A dude WALKED ON THE TRACK DURING THE RACE. How the hell does that even happen in this day and age? But, in a way, that incident perfectly sums up how crazy this race ended up being. I love watching this year after year–the cars look amazing under the lights at night, no question. But it’s not without its crazy drama (see Nelson Piquet Jr.).
Vettel comes out on top putting him now one win above Ayrton Senna on the all time win list, Ricciardo took second, Raikkonen took third, Rosberg got a much needed 4th place finish to Hamilton’s DNF, Verstappen refused to give up a place to Sainz per team orders on the last lap, and Rossi safely brought his car home in 14th ahead of Will Stevens. And have I mentioned a dude casually strolled on the track during the freaking race? At least he walked against traffic and on the opposite side of the racing line?
The new start procedures continue to make things interesting, as this time Kimi pulled away clean, but Verstappen stalled. Fortunately, everyone got around him without incident and his team rolled him to the pit to get him going. Vettel started putting the gap on Ricciardo straight away, but Hamilton and Rosberg both seemed like they were prepared to fight.
Things were looking fairly normal until lap 13. Masha left the pits after a pretty awful stop… smashing right into Hulkenberg. I see both sides–Massa for thinking Hulkenberg should have seen him coming and swung wide, but also Hulkenberg for thinking Massa should have been responsible for exiting the pit safely, including yielding to his race line. The stewards sided with Massa, and Hulkenberg was handed a 3 grid spot penalty for Suzuka, which I don’t agree with. That incident kept the safety car streak at 100% for the race.
It brought in the leaders, both with Vettel and Hamilton having great stops, but Hamilton going with the prime soft tire, instead of the option super softs Vettel took. The pits were full of issues the entire race–more than I think I’ve ever seen. Button had issues with his right front, and there were several more.
On the restart, we had not so fond memories surface of Vettel bunching up the cars behind him and timing his restart perfectly to get away. I don’t miss those days of him doing that with Red Bull. But then something odd happened–he, Ricciardo, and Raikkonen all stayed fairly close. Even Hamilton said something about it over the radio. Turns out, Ferrari was expecting Mercedes to come out with some phantom horsepower or grip they didn’t have all weekend so they were managing tires.
Lap 26 was where my heart sank–Hamilton’s radio speaking about losing power. Rosberg and Kvyat got by him easily and he quickly started dropping positions. He fought through all the resetting procedures he could, but by lap 33 he knew he had to be called in to retire. He’ll still hit Senna’s 41 wins, but now it will be in at least 162 races.
Massa retired on lap 31, supposedly as a result of his contact with Hulkenberg earlier in the race. The Toro Rosso boys, as the announcers were affectionately calling them, got around Maldonado, then jumped Grojean on lap 47. They both finished in the points.
Another rough day for McLaren. Despite the rumors that Alonso had a car he could do something with, he was an early retire. And then on lap 53, Button followed suit.
Vettel was incredibly emotional on the podium, and Ferrari as a team seems to be much more focused and on top of pretty much everything than I’ve seen them in years.
Red Bull was strong, again. Ricciardo’s second place finish was well deserved. Mercedes managed to salvage one of the cars, oddly enough after Rosberg needed a software reboot on his car before the warm up lap began. Bottas delivered for Williams. And Maldonado needs to be escorted from Formula 1 in shame. I loathe that he has so much money backing from Venezuela because I’m convinced that’s the only thing that keeps him around. (As evidenced by his resigning announcement just after the race.)
And now it’s a quick turnaround for Japan next weekend, where I’m sure things will be a bit somber given Bianchi’s passing. Here’s hoping that if a typhoon is headed toward the track on race day, they reschedule or race earlier.
And on a post race note–can we please file a petition to never let Eddie Jordan do the driver interviews again? The man is just irritating. He’s the Formula 1 announcer equivalent of letting Emmitt Smith do color commentary on NFL games. Just because the man could play, it doesn’t automatically give him excellent speaking and presentation skills.