A bit frustrating to have another red weekend. Shades of Murphy’s Law about the start of the season for my betting, but these bad patches do happen. Rosberg got away cleanly and retained the lead not only for the first lap, but all the laps.
The start was dramatic. Vettel got away well. Hamilton also had a nice start. Very early on the first lap, Kvyat struck Vettel from behind (just ran into him), possibly giving the German a puncture. To make things worse, the Russian then hit Vettel again, this time putting him into a barrier and ending his race.
Vettel’s radio transmission, replete with words with which I shall not sully your pure and innocent ears, accurately summed up the rightful anger he felt towards the situation. In China it was a 50/50 racing incident. In Russia, Kvyat was 100% to blame, twice [he subsequently got a 10s stop and go penalty].
Hulkenberg was also involved in carnage and knocked out on the first lap, although I’m not sure who was responsible.
A virtual safety car was soon replaced with an actual safety car. Several drivers pitted (Perez had to pit at some point due to a puncture), but the frontrunners (at this stage Rosberg, Bottas, Raikkonen and Hamilton) did not.
The timing of the safety car meant that a few drivers found themselves in better places than expected. Alonso was 6th, and in and around the points were the Renaults, Grosjean and Button. Ricciardo was hamstrung by a failed strategy (adopted by Red Bull for both cars) of moving to the medium tyre, but the grip was so dire and the pace so feeble another stop was soon necessary.
Hamilton managed to pass a seemingly napping Raikkonen, and then breezed past Bottas. Later, due to pit stops, Raikkonen passed his compatriot. However, the gaps between the top 6 (Massa being 5th) just stretched out. For a time Hamilton narrowed the gap to Rosberg, but the Briton suffered a water pressure issue and his chase for the win was effectively over.
However, 7th to 12th were practically covered by a pit straight and there was some close racing. Ricciardo tried passing Magnussen, failed, and was in turn swept past by Grosjean.
Magnussen ended up 7th, followed by Grosjean, Perez and Button. With Alonso 6th, it was a double points finish for McLaren, Renault punched well above expectations to grab 6 points, and Haas will be relieved that they recovered to 8th. That said, Red Bull had a rubbish weekend, with a grand total of zero points. Williams were a little lacklustre but I thought they’d go back rather further than the 4th and 5th they got in the end.
So, a red race, an entertaining start but a little boring in the top half of the points positions. But then, that’s the nature of the circuit.
Here are the driver standings:
Can Hamilton catch Rosberg? Again, yes. But if Hamilton wins the next six races and Rosberg is second each time, the German will have a lead of 1 point. Over the next six races or so Hamilton needs to at least stop the rot and preferably narrow the gap. If it grows again (say by race eight’s conclusion they’re on 200 and 114) that’s almost game over.
Ferrari simply lack the pace. It’s a shame, but, once again, this is a private Mercedes duel.
Constructors stand thusly:
Red Bull 57
From eight starts, Ferrari only have five finishes but they’re still 2nd. Barring something weird, I expect them to stay there easily. The Red Bull/Williams battle could be tasty.
On the betting front, I have a grand total of 1 winning bet from 8 tips. It’s a pretty bad start to the season. I’ve managed to back Hulkenberg for 6th or better and he got 7th, and the only race Ferrari had a double finished I backed them not to be classified (and they even collided on lap 1) [this also would've made another bet a winner]. It’s a bit frustrating, but that’s why it’s important to only bet what you can afford to lose (and why my stakes are smaller than a gnome’s doll house).
The next race is in Spain, in a fortnight.