Russian Grand Prix review

My old school headmaster used to tell us: “you make your own luck, good and bad”. Considering the contrasting fortunes of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the Russian Grand Prix,  it seems like a pretty accurate assessment.

Good luck/bad luck

Earlier in the year Rosberg was making hay with smart, calculating decision-making whilst Hamilton was losing his head and the championship. Fast-forward to the inaugural Grand Prix in Sochi and the roles have emphatically reversed: Hamilton now appears to have achieved the missing psychological peace to marry with his devastating natural speed, and Rosberg is making rash decisions in the heat of battle.

Spa was bad enough but his double lock-up on the first lap in Sochi was a prime example of making your own bad luck. On the basis of his subsequent recovery drive, Rosberg did not need to perform a make-or-break move on his team-mate so early in the race. Whilst his recovery drive was supreme it must leave the German kicking himself at an opportunity missed. Significant reliability issues for Hamilton in the 3 remaining races aside, Rosberg’s title chance now rests in the hands of others.

A dull race is no bad thing

Without the excitement of Rosberg’s recovery drive and the will they/won’t they quandary on his tyres lasting, that was not a race to remember. After Suzuka however that was no bad thing. With the mainstream press waiting in the wings to pounce on anything in the wake of Jules Bianchi’s horrendous accident, this was an important opportunity to demonstrate that F1 has not returned to the bad days of the 60s and 70s. The gathering of drivers pre-race was a touching and genuine gesture. With safety back at the top of the agenda, we must hope another such show of solidarity will not be necessary for a long time.

Heading for the exits

Some observers suggested Jenson Button’s dejected post-race interview was the mark of a man resigned to retiring before he is ready. With Fernando Alonso issuing coded remarks about his future  there is little doubt it is a factor but perhaps not the root cause. More likely is the fact Button and McLaren looked like they could hustle Williams and Mercedes up front on Friday, before having to watch them disappear on Sunday. Whilst undoubtedly disappointing, that sort of reaction from Button this season is what has contributed to his likely departure (in stark contrast to the almost perpetually upbeat comments made by his likely replacement at Ferrari).

Danill Kvyat’s race weekend was a talking point in itself. Toro Rosso were giving Red Bull a bloody nose for most of the weekend before slumping badly on race day. The Sochi track seemed to be throwing curve balls all day – from Rosberg astonishingly nursing tyres for 50-odd laps, to Bottas running out of tyre at the end – and Toro Rosso suffered big time. At any other inaugural race you would be hoping for a strong ‘home driver’ performance to help bed in the race with new fans.  The race organisers need not worry – the mighty investment being ploughed in at  President Putin’s request ensures a certain future for the race irrespective of whether more fans turn up next season.  Sad for the sport however that we might end up racing there with emptier grandstands, as per many of the recent forays in to virgin territory.

Thank goodness for double-points

Ironically, the much maligned double-points season finale is now about to come in to its own. With the constructors title sewn up by Mercedes, the Rosberg – Hamilton battle is still alive purely because a  double points swing in Abu Dhabi could make the difference. But with Hamilton in this form, a DNF in the United Arab Emirates is arguably the only thing standing between the Briton and title number two.  Nico by contrast needs 3 stellar, and flawless, performances from now until the end of the season to stand any chance.

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