A straightforward case of poor judgement on my part with the bet. Unfortunate, but if I had perfect judgement this betting business would be a lot easier.
The start of the race was great. Hamilton was a bit slow and it seemed either Perez or Raikkonen might pass him. However the Ferrari and Mercedes closed off Perez’s path, which meant he had to back out, and Hamilton fended off the Finn’s advances.
Hulkenberg passed Bottas and Ricciardo, Sainz pulled off multiple passes and Vettel (admittedly with a much faster car than those around him) roared up the field.
It was a bad first lap for Alonso, and worse for Maldonado. The Venezuelan was put out of the race by the Spaniard, who had himself been forced to collide with the Lotus after he was tagged by a Sauber. Alonso was compelled to take an early pit stop, then insult was added to injury when the stewards, led this week by Stevie Wonder, blamed him for it and gave him a penalty.
For a short time the top four were pretty close, but then gaps started opening and it was clear Rosberg had the measure of Hamilton, Mercedes was too strong for Ferrari, and Force India couldn’t quite keep up with the prancing horse.
Vettel, starting (unusually) on the soft tyre, had a longer first stint than most chaps and, due to differing strategy, obligingly let his team mate past twice.
Pit stop woe ruined Bottas’ race. He was released dangerously early by his crew, smashed immediately into the back of a McLaren that was diving into the pits ahead of him (and therefore had clear right of way), broke his front wing, had to complete a slow lap with half a front wing to get a new one with an extra stop and then got a five second penalty.
Towards the end of the middle stint the gap between Rosberg and Hamilton, which had been around 8s, reduced sharply as Hamilton upped his pace (it appears his German friend was suffering tyre degradation). Rosberg pitted with a lead of about 1.5s. And the team kept Hamilton out for about 10 more laps. Why? Well, it could be that Mercedes had a stupid day. Or it could be they were manufacturing a soft 1-2 result, because Hamilton had been steadily whittling away Rosberg’s lead up to that point. On fresh tyres, the German extended his lead, and Hamilton ended up 8s behind him at the flag.
Cock-up or conspiracy, I don’t think it was driver favouritism so much as the management wanting a good result, and not wanting to risk any actual racing getting in the way of it.
Raikkonen was a clear, slightly lonely, 3rd with his team mate next but a long way back. Perez got a good 5th for Force India, who have had a very solid season. Ricciardo claimed 6th, with Hulkenberg 7th (so strong double points for the team). Massa’s 8th was a bit lacklustre given Williams were so strong here last year.
Grosjean said au revoir to Lotus with a brace of points and Kvyat, despite having dodgy brakes, just about clung onto 10th.
Although Button was only 12th, the race had just a single retirement and he was able to compete and race against other cars instead of just getting passed. Not great, but it seems an improvement for McLaren.
On that note, post-race Christian Horner said Red Bull had an engine deal for next year and that Ron Dennis wouldn’t be happy. Horner may be being a bit silly, but if the team does have a Honda engine that would presumably only be with McLaren’s agreement, as the latter team reportedly has a veto on such an arrangement.
We shall see.
As we shall see whether Aston Martin take over Force India, Renault take over Lotus, who the new Manor Marussia team principal will be and if any other teams disappear.