28 Oct 2019
Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale gives us the lowdown on the ins and outs of a compelling Mexico GP
Ambient 19° Track 40° Humidity 48% Wind 2.8 m/s
Another grey day, warm, with puffy clouds spiderwebbed in the azure firmament, reflecting perhaps the disappointment of Verstappen fans after he was hit with a 3 spot ding for, well, ignoring the waving yellow flag. It would have been worse for him had the lighting system not gone out and given him some small measure of plausible excuse. It was no work, however for Horner to point out that it might well have been a blessing in disguise, as rather than being swarmed by Ferraris on the way to T1, he now could grab a tow and make life more difficult.
Pirelli is firm on a 2 stopper, if not 3 but if the weather chooses to make life interesting (looking less likely as the forecast firms up) it's all to play for. Otherwise, the sharp end is looking less silver than normal and it will be a difficult task for the midfielders starting on the Softs, which are rated to last 13 laps at best, handing a distinct advantage to Perez in P11, the first of those on the Mediums. Save Ricciardo, who had chosen to start on a set of Hards to liven things up....
Remarkable job from Merc to get Bottas back on the grid sans penalty and on the way, Albon wound up behind someone leaking oil, though the culprit wasn't identified. Track temps hotter than anyone has seen all weekend should liven things up and bearing in mind that it's not just going to be a struggle to get the tyres to last, but also who's gotten the margins on cooling spot on, for every bit of extra cooling means lost efficiency and thus more tyre wear..... Could be a fun afternoon, at least for those watching from the cheap seats....
Lights Out!!!! Great Start by Leclerc, leading down to T1 and then it was Hamilton along Vettel who squeezed him and took him onto the grass on the outside and there was a brief tap of wheels as Lewis backed out. As he dove down the inside of the Ferrari into turn 1, Verstappen came alongside and contact between Hamilton and Verstappen into the turn 2 and turn 3 complex, both cars penduluming into each other as they each had their own tank slapper, and then a bit of rallycross from both cars as they plunged down the order, letting Sainz by and Albon into 3rd as Verstappen wound up P8 and then a VSC momentarily stopped the fun, apparently for debris as all the cars were still shown as running on track....
On the restart there was no changed of position and it was not much work for Hamilton to reclaim P4 from the Mclaren driver, whilst further back Bottas was unable to replicate the move, bottling Verstappen as well, crawling all over the crash structure of the Mercedes in his frustration to get moving. Into T12 Max was up the inside and took P7 but but with a bit of contact. Bottas reclaimed the spot down the straight and it was a disaster for Verstappen, the brief puncture leading to a right rear puncture and the tyre itself dismantled itself and went shooting across the tarmac as once again, Verstappen took to the grass to make his journey to the pits just that much shorter, and presumably, safer.
Lap 8 and it was Bottas, now with order restored, behind Hamilton after dodging round Sainz, now in P6. Bottas was struggling a bit with brake temps, but with a 7 second interval to Hamilton their recovery seemed assured. Lap 10 and Perez got the job done on Kvyat as Gasly became the first of the Soft runners to box for the Hard tyre, emerging P19, just ahead of Verstappen who was still catching up to the back of the field and rather desperately hoping to win the coin toss that is the appearance of the Safety Car in the Mexican GP.
Kvyat was in the next lap, and theoretically they were trying to undercut Sainz and Norris, but looking a bit too far back to pull it off. Bottas was slowly gaining on Hamilton, but was still nearly 6 seconds adrift, but it was Albon in the catbird seat as the Ferraris were not making any headway on him and they were all strung out at 2 second intervals, watching each other like hawks.
Lap 13 and Macca was in with Norris and total disaster as they failed to get the front left on. Thinking quickly, Norris stopped before the pit exit and suddenly the race was on for his crew, sprinting down the lane and rolling him back. This was also bad news for Sainz, now under severe pressure from Perez as he had to stay out till Norris cleared the garage.
Lap 14 saw Albon in and out for a set of Mediums, looking a two stop from that distance. This put him out behind Sainz as Leclerc was in to avoid the same fate. 3 or 4 turns later and Albon was through and tracking down Leclerc 8 seconds ahead as Vettel and Hamilton continued at the front, and now it was decidedly different strategy calls between the teams as Lewis tried to overcut the Red Bull driver.
Lap 18 and Sainz, who pitted as soon as he could after Albon (who'd emerged just behind the McLaren driver) was by him, was onto a set of Hards as both Mercedes and Vettel looked to be rocking a one stopper whilst Leclerc and Albon were on a 2 stopper and pushing hard, hard, hard to make it work.... Hulkenberg was in and out with a set of Hards and P13. Leclerc was crushing his laptimes, but Albon was but a tenth faster than Vettel and slowly falling off the back, perhaps a victim of his battle with Sainz...
Lap 21 and hometown hero Perez was in and out with a set of Hards, and back into the points he went as Hamilton was on tenterhooks with the temps of his rear tyres and under pressure from Leclerc who was still closing at more than a second a lap. The following lap it was Giovinazzi's turn to have a pit stop mishap, his right rear not being attached and off he went, realising rather more quickly than Norris something was amiss, and stopped immediately whilst the tyre was properly affixed.
Lap 23 and Hamilton was in, out in front of Albon who suffered more than a bit in his second stint. Verstappen, who had overtaken K-Mag fully off track was as the HAAS driver threatened his slow crawl up the order, was looked at briefly and then thoroughly ignored P13 and continuing his redemption. Vettel, interestingly, failed to follow Hamilton in and then decided that he didn't want to box, but would prefer an offset at the end of the race.
Leclerc, too, seemed to be struggling on his tyres, with the track temps soaring to over 45C it looked like the move to a one stop might've been enough to tip the balance. Hamilton was unconvinced their move was enough to snatch the race from Ferrari, not sure he could create enough of a gap to Vettel to protect him from the ferocious speed of the Ferrari on fresh tyres at the end of the race.....
The longer they went, the more Hamilton grew concerned, as Ferrari ignored the provacative undercut and went their own way, convinced they'd have the pace at the end to make good on their bet. And looking better for the one stoppers with the higher track temps, up to 45°C now, with the 2 stoppers unable to push hard enough to make their strategy work without overheating the tyres.
Verstappen had worked his way up to P10 and with Stroll and Ricciardo yet to pit, he was heading towards a P6, definitively the best he could do under the circumstances. Lap 35 then, and it was now a game of tenths as the engineers buried their heads in the data to calculate the probabilities. Bad news for Sainz, as his battle with Verstappen seemed to have destroyed his tyres and it was Gasly right up his exhaust and they carried their battle into the first 3 turns, holding up Vettel no small amount.
Lap 36 and Bottas was in to try and undercut Vettel, after the time loss behind the midfield battle. Out on the hard for Bottas and Vettel was on it all the way in. Tick tock tick tock and out in FRONT of the Mercedes went Vettel and it was on 15 seconds from Vettel to Hamilton and 8 seconds from Hamilton up to Leclerc, who still needed a stop to complete his race.....
This would be the time for Leclerc to push, but he was instead having to weave through traffic and then it was time to see if he'd managed to save any life in his tyres for his push. Lap 41 and it was Vettel, with fast lap, 1.5 seconds up on Hamilton that go round, 5.5 seconds to catch Hamilton. But first there was Albon, hovering between the pair. Also one to watch was Ricciardo, now in P6 but still on his first set of tyres, looking to have cleared Hulkenberg from his pit window and points definitely on order for the Aussie. Sainz had bailed for a set of Mediums, but the damage to his race was done and he was now chasing from P14 to see what he could reclaim after the utter catastrophe of the stint on the Hards. Verstappen was by Perez and then it was Leclerc, in on lap 44. Out he went on the Hards, but after a bad stop, losing 4 seconds and any hope he had of victory. If you want to talk mistakes, then, as one is wont to do with Ferrari, then look to the tyre choice for the second stint, as the Hards might well have been the better choice.
The following lap Albon was in, freeing Bottas at last to began reeling in Vettel, as Leclerc knocked a second off his deficit in his first full lap on the Hards. Vettel, too, had stealthily made progress and was now just 3 seconds off the back of Hamilton, calmly knocking tenths off every lap and with 26 laps to go, the battle was very clearly going to be joined....
The only question was who was going to get there by the end, as both Albon and Leclerc were rocking off 1:19s, nearly a full second up on the leaders, Leclerc inside of 12 seconds now with 21 laps to go... And look no further than Ricciardo for miracles as he was still running his Hards, in P6, coming up on his 50th lap...
The end of lap 51 saw the end of Ricciardo's awesome adventure on the Hards, and he was in for a set of Mediums and out in P8, chasing Perez about 5 seconds up the road.... The following lap saw Leclerc by Raikkonen and another chance to gain some time on the leaders. And then a total balls up for Macca as they called Norris in, some unnamed issue ending his race before it was ready to be done...
Lap 54 and Leclerc was in with a new fast lap, under 8 seconds to the front and the big question now was was Vettel just saving tyres to the end to have a go, or was he done with his chase and simply trying to stay ahead of Bottas to the end. If it was the latter, not happy days at Ferrari and sure enough, lap 56 and Bottas had DRS for the first time, strongly suggesting Ferrari had managed to get it all wrong somehow....
2 laps later and Leclerc was under the 7 second mark as Bottas continued to whittle away with a massive chunk of traffic heaving into view at the most inopportune time... Hamilton with Stroll, Vettel and Bottas with Kubica, quantum entanglement for the briefest of moments before the blue flags worked their magic. 12 laps to go and Leclerc was 1.5 seconds off Bottas as Vettel just nabbed DRS off Stroll and managed to hold the Mercedes at bay down the straight and into T1. Bottas was getting messages meanwhile that he needed clean air as he was starting to overheat his car.
A missed braking point saw Leclerc lose a second or so, a frustrating moment for the Monegasque, who wasted no time getting back to it. Raikkonen, unable to keep his temps down, was retired by Alfa and at the front it was status quo. Slightly farther back, Ricciardo was inside DRS on Perez with 9 laps to go... Bottas seemed to be slipping the tiniest bit but ahead, Hamilton was upping his pace to match Vettel's as the Ferrari continued to try and nibble away at Hamilton's lead. Ricciardo had a big lunge up the inside on Perez, went straight on after locking up and massive cheers from the crowd as Perez retained the position as best of the rest.
Lap 64 and Hamilton was up to Hulkenberg, the last of the backmarkers they were likely to encounter and Vettel was now at just 2 seconds as Hamilton slipped by the Renault, and Vettel followed quickly, a tenth in sector 1, then minus 2 tenths in sector 2 as Hamilton purpled it, and another tenth lost to the Mercedes across the line, a tantalising 2.3 seconds up the road...
Lap 68 and Leclerc suddenly put in a push, back inside 3 seconds to Bottas, but no clue as to whether he could sustain that to the end of the race.... the following lap it was Vettel's turn to burn the wick bright, knocking 4 tenths off of Hamilton's lead, but decidedly looking too little too late.
Not so much for Ricciardo, who was well inside a second on Perez as the last lap began to tick over. Ahead, Hamilton rocked it through the stadium, now thoroughly enjoying his day as Ferrari was left to rue their choices yet again. Perez, weaving an excellent defense, kept the Renault driver at bay as Hulkenberg turned up with no rear wing as Kvyat had a big lunge on him through turn 16 and nudged him into the wall....
Ugly end to the race for Hulkenberg, whose legendary luck is beginning to resemble that of a certain Nick Heidfeld, but Ricciardo on the Hard tyre was a stroke of genius. Given equal choice of strategy, it was once again Mercedes who won the day, with Hamilton bringing it home, impervious to the pressure that Vettel brought to bear. Ferrari will be having to answer some difficult questions, notably why they pitted Leclerc to cover Albon (arguably due to the 2 stop pit window and hoping to lure Mercedes in) and why, in the name of all that is well, whatever it is, they chose to put him on the Medium tyre when the Hard would've given them some flexibility with regards to their own strategy, and yeah, defo looking at Ricciardo's 50 lap stint here. Also worth mentioning is Bottas, putting some pressure of his own on Vettel and Vettel's decision to go long and gain on offset, when Ferrari was on to bring him in...
Verstappen, too, will have to look in the mirror and ask himself some questions, for despite Horner's flowery words, his ignoring the yellows yesterday, and likely the words that followed them, cost him the chance to vie for the race win, with the melee he got into with Hamilton ultimately responsible for sending him to the back, one he likely would've avoided had he started on pole....
Brutal day for Macca as well, with the floor falling out from underneath Sainz and the painful pit errors with Norris, even before they had to retire him, conveniently enough for Renault. Kvyat got a 10 second penalty for his PIT manuever on Hulkenberg, which looked to put Hulkenberg back into the points on quick calculation, so ray of sunshine perhaps as Hulkenberg's F1 future remains as yet undetermined.
Also falling into the ray of sunshine category and coming through for the team was Perez, at his home Grand Prix, winner of the Formula B crown, making a one stop look effortless and taking full advantage of the free tyre choice afforded him and working the team's strategy to absolute, sweet perfection. Time to do it all again next week, when Hamilton is very much likely to be crowned WDC yet again once the checquers have flown.....
And remember to play nice in the comments!!
26 Oct 2019
- Saturday, October 26, 2019
- 0 comments
Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale dissects the action from qualifying for the Mexican GP
Ambient 19° Track 32° Humidity 56.4% Wind 0.8 m/s
A warming day and grey skies loomed over the paddock, their menace largely spent prior to FP3 erasing any rubbering in from Friday's running. Both Renault's were required to lay out of FP3 due to a hydraulic leak that saw fluid leak into the cooling systems and required them both to switch out their MGU-K, without penalty as they still had parts available in their pool.A warming day and grey skies loomed over the paddock, their menace largely spent prior to FP3, erasing any rubbering in from Friday's running. Both Renault's were required to lay out of FP3 due to a hydraulic leak that saw fluid leak into the cooling systems and required them both to switch out their MGU-K, without penalty as they still had parts available in their pool. As if they needed anything else going wrong for them after their perplexingly explained DQ from their double points finish in Suzuka....
Turn 11 features an electronic warning for going wide, similar to the one in Spa which will see competitors losing their laptimes during qualifying should they go astray. With uncertain tyre data and a rapidly improving track the possibility of traffic affecting qualifying remains high. Gasly, having come down with a case of Montezuma's revenge (that has also afflicted nearly 150 F1 personnel in total) earlier in the week was rated to be on the mend and good to go for qualifying and Albon's car was pieced back together by the Red Bull staff without drama after his FP3 crash and, crucially, without any need for a grid penalty though it did run them tight on spares for the rest of this away stint.
Green Light!! Russell was first off, kicking off a session that was likely to have a massive traffic jam given the ridiculous evolution expected on what is essentially a completely green track. Kubica was next up as Russell completed the final sector of his outlap. By the time he got to the end of S1 it looked fairly clear that he was going for a 2 lap warm up in order to help fight the graining that had plagued all the teams with the variable weather. A radio message about cold tyres confirmed Russell's plan as Kubica was apparently happy to get on with it, lighting up the board purple in absence of any competition.
Magnussen and Grosjean were out shortly thereafter and then it was the deluge, as 13:30 was apparently the magic number. With the Williams across the line it was Russell ahead of Kubica and then Grosjean spun off at T1 with his first go, ruining both his fronts in the process. Magnussen was across third for the moment but now the Ferraris were in the mix and it wasn't going to be long before the fierce times started appearing.
AS the stronger midfielders started to rock across the line it was Raikkonen at the head of the field, at least until Vettel demolished him with a 1:16.692. His next challenger up was Albon, who stuck it in with a 1:16:175 a time good enough to keep even Hamilton at bay, who was only able to go P2 as Verstappen was now full on it.
A lap glittering with purple mini sectors and no surprise that Max was across the line into the 1:15's, and begging the question had Red Bull left themselves any room to improve in the next 2 sessions. Behind the Bulls it was Hamilton, Leclerc, Vettel and Bottas. Things were tightening in the midfield as well, with Gasly (having been afflicted with a rather savage bout of Montezuma's revenge earlier in the week) just outpointing Sainz to take P8 behind Raikkonen.
6 minutes to go and HAAS were out for a second go, as Stroll, Russell, Kubica, Magnussen and Grosjean were loitering about in the drop zone. P17 and P18 is where they finished and just plain dreadful as the phalanx of runners got ready for their final fling at the glories of Q2.
Hamilton was out all on his own with 3:30 left to go, looking to avoid the inevitable looming traffic jam. Russell, Sainz and Norris were next out, followed by the pair of Renaults. Interwoven with them were the Toro Rossos, Hulke, Kvyat, Ricciardo and Gasly. Bit of a gap then Kubica and Perez followed by Raikkonen and Giovinazzi. Grosjean and Magnussen were next, sneaking in an extra run for Q1, and then Stroll at the tail end of the train.
Hamilton rolled back into the pits and it was Russell leading the way, up to P18 for him. Sainz was up to P6 then immediately he was dunked on by Kvyat, who snatched best of the rest from him. Ricciardo was next up, P11 for the Aussie at leat till Raikkonen jumped up and took the place from him. Grosjean and Magnussen reclaimed their P17 and P18, which, cold comfort for sure only being faster than Williams and Stroll, on the outside and looking in, failed to summon the needed time and crossed the line without improving on his P16.
Off in search of some ceviche then as the rest turned it around for the rigors of Q2, the rapidly evolving track and increasing temperature posing riddles wrapped in enigmas for the race engineers....
Q2 started with both Toro Rossos wasting no time, rocking out with the Medium tyre. Mercedes and Sainz copied this plan and it was apparently a detente, all the runners popping up with the yellow banded boots. Behind the Mercedes, it was Vettel, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo and Leclerc, with the Toro Rossos threading their way through on their hotlap. Kvyat won that battle and for the moment they were atop the leaderboard, with Sainz a distant third.
Vettel was first up for the sharp end and he was up to P1, with Leclerc 3 tenths back. Hamilton occupied P3 another 2 tenths back, with Bottas a distant P8, rapidly dropped to P11 as the Red Bulls finished their lap. Verstappen took P2 away from Leclerc and Albon was across a much more expected P5 as Bottas got it together for another go, and this time he got it right, up to P4 and a tenth up on his teammate, showing again how rapidly the track was rubbering in. The midfield had eventually split on the Softs, with Perez, Hulkenberg, Norris, Ricciardo, Giovinazzi and Raikkonen ultimately opting for the Softs. 6 minutes to go and the track was clear as they field got ready for the final tilt at the hallowed grounds of Q3, Sainz, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, Gasly and Kvyat all on the outside looking in as the teams made their last minute tweaks in prepartion for the final runs.....
3 minutes to go and action exploded onto the track, in the form of Sainz, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Gasly, and Kvyat, all on the Soft tyre. Behind, Norris and Perez, followed by the sharp end, all sporting Softs save Mercedes.
Sainz was looking nifty in the corners and it was reflected on the board, green and purple as he rocked up with a P4!!! Oh my!! Hulk P9 and then P10 until Norris came along in P6 dropping him. Gasly P10 and then Perez, only able to nail P11 but possibly the best spot as he gets free tyre choice for the race tomorrow. Mercedes were to the top with their laps, with the rest of the sharp end abandoning once they realised that there was no threat to making Q3.
Off in search of some Barrique de Ponciano Porfidio Tequila went Perez, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, and Giovinazzi as the rest prepared themselves for the grueling chase for the ultimate palmares of pole position. Investigation underway considering Kvyat and a potential unsafe release to pass the time before the final session opened, and, well, after as suddenly no one wanted to be first in the pool.
At last, it was Norris bravely taking the plunge, followed by Kvyat and Gasly. Sainz was next and then crickets.... as they wound their way round the second sector off rocked Mercedes, Bottas leading Hamilton and then a glut of drivers behind Vettel who was next on track: Albon, Leclerc and finally Verstappen.
It was Sainz over Norris for S1, but it was Kvyat ahead of Norris across the line, until Sainz came through and confirmed himself as king of the midfield as the sharp end got it together. Hamilton ahead of Bottas then and then Vettel to the top as the Red Bulls were last across and Albon first, P4 and then Verstappen absolutely crushed it!!! 1:14.91 with Leclerc following him across and into P2 just a tenth off....
AS they track emptied then it was Verstappen, Leclerc and Vettel followed by Hamilton, Albon and Bottas, who had a bit of a ragged moment on his lap. For Formula B it was Sainz, Kvyat, Gasly and Norris as the teams got to the task at hand, giving their drivers the tools they needed to steal the ultimate prize.
2:30 to go and off went Norris, then Kvyat, Gasly and Sainz. Only the smallest of gap and it was Albon leading the way for the sharp end, then Leclerc, Bottas, and Hamilton, with Vettel and then in the catbird seat, Verstappen, last of all....
Just inside the last minute and Norris hit the line, up on Kvyat and down on Gasly but in the sharp end it was Leclerc looking fastest.... at least till Vettel completed his first sector whilst Verstappen was slower in the opening gambit.
And it was looking to be the Leclerc show until he went wide in the last sector and ZOMG then it was Bottas, just behind him, final corner, into the wall and that ended it for everyone behind. Or at least it should have as despite that, Verstappen improved his time (matching his previous sector 3 time), with Leclerc still in P2, Vettel having been caught out by the Bottas crash and slowing significantly. On replay, Valterri went the slightest bit wide on the outside exiting the previous turn and tagged the wall with his rear and that pendulumed him into the barrier and he was dragged along them till he smashed headfirst into the TecPro barrier where it protruded from the hoardings.
AS the controversy over Verstappen's time began to swell, Horner claimed that there was no yellow board, with Hamilton also completing his lap but contra that Binotto stated that for his drivers, they both had yellows flash up on their dash. On replay, it was clear that there WAS a physical flag at least (though on the outside of the corner) and the only question was going to be what the stewards would ultimately do about it, with Verstappen's first run still being fast enough to put him on pole....
Tomorrow's race starts with Verstappen, Leclerc, Vettel, Hamilton, Albon and Bottas filling the first 3 rows, though that depends entirely on Bottas's car not needing any parts that would send him down the grid, far from a certainty (and perhaps some good lawyers for Max). Best of the rest starts with Sainz and Norris followed by Kvyat and Gasly in what will be an utter test of tyre management for the drivers, given the difficulty of keeping the Pirellis from overheating. The changeable weather has also made a contribution, namely, this could also be the rare race that sees a 2 stop being the best strategy. Given that, Perez in P11 on the Medium tyres could be in a sweetheart position as his tyre whispering powers are quite well regarded. It will be one for the strategists and the biggest unknown is going to be Verstappen's ability to keep his tyres fresh as Mercedes plays the game of how close to the cooling limit can we go. In the midfield, all eyes will be on King Carlos as the class of the Mclaren chassis continues to shine through in the brutally competitive battle as homeboy Perez seeks to cover himself and Racing Point in a bit of glory....
Remember, Play Nice in the Comments!
13 Oct 2019
- Sunday, October 13, 2019
- 0 comments
Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale gives us the skinny on how qualifying for the Japanese GP unfolded...
Glorious blue skies arced over the hallowed asphalt at Suzuka as the last minute preparations were feverishly underway on the grid. Kubica was looking at a pitlane start after his crash in qualifying forced Williams to change his chassis. Similarly, Magnussen was dinged 5 places for his gearbox change, a direct result of his crash during qualifying, which effectively made no difference as the only person behind him was starting from the pits. Hulkenberg, also a victim in quali, was done thanks to a hydraulic leak in Q2, which stopped Renault's forward progress, given Ricciardo had a suspension issue which put him out in Q1...
Vettel, Leclerc and Verstappen all managed to have an extra set of Softs available, which meant that the 2 stop strategy remained a possibility for them. According to Pirelli, the one stop was quickest, coming in for the Mediums around lap 24-27, followed by the 2 stopper, with 20 lap stints on the Softs, and 13 laps on the Mediums at the end. They rated that as quicker than a one stopper coming in around lap 20-23, and going the distance on the Hards.
As the start approached a radio call was heard stating that the track was cooling, and would continue to cool throughout the race and given the Friday running, the focus was once again on Mercedes' race pace as it was generally thought that Ferrari would be vulnerable to excessive tyre degradation, especially if they were being pushed. Of course, running in dirty air does the car no favours and if Mercedes fail to get round them at the start it could be a long afternoon as they look to try and close out the Constructor's Championship, needing a 14 point advantage to clinch it today.
McLaren seem to have put themselves into their own little world, but still a bit far to consider seriously racing the Red Bulls for an entire race distance. Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Russell, Magnussen, and Kubica all elected to go alternate strategy and start on the Medium tyre.
Lights Out!!!! Great Start by Bottas, as he bombs down past Vettel who grabbed a lot of wheelspin, as Leclerc, too had a terrible start and immediately collides with Verstappen, trying to go round the outside of the Ferrari through the first two turns. It looked good for a moment, but then Leclerc understeered into the side of the Red Bull and right off went Max. Leclerc's endplate was dangling off and then it tore off and went hurtling back and took off Hamilton's right side wing mirror.
Verstappen was back in the race, P18 and Leclerc was in on lap 4. Both McLarens were by Albon but lap 5 saw Norris into the pits, and out on the Medium tyre, presumed for a puncture, after Albon had a late lunge into the chicane that resulted in contact. With Leclerc's pit and Verstappen's off, this left Albon in P5 and Lando thoroughly disgruntled. The stewards were quick to pick up on that, and as if that wasn't enough, Verstappen complained that his car was moving a large amount under braking.
Lap 7 and the other big winners were Magnussen up to P12 and Perez up to P9. The Leclerc/Verstappen incident which had initially been rated as not worthy of investigation, was suddenly deemed to be worthy of being looked at and whilst that was being processed, Leclerc's left side wing mirror flew off.
Lap 10, and having almost catalogued the legalities and then Vettel was dinged for a false start, having clearly moved and then stopped before the lights went out.... And that's how Ferrari did themselves this time round. Never a dull moment.
At the front, Bottas was nearly 4 seconds up on Vettel and it was lap 15 and the stewards decided no penalty for Vettel, apparently because he stopped before crossing his grid line and was stationary when the lights went out? Maybe? Will have to see what they say about it later.... Regardless, the Ferrari was struggling for pace and was nearly 7 seconds back. Behind, Leclerc had worked his way up to P12.
Verstappen retired the same lap and Albon was in and out for his Mediums, emerging P10. Lap 17 and Vettel was in and Ferrari chose to put him on the Softs, a clear 2 stopper. Bottas was in the following lap and he was out on a set of Mediums and the race was on.... This left Hamilton in the lead, and likely going deep. And confirmation as Bottas was told he was on a 2 stop and Lewis was on a one stop and Valterri would need to pass him on track... Oucharooni!!!
Lap 20 then and Albon was now all over Ricciardo and Bottas was chunking large chunks of time out of Hamilton. Despite being on the slower tyre, Valterri was extending his lead over the Ferrari. Lap 21 and Hamilton was in as the Softs were simply NOT lasting at this pace. Out on a set of Mediums, but with a fair amount of managing to do. On the radio, he was told it was perhaps marginal for a one stopper and he might need to pit again.... Madness.
At the back, Norris, on lap 26, was getting crushed on his now 25 lap old Mediums as Leclerc rocked in for a new set of Softs and off he went. Sainz was in for a set of Mediums clearly on the one stop. Hamilton meanwhile, had just taken a full second out of Bottas and at 18 seconds back, was looking to keep himself inside the pit window of the Bottas and Vettel to have a chance at the end.
Vettel was making no progress against Bottas, and was beginning to lose serious time to Hamilton. Ricciardo hit the pits lap 30 and that left Sainz best of the rest, in P5 followed by Gasly and Stroll. Leclerc had worked his way up to P9 and was immediately all over the back of Hulkenberg. Lap 32 saw Vettel in for his last set of tyres. Hamilton stayed out, and aside from Russell, there was a large gap between him and Hamilton that was delightfully free of traffic, Ferrari having pitted him as he caught the back of the tail that Bottas was in the midst of carving through.
Hamilton was 13 seconds back of Bottas and Vettel was JUST inside his pit window. He was 32 seconds back of Bottas, however, and he needed to clear at least 10 of those in order to be effectively even with Bottas on track. Lap 35 and Albon was in for his second stop, back out on a set of Softs. Leclerc rocked by Gasly up the inside on Spoon and into P6 for him, quite the recovery.
Lap 37 and Bottas was in, out on a set of Softs, and 7 seconds up the road from Vettel and 9 seconds back of Hamilton. It was all to play for as the finale of the race shaped up rather nicely. Vettel rocked in a purple first sector as he hit some free air. He kept up the pace and set fast lap for the race, now 7.5 seconds back of Bottas, who was not making much progress and was being told, on the radio, that Hamilton WAS going to be pitting again.... Allegedly.
Further back, Ricciardo had worked his way up to the points, and was now behind his teammate as it was Gasly leading the train, with Stroll, Perez, Hulkenberg and Ricciardo all behind him and in DRS. Perez was in though and along with him, on lap 43, was Hamilton. Out on the Softs with 15 seconds and 10 laps to go...
Ferrari wanted to bring in Leclerc, and he, along with most of the rest of the audience, wondered why exactly, as he was in P6 and only 5 seconds back of Sainz. Lewis was wasting no time, and chunked nearly 3 seconds out of Vettel. Ricciardo snuck by Hulkenberg, or rather was swapped in front to have a go at Stroll. And he was immediately by and up to P8.
By lap 47 Hamilton was well within DRS and it looked to be only a matter of time. Into Spoon he got close but Vettel was able to stretch it down to the chicane, where Hamilton once again was able to get close into the and just about got him onto the start/finish straight.
5 laps to go and with all the midfield traffic coming up, the battle raged. with Ricciardo now at the head, having rocked by Gasly. Leclerc, having pitted for Softs and an effort to take away the fast lap from Hamilton, was told to have a go at unlapping himself. Lap 50 and it all came together as Vettel got bottled behind Hulkenberg and into Spoon he and Hamilton were practically nose to tail. Vettel slipped Hulkenberg and Lewis followed and down the straight to 130R they went, Vettel now stuck behind Gasly, although he benefitted from DRS. Through the chicane Vettel was by Gasly and then Hamilton was just the barest of tenths behind. Down the straight and into Turn 1 and Lewis gave the outside a look but there was nothing doing and on they went.
The next lap was a recovery for Hamilton and as they came through the chicane to start the final lap, once again Hamilton had closed up within half a second and into the first turn they went, Vettel taking the standard line and Hamilton having a momentary peek up the inside before Vettel closed the door, and that was the best chance gone. Behind, Perez, having a go at Gasly, was mostly around the outside heading into Turn 2 and as he turned for the apex he encountered the front of Gasly's car and much like Verstappen at the start, right off he went, drawing the yellow flags. Leclerc's tilt at fast lap came up short and thus it was that Mercedes clinched the 2019 World Constructors Championship. Albon with a hard fought P4, though Norris was still a bit sore about the outcome of that one as he finished P13. And if that wasn't enough for you, an error with the chequered flag meant all the results were actually taken from lap 52, which was bad news for Stroll, who got kicked to the kerb in P11, but good news for Perez, now credited with P9 and Hulkenberg now credited with P10... Go figure.
Aside from Norris it was another good day for McLaren, with Sainz in P5 and the car looking like it is the class of the midfield. A good recovery for Renault as well, with both drivers in the points and in particular, Ricciardo going P7 after a blitz of late race passes.
And remember to play nice in the comments!!
29 Sep 2019
- Sunday, September 29, 2019
- 0 comments
Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale introduces us to the action from the Russian GP in his own inimitable style
Ambient 22° Track 34° Humidity 67% Wind 0.8 m/s
A magnificent blue sky overarched the paddock, studded with cotton candy clouds alternately throwing shade down the pit straight and parting to reveal the specific kind of sun that one only gets near bodies of water, that peculiar golden hue that seems surreal to those who've not seen it in person.
A technical issue for Sainz, in that the left rear wheel was having a bit of an issue when being mounted on the hub, causing a mild degree of consternation as the formation lap loomed. The rest of the midfield down to P14 had chosen to start on the Softs, with the bottom end going for the contra strategy of starting on the Mediums, save Kvyat on the Hard. For the sharp end, the tyre strategy created a point of interest and even though Pirelli have said a one stop Soft-Hard is the quickest, given how slow the teams tend to run to get the Soft tyres deeper into the race, a real opportunity existed for Mercedes to stay close and then give themselves a good offset with fresh tyres for the chase, should they not snatch the lead at the start.
Overnight, the FIA reset the bollards (removing the first one and keeping the cars far left as they reenter the track) on the outside of T2 as it was too difficult for the cars to make the original configuration and there had already been a big crash in the F2 race between a car using the runoff. Aitken, correctly using the bollards, had been clipped by Mazepin on the right as he passed by the last bollard. A small thing to watch for...
Albon starts from the pitlane after his shunt during qualifying yesterday and by way of explanation, Ferrari has made it's biggest performance gains in slow and fast corners, making the job of Mercedes just that ever little bit harder. The run to Turn 2 at the start features a quite usable slipstream (potentially a big advantage to Vettel) which could make things exciting and with track temps almost 5°C warmer than qualifying it could indeed be the thing that tips the needle Mercedes' direction.....
Lights Out!!!! Great Start by Vettel and Oh My Sainz!! both by Hamilton whilst Norris was by Bottas and then Vettel rocked by Leclerc who utterly failed to defend the inside and appeared to be caught by surprise as his teammate swanned by without a care in the world. Sainz went wide and right back went Hamilton whilst Ricciardo was tagged hard from behind and went dead into Grosjean, ending the HAAS drivers race.
Ricciardo carried on with a puncture as the Safety Car made an inevitable appearance. Kubica was in for the Hard tyre and looking down the field it was KMag up to P10 and Perez up to P7 the big winners at the start. On replay it was Giovinazzi into a disappearing wedge that was the cause of the collision. Radio call from Ferrari during the SC suggested that the Vettel pass had perhaps been orchestrated tactics to blank off any threat from Mercedes.
Giovinazzi was in for a new nose after his adventures and then on the restart it was status quo, with Sainz, interestingly, on the gearbox of Hamilton. Lap 4 and Kmag got the better of Hulkenberg for P9, a bit of good news for the HAAS team after losing Grosjean from P8 at the start. The following lap and Sainz had begun to fall away whilst Bottas had closed in on the plucky McLaren driver, his mission well defined, pass the Spaniard with as little time loss as possible.
Lap 6 and Hulkenberg was back around Magnussen and the radio call from Ferrari to Leclerc suggested that the following lap would be the switcheroo.... More germane, Bottas was still behind Sainz and making progress. Into lap 7 he finally got it done, but was left floundering 6.5 seconds behind Hamilton, himself 3 seconds back of Leclerc. Vettel argued for another few laps to increase the gap before the switch, which did NOT make Leclerc the least bit happy.
Given the situation, Vettel rocked off a fast lap and increased his lead by a tenth, but the obvious answer for Ferrari was to just undercut Vettel with Leclerc, as Mercedes continued to fall away from the two leaders. Verstappen, after having been caught behind Perez for a few laps, got the job done in neat fashion and was onto the gearbox of Norris as lap 10 headed towards the history books. At the back, his teammate had already worked his way up to P14, beginnning the journey of redemption for yesterday's massive quali error.
Lap 12 and a new problem had emerged for Ferrari, namely that Vettel was increasing his lead on Leclerc, up to 3 seconds. Further back, after another couple of laps, Verstappen rocked by Norris and was into P6 and closing the 4 seconds that separated him from Sainz. Kubica was in for a Medium tyre and Raikkonen, who had collected a penalty for a jump start, was in and out to serve his time...
2 laps later and things continued to go downhill for Leclerc, as Hamilton was now faster than him on track as the Softs appeared to not be lasting as well on his car relative to Vettel as all 3 cars set first sectors within a tenth of each other. Verstappen was warned his front right was marginal on temperature as Hulkenberg noodled round Perez and up into P8.
Looking at Magnussen's times, they had begun to drop again, suggesting that he had been undergoing a graining phase with his tyres and he was now back on pace with Perez ahead. Lap 16 and the pit window was officially open for the Soft tyres, and Hamilton was 0.2 seconds up on both Ferraris and it was ON!!!
The following lap Ferrari answered the call and Vettel matched Hamilton's time, and he had extended his time over Leclerc to 4 seconds, well outside the undercut. Hulkenberg was in lap 17 and that was going to kick things off in the midfield as the dominoes began to fall. Lap 18 and Hamilton was told to go target +15, meaning they were going to go for the Soft tyre and mega stint at the end.
At some point in all the excitement Verstappen had wandered past Sainz and Albon had moved up to P12. Bottas continued to fall away from the front runners, potentially a useful rolling chicane once Ferrari made their stops. As the laps continued to fall away, the race rapidly looked to be between Hamilton and Leclerc for P2, barring some catatstrophe for Vettel during the pitstop.
Lap 21 and Norris was in for a set of Mediums, emerging behind Kvyat who was rocking a set of Hards and had yet to stop. The following lap and in came Sainz, for the same tyre and easily into the gap between Norris and Kvyat. Vettel had begun to lap traffic on lap 23 and in came Leclerc. Mediums for him and out he went P4, 10 seconds back of Bottas and a mere second inside Hamilton's pit window. His first lap saw him chunk nearly a second out of Valterri as Vettel recognised the danger and began to not so subtly suggest he needed to pit as well. Perez was in lap 24, back out behind Norris. Kvyat was having a go at his teammate as Albon rocked by the both of them and took P8.
Vettel's pace was beginning to flag and to help matters, Leclerc set fast lap, nearly 2 seconds up on his teammate. Renault chose to retire Ricciardo due to damage on the first lap incident. Lap 27 and Ferrari blinked, calling Vettel in and out he went on the Mediums, BEHIND Leclerc. Half a second slower was his stop and it was now time for the big push to keep Vettel inside Hamilton's pit window....
And then it all went sideways, with an MGU-K fail and Vettel being told to immediately stop the car. This brought out the Virtual Safety Car and opened the door for Hamilton to pit and emerge AHEAD of Leclerc.....Oh freaking my!!!!
Lap 29 and in he came, along with Bottas and Verstappen. Magnussen was a big winner as well and it was Hamilton, Leclerc, Bottas with both Mercedes on the Soft tyre and 23 laps to go. Somehow, during the action, Russell managed to find the wall on the exit of Turn 8 and then there was the full Safety Car. THAT was huge for Red Bull as it was going to park Verstappen just astern of Bottas and give Leclerc a shot.
Albon was in and SO WAS LECLERC????!!! Yes and onto the Softs he went and behind Bottas now and just in front of Verstappen. Lap 31 and it was all going to get interesting once the Safety Car was lifted. Kubica was retired for good and it was a brake failure for Russell that caused all this kerfuffle. The Safety Car put Magnussen up into P6 and lap 32 saw the lapped cars sent round to overtake.
On the restart Hamilton went early and Bottas was caught napping, Leclerc closed it down massively into Turn 2 but wasn't quite there and he sensibly reset. Into Sector 2 they sailed, Leclerc less than half a second back of Bottas with no DRS available. Less than half a second the next lap round but Bottas again deployed carefully and was able to keep the Ferrari just far enough back.
Lap 34 and DRS was on and Bottas most clearly was a sitting duck whilst ahead, Hamilton was making no gains. But Leclerc dropped back a bit into the 3rd sector and it was nothing doing... the following lap and he had nibbled it back down to half a second, but again Bottas pulled out the gap through the last few turns and bought himself just enough time to keep Leclerc at bay.
Lap 36 and a mistake from Leclerc saw him slide outside DRS and that was that for the moment. Gasly had a massive dive on Kvyat and went wide, dropping him behind not only Kvyat, but Raikkonen as well... Hamilton had begun to extend his lead on Bottas whilst Leclerc was hanging around a second back of Bottas, no doubt cooling his tyres after that first effort at overtaking.
Hulkenberg had diligently worked his way up to P10 and it was Magnussen, suddenly able to keep pace with Sainz at the front of the midfield, rolling around a second and half back of the McLaren....
Lap 39 and a purple Sector 1 was perhaps an indication of a renewed attack by Leclerc on Bottas. Sector 2 also purple seemed to be a giveaway and then a lockup into Turn 15 spoiled it. 2 laps on and again, Leclerc began to wind it up a bit, but again in the middle sector he was unable to keep the rears from sliding and had to back out of it. The difference this time being he kept it pegged and again rocked a purple first sector, gaining 0.3 seconds, but then giving up a tenth in the following sector, and a further 0.3 seconds in the final sector. Which, if you have been adding in your head, means that he was beginning to lose time to the Mercedes.
Albon, stuck behind Magnussen for ages, finally rocked by him on lap 43 and began having a go at Sainz. The defense had cost the Dane, and it was Perez by as he went wide and let Perez easily by. This also opened the door to the rapidly approaching Norris/Hulkenberg battle and it looked to be that his tyres were done....
Lap 47 and Kmag's times had stabilised in P8 with a 2 second advantage over Norris, perhaps another graining phase, or just dirt from being off piste finally scrubbing off. Regardless, a bit of relief in the HAAS garage was in order. Leclerc had demanded the kitchen sink on the same lap and off he went. Purpled the first sector, gained in the second sector as well and only 0.2 second loss in the final sector. 1 second then and with 5 laps to go and why not.....
Lap 49 and Albon rocked by Sainz and into the top 6, job done there as Hamilton put in fast lap, though Verstappen was looking likely to have a go before the end of the race as he had a free stop..... Nothing doing for Leclerc, as he just was losing too much time in the last two sectors.
Kmag was dinged with a 5 second penalty for missing the bollard at Turn 2 and it was a race for P10 now, as he was dead on 5 seconds ahead of Stroll in P11. Ooops no more free stop for Verstappen as Albon was enjoying the full bennies of having free air to run into, and a car set up entirely for the race. Hamilton took advantage of that and rocked in a fast lap with 2 laps left to go....
That left Leclerc to have a go at fast lap and he was off to a good start, purpling the first sector and it looked to be a great drive from Kmag as well, saving P9 for the team with a set of excellent laps. Nothing doing for Leclerc, his effort woefully short and that was going to be that as Lewis rocked through the first sector for the final time....
Checquers then and it was Hamilton, Bottas and Leclerc, a disastrous day for the Scuderia who really did themselves in by trying to be too clever by half, perhaps aided to some large degree by Vettel's intransigence during the first phase of the race. Excellent recovery, aided by the Safety Car, for Albon as Honda's home race approaches.
Brilliant race from Sainz, again best of the rest and a sneaky P7 from Perez helping keep morale high at Racing Point. Norris benefitted from the Magnussen penalty, but it was still quite a drive for HAAS to keep the P9 and perhaps a bit of a marker that they might yet be able to salvage something from the end of the season.
Not so brilliant from Renault, with Ricciardo out and Hulkenberg barely snagging a point as the Safety Car wreaked more than a bit of havoc on the strategies of more than a few teams.
And remember to play nice in the comments!!