Last race here, because the FIA does whatever it wants, Bernie or no Bernie. Bottas surprised everyone with pole position, then surprised everyone again by staying in front after the first corner. Vettel, on the other hand didn’t surprise anyone when he got the jump on Hamilton and immediately started chasing down the leader. Exciting opening lap for sure.
Red Bull duked it out between each other for a bit, but Verstappen kept the pressure on Hamilton and Ricciardo waiting in the wings for any opportunity to strike. Magnussen lost his car on lap 9–more trouble for Haas once again.
Verstappen had a brake failure after his pit stop–out of the race. Ouch. And he was pissed. Ferrari seemed to do well for both Vettel and Raikkonen. Bottas and Hamilton stayed out, despite Bottas complaining about the tires.
Luck went their way as Stroll with Williams and Sainz with Toro Rosso crashed into each other and went out of the race, bringing out a safety car allowing Mercedes to pit without losing position. Bottas’ stop was slow, killing Hamilton’s chances and after the crazy shuffle, Vettel ended up in the lead. Stroll blamed Sainz, and Sainz blamed Stroll for the crash. Ricciardo snuck himself back into 3rd after all that, too.
The restart had Bottas going after Vettel unsuccessfully but Hamilton getting around Ricciardo. Then Massa snuck around Ricciardo as well. Then Raikkonen said he’d have some of that, too, and got around Ricciardo. Amazing wheel to wheel racing.
Hamilton got himself a 5 second penalty for his pit–they said it was unnecessarily slow and impeded Ricciardo. It came through just as his radio declared he needed to pick up the pace to stay in front of the Ferrari.
Hamilton finally got around Bottas on lap 27, attempting to take the fight to Vettel. But no matter what, he’s got to finish at least 5 seconds ahead to keep whatever position he finishes. Interesting to hear Vettel’s radio have his team tell him to keep his head down and focus on this important part of the race. Vettel has to make one more pit stop to meet the tire regulations. Hamilton does not… but that’s a long way to make those soft tires last in a race situation. Hamilton keeps eating away at Vettel’s lead, but will it be enough?
Lap 34 brought Vettel in for his final stop–a good stop and it brought him out just in front of Ricciardo. Then he easily got by his teammate. The fresher tires allowed him to set the fastest lap up to that point of the race. Hamilton came in on lap 42–his 5 second penalty played out and then he got a new set of softs. It put him out in 3rd place, about a second behind his teammate. Time to drive your ass off to make up position. He wanted a set of supersofts, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens with communication within the team.
Hamilton had no issue cranking off quick lap after quick lap. Reeled in his teammate in just a few laps and almost immediately got by. Probably team orders. His engineer encouraged him along the way–letting him know that Vettel had gotten into traffic.
Then Marcus Ericsson on lap 52 had a gearbox failure. He was able to get the car off the track. It only brought a caution, while I’m sure Mercedes was hoping for a safety car to catch Vettel up completely. They cleared the car quickly, so it didn’t hold them up too much. With 4 laps remaining Hamilton could see Vettel ahead on the straight. Just didn’t feel like enough time to make it happen. Traffic moved out of the way, Vettel got back into clean air quickly. Just too few laps to make up those critical 6 seconds.
The real kicker for me, though, was watching Alonso with just 2 laps to go radio to his pit to say he was having a gearbox problem. It enrages me to see a driver of his talent wasting away with a shit car. What does it take to get McLaren back to being competitive???
So what we have now is Vettel and Hamilton taking turns wining races, along with the lead in the championship. Bottas finished 3rd on the podium. If it weren’t for that 5 second penalty to Hamilton, it might have ended differently. Or at least had wheel to wheel racing in the final laps instead of a chase. But it is what it is.