2014 Russian Grand Prix: Race Analysis

Mercedes Crowned Constructors Champions

It may not be regarded as a timeless classic, but the 2014 Russian Grand Prix will be remembered for several reasons. It was the inaugural F1 race to be held in Russia, saw another mistake from Nico Rosberg hand Lewis Hamilton an even bigger championship advantage and saw Mercedes crowned Constructors Champions with a 1-2 finish. Not a bad afternoon for the Brackley squad despite an early scare.

Hamilton Cruises To Victory

Not only did Mercedes reach their ultimate goal on Sunday, but Lewis Hamilton reached a career milestone himself. The Englishman’s win was the 31st of his career and means that he draws level with Nigel Mansell in terms of the most wins achieved by a British driver. Of his prior 30 triumphs, it is probably fair to say that this was one of Lewis’ easiest.
In fairness, Nico Rosberg was the architect of his own downfall and in a similar situation to his mistake in Italy, the German was once again inadequate when it came to racing Hamilton wheel to wheel. Heading into Turn Two, Rosberg had the high ground for the corner after slip-streaming Hamilton on the run to the apex. If he had successfully slowed the W05 down, it is highly likely that he would have led the race, but what seemed to be an exuberant stamp on the brake pedal resulted in a catastrophic lock-up which flat-spotted both front tyres beyond manageable levels. With Nico out of the equation as early as the second corner, Lewis’ afternoon was, very much, a Sunday drive.
The Brit now commands a 17 point advantage in the championship and despite ‘Abu Double’ looming large, this is a substantial margin. In order to win the championship, Nico will have to win in the season finale along with at least one win in the prior two events, assuming that Lewis only manages second in all three races. Of course, there are many more permutations, but it is probably best to leave the complexities until the title decider draws nearer. The point that I am attempting to illustrate is that Nico is well and truly on the back-foot. However, judging by the various momentum swings that this incredible title fight has delivered so far this year, I cannot help but think that the 2014 championship run-in will experience another key, season defining moment.  

The No-Stop Race

If we judge Nico Rosberg’s day from lap two onwards, it was perhaps one of his best performances of the season. After pitting on lap one, it appeared that continuing with a one-stop strategy would be audacious, but it seemed that as soon as Nico stated that needed servicing, the team realized that an additional stop would make a 1-2 finish almost impossible, particularly considering the pace which Vatteri Bottas was demonstrating. However, to even consider completing 52 laps on one set of tyres in the Pirelli era is remarkable. Somehow, Nico managed to reach this target and complete his damage limitation mission along the way.
While the W05 is unquestionably the ace in the pack, Rosberg still had to push his way through the field in order to reach Valtteri in P2. With a championship on the line, it was evident that the German was not in the mood to be patient, as he displayed several late-braking maneuvers that are synonymous with his teammate, with particularly impressive efforts coming against Sergio Perez and Bottas himself. While these positions were perhaps not as virulently defended as they would be if they were for a race lead against a similarly competitive car, they still required a significant amount of race craft and courage – particularly as both braking maneuvers came on the same piece of tarmac which debatably cost Rosberg a race-win.

Silver Sunday

It was not just the Silver Arrows that enjoyed a fruitful Sunday, as the chrome MP4-29 enjoyed its best outing since March, as Jenson Button finished P4, with teammate Kevin Magnussen in P5. As such, the Russian Grand Prix marked the team’s best performance since their double podium in Australia.
However, it remains to be seen as to how much progress the Woking based team have made. Unquestionably, the car has improved on the mediocrity of mid-season, but the smooth surface in Russia and excellent tyre durability played to McLaren’s strengths. While the tarmac in Austin is of a similar nature, the real test of their progress will come in Brazil, which is a far more abrasive circuit. For now, a 22 point haul will give the team a huge confidence boost and has dealt a hammer-blow to Force India’s hopes of P5 in the constructors. So much so, that an optimistic Button commented that even Ferrari are now in his sights following such a great day for his team.

Conclusions

Driver of the Day
Sergio Perez
Usually when I reach this section of the analysis, I have a clear picture of one particular driver who stood out with a spectacular drive, demonstrating their talents throughout the afternoon. However, in what was quite frankly, a mediocre at best race, few drivers could claim to have had a particularly impressive day. Hamilton was in cruise mode, Rosberg’s fightback was caused by his own glaring mistake and everyone else either finished where anticipated, or had an anonymous day. As such, Sergio Perez is my Driver of the Day, having managed to hold off Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg in the closing stages, while having to manage critical fuel levels. The Mexican was certainly good value for his point.

Race Results
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams
4 Jenson Button McLaren
5 Kevin Magnussen McLaren
6 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
8 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
9 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
10 Sergio Perez Force India
11 Felipe Massa Williams
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India
13 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber
16 Adrian Sutil Sauber
17 Romain Grosjean Lotus
18 Pastor Maldonado Lotus
19 Marcus Ericsson Caterham
DNF Kamui Kobayashi Caterham
DNF Max Chilton Marussia    

#ForzaJules

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