Got to say I found the race slightly underwhelming from both a betting and watching perspective. Raikkonen finished so the weekend was red, alas.
Before the start, Sainz got a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change necessitated by the crash he had in qualifying.
Off the line, Hamilton was sluggish and Vettel had rocket boosters. The German was into the lead almost immediately and Rosberg was alongside Hamilton. However, Rosberg made a mistake and got pushed to the grass which saw him drop to about 10th.
Vettel and Hamilton scampered off, and Verstappen had passed Ricciardo. Rosberg languished in the midfield.
Surprisingly, Vettel was able to pull a gap and escape the DRS zone. He and Hamilton were some way ahead of the chasing pack, and Rosberg was making heavy weather of getting back to the sharp end.
The Virtual Safety Car was deployed due to Button’s car pulling over (his engine was on fire). Ferrari took the opportunity to pit Vettel and put on supersoft tyres. I must’ve missed a rule change, because this forced him into a two stop strategy as the soft tyre was ‘mandated’ and had to be run during the race (this year three compounds have been available at every race).
The VSC came in quickly, as usual. And then the disappointingly obvious occurred. Hamilton pitted. Vettel pitted. The Ferrari wasn’t fast enough even with fresher rubber to close the gap. Hamilton won, Vettel was a few seconds down the road but never again challenged for the victory. Ferrari’s strategy (which they also ran for Raikkonen) was rather disappointing.
Late on, Rosberg clambered through the ranks. A podium (Bottas in 3rd at this stage) was possible, but first he had to pass Verstappen, who had earlier ignored a team request to get out of Ricciardo’s way (his team mate did appear faster but was unable to pass in the first half of the race).
Rosberg was clearly faster than Verstappen, but the Dutchman positioned his car perfectly, and Rosberg couldn't get past. The German had another crack on the penultimate lap, but lost the rear and was lucky he had run-off rather than a wall to go into. It didn’t cost Rosberg a place, but it was another very strong showing from Verstappen.
This also enabled Bottas to breathe a sigh of relief and retain 3rd, the first podium Williams have enjoyed this year.
Raikkonen was an anonymous 6th, Ricciardo a disappointing 7th, Hulkenberg got 8th, Sainz did well to climb to 9th, and Perez nabbed the final point.
There was no rain at all, alas.
After four races, Hamilton was on 57 points, Rosberg on 100. Never expected that gap to tumble so quickly. After the much commented upon bad luck Hamilton had early on, Rosberg has since had a DNF due to his team mate’s error, and a brake issue at Monaco (the Canada result was due to Rosberg screwing up, rather than misfortune). Is it an inevitable Hamilton victory this year?
No. Whilst highly probable Hamilton will claim his fourth title, remember Rosberg had a seven race winning streak at the back end of last year and start of this. His mistakes total buggering up the first corner of Canada, and that’s about it. If (and it’s a very big if) Rosberg can keep his head, he can beat his team mate.
Further down the field, the battle for 3rd spot is quite intriguing. The Ferrari was clearly faster, due to the engine upgrade. Its chassis remains inferior to the Mercedes and Red Bull. So, the Prancing Horse may enjoy fast circuits like Austria, but not slow ones (such as Azerbaijan, where we go next weekend).
Red Bull 130
Force India 42
Toro Rosso 32
Mercedes seem destined for victory here as well. Could be tight for 2nd, however. Williams look nailed on for 4th (they may be a shade disappointed, but remember it’s only a few years ago that they were backmarkers). Force India, after a lacklustre start, got another double points finish in Canada and must be hopeful of getting 5th again.
Although the points are tight between Toro Rosso, McLaren and Haas, the teams are in a bit of a weird position. McLaren will struggle to advance further, Haas had a lightning start and has been a bit rubbish since, and Toro Rosso have been reliably racking up small points tallies just about everywhere.
Sauber are flat on their back, and Renault are barely better, but will be glad of their six points.
The next race, as I mentioned, is in Azerbaijan this coming weekend. The circuit is a collection of tedious right angles around the streets of Baku. Bring caffeine.