Quite the result, both for the title and in the old betting stakes. Must admit to being a little frustrated that three out of four contingencies occurred for the 67 bet and Palmer’s team mate had a reliability failure, but he finished in the points. Also a bit irked at myself I didn’t back Mr. Sandpit’s suggestions of laying Vettel for the win at 1.7, or backing Hamilton (20ish, I think). However, this was a green weekend for me and I can’t be displeased about that. Worth noting the further ‘silly’ Alonso win suggestion at well into three figures actually was very credible and, but for misfortune, could have come off. These things sometimes are possible (Verstappen 251 in Spain 2016 did come off, Perez 201 in Azerbaijan this year should’ve but for Force India civil war).
Congratulations also to Mr. M, whose bet on a Bottas podium at 7 also came off. I think everybody ended up green, which is a rare event indeed.
It had rained heavily earlier, and was still drizzling at the start. Thankfully there was no nappy-wearing safety car start. The top six were all on intermediates, behind them it was a mix of full wets and intermediates.
The story of the race was largely the story of the start. As I suggested, Vettel started laggardly, with Raikkonen having a flyer and Verstappen a good start. To cover Verstappen, Vettel moved left, but this led to a three-way crash. Raikkonen and Verstappen were immediately out, Vettel suffered damage that caused his car to leak fluid, which then made him spin and crash.
Alonso had had a stunningly good start and was close to the lead when he was caught in the aftermath of the crash. Whilst he was able to continue, it eventually forced him to retire. That was a great shame because, on pace, he could’ve been there. A podium was eminently possible, a win not out of the question. Damned bad luck.
After all that shook out the safety car emerged and we had Hamilton and Ricciardo leading the way, then Hulkenberg. However, a failure to pit promptly during another safety car period (there were many) dropped Hulkenberg down to about 5th, behind Bottas and Sainz. Just an error by Renault. Not only that, the German, who’s a skilled driver but now holds the record for most races (129) without a podium, then had a reliability failure and didn’t score anything at all.
The track took a very long time to dry, which was a bit perplexing as it wasn’t totally soaked to start with. The race was a procession illuminated by sudden spikes of failure and crashing. Ricciardo was once again the filling in a Mercedes sandwich (as per last year) with Hamilton flawless throughout. Sainz scored a career best 4th, Palmer likewise for 6th.
Perez was 5th, excellent for Force India after they looked a bit rubbish in qualifying and practice, with Ocon 10th. Vandoorne also got a career best 7th for McLaren, Stroll was 8th and Grosjean 9th.
There were eight retirements, an even mix of crashes and reliability failures. Massa and Wehrlein were the only men to finish without points.
I know my run-down of the race is concise (it’s shorter than I expected) but the excitement really was at the start, with occasional crashing (Kvyat and Ericsson) the other entertainment. Hulkenberg was extremely unlucky to be taken out of the top 3 by a strategy failure by his team, and then to DNF due to reliability crumbling. Alas, had it been Palmer, my 67 bet would’ve come off. But there we are.
It’s been confirmed, as expected, Perez is staying at Force India next year.
The first DNF for Vettel of the season means a maximum swing against him in the title race. Bottas is now closer to Vettel than Vettel is to Hamilton. Worse still for Ferrari, this was very much a strong circuit for them and a weak one for Mercedes. The title isn’t over, but this is a very, very good result for the Silver Arrows.
Red Bull 230
Force India 124
Toro Rosso 52
Getting even tastier in the battle for 5th. Williams may end up losing that to Renault, I think. Top four are pretty much sorted now.
We’re off to Malaysia in a fortnight. The other races are Japan, US, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Vettel must start hauling in Hamilton, or the title race is over. It’s still possible for him to turn it around, even without a Hamilton DNF, but it’s got to start soon.