Well, the race didn’t go to plan, but it was plain misjudgement on my part. The Force India was fast enough to keep the Lotus behind it but a strategic cock-up allowed Maldonado to pass. I also over-estimated the chances of technical woe at the sharper end (nothing really happened there). It would’ve been interesting to know how I might’ve bet on double score for a team (again, would’ve likely looked at Force India/Lotus, the former losing, the latter winning) but I’m not unhappy with the first green weekend of the year [the hedge was unmatched, incidentally].
Off the line it was more or less formation flying. Over the course of the first lap Hulkenberg managed to pass Maldonado and Sainz slid down a few places, but otherwise it was largely as you were.
Within the first two laps Hamilton had broken DRS range, and retained that gap or more throughout the whole race, so, at the sharp end, it was not a thriller.
The top four were all spread, especially the two Finns, and Raikkonen seemed destined for the final podium place. However, during his second stint an unexpected lump of Kinetic power kicked him into a spin at the hairpin. This allowed Bottas to pass and appears to have damaged Raikkonen’s tyres, as he was one of the relatively few cars to have another stop. Congratulations to Mr. Sandpit for his 5 bet on Bottas to get on the podium (I considered this but then thought it’d never happen. Ahem).
Hulkenberg was not fast enough to pull away from Maldonado but he was swift enough to keep the Venezuelan behind. However, Lotus performed the undercut well and Force India ran maybe 10 laps deeper (which seems very odd, though perhaps they believed Maldonado would need a second stop).
Vettel and Massa were cutting their way through the field, and Grosjean was doing nicely when he passed Will Stevens’ Manor Marussia then cut across him, wrecking the Briton’s front wing and giving himself a puncture. Both men had to pit, and this shoved Grosjean further down the order (it would’ve been interesting to see whether the Frenchman could’ve kept 5th or 6th from Vettel/Massa had he not made the extra stop).
When passing Hulkenberg, Vettel and he collided in the final chicane. Hulkenberg was spun and had to (briefly) go against the direction of traffic [albeit on an empty track] to rejoin. No action was taken and Hulkenberg said ‘it was racing’. Whilst it allowed Massa to also pass him easily, it didn’t really affect much in the end.
Hamilton got the win, Rosberg 2nd and Bottas 3rd. Raikkonen will be unhappy with 4th but there was little he could do about it, and his team mate nabbed 5th. Massa got 6th, more solid points for Williams (clearly the third best car on this sort of circuit). Maldonado will be delighted with 7th, which may be his first finish and is his first points of the year.
Then we have Hulkenberg, Kvyat and Grosjean (who got a 5s time penalty for the Stevens collision but he retains 10th).
Neither Toro Rosso ever looked like scoring and Ricciardo likewise failed. The Saubers were also lacklustre, and both McLarens were slow before retiring. Worth noting ahead of circuits like Austria and Monza.
I do think that the Lotus is slower than the Williams/Ferrari, but it remains to be seen whether they could’ve kept the faster cars behind them (as Hulkenberg managed with Maldonado on-track). Despite multiple problems in qualifying, the Ferraris and Williams were fine in the race, with only McLaren suffering technical woe (with a double retirement).
The lack of rain, crashing and safety car coupled with a very dominant win by Hamilton meant the race was less exciting than might’ve been hoped for. Still far better than Monaco, of course.
It’s not all over for Vettel, but he needs to start winning regularly. Without that, he doesn’t stand a chance. Rosberg could yet close the gap, but he also needs to start winning again.
Constructors’ (from 4th down):
Red Bull 54
Sauber/Force India 21
Toro Rosso 15
I think Red Bull’s almost nailed on for 4th. The Lotus has been unreliable, but if they sort their technical gremlins they could yet snatch 4th, though it'll be tricky. Sauber will fall behind Force India, I think (they’re tied, Sauber technically ahead, but the Force India hasn’t been upgraded all year).
Toro Rosso are interesting. They could finish ahead of Sauber and maybe Force India.
In betting terms, I’m delighted to finally get a green result. It was fortunate, frankly, (Hulkenberg in qualifying was good judgement, Perez was fluky and I was just plain wrong about the race) but I’ve also had bad luck this year so it’s swings and roundabouts.
The next race is in Austria, in a fortnight. Last year Williams arguably should’ve won. They won’t this year, I think, but straight line speed will be critical, so expect a comparable result to Canada. Also, after that race Force India should get their B-spec car (and therefore start getting upgrades).