Chinese Grand Prix Race Review

I was genuinely so optimistic about this weekend. The first setback came before the weekend with the five place grid penalty. But even after this I was still insistent this weekend would be his weekend. But no, I forgot the law of luck in F1, which is that bad luck must first apply to Lewis Hamilton. As soon as the radio transmission was broadcast, my heart sank faster than a lead anchor the size of Bernie Ecclestone’s ego cast off a vessel moored at Disappointment Island, where most Lewis fans have now taken up residence. And no, the bad luck didn’t stop there.

You could not take a first corner more cautiously than Lewis did in China, and even then somebody manages to crash into him. A lot has been debated about whether or not he should have started from the pit lane. But hindsight is a wonderful thing. If it had come off, which it was statistically more likely to do, he could have gained several positions on the first lap. And then with the early Safety Car and subsequent pit stops of the super-soft starters, Hamilton could have found himself just a few cars behind Rosberg at the restart and a chance to win the race. As it was, it didn’t work out. But I think it is good to see positive intent in such a bad situation. Because now is not a time for continued “damage limitation” because Lewis needs to start closing the gap now and to do so he needs to take these risks.

A lot has also been said about the Mercedes strategy in regards to Lewis. Some, in the vast oceans of wisdom and knowledge we know as the Internet, have accused Mercedes of treating Lewis as an afterthought. Whilst this is a view that might be forgiven since Lewis’ strategy appeared to be ill-thought out, I think some people are forgetting how difficult it is to be a strategist. One issue they have to deal with is changing conditions which means usually a lot of their models beforehand go out the window so a lot of mid-race thinking is required. What a lot of armchair strategists would have failed to comprehend here is that Mercedes would have found it difficult to compensate for the damage to Hamilton’s floor which subsequently caused poor tyre degradation. Since that’s something they could only really assess once they got the car back at the end of the race, it would have been difficult to factor this in when it came to his strategy during the race. So, the strategy mishap was simply another symptom of the first corner incident.

But after all that, we stand after three races with Rosberg having won them all and a sizeable advantage over Hamilton. Now, I’m going to make a statement which has been quite controversial on the internet elsewhere.

Nico Rosberg won all three races by default.

For those thinking “what is so controversial about that” well I agree with you. I am usually met with pedantry saying that winning by default would mean Rosberg winning the race by not even participating. Such petty comments about the technical meaning of the word I used has detracted from the original point. There is no “new” Nico this year. There is no “real” Nico this year. This is the same old Nico of the last 3 years, good but not good enough. He won in Australia due to Ferrari totally messing up the strategy in Australia (saying this in hindsight of course). I argued at the time that Rosberg may have won anyway had they gone the same way on strategy but you never know with how hard it is to overtake at Albert Park. Luckily for Rosberg, Ferrari’s strategy choice gifted him an easy victory. In Bahrain, Bottas eliminated Rosberg’s biggest threat at turn one with Vettel out before the race, rendering Kimi the only threat to Rosberg. Which is not exactly a daunting prospect given how poor Kimi has performed compared to Vettel over the past year. And I needn’t say much about China, his teammate and both Ferrari’s practically eliminated as threats on lap one and then Riccardo, who I felt could have taken a sensational win, got a puncture, gifting Rosberg the easiest win of his career. It is as though the racing gods are determined to see Rosberg win this year.

And that brings me onto the topic of those posting #nicosyear. Let me tell you something. There are 18 races to go for Hamilton to overturn a 36 point deficit. In 2007, Kimi gained the modern equivalent of 44 points in 2 races to win the title against Lewis himself. In 2010, Vettel trailed by 25 points with 2 races to go to win by 4 points. In 2012, Vettel again overturned 39 points on Alonso with in 7 races to win the title. Indeed he actually needed just 3 races to take the lead. In 2014, Hamilton gained 71 points on Rosberg in just 8 races (not including double points). It goes to show that 36 points over 18 races is not as much as you think. This is far from over. Lewis’ bad luck will end and when that happens 36 points is not going to be anywhere near enough and Nico himself will know he will need his luck to continue. And to the detractors of Lewis trying to enjoy it whilst he is down, writing him off now will only make it seem even more impressive if Lewis overhauls Rosberg.

So be warned. The tide will turn.

This is Sabjit signing off, see you after Sochi.