Mercedes Pace Isn’t Surefire, As Others Capitalise On Their Demise

Sunday’s race revealed one crucial thing for this years championship: Mercedes’ pace isn’t surefire. Whilst the pair were able to whistle off into the distance, software problems which lead to a failed MGU-K on both cars curtailed what was shaping up to be a pretty intense duel between Rosberg and Hamilton. The latter knew he could win at this circuit, and that he had the pace to win the last two races in fact. But Rosberg knew that he also had the advantage when it came to delivering the results, and difference between the two is 22 points.

Hamilton now sits in the same position heading into Austria, as he was heading into Malaysia six races ago. And he is all too aware of what he has to do, in order to claim back the lead in the championship. The problem is actually doing it. Lewis may have the pace to win the next six races, but at what cost?

We saw that his setup in Canada was the main reason why he was unable to manage the situation like Rosberg; too much rear brake bias ultimately ended up in him burning out the brakes. But its that lean on the rear brakes which creates the oversteer-ey, ‘rear locking’ as you would hear the engineers refer to it as, that Lewis is more comfortable with than Rosberg. And of course with more rear brake bias comes more energy harvest, which is what gave him that crucial advantage over his teammate when setting a lap time.

Rosberg meanwhile, went for the more balanced brake bias setup and was subsequently able to manage the situation when he had to, whilst at all times still being pretty quick for someone who was down on 106bhp. The fact that he thought he finished in sixth at the end and was happy with second, shows how much he was concentrating more at salvaging his race – and crucially points – than what was going on track.

Mercedes are fielding the only two cars that can go out and win a race on a Grand Prix weekend this year on raw pace

Theoretically, Mercedes are fielding the only two cars that can go out and win a race on a Grand Prix weekend this year on raw pace. But as Paddy Lowe has already said, Mercedes could very well find themselves in this position again. And if Rosberg is able to have more of a leeway between damage limitation and retirement than Hamilton, then that could be his secret weapon in this title fight. You could say he is conservative, but Formula 1 is all about being conservative these days. You can’t be aggressive to win a race.

Aggressiveness is something I felt let Felipe Massa down during the race. He was sitting in the lead at one point, then pitted with thirty or so laps to go for a new set of Softs, after he predictably could not hold on a further twenty laps on what was already 67-lap old tyres. But even coming back out behind his teammate, he still had the pace, which prompted the annoying “I’m faster than my teammate, let me through” radio message. Of course Bottas would rather crash than voluntarily give up a place, and executed a pretty aggressive lunge on Hulkenberg into the hairpin, before allowing Massa to nip through on both of them and catch up to the leading bunch.

Perez_Massa_Canada_F1WeekendsHe did so but when it came to attempting an overtake, he was always squirming about on the throttle pedal. Frankly I thought his race craft was a bit scruffy. For someone with his experience, given his accident in Hungary all those year ago, I’m still surprised at how he wasn’t able to capitalise on that situation. He then goes and bins it on the last lap, an incident both drivers still seemingly can’t figure out who caused. Perhaps that was why the stewards felt it would be best if they conducted the investigation into the incident whilst both drivers were still waiting to be discharged from hospital. Because it was in all likelihood that they may have sat there through dinner.

From my point of view, I’d call it a racing incident. Its the last lap, Perez had been nursing that braking problem, Massa wanted a run at a potential podium, the pair just met in the middle it seems.

Force India and Williams could’ve won that race. But instead they panicked, and handed the win over to Red Bull. But it couldn’t have been a more popular one for Danny Ric. After being at his debut race in Silverstone now three years ago when he drove that awful HRT, I felt the same buzz for him winning as I did with Hamilton, Rosberg, Button, and Alonso when they won their first Grand Prix’s.

He’s a real racer is Riccardo. I remember when he got out the car in Spain and said “that was a boring race” because he didn’t pass any car for position all race. Of course we got the pleasures of seeing all the action between the Ferrari’s and Merc’s. For me his win was always going to come at some point in this car. Riccardo has been besting Vettel on race and qualifying pace mostly this season, and his race craft has been somewhat joyous to watch when he’s been passing cars out on track.

With Mercedes leaving the gap wide-open for exploitation for what might be the only win for a team that doesn’t have silver and green paint on it for the rest of the season, Riccardo joins Aussie greats like Sir Jack Brabham, Alan Jones and Mark Webber, hopefully this win will be the first of many.

Other tidbits from the race; Ferrari’s pace disappeared it seems after showing some promising runs in Practice. Kimi Raikkonen’s misadventure summed up their race for me. Sauber still didn’t score a point, despite only 11 cars making it to the line. As for Marussia, I’m afraid its a case of “should’ve, would’ve, could’ve.” Monaco clearly got to their drivers heads, and they threw it away with such a silly mistake.

The next three races feature both Silverstone and Hockenhiem. After Lewis was denied the win last year when we had that bizarre situation when the rear tyres on a number of cars started to go bang, he will want a win on home turf. As for Nico, I think he’ll be pretty satisfied with a win at Hockenhiem. But he knows Lewis will be looking to steal that in order to regain the championship lead.

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