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GP Week : Issue 203
As Daniel Ricciardo said, it all came to life late in the last 15 or 20 laps once the dominant Mercedes cars suffered near identical failures, at almost the same time, of their ‘MGU-K’ systems (see full explanation elsewhere). In short, less power and rear brake overheating problems. Nico Rosberg coped with it magnificently, once Lewis had disappeared into the pits with complete brake failure, nursing his car home ahead of all but one of the opposition – first-time winner Daniel Ricciardo. The day had started promisingly for his team-mate, with Sebastian jumping Hamilton at the start, but once the six-lap Safety Car period had ended (Marussias times two in collision), Lewis was able to DRS past as soon as it was available. Both Red Bull’s made quite early stops to get off the Super Soft Pirellis but, along with the Williams cars, found themselves coping with a strong one-stop strategy from Force India. Perez had started on Super Softs and was going a long way on them, while Hulkenberg had started on Softs and, courtesy of everyone else’s early stops, was ahead of Vettel and looking comfortable. Up front it was starting to look like the usual Merc duel. Lewis had got close, very close, to Rosberg’s rear wing – inducing a mistake which saw the German controversially take to the escape path across the final chicane and emerge further in front than he had been! It was just after half distance, when Rosberg had been asked to save some fuel, that the two silver cars suddenly dropped pace noticeably. Bizarrely, both had, it seemed, lost power. Not only that, the lack of ‘ERS ‘harvesting’ was affecting braking. Lewis was the first to experience it, over-shooting twice before heading to the pits with no (overheated) rear brakes. Rosberg’s half of the garage benefited from Hamilton’s misfortune and were able to get Nico to adapt before the failure was terminal. For Rosberg, the remaining 25 laps would be in damage limitation mode. Ultimately, he would want to thank Sergio Perez, whose single-stop pace was impressive, for holding back the advancing forces until late in the race. The car looking to get past Perez wasn’t Vettel. He’d made his second stop a lap before Ricciardo and Daniel had put in a strong intervening lap to then emerge in front of his team-mate, who then looked to conserve his tyres for a late attack. No wonder Rosberg was confused as to his actual position after the race Massa had blazed past into the lead, only to stop for tyres and then mount his own late charge on the lead bunch. Behind all this action, there was a similar train of cars scrapping over sixth – Hulkenberg, Alonso, Button and Bottas – with Button grabbing a chance to pass both the Hulk and Fernando as the pair all-but collided at the hairpin. It took until just a handful of laps to go for Ricciardo to get his chance. The team and he had worked out that his best chance would be Turn 1 and all ‘power’ resources were put into it. The Red Bull, ranged up on the outside the Force India as they braked, Ricciardo slightly ahead but on the outside. He held his nerve, and the car – just – to arrive tight (on-the-kerb- tight) on the inside of Two and the move was complete. Could he catch the struggling Mercedes up front? It didn’t take that long. With two to go, he got the DRS option on the main straight and it was done – Daniel Ricciardo was through and headed to his first F1 win. Behind Rosberg, Massa had steamed up behind the Perez/Vettel duel but seemed unable to construct a pass; then Vettel slipped through past the Force India, but with no prospect of bridging the gap to Rosberg. The last lap was mostly completed by drivers responding to a Safety Car call – Massa and Perez had collided at full speed approaching Turn 1 and slammed into the safety fencing. Both cars were heavily damaged, Perez’s Williams in particular, but both drivers stepped from their cars. At reduced speed, then, Daniel Ricciardo was told by his team that “you’re about to win your first Grand Prix!” It was a popular win – the permanent grin wider than ever, if that is possible. And it was done from a start spot behind his credentialed team-mate. But significant drive of the day may yet be that of Rosberg – he’s credited with more mechanical sympathy and nous than his team-mate and, in contrast to Lewis, was able to adjust his style and nurse the car home to 18 valuable points. We’ll see how critical that was later in the year ... RIGHT: Ricciardo sizes up Perez – he would pass around the outside, then inside here at Turn 2 ... 25 GPWEEK.com // 25 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> CANADA PARTNERS: