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11 Jun 2018
Trumpets race review - Canada

Ambient 20° Track 41° Humidity 27% Wind 1.2 m/s


Traffic was jammed on the BQE, brakelights solid red. An early promising start combined with some well spotted overtaking and an allegedly healthy disregard for posted limits had seen the GPS move it's needle from 8 after to 4 after when the awful sound announced traffic was building up and I was not going to make the start of the race, after it turned out my gig started an hour later than I was told.....

A new route put me back to arriving 2 minutes before the start of the race, and some spirited driving saw me claw back another minute, banging the wheels against the kerb with 3 minutes to spare... A sprint up the stairs and I was cranking up F1 TV as the app announced the beginning of the parade lap. No picture of course and 10 minutes of chatting latter, and having cleared my cache and restarted my browser I was FINALLY able to get visuals, but not before I missed the interesting bits. AS for the race, well, looked to be a one stopper and I'm increasingly of the opinion that that is the default for this season, due primarily to the slow pace they need to run to protect the engines and save fuel....


Lights Out!!!! Rocking start from Vettel and huge effort from  Verstappen to bring himself into contention with Bottas around T2. Bottas kept his foot in and managed to fight him off to maintain P2. Ricciardo didn't get the greatest of starts but hung it round the outside of Raikkonen T1 and then took the position neatly away. Ocon slung it round Hulkenberg for P7 and then a massive smash!!!

Stroll, having had a good start as well and gaining several places, lost the car on the way to T6 and took Hartley, who could ill afford it, straight into the barriers, showering the circuit with debris. Safety Car was out and brought an immediate halt to the fun. 

On the restart Verstappen again was close to Bottas, Perez had an off road incident and was back on without crash, but not before Alonso and Kmag got round. According to the immediate and somewhat agitated radio commentary, Perez was clocked by Sainz which resulted in his adventure.  
Hulkenberg, complaining mightily about being faster, was on Ocon but with DRS not yet enabled not much progress was being made. Lap 7 and Vettel was making no real time, 1.7 seconds up the road as Verstappen closed up to the back of Bottas. Meanwhile, a fairly angry Perez was calling for Sainz to be black flagged, despite the replay looking rather like he turned into the unfortunate Renault driver. 

Hulkenberg continued to put the screws to Ocon but was unable to get round the Force India, even after DRS was enabled. Slightly further back, Leclerc, in the last points paying position, was giving a vigorous defense to Fernando Alonso, who was trying all his wily veteran type tricks on the youngster, to fairly little effect.

Lap 12 and Ocon put himself out of Hulkenberg's misery, pitting for a set of Supersofts. It was a massively slow stop which was good news for Hulkenberg who had been overheating massively behind the Force India driver. Hulkenberg was all over it, turning a lap in the 1:15's the only midfielder to visit that rarefied air, on his way to a slam dunk overcut. Along with that, reports that Bottas was on the edge of overheating his tyres hit the airwaves from team radio. 

Hullkenberg managed to exit the pits in front of Ocon after his pit stop, which should've been a no brainer, but as Renault was also slow in the box, it was a little more entertaining than it should've been. Lap 15 and Sainz was also in, both of the Renaults rocking the Supersofts, popular choice. The full price of Force India's slow stop then became apparent, costing them not just P7, but also P8 as Sainz, too, emerged in front of the young Frenchman as he hit the far end of the pitlane. But that was quickly forgotten as both Verstappen and Hamilton bounced into the pits and right  back out on Supers, just ahead of the long runners, now led by Leclerc, who was close enough to get a bit racy. Ricciardo radioed in Hamilton was struggling, and his engineer encouraged him to go for it, not that it was needed. 

Ricciardo was in the following lap and with a smashing stop, managed to pass him in the pits, as Hamilton's outlap mirrored the troubles he had yesterday in qualifying, a fundamental lack of grip and difficulty getting the power down midcorner. Frying pan, meet fire for Mercedes at the moment as Vettel switched to plan B, swanning along comfortably ahead of Bottas with a 4.5 second gap on lap 20. In all likelihood, that meant going long for a 1 stop as Bottas was fundamentally unable to put any kind of pressure on the Ferrari.

Lap 21 and with both Leclerc and Alonso having pitted, it was now Gasly, the sole Toro Rosso left in the race, momentarily leading the best of the rest. Astonishingly, Gasly was running a set of Hypersofts, though his laptimes reflected the care required to get them over 20 laps. Lap 23 and Hamilton had brought his tyres up to temperature and his car to the gearbox of Ricciardo, their race long duel due to commence.

Grosjean was now leading the midfield, and having not stopped, Hulkenberg made short work of him and it was back to status quo ante as the Hulk retook P7. Up ahead, Vettel managed a rather large lock up into T10, bits of rubber shredding off in the slo mo beauty shot. Raikkonen had managed to clear Hamilton from his pit window. Sirotkin was in leaving Grosjean the sole midfielder without a stop. At the sharp end, the top 3 continued to circulate at a reasonable tempo. 

According to Sky, Hamilton had been suffering with power issues due to an "incorrect cooling" configuration, which they remedied as best they could at his stop. The more you know kids... RoGro continued to plague Ocon, who was unable to get round the exceedingly wide HAAS, unlike the Renaults who were busy making time. Hamilton asked why the early stop, and was told it was exactly to have a go at that incorrect configuration before things got out of hand. At the cost of 1 place, which is still a lot less than not finishing at all.

Lap 33 and Raikkonen was finally in from P3 and back out directly in front of the back of Hamilton, who had been told to unleash his right foot and found himself momentarily jammed between the rather slow moving Williams of Sirotkin and the fast approaching Ferrari of Raikkonen. 

Lap 37 and Bottas was finally called in, 6.3 seconds behind the Ferrari of Vettel, so not really an undercut  but to forestall Verstappen rocking into his pit window. Raikkonen lingered inside the DRS of Hamilton as Vettel boxed the following lap, a formality as much as anything else, no real pressure as they were simply covering Bottas off. 

Once they settled down, the top three, Vettel, Bottas and Verstappen were all well into the 1:14's, but the intervals between them were wide, nearly 5 seconds a piece. Things compressed a bit after that, with Hamilton just 2 seconds adrift of Ricciardo, and Raikkonen 1.8 seconds back of the Mercedes as lap 42 ticked over. 

And then Alonso's McLaren gave up, 300th GP over and soon to be forgotten as the march of misery continued for the team from Woking. The rest carried on, unaffected, and truthfully, not a single car was in DRS and the gaps seemed fixed as in amber with Lap 45 in the books. Amazingly, Grosjean still hadn't stopped and if the app was telling the truth, Ocon had briefly wandered into DRS range yet again. OOOH juicy rumour, random speculation from the Beeb that Leclerc might well be headed to HAAS for some more seasoning before heading to Ferrari, replacing Grosjean. It was at this point it became obvious they were reaching given the lack of on track action...

Ocon finally got in front of Grosjean on lap 49 as RoGro prepared to pit, this forced RoGro to take to the grass as the braking point for the pits is distincly later than the braking point for the chicane, and resulted in some world class moaning from the HAAS driver. Macca reported exhaust issues were the cause of Alonso's retirement and Hamilton had inched his way back into DRS on Ricciardo at the end of Lap 52. The retirement of Alonso also promoted Leclerc into P10 and the prospect of points for the Sauber driver immediately prompted the conversation to turn back to silly season, and whether or not he should now take over for Raikkonen this time. 

Lap 55 and the closest battle was Perez on Kmag, but just then Bottas ran off the track lapping Sainz. Just a bit wide, but it cost him precious time in his slow  burn to reel Vettel in, from 3 seconds, to over 5, and crucially, put the two Renaults ahead of him yet again.

Lap 58, though, and Vettel pressed his advantage, turning fast lap of the race and extending his lead to 7.3 seconds, basically mocking Bottas and Mercedes, telling them not to bother and setting himself up for the Grand Schelem. But the real race was back between Hamilton and Ricciardo, as Lewis needed to finish ahead of Danny Ricky to leave Montreal still leading the championship and the pitstop hoodoo Mercedes performed was apparently enough to make him think he had a shot. 

Lap 61 and RoGro managed to catch up to Gasly and got right to using his newer tyres to their best advantage. Mercedes advised Hamilton that he could turn the engine down, and he was having none of it, with the Red Bull tantalizingly in reach. Lap 62 and off he went, closing down inside a second down the front straight and starting to wake up what had been becoming a fairly sleepy affair.

Lap 64 and Lewis was down to 0.6s and traffic loomed ahead for Ricciardo, Ocon was pressuring Sainz and that was putting stress on Hulkenberg, who requested the team stop telling him to go faster. Ooooh and then cheeky Verstappen knocked off a fast lap with just 4 laps left, as Lewis prepared to kitchen sink it against Ricciardo. Verstappen, too, was suddenly significantly faster than Bottas and with 3 laps left, he was 1.6 seconds back and 0.7 seconds a lap faster. 

Lap 68 and Hamilton was finally close enough to have a go, but a twitch on exit at the end of the straight put paid to his best yet chance at the Aussie. Verstappen had made it to DRS on Bottas and as they turned the corner for lap 69 some actual racing had finally broken out. And oh dear, the celebrity waving the chequers blew it by a whole lap, prompting a call from Vettel asking them to please not wave the flag till they were actually done racing. But, the race was classified a lap early according to the official timing screens so there you go, perhaps a fitting end to a, shall we say, less than gripping (haha tyre joke, get it) race...

Tragic race for Hartley, who, needing a good result and FINALLY getting in a good quali, was quite thoroughly smashed into the wall by the errant Williams driven by Stroll. Stroll was released from the medical centre, but after having a careful look, Hartley was sent on to hospital for some follow up scans. With a race in two weeks, if he suffered a concussion it will be interesting to see if he can get medical clearance for the French GP. If not, could be some very interesting moves in the drivers market. Tragic for Alonso, though in a different way. The word irony springs to mind, as the PU he worked so hard to get to Macca is ultimately what let him down. Well, that and the entire design team, as the magnificent aero apparently would require a Mercedes or Ferrari mill to power it towards the sharper end of the field. 

Mercedes did well to keep Bottas in P2, but they also had rather obviously missed a trick, demonstrated by the last minute FP3 work being done to the suspension of Hamilton's car. The old PU was no help, and the fact they misconfigured the cooling rubbed salt into that particular wound but Canada was seemingly a track they expected to shine at, and they couldn't put a dent into the Ferrari, meaning a lot of toiling away at Brackley between now and the visit to Paul Ricard...

Big Happy shiny point for Sauber and Leclerc, and loads of silly season speculation as a result of ANOTHER good drive from the young Monegasque. Ocon, too, scoring some for Force India will help ease the sting a bit from their poor pitstop that handed the best of the rest title to Hulkenberg and Renault.

Red Bull too, with Verstappen finally having a clean weekend and a podium to boot had plenty of optimism to share post race. Last minute news from Sky that the FIA official handling the chequers was to blame, not Winnie Harlow, which resulted in the race being classified at 68 laps, losing Ricky Danny his fast lap. New tyres and new circuit next up, but it's increasingly looking like Vettel's championship to lose.... 


And remember to play nice in the comments!!

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10 Jun 2018
Trumpets qualifying notebook - Canada

Ambient 22° Track 43° Humidity 21% Wind 2.0 m/s


Montreal has long been a Hamilton track, he has won 6 times, crushing the opposition mercilessly relative to current drivers. But Qualifying is all about who's fastest over a single lap, not a race distance and if you bloodlessly evaluate the evidence from the Free Practices (minus one very squished groundhog) Hamilton would be odds on favourite to win the race, but no one should be betting on him for pole, as both Vettel and Verstappen (assuming he doesn't bin it before his first run in Q3), should have the means to beat him... 

Circuit Gilles Villenueve sparkled in the dense sunshine, the weather every bit the gloriousness one expects Montreal to deliver this time of year. Mercedes on the Ultrasofts looked positively terrifying but having brought just enough Hypersofts for qualifying, it's clear that their focus is more on race pace as Canada has a relatively low win percentage from pole compared to, I don't know, let's say Monaco for example. So they most certainly will try to make Q3 on the Ultra's as opposed to the Hypers, with the only question being will Ferrari and Red Bull choose to follow suit. Still, the lack of running on Hypers looks to have penalised them relative to both Ferrari and Red Bull, and crucially there was rather a lot of work being done to the front end of Hamilton's car just before he set his fastest times. HE was dead quickest in S1, just missed in S2 and was well off in S3, but he had also done an aborted lap that saw him bail at the end of S1 so he might have just enough in hand to pull it off. Should be interesting. 

An oil spill at T7 will also complicate Q1, as it had been cleared but the drivers were advised with 10 minutes to go that the track would be "dusty". Another unfortunate event is the lack of running Ricciardo had, after he melted his MGU-K in Monaco. The unit was repaired, however, it seems that his pace with the repaired engine was not evident in any of the practices, though one could think it likely that they will stress his PU as little as possible. In any event, he was unusually off the pace, as was Bottas for Mercedes, who improved the least amongst all the sharp end when he strapped on the softest of the tyres.

Force India seem to be having a it of a resurgence, as they made the most of their updates and boardroom politics aside, seemed to be ticking over quite nicely now they have sorted the issues they had at the start of the season. Renault were not far off and yet again, Gasly and the Toro Rosso turned up in the top 10 and the end of FP3, where one might least expect them. 


Green Light!!  Goodness, RoGro's engine let go in magnificent fashion with just 20 seconds gone from the 18 minutes of the first session. Meanwhile, Leclerc, Magnussen, Sirotkin Ericsson all carried on on their outlaps. Vettel and Raikkonen were out and early days it was Sirotkin on top till Vettel dethroned him with a stout 1:12.11. 

11 Minutes to go and Mercedes were out and about, with Bottas being first to set a time for the team. Ricciardo was leading the way for RBR and got himself more than a bit out of shape with his first effort, dodging traffic for added entertainment and going P4 as Vettel chunked another 0.25 seconds off his time, rocking a 1:11.725. 

8 minutes to go and Ericsson just about took out Verstappen as he visited the wall of champions with his Rght Front suspension. Hamilton, with his first go had himself a massive bit of oversteer and was forced to roll out and reset. Bottas had gone P3 behind Raikkonen and Ricciardo slotted in behind him. Lewis chucked it in again and was able to make P4 as his teammate had a second go and was up to P3. 

Verstappen, looking amazingly scrappy took it across the line P4 and with 3 minutes left, it was time for those at the back to start sweating. Kmag, Strol, Sirotkin, Ericsson and of course the non-participating Grosjean were on the outside looking in, as Hamilton started setting purple sectors with less than 2 minutes to go. Flat spot for Stroll took him out, and it was McLaren under the gun as Alonso was P16 on his outlap and Vandoorne had just kicked it off for his final go. Leclerc and Gasly were just ahead of him as the checquers flew. 

Leclerc jumped to P12, Gasly hit the pits and was immediately excommunicated as Alonso brought it up to P14, which dumped the Toro Rosso out. Lot of pace in the chassis left with Hartley going P10, but perhaps Gasly not going to the new spec PU had caught him out. 

With the dust of T7 settled, it was Gasly, Stroll, Sirotkin, Ericsson and Grosjean (curse of the groundhog?) off in search of poutine with the rest turning it around for Q2. 

Kmag, Raikkonen and Vettel kicked off the fun for Q2, wasting little time. Mercedes followed them out and both the Ferrari and Mercedes were sporting Ultras rather than the quickest Hypers, to the surprise of almost no one. 

13 minutes to go and they were on it, Raikkonen, Vettel, then Hamilton trading purples as they smashed around the circuit in order. Vettel topped Raikkonen and it was just the question of S3 as Hamilton flashed across the line, a lockup at the hairpin dooming him to P3. That was rapidly converted to a P4 as his teammate, who had been mostly nowhere, jumped up to the top with a 1:11.514. Unlike the others at the sharp end, Red Bull chose to rock out with the Hypers and with just under 10 minutes left, they cranked it up for their hot laps. Personal bests and not purple sectors, a trend that carried on throughout the lap, but divergent results, with Ricciardo going P6 whilst Verstappen was up to P1, eclipsing Vettel with a 1:11.472, just about matching his P3 time. 

With 6 minutes left, Magnussen, Hartley, Vandoorne, Alonso and Leclerc had it all to do whilst Hulkenberg sat rather uncomfortably on the bubble. Given the damage he did with his lockup, it was looking likely that Hamilton might yet set another time. But no, the strategy was actually to go around on the Hypers, use them if needed or bail to the pits, as Mercedes headed back out to the track. 

3 minutes to go and Ferrari decided that WAS a good idea and followed Mercedes out as Leclerc took advantage of a fairly empty track to improve to P13. Alonso was the head of the queue rolling down the back straight as the clock ticked down toward a minute. Personal bests for Alonso in the first 2 sectors as the drivers backing up for their laps interfered rather seriously with Vettel's attempt at a lap.

Alonso, up to P14, Hartley P12 leaving Magnussen the only one with a shot, but he fell short and it ended the way it started, save for Ricciardo, who rocked up to P1, a rather miraculous 0.038 seconds faster than Verstappen. Magnussen, Hartley, Leclerc, Alonso and Vandorne retired for some Caesars while the ultimate glories of Q3 beckoned for the rest. 

Q3 kicked off with Hamilton leading the way, trailed by Bottas. Raikkonen and Hulkenberg were out next and as the early starters rolled down the back straight, Sainz and Vettel rocked out of the pits. Hamilton set early purples, but they were eclipsed by Bottas, sector by sector and it was a 1:11.227 for him but Bottas took him to the cleaners, with a 1:10.857.

Raikkonen split the Mercedes as Vettel chucked up purple after purple and it was P1 and a 1:10.776 as the Red Bull finished up their out laps. Again, no purples but solid green for both Ricciardo and Verstappen, and it was 1:11.281 and P6 for Ricky Danny, and P4 with a 1:10.904 for Max, ahead of Hamilton.  Hulkenberg bested Sainz and neither Force India chose to set a time as they turned it around for the last tilt at the palmares. 

Perez, Ocon, Sainz Hulkenberg were out with just over 2 minutes left in the session for their personal struggle. Then Raikkonen, Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel Ricciardo and finally Verstappen rolled out line astern to have their say.

Perez and Ocon were halfway through their laps, setting personal bests and then Raikkonen kicked it off and immediately went wide at T2 chucking it out the window before he even got started as the sharp end got under way. For a moment, it looked like the Force India drivers might even catch up the sharp end finishing their outlap, but that's what you get for taking the app GPS too seriously. Ocon outpointed his teammate with a mighty S3, taking enough advantage of the brute force of his Mercedes' PU to be able to split the Renault's as well, who decidely had the advantage in S2. Hulkenberg was just that bit quicker than Sainz in the last sector, though, and managed to maintain his place as best of the rest, whilst Sainz slipped behind the fast Frenchman of Force India. Perez had a dismal final sector, and wound up nearly 0.5 seconds off the back of Sainz. 

Hamilton was all over it after Kimi mucked it up, ahead of Vettel early on, but a lockup into T10 cost him and it was P3 and a consistent inability to get round S3  as Vettel brought it home with a 1:10.764. Verstappen meanwhile turned S1 purple and was stealing focus like mad by not crashing things, while Bottas, rocked it across the line in P2, mistake free and in a most unassuming way. Verstappen kept on it, thrashing the car through the lap, but the long back straight did him no favours. Despite this, he was STILL able to slot it into P3, ahead of Hamilton, complicating James Vowell's night considerably.  

Tomorrow's race is now full of all kinds of interesting, Verstappen P3 combined with the fantastically crashtastic T1-T2 complex should yield all sorts of excitement. With passing a real possibility there should be plenty of action throughout the field, especially from RoGro and Gasly near the back with reasonable pace to deploy. Mercedes have been weak in traffic, and should Lewis get stuck behind Verstappen it will go very bad for him quickly. Still, with DRS and despite a non-updated PU, the Bulls look vulnerable down the long straights. Less so will be his teammate and the curiousity of how Mercedes will handle that is to be much anticipated (plan B, Valterri?), should Bottas prove unable to get round Vettel. Of course, said crashtastic start could easily upset the apple cart but at the moment, Vettel and Ferrari look once again like they have the package to beat and the real mysteries, and heart of the competition lay in the midfield this round. 


Remember, Play Nice in the Comments!

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22 May 2018
Missed Apex Podcast appearance 20/05/18

Here's the deets on my latest show with Missed Apex, if you're watching the video via Youtube I'll start by apologising for the out of sync audio/video, it appears my internet or Skype were lagging for no apparent reason.

If you haven't, for some reason, subscribed with your podcatcher of choice to the show already I do suggest doing so. But, for those that haven't here's the embed player...

Patron's also get access to the post show 'wafflecast', where me and Matt continue to shoot the breeze on everything Tech in F1 -
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13 May 2018
Trumpets race review - Spain

 Ambient 16° Track 36° Humidity 50% Wind 2.6 m/s


Overnight at Montmelo saw a hammering rain and as the track went green for installation laps there were massive grey clouds hanging over the circuit at the back of the pitlane, and an oculus of blue at the exit, the promised land, a paradise of dry tarmac. But the weather forecast promised otherwise and the likelihood of precipitation exceeded 50% as the start of the race approached.

Pirelli forecast a 2 stopper being fastest, Super, Soft, Soft with a first stop around lap 16, conveniently ignoring the fact that the top 8 cars all chose to qualify on and will start with the Softs. Why? Well, according to reports of a driver meeting with Pirelli, Vettel put it best in stating there simply weren't big enough gaps between the compounds. The evidence is hard to ignore when HAAS made Q3 with Softs and had he not been fueled for an extra lap, Danny Ricky would likely have been P5 instead of P6 on the Softs vs Max on the Supers. Of course, starting on Softs Pirelli do admit a one stopper could work, with a single stop around lap 35, and that would've been the plan for the top teams, but with a not merely green, but abundantly verdant track the fact of the matter is that no one was quite sure what the best way round would be.

Temps matter too, and if the teams get it wrong a radio full of complaints will absolutely be broadcast for our entertainment. AS to overtaking, the challenge at this circuit, according to an interview with Toto Wolff, is that the approaches to both straits are high speed, and the wash from the leading car make it somewhere between difficult and impossible to stay close enough for an overtake, even with DRS. So look for drivers taking a few strategic shots, which has become the norm in these days of advanced aero.

Of course, none of this will matter if the rain actually comes, and as I wander off for one more espresso the random fact that Hartley has a brand new engine, the Hulk is hopelessly out of position and apparently the Williams is suffering from a stalling condition that is "depriving the drivers of confidence" seem worth mentioning, as the anthems play and pageantry rocks into full swing....   


Lights Out!!!! The massive run down to T1 saw good start from Hamilton but it was Vettel into P2 by Bottas who was struggling a bit. Contact for Alonso, and BANG!!!! RoGro and Hulkenberg both were involved in a race ending incident.

RoGro spun the car after Magnussen understeered in front of him, taking air off his car. He then collided with Hulkenberg as the car didn't spin off the track, but rather back across the circuit at T3 in huge, billowing clouds of smoke as he had kept the throttle pinned. Gasly, too, looked to have been collected and in no surprise to anyone the Safety Car was straight out.

As they waited for the lengthy cleanup to begin, it was Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen and Verstappen in the top 5. Alonso had tagged Sainz just prior to the Grosjean disaster and they were both full off the circuit then Grosjean, hung it around the outside chasing Magnussen and the rest you know.

Much argument on the telly about whether Rogro should've kept the throttle pinned, so have fun with that in the comments. Actually, not so much argument as bafflement but still... Palmer on 5 live was adamant that it was exactly the wrong thing to do, unless you were in a front wheel drive car...Lap 4 and the complaints about the slow Safety Car were led by Sainz and as lap 6 ticked over word came down that Safety Car was going to come in, with Hulk, Gasly and Grosjean all gone from the race.

Restart!!! Big slides as Hamilton got a good jump, Bottas looked racey for a moment but he, too couldn't hook it up and it was status quo ante. Alonso was the only one to get it done, nipping Ocon round the outside of T3 and up to P10. Danny Ricky went wide and that brought him into the  sights of Kmag, now within DRS of the Red Bull. At the end of lap 7 Alonso, too, was on the gearbox of Leclerc running in P9.

Lap 9 and the frontrunners were evenly spread at 2 second intervals as presumably they waited for DRS or the first pit window to open before making any moves. Vandoorne got rocked with a time penalty for not rejoining correctly after going off at T2, legacy of decision precipitated by Verstappen in practice, who wove his way round the speed bumps and argued himself out of a penalty by pointing out he didn't HIT them, as per the reg. Whiting clarified this for the race and Stoffel fell afoul of it.

Lap 11 and the clouds over the circuit were looking ever darker, and team radio were bouncing back and forth between plan A and B's as the early and relatively lengthy Safety Car changed fuel usage profiles considerably.

At the front, Hamilton had buried the throttle and opened the gap to nearly 6 seconds by lap 14 as the 2 stop beckoned. Bottas had closed up the gap and was well within undercut on Vettel and surprising no one, Danny Ricky radioed in he was faster than Max and could he please be allowed to overtake. Apparently the original plan to let them play unsupervised had undergone some revision.  

Lap 17 and it was Vandoorne chasing down Perez, the closest battle. Then Vettel and Ferrari pulled the trigger on a two stop the following lap, out on a Medium to prevent the undercut from Bottas. Mercedes responded by having Bottas push and he promptly set fast lap, whilst Vettel was out behind KMag, which, umm, OK that looked to be fun as it was just 2 seconds between them.

Lap 20 and Bottas was in, but with a problem on the back left costing him time, about 1.5 seconds, and on exit, he was out right by Kmag and Vettel split the difference, leaving Bottas behind Kmag and Vettel racing off into the distance.

Ricciardo was next up for the Ferrari driver, stuck behind his teammate but 12 seconds up the road. Bottas rocked by Kmag and lap 21 entered the history books as he continued his chase of P2 on the podium. At the front, Hamilton had managed to stretch his lead over Raikkonen to 15 seconds and continued to slowly stretch his lead, looking to clear the Ferrari from his pit window.  

Lap 22 and Alonso was in, out in P16 and chasing Leclerc once again. Lap 25 and suddenly Raikkonen slowed, with a loss of power. Frantic radio with the team yielded no immediate satisfaction and as they struggled, Hamilton took advantage to pit with no threat from Ferrari. Verstappen did manage to get by, but with a stop looming for them.

It was the end of the road for Kimi, though and he pulled over as Hamilton warmed up his Mediums and got to grips with his race. Sainz was in lap 26 and Perez followed him 2 laps later. AS the pit stop cycle continued, it was Ocon, Vandoorne, Ericsson and Sainz taking the last of the points paid positions, with Sainz the only one to have made a stop.
Lap 29 and it was a savage defense through T1 and T2 for Ericsson, fending off Sainz at least for the moment, but it was clear that it was just a matter of time for Carlos to have that spot as the Sauber had yet to stop. Hamilton caught a radio message that he did NOT need to manage his pace to make his tyres last, and he continued to run just a bit faster than Verstappen ahead, content to manage till the Red Bulls chose to pit. Looking backwards, it was clear that both Bottas and Vettel were running at a pace that meant neither would be cleared from the pit window so the strategy looked to be running as long as possible, then using fresh tyres to make up ground late in the race, and/or rain and Safety Car giving them essentially a free stop.

Lap 31 and disaster for Ocon, right rear refusing to go on and it cost him nearly half a minute as he made his first and only stop. Ericsson, Vandoorne, and Kmag continued to be the only runners without a stop. Lewis had gradually closed up to Verstappen and lap 33 he was on the edge of DRS as the lap kicked off. Down the back strait he went, just inside DRS and taking no chances. Ricciardo was in and out, P5 and Mercedes finally figured out what Hamilton knew as soon as he came out, that RBR were on a one stop with track position and were a threat if he couldn't make his tyres last.

Kmag was in and out, P6 on Lap 33 and then Verstappen was in 2 laps later, P4 and on the Mediums. Thus the die was set, lap 36 and Verstappen was chasing Hamilton's pit window while at the front Lewis matched his fastest lap. Ericsson was the last in, changing out his Mediums for Softs, and on the radio Mercedes asked for feedback on tyres if they were to convert to a one stop, with Verstappen 21 seconds behind and putting Bottas and Vettel both into serious jeopardy should they stop for a second time.  

The Alonso/Leclerc battle, which had been simmering and occasionally boiling over all race, hotted up again lap 40, but the enormous aero that Macca were running did Fernando no favours as he rocketed down the strait, unable to close the door all the way before he ran out of real estate.
Lap 41 and Ocon was out with a PU failure, bringing forth the Virtual Safety Car as the Force India was recovered. At the front, Hamilton had eked out another second but with the VSC Mercedes now had the option to lose less time for a stop.

While Mercedes dithered, Ferrari jumped, with Vettel in for new Mediums, but at the cost of being out P5 and Verstappen and Bottas to chase down. And again the kaleidoscope shifted and lap 43 saw the VSC off. Alonso, the wily veteran, got the jump on Leclerc and vitally, Verstappen ran dead into the back of Stroll on the restart, taking a big chunk of his front left endplate. Williams' woes continued as Sirotkin had an odd moment where he lost it all by himself. Perez took P10 away from Stroll with little effort while much to the consternation of the aerodynamicists, Verstappen carried on at the same pace.

Unfortunately for Max, that pace was about half a second a lap slower than Vettel and as lap 47 ticked over the Ferrari driver was just about in DRS. Vandoorne was then out with a loss of power, pulling over at pit exit as the strict PU regulations continued to bite....

Fast lap for Hamilton, into the 1:19's as Vettel worked his way free of traffic to continue the pursuit of the Red Bull, who was now nearly 2 seconds up the road. Sadly for the entertainment value, Kmag was demonstrating the superiority of the HAAS by running significantly faster than the rest of the midfield, while not quite being on the pace of the sharp end, putting him in a bubble with a  half minute or so either side of him in a lonely P6. Which, perhaps, was a comfort to the HAAS pitwall as the likelihood of him losing bodywork in a battle was virtually nil.

Lewis' fast lap didn't last long, as Danny Rick, sensing a shot at Vettel, turned up the wick and began chasing, taking nearly a second out of the Ferrari.  Sebastian, meanwhile, was keeping up the pressure on Verstappen, within 2 seconds and looking to take the podium away from the Red Bull and the long slow slog to the end of the race commenced.

10 laps to go and the threat of rain hung in the air, but was far enough away that the teams were being dismissive of the issue. With things having set, telly managed to ID some damage to Perez, the result of the Force India driver destroying Verstappen's endplate, which had flown off down the front strait. Still, that didn't stop him from banging past Leclerc on lap 60, as the Sauber ran itself dry of energy and was essentially defenseless down the front strait. Lap 61 and Sirotkin again had some kind of an off, which didn't make primetime. In completely unrelated news, F1 TV, having turned out to be in no way ready for primetime (reddit comments were savage, and apparently it was a huge amateur hour effort) is indeed offering refunds to all those who signed up. That said, the bones of it are promising indeed, and if nothing else the replays and archives are a tremendous resource.

Sainz had a fuel dropout issue, and was told to be careful round T3 but with 4 laps left, and Alonso 6 seconds back, it was more a management issue than a serious threat. Bottas complained of losing tyre temperature as he underwent fuel saving, lift and coast keeping his brake temps down, which sounds good until you realise that brake temps help keep tyre temps up, and the older the tyres the more likely they are to lose temps and drop out of the window.

Still, a minor diversion, and as Hamilton crossed the line for the win, something had gone south for Verstappen in the final lap, and he just barely crossed the line ahead of Vettel. Hartley, too, ran into issues on the final lap and looked to be coasting down toward the checquers, pulling off the track and parking it by the pit exit.

A fairly faultless weekend for Mercedes, and perhaps some regret on the Ferrari pitwall, as they paid the price not only for an aggressive pit strategy for Vettel, but possibly for how hard they have pushed their PU, the loss of Raikkonen having severely complicated their strategic day. The fact of the matter is, though,they were never really on it this weekend, and the new surface and slightly thinner tyres did them no favours whatsoever.Excellent result for Red Bull, but a brutally unhappy day for Ricciardo, not allowed to challenge Max (?) and regretting savagely taking on fuel for 2 runs for his last shot at Q3. Hindsight being 20/20, Hamilton in the cooldown room told Bottas that he should've pulled over on the run down to T1 at the start to give Valterri the benefit of a tow. Instead, he wound up helping Vettel by trying to cut him off. Meaningless in the end, it was still a nice insight, and clearly Hamilton sees this as his first proper victory of the year, regardless of the WDC standings.

Smashing race for Magnussen, and also for Grosjean, just for completely different reasons. Still, HAAS' package looks to be maintaining its advantage over the midfield, the only question being when they will be able to pull off the high double points finish that is clearly within their grasp at the moment. That in turn leads to questions about RoGro, who once again seems to be struggling with decision making at key moments. He was brought in to lead the team, but under pressure of struggling with the car, seems to be spiraling and it will be interesting to see what the rumour mill chunks up in the lead up to Monaco.

The other entertainment was Verstappen's times with the damaged (entirely removed) endplate. With the new front wings coming in next year, and despite the pleas of the aero boffins, one wonders exactly why the complaining from RBR. Maybe it won't be the utter disaster they are currently predicting...

Despite the seeming dominance of Mercedes at this track, the season is far from over and Monaco offers a serious shot for the fizzy drinks team as well as the Scuderia. Horner offered post race that Ricciardo had a spin under the VSC that cost him 12 seconds, explaining the end of his challenge to Vettel.

And remember to play nice in the comments!!
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