Daniel Ricciardo put one over on Sebastian Vettel in China, but let’s look at how all the team-mates compared in Shanghai!
1 point is awarded to the driver who sets the faster lap.
3 points are awarded to the driver who performs best in qualifying.
5 points are awarded to the driver who performs best on raceday.
It’s not particularly surprising to see Kamui Kobayashi have an advantage throughout the weekend over his rookie team-mate, but it is slightly surprising to see the extent of the Japanese driver’s dominance over Ericsson. Kamui was 1.3 seconds quicker in qualifying, and was almost 50 seconds ahead by the end of the race.
Marcus complained after the race about suffering from non-stop understeer during the race, and despite a front wing angle change at his first pitstop, was unable to overcome his issues. Finishing in last, 16 seconds behind penultimate finisher Max Chilton won’t please his Caterham bosses, and the race being declared over at a seemingly random point also will have failed to raise a smile. Kamui had produced an excellent race, dicing with Pastor Maldonado throughout the first section of the race, before the Lotus eventually got past on Lap 18. Kobayashi kept his head down, concentrating on beating the Marussias, something he achieved with about 200 metres remaining.
That was until after the race, when it was announced that due to the flag waver ‘testing’ the flag (how does one go about ‘testing’ a flag?), the race finished two laps before it was over. This meant Kamui finished behind Jules, and while this isn’t a major result change, it does have tremendous implications. First of all, just because the runners affected were ‘small fry’, this is down to luck, and such a position change could theoretically have cost Caterham millions at year end, had 10th place in the championship been decided on the back of this result. Secondly, a dangerous precedent has been set, one which could be used by an unscrupulous race organiser or official. Imagine if the circumstances of Brazil 2008 were to occur later this year, with the flag being shown a lap early. Not only would a championship be irreversibly and unfairly decided, the fallout that would occur would probably damage the sport irreparably, seeing as F1 already struggles off-track with a reputation for post-race result tinkering.
Fastest lap: Kamui Kobayashi (3-1 to Marcus Ericsson) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Kamui Kobayashi (12-0 to Kamui Kobayashi) (after Round 4)
Race: Kamui Kobayashi (15-5 to Kamui Kobayashi) (after Round 4)
Caterham: 28-8 to Kamui Kobayashi (Total After Round 4)
Max Chilton made the better start to 2014 but Jules Bianchi found his stride in Bahrain and continued where he left off in China, looking comfortably ahead of Max all weekend. Faster in FP1 & FP2, Max was only quicker in FP3, before Jules outqualified him by 1.5 seconds.
Max made a good start to jump up behind Jules on Lap 1, and kept roughly on the Frenchman’s pace throughout the opening phase, the gap only growing after the first pitstop phase, to around 8 seconds. Jules increased this to around 12 seconds by the halfway point when both made their second stops, and up again to around 18 seconds when Max pitted for the third time. Jules didn’t pit again, which allowed Kobayashi to catch him, but again had only been around 200 metres away from leading the Caterham/Marussia battle home.
Max, who had pitted again on Lap 42 to ensure he had the tyre life to hold off Marcus Ericsson, completed his 23rd consecutive finish in Formula 1 almost 30 seconds behind Jules. He set the 13th quickest race lap, which sounds good, particularly when you see this time ahead of the likes of Jenson Button, both STRs & both Lotuses, but this isn’t enough. After such a lengthy period of comparison, it’s probably fair to say that Max is a safe pair of hands who is far from the worst driver to grace an F1 cockpit, but lacks the race pace and spark that Jules’ performances seems to suggest he has.
Fastest lap: Max Chilton (3-1 to Max Chilton) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Jules Bianchi (9-3 to Jules Bianchi) (after Round 4)
Race: Jules Bianchi (15-5 to Max Chilton) (after Round 4)
Marussia: 21-15 to Max Chilton (Total After Round 4)
Modern F1 audiences, as well as governing body, seem to always need to find a driver to blame in all forms of incidents and accidents. While this is justifiable in accidents caused by blatent stupidity or malevolence, there is no need to find a guilty party in incidents during the opening corners of a race. Thankfully, sense prevailed in the Massa & Alonso collision entering Turn 1, neither were penalised, and neither suffered consequences for something that will occasionally happen when twenty two cars are all jostling for the same piece of racetrack at different speeds.
The collision came as a result of another lightning getaway from Felipe Massa, who had outqualified Valtteri by just 0.1 seconds. Bottas had to hand his car over to Felipe Nasr for FP1, and spent FP2 & FP3 closing the gap to Felipe, but fell just short in Q3. Massa lined up 6th, with the Finn in 7th.
Both made good starts, but it was Felipe who really hooked up launching his Williams, before himself and Alonso meandered across each other, the Ferrari driver clearly not expecting the Williams to have been so much faster approaching Turn 1. Valtteri tried to go around the outside of Nico Rosberg, who seemed to understeer into the side of the Williams. Very hard contact threw the Williams sideways, and both were very lucky to continue.
While Massa’s race was undoubtedly ruined by his team getting his rear tyres mixed up, putting the left hand rear on his right rear hub and vice versa, there is probably a case to be made for Bottas looking slightly more comfortable anyway during the race. Massa lead Bottas by 4 seconds on Lap 2, but Valtteri closed to within 1.8 seconds before Felipe made his ill fated minute long pitstop. A gap of 52 seconds between the two straight after their first stops grew to Valtteri leading Felipe home by 86 seconds by race end. With Felipe saying his car was undamaged, and both drivers running identical tyre strategies, Bottas has done enough to convince me that he was more likely to finish ahead of Felipe anyway, and thus gets the race points.
Fastest Lap: Felipe Massa (3-1 to Felipe Massa) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Felipe Massa (9-3 to Felipe Massa) (after Round 4)
Race: Valtteri Bottas (15-5 to Valtteri Bottas) (after Round 4)
Williams: 19-17 to Valtteri Bottas (Total After Round 4)
Despite the arrival of Kevin Magnussen to McLaren, Daniil Kyvat appears to be this year’s most impressive rookie, and maybe even the most impressive rookie since Hamilton & Vettel exploded onto the grid in 2007. Three points finishes from the first four races, as well as matching or beating his more experienced team-mate Jean-Eric is a monstrous start to the career of a Toro Rosso driver. Particularly when this points finish relied on beating Jenson Button’s McLaren home, something Kyvat not only managed, but beat him home by almost ten seconds.
The practice sessions were largely unindicative of the status quo between the STR pair, with both drivers looking to have top ten pace through Friday, but it was Daniil who failed to make it through to Q3, Vergne managing a lap 0.7 seconds quicker in Q2. He started from 9th place, but had a messy start and opening lap, falling to 14th by Lap 3, while Daniil jumped from 13th to 11th. Both drivers employed a 2 stop strategy, with JEV running the soft tyres in the middle stint, and while the pair were only separated on track by about 5 seconds for the best part of the first three quarters of the race, Kyvat held the advantage. Jenson attempted to undercut both STRs on Lap 29, and got ahead of JEV but couldn’t clear Kyvat, although it was very close. Kyvat kept his head and his lead, and pulled out a gap over both Jenson and Vergne over the last 15 laps.
Kyvat’s performances against Jean-Eric so far this season have been similar to, if not even more impressive, than what Daniel Ricciardo managed last season against the Frenchman. If the Russian can maintain his current standards for the rest of the season, he must be first in line to replace Vettel at the bigger brother squad, should the German grow weary of dicing for 5th place.
Fastest Lap: Jean-Eric Vergne (3-1 to Daniil Kyvat) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Jean-Eric Vergne (9-3 to Jean-Eric Vergne) (after Round 4)
Race: Daniil Kyvat (15-5 to Daniil Kyvat) (after Round 4)
Toro Rosso: 21-15 to Daniil Kyvat (Total After Round 4)
The most anonymous team on the grid this season continued being anonymous in China. Adrian Sutil was one of the two retirements after only 5 laps, an engine problem before he even got to the grid ensuring that the German driver spiralled down from 14th to last on the opening lap. With no remedy available, Adrian was retired. Esteban qualified 17th and jumped to 15th on the first lap, but struggled throughout the race with tyres.
Forced onto a 3 stop strategy due to the C33 eating it’s prime tyres, Esteban finished a full 2 and a half minutes behind race winner Lewis Hamilton, down in 16th place. With little to compare the two drivers on, race points must go to Esteban, but the fact that Sutil and reserve driver Giedo Van Der Garde were quicker in almost all the sessions doesn’t reflect well on Gutierrez, particularly with his slight weight advantage.
Sauber claim that a lot of their problems can and will be fixed for the next race in Spain, particularly in terms of the weight of their car. While last year’s car also was off the pace at the start of last season, the Hinwil team did recover and develop well throughout the season with Hulkenberg leading the charge. Let’s hope, based on their financial struggles last season, that they find some pace and reliability sooner rather than later.
Fastest Lap: Esteban Gutierrez (4-0 to Esteban Gutierrez) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Adrian Sutil (6-6 to each) (after Round 4)
Race: Esteban Gutierrez (10-10 to each) (after Round 4)
Sauber: 20-16 to Esteban Gutierrez (Total After Round 4)
After the Bahrain race, I questioned whether Sergio Perez would be able to consistently live with Hulkenberg’s Alonso-like consistency and ability to hustle his car as close to the front as possible. Obviously, while one race doesn’t conclude that hypothesis, Perez was not on Nico’s level throughout the Chinese weekend.
Hulkenberg was not only quicker than Sergio throughout all three practice sessions, but flirted with the top 5 in FP1 & FP3. The closest Sergio got was 0.4 seconds off Nico’s pace in FP2, before the German driver went 1.4 seconds faster in Q2 to make it into the top ten, while Sergio could only manage 16th. The Mexican driver complained of the wet weather extenuating the balance issues he was having, but started making up for it on Sunday. Vaulting up to 12th place on the opening lap, Sergio made the most of the undercut at the first stops to get ahead of the Toro Rosso drivers up to 10th place. Grosjean’s retirement elevated him to 9th, and there he stayed til race end.
Hulkenberg jumped up to 7th at the start, and mostly only had to worry about the Williams drivers, Felipe Massa in the opening .Sp5rl!47rs and Bottas towards the end, but finished a strong 6th place some thirty seconds ahead of Perez. Force India have put McLaren firmly in the shade in the past two races, and it will be interesting to see whether the Silverstone squad remain ahead of Woking as the development race heats up.
Fastest Lap: Sergio Perez (3-1 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Nico Hulkenberg (9-3 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 4)
Race: Nico Hulkenberg (15-5 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 4)
Force India: 27-9 to Nico Hulkenberg (Total After Round 4)
Charles Coates/Lotus F1 Team
McLaren have completely fallen apart since their double Australian podium 6 weeks ago, with neither driver making it into the top ten in China, despite running with no technical issues. Kevin Magnussen’s recent travails seemed to be behind him, as he completed the whole event without running into Kimi Raikkonen, but remained behind Jenson Button all weekend.
Jenson was quicker through all practice sessions, with McLaren looking reasonably competitive in FP1, but their pace seemed to disappear as the weekend unfolded. Both drivers, as well as Eric Boullier, seemed resigned to the fact that their car doesn’t develop enough downforce at the moment, and this lack of grip hurt them badly in Shanghai. Button & Magnussen spent the race graining their tyres and racing the Toro Rossos of Kyvat & Vergne respectively. While both managed to beat their respective opponents to the line, there is little to cheer about, as McLaren are solidly behind all the other Mercedes cars. This appears to be a McLaren issue, and not one caused by Brixworth.
Kevin & Jenson ran slightly different tyre strategies, Magnussen running a longer first stint on mediums and then running softs, while it was the opposite for Jenson. This appeared to make little difference to either’s race pace, Jenson’s advantage over Kevin being 5 seconds immediately prior to his first stop on Lap 6, and the exact same margin on Lap 39, after both had completed all their stops. Jenson increased his lead over Kevin to 9 seconds by race end.
As a side note, Jenson Button’s fastest race lap was one of the slowest of all, only faster than retirements Grosjean & Sutil, and backmarkers Ericsson & Bianchi. The car may be one of the prettiest, but right now, it has nothing else going for it.
Fastest Lap: Kevin Magnussen (3-1 to Kevin Magnussen) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Jenson Button (6-6 to each) (after Round 4)
Race: Jenson Button (15-5 to Jenson Button) (after Round 4)
McLaren: 22-14 to Jenson Button (Total After Round 4)
With a five place grid penalty hanging over Pastor Maldonado’s head, and a solidly wet Q1 session looming, there was a lot of risk and not much reward for the Lotus team to send Pastor out for qualifying, and that’s duly what happened, ‘engine problem’ or not. It was left to the much matured and safer handed Romain Grosjean to go out and represent Enstone, and he showed us all the first significant signs of Lotus improvement, making it into Q3, even ahead of former team-mate Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari.
With Pastor starting from last, it wasn’t particularly difficult for Romain to open up a solid lead in the early .Sp5rl!47rs as Pastor remained stuck behind a flying Kamui Kobayashi. After both Lotus drivers had made their first stops, Romain was 27 seconds clear of Pastor on Lap 22 when Romain’s gearbox decided that there wasn’t enough room for itself and fourth gear anymore. Pastor only started closing the deficit then, and had it down to 22 seconds on Lap 27, when Romain’s gearbox threw the rest of the gears out as well.
Considering Lotus had developed the E21 to become one of the quickest cars by the end of 2013, there is a glimmer of hope that the E22 might turn out to be a decent racing car, particularly now that the European leg of the season is about to begin. Despite losing Raikkonen, Allison & Boullier over the winter, you can sense cautious optimism setting back in, and its good to see Romain’s frustrations beginning to fade as he sees definitive progress.
Fastest Lap: Pastor Maldonado (3-1 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Romain Grosjean (12-0 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 4)
Race: Romain Grosjean (20-0 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 4)
Lotus: 35-1 to Romain Grosjean (Total After Round 4)
One would have to hope, for Kimi Raikkonen’s sake, that Matteo Mattiaci is a patient and reasonable man. With little exposure to the F1 world up until his baptism of fire last weekend, Raikkonen couldn’t have chosen a worse weekend to look so comparatively poor compared to Fernando Alonso. Whether you think that Kimi is being shown up by a superior driver, or that he is struggling to adapt to the new rules, tyres and regulations, will come down to your own opinion of the man, but either way, right now, it looks as though Kimi Raikkonen is set for an annus horribilis.
After 54 laps around Shanghai, Kimi was a full 53 seconds behind Fernando. A second a lap slower in supposedly equal machinery, despite what his nay-sayers might say, is not representative of Kimi Raikkonen. If the Finn was a rookie starting alongside Fernando, there would likely be chatter that he might not even see out the season unless he pulls up his socks. Rumours that Kimi isn’t gelling with new race engineer Antonio Spagnolo are unfounded for now, but Raikkonen’s engineering crew are not figuring out the issues Kimi has, while Raikkonen himself has admitted that his driving style is causing problems. One would hope that he figures it all out, and the reputation he has enjoyed over the past decade as one of the sport’s leading lights is not all undone by a troubled season.
While Kimi was failing to cover himself in glory, Fernando was his usual brilliant best. Qualifying in his favourite fifth position, Fernando vaulted perfectly into third spot on the opening lap, despite his racing incident with Felipe Massa, and gave his best to hold onto second place once Vettel was out of the way. While the Ferrari didn’t have quite enough pace to hold off Rosberg, Alonso kept cool and set his fastest lap on Lap 48 in a run to the line that saw him stay out of the clutches of Daniel Ricciardo. Third was the best that Ferrari could have hoped for, and Alonso duly delivered.
Fastest Lap: Fernando Alonso (3-1 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Fernando Alonso (9-3 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 4)
Race: Fernando Alonso (20-0 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 4)
Ferrari: 32-4 to Fernando Alonso (Total After Round 4)
The pressure is beginning to tell on Nico Rosberg. Despite still holding onto the lead of the championship, he needed to respond well to the psychological battering he took from Hamilton in Bahrain, and he failed to do so. Being outqualified by a monstrous 1.3 seconds after spinning it at the final corner meant more talking off the track for Nico, and not much on it. Lewis, as he would be expected to do, took a dominant pole position, but all wasn’t necessarily lost for Rosberg just yet.
The question mark for the race was whether Lewis had gone the right direction with his setup on Friday, as he had not been able to adequately test the changes he had made to the car, due to wet running in FP3 and qualifying. As it turned out, he couldn’t have gotten the setup more spot on, the Mercedes easily able to cope with tyre life and was even able to run longer than many of his closest rivals. Making Lewis’s life even more of a luxury was Nico’s bad start and first corner impact with Valtteri Bottas. While there was no damage to either car, Nico fell down to 6th place on the opening lap, and the race was Hamilton’s to control from there.
Nico’s race was reminiscent of a Mark Webber effort in a similarly dominant car, a reasonable qualifying slot complete with bad start, before a race long effort to get back into the position he should have qualified in in the first place. Championships aren’t won without beating your team-mate, and that is something Nico has yet to achieve even once in a race in 2014.
Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg (3-1 to Nico Rosberg) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton (9-3 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 4)
Race: Lewis Hamilton (15-5 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 4)
Mercedes: 25-11 to Lewis Hamilton (Total After Round 4)
Whether you like Sebastian Vettel or not, it does him a massive disservice to suggest that the 4 time World Champion is a second a lap slower than Daniel Ricciardo. This is the extent of the deficit of pace Vettel had against Ricciardo in the last 14 laps in Shanghai. With so many rule changes, Red Bull themselves seem to be at a loss to explain why Vettel is chewing through his tyres effortlessly compared to Ricciardo, considering this was a skill that Sebastian had used to astonishing effect over the last few years.
Ricciardo continued his onslaught against Vettel in Shanghai by outqualifying him by 0.5 seconds, but it was Vettel who made the better start, jumping up into 2nd and attempting to keep up with Hamilton. While he couldn’t achieve this, he roughly had the measure of Fernando Alonso through the early phase of the race, before it all started to unravel for him.
Was Vettel really on a three stop strategy when Ricciardo came up behind him on Lap 23? Both drivers were running the same tyres, with Vettel’s tyres only three laps older, and while a three stop strategy made sense at that exact time (and gave Vettel a convenient excuse to let Ricciardo through when he couldn’t hold him back, thus saving face), Red Bull’s recaltricance to actually bring Vettel in for a second stop ensured that Vettel was forced to run the same strategy as Daniel. What is odd is the scale of Vettel’s downfall over the second stint. By Lap 20, after his first stop, Sebastian was only 9 seconds behind leader Hamilton and was running around a second a lap slower than the Mercedes. By Lap 30, Sebastian had lost a further 20 seconds, two seconds a lap off Hamilton’s pace, but Ricciardo was only 4 seconds up the road from him. Over the remaining twenty four laps, Sebastian fell a full twenty seconds behind Daniel.
Vettel has not forgotten how to drive over the winter break. Mutterings that his eye is taken off the ball by having a child, or an inability to adjust to the loss of rear downforce doesn’t amply explain why Vettel was a full twenty seconds slower completing the second half of the race. Vettel has driven ‘ordinary’ cars, and even ‘poor’ cars in the past, and was never shown up before. Is a reasonable explanation really that Daniel Ricciardo, as talented as he is, is a staggeringly fast driver, to the extent that he makes a dominant 4 time Champion look like an also-ran?
Is the news that Vettel is to receive a new chassis a placebo? Based on Vettel’s love of needing to know absolutely all the facts, figures and telemetry, it’s unlikely that he himself would be fooled by such a thing. Either way, Daniel Ricciardo is doing the job that many would have expected Vettel to do, and that is the highest praise that he can be given at this point.
Fastest Lap: Daniel Ricciardo (3-1 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Daniel Ricciardo (9-3 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 4
Race: Daniel Ricciardo (15-5 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 4)
Red Bull: 27-9 to Daniel Ricciardo (Total After Round 4)
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