The pre-race silly season has been turning around a lot again, with Vettel confirmed at Ferrari but still no word on where Alonso is going to go. At the end of this article, instead of the Blast of the Past feature, I`ll be putting down a Look into the Future, with who is already confirmed where.
Another tour de force is that Caterham, after being absent for 2 races, actually made the grid again. With Kobayashi and rookie Will Stevens between the steering wheels, they can race thanks to a crowdfunding initiative. Marussia almost made it as well, but fell off right at the last moment.
FP1 saw some new debutants as well, with Ocon taking the wheel in the Lotus, while Fong put the Sauber through it`s paces, though neither of the three newcomers put in any great memorable times.
During the qualifiers, Rosberg had edged out on Hamilton for his 12th pole of the season, while the second row is locked by Williams. Grosjean takes a 20 place grid penalty for changing engines, but both Red Bulls are relegated to the pitlane to start as they fail a flex test on their front wings.
I`ve put my money on Massa for this GP, something tells me the brazilian is going to end the season very strongly, and I also have the gut feeling the title will be decided in the first corner, I can`t shake the feeling of a remake between Senna (Hamilton) in his warrior style drive and calculated Prost (Rosberg), a vibe clearly visible all season. You just know Lewis will attack, even if he could be champion by just following Nico around for 55 laps.
The Start: Hamilton shoots away while Rosberg misses his start. Bottas falls back a lot of places due to this as well, as does Magnussen. Gutteriez climbs to 11th, and maybe Sauber can grasp this last minute chance for a point.
3: Hamilton puts in the fastest lap and pulls out of the DRS range from Rosberg.
5: Alonso passes Raikonnen, as does Kvyat in the slipstream... and then Alonso already pits, as most want to get rid of their super softs as soon as possible.
6: Bottas goes by Raikonnen.
10: Hamilton makes his pitstop from the lead, as Hulkenberg gets a 5 second penalty for forcing Magnussen of track at the start. But if Caterham wants to pull the stunt of the year, it seems 10 cars will have to be falling by the road...
12: Rosberg pits and hands the lead to Massa, who still needs to pit, and Hamilton. Ricciardo in the meantime has made it to 8th already and is battling it out with Perez and Vergne.
13: Massa pits as Rosberg puts in a fastest lap. Ricciardo goes by Vergne and is now in 6th, and his strategy might bring him even on the podium, not bad for starting from the pitlane.
16: Kvyat spins off and is the first to retire today.
20: Massa is just 7.5 seconds behind both Mercedes cars, but it seems Rosberg`s only chance is that Lewis gets technical problems.
24: Rosberg locks up and barely misses the wall.
25: Rosberg calls in, his Mercedes is losing engine power fast. It seems the title fight is over unless Hamilton falls out and he ends within the top 5.
27: Massa goes to 2nd, and my prono profits are closing in about a half a second a lap. Bottas starts closing in on the failing Mercedes of Rosberg as well now in a rush to the podium.
28: Maldonado`s engine blows up spectacularly, but he can put the car safely aside so no safety car is called out.
31: Massa is closing on Hamilton by 2 seconds a lap! Pitcalls reveal though that Hamilton has gone to a safer engine mode to make sure his car will carry to the end, and not that his car is dying like Nico`s.
32: Hamilton pits, putting Massa back in the lead and the brazilian giving it his best. Hamilton comes out behind Rosberg and swiftly overtakes him.
33: Rosberg yields the title, calling in he will try to get to top-5 so he can still be crowned should something happen to Hamilton, but even that will be hard in the limping Silver Arrow.
34: Fastest lap Ricciardo as Hamilton keeps managing his pace, and the aussie is closing in by 5 seconds a lap on Rosberg in 4th.
35: Rosberg, getting more and more electronical issues, pits and returns in 6th before Vettel and both Force India`s
37: Amother fastest lap for Ricciardo
38: Vettel overtakes Rosberg, who`s chances on the title are all but gone now, even if Hamilton should get a problem.
41: Hamilton is 14 seconds behind Massa, not enough for Williams as a pit stop takes the better part of 20 seconds.
43: Rosberg overbrakes and Button passes him, as Hamilton puts in a fastest lap.
44: Massa pits and Hamilton retakes the lead, while Kobayashi retires during his pit stop.
46: Hamilton gets in a fastest lap as Hulkenberg goes by Rosberg now. Massa responds immediatly by doing a fastest lap as well, and it seems he is opening a last gasp offensive.
47: Massa is making good a second a lap on Hamilton, and hammers in fastest lap after fatest lap now.
50: Tension rises as Massa closes within 5 seconds and with 5 laps to go. Will he get to hamilton, and will the briton risk it in defending should it come that far?
51: Fastest lap Ricciardo, as Rosberg now falls back so far to 12th he won`t even be scoring any points.
53: The defeat is complete as Rosberg is lapped by Hamilton.
55: The curtain falls as Hamilton takes the win and the title, on an all by all not to shabby Formula One season. Tomorrow, I`ll be looking back on the whole season and the ups and downs for me...
1. Hamilton - Mercedes
2. Massa - Williams Mercedes
3. Bottas - Williams Mercedes
4. Ricciardo - Red Bull Renault
5. Button - McLaren Mercedes
6. Hulkenberg - Force India Mercedes
7. Perez - Force India Mercedes
8. Vettel - Red Bull Renault
9. Alonso - Ferrari
10. Raikonnen - Ferrari
11. Magnussen - McLaren Mercedes
12. Vergne - Toro Rosso Renault
13. Grosjean - Lotus Renault
14. Rosberg - Mercedes
15. Gutteriez - Sauber Ferrari
16. Sutil - Sauber Ferrari
17. Stevens - Caterham Renault
Driver of the Race: Lewis Hamilton
Overtook his rival even before the first corner, never came under pressure, kept it cool as the other car started failing, and took home win and title... nothing more to say is there.
Team of the Race: Williams
They genuinly looked able to snatch the win from Mercedes today. Scoring their first double podium since 2005 (back then, with Heidfeld and Webber in Monaco), they proven they are right back where they belong.
Looking to the Future
Who will be on the grid next year? Who will we meet? And who did we see today for the last time?
We can safely assume Marussia is probably not returning, and for Caterham there seems to be an actual chance the team is bought over for real this time compared to the farce earlier with Fernandez and the investors...
So who do we know will we see again next year (though with F1, this can change every day of course)
Mercedes: Hamilton / Rosberg
Red Bull: Ricciardo / Kvyat
Williams: Massa / Bottas
Ferrari: Vettel / Raikonnen
Lotus: Grosjean / Maldonado
Sauber: Nasr / Ericsson
Force India: Perez / Hulkenberg
Toro Rosso: Verstappen / ?
McLaren: ? / ?
Caterham: ? / ?
Not that many spots seem to be remaining, assuming Alonso will be stepping in with McLaren, and Sainz Jr seems in pole for the second Toro Rosso seat.
Tomorrow, I`ll be presenting my views of the past year, and then we can start counting down to the presentation of the all new season... where hopefully my beloved red cars will be back at the front again.