position back to Vettel which he promptly ignored and continued to defend P3. Vettel was not happy and the air turned blue as Vettel cursed his way around the track. The incident was to be investigated after the race, so the cars held position.
On the penultimate lap Vettel complained about being backed into Ricciardo as Verstappen slowed. Ricciardo made a late lunge on Vettel into turn 4, locked up, the two touched and a ‘bit of a scrap’ ensued, slowing both of the down and allowing Verstappen to get away. The commentators thought it was skilful wheel to wheel action where both drivers avoided a collision. (not so the stewards- more of that later).
Meanwhile Hamilton took his 51st Victory and reduced Rosberg’s lead in the Driver Standings to 19 points.
It was not until Verstappen was in the green room that he learned he had a five second penalty from the incident with Vettel and would not be on the podium, promoting Vettel to third place. The shuffling of places didn’t end there as after the race Vettel was given a 10 second penalty for the incident with Ricciardo (applying the new ‘Verstapen’ rule), meaning it was actually Ricciardo who was in third place, with Verstappen in fourth and Vettel in fifth.
Phew…. comments below, please……