A Classic Culminating In A Coronation
In a race which depicted Lewis Hamilton’s career of high’s and low’s, the Briton sealed a historic third world championship title in fine style, with a victory against the odds at COTA. Capitalizing on an unforced error by race leader Nico Rosberg, Hamilton led home a Mercedes one-two, while Sebastian Vettel recovered well from his midfield start to finish a close third. The latter looked to be in a prime position to snatch an unlikely victory at one point, as Safety Car’s prompted a race defined by strategic ebb and flow, with numerous momentum swings and lead changes.
A COTA classic – a spectacle worthy of being 2015’s match point in the battle to be champion of the world.
A Microcosm of 2015
With Lewis Hamilton crowned champion of the world and becoming the first Brit to ever successfully defend the title, Nico Rosberg’s second title tilt has come to a premature end. The German’s season has been filled with misfortune. The powertrain failure during FP3 at Italy, which ultimately led to his retirement on Sunday afternoon, spelled the beginning of the end for Rosberg’s 2015 aspirations, yet the final straw came via a surprising error.
Wheel-spin on the exit of Turn 16 pitched Rosberg out wide and gifted an unlikely victory to teammate Hamilton and during the course of a campaign in which the latter has wielded superiority, it was these types of error which proved so costly, not just last Sunday, but on several Sunday’s this year.
As such, it was once again a story of narrow margins proving decisive in the Mercedes intra-team dice. In fact, the second half of the race was a microcosm for the season in general, with the cream once again rising to the top. For the ninth time this season, Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel occupied the podium placings and in such an erratic race, where grip levels proved to be a moving target, that is no mean feat from the class of the 2015 field.
It was not only Hamilton and Vettel who impressed on Sunday. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat appeared remarkably strong in the opening exchanges, with the Aussie briefly snatching the lead away from the reigning champion and proceeding to build a six second lead. Ultimately, ill-timed safety cars and the drying circuit played against Red Bull. Kvyat, who endured a rather clumsy afternoon in truth, ended his day in the barriers, while Ricciardo struggled to just one point, (post collision with an in-the-wars Nico Hulkenberg), despite his lightning fast early pace.
Had the circuit remained damp throughout, 2014’s star player could have bagged a fourth career win.
Meanwhile, it was the Toro Rosso men who took up the Red Bull baton when their sister outfit began to falter, with Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz once again outlining their talents. In another race of attrition, Verstappen placed himself in the prime position to capitalize and just like in the similarly chaotic Hungarian Grand Prix, the Dutchman was rewarded with 12 points for his efforts. Coupled with Sainz’s seventh place finish, Toro Rosso enjoyed their best day of what has been a scintillating season so far.
Third Times The Charm
Hamilton hailed Sunday’s victory as “the greatest moment of my life,” and despite having won two titles previously, this year’s decider brought about a unique set of circumstances for Lewis. Never before has he had such a sizable advantage in the championship and not since his debut campaign in 2007, has he had an opportunity to wrap up the title prior to the final round.
Regardless, managing to convert what was essentially the first match point of this season is a measure of the confidence with which he has performed this year. Austin did not see Hamilton produce his best drive of the season – far from it. Instead, his triumph demonstrated the type of grit and determination which is necessary to become a multiple world champion.
Driver of the Day
After such an incident packed race, there are several candidates, but Jenson Button’s drive to P6 was a sensational highlight. A late pit-stop sent the Briton tumbling down the order, but the subsequent charge on fresh tyres saw him climb back to bag McLaren’s second best points haul of a tortuous 2015.
Overtake of the Day
RICCIARDO vs Hamilton
Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed his first spell in the lead of a Grand Prix this year, following a perfectly timed move on Hamilton at the Turn Eight replica. The superior grip of his RB11 on the drying surface was evident as he carved past the Mercedes and set about building a gap to the Silver Arrows.
Team of the Weekend
Not just on account of their substantial haul of points, but also as a reflection of the magnificent efforts of the mechanics between Qualifying and the race, as they battled against the clock to rebuild Carlos Sainz’s car following his Q1 trip to the barriers. It was a challenge which they expertly overcame.