The fourth grand prix again of the season, and once more the money is on the Mercedes cars, specifically on Lewis Hamilton, once more on pole.
And now the british driver with the most pole positions ever.
Rosberg is only 4th due to the both Red Bulls going strong in yesterdays wet qualifiers, with Ricciardo outqualifying reigning world champion Vettel. The Williamses did good times as well, since earlier in Malaysia rain had spelled disaster for their lay out, while Perez and both McLaren`s put in disappointing results. Maldonado, with his 5 grid penalty from torpedoing Guttierez is at the last spot, and didn`t even manage to set a time, starting at the stewards discretion.
Furthermore, Magnussen is the only one to start on the medium compound, while estimations are most teams will be on a 2 stop strategy on this track that seems almost drawn for the Mercedes cars.
And so we are off on this easter weekend for hopefully some nice racing like a fortnight ago in the deserts of Bahrain. Right at the start, both Williamses of Massa and Bottas have minor shunts with respectively Alonso and Rosberg, but to no serious harm bar all but the spaniard losing a few positions. Alonso on the other hand shoots off as a rocket to third position, under the watchfull eye of new Ferrari team principal Matiacci.
Lap 4: Lotus seems to have improved, as Grosjean, who had qualified an excellent 10th, manages to keep up the pace and drives around in 8th position.
Lap 6: Rosberg doesn`t seem to be able to send telemetry to the pitwall and the team confirms they cannot fix this problem, making him having to drive `blind` on fuel consumption. At the same time, Sutil is forced to retire due to technical issues.
Lap 10: As the first round of pitstops commences, Hamilton already has a 10 second lead...
Lap 11: Massa comes in for a set of fresh tyres, but serious issues with the tyregun and wheel connection make it happen he is standing still for almost half a minute and ruining his race, putting all potential points gains for Williams now with Bottas.
Lap 17: Hamilton comes in for his first of 2 stops, and keeps a large lead upon rejoining the track.
Lap 18: Classic formula one, as Rosberg has to read pitboards for information on fuel consumption and all, as he has no data for himself. But with the Red Bull and the Ferrari before him and at a better pace then before, it might happen Mercedes won`t score their third sequential 1-2.
You know, this and reading about some small teams in F1 since I started following the sport in 1991, makes me miss the days of back then, with the small `micro teams` like AGS (here shown in their 1992 entry with Grouillard), pay driver circus artists, pre-qualifications... you couldn`t be feeling something else then sympathy and even adoration for those chanceless competitors. Heck, even the farce called Andrea Moda brought something to the sport. For all the wrong reasons perhaps, but they had soul to say the least. Even Caterham and Marussia are ultra professional outfits compared to some of those teams from days gone long by.
Lap 21: Fastest man on the track bar both Mercedes is Ricciardo, clocking better times then Alonso but especially Vettel. In the meantime, 16th started Perez has hauled himself back into a point scoring position.
Lap 23: Rosberg shoots past Vettel in 3rd with his DRS, as Ricciardo also gains on his team mate. Is aother in-team battle coming?
Lap 24: YES! Ricciardo attacks Vettel, and puts him on the defensive. Vettel is clearly not used to having a lieutenant who attacks his general without second thought, and then the harsh words come from the pitwall that Vettel needs to let Ricciardo pass, the aussie being much faster than him. Faces at the pitwall of Horner and Marko clearly show this is a situation they didn`t expect during the season after the Webber years... as now another aussie is here to challenge their posterboy, and this one is far more competitive over the whole weekend then `duel bulldog` Mark was.
Lap 26: Vettel refuses the team order (he, what else is new?), but Ricciardo muscles his way past him none the less and races immediatly out of his DRS area.
Lap 28: At the halfway mark, it seems most reliability isues at the teams have been solved, as we only have one retirement so far, though Grosjean is also strugling, having lost his 4th gear.
Lap 32: The inevitable happens and Romain has to retire with a gearbox failure.
Lap 34: As Alonso pits, Rosberg gets to second and pits 4 laps later together with Ricciardo. Hamilton comes in one round after that, and then the top 4 and only podium contenders are Hamilton before Alonso, Rosberg and Ricciardo.
Lap 41: With 15 laps to go, Mercedes unleashes their potential and Rosberg starts catching Alonso by 1.5 seconds a lap, and cruises past him on lap 42.
Lap 46: As Ricciardo started to catch up to the Ferrari, Alonso reacts and seems to be able to keep the gap between 3 to 5 seconds, but with tyres 4 rounds older then the Red Bull, can he hold it to the end?
Finish: Hamilton scores a pure hatrick,and Rosberg completes the third sequential 1-2 for Mercedes. Behind him Alonso keeps off Ricciardo smoothly, but all in all this was a very meek, call it `easter lamb` race. Nearly no duels bar some halfway around 8th place, not a single `investigation`, and only 2 retirements, this definitly was nowhere near the level of Bahrain last round.
1. Hamilton - Mercedes
2. Rosberg - Mercedes
3. Alonso - Ferrari
4. Ricciardo - Red Bull Renault
5. Vettel - Red Bull Renault
6. Hulkenberg - Force India Mercedes
7. Bottas - Williams Mercedes
8. Raikonnen - Ferrari
9. Perez - Force India Mercedes
10. Kvyat - Toro Rosso Renault
11. Button - McLaren Mercedes
12. Vergne - Toro Rosso Renault
13. Magnussen - McLaren Mercedes
14. Maldonado - Lotus Renault
15. Massa - Williams Mercedes
16. Gutteriez - Sauber Ferrari
17. Bianchi - Marussia Ferrari
18. Kobayashi - Caterham Renault
19. Chilton - Marussia Ferrari
20. Ericsson - Caterham Renault
Mercedes stays the dominant force, but if we look more to the back of the field, it seems Ferrari is taking steps towards closing the gap with Renault, both engines now about level.
Of more notice, for the second race in a row, McLaren failed to score points, while Kvyat takes his third points finish out of 4 races, and that 4th one he was 11th and only missed it by a zipper, but he is outclassing Vergne for sure.
In the battle of the little guys, Bianchi takes the `win` this time for Marussia, and the team, which I must admit with pain in the heart, is better atm then Caterham, who might indeed begin fearing folding by CEO Tony Fernandes at the end of the season.
Driver of the Race
Alonso! Sure, Ferrari has taken some steps forward, but he outclasses Raikonnen more then expected at the moment, and brought home the first podium of 2014 for the legendary team today.
Team of the Race:
Okay, it might get boring, but `der total conzept` is rather complete. Now that we return to Europe, mayor updates are to be expected at the competition, but rest assured so while they!
The Cult of Chilton
23 Starts, 23 Finishes. Max keeps going at it! I don`t know if people realize it, but the headlines in Bahrain where all about Jenson having to be forced to end a 25 GP streak without a single DNF. Well, 3 more GP`s at this rate, and little, often disrespected in the media Max is breaking that streak! In a bloody Marussia!!! Show Max some love!!!!!
NOTE: The next GP, Spain, on the 11th of May I won`t be reviewing, as I have flea market treasure hunting that day
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