A tense race from start to finish, with the drama ramping up towards the end. Betting-wise, it was green, which is a nice way to end a very peculiar season (but I’ll blather about that in the season review). The race was characterised by three things: great drives from Verstappen and Vettel due to varying strategy, and Hamilton backing up Rosberg.
Off the line it was fairly straightforward, excepting that Raikkonen got the jump on Ricciardo. However, Verstappen had a slightly slow start (Red Bull perhaps compromised more than expected by starting on the supersoft when surrounded by ultrasoft-starters?) and was spun when he struck Hulkenberg slightly. At the end of lap 1, Verstappen was last.
Ahead, the Mercedes were a bit faster but not scampering away, and the Ferraris and Ricciardo were evenly matched. Verstappen set about cutting his way through the field.
After the first pit stops (two planned), Hamilton led, Verstappen (who alone had not pitted) was next, then Rosberg, who emerged just behind the Dutchman. Verstappen was going long on his supersofts, trying to eke out a single stop, contrary to all others. Rosberg struggled to pass him, particularly as the German could not afford to compromise his result.
Suddenly, Rosberg made a late lunge. Verstappen had left the door wide open then tried closing it. The two cars very nearly touched, but Rosberg got ahead with a daring overtake. Shortly thereafter, Verstappen pitted.
After the second (or only, in Verstappen’s case) round of pit stops Vettel, who was on a two stop but had yet to come in, led Hamilton, with Rosberg and Verstappen next. Ricciardo and Raikkonen were further back.
Vettel pitted and emerged with brand new supersoft tyres. He was over a second a lap faster than those around him, quickly catching and passing (with zero resistance) his team mate before reaching Ricciardo.
Mercedes were aware to the danger and alerted Hamilton, asking him to drive more quickly. The Briton developed selective deafness.
Hamilton was being deliberately slow in the twisting part of the circuit to back Rosberg towards Verstappen (and Vettel, who soon passed Ricciardo). He was given an instruction from Paddy Lowe (effectively co-team principal) to drive more quickly and refused.
Verstappen was being forced to up his pace to try and keep 3rd, but to no avail. Vettel pounced and snaffled the final podium spot, then close up on Rosberg. The top four were all covered by a few seconds.
Rosberg bore the stress. He kept 2nd, seeing off a final lap attempt by Vettel take the place, and winning his first constructor’s title. Hamilton won the race, and lost the title.
Verstappen and Ricciardo were 4th and 5th. After a strong early stint, poor strategy helped put Raikkonen down in 6th. Hulkenberg and Perez finished where they started, 7th and 8th respectively (having a bit of a mid-race ding dong, but it was all clean driving).
Massa scored in his last race, grabbing 2 points for 9th. Alonso got the last point. On this occasion, Massa was faster than him.
The two Haas cars just missed out on points, and just behind them were both Manors. Interestingly, the Saubers and Palmer’s Renault [Magnussen retired] were slower.
Button also had his last race and suffered a wishbone failure after a kerb took exception to being driven over, but he remained in good cheer. Both Toro Rossos and Bottas also retired.
So, by 5 points Rosberg is world champion. Within minutes of the result the BBC had a charming page up asking if he deserved it. Had Hamilton suffered a technical failure in 2014’s race instead of his team mate, Rosberg would’ve been world champion then. Didn’t see the same question being asked of Hamilton at the time…
Force India claimed 4th in the Constructors’, their best ever finish. The cash injection will be welcome for the team next year. They lose Hulkenberg and gain Ocon, retaining the services of Perez.
The No Safety Car bet came off. Short odds, but longer than they should’ve been. The advantage of varying strategy worked for both Vettel and Verstappen, so I wonder if we’ll see more of that next year rather than a two stop approach for the vast majority.
Will Hamilton’s behaviour has damaged his standing either with the team (for repeatedly refusing to obey an instruction) or with the public as a ‘racer’ who deliberately went slowly? His hero, Senna, rammed Prost off the track once to take a title (the reverse also occurring), and that’s clearly worse. Schumacher’s renowned for his on-track shenanigans.
Opinion is divided. Some online have criticised him for trying to make someone else lose, others saying it was fair enough trying to keep the title.
I’m glad Rosberg got the title. A bit of variety instead of the same chap always winning is a good thing.
Next year the regulations change a lot. The biggest potential beneficiaries are probably Red Bull and McLaren. The former will have (I think) Adrian Newey, back from his yachting adventures. The latter has Prodromou[sp], formerly Newey’s aerodynamics lieutenant, and with development restrictions lifted for engines Honda *may* be able to make a great leap forward.
I’ll witter more about such things nearer the time, and after testing. In a few days or a couple of weeks I’ll write the post-season review (which will be interesting as it’s both my best and worst ever season).