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GP Week : Issue 215
The deciding race in the 2014 world championship proved to be a close affair, with Lewis Hamilton holding onforan11thwininthefaceofa supersoft tyre gamble by Williams’ Felipe Massa. In terms of the championship itself, it was all over by mid-race, when Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes suffered eRs failure, leaving him to drift back through the field with a major power deficit, eventually finishing out of the points in 14th. Indeed, the championship chase was realistically done seconds after the start. Hamilton, and his engineer, got it all right in a big way, Lewis in a clear lead and away at Turn 1. In contrast, Rosberg’s getaway was tardy and he did well to even keep a crowding Massa, Button and Raikkonen at bay. Hamilton led by 1.2 seconds at the end of that lap and, barring misfortune, the championship contest was over. The remaining variable – the short life of the Supersoft tyres on which the top eight were forced to start – saw cars pitting from as early as lap six (Alonso), while the Mercs did so on laps 10 and 12 respectively. Post-race, amid all the euphoria, Lewis had full recall on his race-winning start: “We have a sequence that we have to go through and we have to perform at the right time, making sure that you prepare the clutch throughout the weekend, prepare your tyres when you get to your spot. “I work very closely with the engineer who works with my clutch. He came to my room before the race and asked ‘how do you want to approach this?’ I said: ‘the same as every time. We don't need to do any more or any less.’ “When the start goes, when you do the formation lap, you get a feel for how good the clutch is at that point. You have to guide them or give them feedback whether you need more torque or more slip. Anyways, we hit it spot on. The second part, when you let out the second part and you feed the throttle, that's when the driver comes it. But ... it felt like the best start I've ever had. Absolutely phenomenal.” Once Rosberg was effectively gone, there appeared to be a challenge from Massa, who’d made a great start, run in clean air, and who took a punt on the softer tyre for his final 12-lap burst, in an attempt to cause an upset. In reality, Lewis was nursing his car, maintaining a sensible gap and timing it all to the finish. Nevertheless, second was a well- deserved reward for the Ferrari reject who found new life with a reinvigorated Williams team: For his part, team-mate Valtteri Bottas quietly recovered from a terrible start and worked his way back to the podium, having to deal with a strong Daniel Ricciardo on the way. For Williams, 2-3 was the best result of the season, as team chief engineer Rob Smedley summarised: "It was a fitting end to the season. The team has come on over the year in an incredible fashion. To get our best result of the season in the final race is a fitting tribute to all the work we have done. It's been over 10 years since Williams was last P3 in the Constructors' and that is testament to the effort that the guys have made, many of whom have been here through the tough times are now reaping the benefit of their commitment." Ricciardo’s charge – from the pit lane start – was indicative of his year, and not a bad way to finish. Staring on Soft tyres and leaving the Supersofts to the last eight laps worked well, and the Australian was relatively content with the result: “It was pretty much a faultless race from all sides – from the strategy, to myself and the pit stops, everything was good so we did everything we needed to. I had fun passing, it wasn't boring out there, so it was pretty much what I asked for. One spot better would have been nice, but fourth is really cool from the pit lane.” In reality, those were the contenders. Jenson Button again outlined his claim for a continuing McLaren role with a solid fifth, once more well clear of his young team-mate, who again had lap one contact with another car (Sutil), struggled in his mid-race Supersoft stint, and finished out of the points. In reality, fifth was the best the McLaren was going to offer Button, and he took it. Emphasising the benefit of having the choice of starting on the Soft tyre was the Force India pair, who had the almost perfect race, and finished sixth (Hulkenberg) and seventh (Perez), ahead of the Ferraris and Vettel – despite Nico Hulkenberg’s five-second penalty from the opening lap contact with Magnussen. As with Ricciardo, saving the Supersofts for and even longer 17-lap final stint (Hulkenberg) worked well. Sebastian Vettel’s final race with Red Bull produced no fairy tale. After following his younger team-mate past the tailenders early on, Vettel lost touch when he got stuck behind Magnussen and found himself battling for an eventual eighth place finish. Things were worse down at Ferrari. Simply, the Scuderia has fallen even further away in the development race. The car was average, and two world champions could only manage ninth (Alonso) and 10th between them. Staring on the Supersofts, pitting super early and losing massive track position simply didn’t help. 27 GPWEEK.com // 27 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> ABU DHABI PARTNERS: