Brought to you by TJ13 contributor @F1TheaJ
Rate the Race: Reader Score: 8.05
This race scored WAY higher than last year’s paltry 3.92. In fact with a reader score of 8.05 it is the third highest scoring race of this season, behind Spain and Austria.
With the WDC still undecided, in terms of drama, the race could have gone either way. Rosberg was leading Hamilton by 19 points in the driver standings so Hamilton needed to maximize his points haul in both remaining races to be in with a chance of winning the title. Assuming Hamilton did win both races, Rosberg needed one second and one third place in each of the remaining races for the title to be his. In order that the title not be settled or influenced by outside factors the Mercedes Team Principle, Toto Wolf, had (allegedly) taken the unusual step of contacting Max Verstappen’s dad and asking him to have a quiet word with his son.
This was definitely a race of two halves, well multiple fractions really, as it was interrupted by a liberal sprinkling of yellow and red flags throughout. For the record, let’s just document this was a WET race and started (10 minutes late) behind the safety car. The safety car left the track on L7 and the race ‘proper’ started. Verstappen (who started in P4) was first to show his hand and within seconds had made the first overtake of the day on Raikkonnen for P3. After 3 or so laps, Magnusson, Button, Alonso, Massa, Bottas and Palmer all thought the track was drying out enough to change onto intermediate tyres. Vettel was quick to follow suit, but this was more damage limitation as on L11 he aquaplaned and ended up facing the wrong way. This, compounded by a slow pit stop, saw him emerge way out of the points in P19, behind the local hero, Massa.
The second safety car period followed shortly afterwards (L13) after Ericson spun off track and closed down the entry to the pit lane by blocking it with his car. Verstappen had to take avoiding action as he had been called into the pits to change onto Intermediate tyres. Ricciardo did likewise but was awarded a 5 second penalty for his efforts as his pit stop (unlike Verstappen’s) came after the pit lane was officially closed (Did anyone really believe he may have had a puncture and so HAD to pit on safety grounds?) Magnussen , Palmer, Kvyat all took the opportunity to pit under the safety car. Why mention this? because a) there was nothing else happening on track and b) it meant that Hulkenberg, Perez, Sainz Nasr Ocon and Werhlein were either all in points positions or very close to being so (which would become VERY significant as the race progressed).
The safety car came in on L19 and within seconds Raikonnen had aquaplaned, bounced off two walls on opposite sides of the track and had the safety car out again, only this time the race was red flagged. I have to mention Ocon’s superb driving, narrowly missing the stricken Ferrari. Hulkenberg’s Force India was not so lucky as it ended up with a huge chunk of the Ferrari embedded in its side pod.
After a significant length of time the race restarted on L21 (under another safety car) but Hulkenberg’s woes did not stop there as after only two laps he had to pit again, having picked up a puncture, which dropped him from P4 to P15. Palmer had retired after a collision with Kvyat amidst the mayhem of Raikonnen’s crash and didn’t restart the race. The safety car procession continued for 5 laps when the race was red flagged again, this time for an ‘indefinite period.’
By this time the spectators had had enough. They were booing and waving and generally expressing their dissatisfaction at the lack of racing.
After what seemed like an eternity, the race was re-started (again under safety car conditions) but the safety car only stayed out for two laps. Again Verstappen was quick off the mark and made a daring overtake on Rossberg on L32. Ricciardo overtook Sainz for P5. Meanwhile Vettel was cutting a swathe through the field , overtaking Wehrlein Ocon and later on (after a bit of a fight) Alonso.
Verstappen went for a spin but managed to stay out of the barriers, allowing Rosberg to catch up and battle (unsuccessfully) to try to get past.
Significantly, Ricciardo then pitted (onto intermediate tyres) and served his 5 second penalty dropping out of the points to P11. A couple of laps later Verstappen did the same and pitted from P2 , emerging in P5. This gave them no advantage whatsoever as on L48 the safety car made yet another appearance as Massa spun off track and blocked and closed the pit lane for a second time this race. This led to one of the most moving moments in F1 history, as Massa, leaving his stricken car to be recovered from the entry, walked through the pit lane along a guard of honour which had been formed by the mechanics and engineers of the other teams coming out from their garages to acknowledge Massa’s return to his garage for the last time in his home country of Brazil. Holding his national flag aloft, with tears streaming from his eyes he was greeted by his wife and son with a loving embrace. What was happening on track? No one cared two hoots at this point, as all eyes and attention were on this modest and humble race driver.
This final safety car did not serve Hamilton at all well, as his 18 second lead was massively reduced as the remaining cars all squashed up behind the safety car. Under this safety car period Ricciardo moved back onto full wets as did Verstappen, a couple of laps later (emerging in P13 and P16 respectively).
The safety car then came in and the race restarted. How then, with so little racing having taken place, did this race manage to get such a high score??? Read on, readers, read on.
Driver of the Weekend: Max Verstappen, 86.54% of reader vote
The remaining few laps were spectacular. It was touch and go whether the race would go the full distance, as with so many safety car periods and red flags, the race was rapidly approaching its two hour limit. Boy did those drivers make up for lost time.
There was a deluge of overtaking manoeuvres as the drivers scrabbled to gain position before the next (possible) interruption. Of those not already listed, several drivers are worthy of a mention here, for excellent driving and delivering results under very difficult conditions namely Sainz, Ocon and Nasr; particularly Nasr, as his ninth place finish earned Sauber two points, placing them ahead of Manor in the constructor standings and probably earning them millions of dollars in the process.
The jewel in the crown of all the spectacular racing was of course Max Verstappen, who over the course of the remaining laps made overtake after daring overtake on Bottas, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Ocon, Nasr, Sainz, Vettel and finally Perez to take third place on the podium. Quite a masterclass of wet weather driving.
I do not have the vocabulary or literary skills to do his driving justice. You had to be there, so why not take a look at:
I wonder if that conversation between Joss and Max ever happened.
When he’s good, he’s really good……….
p.s. Hamilton won the race and Rosberg came second taking the battle for the WDC to the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi.