Well, that was some qualifying. Rosberg started off with two lock-ups and was down in 21st, while Ericsson was stuck in the garage. Then Hamilton had a right front disk brake failure, sending him spinning off the track at high speed and red-flagging the session. It’s more qualifying woes for him, and this time it’s not his fault that he starts only 16th.
All the cars were understeering a lot, due mainly to the removal of FRIC, which forced teams to raise the front of the car. Lotus struggled the most of all, while Williams was right on the Mercedes’ tails. This proved the case in Q2, as the Williams were up in P2 and P3. Button and Raikkonen both missed out on Q3, which is a bit of a surprise, but given their qualifying woes this season, isn’t that shocking of a result.
Q3 was quite normal, and dare I say it, anticlimactic, as Bottas pushed his Williams close, but ultimately still two-tenths off Rosberg’s best time. Magnussen did a great job to qualify just behind the Williams and ahead of the two Red Bulls, with Ricciardo outdoing Vettel once more. Kvyat did a stellar job as well, pushing ahead of the Force Indias and behind Alonso.
With Hamilton in 16th, Button and Raikkonen in 11th and 12th respectively, and Williams with the pace and the position to possibly challenge Rosberg, this could be a real cracker.
Well, it turned out to be a cracker, as expected.
Before the race, Hamilton had a 5 place grid penalty for changing his gearbox, and started 20th on the grid. As the lights went out, Magnussen was on the inside line as they went into the first corner, Massa didn’t see him, cut across too early, and flipped his car, ending his race. This screwed over both Magnussen and Ricciardo, who had to drive off track to avoid the colliding cars. Also, Bianchi stalled on the track at the start, but recovered to join the race.
Rosberg pulled away from Bottas easily, and from then on was untroubled bar some minor tire trouble as he coasted to victory. Meanwhile, Bottas was also pretty comfortable; not as fast as the Mercs, but unworried about cars behind or his now-retired teammate. The only worry came in the final laps, as Hamilton caught up.
Hamilton had a mad, mad race as he was overtaking someone nearly every lap, doing it at the hairpin with impatience and very often indeed. First, he was behind Ricciardo as he tried to take on Sutil, and he tried to squeeze past the Sauber and had contact. Then, he took out both Ricciardo and Raikkonen in one fell swoop at the hairpin once more, but did take a bit of front wing off Raikkonen.
After pit-stops, Hamilton was behind Ricciardo, and again passes him at the hairpin. But the trouble came when he tried to pass Button. Thinking that his former teammate was letting him through, he dived down the inside of the hairpin, and sustained some front wing damage. That affected his race thereafter, and had to make a late change to a 3-stopper. Oh, and he passed Hulkenberg at the hairpin too. They might as well name the corner after him.
Then, due to Sutil’s spin, he went to pit for his final stop, but was about 3 laps earlier than intended. This meant that by the time he caught up to Bottas, his tires were dead on their feet, and he could find no way past the Williams and had to settle for 3rd.
Behind them was chaos as Vettel, Alonso and Ricciardo all had their battles with each other. Raikkonen had a moment when he was squeezed by Alonso and Vettel on either side as they went into the hairpin, and it was a miracle none of them crashed. Grosjean lost power, Kvyat caught on fire, and there was great racing all over. In the final laps, Ricciardo and Alonso had a private duel over 5th, with Vettel too far ahead, and Alonso eventually got the better of the Aussie.
Behind them was Hulkenberg, once again scoring points and running a steady race. After that was Button, who had done a 2-stopper and was sniped off by Alonso and Ricciardo. Magnussen did a good job recovering from his collision with Massa to collect points in 9th, and Perez snatched up the last point in 10th.
Raikkonen missed out on points once again, unable to drag out what Alonso can. Maldonado managed a respectable 12th for Lotus despite their sluggish pace, and the rest had uneventful races.
Kudos to Hamilton for his charge from 20th to 3rd, although it could have been 2nd. Bottas with a fine drive took the 300th podium for Williams, and is a world champion in the making. Rosberg? He extends his lead to 14 points over Hamilton, although if Hamilton beats him in just 2 races where they finish in a Merc 1-2, it’ll be all even between them. And with double points in the final race, don’t expect this intriguing duel to be over any time soon.