It may be nearly a month since the F1 circus reached its thrilling conclusion, but it feels as though the 2016 show continues to rumble on, with a winter of near-unprecedented intrigue. Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement has had seismic consequences, seeing the driver market blown wide open once again as Mercedes scramble to find a replacement.
In another plot twist, Felipe Massa has reportedly signed a contract to race for Williams next season, despite his emotional – some might say perfect – retirement from the sport just last month. This signing would, of course, free up Valtteri Bottas to fill the champion’s shoes alongside Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.
Felipe Massa was once a Formula One World Champion – albeit for 30 seconds, before Lewis Hamilton broke Brazilian hearts with his last gasp overtake on Timo Glock to steal his maiden crown. That day at Interlagos in 2008 marks the last time that Massa stood atop the podium. As he enters his 15th season in F1 and his third with Williams, many are asking whether he has what it takes to win again.
Image Credit: Williams Martini Racing
Hamilton’s Win Survives Stewards Inquiry
The drama at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix continued well past the chequered flag. Lewis Hamilton was imperious on the day, building a substantial lead to Sebastian Vettel, who had no answer to the pace of the championship leader – contrary to Saturday afternoon predictions – as the Scuderia flattered to deceive at home. It was only when Hamilton’s Mercedes team realised that a post-race time penalty for starting the race with illegal tyre pressures could spoil their day that the Briton was informed that Hammer Time was necessary. Albeit, following an anxious two hour wait, Hamilton’s win was upheld.
And what a win it could prove to be in the context of the 2015 campaign.
Rosberg Romps Home
Having had the measure of his teammate for all but one lap this weekend, few could take anything away from Nico Rosberg as he saw the chequered flag first at the Red Bull Ring this afternoon. After being beaten to turn one, Lewis Hamilton had no answer to his championship rival’s blistering pace and an uncharacteristic mishap on the pitlane exit extinguished what was left of his already dwindling hopes of a race victory. Rosberg has now claimed three of the past four possible victories, and this, the sweetest of the year to date.
Monaco is notorious for it’s double-six nature. The unique characteristics of the circuit mean that the form guide can be thrown into the harbour and past results count for very little. While Red Bull and McLaren benefited, Williams were one team who struggled throughout the weekend. With Bottas falling out of qualifying at the Q1 stage and early contact spelling a Sunday afternoon of woe for Massa, the team left Monaco without a point to their name. Certainly not the type of performance that Williams have become accustomed to over the past 18 months.
During the winter, we all like to speculate in regards to the pecking order, yet ultimately, it is not until qualifying in Melbourne that the true picture is revealed. Fortunately, today was the day when sandbagging came to an end and team’s showed their hands. On queue, Mercedes lit up the timing screens, with Lewis Hamilton comfortably taking pole position, to the tune of six tenths of a second, from title rival Nico Rosberg. The German had an uncharacteristically luke-warm Saturday, but such is the Mercedes advantage, P2 was his reward.
Its the final pre-season test folks, otherwise known as ‘squeaky-bum time’ for any team who is short of pre-season mileage. As such, the pressure and spotlight is certainly on McLaren Honda this week, as we search for any signs which suggest that either MP4-30 has a chance of seeing the chequered flag in Melbourne. With just 7 laps before a session ending hydraulic leak today, it is yet another story of disappointment. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Williams have finally stepped out of the shadows and revealed that the FW37 has the pace that everyone was anticipating – perhaps even more than was first imagined.