I came into this weekend expecting to see Lewis Hamilton return to form, Ferrari to be off the pace and to see Nico Rosberg resign himself to the reality that his teammate is just faster than him.
Instead it’s been yet another weekend where the story of Rosberg taking a consecutive win, Hamilton suffering reliability problems and Sebastien Vettel getting crashed into by a rogue Russian has been written.
Sochi is famed for producing a slow burner, but the action seemed to pick up right from Friday. Most of the drivers were struggling to find tyre temperature around the circuit’s slippery ‘diamond cut’ surface, notably Hamilton who looked a bit ragged at points during practice.
A few setup changes later though and he was quicker than Rosberg, was this his turning point? As it turned out things got worse. A reprimand for missing the bollard when he went wide at Turn 2 during qualifying, coupled with his ERS problems put yet another weekend in doubt.
Then just when it started to come together during the mid-race phase for Hamilton, he was held back yet again with a hydraulic problem. Rosberg also encountered ERS problems, making it frantic on the Mercedes pitwall, but it didn’t look to be too much of an issue considering he broke the lap record.
One wonders if Hamilton will have the ‘clean’ weekend he so desperately needs to get his season back on track. He already has two reprimands so far this season (one more and it’s an automatic 10-place grid penalty), will that be the next setback in his 2016 campaign?
Moving on to Vettel versus Kvyat round two.
I thought the Russian was at fault for this one. Even though Vettel checked up midway through turn three as he ran close to Hamilton, it was the same poor judgement that got the four-time world champion flustered in China which caused their next on-track fracas.
You can forgive Kvyat for out braking himself into the tight turn two, but the second hit was just plain amateur for me and borderline black flag. Perhaps he felt the sense of disappointment post-race when Red Bull posted their worst result since Monza 2011, having compromised Daniel Ricciardo’s race with his antics as well.
Vettel’s effing and jeffing over the team radio was probably the most animated I’ve heard him since he crashed into his teammate at Turkey in 2010. But whilst it made for great TV, it gave us some insight into how under pressure Ferrari are to perform given how close they have been to Mercedes in the past couple of races.
Kevin Magnussen got voted driver of the day and rightly so in my mind. Despite losing running during Friday practice when Sergey Sirotkin ran in the morning session, he put together a strong race after everyone else tripped over each other at the start.
I thought his defensive move on Ricciardo during the first round of pitstops was well executed and crucial to him finishing in seventh ahead of the likes of Grosjean and Perez. Even though the Haas looked better than it did in China, it still lacked the pace to keep up with Magnussen.
Speaking of overall pace, McLaren’s Eric Boullier has came out after the race saying fuel saving cost Alonso 50 seconds and that they were really up to the same pace as Williams that race. They have been saying for the last couple of races that they haven’t shown their true pace, but I think Alonso more or less confirmed that with his 1m41.026s on lap 42.
Finally I’ve got some thoughts on Red Bull’s Aeroscreen coming up later in the week. But until then, that is your lot from me.
Next up is Spain where we see the return of the supports!
Photo Credit: Charniaux/XPB Images