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It’s Going Down to the Wire

Round 19 – Mexican Grand Prix

A reasonably common retort to the question of ‘Do you watch the Formula One’ is ‘Nah, not really, I find them a bit boring, I watch the start, potter around the house for a bit and then watch the finish’. Now, don’t get me wrong, although I don’t work in the business anymore I’m still a huge fan. However, the Mexican Grand Prix had an interesting start, a pretty average middle and an exciting finish, then a sprinkling of post race controversy.

At 2,248M above sea level, Mexico presents some unique challenges for the teams, cars and drivers. With air being 20% thinner than at sea level this means that 20% less oxygen is being burnt in the engines but also there is 20% thinner air for the cars to push through. This led to the fastest recorded speed of a Grand Prix car of 231.33mph (372.21kph) by Valtteri Bottas in the Williams.

Lewis Hamilton won from start to finish without any real incident apart from locking his right front brake on the approach in to turn 1 – on lap 1 – which caused him to run wide but then easily recovered. Rosberg finished second who fended off a brave challenge from Verstappen on lap 50 that didn’t stick, ran wide on turn 1 after a challenge from Max Verstappen but also ran incident free after that.

 

It was the last three laps that created all of the excitement. On lap 68, when on slightly older tyres than his rivals, Verstappen ran wide at turn 1 in a similar fashion to Hamilton’s incident on lap 1. The difference was he had the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel breathing down his neck. Max rejoined the track and held on to his 3rd place much to the displeasure of Vettel who believed that Max should give up the position. A few laps later, Ricciardo challenged Vettel for 4th place. The two touched briefly but Vettel held on. With only a lap to go, the Ferrari pit crew’s ears were on fire listening to Sebastian’s rant regarding Max not giving up his place and Vettel also managed to give top FIA representative Charlie Whiting a piece of his mind as well.

So the race finished and with Lewis and Nico occupying the top two spots on the podium – but before Max was able to step up he was told that it was now Vettel had inherited third. Seb indeed collected the 3rd place trophy.

In yet another twist, the race stewards decided that Vettel had moved across on Ricciardo unfairly during that penultimate lap challenge from Ricciardo and gave Seb a time penalty so that it was Daniel that actually finished third!

I’m all up for rules when it comes to safety… but lets just allow them to race.

 

Mexican Race Result

  • Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
  • Nico Rosberg Mercedes
  • Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing
  • Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing
  • Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
  • Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
4
Felipe Massa – 251 GP’s, 11 wins and World Champion for 25 seconds in 2008. Source: formulaspy.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round 20 – Brazilian Grand Prix

With now only two races to go Rosberg’s lead over Hamilton is only 19 points with 50 still to play for. A non finish from Lewis in Brazil would see Nico crowned as 2016 World Champion.

The sessions before race day didn’t produce any shocks other than Fernando Alonso considering his career options after Formula One. His McLaren stopped on track during one of Friday’s sessions so he took to the controls of a TV camera. ‘How difficult could it be?’. Well they televised his handy work, which has certainly given me greater respect for the guys who actually get paid for it.

Lewis was on pole with Nico second followed by the Ferraris and Red Bulls. The weather forecast for race day was for rain and sure enough rain is what we got.

For those whose chances of winning a race are slim, rain is seen as a great opportunity to get a result. For those who have a championship to win, rain is not welcome.

From lights to chequered flag –  a normal Brazilian Grand Prix takes around 1 hour 30 minutes. Not this one. After a delayed start due to the weather it was followed by 5 safety cars and 2 red flags, which meant this show was just over 3 hours.

Even before the race start Romain Grosjean fell victim to the conditions when his Haas aquaplaned off the track on a pre-race sighting lap. Others would also succumb to the conditions. Ericsson on lap 11, Raikkonen on lap 19 who was lucky not to be hit by one of the Manors on the start / finish straight. Sadly Felipe Massa also crashed out in his penultimate race and the last race in his hometown of Sao Paulo. Tears were seen on his long walk back to the Williams garage.

While the carnage ensued, the two Mercedes drivers continued to circulate with Hamilton leading and Rosberg in second… once again. The Red Bulls tried to be different and on more than one occasion fitted intermediate tyres when everyone else was on the full wets to try an take a strategic advantage but it was always just too wet. Max Verstappen made a change from inters back on to wets with 15 laps of the 71 lap race remaining which dropped him from 4th to 16th – what was then witnessed was nothing short of sheer brilliance. Driving skill that’s only second to Senna’s opening lap at Donnington in 1993.  He drove past cars like they were going backwards. He was using racing lines that teenage karters use. In those last laps he climbed from 16th to 3rd.

 

If you didn’t watch the race I would strongly recommend that you just watch those last 15 laps…. An absolute master class from a young lad that’s only just 19. It’s not a matter of if, but when will he be world champion?

So the championship decider will be in Abu Dhabi on Sunday 27th November. Rosberg almost just needs to finish. Hamilton will be praying that he doesn’t. Who is more deserving? Personally I would rather see Rosberg win it however there is no escaping the fact that Lewis has had the lion share of bad luck this year with a number of car failures but luck has always played its part in championships throughout the years and has a habit of being forgotten about with time.

Brazilian Race Result

 

  1.  Lewis Hamilton                       Mercedes
  2.  Nico Rosberg                            Mercedes
  3.  Max Verstappen                      Red Bull Racing
  4.  Sergio Perez                              Force India
  5.  Sebastian Vettel                      Ferrari
  6.  Carlos Sainz                               Toro Rosso

 

Drivers Championship

 

  • Nico Rosberg Mercedes                                367
  • Lewis Hamilton Mercedes                                355
  • Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing                       246

 

Posted by Richard Hopkins - Brand Ambassador

Richard Hopkins is the former Head of Operations for the Red Bull Formula One Team. He played an influential role in changing the Red Bull Formula One team from having never won a Grand Prix, into multiple winners and World Champions. Richard has 28 years’ experience in the Formula One motor racing industry and was significantly involved in winning 11 Formula One World Championships.

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