SJB Classic Article - SJB Motorsport Catch-up – Formula 1 Part 2


Originally Posted on SJB Supercars - http://www.sjbsupercars.com/single-post/2016/07/13/SJB-Motorsport-Catchup-%E2%80%93-Formula-1-Part-2


July 13, 2016 | Sean Smith

Part two of SJB Supercars catch up review of the 2016 Formula 1 season sees the change in fortunes for many of the drivers and teams as well as the introduction of the new race at Baku and flaring up of tensions in the Mercedes Benz relationships. Sean Smith brings us up to date with rounds 6-10 of the new season.

 

After the Max Verstappen win in Spain, the F1 Championship standings were as follows: Nico Rosberg lead on 100 points from his victories in the first four races. Kimi Räikkönen was 2nd on 64 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton on 57 and Sebastian Vettel on 48 after both having difficult starts to the season. Daniel Ricciardo for Red Bull Racing was also on 48 points with new team mate Max Verstappen up to 6th on 38. Behind them Felipe Massa was in 7th on 36 points and along with team mate Valtteri Bottas on 29, they were the only men to score points in every race thus far. Daniil Kvyat was on 22 along with Romain Grosjean to round out the top 10.

The F1 circus made its way east to Monaco, debatably the most famous of the F1 tracks, the tight street circuit can often be an issue for the expected favourites. Mercedes started the weekend as favourites as is normal and comfortably outpaced everyone else in first practice, but come qualifying Daniel Ricciardo spoiled the party and recorded his first ever pole position ahead of Rosberg, Hamilton and Vettel.

 

Race day arrived along with a rainstorm through the morning which left the track wet, in the tricky conditions the field started under safety car which meant Ricciardo had an easy getaway when the green flag finally dropped and racing began. Nico Rosberg followed initially but was obviously struggling in the wet conditions and was falling back at over a second a lap, Mercedes implemented team orders to release Hamilton to chase down Ricciardo. The Australian pitted the red bull on lap 24 to go to the intermediate tyres while Hamilton stayed out on the fully grooved wet tyres in order to keep track position. With his gap he made before the stop and the preferred tyres Ricciardo soon caught Hamilton but the tight streets and a power disadvantage made it hard to overtake.

On lap 31 Hamilton finally stopped and a lap later Ricciardo did likewise, but a communication error from Red Bull meant the tyres were not ready and Daniel was left stopped up in the air with no tyres ready for him. This horrendous error kept Hamilton the lead with Ricciardo in 2nd, the dry track was now even harder to overtake around Ricciardo tried one move but Hamilton squeezed him aggressively and from then on took an easy victory. Ricciardo did get 2nd ahead of Force India driver Sergio Perez, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Nico Hulkenburg, Nico Rosberg, Carlos Sainz, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa, the Brazilian now the only driver to score points in every race.

 

Ricciardo was openly angry and disappointed with the loss especially after he felt the win had eluded him in Spain as well; whilst Nico Rosberg was frustrated that his car had been so bad in the wet conditions, he had lost 6th at the line to Hulkenberg just to end the disappointing race. Although he still lead the championship by a big margin.

Rosberg’s misfortune though was to continue when they got to Canada for round 7. He just missed out on Pole Position but luckily was ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel who on pure lap times was the closest he had been to Mercedes all year. Red Bull, Williams, Kimi Räikkönen Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso all feature on the front 5 rows.

 

The race began and Vettel swept around the two Mercedes on the short run to the first corner, Rosberg tried a move around Hamilton on the outside of turn 1, knowing that it would give him the inside and preferred line for turn 2 and turn 3. Hamilton would argue that his car understeered on the cold tyres but the result was that Rosberg was pushed off the track and forced to take an escape road which lost him at least 5 places. Hamilton was not penalised. Vettel lead lap 1 from Hamilton and the pulled away from the field. When Jenson Button’s McLaren Honda stopped on track a Virtual Safety Car was released, Vettel tried to pit but due to the timing of the VSC ending Hamilton took the lead ahead of the Ferrari.

 

Vettel couldn’t mount a challenge to Hamilton to the rest of the race, paired with an array of mistakes through the race at the final chicane lead to the Britain winning his second race in a row. Vettel was second, Valtteri Bottas was a surprise 3rd ahead of Max Verstappen, Nico Rosberg who was stuck behind the Dutchman in the latter stages, spinning at the final chicane. Räikkönen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Sainz and Perez rounded out the points scorers.

Round 8 saw F1 going to the new “European” Grand Prix in Azerbaijan at the new Baku circuit. Although technically a street track the venue had the new longest straight on the calendar at 1.4miles. Before the F1 action began, their feeder series GP2 had been racing in two of the most action packed and incident filled, the front straight even with the DRS disabled saw drivers 6 wide and often subsequent crashes.

 

Qualifying saw a shock result in that Lewis Hamilton struggled and even hit the wall breaking his right front steering arm and as a result only qualifying 10th on the grid. Rosberg took an easy poll with Mercedes still holding a speed advantage over Ferrari, Renault and Honda’s power units. Sergio Perez did qualify in 2nd place but a gearbox penalty demoted him to 7th, Ricciardo was now 2nd ahead of the Ferraris, Felipe Massa, Daniil Kvyat, then behind Perez was Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen in 9th.

 

The race began, Rosberg got away cleanly and was untouched for the rest of the race. Behind him Ricciardo slowly fell back through the field as the Red Bull lacked top speed and was using up its tyres. Sebastian Vettel went through to 2nd and would end up clear of all those behind him but unable to keep pace with Rosberg, behind him the race has many overtakes including his team mate Räikkönen who would be given a time penalty for crossing the pit entry while trying to overtake Ricciardo. The star performer of the race though was Sergio Perez, starting in his demoted 7th he flew through the field and chased down Räikkönen in the closing stages, he would have been 3rd even with the time penalty for the Ferrari driver but he instead decided to force the issue on track getting past the Finn and claiming his second podium of the year. Hamilton recovered to 5th but suffered Power Unit issues in the race, both Red Bulls and Williams finished in the points as well as Perez’s team mate Nico Hulkenburg who ended up 9th.

Round 9 was at the Austrian Grand Prix and by the time qualifying had ended it looked like the race was an easy win for Lewis Hamilton already. Both Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel had suffered 5 place grid drops for gearbox changes and no other team or driver looked like they could match the Mercedes for pace, Nico Hulkenburg and Jenson Button made the most of a drying final qualifying session and the penalties to line up 2nd and 3rd on the grid, the rest of the top 10 were the usual drivers from Red Bull, Williams and Ferrari, although Massa would be forced to start from the pit lane for having to replace a damaged front wing.

 

Pascal Wehrlein avoided a penalty despite pulling up in the wrong grid box and having to reverse on the circuit, an offense which has in the past seen drive through penalties given. The race began though in dry conditions and Hamilton lead away out of turn 1 and lap 1. Button made a good start to be 2nd but was quickly falling behind the leader; he was soon overtaken by Rosberg and the other front runners but would manage an impressive 6th place. The race was slow and steady after the initial laps until the first stops came along, Vettel stayed out longer and a tyre failure shunted his car into the pit wall and caused a safety car. Nico Rosberg had made the most of the situation and with the undercut and a slow stop for his team mate saw him ahead of Hamilton after the stops.

 

The race resumed and Mercedes had their 1-2. This would remain until the final lap. Going through traffic and on better tyres Hamilton had caught up and a small mistake from Rosberg at turn 1 allowed the Britain to be side by side and slightly ahead on the long run up to turn 2. Rosberg desperately tried to brake late and defend the spot and locked up, whilst Hamilton tuned in on his team mate at the corner entry, seemingly not checking his mirrors. The two carried on with Hamilton off the track and Rosberg’s front wing collapsed from the hit. He staggered home in 4th and was awarded blame for the incident. Hamilton won the race and escaped penalty for another clash with his team mate. Verstappen was 2nd ahead of Räikkönen; Ricciardo was 5th, Grosjean 7th for Haas with Sainz, Bottas and Wehrlein who scored Manor’s first point since the death of Jules Bianchi and moved the team into 10th in the constructors championship.

The final round of our catch up was Round 10 at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix. Due to the range of bad luck and incident Rosberg’s championship lead was now severely reduced and Hamilton had closed in. Mercedes were now a massive distance ahead of Ferrari who were being caught by Red Bull.

The weekend started well for Hamilton, Rosberg looked as though he had caught up in qualifying before Hamilton found pace in Q2 and Q3 to take a dominant pole position. Rosberg was 2nd ahead of both Red Bulls, the two Ferraris, Bottas, Sainz, Hulkenberg and Alonso. As Vettel crossed the line to finish his lap the Ferrari lurched forward as another gearbox had broken in the car. Sebastian would be given a 5 place grid penalty and line up 11th.

 

The 10th race of the season began in wet conditions and started behind the safety car. As it pulled in on lap 5 much of the field pitted to intermediate tyres. A virtual safety car then came out and the remaining leaders including Hamilton, Rosberg, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Perez came in to change their tyres. Because of the VSC not bunching the field up this gave those drivers a 10 second advantage over the chasers. Hamilton pulled away out front, occasionally losing time to Rosberg but generally remaining clear. As the track dried to slick tyre conditions Verstappen overtook the German around the outside of Becketts. Rosberg would eventually catch up on slicks and re-pass him but nonetheless the move was the best of the race.

 

The race settled down until the closing stages, although many drivers went off or span out at turn 1 which remained wet for much longer than the rest of the track. Coming into the last few laps Rosberg was heard over the radio to be in trouble with his gearbox shifting down from 7th gear. The team immediately advised him to change a setting and stay out of that gear. Rosberg survived to cross the line in 2nd place but the FIA chose to harshly penalise him by adding 10 seconds onto his race time for the incident which was apparently banned under the new radio clampdown rules for 2016. As a result Hamilton won from Verstappen, Rosberg 3rd, Ricciardo 4th ahead of Räikkönen who eventually caught and passed Perez, Hulkenberg, Sainz, Vettel and Kvyat rounded out the point’s scorers.

After this latest drama for Rosberg he had seen his once 43 point lead over his team mate dwindle to just 1. The championship is by no means over for Nico and with a rash of penalties for Hamilton coming for Power Units later this season he might still favour his chances, but Rosberg needs to find more pace though and the Britain has certainly shown the upper hand in the recent months. Behind the Mercedes drivers Ferrari are on the verge of being caught by Red Bull who have generally beaten the Italian team since the Renault Power Unit was upgraded, Vettel has also had multiple failures that have stopped him from challenging the Mercedes drivers for victory and recently Ferrari seemed to have lost ground overall. Behind the lead teams it’s a fight for 4th between Williams and Force India, largely thanks to Sergio Perez. It will be an enthralling second half of the season and only time and luck will tell who will end up ahead in the battles throughout the field.

 

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(Images courtesy of maxf1.net, thesun.co.uk, wheelsmag.com.au, redbull.com, f1fanatic.co.uk,  – Please click on the images for the original source.)