James Allen’s strategy moments
It is the first race in 2014 with no FRIC suspension on the cars and, coupled with the relatively aggressive tyre choice of soft and supersoft tyres, the teams will be monitoring their tyre degradation data even closer than normal to ensure that they choose the optimum race strategy. Will Williams split their strategy to place extra pressure on Rosberg?
The other important factor is the large 25oC difference in track temperature today compared to Saturday, with the much cooler race conditions making the Supersofts less likely to degrade as quickly, although with the loss of FRIC it is still likely to be a default 3 stop strategy.
For once Bottas does not have a great start compared to Magnussen and Massa. As they approach the 1st corner Massa is probably unaware that Magnussen has gone up the inside of Bottas and takes the corner on the optimal racing line but gets heavily tagged by Magnussen who can do nothing to avoid the heavy contact which unfortunately rolls Massa’s’ car and forces Massa to retire. Ricciardo did well to avoid the incident but finds himself back in 15th.
The Safety Car is initiated. But only stays out until the end of Lap 2. Magnussen pits for a set of soft tyres and will undoubtedly go long in his second stint.
Laps 12 and 13
Great wheel to wheel action with supreme driver control as Ricciardo, Räikkönen and Hamilton fight in 8th, 9th and 10th positions. The constant close quarter attacking for position will put a lot more energy into their tyres, reducing their ability to go long in the race. Hamilton lunges up the inside of Räikkönen and Ricciardo, clipping Räikkönen’s front wing endplate and was very lucky not to pick up a puncture.
The supersoft tyres are graining badly and Alonso is the first of the front runners to pit on Lap 13 for the prime soft tyres. This triggers a number of cars to pit the next lap.
Rosberg pits on Lap 16 for the soft tyres and Bottas follows him into the pits for the soft tyres too (albeit 9 seconds back). With Bottas in Hamilton is able to move up to 2nd position without overtaking Bottas on track and having yet to stop on his soft tyres. The other teams will be watching Hamilton closely to see how long that he can run on these tyres.
Laps 19 and 20
Bottas mentions that there are small drops of rain on his visor – but nothing major on the radar. With the chance of rain they’ll aim to stay out as long as possible of the current (soft) tyres. Hamilton lets Bottas past on Lap 20 having being told that it was not critical to maintain position.
Hamilton pits on Lap26 for another set of soft tyres coming out in 8th place racing on a clear 2 stop strategy. The other teams will be able to use Hamilton’s data to optimise their remaining stints.
Räikkönen complains that his front left has gone (massive graining) having completed 15 laps on his supersoft tyres, which means for a two stopper one needs to complete at least 25 laps on the soft tyres (as per Hamilton’s stint).
Bottas stops for another set of soft tyres which means that he may struggle to get to the end on this new set. The good news for Williams is that Hamilton is complaining of front left graining mid-way through his stint on the soft tyres. Hamilton had picked up damage to the left hand side of his front wing end plate which won’t help the balance on the car. Hamilton told to box on Lap 42 to split the race to the end with two sets of supersoft tyres (and a front wing adjustment to try and counteract the damage).
Sutil spins on the start finish straight and stalls the car as he tries to spin it around – this will probably trigger a safety car. Hamilton pits roughly 5 laps earlier than planned under the double waved yellows for his final set of supersoft tyres. The marshals are able to remove the car without triggering the safety car. It looks like Mercedes gambled on the safety car and now Bottas will be difficult to catch although Bottas will be struggling with his tyres in the latter stages (but so will Hamilton).
Rosberg wins easily with a 20 seconds margin but as expected whilst Hamilton caught Bottas he was not able to overtake the Williams as his tyres were gone due to the earlier than expected last pit-stop.
Rosberg, Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Button, Magnussen, Perez