What a race!
Alright, maybe not such a great race if you’re a Rosberg fan, but for the neutrals and the Hamilton fans that was a belter. For Formula one it was a great result too, it means the last five races are going to mean something, neither of the Merc boys has their hands on that trophy yet. It’s all going to come down to that double pointer in Abu Dhabi isn’t it? And you never know, Danny is still here, stranger things have happened before.
So Lewis got pole by the slimmest of margins from Nico; 0.007 seconds at 200 mph is about the width of Bernie wallet after he’s been to visit his mate in Germany. But that wasn’t the whole story of qualifying, Ferrari had rolled up to Singapore with one less El Presidente and a new found purpose. Kimi especially looked like a new man with a very real danger of actually starting the race on the front row until an engine glitch robbed him of a second run.
Alonso took a swing at it but just wasn’t as fast as his team mate and ended up behind the two Redbulls. Riccy just edging a rejuvenated Vettel to third and fourth, the German looked disappointed but had the good grace to say he was impressed with Ricciardo. In fact Vettel looked a lot more chipper all weekend long, seeming to suit the track, he was up around the sharp end all weekend.
Come race day and suddenly as the Merc boys fired up Nico’s car, there was a lot of worried looks and then panicking. As Rosberg pulled the clutch lever in and make his way to the start line, nothing happened. Ctrl Alt-Del .... pull the lever again, nothing, just a bit fat N on the LCD display. Okay try a new steering wheel and reset the system again. Success, with minutes to spare he’s out the pits and through the pit lane before it closes. He makes it to the grid where the engineers pounce on it and try to figure out the problem. Queue much frantic gesticulating and bodies diving head first into the cockpit to tweak connectors, check fuses and flip switches. There was much shaking of heads and worried looks.
As the other teams engineers cleared the grid for the parade lap, over the radio Nico is told it’s an intermittent problem and importantly they don’t have a handle on what the route cause is. As Charlie waves Lewis off to start the parade lap, Nico is stuck on the grid cars streaming past him as he tries in vain to find a gear. As the last car heads off to warm its tyres and brakes up, the Merc boys push the stricken car into the pit lane to reset the system yet again and try a third steering wheel.
Meanwhile Lewis pulls up to the line for the start of the race, his run to the first corner unchallenged. The lights go out and off he goes, never to be seen by the chasing pack again he hopes. Vettel jumps Riccy off the line and whilst they’re squabble over the same piece of tarmac, Alonso jumps them both, but misses the brake point for the first corner and takes to the run off. He just about avoids the Armco and gives back second to Vettel a few corners later. And then we settle down to wait for things to happen.
At the back of the field, Nico has left the pits to join the race but is stuck behind Max of all people. This is a Merc remember, the cream of 2014 there is no better car in the race. Surely it’s just going to be a matter of corners before he’s past, but no, for lap after lap he was stuck behind a car that looked as though it was just faith keeping it on the road. You don’t often get to see Max at work all the way back there, slogging around for nothing week after week. And now you could see just what he had to work with. I’ve seen a half set wet jelly stick to a plate better than that car to the road, some of it may have been Max just being inept, but really, that car looks like a real handful even in the slow stuff. I have a new found respect for Max now, that car is awful.
Anyway. From the onboard, you could see Rosberg fighting a car that didn’t want to change gear when he wanted it too, kept going from third to fifth by itself. The DRS wasn’t opening on request and the Lights to tell him when to change up and down didn’t appear to bear any resemblance to the engine note I could hear. In short, it was like a Scottish ‘yes’ vote, all inevitably in vain. By the time he got to the pits stops, he couldn’t get the thing into neutral, so had to stall it coming in to the box. They gave him yet another steering wheel, but he still couldn’t find a gearbox to control and they called it a day. Having apologised to the team for being a cock in Spa, this time it was Toto’s turn to apologise to Nico for not being able to fix his car.
Meanwhile Lewis kept on going and kept on leading, Vettel had given us the impression that he was racing for the lead, but Hamilton was never in any real trouble. That is, until Sutil forgot to look in his mirrors and ran over Perez’s front wing. Normally a marshal would run on at this point, grab the bit left on the road and start checking ebay for prices as he ran back. But this wing broke free of the Force India’s nose before exploding in a shower of carbon fibre under the car. Out came the safety car and suddenly Lewis had a problem.
He still needed to change to the harder compound tyre, but the safety car was too early to comfortable finish the race on one more set of tyres. And as others had already changed to the hard set, he would end up down in 10th places with little hope of getting past cars on similar rubber. So he had to stay out on super soft rubber and rebuild his lead.
He had 20 odd laps, half a tank of gas, 0.8 seconds head start and he needed to be 30 seconds up the road to keep his lead when he stopped next. As the rest of the teams told their drivers they were going to stay out and not stop again, Lewis was told to spank it like it had been caught stealing from matrons handbag yet again. “Open her up lad and demonstrate just how much of an advantage this 2014 Mercedes Benz Formula one car has over the rest of the field”. 14 laps he went, 14 laps of pure Lewis magic, three and half seconds a lap faster than Vettel, Ricciardo and Alonso, on tyres that were already 10 laps old. The team kept telling him to stop worrying about everyone else and just get on with it as the lead grew by three seconds, then six and nine, lap after lap he absolutely ragged that car. Feeling every bump and slide, every wheel spin and missed apex. Desperately trying to build enough of a lead to stay in front of Vettel after the inevitable pit stop.
On lap 53, with a lead of only 23 seconds he came in, the crowd rose as one and stared back down the start finish straight. Vettel pulled round the last turn onto the straight, the mechanics dropped Lewis and he gunned it out of the pit box. Vettel was over the line ticking over another lap. The crowd held its breath as Hamilton crawled up the pit lane limited to 50 mph, Vettel at full chat down the straight to the first corner, Lewis could see the pit exit and freedom, Vettel swept into the first corner and past Lewis who shot out of the pit lane exit the rear dancing around scrabbling for grip as he just managed to stay ahead of Ricciardo and Alonso. The crowd let out an enormous cheer, what a race. Ricky tried to hustle Lewis for a corner or two, but his tyres were over 20 laps old now and didn’t stand a chance against Hamilton’s brand spanking new rubber.
Vettel got his head down and tried to drive away from the Merc, but Lewis was like an unstoppable force of nature. Reeling the Redbull in hand over first, it was like shooting fish in a barrel, before the end of the second lap he was back past the current world champion and off once more into the distance, leaving Vettel, Danny and Alonso to watch helplessly as he kept the championship alive.
What a race!
Lewis wins and takes the lead in the championship at last. Finally lady luck escapes the Bratwurst and sauerkraut party on the second floor of the Mercedes hospitality suit and comes looking for a pie and pint dinner. He wasn’t gifted this win with Rosberg hitting trouble. The safety car could well have scuppered the quiet afternoon drive through the city plans. But if Lewis can do only one thing, its drive the balls off a car when ordered to do so. Three and half seconds faster than anyone one else, a hatful of fastest laps and a pit stop to not mess up. At any point he could have tagged a wall or snatched a brake and smeared it Maldonardo style down the Rolex branded wall. But he didn’t, he drove it beautifully and showed everyone why he’s brilliant.
Vettel was second and didn't have to make too many passes to get there. As ever put him at the front and he’ll finish at the front. There was a moment there, when having predicted he would never win another race I thought I was going to have to eat humble pie, my least favour desert, even with a glass of full bodied desert wine. But Lewis was there to save my blushes and saves us from that finger being waved around.
Ricciardo, fluffed the start and lost out to Alonso and Vettel, managed to sneak past Alonso but couldn’t quite reach Vettel with no pit radio to tell him to not overtake his team mate what so ever laddie.
Alonso, looked at one stage like he might go for pole or a win or a podium or something, but like Ferrari this season failed to deliver on the promise.
Massa, had a quiet race with not too much drama. Looked after his tyres and avoided any wall action. Williams said this was unlikely to be a track that suited them, but Massa looked like he might have sneaked the pole, if everyone else hadn’t bothered to come out for their second runs. Still lots of points, keeps that ‘beating Ferrari’ dream alive.
Vergne, having been told his services are no longer required for next year, JEV has suddenly realised he has to start knocking his CV into shape. With little to show for his career so far he’s remembered what the words “RACING driver” means on his contract and started to drive with some spunk. A liberal interpretation of the term ‘track limits’ led to a 5 second penalty to be applied to his time post race. So he drove like a man with something to prove and passed car after car and built a nice big gap to keep his top ten finish, it was almost inspiring. But as other drivers have learnt to their cost over the years, driving with some vim and vigour after being told you’re fired rather than before, is not a very good calling card. This will be the highlight of his F1 career I'm afraid.
Perez, was minding his own business until Sutil bumbled past him and drove over his wing. In the end it sort of saved his race as it meant he had to change tyres too early to make it through to the end. So he had to change again and was able to pick up places as those ahead ran out of grip. Not very moral boosting I know but points mean prizes, however you come by them.
Kimi was eighth in the end and must be disappointed with that. He was all over qualifying until the engine glitch and on a track that is difficult to overtake on, he was mired back in the pack. In clear air the car was fast, but behind other runners the lack of top speed grunt left the red car wheezing around for a chance opening.
Hulkenberg was ninth and ran out of grip at the end. But yet another race behind his team mate, bad vibes for his future continue to grow.
Finally Magnussen who I though drove pretty well all race is promoted to the top ten within sight of the line as Bottas runs out of sticky rubber before it doesn’t matter. Kev is starting to get his act together and I think has done enough to keep his seat if Alonso or Vettel decided to just ship to Woking next year. He certainly deserves to continue, he could do with dialling the aggression down a notch or two, but he’s got the skillz to pay the bills kidz.
Sorry .... I went a bit street there. No idea why!
Aaaah, okay, yes, Hamilton got pole and the fastest lap and our ever faithful points machine Max ‘ the grin’ Chilton was last man rolling across the line keeping the timing and scoring people awake. Good for him.
It’s Japan in two weeks time as this fascinating championship year rolls on. See you there.
This weeks gallery picture is of the High Society heiress Lady Luck and her old school friend, the Goddess of checking the wiring loom Kevin. Help the Mercedes team boys prepare the cars for the forthcoming race.
|Miss Luck and friend working on a sticky shaft|