2016 Russian Grand Prix: Race Analysis

Rosberg makes it a magnificent seven

Nico Rosberg is the man you want picking your lottery numbers at present. The German was once again imperious out in front, taking a dominant fourth win from four races in 2016. Yet again though, his chief rivals were heavily compromised, with Lewis Hamilton battling back to second after enduring yet more unreliability in qualifying, while Sebastian Vettel filled the swear box to the brim on lap one, as he was punted out of contention by none other than Daniil Kvyat.

Littered with spikes of drama, the Russian Grand Prix threw up plenty of talking points.

 He was not even full throttle on the straights

Once again, Rosberg seemed to enjoy yet another quiet Sunday drive towards a 25 point haul. However, as Executive Director Toto Wolff acknowledged after the race when speaking to Motorsport.com, the championship leader was far from comfortable. Reliability concerns threw his race in jeopardy.

“We had a problem on Nico’s car, which gave us some grey hairs during the race, a problem on the MGU-K drive,” Wolff said. “It looked at a certain stage that he wouldn’t finish the race.

“We are pushing the limits on the chassis and engine side a lot in order to have a competitive car, and this is why we are winning races. But also if you push the limits at a certain stage you find them.”

Despite running trouble free throughout pre-season testing, Mercedes are proving that they are pushing tolerances to uncharted levels. Ferrari may have endured well documented engine woes so far in 2016, but the W07 is far from unbreakable.

Just ask Hamilton, whose weekend was once again derailed by ERS dramas. Qualifying in tenth after being unable to compete in Q3 due to the aforementioned electrical headaches, the triple champion was once again on the back-foot before the race even began. Avoiding the lap one commotion and decisively scything past Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas meant he was in second place by lap 19.

Meanwhile, Rosberg had extended the lead to 12 seconds. In the coming laps, Hamilton chipped away at the deficit, closing to 7.5 seconds. Race Engineer ‘Bono’ then delivered the news that water pressure was critical. It essentially signaled the end of the fight, as Lewis was forced to back off. As he highlighted later, he was not even full throttle on the straights.

“From the pit wall, it was an absolute nightmare,” Paddy Lowe stated when asked about Mercedes’ race in general. “It sounds terrible to say that, but particularly on Lewis’ side there was no water pressure in the engine from 20 laps to go, so there’s no way that car should have finished.”

A race that Marko will not forget

BBC F1 certainly deserve credit for the weekend’s best headline. “Has Kvyat overstepped the Marko” is chuckle-inducing, but raises an excellent question. Daniil Kvyat’s over-exuberance at turn two, which saw him collide with the back of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari and skittle his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo out of contention in the process, has seen the Russian face an onslaught of criticism.

Dr Helmut Marko has been particularly critical. The head of the Red Bull young driver programme is notorious for his, at times, brutal honesty and uncompromising approach to managing his drivers. He deemed Kvyat’s move a “disaster,” and identified the second impact with Vettel’s Ferrari as unacceptable.

It was unquestionably a clumsy sequence of corners. It was a junior formula mistake to make, as he simply misjudged his braking into turn two and did not pay enough attention at turn three where the second impact with Vettel occurred. Having already hit the Ferrari, Kvyat had to be aware of the potential for the German to be slowing down, as he explored the car for any damage. Vettel’s change of pace was dramatic, but Kvyat should have read the situation better.

With Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz both making a strong case for promotion to the Red Bull senior team in 2017, Kvyat’s misjudgment this weekend may well have cost him his seat at the team. It is certainly a race that Marko will not forget.

His race craft has not diminished

Kevin Magnussen has joined Romain Grosjean and indeed Kvyat, in the exclusive club of drivers having claimed the newly introduced Driver of the Day crown. The Dane, whose seventh place saw Renault score their maiden points of 2016, was excellent value for his title.

Having made it into ninth place after the first lap chaos, Magnussen managed to not only maintain position, but pick up places as the strategies unfolded. While it was his consistent pace which kept him ahead of his rivals, he highlighted that his race-craft has not diminished after a year out of competitive action, as he pulled off a spectacular move on the inside of Ricciardo at turn four.

Once again, Renault performed far more promisingly in the race compared with what was another disappointing Saturday.

The fifth fastest lap time of the race en route to sixth

While Renault managed to get off the mark in 2016, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button also recorded their first points of the fledgling season, as McLaren enjoyed their first double points scoring finish since the Hungarian Grand Prix back in July. While they missed out on Q3 yet again, this weekend should provide an enormous boost to the squad at Woking.

Russia’s long straights and high power sensitivity should have caused issues for McLaren on paper and highlight any of their power deficiencies. Instead, it highlighted the progress they have made over the winter, with Alonso posting the fifth fastest lap time of the race en route to his sixth place finish. That alone would not have been possible in 2015.

Finish Line

Race Result

  1. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes
  2. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
  3. Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari
  4. Valtteri Bottas – Williams
  5. Felipe Massa – Williams
  6. Fernando Alonso – McLaren
  7. Kevin Magnussen – Renault
  8. Romain Grosjean – Haas
  9. Sergio Perez – Force India
  10. Jenson Button – McLaren
  11. Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull
  12. Carlos Sainz – Toro Rosso
  13. Jolyon Palmer – Renault
  14. Marcus Ericsson – Sauber
  15. Daniil Kvyat – Red Bull
  16. Felipe Nasr – Sauber
  17. Esteban Gutierrez – Haas
  18. Pascal Wehrlein – Manor

 

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