Wednesday, November 26, 2014

WINNERS AND LOSERS: ABU DHABI GP 2014

What a season. It was tight going into the final race. I was sweating until the start where Lewis pulled off that incredible getaway and I knew he had it in the bag. Here is the winners vs losers piece by Andrew Davies of PlanetF1. Original article HERE.

Lewis Hamilton finally achieved the points difference that all his 2014 performances have justified.

Star of the Race
Felipe Massa, Williams, 2nd
As Rob Smedley said after the race, "not bad for an old guy". Given how far behind Williams have been behind the Silver Arrows in the last few races, this was a real star turn from Felipe. And what made it really close at the end of the race was Felipe's ability to preserve his Soft tyres in the middle stint, so that he could switch back to the SuperSofts at the end. Had he not run so long, or preserved his tyres so well, then he would have been back onto the Softs and it would have been a cruise to the line for Lewis. As it was, Felipe made the 'World Champion elect' work for it.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 12: Jean Eric-Vergne, Toro Rosso, and Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull
This was a score draw in terms of overtaking, Daniel Ricciardo, starting from the pitlane, was on a charge through the field and it looked like a formality that he would get past the Toro Rosso as he took a DRS tow down the second Yas Marina straight and dived past into Turn 11. Jean-Eric had other ideas and the cars went side by side through turns 11/12/13 but it still looked like Dan would claim the place... But just when you thought it was all over Jean-Eric dived up the inside into Turn 14 and Daniel had to drop back, respecting his team-mate of 2013. It was tough, close, contactless and perfect racing. And Dan got him the next lap anyway.

Winners
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st
The thing about F1 is that it never turns out how you expect it to. After Brazil, the commonly held start prediction for this race was synchronized excellence and Nico shading it into Turn 1. Lewis rated Abu Dhabi as his best start of the season and even though Yas Marina doesn't particularly favour the polesitter, Lewis would have been P1 into Turn 1 at any circuit this year such was the difference in starts of the two.

From that point on it was a question of keeping out of DRS range and edging out a small buffer that might account for a slightly scuffed pit-stop. Lewis also had the advantage in that he could stop first, and Nico had tyres from Q2 that were one lap older. The gap between the two went out from 1.7 seconds on Lap 6 to 2.7 seconds on Lap 9 with Lewis pitting on Lap 10.

Just before Nico's ERS problem kicked in, the gap on Lap 21 was 2.9 seconds and on Lap 22 it was 2.7 seconds. Then it went out to 3.9 and 7.1 on Laps 23 & 24 as the changed brake retardation caught Rosberg out. From that point on it was a question of driving with eyes in the mirrors and on the pitboard.

In the end 'double points' didn't spoil the title decider; in fact the gap of 67 points that it created between Lewis and Nico better reflected the season and the 11-5 score in race victories.

Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 3rd
Valtteri felt that his clutch wasn't right on the parade lap, and the adjustment he made still didn't fix it. As a result he got a poor start, slipped back early and spent the rest of the race returning to where he should have been. Shades of Ricciardo. Bottas finished his second season on the podium and was the major points earner in the team's best season since 2003. Their P2 and P3 was the first time two Williams drivers had been on the podium since 2005 with Messrs Webber and Heidfeld.

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 4th
Another star performance from Daniel who worked his way through the field with a lot more concerted effort than his departing team-mate.

Jenson Button, McLaren, 5th
Button got a great start and was P4 on the opening lap from P6 on the grid. If this is to be his last season it was a good way to finish.

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 6th
Sergio Perez, Force India, 7th
Nico's best result in a while and Force India's biggest ever points all in a single GP was not enough to overhaul Mclaren. But they certainly got the strategy right.

Losers

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 14th
Nico lost it the moment the red lights went out and he got too much wheelspin away from his gridbox. Hamilton, who's been prone to nerves at title deciders, hooked up the most immaculate start and that was virtually it. Job done. It was disappointing to see Rosberg's ERS pack up from Lap 23, and there might have been the slim chance we could have some fun had Rosberg been able to get in front of Hamilton at the second stops and back him up towards Felipe Massa, but it was the slimmest of the slim.

Nico was gracious in defeat and showed a sportsmanlike quality never witnessed before in intra-team title battles. And he does have the Pole trophy in recognition of the far superior job he's done on Saturdays in 2014.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 9th
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 10th
Ferrari finished the race in the positions they qualified in on Saturday - that is before the race stewards found that Red Bull had put a cheeky, suspicious-looking leaf spring-like mounting on their front wing. Although Fernando looked to have the better of Jenson Button he slipped back down the field and his afternoon was summed up by his struggle to outpace the Caterham down the back straight just after he'd taken on new tyres. Raikkonen circulated behind him for most of the race having lost out at the start.

It seems slightly unfair that Marco Mattiacci should comment on Fernando's lack of motivation in a season where he has comprehensively beaten his team-mate and after five years of constantly driving the nuts off any machine that was given to him. But then again there were rumours in the paddock that Marco's tenure as team boss may well be sleeping with the fishes.

This was the first season since 1967 when neither Ferrari, or McLaren and Williams had won a race between themselves.

Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 11th
Magnussen got mugged at the start and dropped behind both Force Indias which were starting on the same tyre (though it was surprising to see Perez keep his place after cutting a swathe across the run-off at Turns 5/6 and just filtering back in, hoping that no-one would notice). What was particularly surprising was Kevin's lack of speed on the SuperSoft tyres that he fitted in the middle stint.

Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, DNF
Pastor's final Renault engine went bang going underneath the hotel, and it was interesting to see the Lotus mechanics reaction. Instead of grim resignation there were smiles and laughter. Clearly there was some major betting money going down on whether Pastor would get to the end of the race without a flame-out. Although they're going to have to rebuild that for the test on Tuesday...

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Given that the organisers had arranged some pretty impressive support features, such as a Pharell Williams concert, the race is still hugely dependent on non-locals jetting in to watch. Now this may be true of the USGP when only 15% of the audience are made up of Texans, but the bulk of fans are from North America. There were many gaps in grandstands for this most important of races, so imagine how few they'd get if they ran it in the middle of the season, with music supplied by the Eddie Jordan band.

Media Watch
Suzi Perry "What a bone-tingling prospect this race is."
Eddie Jordan "It's fairy book stuff."

Eddie Jordan
"The first corner was a huge moment. It just lifted things off the top of his head."

Suzi Perry commenting after Lee McKenzie's interview with Fernando Alonso; "He looks more and more like a South American dictator every race. Do you think he's growing that for Ron (Dennis)? He doesn't like beards, does he."

After Eddie Jordan was 'flanned' by two of his former Jordan employees now working for Mercedes, David Coulthard adroitly caught his glasses which were sent flying
David Coulthard Did you see my reactions there?"
Suzi PerryYou were like a cat. Like a Woo-Woo girl."

Original article HERE.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

ABU DHABI GP 2014 PREVIEW

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a Formula One race. It was announced in early 2007 at the Abu Dhabi F1 Festival in the United Arab Emirates. The first race took place on November 1, 2009, held at the Hermann Tilke designed Yas Marina Circuit.

On June 25, 2008 the FIA announced the provisional 2009 Formula One calendar including the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the 19th and final race of the season on November 15. On November 5, 2008, however, it was announced that the race would be held as the season finale on November 1, two weeks before the initially planned date, as the 17th and final race.

The inaugural race was Formula One's first ever day-night race, starting at 17:00 local time. Floodlights used to illuminate the circuit were switched on from the start of the event to ensure a seamless transition from daylight to darkness. Subsequent Abu Dhabi Grands Prix have also been day-night races.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is Formula 1’s original day/night race. The race begins at 17-00hrs local time, in the dusk and ends in darkness, with floodlights illuminating the track. The temperatures drop during the race and this has a significant bearing on tyre performance and thus race strategy. This was shown by the race in Bahrain, which also followed this format for the first time this season. The Yas Marina Circuit features six corners below 100 kph – only Monaco, Singapore and Valencia have more. The track surface is smooth.

TRACK CHARACTERISTICS

Track length : 5.554 kilometres.
Race distance : 55 laps (305.355 kilometres).
Corners : 21 corners in total. Average speed 197km/h. A marina based circuit hosting its fifth F1 Grand Prix.
Aerodynamic setup : Med/High downforce.
Top speed : 320km/h (with DRS open) 307km/h without.
Full throttle : 60% of the lap time (ave/high).
Fuel Consumption : Med/High (Max Downforce, lower average speed, frequent acceleration events).
Brake wear : Medium.
Number of braking events : 12.
Time spent braking : 17% of the lap. Third or fourth most severe circuit of the year on brakes.
Total time needed for a pit stop : 23 seconds.
Ease of Overtaking : Low (difficult to overtake even with double DRS zones).
Lap record : 1:40.279 (Germany Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing, 2009).

WEATHER FORECAST

The forecast for the weekend is stable with temperatures in the low 30 degrees C. But as this is a dusk/night race it’s worth noting that the night time temperature is set to fall to 19 degrees C.

TYRES

Pirelli tyre choice for Abu Dhabi: Soft (yellow markings) and Supersoft (red markings). This combination was used in Monaco, Canada, Austria, Germany and Singapore.

The five events featuring super-soft tyres have produced most strategically varied races so far, with some 3 stoppers, so that could still be an outside possibility for this race, given a large enough performance difference.

The race starts at dusk and ends in the dark, so the track temperature falls as the race goes on and the teams have to factor this in. For teams looking to do longer runs at the end of the race, the temperature drop helps, so teams are encouraged to try some bold strategies to win. The added factor of double points will encourage some higher risk strategies.

DRS

Formula 1's governing body, the FIA, has retained two DRS zones for this year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. As in previous seasons, the first activation zone at the Yas Marina Circuit has been placed on the run between Turns 7 and 8, with the detection point situated just before Turn 7.


The second designated area follows on another sizeable run between Turns 10 and 11, controlled by a separate detection marker on the exit of the Turn 8/9 chicane. Monte-Carlo and Suzuka were the only circuits to feature just one DRS zone this season.

PIT STOPS

The expected Default strategy is two stops – Laps 12/32 SuperSoft/Soft/Soft). Last year saw a mixture of one and two stop strategies, with two being the more popular option. In 2012 most teams did a one-stop strategy as the tyre wear and degradation were not particularly high.

There have often been alternative strategies tried at this circuit and this is likely to happen this year with teams pushed to try more high risk strategies with double points on offer.

SAFETY CAR

Although at 40% the statistical chance of a safety car appears quite low, there have been three in five races at Yas Marina Circuit. The 2012 edition featured two safety cars and these proved game changers for Sebastian Vettel, who was coming through the field after starting from the pit lane. The timing of the safety cars is crucial, particularly if they fall in the pit stop windows.

CONCLUSION

As far as Yas Marina Circuit is concerned, Sebastian Vettel has won three of the five races to date with Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen winning the other two. This is a track where Lewis Hamilton has always been very fast; he has had two pole position, he won in 2011 and was twice leading when forced to retire. However last year he was outqualified here by Nico Rosberg. Fernando Alonso has had two podium finishes there for Ferrari. Jenson Button has been on the podium three times.

The championship that matters i.e. the drivers, has come down to the final race again after 4 years of Sebastian Vettel boringness. And it is not just one leading the other with a huge lead, with double points anything can happen. This will be a battle to the death as Nico is hungry for his first championship and Lewis is even hungrier after waiting so long for his second. We will be on tenterhooks watching this one.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

TITLE PERMUTATIONS

Lewis Hamilton will win the World title if he finishes first or second in Abu Dhabi but what happens if he is third...Double points are on offer in the season finale in Abu Dhabi, which means Hamilton's 17-point lead could easily be negated by team-mate Nico Rosberg.

The Brit, though, is holding the advantage and an 11th race win for the season would see him secure his second Drivers' Championship.

Here is what Hamilton needs to win the title.

* A win or a P2

* To finish fifth or better and for Rosberg not to win

* Sixth or better and for Rosberg not to finish inside the top two

* Eighth or better and for Rosberg not to finish in the top three

* Ninth or better and for Rosberg to finish fifth or lower

* And if Rosberg is outside the top five, Hamilton will win the title even if he doesn't score.

Rosberg, meanwhile, cannot do it by himself as even a victory won't guarantee him the World title.

* He must win and hope Hamilton is third or lower

* If he is second, Hamilton must be sixth or lower

* If he is third, Hamilton must be seventh or lower

* If he is fourth, Hamilton must be ninth or lower

* If he is fifth, Hamilton must be 10th or lower.

Anyway, I know that Lewis is stronger and will win the championship. That's just me as I am a fan of Lewis but I'm sure Nico will give it all he's got. May the best man win!

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

WINNERS AND LOSERS: BRAZILIAN GP

I did not watch the race due to the time zone differences but read that it was a decent race and that Lewis had enough pace to beat Rosberg if not for the spin. He finished second, where he needed to so it's game on for the final. Here is the winners vs losers piece by Andrew Davies of PlanetF1. Original article HERE.

Nico Rosberg kept his lock-ups to a minimum as Turn 4 came back to haunt Lewis Hamilton at Interlagos...(after his 2007 nightmare)

Star of the Race
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1st
From the moment he got an immaculate getaway from the line, Rosberg made few mistakes on his way to a fifth win of the season. The win crowned an almost perfect weekend; fastest in all free practice sessions, pole position and the win. The only thing he failed to pick up was the fastest lap which Lewis put in on Lap 62 (but not by much).

The most important thing that Nico had to prove today was that he could resist pressure and even though he wasn't the fastest driver on the day, he wasn't forced into a braking error as he has been in races past, despite having a team-mate at less than a second back for the final 19 laps of the race. It wasn't a faultless performance because there were at least two pretty trashed sets of tyres in there, and Interlagos isn't a heavy braking circuit (his weakness) but he made sure he didn't cock up Turn 4 and that's what counted the most

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 61: Jenson Button on Kimi Raikkonen - for P4
Raikkonen was in a pretty resolute mood today, as witnessed by his defence of P6 from Fernando Alonso, but Jenson Button has his eye on another P4. When the McLaren failed to get past into Turn 1, the cars edging through the very first part of the Senna Esses in close proximity it looked inevitable that JB would try the second DRS into Turn 4. Raikkonen saw him coming, claimed the inside line, but whereas he could keep his team-mate at bay with a crafty line through the corner, Jenson went round the outside of Kimi but kept enough momentum.

Winners

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2nd
This was certainly one that got away. Lewis has had his fair share of dramas into Turn 4, Lake Descent, over the years, but the spin on Lap 28 gave him too big a gap to close.

Hamilton demonstrated in the laps from Lap 29 to Lap 47 - when he reduced the gap to Rosberg from 7.4 seconds to 1.9 seconds - he was the quicker of the two drivers. But just as one key mistake ruined his pole lap, one key mistake on his in-lap ruined his race.

Felipe Massa, Williams, 3rd
Felipe Massa survived a pitlane speeding penalty and a trip into the McLaren pitbox to stand on a podium he probably thought he was never going to stand on again. Which is the happy ending we all wanted. Williams 0.2 deficit to Mercedes in Qualifying disappeared very quickly in race conditions. The chance of a Williams win was almost as likely as rain.

Jenson Button, McLaren, 4th
McLaren were not expecting to improve on JB's impressive P5 from Qualifying, especially when the track temperature approaching the start of the race was 53C. But with it clouding over and dropping to 44C Jenson was able to keep his tyres together and keep ahead of the Red Bull team

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 5th
Christian Horner (hammer of the smaller teams) speaks a large amount of rubbish, whining about engine power and one of his contentions - that Renault lost a second from the bottom of the hill at Juncao to the Interlagos finish line - was not borne out by Sebastian Vettel's speed in the race. Vettel's first lap wobble that allowed Magnussen and Alonso past, looked unlike the wobble of four-times World Champion - in fact it seems that both he and Lewis have bad feelings about Descida do Lago, a corner that keeps on tripping both of them up.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 6th
Fernando put some old school manners on (potential 2015 team-mate) Karismatic Kevin but struggled to get past Kimi until he could get his exit from Juncao right.

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 7th
Kimi's best race in ages, and it was only a pitlane error by a hasty jack man that dropped him the time he needed to stay in front of Alonso. Raikkonen's defence of P6 from Alonso was masterful car-placing stuff, but the oddest thing of all was to see two Ferraris actually duelling it out wheel to wheel. A collector's item, that - bring on Abu Dhabi.

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 8th
Nico raced sensibly to a lap time, but still went on the attack when he had the opportunity. There were shades of his accident with Lewis Hamilton as he entered a braking competition for Turn 1 with Valtteri Bottas and forced the Williams driver off track.

Losers

Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 10th
On an afternoon when team-mate Felipe Massa scored a podium despite a 5-second pitlane penalty, Bottas should have been 4th or 5th ensuring Williams take P3 in the Constructors' Championship. The fact that he was back in 10th was thanks to a disastrous pit-stop which should have taken 22 seconds from pitlane entry to pitlane exit, but lasted 35.

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, DNF
The self-styled 'honey badger' made an unexpectedly early return to the pits. 'Unexpected' because in reliability terms Daniel had finished all but seven of the total laps raced in 2014 and was the most consistent finisher. But his Brazilian GP was cut short after a front- brake problem meant that another 31 laps would have to be added to that amount.

Nelson Piquet
Bang goes the Sky Sports contract... As Rubens Barrichello is now a broadcaster you have to wonder why he wasn't up there doing the podium interviewers instead of a man who is as funny as haemorrhoids but thinks he's Brazil's answer to Frankie Boyle.

Media Watch
"We're looking at Nico Rosberg who's just put his helmet and his hands on." Three Times Le Mans Winner Allan McNish

James Allen almost said this twice, but it was a sentence that really needed the word 'forget': "I was here on the final day of the season in 2008 - a day I'll never remember."

Regular readers of this column will know our love for James Allen's occasional 'Yoda-like' sentences, which we, for some, time aren't having. However Nico Rosberg obliged after Qualifying. Nico Rosberg "I'm not ecstatic. As important is tomorrow."

STBO Award
"Lewis Hamilton's got a flatsport on his front tyres and Nico Rosberg's got problems with his rear tyres at exactly the other end of the car." Allan McNish

Original article HERE.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

BRAZIL GP 2014 PREVIEW

The Brazilian Grand Prix (Portuguese: Grande Prêmio do Brasil) is a Formula One championship race which is currently held at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in Interlagos, a district in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. A Brazilian Grand Prix was first held in 1972 at Interlagos, although it was not part of the Formula One World Championship. Typical of European motorsports at the time, this race was done as a test to convince the FIA if the Interlagos circuit and its organizers could capably hold a Grand Prix. The following year, however, the race was first included in the official calendar, and it was won by defending world champion and São Paulo native Emerson Fittipaldi. In 1974, Fittipaldi won again in rain soaked conditions, and the year after, another São Paulo native, Carlos Pace, won the race in his Brabham, followed by Fittipaldi. 1977 was won by Reutemann, but the drivers began complaining about Interlagos's very rough surface, and the event was then relocated for a year to the new Jacarepaguá circuit in Rio de Janeiro.

Interlagos at just over 800 metres, the atmospheric pressure is 10% lower than at sea level and while this doesn’t sap power with a turbo engine, like it does with a normally aspirated one, it does make the Energy Recovery System work harder on the turbo side. This appeared to be an issue for Mercedes the last time it raced at altitude in Austria, the only time this year that the team failed to secure pole position.

Adding to the uncertainty this weekend is the newly resurfaced track. Teams were used to the tired old tarmac, with its low grip, but now they have to learn about a new surface and, as we saw in Sochi, that can have a very different impact on tyre performance than one expects. If it rains during Friday practice, as forecast, then teams will have no opportunity to learn how the soft and medium tyres will behave in the event that the race is dry. That would make for an extraordinary Grand Prix.

It is also the shortest lap of the season in terms of lap time, a quick lap there being under 1m 12 seconds, so the qualifying and racing have an intense quality about them. The circuit has a fast downhill sector one and final uphill sector three, with a tight infield sector in the middle.

TRACK CHARACTERISTICS

Track length : 4.309 kilometres.
Race distance : 71 laps (305.909 kilometres).
Corners : 15 corners in total
 Average speed : 210km/h. A classic circuit set in a natural bowl, in a suburb of Sao Paulo.
Aerodynamic setup : Med/High downforce.
Top speed : 323km/h (with DRS open) 311km/h without.
Full throttle : 60% of the lap time (ave/high).
Brake wear : light.
Number of braking events : 6, Time spent braking – 16% of the lap.
Total time needed for a pit stop : 20 seconds
Lap record : 1:11.473 (Colombia Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams BMW, 2004)

WEATHER FORECAST

Rain showers are a common occurrence in Sao Paolo at this time of year and many Brazilian Grands Prix have experienced sudden showers over the years. The forecast for the weekend is for wet weather all three days, especially Saturday. Temperatures around 20 degrees centigrade and an 80% chance of rain on Sunday.

DRS

There are two DRS zones. The first has a detection point at the apex of T2, with activation 20m after T3, while the second has its activation point 30m after T13, with an activation point 60m after T15.


The pitlane exit has been realigned further to the left to provide a run-off area around the outside of T2, while the pitlane entry has been realigned to the left in order to allow the pit wall start to be moved further away from the track. Finally a low kerb has been placed on the apex of T15 in order to prevent cars from cutting the corner.

TYRES

Pirelli tyre choice for Brazil: Medium (white markings) and soft (yellow markings). This combination has been the dominant selection this season and teams know these tyres very well now.
Pirelli changed the specifications from Medium and Hard to Soft and Meidum quite late on, after complaints from drivers, led by Williams’ Felipe Massa. The track has been completely resurfaced and this could have a significant effect on the outcome of the race. Teams knew the old surface well; worn and slippery as it was. Learning how the new surface interacts with the tyre is the key job for Friday practice. If that is rain affected but the race day is dry, then we will be in for a very interesting race with teams working in the dark on how the tyres will behave.

PIT STOPS

The revised pit lane entry, together with the new track surface mean that predictions are difficult, but two stops looks the most likely scenario with stops on Laps 20 and 45. However we saw in Austin that the soft was not the favoured race tyre. Overtaking at Interlagos isn’t too much of a problem, thanks to the long uphill straight leading to the Senna S. And the DRS wing certainly helps.

SAFETY CAR

The chances of a Safety Car are high at 63%. The Safety Car has been used in seven of the last 11 races. It is often called into action on the first lap, as it’s a short lap with 24 cars charging into tight corners. This makes the Safety Car an important element to factor into Race Strategy planning. It encourages teams to hedge their bets and split strategies, with one car doing a conventional two-stop plan and the other on a one-stop, a plan that would benefit from a safety car deployment. This is because a safety car would close up the field reducing any time loss and if timed well, would allow a one-stopping car to effectively get a free pit stop.

CONCLUSIONS

Nico Rosberg no longer has the world championship in his hands; two wins in Brazil and Abu Dhabi will not be enough on their own. At some point the German needs luck to intervene in his favour and work against title rival Lewis Hamilton. Interlagos, a circuit at which anything can happen due to unpredictable weather, tight run-off areas and the high chance of a safety car, might be the venue to provide it. There have been many upsets at this race in the past and it’s a relief when a race goes to plan, especially when a championship is at stake.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

WINNERS AND LOSERS: US GP

The race started off boring until lap 24 when Lewis Hamilton pulled an overtake at a hairpin on Nico Rosberg and hammered home his superiority. The battles behind were also fantastic especially Alonso vs Button. Here is the winners vs losers piece by Andrew Davies of PlanetF1. Original article HERE.

It was a gripping race in the Lone Star state with a clinical victory for Lewis Hamilton to make it five wins in a row...

Star of the Race
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st
Lewis loves Austin and Austin loves Lewis. He's the Austin Ambassador. It was a carefully thought out race from Hamilton after an irregular front brake temperature cost him the chance of pole on Saturday. Once he'd got away from the dodgy side of the grid in front of both Williams then his fate was in his own hands. The lock-ups he'd suffered on Saturday had limited the life of his tyres in the first stint. And so he lost out when Mercedes pitted Nico late, dropping back to 2.5 secs down because he was obliged to stop after Rosberg, who had better life left in his Softs and as leader could choose his moment.

Once some wing was taken out at the first stop, the car was optimally balanced and he moved from 2.5 down on Lap 18, to 1.8, 1.4, 1.0, 0.7, 0.8 on Lap 23. When he suddenly scored a purple (fastest) first sector eight laps into a tyre stint, on Lap 24, you knew something like a Monza charge was on the way and he nailed Rosberg that lap.

From then on it was a question of tyre and engine management. In Qualifying the W05 had been 1.1 second per lap clear of anyone else, but Felipe Massa was only 4.9 seconds behind (now second place) Rosberg on Lap 30. In the final stint both cars began to push and show what they could really do - by Lap 46 they were lapping 1.6 seconds quicker than third place Daniel Ricciardo who was going flat out to keep in front of Massa. When Nico upped his pace, Lewis had the buffer to respond.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 50: Jean-Eric Verne on Romain Grosjean for P9
The stewards may have penalised him for the move, but the late-braking dive up the inside that JEV delivered to Romain Grosjean at Turn 1 was another example of the Frenchman's great racing ability. As Marussia reserve driver Alexander Rossi said, "It was a little bit NASCAR, and rubbin's racing, right...?"

Grosjean was clearly not watching, otherwise he wouldn't have gasped. "What was that?" immediately afterwards. He had his eyes firmly fixed on Jenson Button a few car lengths in front and whereas some overtaking moves require the overtaken car to take a different line, Grosjean had his head fixed so firmly on the car in front that that was never going to be a possibility. And if the stewards don't like the idea of contact then they should be consistent and penalise the wayward Pastor Maldonado for needlessly cannoning into Jenson Button's tyres in the closing stages after ignoring the blue flags and blocking Nico Rosberg.

JEV had earlier managed a pass on Sebastian Vettel at the improbable location of Turn 9 on Lap 26, and his swift pass on Jenson Button's McLaren was also a thing of beauty.

Winners
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 2nd
Nico Rosberg was bearing up after the race and said, with a smile on his face, "It sucks, you know, being passed like that with the same car." Rosberg did very little wrong in the race, apart from react far too late to Hamilton's charge down the inside at Turn 12 on Lap 24. By the time he began to move over both cars were already well into the braking zone.

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 3rd
Daniel's comeback from a poor getaway started as early as the braking zone for Turn 1, as he came through and gave a friendly little nudge to Jenson Button before going round the outside of Kimi Raikkonen. He used his considerable racecraft to ease past Magnussen and Alonso, then left it to the engineers at Red Bull to pull the strategy needed to get past both Williams. This was supposed to be a circuit where the Mercedes grunt would put them out of reach.

Felipe Massa, Williams, 4th
Massa got a great start, fended of Fernando Alonso and jinked past his team-mate, but just lost out to the Wile E Coyote undercut strategy of the Red Bull team and Dan Ricciardo. It all came down to the pitstops. Bottas stopped on Lap 30, Ricciardo stopped on Lap 31 and Massa came in on Lap 32. Had Williams elected to bring Felipe in when he still had a two second advantage over Ricciardo on Lap 31, then they might have scraped a podium. As it is, they have all but cemented third place in the constructors' championship.

Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 5th
Valtteri has come a long way after scoring his first World Championship points at Austin in 2013. Given the Williams team's resurgence, fifth place is almost a disappointment.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 6th
Some epic racing from Fernando, who had a lot of fun with Jenson Button, not quite as much with Sebastian Vettel, and managed to keep in front of him right at the end despite a vibration that blurred his vision. On paper he delivered P6 from P6 on the grid, but he had to work very hard to keep his F14T where he started. There's also the small matter of finishing 64 seconds behind the P5 car.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 7th
When Red Bull brought Sebastian Vettel in for a pit-stop on Lap 49, with just seven laps to go, it looked like they might have encountered a sudden problem on the car. "Vettel bringing it in to retire it," thought BBC commentator Ben Edwards. But no, out he came again with a set of Softs, having dropped from P7 to P14, and hammered the Fastest Lap down to 1:41.379 on Lap 50. He then engaged in a series of muscular overtaking moves, picking off the stragglers doomed to run to the finish on fading tyres.

Losers
Sergio Perez, Force India, DNF
Checo almost managed to take out three cars in one corner with a bit of inexpert braking on Lap 1. Thankfully Raikkonen's car survived, but Adrian Sutil's did not. It must have been a huge blow for all the Mexican fans who had made the trip north to see their hero, but at least it was his own fault. And they must be getting used to it after his accident in Canada.

Adrian Sutil, Sauber, DNF
Adrian is still to complete a racing lap of Austin, though qualifying the car P9 must be a small compensation. Whether the Sauber could have maintained that pace in the race is anyone's guess, for once the Lotus cars were looking racy, (even though Romain Grosjean seemed to complete 25% of his race distance on the run-off tarmac).

Jenson Button, McLaren, 12th
Jenson did a lot of racing today for nil points and most of it was down to taking a gearbox penalty, which meant he couldn't start from his Qualifying position of P7. Which meant he was behind Magnussen not in front, which meant he got double-teamed at the first tyre stop, which meant he lost a few places, and which meant that when the second stops came round he stayed out too long and lost some more places, and yada yada yada.

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 13th
For a lot of the race Kimi was not that far behind Fernando Alonso, but the Finn was plagued yet again by a sliding front-end that gave him constant understeer. "Japan was similar - we fight with understeer the whole weekend and whatever we do we can't seem to get rid of it. Then you can expect to destroy the front tyres." Which he did.

Media Watch
Jenny Gow posing a question to Red Bull boss Christian Horner. "Engines, what can you do about them? This is the 17th race of the weekend..."

Eddie Jordan was asked what he thought about the situation with Marussia and Caterham potentially going out of business (deep breath now): "Well, you have to ask Mr Ecclestone that. Because I believe what he said a few races ago, about diminishing the number of teams to run three cars absolutely made no sense to these young teams, because anyone who was either talking to a sponsor, or credibility, or even staff; anyone involved in drivers, the whole thing undermined their whole existence in my opinion and from that point, therefore, these teams were never given a chance. I don't think Bernie has embraced them. I don't think F1 has embraced them."

"People are running around me, down to the podium situation." Jenny Gow

Andrew Davies

Original article HERE.

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Friday, October 31, 2014

UNITED STATES GP 2014 PREVIEW

The United States Grand Prix is a motor race which has been run on and off since 1908, when it was known as the American Grand Prize. The race later became part of the Formula One World Championship. Over 43 editions, the race has been held at ten locations, most recently in 2013 at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

The Circuit of the Americas, which runs anti clockwise, is a wonderful mixture of many of the most famous circuits on the F1 calendar; it has more corners at over 250 km/h than Spa and more below 100kph than Hungary, which is quite a combination! It has one very long straight with a hairpin at either end. There were a total of 55 overtaking moves during the 2012 race, but only 18 in the 2013 edition. Strategy wise, the race has been a one stopper for both the previous races, due to a conservative choice of medium and hard tyres by Pirelli. This year they have opted for soft and medium.

TRACK CHARACTERISTICS
Circuit length : 5.516 kilometres.
Race distance : 56 laps (308.896 kilometres).
Corners : 20 corners in total. Average speed 197km/h.
Aerodynamic setup : Med/High downforce.
Top speed : 315km/h (with DRS open) 305km/h without.
Full throttle : 58% of lap.
Brake wear : medium/hard.
Number of braking events : 10 (Four heavy). At Turn 12 the drivers incur 5.5g in braking forces.
Time needed for a Pit stop : 21/22 seconds.
Lap record : 1:39.347 (Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing, 2012)

WEATHER FORECAST

The forecast for the weekend is for warm weather, with temperatures of 24 to 26 Centigrade.

TYRES

Pirelli tyre choice for Austin: Soft (yellow markings) and Medium (white markings) This combination has been used six times already this season.

For the last two seasons, Pirelli has brought the medium and hard tyres to Austin and it has led to one-stop strategies. This year they have gone for the soft and medium tyres, but that is because the 2014 compounds are harder than last year’s. So we could have one or two stops as the preferred strategy, Pirelli thinks two. Tyre warm up has been a factor at this race track in the past as it can be very cool, in the mornings especially.

DRS

At the request of FIM, some of the asphalt run-off area around the outside of Turn 10 has been replaced by gravel, while a number of light panels will be mounted closer to the ground for improved visibility.


There are two DRS zones this weekend. The detection point of the first is 150 metres after Turn 10, with the activation point 320m after Turn 11, while the second zone’s detection point is 65m after Turn 18, with the activation point 80m after Turn 20, on the start/finish straight.

PIT STOPS

Typically with the harder compounds of the past in Austin one stop has been around 10 seconds faster than two stops. One stop has another advantage in that it offers track position in the final stint, so the two stopping car has to overtake it on fresher tyres in the closing stages. A typical one stop strategy is to start on soft tyres and pit around lap 20 for a new set of medium tyres.

Two stops would mean starting on the soft tyre, taking another set of softs around lap 15 and then a set of mediums around lap 37. Alternatively, two stints on the medium tyre if the wear on the soft was marginal and the medium had good pace.

SAFETY CAR

There have been two races so far and one safety car so the probability is 50%.

CONCLUSION

The world championship is finely balanced as F1 makes its third visit to Austin, Texas, which proved a huge hit with teams, drivers and fans last season. The two Mercedes drivers have scored 565 points between them – enough to secure the constructor’s championship already – but there are only 17 points separating Lewis Hamilton from his team mate Nico Rosberg.

There will be only nine teams participating in the Grand Prix after Caterham and Marussia went into administration.

The news that Sebastian Vettel may skip qualifying completely because he has to replace a whole power unit will suck for fans. The way this has been going just shows how poorly thought out the rules were by the FIA.

I'm looking forward to another clean sweep by Lewis Hamilton as he has been very good at this track and the flowing nature of the circuit suits the Mercedes power unit just fine.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

WINNERS AND LOSERS: RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX

What can i say about Sochi? In one word - boring. The cars were strecthed out by lap 7 and you know the rest of the race would be a procession.Except for the odd overtaking now and then, no real battles. And one set of tyres lasting almost the whole race? That didn't really help. Although it did help Mercedes seal the crown. Here is the winners vs losers piece by Andrew Davies of PlanetF1. Original article HERE.

Star of the Race
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st
That's four wins in a row now for Lewis Hamilton and as people keep saying, all the drivers who have ever won four races in a row have gone on to be World Champion. (Though they weren't saying this a lot when Lewis won four races in a row earlier in the year). After he'd claimed pole on Saturday, and then worked out where to brake at Turn 2 on the opening lap with a full fuel load - something his team-mate demonstrably failed to do, then he was away. Valtteri Bottas kept him in sight in the opening laps, and by Lap 10 the gap was only 2.7 seconds. Then Lewis put in his latest of a sequence of Fastest Laps and the gap went out to 3.3 seconds. By Lap 20 it was 9.3 seconds.

This wasn't Lewis at his 'team-mate-nailed-to-his-gunsites' best, this was Lewis in cruise mode at a holiday resort. Or, as Eddie Jordan elegantly described Sochi: "It's more of a holiday and time-off time kind of place."

At one stage it looked like Lewis was putting in one fast lap, then a steady lap, then another fast one. We got a new Fastest Lap on Laps 7, 9 and 11. In the closing stages he looked like he was drifting along preserving everything he could, turning the motor down, and just waiting for a much-predicted safety car that never came. He really did make winning look very easy. Just as Nico made recovering from last place to finish second look very easy.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 31: Nico Rosberg on Valtteri Bottas for P2 
Given how well the tyres were lasting, it was crucial that Nico Rosberg got past Valtteri Bottas before the Williams worked out the perfect strategy for defending P2. After Vettel pitted at the end of Lap 30, Bottas no longer had the benefit of the DRS tow from the Red Bull and on the start/finish straight. Rosberg immediately launched an attack, and dived up the inside at the last minute into Turn 2. It caught Bottas off guard because he was already angling across for the apex and had to cut the corner in favour of the escape route to make it through. After the race Bottas admitted that he was surprised by the Mercedes W05's sudden appearance, which only goes to show it was the perfect time. No skulking around today for Rosberg.

As for the race, Nico was incredibly fortunate to score the points he did. Had he badly flat-spotted the tyres at any other race venue and pitted for tyres on the opening lap, then he would have carried that one-extra-stop defecit through the race. To be told that he could pit on Lap 1 with almost full tanks and still aim to go to the finish on that set of tyres was incredible (as in not credible). And if Valtteri Bottas hadn't got a shift on for Lap 53 to claim the Fastest Lap, then Rosberg would have put in the Fastest Lap of the race with his 1:41.360 on Lap 52 on 51-lap-old tyres. Again, utterly incredible.

Winners

Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 3rd
Bottas so nearly split the Mercedes on the grid after his heroics in Saturday Qualifying. The split-screen lap comparison with Hamilton showed that he was already fractionally behind Lewis before he got to the last two corners, but it was a mighty effort nonetheless. In the race he kept Lewis honest for the opening laps, even putting in a Fastest Lap of his own on Lap 4.

Jenson Button behind was never going to be a threat, but thanks to the generosity of the first DRS zone, along with the graphene-covered Pirelli tyres, Rosberg was able to close up and pass all the cars in his path to take P2 from him.

Jenson Button, McLaren, 4thJenson was pleased to have kept the Ferraris and the Red Bulls at bay, but the podium just eluded him, thanks to Rosberg's remarkable recovery. Given that it's a long time since he finished so close to the front you would have thought that Jenson would have been more upbeat after the race, but he wasn't moany, just reflective and slightly regretful. Perhaps he's missing Jon Button more than we realise, as McLaren strenuously deny that any new driver plan is in place.

Kevin Magnussen, McLaren 5th
Magnussen looked to have contributed to his own downfall on Saturday by straightlining the kerbs at Turn 2 and bouncing his gearbox into submission in final free practice. He made up for the five-place defecit with a scintillating opening lap, pulling off an audacious/foolhardy move up the inside into Turn 2. It's audacious if you get away with it and it's foolhardy if you lose your front wing. Watching the onboard footage with Eric Boullier afterwards you could see him wince at how close he came to being the lesser of the two.

He couldn't match Jenson Button's pace and finished 23 seconds shy of his team-mate. It would have been interesting if Fernando Alonso had come out in front of him after his pit-stop, to see if Kevin could do anything with the master tactician.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 6th
Not the greatest of days in the office, the F14T didn't have the straightline speed to overtake, or the strategy opportunities for Fernando to do something different to his main rivals. He kept Ricciardo at bay in the latter stages, which he's struggled to do in races past, but that's probably not going to make its way onto his racing c.v.

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 7th
There was the tiniest hint of frustration of being held up by Sebastian Vettel, but the Red Bull just wasn't competitive at the Sochi Autodrum.

Russian Grand Prix
The circuit at Sochi is a real success. The drivers say that it's good to drive, it flows, and the frantic Q3 session showed that getting it absolutely right is not the easiest job in the world. We had an abundance of fans over the weekend including the visit of a prestigious waxwork towards the end of the race. Presumably no-one in the Kremlin had bothered to tell Vlad that the interesting bit is at the beginning. TV pictures showed him sitting in the grandstands talking at Bernie, and even with the new quieter hybrid engines Bernie was mouthing, "What?" So, congratulations to Mother Russia for their inaugural GP. Beetroot spritzers all round.


Losers

Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 14th
Kvyat paid the price for the glory of a stellar grid position, too much downforce which made him quick over a single lap, but led to problems in the race. Jean-Eric Vergne suffered too. P5 was his best ever gridlot, but he got mugged on the opening lap when it looked like all the Red Bull-sponsored cars were running in a pack and scrapping it out between themselves.

Felipe Massa, Williams, 11th
Felipe's strategy of starting on the medium tyres then changing them for softs after the opening lap didn't work out. Perez, who finished 10th just in front of him, also started on the medium tyres and brought his much-slower car home in the points. Given that the FW36 had the pace to set the fastest lap and that at one stage Massa was lapping faster than Rosberg just in front of him (admittedly on the softer compound) it was surprising that the Brazilain couldn't get more out of the race.

Pirelli
The BBC reported that Pirelli hadn't actually surveyed the track surface at Sochi before deciding the tyre allocation for the race. If that is the case, then it's a major mistake because we were left with one of those old school grands prix where nothing happens and drivers go faster as the fuel load goes down.

Media Watch
Eddie Jordan talking about Alex Lynn's chances of making it into the Toro Rosso team to replace Daniil 'Danny' Kvyat: "He's vying for that place with Carlos Sainz's son...another Carlos Sainz."

Suzi Perry "Did the tyre evolvement catch you out...?"

Talking about the post-race downbeat Jenson Button
Eddie Jordan nodding at David Coulthard: "He's very close to Jenson. They live together
David Coulthard: We don't live together.
Eddie Jordan:
They live near each other.

Talking to Eric Boullier about McLaren's recent upswing in form. Eddie Jordan: "Four races ago you weren't competitive. What has you done to your car...?"

Andrew Davieski

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Friday, October 10, 2014

RUSSIAN GP 2014 PREVIEW

The 2014 Russian Grand Prix (formally known as the 2014 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix is a Formula One motor race that is due to take place on 12 October 2014. The race, which will be contested over fifty-three laps, will be held at the Sochi Autodrom, a brand new circuit built on the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi in Krasnodar Krai, Russia.

The race will be the sixteenth round of the 2014 season, following on from the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka one week previously, and preceding the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas. The race marks the first time that the Russian Grand Prix has been held in a century, and will also be the first time the Russian Grand Prix has been run as a round of the Formula One World Championship since the championship was formed in 1950.

Sochi is a new circuit, built around the Olympic Park from the Sochi Winter Games 2014. It is a street circuit in essence, like Singapore or Valencia in some ways although with faster sections and with a trademark horseshoe shaped left-hander at T3/4, which will stress out the right front tyres.
It is the third longest lap of the year after Spa and Silverstone, but with 18 corners and 12 braking zones, the Energy Recovery Systems will be functioning at their optimum, with no issues on recharging. This is a track which would have been high fuel consumption in the V8 era, but which the teams will easily be able to cover in 100 kilos or less with the hybrid turbos.

TRACK CHARACTERISTICS
Track length : 5.853 kilometres.
Race distance : 53 laps (310.209 kilometres).
Corners : 18 corners in total. A new circuit around Olympic Park, with a street feel to it.
Aerodynamic setup : HIgh downforce.
Top speed : 320km/h. Average Speed 200km/h.
Full throttle : 56% of the lap time (average).
Time spent braking : 10% of lap (low).
Number of brake zones : 12.
Brake wear : Average. Not a tough race on brakes.
Total time needed for pit stop : 17.5 secs (plus stop time >3secs ) = 21 seconds (ave).

WEATHER

Sochi is fairly temperate and stable weather wise so it looks like the temperatures will be around 20 plus degrees on race day. Sunny skies during Friday’s practice session will bring temperatures of up to 22C, and more of the same on Saturday should see the mercury hit 24C. Sunday is likely to be as warm again, though cloud cover will begin to form ahead of the race start time.

However, like Austin, it is cold at night, so the track temperature will be low for FP1 and FP3. Another thing to watch out for will be the dropping temperature as the race goes on, due to the relatively late 3pm start time. Unlike at Suzuka, dimming light should not be a problem. Sunday’s race starts at 3pm local time with sunset expected at 6:43pm.Forecast is for sunny and warm weather conditions with the chance of rain low.

TYRES

Pirelli tyre choice for Sochi: Soft (yellow markings) and Medium (white markings). This combination has been used five times this year already.

The track surface is only mildly abrasive, but it will still have the oils on the surface which is normal with fresh tarmac and which could make it slippery to start with. This will disappear after a Russian winter so next year the grip levels will be higher. The tyres are likely to slide on this surface and that will increase the stress on them. Meanwhile there are a lot of traction points (like Singapore) so we are likely to see rear tyre degradation due to longitudinal forces through the tyres on acceleration.

DRS

The Sochi Autodrom will have two DRS zones for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix. The two zones will be on opposite sides of the 5.8 kilometre track and have their own detection points.


The first DRS zone will be on the run to the first braking zone, and the other will be on the next-longest flat-out stretch which curves right and left as it leads into turn 13.

SAFETY CAR

The chance of a Safety Car at Sochi has yet to be established, but after the harrowing events at Suzuka with Jules Bianchi last week and the resulting spotlight on the role of the Safety Car in F1, plus a circuit lined with walls, which makes it hard for marshals to clear debris safely, it has to be presumed that the chances of a Safety Car this weekend are quite high.

CONCLUSION

Mercedes has won 12 of the 15 races so far this season, with Lewis Hamilton now on eight victories to Nico Rosberg’s four. The team will clinch the Constructors’ Championship for the first time since 1955, if they score well this weekend. They can afford to drop 17 points to Red Bull and still clinch the title on Sunday, with three rounds still to go.

The F1 teams will race under a cloud this weekend after the tragic events in Japan surrounding Marussia’s Jules Bianchi, who remains in hospital with a severe head injury. All drivers will be racing with that in mind and we may see more use of the safety car as it was only a week ago that the incident happened.

It is looking increasingly good for Lewis Hamilton to consolidate further his lead in the championship. He has been very good in the past when it comes to a completely new circuit as he can adapt very fast and very well. Looking forward to this race.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

JAPANESE GP: WINNERS AND LOSERS

An interesting race with the heavy weather. Lewis overtake and domination of Rosberg was the highlight for me. Although the Bianchi accident overshadowed everything after everybody realised how serious it was. I just saw a fan video of the crash and it is VERY serious. The car rammed the tractor straight on, no doubt about the seriousness of the head injury.

Here is the winners vs losers piece by Andrew Davies of PlanetF1. Original article HERE.

It was a troubled end to a memorable Grand Prix weekend. With the arrival of the new guard and the changing of the old...

Star of the Race
Jenson Button, McLaren, 5th
If ever McLaren needed a stark reminder of the benefits of an experienced driver, then they had it from Jenson Button on Sunday. His audacious early move to Inters had all the hallmarks of the Hungarian GP fiasco, where the McLaren team got the weather prediction badly wrong and threw away a handful of points. Was it going to pay off? Yes. Because this time it was Jenson Button making the call, and as the most experienced driver on the grid, he got it right.

He tried his best to keep the Red Bulls at bay and resisted the irresistible Daniel Ricciardo for as long as he could, but in the end he had to give best. It was the perfect performance to highlight his skills to the Honda management present at the race, on a day when his rookie team-mate plumbed new depths.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 29: Lewis Hamilton on Nico Rosberg for P1
Lewis has had a few moments into Turn 1 this weekend, including his off in FP3 and a late-closing of the DRS that almost pitched him into a tank-slapper. So when he closed to within 0.4 of his team-mate, the incredibly risky high-speed Turn 1 didn't look like the best option to make a pass. That never really puts Lewis off though, and knowing that he had to make it a clean (non-Spa) kind of pass he had to wait for the right moment. That came on Lap 29 when Rosberg had a small wobble under acceleration out of the final chicane and Lewis closed up down the straight, sucking in behind his rival for maximum tow and minimum visibility, then hurling it down the outside and getting it turned in without running wide. As David Coulthard noted: "That is bravery off the scale. I stopped breathing for a second then. That is a pass that all the other drivers will admire."

As for his race it was another peerless demonstration of his superiority in the W05. Bernie once suggested (yeah, another one of those great Bernie suggestions) that we should have gold, silver and bronze medals to decide the drivers' title. If that was the case then Lewis would have one hand on the trophy, with eight wins to Nico's four wins and four races to go.

Winners

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 2nd
Rosberg still hasn't beaten Hamilton in wheel-to-wheel racing this year, but hung on to take the best points he could. He already had the satisfaction of nailing another fine qualifying performance on Saturday to go 9:6 up in the qualifying battle.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 3rd
Having won four out of the last five Japanese GPs, this was really the track where Vettel needed to redress some of his defecit to Ricciardo. Which he just about did despite a worrying moment in the Esses when he went ploughing through the gravel and added six seconds to his lap time.

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 4th
Yet more incredible race action from the soon-to-be Red Bull team leader. He picked off both Williams through the Esses, each time taking a generous helping of (on other circuits, lethal) kerb and not even having the decency to wag his back end while doing so.

Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, Williams, 6th and 7th
It was clear from the opening laps that Rob Smedley's confidence about the FW36 handling well in the wet was a little premature. In the race, Hamilton, Rosberg and Button opened up a massive gap to them before the Red Bulls could get past. They then set about creating an old school gap between themselves and 5th place - the kind of interval you remember from the 80s and 90s when so many of the cars didn't finish. The conditions may not have suited the car, but they made no slip-ups and helped consolidate P3 in the Constructors' Championship.

Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 9th
JEV used his experience to best effect in a race that saw his stellar team-mate look a lot less confident than we've seen of late. Anything to do with the lack of advice from the pitwall ...?

Marcus Ericsson, Caterham, 17th
It may not be the highest Marcus Ericsson has finished a race, but the Swede came home over a minute in front of home favourite Kamui Kobayashi, to put a small shimmer of gloss on what has been a difficult weekend for the team. And it's hard to believe he did all that after spinning the car at the start. No more the moniker Marcus the Milepost.

Losers

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, DNF
Even though this is another technical failure for Alonso and Ferrari, the balance of DNFs over his five-year time at the Scuderia is still very small compared to other teams. It's rare to have a race weekend when there is a titanic battle in the driver's championship and for it to become almost a secondary story. In Suzuka we had the Verstappen debut, the Vettel announcement, the conformation from Christian Horner that the four-time World Champion was going to Ferrari, Fernando's polite avoidance of the subject and then the dreadful accident.

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 12th
Given that Kimi is supposed to like his car now, and that the variable conditions should have given him the chance to shine, P12 was a huge disappointment for him and the team. The trouble started when he lost tyre temperature on his F14T and so the car wouldn't turn in as he liked. Throw into that a botched pit-stop and that was Ferrari's record-breaking run in the points ended.

Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 14th
This is the first high-speed race when Kevin Magnussen hasn't had the benefit of real-time driver coaching and it showed. He had to contend with electronic issues throughout, so maybe the serial spins and run-offs into Turn 1 were a result of the malfunctioning hybrid system and we shouldn't blame him too much for those. However, if he really was having problems into Turn 1, what was he doing trying to challenge Daniel Ricciardo into that corner when he was a lap down? Had Magnussen lost it in what was a risky move, and collided with the Red Bull, then he would have had all the censure that Romain Grosjean picked up in his year of living dangerously.

Eric Boullier must be having his strings pulled by Ron Dennis because he said afterwards the scarcely believable: "... he [Magnussen] pulled off some good moves, especially his overtake of Daniel [Ricciardo], he was never going to be in with a chance of scoring points here today."

So if that's the case why was he trying to nudge alongside Jenson Button into Spoon late in the race when Button was still in contention for a podium place? Sergio Perez may have been criticised for some of his performances in 2013, but none were as ill-judged as Magnussen at Suzuka.

Race Director: Charlie Whiting
On a day when he got a lot of really difficult calls right, it was the one call that he got wrong which everyone will remember. There were eyebrows raised when the FIA's race director left Adrian Sutil's stranded Sauber on track on the start/finish straight in the German Grand Prix and let it be recovered under waved yellows. And it was his decision not to throw out a Safety Car when Sutil crashed in Suzuka that ultimately created the situation where Bianchi hit the recovery vehicle.

Media Watch
It's hard to know why the three men in the BBC commentary box; David Coulthard, Ben Edwards and the very experienced F1 journalist Tony Dodgins, failed to work out why the F1 world feed TV director kept on showing photos of anxious Marussia mechanics and the Marussia pitwall. It wasn't until the race had been red-flagged and non-resumption confirmed that they finally realised what was going on with Jules Bianchi and why various senior personnel of Mercedes and Red Bull were briefing their drivers as they got out of the car.

Andrew Davies

Original article HERE.

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