April 30, 2017
*BEFORE: When you watch a Formula 1 race on television, there are a few things you are guaranteed to see. Hordes of Ferrari-flag-waving fans. Ultra-mega-slow-motion shots of a tire lockup. A helicopter-based shot of the start. And a new thing, a McLaren broken down on the side of the track. During the Formation lap, Indy Alonso called back to his pit wall that he was down on power. As it turned out, he had an ERS problem that prevented him from using about 150hp. This, of course, was on top of the Honda power unit being an estimated 50 - 80hp down in comparison to the Mercedes power unit. While the sight of a F1 car turning laps at speeds just slightly higher than what you can see on I-90E into Chicago may have been interesting, the McLaren had other ideas and expired before Alonso could park it under cover. Since there were still removal crews on track when the race was ready to begin, another formation lap was indicated and one lap was taken from the race length.
*LIGHTS OUT: Mercedes knew they only had one real chance to win, and that was to get past the Ferraris quickly. The Ferraris appear to be better at long runs and at protecting their tires, so letting them dictate the pace would be a disaster for the silver team. Once the red lights were extinguished, there would be a nearly 1km sprint to Turn 2. Vettel had a good getaway from pole, but Vallteri Bottas had a better one and got past Raikkonen swiftly. It then became a drag race between Vettel and Bottas, one where the Mercedes had a leg up; they had about a 3mph advantage over the red cars. It was a near-run thing, but Bottas managed to get into Turn 2 before everybody else, taking the lead and accomplishing everything Mercedes could have wanted. Behind him, Lewis Hamilton was boxed in behind Raikkonen and settled in to 4th place
*SAFETY CAR: Both Haas's Lettuce Grosjean and Renault's Jolyon Palmer had had miserable race weekends. It made sense, therefore, that the two of them would wreck each other in Turn 2, with Grosjean going for a short and low flight at one point. Almost instantly Berndt Maylander was awakened from his slumber and the Safety Car sent out while the mess was swept up.
*RESTART: As it turns out, Vallteri Bottas had never led the field in a safety car restart before. Behind him, Vettel had plenty of experience in such situations and must have been hungry to make up for the first start. Once Berndt Maylander returned to his cave in the pit lane, the field was entirely in the hands of Bottas who made the most of it. He jumped on the gas just as Vettel shuffled his car around, trying to put heat in his tires. By the time he hit the restart line, he had a full second in hand over the Ferrari. He then began to pull away, opening a nearly six second lead by Lap 20 or so.
*TIRES: At that point, it became obvious that the Ferraris were much gentler on their tires than the Mercs as Vettel began to whittle a half-second off the lead each lap for the next six. Mercedes brought the leader into the pits for new tires on Lap 28. Vettel stayed out an additional eight laps, but the pit rotation accomplished nothing: once everybody had stopped, the situation was exactly the same: Bottas, Vettel, Raikkonen, Hamilton.
*IN THE END: Bottas had four seconds in hand with 20 laps to go, but as the laps counted down, the fresher tires on the Ferrari began to show. By Lap 47, with six laps remaining, the lead was down to 1.4 seconds. It would drop as low as 0.8 seconds, with Vettel filling the mirrors of Bottas at every opportunity. The two had to negotiate their way through backmarkers, which went well until they came across the Williams of Felipe Massa with two laps remaining. Now, we aren't saying that Massa gave his former teammate Bottas preferential treatment, but Bottas got past the Williams with no problems while Vettel got hung up. When the race ended a lap later, Vettel had cut the lead back down to 0.6 seconds and would have the advantage of a long, long DRS zone. If he had one more lap, it seems likely that a pass would have been in the offing... a lap that was lost when the McLaren of Indy Alonso broke down on the first formation lap. Instead, Bottas scored his maiden victory in 81 tries, while Raikkonen finished third. Hamilton, suffering with serious overheating problems for most of the race, could only manage fourth place, nearly 40 seconds back.
*SNOOZE: After the first half of the first lap, there was not a single on-track pass for the rest of the race. We just thought we should mention that.
Next up, Barcalounger in two weeks! We'll see ya then!
Posted by: GreyDuck at May 01, 2017 07:49 AM (rKFiU)
Posted by: Ben at May 01, 2017 09:33 AM (S4UJw)
Long story short*, Will's sleeping on the couch tonight.
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