Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
Ambient 12° Track 15° Humidity 83% Wind 1.8 m/s
it’s raining it’s pouring/this race may not be boring as long as they don’t just dawdle about behind the safety car. In actuality the rain had stopped a while before the cars came to the grid, and though the track was wet when the cars went out on their recce laps they sported Inters or Extremes, when they were wheeled to the grid slick tyres were on the Mercs.
Grosjean and Palmer had both been made examples of for their naughtiness under double waved yellows and Giovinazzi was sporting a brand new gearbox, as Horner accurately described conditions for the race as “dank and miserable”. Sainz’ engine belched smoke as it was fired up which entertained the commentariat greatly. Crossover points set to make life interesting as no rain in immediate forecast, but reports from Sky were that Hamilton had an off at the hairpin on his recce and it would be absolutely true that massive wheelspin dominated televised practice starts. inters for all save Sainz on Supers.
Lights out and Hamilton held the lead into T1. Bottas had a serious go at Vettel but Seb managed to squeeze him out as Ricciardo jumped Raikkonen at the start. Sainz was very slow on his slick tyres and dropped like a stone down the field. Vettel’s wonky positioning at the start was also going to be investigated by the stewards (he was half a car out of his spot laterally), but would result in no penalty.
Lap 2 and Stroll into the gravel, big-time, victim of Perez trying to throw one up the inside. Race over for him and VSC out. P19 for Sainz and also Massa a big loser down to P9. Perez into the pits for a puncture and the Hulk in as well for new tyres.
Vettel in for Softs, Massa as well and Palmer who had already changed, spun under VSC as the speeds were too slow to keep temperature in the tyres properly.
The VSC was out lap 4 and sure enough, into the wall went Giovinazzi at the same place he went out in quali. This brought out the Safety Car and Hamilton took advantage of his 7 second lead, pitted for the Soft tyre and headed out still in the lead. This was made more astonishing due to the fact the entire field was being sent through the pitlane to avoid the massive debris field created by Giovinazzi who no doubt will be sent somewhere else as soon as possible.
Bottas was less lucky as his tyre switch dumped him down to P5 and as they continued to circulate behind the Safety Car, with Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Verstappen ahead of him.
Lap 7 Safety Car in and Bottas had a huge spin trying to keep his tyres up to temperature and down to P12 went Bottas. Clean restart for Lewis as he maintaineda P1. Perez and Massa had a massive battle into the T1 complex and then it was Verstappen jumping Raikkonen as he had an engine issue that robbed him of power, but enlivened FOM radio as he complained bitterly about it.
Sainz, his strategy having brought him back up to the front, took advantage of Alonso to go P6 as the Red Bulls were running P2 an P3 on the Supers with the Ferraris behind and Lewis ahead all on the Soft tyre.
As lap 10 ticked over less than 4 seconds covered the top 5, Hamilton was informed by radio that he was good to go to the end but that the Red Bulls would have to stop.
The following lap it was Verstappen into T5 by Ricciardo for P2 as the teammate wars hotted up considerably.
Apparently the Hulk and Ericsson were under investigation for being naughty under the VSC, having apparently not paid attention to what happened to Grosjean and Palmer the day before.
Lap 13 saw Raikkonen locking up into T14 as he had caught up to Ricciardo but was unable to get the job done and it was another lap for the Ferraris being bottled behind Ricciardo.
Lap 16 and the trio of Vettel and Raikkonen led by Ricciardo continued to twine sinuously around the track as Kimi began to become unhinged as he ws losing power out of T12 unless he hit the K button.
Hulkenberg got dinged for a 10s penalty, passing under VSC and it’s not a race unless a McLaren was having engine trouble, this time it was Stoffel, needing a power cycle and then being told to box by the time as there was also a fuel issue.
AS lap 19 took shape, Bottas finally managed to get by Magnussen for P9 and Stoffel was officially out of the race. The following lap it was Vettel up the inside on his teammate into T6 with a neat maneuver, surprising Kimi who managed not to crush his teammate on the apex.
Magnussen, who was being looked at for driving too slowly was allowed to skate and Vettel was having a much more aggressive go at Ricciardo, rolling the outside of T1 and they continued to take different lines till Vettel pulled the trigger around the outside of T7, banging wheels before Ricciardo finally yielded the day with Vettel taking the inside into T8 and setting off in pursuit of Verstappen.
With Ricciardo struggling with understeer it was a fantastic job for the team to delay Ferrari as long as he did. While that battle was transpiring, Kvyat was forced to park the car for unspecified reasons.
Launched into free air Vettel took nearly a second out of Verstappen’s lead lap 24, as Raikkonen began to whittle away at Ricciardo.
Further back Bottas continued to reclaim places and was up to P7, and Alonso radioed in that he had suffered some damage. Grosjean was making slow progress on Palmer and then bang, he leapt up the inside on the approach to T6 and with a puff of smoke from a locked brake, the HAAS man was by and off in pursuit of Hulkenberg’s P12.
Up at the front, as the pendulum continued to swing and then, lap 29 Verstappen locked up into T14 went straight on and it was easy pickings for Vettel who set his sights on Hamilton, 10 seconds up the road. Red Bull called for Verstappen to box, but too late and it was a lap of ignominy before he was in and out on another set of Supers, just behind Bottas who had made his way up to P5.
Enjoying his new tyres, Verstappen racked up a new fast lap fully 2 seconds up on Hamilton. Mercedes asked Lewis to reply, and he immediately rocked off an even faster lap, potentially setting up Lewis to pit for some new tyres.
Lap 33 and Verstappen just eviscerated Bottas, again into T6 up the inside and Ricciardo boxed the following lap and was out in P6 on new Supers. Sainz and Alonso, who had been dueling, came to a head with the younger Spaniard outdueling his elder.
Vettel boxed lap 35 and Alonso radioed in a driveshaft problem which savagely brought his race to an abrupt end, and a shame as he was still hanging onto a few points thanks to the weather and rather interesting start.
Hamilton radioed in that his tyres were starting to go and with 25 seconds between him and in came Bottas lap 36. Next lap was Hamilton’s turn and out in front of the Iceman with a good 4 second gap went Lewis. This left Raikkonen as the only 1 stopper, and with Ricciardo well inside his window it would be Sainz to worry about.
Well aware of this Kimi radioed in that he had no front end and where exactly did Ferrari think he was going to finish. Behind him, Grosjean pulled a copycat on Hulkenberg, for P12 and began catching back up to Kimi, who had just passed the pair. Lap 40 saw Raikkonen into the box for some Supers and back out P6 behind Sainz.
It took him a lap to dispatch the Spaniard while at the front, Vettel cranked up the pace and set a new fast lap, causing an immediate response from Mercedes and Hamilton, with Lewis becoming a bit concerned on the radio about lost time to the Vettel undercut. Bonington reassured him it was just to clear his pit window and off they went trading tenths with the Ferrari.
A bit further back, Bottas continued his damage limitation, up to the gearbox of Sainz on lap 44 and P6 clearly in his sights. the following lap job done on the long back straight.
Back in P10 it was looking bad for Massa as Ocon, having pitted, was back up to the Brasilian’s differential lap 46 and it was a back and forth battle between the 2 Mercedes customers for the last paid point. Exiting T7 it was temporarily won by Massa with some superb defending, but with DRS down the back straight it was no contest and off into the distance sailed the Force India driver.
Up the road, it was Magnussen, looking to justify his existence, banging neatly by Perez for P8 as Ricciardo, deliciously, had caught up his teammate and began to apply the pressure.
Lap 52 and with Grosjean lurking ahead it was Verstappen’s turn to get on the blower and complain about RoGro not getting out of the way. The rule is 1 second to get blue flags shown and the problem for Max is he was getting understeer thanks to the aero wash 2.5 seconds back.
With 2 laps to go, the race for the podium was down to Ricciardo v Verstappen. Max continued the whinging battle as he demanded Grosjean get out of his way, despite the fact that the HAAS was far further up the road from him, than he was from Ricciardo. Despite the verbal tirade, Max continued to place his car carefully enough to close off Ricciardo, as Raikkonen began to loom in the distance on the long telly shots, no doubt ruing intensely the 10 or so laps Ferrari left him out trying to eke out a 1 stopper.
Then it was a lockup into T5 on the last lap for Max and Ricciardo was up the inside, desperate to seize the place, but Verstappen stayed put on the outside and retained the advantage. Down the back straight and with DRS Ricciardo gave it one more go up the inside heading to the braking zone for T14. Verstappen moved late and brutally forced Ricciardo outside and into a lock up, tyre smoke billowing as Max confirmed his P3 as well as his ruthlessness.
But it was Hamilton with all the glory as it was a Grand Chelem for the Briton as he led every lap and had pole position as well. Vettel P2 meant a championship battle is in the offing and the debrief at Red Bull promises to be an interesting event.
Red Bull were on the strategy and had Ferrari not had a balky Kimi (or had they swung the other way and boxed him straight away) it could have been a mega battle for P3. Verstappen was driver of the day, gaining 9 spots on the first lap. Bottas has some ‘splainin’ to do and it was some brilliant driving by Sainz and Grosjean, who sadly ran out of race just as he was hauling Ocon into his sights. Magnussen rather redeemed himself this time out and HAAS may be on the verge of properly joining the midfield, as only the stewards ruling kept them from a double points finish. Well done for DRS being about right and let’s hear it for a 3 way WCC which is what we are looking at heading toward Bahrain.
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