An interesting race, and an interesting result. After the rather good Spanish race, back into the red for this weekend (although only marginally).
It was wet at the start, which necessitated a safety car (as Mr. Sandpit said elsewhere, the VSC was used a lot, and but for the soggy start we would not have seen a safety car, an event which had odds of 8).
As usual, the safety car stayed out too long. A few cars dove into the pits for intermediate tyres immediately, but most stayed out.
Kvyat had problems with his speed limiter being stuck on. He tried to resolve it by pitting and left for the circuit (down over a lap) but it couldn’t be mended.
Ricciardo streaked away from Rosberg, who looked a bit out of sorts. When the gap was about 13s, the team made a call and the German gave way to his British team mate (it later emerged Rosberg’s car had brake issues. These were later resolved, but did screw his race).
Hamilton set off in hot pursuit of Ricciardo. He was faster, but the gap was large and there were 60 odd laps left.
The track was drying and most went for intermediate tyres. Some went early (like Button) others later (Alonso, who gained a relative advantage to his team mate thereby). Eventually it was just the two leading cars on full wets. Ricciardo pitted for intermediate tyres. Hamilton stayed out and inherited the lead, but Ricciardo was soon right behind him.
The Aussie couldn’t pass, however, and Hamilton was able to stretch out the stint and pit for the ultra-soft dry tyre.
Ricciardo’s in-lap was fantastic, easily enough to retake the lead. Except his team (who called him in) didn’t have the tyres ready. He was waiting, and waiting, and waiting until finally the supersofts got stuck on. He would have, and should have, been in the lead. Instead, he was a short distance behind Hamilton.
Meanwhile, the change to dry tyres had harmed Rosberg too. He’d been leapfrogged by Vettel in the pit lane, and passed by Perez and Alonso as they’d pitted earlier (I think) and achieved the undercut. Rosberg was now down in 6th.
Ricciardo was on a charge. He was within a second of Hamilton, very close indeed, and tried a few times to pass, but the Briton was wily. There was, however, a questionable moment. Just past the chicane after the tunnel, Hamilton was a bit slow. Ricciardo was clearly faster, and almost wholly alongside, when Hamilton closed the door. The Aussie was, understandably, not impressed.
From there, it seemed inevitable. There were some virtual safety car appearances as the idiotic Sauber drivers squabbled over 15th and collided, and when Verstappen hit the wall (again). But Ricciardo never got close. It finished Hamilton 1st, Ricciardo 2nd.
Further back, Perez, in a surprisingly good 3rd, was closing the gap, but never really had a shot of climbing higher (he was on soft, as was the chasing Vettel). Behind him, Vettel seemed like he’d be close enough to challenge for the last podium spot, but locked a brake, lost a few seconds, and had to settle for 4th.
Alonso, meanwhile, was some way back from the leading quartet but got McLaren’s best finish of the year, with an impressive 5th. Rosberg and Hulkenberg were next… except they weren’t. Whether there was a lingering issue with Rosberg’s car or perhaps Hulkenberg was inspired, the Force India driver pipped the Mercedes at the post to claim 6th by a few tenths of a second. We’ll see whether that couple of points proves critical at the season’s end.
Sainz was anonymous again, but impressive in 8th, Button got 9th, and Massa 10th.
So, a fantastic day for Hamilton (aided by his team mate obligingly getting out of his way), bad for Rosberg, disappointing for Ricciardo, great for Force India, and good for McLaren. Sauber, Haas and Williams were all poor, and Ferrari are in danger of becoming the third team (that said, the next four races include three fast ones, and we’ll see how Red Bull do around Canada, Austria and the UK).
Raikkonen failed to finish after a small crash (second part of it was due to Massa hitting him at low speed and knocking him into a wall). Both Renaults failed to finish, Magnussen being retired and Palmer hitting a wall.
Here’s how the Drivers’ title race stands:
A tight battle for 3rd. However, at the sharp end it’s hard to call. Seeing how Rosberg bounces back and how Hamilton does at Canada will be interesting.
Red Bull 112
Force India 37
Toro Rosso 30
McLaren have made a leap forward in the Constructors. Whilst the top four will stay in place (with Red Bull and Ferrari perhaps swapping), the battle for 5th and 6th could be close. Force India have been a bit lacklustre this year but had a very good race.
Next race is one of my favourites: Canada. F1 goes there in a fortnight.