Sunday, 20 April 2014

Chinese Grand Prix: Getting a little too close in Shanghai!

Well, it wasn't bad, but it was no Bahrain. I think that's going to become the new mantra this season. It's only fair that, since we have been mercilessly robbed of the iconic scream and whine of the Formula One engine, we should be allowed to set the bar of expectation at the Bahrain Grand Prix level. The Chinese Grand Prix did have more quiet periods than is generally acceptable in a race, however, there were some breath-taking, or in my case scream-at-the-telly, moments too.

A couple of those moments came right at the start and involved both of the Williams boys. In two separate incidents both Massa and Bottas got a little too intimate with their fellow competitors. Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg must have wondered where the hell the Williams cars had come from, as they stormed away from the start line. The most unfortunate thing was that the race was slightly compromised for both of the recently competitive Williams cars. Massa leapt off the line and passed two or three rivals, before attempting to squeeze his race car in to a gap that wasn't really there. He and Alonso touched wheel to wheel and were lucky to both come out unscathed, thats assuming Massa was unscathed, seeing as he had problems in his pitstop with his left rear wheel. It was Bottas who caused me to yelp at the TV, as he touched wheel to wheel with Nico Rosberg and was thrown sideways across the circuit. It was amazing that he didn't spin out, or damage his car, because it looked like an impossible leap for an F1 car to endure.

After the start, things settled down and the race became a little processional, something that we have grown quite used to, as Formula One spectators. Unsurprisingly, Mercedes finished first and second again. Their dominance this season has so far gone unchecked. Their only hiccup came in the Australian Grand Prix, when Lewis Hamilton failed to finish and the terrible luck in that race means that Nico Rosberg leads the Driver's Championship, despite Lewis' three consecutive wins. At this rate, no amount of double points scoring races, like the one at the end of this season, will help their rivals catch up.

Easily the most entertaining thing about the race, was Sebastian Vettel falling out of favour as the golden boy of Red Bull Racing. It was like seeing a favourite child losing his parents' attention at the arrival of a new baby brother. "Sebastian, Daniel is quicker, let him through" was followed by the undesirable response (at least to the Red Bull team management) "hard luck!" It seems Seb isn't quite as happy with team orders when the shoe is on the other foot. His frustrations came out later in the race, when he kicked up a fuss about Kobayashi, in the Caterham, unlapping himself. I'm not entirely sure what Vettel wanted Kobayashi to do. He was well within his rights to unlap himself and he didn't have much choice, unless he cruised around slowly behind Sebastian. The reigning world champion's attitude led to his race engineer pretty much begging him to do as he was told, "please stay out Seb, it helps us, please stay out!" It'll be interesting to see how his position in the team evolves through the season, especially if Ricciardo continues to outperform him.

My driver of the race has to be Nico Rosberg, because not only did he have to do the job of a driver, but he had to the job of a computer as well. From the very start of the race Nico's car was failing to send or receive any telemetry regarding things like fuel consumption. As a result, Rosberg had to constantly relay all of that information himself, reading it from his steering wheel display. I think that to finish second, despite the collision at the start and the telemetry issues, was more deserving of the top step of the podium.

Check out The F1 Spectator Chinese GP podcast and listen to The F1 Spectator himself.

The Result:
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes541:33:28.338125
26Nico RosbergMercedes54+18.0 secs418
314Fernando AlonsoFerrari54+23.6 secs515
43Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing-Renault54+27.1 secs212
51Sebastian VettelRed Bull Racing-Renault54+47.8 secs310
627Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes54+54.3 secs88
777Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes54+55.7 secs76
87Kimi RäikkönenFerrari54+76.3 secs114
911Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes54+82.6 secs162
1026Daniil KvyatSTR-Renault53+1 Lap131
1122Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes53+1 Lap12
1225Jean-Eric VergneSTR-Renault53+1 Lap9
1320Kevin MagnussenMcLaren-Mercedes53+1 Lap15
1413Pastor MaldonadoLotus-Renault53+1 Lap22
1519Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes53+1 Lap6
1621Esteban GutierrezSauber-Ferrari53+1 Lap17
1717Jules BianchiMarussia-Ferrari53+1 Lap19
1810Kamui KobayashiCaterham-Renault53+1 Lap18
194Max ChiltonMarussia-Ferrari52+2 Laps21
209Marcus EricssonCaterham-Renault52+2 Laps20
Ret8Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault28Gearbox10
Ret99Adrian SutilSauber-Ferrari5Engine14