Originally Posted on SJB Supercars - http://www.sjbsupercars.com/single-post/2016/07/11/SJB-Motorsport-Catchup-%E2%80%93-Formula-1-Part-1
July 11, 2016 | Sean Smith
First on the agenda of SJB’s summer reboot is the catch up of news relating to the Formula 1 World Championship with Round 10 at Silverstone having just gone this weekend. Part 1 reviews the opening 5 races and all the drama of the new season. Sean Smith reports.
F1 2016 came out from its winter slumber way back in late February as winter testing got underway and to most commentators Mercedes were a clear step ahead. Come qualifying for round 1 in Australia that certainly seemed to be confirmed, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg on the front row with the Britain almost a second clear of Sebastian Vettel in 3rd. Lights went out and Vettel roared off the line into an early lead with his teammate Kimi Räikkönen also slotting through into 2nd, the Mercedes duo went side by side into turn 1 and Hamilton lost out falling down to 6th behind Rosberg, STR’s Max Verstappen and Williams’ Felipe Massa.
The initial stages of the race were Ferrari’s, even after the first pit stops Rosberg wasn’t able to jump Vettel but the race was soon to be interrupted as Fernando Alonso crashed spectacularly in his McLaren Honda, he would later be confirmed to have broken a rib and would have to sit out the next race in Bahrain. The race was red flagged and the cars waited for the crash scene to be cleared.
Racing got back underway with the run order being Vettel, Rosberg, Räikkönen, Ricciardo and Hamilton all the way back in 7th. This was soon to change as Räikkönen pulled into the pits with flames spewing out of the air box and he was forced to retire. Ferrari’s day then was about to get worse as they had put Vettel on the softer tyres meaning he would have to make another pit stop, Rosberg though with a clear pace advantage was able to keep up with the Ferrari with the harder compound and took the lead as Vettel pitted.
Rosberg would go on to win the race and his team mate Lewis Hamilton would come through to make it another Mercedes 1-2 although he had to hold off Vettel in the final laps. The Ferrari team were undoubtedly disappointed with the race after what had looked so promising on lap 1. Further down the order Romain Grosjean was the star performer as he gave the new Haas team a 6th place points paying finish on its debut whilst other teams such as Williams who only managed a distant 5th for Massa and 8th for Valtteri Bottas and Sauber who were well off the pace all weekend were left crossing their fingers for the next race.
So came round 2 in Bahrain. The first desert venue of the year had McLaren rookie and 2015 GP2 Champion Stoffel Vandoorne taking over from the injured Fernando Alonso. Qualifying had Mercedes still way out in front with Ferrari clearly second fastest on row two. As the cars came out of the second last proper turn at Sakhir Sebastian Vettel’s engine gave out in a cloud of smoke before the cars even made it to the starting grid. With the empty stop the lights went out and Williams pair of Bottas and Massa had amazing starts, Bottas collided into Hamilton while his team mate swept into 2nd behind Rosberg. Sadly for Massa though the Williams car was clearly off the pace this year and was also hard on its tyres meaning as the faster cars caught up they managed to get by relatively easily, Felipe would eventually end the race in 8th.
Up front Rosberg generally speaking controlled the pace of the race staying around 10 seconds ahead of Räikkönen. Who in turn was controlling Hamilton behind him, they would hold those positions to the end of the race with Ricciardo again 4th for Red Bull Racing ahead of Romain Grosjean getting an amazing 5th place for Haas. Daniil Kvyat got his first points of the season for Red Bull, Bottas finished behind his team mate, both a lap down. Lastly in the points was Stoffel Vandoorne in 10th on what may well be his only race of the year, the Belgian scored McLaren their first point of the year and is currently in the running for a 2017 seat with the team.
Round 3 took place at Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix. The biggest news of the weekend was that the new qualifying system which had been introduced by the FIA for this season had finally been scrapped due to huge unpopularity from the fans and the drivers. This didn’t help Lewis Hamilton though as he started last on the grid after an engine change. Rosberg was on Pole ahead of Daniel Ricciardo pulling a lap out of nowhere to be ahead of the two Ferrari’s.
The race began and Ricciardo flew into the lead as Mercedes again showed weakness at the start, it could have been a lot worse though if it weren’t for the Ferrari’s hitting each other in turn 1. Daniil Kvyat avoided damage from the Ferrari incident and made a great start to follow his team mate and Rosberg in the early laps. Rosberg then took the lead as soon as the DRS became usable and the field would not see him again until the end of the race. After their problems both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel made a case of working their way up through the field a safety car helped bunch the field up and they ended up 2nd in Vettel’s case and 7th for Hamilton, both losing vital points to Rosberg. Behind Vettel the two Red Bulls scored solid points with Kvyat and brilliant 3rd and Ricciardo 7 seconds behind Räikkönen was 5th, Massa made the most of the race and finished 6th with his team mate in 10th and the two STRs finished the points finishers in 8th and 9th.
Round 4 was at the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi and would prove to a big talking point leaving the weekend. Qualifying was back to normal for one of the Mercedes as Rosberg took pole by 7 tenths but Lewis Hamilton started 10th after another problem with his Power Unit. Vettel who was meant to start 2nd got a 5 place grid penalty for a gearbox change meaning Bottas shared the front row after qualifying 1.1 seconds off Rosberg. Räikkönen and Massa were to be on row two ahead of Ricciardo and Sergio Perez, the penalized Vettel was on row 4 with Daniil Kvyat.
The race began and Rosberg held onto the lead this time but behind him the field was about to be diminished. Vettel had made a good start but at the first major braking spot at turn 2 he was hit from Kvyat, no damage initially had been caused. To their left many drivers, particularly Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo, they had cut the corner and he emerged in front to the squabbling Vettel and Kvyat with Perez ahead of them. Turn 3 is a long left hander, and due to the corner cutting Hamilton and Ricciardo had the inside line, Ricciardo was swamped by the Ferrari and his team mate but Hamilton remained ahead and caused Vettel to lift off around the outside line. This in turn caused Kvyat who was extremely close to the Ferrari to hit Vettel a second time, now at a much higher speed Vettel spun into the barrier causing a safety car to be deployed. Kvyat, and Ricciardo both sustained damage but carried on.
The race was generally uneventful afterwards, Lewis Hamilton eventually made his way up into 2nd ahead of Räikkönen and the two Williams cars all on the lead lap. Alonso and Renault’s Kevin Magnussen scored points mainly due to the lap 1 carnage ahead of Grosjean, Perez and Button all in the top 10 but a lap down.
The real drama came after the race, Vettel blamed Kvyat heavily for the incident and a few days later Red Bull Racing decided to drop the Russian from the works team, swapping him out of Max Verstappen. The team claimed they didn’t drop Kvyat because of the incident but instead because he had shown a lack of pace relative to his rated team mate Ricciardo. This is despite the fact that just two races beforehand Kvyat had stood on the podium, the only one of the year so far for the team, ahead of his team mate. Kvyat had also beaten Ricciardo over the course of the season in 2015 and this year was only 15 points behind despite essentially missing round 1 due to an electrical failure. It seemed to be a harsh demotion with an explanation that didn’t really stack up to results.
Round 5 was the Spanish Grand Prix as Formula 1 returned to its first classic European track of the season. Catalunya has been a favoured test track for F1 for well over a decade and after the winter test only a couple of months beforehand, nobody expected Mercedes to be touched. Qualifying showed those fears, Hamilton on Pole Position with the first Mercedes front row lock out since Bahrain. Red Bull with their new driver pairing also had the first major upgrade from Renault to their power unit and against the flow of the season were 3rd and 4th on the grid ahead of both Ferrari’s.
The lights went out and Rosberg challenged and passed Hamilton round the outside of turn 1, coming out turns 2 and 3 though he seemed slow, Rosberg had left the car in the wrong setting and was low on power. He defended the inside line but Hamilton dived for a gap that wasn’t there. Instead of lifting he forced the issue and went onto the grass, lost control and spun backwards onto the track taking out himself and Nico Rosberg on the first lap of the race. The crowds at the track and at home cheered as the dominant Mercedes team had taken themselves out and Rosberg’s 7 race winning streak came to an end. Neither driver would receive a penalty.
A safety car came out for the crash and when the race resumed the order was a Red Bull 1-2-3 as Ricciardo lead his team mate Verstappen with Carlos Sainz in the Red Bull owned STR in 3rd after a great start. He was soon dispatched with by the Ferrari’s as the scarlet cars clawed their way back up to the Red Bulls. There was to be no on track overtaking from the front 4 but the position changes came when Vettel pitted, believing a two stop strategy was faster at the risk of losing track position. Red Bull decided to cover Vettel with race leader Ricciardo but not until a few laps later where Vettel had been able to perform what is known as the undercut, using his new tyres’ grip to close the gap and overtake when Ricciardo pitted. This left Verstappen as the leader ahead of Räikkönen and this was how the race would stay. Räikkönen would challenge twice but the new Renault power unit was enough to hold back the Ferrari. Vettel would finish an easy 3rd as Ricciardo failed to overtake him and then got a puncture forcing a 3rd pit stop and a distant 4th.
Verstappen became the youngest winner ever of a Formula 1 race and was the first Red Bull driver to win on his debut for the main team. This caused mass plaudits from reporters and fans but at the time it was questioned if Red Bull did it deliberately. Ricciardo felt so as he was easily leading and his team mate proved that the tyres would go the distance, he was angry the team covered Vettel late and he wound up 4th, the team denied the theories but there will always be question marks. Nonetheless with Mercedes in trouble Red Bull and Ferrari closed up on the Silver Arrows and promised to be more competitive for the next stage of the season.
Join us for part two of SJB’s Formula 1 catch up on Wednesday and please let us know your thoughts on the F1 season so far. Let us know via Facebook, search SJB Supercars and Twitter @SJBSupercars, and also follow us on Instagram.
(Images courtesy of bleacherreport.com, iotomotif.com, formula-1-racing.net, motorsports.nbcsports.com, f1fanatic.co.uk, f1.i.com, playbuzz.com and thisisf1.com – Please click on the images for the original source.)