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GP Week : Issue 200
This was the easiest win so far for Lewis, made so because his team- mate had a tough weekend with technical and self-inflicted problems, enabling the leading Merc to set its own pace, manage an ever-increasing gap, and bring it home almost without incident. Indeed the only drama was a bit of graining on a front left late in the race and a brief slip off onto the outside run-off. No big deal. Oh, and they gave him the chequer a lap early by mistake ... For his part, Nico Rosberg was faced with a dilemma from the rolling lap, where it became apparent that his car had no car-pit telemetry working (indeed NR wasn’t the only one in the field – what was all that about?). Nico’s problem meant no correct clutch set-up for the start, so he was swamped and, literally, spent most of the race quietly working his way back up to second – which, thanks to the Mercedes’ outright pace, he was able to do. After a dramatic week, which saw the departure of Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari appeared to make progress – or was it just that this was a power- dominant circuit and that allowed Fernando to challenge, and beat, the Red Bulls? Another electric start (and near disastrous side-on clash with co-sixth row man Massa), and shrewd management of his fuel/tyres later in the race, meant that the only car which passed Fernando all day was the recovering Rosberg. Fernando must almost have felt he’d won. Perhaps the story of the race was next in line – Red Bull. From the front row, Daniel Ricciardo got a shabby start and was fourth after the opening lap. Yes, it was the dirty side, but it was from there (grid 6) that Felipe Massa made the best start of the lot! Regardless, Vettel got a flier from three and was in second place early on. He got ‘undercut’ by Alonso at the first stops, passed by the recovering Rosberg, but it was the interaction with his team-mate which grabbed the headlines (see elsewhere). In the end, Daniel Ricciardo was simply faster and, after he’d got by his esteemed team-mate (lap 26), simply grew the gap to what amounts to a 20-second thrashing. Interesting times for a puzzled world champion. With his rocket start, but side-on whack with Alonso, Felipe Massa looked pacey and ran fifth early on, but chose to stop early (3-stop early) on lap 10, but it turned to disaster. Firstly the wrong rear tyres were there, then the left rear gave excruciatingly long problems. His race was, effectively, over. So, it was Nico Hulkenberg who took out the ‘best-of-the-rest’ award, just holding Valtteri Bottas at bay as the race ended (albeit only just over six seconds from Vettel). Well back down the road, after a disastrous weekend, was Kimi. – just about everything worked against him. He even criticised his own driving style! Sergio Perez completed a good top-10 double for Force India, with Daniel Kvyat again scoring points for Toro Rosso, albeit lapped by the rampant Hamilton late in the race. No mention yet of McLaren. After the promise of Melbourne, things seem to be going backward. Neither made the top 10 in qualifying and, despite plugging on, the cool temperatures and lack of downforce particularly added up to front tyre graining and lack of outright pace. They finished, but 11th (Button) and 15th. Romain Grosjean’s brave top-10 qualifying effort wasn’t rewarded – the early loss of fourth gear spread to the other gears and the Lotus retired mid-race, having run a satisfying ninth.. It was all over, for the lead at least, after just one lap ... 35 GPWEEK.com // 35 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> CHINA PARTNERS: