zondag 21 september 2014

F1 2014 GP of Singapore - review

Of all the newer Grand Prix circuits that have appeared on the calendar in the last decenium, Singapore is one of those I always look forward to watching.  Being driven in complete artificial light, this makes the machines gleam and shine, and gives an otherwordly aspect when they take sky pictures.

The weekend was full of rumours of an impeding switch between Alonso and Vettel, and even though both drivers did them off as just that, rumours, where there is smoke, there is fire.

Qualifications put Hamilton before Rosberg and then both Red Bulls, with Ricciardo outqualifying Vettel once more, and in front of Alonso.  The Ferrari`s have been showing good pace the whole weekend, so perhaps they might score another podium.

As we move to the warm up, drama immediatly commeces as Rosberg`s Mercedes stalls on the grid and he has to start from the pitlane, severe electronic problems seem to be troubling his Silver Arrow.  With the street circuit being hard to overtake, Hamilton has a good chance to score valuable points and close the gap in the Championship again as Nico will have to get through the whole field.
Warm up also sees the first retirement, as Kobayashi`s Caterham comes to a smokey end before even getting back to the starting line up.

The start sees Alonso shoot to second, but as he has to cut the first corner, he smartly decides to let Vettel pass and so to avoid a penalty, something that will be confirmed in the second lap indeed.

Lap 2: It seems all electronics on Rosberg`s steering wheel are having problems, as only his gear shifts seem to be in working order.

Lap 3; Fastest Lap for Vettel, as Rosberg is still struggling behind Chilton and loosing valuable time.  Hamilton in the meantime speeds off.

Lap 4: As Hamilton now puts in the fastest lap, Ricciardo is told that there is an apparent issue with his rear brakes overheating.

Lap 5: Fastest lap again for Vettel, the Red Bulls clearly can match the pace in this street circuit without any real long straights, something that is on the other hand not playing in the favor of the Williams cars.  Magnusses doesn`t get a penalty for leaving track limits in the opening lap skirmishes, a good decision by the stewarts.  Alan Jones, the former australian world champion, sits on the panel today and as he was a `man of character`, it could spell good news for the more aggressive drivers.

Lap 8: Kvyat, leading his team mate Vergne, gets permission to attack Magnussen, but instead the frenchmen overtakes his teammate and starts hunting himself.  Rosberg has gotten past Chilton, but now is stuck behind the Caterham of Ericsson.

Lap 10: With an expected strategy of 3 stops for almost everyone (bar safety cars and the likes, who in all of the GP`s history have come out), Hulkenberg opens the first pitstop dance.  Rosberg can`t get past the Caterham, but as Hulkenberg rejoins the track he swiftly passes both, indicating serious issues with the Mercedes.  I guess they are going to retire him soon to save the engine...

Lap 13: Vettel, Alonso and Ricciardo pit and retain their positions, as Hamilton comes in at the end of the lap.

Lap 14: Rosberg comes in, gets a new steering wheel, but looses over a minute and a half to try and get going again.  The team decides to retire him, and after the small knock he had gotten in Monza, this isn`t good for morale as Hamilton can virtually become the new leader in the championship if he wins the GP.

Lap 16: Stop and Go penalty for Vergne for gaining a position by exceeding track limits.

Lap 17: Fastest lap for Ricciardo, but Hamilton immediatly responds by clocking a fastest lap in himself.

Lap 19: Angrily Guterriez retires and nearly trashes his whole pits box.  Understandibly, because this weekend it all went well for the Mexican and he was hovering the final points spot at the moment his Sauber gave up.

Lap 20: Chilton comes in with a puncture.  In the meantime, the rumours are confirmed that Sauber is indeed talking to a canadian overtaker for the team.

Lap 23: Massa makes his pitstop while Magnussen overbrakes and nearly misses the wall.  Alonso in the meantime makes up 0.4 seconds a lap to Vettel.

Lap 25: Alonso, and a lap later Vettel, pit for the second time and the Ferrari manages to undercut the Red Bull, putting the red machine in second position as Ricciardo needs to make his still.  Bottas puts in a fastest lap.

Lap 30: light contact between Perez and Grosjean.  The Lotus cars are bit more competitive this weekend, ironically the weekend after they stopped developping the car and focus on 2015.  Which is oddly enough the same that can be said for Ferrari.

Lap 31: Perez, having just pitted, loses his front wing as he smacks in the back of a little to enthusiastic blocking Sutil.  Out comes the safety car, and Alonso pits immediatly, putting the Red Bulls back before him.  Hamilton hasn`t pitted and as the saftey car might stay out to long could cause tyre management issues...

Lap 36: Sutil gets a stop and go for his incident with Perez

Lap 39: The safety car comes in, and now Hamilton has to open a gap as soon as possible on his supersofts to stay in front of no less then 7 cars on mediums, of which it is expected at least 2 or 3 will try to make a run to the end.  He immediatly puts in a fastest lap, but he has to see to get a 25+ seconds gap in about 10 laps, without taking to much risk on degrading tyres...

Lap 41: Sutil is forced to retire, probably ending the last grasp Sauber might have had this season to score points.

Lap 45: Alonso, having made all his pitstops, is starting to push and close in on Ricciardo to try and grab a podium.

Lap 50: Hamilton has knocked together a slightly over 20 seconds lead on Vettel, but it will be touch and go if he pits.  Though he might be able to overtake the german IF he can get back on track before Ricciardo who is trailing his team mate, and the Ferrari of Alonso.

Lap 52: Here we go!  Hamilton pits, and comes out right in front of Ricciardo and Alonso, but not to far behind Vettel.

Lap 56: 5 laps to go, though with the safety car issue, and the fact Singapore always gets close to the 2 hour mark, it might be we will be doing one lap less.  Hamilton has passed Vettel, and both Ricciardo and Alonso now close on the 4 times world champion.  Will daniel be allowed to pass for more points in his small chance for the championship?  Button has to retire so close to the end as the McLaren dies on him, not a good thing in their fight with Force India who has both cars in the points at the moment and Magnussen on 11th...

Lap 57: Vergne gets another stop and go which will be added to his race time, so he has to make some last ditch efforts to remain in the points. 

Lap 59: In the penultimate lap he has passed Hulkenberg, Raikonnen and Bottas and is trying to expand the gap as a bitten dog.  Perez in the meantime also goes by his team mate.

Lap 60: Hamilton takes the chequered flag as the race is shortened for one lap due to time restraints, but Bottas has a last moment issue and needs to let everyone pass, seeing his points finish vaporise and come in on 11th.  Ferrari does a very good deal that way for the third place in the constructors championship.

The Result:

1. Hamilton - Mercedes
2. Vettel - Red Bull Renault
3. Ricciardo - Red Bull Renault

4. Alonso - Ferrari
5. Massa - Williams Mercedes
6. Vergne - Toro Rosso Renault
7. Perez - Force India Mercedes
8. Raikonnen - Ferrari
9. Hulkenberg - Force India Mercedes
10. Magnussen - McLaren Mercedes

11. Bottas - Williams Mercedes
12. Maldonado - Lotus Renault
13. Grosjean - Lotus Renault
14. Kvyat - Toro Rosso Renault
15. Ericsson - Caterham Renault
16. Bianchi - Marussia Ferrari
17. Chilton - Marussia Ferrari

Driver of the Race

Though tempted to put Vergne here because of his heroics and his 6th place despite 2 stop and go penalties, the big winner is of course Lewis Hamilton.  Not only does he regain the lead in the championship, after Monza two weeks ago, this is the second blow he hands out to Nico Rosberg in their inteam battle. 
He did some great tyre management in the final phase of the race, and his aggressive style is something I like to see on the track.

Team of the Race

Red Bull.  The whole weekend they have shown the pace, and they have two drivers on the podium.  I think Mercedes is going for the `allowed to develop the engines pact` during winter because Renault seems to be really catching up lately.

Blast from the Past

Midland GP

Well, this was the first grand prix without the dutchman Christian Albers as caterham team manager, a short career of only 5 months.  But what better obscure team of the past 20 years to select then then Midland GP, where he drove the entire season of 2006.

Midland came into Formula One when they bought Jordan GP.  Though in 2005 they where already owners of Jordan, they came into being under their own name as MF1 racing for the 2006 season, and fielded Christian Albers and Tiago Monteiro in their cars.

However, they never went above being a lower midfielder, and although the car had a lot of potential, finishing above Super Aguri and the occasional Toro Rosso, and battling with midfielders like Red Bull (yes, they started small), but failed to score a single point due to amongst others, sheer bad luck of first corner collisions.  Including one where they took each other out...

Three races before the season ended, the team had been sold again, this time to Spyker, the dutch sportscar manufacturer, which would later evolve into Force India, but that is a story for another time perhaps...

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