Quite an eventful race. The Leclerc tip didn’t remotely come off, but for reasons that will become clear he was the unluckiest man since Thorstein Mirrorsmasher. I maintain that the value was there but a catalogue of woe, some self-inflicted but mostly bad luck, cost him. The silly 901 bet didn’t come off, but the 3.75 on Ericsson to win his group (Sirotkin, Vandoorne, and Stroll being the other members) mentioned on PB did.
Off the line Hartley left the handbrake on, Stroll, unusually, lost places, Vettel gained great ground and Leclerc went backwards. At the sharp end it was formation flying.
Vettel continued to make significant gains, passing after the initial getaway. However, Magnussen’s idiotic habit of weaving, this time on a straight in front of Leclerc, caused a collision between the two. This led to an early pit stop (and very slow nose changed) for the Sauber, which switched onto medium tyres, and eventually destroyed Magnussen’s tyre, bringing out a belated safety car. At this point, Ericsson also dove into the pits, for the medium compound, Magnussen was forced to box, and Vettel had climbed to about 4th.
After the safety car period ended, Vettel tried an incredibly clumsy pass on Verstappen, and caused a needless collision (Verstappen, incidentally, had a five second penalty for an earlier unsafe return to the track after accidentally running wide. I think that was a shade unfair, particularly given Magnussen’s moronic manoeuvre received no penalty). The Dutchman was essentially unscathed whereas Vettel was either last or second to last. All the German’s good work was undone.
Meanwhile, Ricciardo was slicing through the field like a pirate at a whittling competition. Unfortunately for Leclerc, he was bottled up by Hulkenberg. The gap made it plain the Sauber was faster but not quite by enough to effect a pass. When the pit stops happened, Hulkenberg, unhelpfully, staying out for longer than almost everyone else, Leclerc wasn’t quite highly placed enough. Worse still, he had two fast Force Indias right behind him and his rear tyres were crumbling. Leclerc was duly passed and had to pit (although it’s worth noting Ericsson, right behind him on track, was able to keep his intact right to the end of the race).
The Monegasque’s day of misery came to an end when something on his car broke. He managed to stop just by a marshals’ point, allowing the VSC rather than full safety car to be deployed. Hulkenberg also had to retire, returning to the pits to do so.
The Force Indias, incidentally, did very well in pitting when they did, enjoying fresh rubber and benefiting both from the Saubers pitting too early (and thus being slow) and the Toro Rossos, particularly Gasly, pitting too late and missing their opportunity.
At the sharp end, Verstappen had closed in on Bottas. Whenever the pair encountered traffic it was clear the Silver Arrow struggled a lot more, but in fresh air the Finn was a couple of tenths faster. Despite the odd lock up, Bottas was able to retain 2nd.
Verstappen and Ricciardo got 3rd and 4th, a strong result for the team given Ricciardo started 15th.
More woe for Ferrari. Vettel’s head has gone, and the team’s strategic judgement is iffy. Should’ve been far closer but they’ve contrived to throw it away. As a neutral, it’s rather sad to see.
Perez and Ocon were 6th and 8th respectively. Great points for Force India, who, until very recently had 0 points due to the takeover. The car was fast and solid throughout, and both drivers put in a good shift. Grosjean got 7th, another good result for Haas. Sainz nabbed the final point for Renault, but the team really do need to clock up more or they’re going to end up losing their place to Haas.
Toro Rosso come away with a double finish and no points at all. Given where they started, that’s pretty horrendous. Worse still, Gasly showed they did have decent pace, but lost out severely in the pit stops, whereas Hartley simply went backwards off the line and never recovered.
So, serene for Hamilton at the front, tense for the other podium places, and joyously chaotic in the midfield scrap. Misjudgement by me to go for just Leclerc rather than him and Perez, as per last time, to win outside the big 6. Still, it’s not difficult to pick winners when you know the outcome.
Red Bull 319
Force India 43
Toro Rosso 30
I think the top three are effectively settled now, with Williams destined for last. Everywhere else is up for grabs. Renault haven’t been scoring nearly as many as Haas in recent races. Further down, I wouldn’t be surprised if Force India overhauled McLaren (who must be grateful they did so well early on, as they now seem to have either the slowest or second slowest car. Saw a chap on Twitter remark that the car had actually lost time from 2017, based on fastest laps before the race). Toro Rosso will be ruing their failure to score today, as they remain just 3 points ahead of Sauber.
Alas, it’s 2017 all over again (or 2013, for that matter). A tight title race that just falls to pieces and lets one of them waltz to victory. Bit of a shame. Still, got the individual races to enjoy until the season’s officially over.
Mildly annoyed with myself for not backing Perez and Leclerc as per last time, but there we are.
The next race is in the US, in a fortnight. Always like the Texas circuit, as it’s proof new tracks can be good, rather than identikit street circuit processions.