November 09, 2014

Mini-F1Update!: Brazil 2014

Blue skies were above Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace as the Thundering Herd made its way to the grid in São Paulo.  Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, #2 in the Driver's Championship, led the way, with his teammate Lewis Hamilton, leader in the Championship, right next to him and local boy Felipe Massa, driving for Williams, in third.  What would this volatile combination do when the lights went out?  THIS is your mini-F1Update! for the 2014 Grand Prix of Brazil!

*LIGHTS OUT:  A mostly clean start saw Lewis Hamilton make a blinder of a start from second... and his teammate Nico Rosberg make an even better one.  As a result, the two led the field into the first turn and immediately begin to pull away.  However, Rosberg couldn't open much of a lead on his Silver Arrows compatriot, and with the slippery tarmac and hot track temperatures butchering the Soft tires, this was clearly going to be a sprint to the first pit stop.  We didn't have long to wait; the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado stopped on Lap 4, and most of the rest of the field followed along the next few laps.  When leader Rosberg came in on Lap 8, Hamilton had his first chance to jump into the lead via the pits.

*DID IT WORK?:  The pit crew did its best for Hamilton when he stopped on the next lap, but to no avail; he had closed the gap somewhat, but was still behind his championship rival.  Both were on the Medium tires now, however, and Hamilton had plenty of time.  Protecting the rubber, Hamilton lagged back, the gap to the leader opening to as much as two seconds.  As the second round of stops approached, Hamilton put the hammer down and the gap began to fall.  The lead was down to under one second when Rosberg hit the pit lane..

*DID IT WORK THIS TIME?:  On Lap 27, Rosberg pitted.  Hamilton immediately set the fast lap of the race... and stayed out for another lap.  After the race, he said that he had been expecting to be called in on Lap 28, so he burned his tires to the ground.  Being told to stay out took him by surprise, and his tortured tires protested.  Going into Turn 4 on Lap 28, Hamilton wound up leaving the track in a lurid slide that sent him off towards the barriers.  While no physical damage was done, save to tires that were already begging for mercy, Hamilton lost over seven seconds to his rival. 

*REALLY?:  After making his stop, Hamilton drove away apologizing to the pit wall for his screwup.  He was immediately told that the race wasn't over and he could catch Rosberg.  With that encouragement ringing in his ears, the leader in the Driver's Championship metaphorically cocked his cap, rolled up his sleeves and went back to work.  By Lap 40, the lead had been halved to 3.5 seconds.  Nine laps later, the lead was under two seconds.

*DASH TO THE END:  Rosberg came in for his final set of tires on Lap 50, and Hamilton again burned his tires off in preparation for his final stop.  This time, however, he came in as expected... and his pit crew provided him with new rubber in under 2.5 seconds.  As he made his way back onto the track, he had to be mentally willing his teammate to make some sort of bobble.  That didn't occur, and he was forced to slot in less than a second behind Rosberg.  For the next twenty laps, the lead was less than a second, Hamilton looking for some way past his teammate.  There's no doubt, however, that the pit wall was reminding him that he didn't have to win this race and turning both cars into fragments of carbon fiber would be A Bad Thing... or worse, breaking HIS car and leaving Rosberg unscathed.  Hamilton, wisely, didn't push the issue.  Make no mistake, he was still looking for an opportunity to pass, he just didn't do anything rash.  Rosberg never gave him the opening, and led his teammate across the finish line, setting us up for the Double-Points Showdown in Abu Dhabi in two weeks.

*ALSO:  São Paulo's own Felipe Massa had quite the adventuresome day.  He started in third, got a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane, dropped to 13th after serving it on his second stop, worked his way back up the field, tried to get McLaren to change his tires during his third stop, and held off a game Jenson Button for the final podium position to the jubilant reactions of his fellow Brazilians.  Busy day, that.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Nico Rosberg.  He didn't have to win today to still have a chance at the Driver's Championship, but cutting the lead to 17 points gives him a better shot at it.  For example, if he wins at Abu Dhabi, Hamilton must finish second to win the Championship.  He could have broken today, made a mistake that let Hamilton by... and didn't.  Stout drive.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Williams.  While Valterri Bottas had his race ruined by seat belts working their way loose, Massa had a solid podium, setting up a tense struggle with Ferrari next race for third in the Constructor's Championship.  Williams leads 254 - 210 with 86 points in play.

*MOMENT OF THE RACE:  When Hamilton went for his ride on Lap 28, the race was basically over right there.  Hamilton says it wasn't, and he should have passed his teammate anyway.  Rosberg says that even if Hamilton hadn't gone afield, he would have kept him behind.  Don't believe it.  Both drivers know that the race was decided on Hamilton's goof... and that Rosberg had no answer when he came back.

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"Fastest in Practice 1, 2, and 3.  Fastest in all three Quals sessions.  Won the race.  My weekend." - Nico Rosberg

"I let you win.  You know it.  I know it.  THEY know it." - Lewis Hamilton

"Ha ha I nearly stopped in McLaren's pits.  Oh, Felipe, I'm such a joker." - Felipe Massa

"Can I please have a drive next year?  I'm clearly not washed up." - Jenson Button

"One more race, then Ferrari." - 4Time Button

"One more race, then... that's a secret.  Even to me." - HWMNBN

"mrmrmmrbrlrm mrmrlrlrbrlrmrmr mrmrlrbrlrnlrmrlmr rrrrr." - Kimi Raikkonen

"Did I get any TV time?" - Nico Hulkenberg

"Fourth is really impressive for such an old guy, I'm happy for him." - Kevin Magnussen

"If you told me I'd have a problem with my engine, I'd believe you.  Tire failure?  Sure, makes sense.  Gimpy brakes?  You bet.  Hydraulics, oil, batteries, KERS, even electronics, fine.  But seat belt problems???  REALLY?" - Valterri Bottas.

So that's that.  The last race of the year is two weeks from now in Abu Dhabi.  We'll get our first champion not named Sebastian Vettel in five years there, too!  See ya then.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:25 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
Post contains 1166 words, total size 8 kb.

1

So Rosberg still has a chance at the Driver's Championship, but I'm not liking his odds. No matter who wins at Abu Dhabi, it's most likely that Mercedes will come 1-2, and in that case Hamilton wins the Driver Championship no matter what order they finish.

Of course, it's not engraved in stone that they both will finish. Accidents do happen. But if they do both finish, Rosberg needs Hamilton to come in no better than 3rd, and that's not a bet I'd be willing to place money on.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at November 10, 2014 12:33 AM (+rSRq)

2 Yup, it seems that only a problem of some sort stands between Hamilton and his second championship.  We've seen races turn on such things, but you've gotta feel that Mercedes is going to go over both cars with a fine-toothed comb over the next two weeks, looking for potential failures.

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 10, 2014 01:20 AM (jGQR+)

3 So what's going on with Marussia?

It makes -no sense- for their creditors to slam the door on them with a month left in the season. All they had to do was show up for one more race and they'd get the tenth-place prize money; arguably they didn't even have to show up, as supposedly a team can miss up to three races and that's all they would have missed. Surely the meager physical assets of the team aren't worth seizing immediately, by comparison to the prize money that's on offer if you waited a month.

When people start acting against their financial interest, it gets me asking questions. Who stands to profit from shutting down Marussia early? Well, Bernie, obviously (or at least CVC). Why pay prize money to a loser team that's not going to be back next year either way? So I guess the question is, is CVC promising a payoff to the creditors in order to get them to move now, presumably so CVC saves some money and gets its boil lanced? Or, alternately... we know that Bernie is not above paying a bribe to get someone to make a financial decision against the interests of the body they're representing. Wouldn't surprise me if that happened here either...

Posted by: Avatar at November 10, 2014 02:10 AM (ZeBdf)

4 Av, it makes sense if the Receiving company thinks they can sell the one truly valuable asset Marussia holds: their FIA-approved spot on the grid.  The team is still listed as racing next season, though under the name Manor Motorsports.

If the Receivers think they've got a buyer for the racing license, that might be enough reason to keep Marussia off the grid.

Total speculation on my part, though.  The only teams I've heard trying to join the Circus are HaasF1, which has a license already, and Forza Rossa, the Colin Kolles-led, Romanian-backed vaporware team.

Kolles seems to be just a sleazebag, having been part of the "rescue" group for Caterham that couldn't be bothered to pay bills (assuming I read those articles correctly)... and now might be able to buy up the smoking remains at leus on the euro.  In other words, he'd fit right in.

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 10, 2014 10:51 AM (jGQR+)

5 I'm not sure that pulling them off the grid in advance hurts that position. (In fact, wouldn't it help it? Racing license is worth less than racing license plus tenth-place cashola, right?)

I find it difficult to believe that the racing license is a bigger asset than those two championship points. Even if you've got to invest a couple million, getting tens of millions back is a pretty good return on that. Doesn't make the team profitable but it's otherwise a pretty sure thing, no?

The only reason not to do that is if you believe that Bernie intends to stiff the team even if they do race - in which case those tens of millions aren't a sure thing. But oy, wouldn't that just light a match in a pool of gasoline...

Posted by: Avatar at November 10, 2014 02:11 PM (zJsIy)

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