[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n Formula One, the very first person you have to beat is your team-mate. So who did just that on their first trip to Sochi? Let’s go through the teams and hand out the TMB points!
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.
So what has caused the sudden change in fortunes for the Caterham drivers? Is it as simple as Marcus suddenly being happier with Caterham’s changes to the brake by wire system, while Kamui isn’t? Or is Kamui slowly getting phased out of a team that have turned their back on him as time has passed? Certainly, the passive aggressive war of words regarding Kamui’s retirement from the race on Sunday smacks of Kamui telling the truth after he retired, before the team gave him the wide-eyed, mouthed ‘shut up’ that he seems to have been given before stepping back into line with his post-race ‘It’s obvious now that we had a brake problem’.
With Kobayashi telling Sky reporter Natalie Pinkham that he wished he had never come back to F1, one would certainly hope that things turn around for him for 2015. 2014 has been far from rewarding for the driver that comprehensively outclassed Ericsson for the majority of the season, and now appears to not be given the tools to continue to do so at a time where he could and should be fighting for a 2015 seat. Caterham, don’t forget that Kamui gave up a cushy number at Ferrari to come back and drive for essentially free for you. He deserves better than this stumble towards the finish line.
Marcus, on the other hand, is now thriving with the team’s focus now seemingly on him. While he was slower than Roberto Merhi in FP1, he was 0.8 seconds faster than Kamui in FP2 & FP2 before out qualifying the downbeat Japanese driver by 0.5 seconds on Saturday. He would line up 16th after all the penalties for various drivers and issues for Felipe Massa.
The race was a bizarre affair for Kobayashi, who had zero pace compared to Marcus. Almost ten seconds behind by Lap 5, the gap was a massive 26 seconds by Lap 20 when Kamui came in to retire with his as-yet unnoticed brake problem, Kobayashi believing the stop to be a regular pitstop for tyres. Marcus enjoyed a duel with both Lotus drivers for most of the race, but ultimately lost out after a strong showing. He blamed the prime tyre for a lack of grip compared to the first stint, and he ended up 19th by race end. He is justifying a 2015 seat with his recent pace, but what has happened to Kamui’s?
Fastest lap: Marcus Ericsson (9-6 to Marcus Ericsson)
Qualifying: Marcus Ericsson (33-12 to Kamui Kobayashi)
Race: Marcus Ericsson (55-20 to Kamui Kobayashi)
- Caterham: 94-41 to Kamui Kobayashi (Total After Round 16)
- Caterham: 8-1 to Andre Lotterer (Total After Spa-Round 12)
- Total for Caterham: 102-41 to Kobayashi/Lotterer
Max & Marussia handled the Russian GP with all the grace and dignity you would expect from this admirable little team. Opting to run just the one car for the weekend, when all the resources that the team could need (including Alexander Rossi) were readily available and raring to go, was a potentially disastrous move. Just one opportunity to score points, however slim the possibility, versus the two chances for both Sauber & Caterham, it could have ended Marussia’s run towards 9th place in the Constructor’s Championship.
Instead, Marussia stuck to their principles and ran with only Max, as a nod towards the man that enabled them to be in that position in the first place. Chilton may have failed to light up the racetrack all weekend, qualifying plum last by almost half a second, but with a lot of media attention of the type no young driver wants to face, no one is going to hold a bad performance against him. As Max so poignantly said after qualifying, ‘it isn’t the same without my team-mate here’. Rumours that Max’s left-front brake problem so early in the race were a phantom problem and that the Englishman was actually overcome with grief are just that. Max led the team beautifully at a time where the team needed to concentrate on some of their normal duties, and hopefully himself and the team can come back in Austin and compete more strongly, if anything to ensure Jules’ 9th place at Monaco doesn’t go to waste.
On a side note, I found the minute’s silence pre-race very uncomfortable. Maybe it is my Irish upbringing and it means something different internationally, but a minute’s silence is only ever used to commemorate someone’s memory in Ireland, and not as a general tribute. With Jules lying in a hospital bed, fighting to hold onto his life, perhaps another form of tribute would have been more appropriate? Particularly one that doesn’t turn into an awkward salute to Russia as a nation.
For the sake of balance, and ensuring both Max & Jules are represented fairly in the end of season tables, I have allocated split points in all sections.
Fastest lap: Split points (9 – 7 to Max Chilton) (after Round 16)
Qualifying: Split points (37.5-10.5 to Jules Bianchi) (after Round 16)
Race: Split points (62.5-17.5 to Jules Bianchi) (after Round 15)
Marussia: 108 – 36 to Jules Bianchi (Total After Round 16)
Valtteri was quicker in all three practice sessions on a track new to both drivers, and while Felipe may have gotten slightly screwed on Saturday by the weird Mercedes problem that afflicted his car and prevented him from being able to go quickly enough to get into Q2, his race on Sunday was another lacklustre affair that shows why Valtteri has had the measure of him in his second season of racing.
Pitting on Lap 1 after starting from the back, Felipe used the inherent pace of the Williams to keep up with Nico Rosberg over the first twenty laps as the German driver eased and stroked his Merc up the order. On Lap 20, running an identical strategy to Nico in a car that isn’t too far off the pace of the Merc, he was just one second behind as they came up behind Sergio Perez. While Rosberg breezed past the Force India into Turn 2, Felipe couldn’t do a thing about him and remained blocked up behind the Mexican until the end of the race.
Bottas, on the other hand, did as well as could be expected against the mighty Mercs, and even when Nico compromised his own race on Lap 1, there was little hope of holding onto second place once the AMGs started showing their true pace and tyre longevity. Valtteri said that he and Williams were ‘surprised’ by the pace of Hamilton & Rosberg after going into the race aiming to challenge for the win, but with Valtteri struggling to get his first set of tyres to last until his pitstop versus the relentless tyre life of the Mercs, the writing was on the wall. The Finn pulled his compatriot Raikkonen’s favourite trick of setting the fastest lap on the final lap, suggesting he left his final assault on Rosberg a mite too late, but he comfortably saw off any challenge from Ferrari & Red Bull and jumps up to 4th in the standings. Not bad for a day’s work. What would Felipe have been able to manage had he had a normal Saturday?
If the trend continues, could Felipe’s seat come under threat from the other Felipe? My colleague Luke Murphy looks at the candidates for promotion to Formula 1 in this article, of which Nasr continues to show immense promise. For Felipe’s career to continue past next season, he needs to arrest the slide that has given Valtteri such a comprehensive lead in Team Mate Battles.
Fastest Lap: Valtteri Bottas (8-8 to each) (after Round 16)
Qualifying: Valtteri Bottas (35-15 to Valtteri Bottas) (after Round 16)
Race: Valtteri Bottas (65-15 to Valtteri Bottas) (after Round 16)
Williams: 96-38 to Valtteri Bottas (Total After Round 16)
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the pace of Toro Rosso in Russia. In fact, Friday & Saturday suggested that the Red Bull minnows might even have the measure of their bigger brothers, particularly with Daniil comfortably out qualifying both Ricciardo & Vettel. So fast was the young Russian, he even managed to split the two Merc powered McLarens, who enjoyed a massive upswing in pace.
JEV wasn’t able to quite match Kvyat through qualifying, and lamented his lack of pace after Q3 where he lapped slower than he had in Q2. While he raised the possibility of a ‘problem’ afflicting his car, the team didn’t appear to agree, and the Frenchman qualified 10th, starting 9th after Magnussen’s penalty.
The race went to pot for both drivers, as they cascaded down the order over the course of the race. JEV made a great getaway to jump up to fifth on Lap 1, but that was as bright as it got for the team. Helpless to prevent the Red Bulls passing in the early .Sp5rl!47rs, Vergne gave as good as he got and almost forced Vettel into the wall at one point, but couldn’t do a thing about his fuel usage which saw him having to back off as early as Lap 20. The same problem afflicted Kyvat, who had made a bad start from 5th to fall down to 9th by Lap 2. Having to make two pit stops over the course of the race due to a lack of grip compounded Daniil’s misery, and the two men ended up outside the points.
Both drivers complained about the rate at which they seemed to be going through fuel compared to their competitors during the race, and with the Renault power unit surprisingly sprightly on Friday & Saturday on this high speed track, could something have gone wrong with the team’s fuel flow rate calculations to cause such an odd disparity in performance? Nothing has been released from the team to explain their change in fortunes, but maybe a clearer answer may be available by the time we get to Austin.
This battle has been one of the closest this season, and JEV is ever so slightly closing the gap to Daniil. With Dietrich Mateschitz implying he’d like to consider Vergne for another season, maybe it won’t be all doom & gloom for the Frenchman over Winter. If Kvyat & Ricciardo have both been good enough for promotion to Red Bull after shading Vergne over their respective seasons, that certainly means that JEV is good enough for the feeder team as the benchmark for Verstappen.
Fastest Lap: Daniil Kvyat (9-7 to Jean-Eric Vergne) (after Round 16)
Qualifying: Daniil Kvyat (27-21 to Daniil Kyvat) (after Round 16)
Race: Jean-Eric Vergne (45-35 to Daniil Kyvat) (after Round 16)
Toro Rosso: 79-65 to Daniil Kyvat (Total After Round 15)
Sauber’s strategy in Russia relied heavily on the appearance of the safety car, which never came. Lining up 14th and 15th with Esteban faster by 0.1 seconds, Adrian opted to start the race on the medium tyre while Esteban stuck with the soft tyre he’d qualified on. Struggling with the lack of grip provided by the medium tyres, Adrian fell down to 19th after being bundled around in Turn 1, but slowly worked his way back up to 16th by race end after stopping on Lap 12 to switch to the soft tyre. This 40 lap stint on the soft tyre was almost as impressive as Rosberg’s 50 laps on the mediums, and he would finished the race just 16 seconds behind Gutierrez who ran a more conventional strategy of soft to medium, with the stop coming on Lap 39.
This 16 seconds included Adrian’s contretemps with Romain Grosjean, who showed a remnant of his 2012 brattishness by sticking a wheel up the inside of Sutil after Adrian had done all the hard work of out braking the Frenchman around the outside. Points go to Esteban, but kudos to Adrian Sutil for having the ability to race hard so soon after the traumatic scenes of the previous Sunday.
Esteban is slowly closing in on Adrian’s lead in the Team Mate Battles, and it looks like a battle that won’t be decided until Abu Dhabi. Does this reflect well on Gutierrez, or badly on Sutil?
Fastest Lap: Adrian Sutil (9-7 to Esteban Gutierrez) (after Round 16)
Qualifying: Esteban Gutierrez (27-21 to Adrian Sutil) (after Round 16)
Race: Esteban Gutierrez (45-35 to Adrian Sutil) (after Round 16)
Sauber: 79-65 to Adrian Sutil (Total After Round 15)
Force India now look as though they are solidly behind McLaren in terms of pace, so taking back 5th position in the Constructor’s Championship may be a tall order. Just one point was the team’s reward for Russia. Nico Hulkenberg was hit with a penalty before he even arrived in Russia, the German driver penalised five places on the grid for his race ending gearbox failure in Suzuka. He out qualified Sergio before his penalty, and decided to try something different with his strategy when he knew he would start from 17th position.
Starting on the medium tyre, Nico lost ground over the opening laps to Sergio as he struggled to pass Esteban Gutierrez, a driver he only broke free from after Hulk pitted on Lap 24. He attributed his inability to pass on a lack of straight line speed, but with Esteban extending his opening stint to Lap 39, Nico used his better pace to jump the Mexican driver. This moved Nico up to 12th spot, separated from Perez by Felipe Massa. Sergio had also elected to start the race on mediums, and defended well against Massa when the Williams came steaming up behind him on Lap 20. This defence meant Sergio ended up using a little more fuel than he would have liked, meaning he had to back off slightly towards the end of the race.
This bunched up Felipe & Nico behind Sergio, who held his nerve and his position to take 10th spot and the final point. Little over a second separated him from Felipe & Nico right behind, showing how much pressure Perez had absorbed over the closing .Sp5rl!47rs of the race. Nothing wrong with Nico’s race considering Force India are off the boil now, but Perez nips this one thanks to his sure-footedness under relentless pressure from behind.
Fastest Lap: Nico Hulkenberg (10-6 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 16)
Qualifying: Nico Hulkenberg (35-15 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 16)
Race: Sergio Perez (45-35 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 16)
Force India: 88-56 to Nico Hulkenberg (Total After Round 16)
Kevin Magnussen was one of the drivers struck down by a grid penalty for a gearbox change on Saturday, resulting in him starting the race from 11th spot after qualifying 6th. However, he wasn’t deterred by this, and had jumped back up to 5th by Lap 3, passing the likes of Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Vergne, Kvyat and the stopping Rosberg to get there. He says this effort cost him in terms of fuel usage, as it meant he had to lift and coast during the second half of the race, preventing him from tackling Jenson Button up ahead.
The gap between the two McLaren drivers loitered around the six second mark for the opening stint of the race, with Fernando Alonso struck in between giving Jenson a headache. Jenson was the first of the McLaren boys to stop, doing so on Lap 22. With the undercut effect seemingly negligible in Sochi, Kevin stopped on Lap 26, and gained precisely nothing on Jenson, emerging the same six seconds behind Button.
However, the fuel saving that Kevin mentioned afterwards had still to happen, and he began easing his MP4-29 around the track, and fell off Jenson’s pace, resulting in a 23 second deficit by the chequered flag. He still got the better of Fernando Alonso though, coming out ahead of the Ferrari after the Spaniard’s bungled stop, and pulling ever further clear as the race progressed.
Fernando was the thorn in Jenson’s side through the opening laps, and the pair narrowly avoided contact at Turn 2 on the opening lap. As can be expected from such experienced drivers, no damage was done and they continued no problem, with Jenson slowly massaging the gap up to two seconds by the time his stop came. After that, it was plain sailing to the end. With not enough pace to close on Valtteri Bottas up ahead, but more than enough to pull away from Kevin and Fernando, he ended in a lonely but welcome 4th spot.
Eric Boullier’s continued use of Ronspeak in Russia saw the Frenchman congratulate Mercedes championship win as an ‘effort doughty and a result lustrous’. I’m convinced he’s doing it as a dare at this .Sp5rl!47r.
Jenson gets a clean sweep for Russia, despite Kevin never being too far away. How insulting must it be for Jenson, the 2009 Champion, to hear McLaren say that they are trying to attract a ‘big name’ to the team for next season? Would the dignified thing to do at this point be simply walking away?
Fastest Lap: Jenson Button (9-7 to Kevin Magnussen) (after Round 16)
Qualifying: Jenson Button (27-21 to Kevin Magnussen) (after Round 16)
Race: Jenson Button (60-20 to Jenson Button) (after Round 16)
McLaren: 88-56 to Jenson Button (Total After Round 16)
Lotus’ annus horribilis reached its nadir in Sochi, with both drivers having to squabble with Marcus Ericsson’s Caterham for far longer than they would have enjoyed. Having looked set to mix it up with Sauber after Friday, the Swiss team seemed to step up a gear on Saturday, something Enstone weren’t able to do. This meant qualifying 16th and 20th out of 21 cars, with only the Caterhams, Chilton and Felipe’s sick Williams for company.
Both drivers made reasonable starts, Romain elevating himself to 14th on Lap 2, and Pastor getting himself as high as 16th. Sadly, even these lowly positions were too high for a team that were fighting for wins this time last year, and they began losing ground over the remainder of the race. A split tyre strategy saw Romain swap his softs for mediums on Lap 20, and Pastor swap his mediums for softs on the following lap. Neither strategy seemed to work though, and it was Lap 28 before Romain Grosjean was able to wave ‘au revoir’ to Marcus Ericsson’s stubborn Caterham, and Lap 41 before Pastor was able to clear the Swede.
The frustration of it all got to Romain a little when he tangled with Adrian Sutil, Grosjean explaining:
“Sutil was on the softer tyres and had a lot more grip than me going into T3. That corner closes up a bit on exit and he didn’t want to go too much off the racing line. I was already on the maximum for the braking zone and we just touched a little. It felt more like a racing incident to me.”
I’m inclined to agree with that assessment, but a five second penalty was awarded to Grosjean, and this was added onto his race time. He still finished half a minute clear of Pastor Maldonado, but three seconds behind Adrian Sutil who had caught back up after his spin and passed the Lotus on Lap 38.
Fastest Lap: Pastor Maldonado (8-8 to each) (after Round 16)
Qualifying: Romain Grosjean (39-9 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 16)
Race: Romain Grosjean (50-30 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 16)
Lotus: 97-47 to Romain Grosjean (Total After Round 16)
Another race, another excuse for Kimi Raikkonen’s poor results. Starting alongside Fernando Alonso was probably a better result than the Finn himself thought possible after a poor Friday, but Raikkonen got squeezed through Turn 1 when he attempted to launch around the outside of Daniil Kvyat. With the Russian closing the door, there was nowhere for Kimi to go, and he had to back off and was immediately swamped into Turn 2. He fell down to 11th, and spent the opening half of the race attempting to get back to his starting position, including a nice pass on Daniil on Lap 5.
Staring at the back of Jean-Eric Vergne for ten laps didn’t help Kimi’s quest either, with Raikkonen explaining a lack of straight line speed meant he was powerless to get past. Most of his time loss to Fernando Alonso came over these laps, with Kimi falling from 12 seconds to 19 seconds behind Fernando over Lap 11-24. After the pitstops, which included a net five second delay for Fernando after a dodgy front jack made life awkward, Raikkonen was 13 seconds behind and this grew back out to 18 seconds by race end as Fernando strove to hold off Daniel Ricciardo.
It’s disappointing to see Fernando Alonso move on from Ferrari for 2015. The expected Alonso/Raikkonen fireworks never happened, and this is due to Kimi enduring his worst season in Formula 1 since he began. The Finn hasn’t felt comfortable with the F14 T since Day 1, and while a lot of the blame for this can be laid on his own feet, Raikkonen has never been outclassed by such a margin by any rival. Another season alongside each other would have given us all a much better understanding of the respective standing of two such domineering talents of the early 21st century, and instead, now all we get are ‘what ifs?’ Next year, it’s Kimi vs. Sebastian, and with both drivers suffering hits to their reputations in 2014, one of them is going to have a massive fall from grace by this time next year.
Fastest Lap: Fernando Alonso (11-5 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 16)
Qualifying: Fernando Alonso (42-6 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 16)
Race: Fernando Alonso (67.5 – 12.5 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 16)
Ferrari: 111.5 – 23.5 to Fernando Alonso (Total After Round 15)
Somehow, you just knew that Nico Rosberg was going to make a mistake under pressure in Russia. The weight on his shoulders has been increasing race on race as the end gets nearer, the stakes get higher, and Lewis uses his championship experience to ramp up the intensity of the battle. The usual 0.2 seconds pace deficit was back in Sochi, and Rosberg survived Bottas’ front row assault to line up alongside Hamilton. A good getaway meant he was in position to have a go into Turn 2, but as we all know, the error happened instantly, and that was that. Sniggers from under Lewis’ helmet were a given as he saw Nico fly across the escape area to come back on track in front of him, even if he didn’t know at that point Nico’s race was already compromised.
So why did Nico make the error? Watching onboard, you can see Lewis calmly accelerate away from the line and settle down for the braking zone. Nico, on the other hand, is fidgety and is adjusting dials on his steering wheel as he approaches the crucial braking area. Was it brake balance he was adjusting and got slightly wrong? It didn’t seem as though Nico had left his braking unusually late, just that the brakes didn’t respond the way he expected.
From that point on, once it was clear Bottas didn’t have the pace necessary to challenge, Lewis drew away in what has to have been one of the most boring and dominant races since the Schumacher era. His fastest laps looked like out-laps, as his lifting and coasting Merc still drew away from Bottas who presumably was pushing harder, based on his relative fuel use. The only minor threat to Lewis was a safety car once Nico got up to second place, but with such elderly tyres compared to Lewis, he would never have been in a position to realistically challenge.
As a ‘what if?’, I would have liked to see Nico attempt to complete the first ten laps or so before pitting for the medium tyres. Unless Nico had actually worn through the rubber completely, he should have been able to keep a little closer to Lewis than the twenty second gap that was what his error cost him, and with somewhat fresher rubber, he might have been able to keep the race alive a little longer. Maybe that’s complete nonsense though, as I have no way of telling what kind of pace Nico could have unlocked from such badly flat spotted tyres.
If the race was judged from Lap 2 to the end, Nico would get the points for a sensational recovery drive, even if he is in the fastest car on the grid. But that Lap 1 error was the reason he had to do it in the first place. Lewis had a Sunday drive to the flag, and takes the points in what was his easiest victory ever.
Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg (9-7 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 16)
Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton (24-24 to each) (after Round 16)
Race: Lewis Hamilton (52.5 – 27.5 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 16)
Mercedes: 85.5 – 58.5 to Lewis Hamilton (Total After Round 16)
Seb’s Red Bull career is coming to an end with a whimper, which is a shame after such a long and fruitful partnership. Vettel’s weekend was never particularly strong, with poor practice pace translating into a Q2 elimination. The German Champion complained of a ‘nervous’ rear of the car and wasn’t able to carry speed into the corners, and he said that he was ‘uncomfortable’ with his Red Bull, something we haven’t heard on many occasions over the last half decade or so.
Ricciardo’s qualifying was better. He was 0.4 seconds faster than Sebastian in Q2 and made it into Q3 where he took 7th spot. He would start 6th after Magnussen’s penalty, but fell down to 10th at the start of the race after a Webber-esque getaway. Sebastian had started from 10th and moved up to 9th past Raikkonen, but both Red Bulls had lost out to Magnussen. With Seb leading Daniel on track, the Bulls quickly cleared Jean-Eric Vergne after Kevin had passed him, but they weren’t able to keep with the McLaren and Daniel started to harry Sebastian.
However, with Daniel racing on his qualifying softs vs. Sebastian running brand new softs, Daniel’s tyres started falling apart and he lost ground to Vettel, before pitting on Lap 11. While the effects of the undercut were diminished considerably in Sochi thanks to very low tyre wear, Seb pitted on Lap 30 and emerged 7 seconds behind the Australian, despite only losing four seconds to Daniel over Laps 11-30. With Daniel holed up behind Fernando Alonso, whose Ferrari seemed to have a tiny bit more pace, Sebastian was able to catch Daniel slightly over the remainder of the race but fell short.
Dietrich Mateschitz says that Sebastian Vettel will not receive the latest technical upgrades for the RB10 for the final three rounds of the championship, presumably so he can’t bring the latest ideas and data to Ferrari, but it does feel very strange to see the relationship between Seb & Red Bull change. While it appears amicable enough at this point, Vettel will get frozen out of ‘his’ team and since this has never happened to him before, how will he cope with the transition to a team where he has never reigned? Also, despite the promise shown by Daniel Ricciardo & Daniil Kvyat, neither are proven consistent winners, with Kvyat yet to even score a podium. If the RB11 is up to the task next year, will Daniel be a Sebastian and rise to the challenge? Or will he be a Nico, and crack under the pressure of such high stakes racing?
Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (9-7 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 16)
Qualifying: Daniel Ricciardo (27-21 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 16)
Race: Daniel Ricciardo (65-15 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 16)
Red Bull: 101-44 to Daniel Ricciardo (Total After Round 16)
- Team Mate Battles – Japanese GP
- Team Mate Battles – Singapore GP
- Team Mate Battles – Italian GP
- Team Mate Battles – Belgian GP
- Team Mate Battles – German GP
- Team Mate Battles – British GP
- Team Mate Battles – Austrian GP
- Team Mate Battles – Canadian GP
- Team Mate Battles – Monaco GP
- Team Mate Battles – Spanish GP
- Team Mate Battles – Chinese GP
- Team Mate Battles – Bahrain GP
- Team Mate Battles – Malaysian GP
- Team Mate Battles – Australian GP