In recording his 4th consecutive F1 GP win on October 12 in the Russian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton enhanced his lead over his nearest rival Nico Rosberg. Hamilton began his latest turnaround at Italy’s Auto-dromo-di-Monza circuit on September 7 and his fourth successive triumph at Sochi’s picturesque Winter Olympic Park, took his career victories to 31. This helped him draw level with fellow-Englishman Nigel Mansell for the British record for Grand Prix wins. But more importantly, the 1-2 finish for Mercedes ensured that Hamilton-Rosberg Mercedes team clinched the 2014 constructors’ championship even though three races still remain in the current season. At the end of the Italian Grand Prix in September, Hamilton was 22 points behind Rosberg but when the Russian GP was concluded, Hamilton had established a 17-point lead over his German challenger.
In Sochi, the race day did not provide any unexpected heroics but for Nico Rosberg the Russian GP turned out to be different from others. After the talented German made an opening-lap error, it became a trifle difficult for him to salvage his standing. But racing gallantly, Rosberg staged a remarkable recovery and managed to finish second. As the race got off to a start, Rosberg made an attempt to enhance the gap on his team-mate and the closest rival for the 2014 title. In any case, the German was already ahead but he became a bit more ambitious. The move resulted in the locking up of both his front brakes and the consequence was a big plume of smoke. This opening-lap error sent the German to the run-off area and despite his lead being still intact, he was instructed by his team to allow Hamilton to pass through. The next radio instruction for Rosberg was worse; he was forced into an unscheduled pit-stop because the flat-spot, caused by sudden braking of his tyres, resulted into severe vibrations. With Rosberg temporary off his back, Hamilton eased away to a big lead over the next man Valtteri Bottas of the Williams.
In the meanwhile, Rosberg rued his setback and the associated loss of points. But he didn’t give in. Now it was a damage-limiting exercise for him all the way for salvaging as many points as possible so that he stayed in for contention in the world championship race. While at the pits, Rosberg changed into a set of medium tyres with the hope of a steady race post his error. In the main race, however, Bottas was the only one to pose any threats to Hamilton with Rosberg not around for long. Bottas trailed Hamilton for 15 laps but the Williams driver also had a rear-tyre problem and stayed gamely for a while but soon found Rosberg miraculously back in contention. Despite Bottas trying hard, he was unable to keep Rosberg at bay. With three quarters of the race gone, Rosberg returned to the second place with Bottas hot after the German. Bottas’ Williams’ teammate Felipe Massa made a vast improvement from his 18th position on the grid as he fell behind Rosberg on the third place, when Bottas tyres’ didn’t help him. But Massa dropped back later and had to compromise with traffic around him. He was trapped behind Perez for the rest of the race and missed out on a point.
The F1 drivers must have felt pleased with Sochi track’s smooth surface that held no venom for the tyres unless a driver chose to harm his own tyres by his actions. Rosberg’s sudden locking of brakes was a bad example but in any case, the German recovered marvelously on the set of medium tyres and bounced back behind the Briton. The same was true of Bottas, who also surged back into the race after changing his tyres, though he couldn’t beat the fantastic German for the second place behind Hamilton. After the tyre-change, Rosberg raced intelligently with a strategy planned on part-economy and surging runs on sure chances. In a 53-lap race, Rosberg was able to come back, 19 laps after he had made the unpardonable error from his personal viewpoint.
The amazing recovery made by Rosberg will stand him in good stead with three races remaining in the current season because even if he trails behind Hamilton on points, the 17-point gap is not huge. Experts, however, feel that by his now rejuvenated form, Hamilton holds the momentum. The Briton has another advantage in the upcoming Abu Dhabi track, where the victory could bring him a 50-point bonus. After Hamilton, Rosberg and Bottas; other places in the Russian GP were; McLaren duo Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen being fourth and fifth; Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso sixth; Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel seventh and eighth, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikonnen ninth and Force India’s Sergio Perez finishing tenth. The team Mercedes drivers were happy to have helped amass an unassailable score for the constructors’ championship and despite three races remaining, Mercedes were declared the winners ahead of the Red-Bull team.
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