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Thoughts on the 2014 F1 Grand Prix of China

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It’s been awhile since I wrote a post about a race, so here goes…  Here are my thoughts on this morning’s 2014 F1 Grand Prix of China based on tweets I posted during the race.

Brilliant weekend for Hamilton; pole by a mile and a dominant drive for the win. Alonso was also impressive, pulling the Ferrari to P3

It wasn’t a great race but it was highlighted by a brilliant performance from Lewis Hamilton who dominated not just the race but qualifying as well, far outperforming the rest of the field in the wet on Saturday and the dry on Sunday.  Mercedes has crafted an awesome weapon and Hamilton is wielding it skillfully.  Alonso continues to show his quality at Ferrari by taking a car his teammate is unable to bring into the top five and finishing in the top three with it.  In my opinion Alonso is the best racer in F1 right now but he just doesn’t have the weapon that Hamilton has to prove it with.

If you’re Alonso, Bottas, Massa & Rosberg you’ve got to be wondering about the integrity of your front suspensions/steering after the start.

There were two incidents of substantial contact on the race start between Bottas and Rosberg and Alonso and Massa. Both were heavy enough that they could have (and should have!) caused front suspension damage to the cars.  None of the contact was intentional or had to do with careless driving, it just boiled down to hard racing on the start.  The contact had to be something that each of the drivers and teams kept in the back of the their minds throughout the race but it never seemed to cause a problem for any of the four.

No telemetry = tremendous disadvantage in this era of racing.

Apparently straight from the start, Rosberg’s car had no telemetry.  As a result the team had no idea what was going on with the car and particularly for fuel consumption had to get everything from Rosberg over the radio.  This seemly was an irritant to Rosberg (as he made clear over the radio) but it didn’t seem to be a bother for him to reach down and adjust a knob on the steering wheel in the middle of his pass on Alonso for P2!  He and the team made the best of the situation and still finished P2.  In this era of racing where the F1 engineers in the pit can see every little thing that is going on in the car from tire pressures to engine data it put Rosberg at a significant disadvantage compared to the rest of the field. As a radio geek, I’d be interested to know the cause of the failure was; was it on the RF side, was it computer hardware, or did someone forget to switch something on (never discount human error, especially when it comes to data modes)?

Oh, Williams… There’s Massa’s race gone.

On Massa’s first pit stop, one of the rear wheel nuts apparently didn’t come off easily and it seemed like the team didn’t handle it well.  The pit stop ended up lasting over 40 seconds and dropped Massa from the top ten all the way back to last place.  It was a shame because Massa had a genuine chance at a top five finish today.  Williams has long been my favorite F1 team but they’ve stepped it up on the mechanical side this year, now they must also step it up on the pit work.

Chickens coming home to roost for Red Bull from allowing Vettel to disobey team orders in the Vettel/Webber era.

It was abundantly clear that Ricciardo was faster than Vettel today and when Ricciardo caught Vettel the team ordered Vettel to let him by.  After a short discussion in which it was perfectly clear what the Red Bull pit wall wanted him to do, his response was “Tough luck.”  By failing to discipline or sanction Vettel in previous years when he refused to abide by team rules they’ve emboldened him to continue to disobey them.  Whether you like them or not (and let me make it clear that I do not) team orders are part of F1 and the drivers should obey them.  By failing to make it clear to Vettel who runs the team they’ve allowed him to believe that he does.

Once again, Vettel shows his petulance and Ricciardo seems composed and mature taking the fight to his team leader.

Vettel’s petulance – see above.  Before this season I really didn’t have an opinion on Daniel Ricciardo but beginning with this season’s first race in Australia I’ve been extraordinarily impressed with him.  Compared to his four times world champion and vastly more experienced teammate, Ricciardo has been more mature and composed.  When you see him out of the car, he always has a huge smile on his face and you can tell that he’s genuinely having fun and he’s happy to be in one of the best seats in the sport.  Even when he lost a podium at Australia due to mistake by the pitwall he kept his composure, more than could be said for Vettel this season.  As for Vettel, it is clear that he has so far not been able to come to grips with and adapt to the new regulations.  Over his four world championships he has always had the best car on the grid and the true test of a racer is what he does when he doesn’t have the best equipment.  I’d say that so far it is clear that he can’t do with lesser equipment what a racer like Alonso can.

After missing the great race that I understand Hamilton and Rosberg put on at Bahrain, I’m glad I had the opportunity to watch this weekend’s race from China.  There was Hamilton’s performance in both qualifying and the race, at times there was good racing throughout the field, and there is the continued “emperor’s clothes” performances from Vettel (I have to say I’m enjoying watching both he and Red Bull get their comeuppance).  Anyway, it’s almost time for the WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone and Easter morning church.  So far it has been a nice beginning to Easter Sunday!


2 Comments

  1. Excellent summary, Mac. Agreed 100% with you on Vettel — Red Bull is reaping what they sowed. Riccardo has also impressed me greatly, and I concur Alonso is arguably the best driver on the grid right now considering how he’s carrying the vaunted Ferrari’s sub-par entry (and has done so for several years now).

    • KF4LMT says:

      What bothers me even more is the disingenuous excuse he used in the post race interview and was parroted by the team. There was nothing to misunderstand about the order he was given, it was perfectly clear and so was his response. He ended up letting Ricciardo go because it finally got to the point where it was obvious he wasn’t going to be able to keep him behind. Had he let him go when he was told, there was a good possibility the team could have had a podium finish.

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