Russian GP Debrief: Rosberg Maintains Perfect Start in Sochi

Discussion in 'Formula 1' started by Ben Stevens, May 2, 2016.

  1. Ben Stevens

    Ben Stevens

    rosbergrussia.jpg More reliability woes for Lewis Hamilton handed Nico Rosberg another easy victory in Sochi, with the German a perfect 4 for 4 in 2016.

    Another race, another win – right now, it’s Nico Rosbergs' world, and we’re just living in it.

    Continuing his perfect start to the season with his fourth consecutive victory (and seventh overall), Rosberg was once again untouchable on Sunday, making the most of a once again hampered Lewis Hamilton to extend his early lead in the 2016 driver’s championship. While Hamilton had to exercise some of his best racecraft to fight back to second, the most difficult part of Rosberg’s afternoon was making small talk with renowned shirtless horseback rider Vladimir Putin.

    Of course, that’s not the only story that grabbed headlines in Sochi, with native son Daniil Kvyat taking his new “torpedo” moniker a little too seriously in a first-lap tussle with Sebastian Vettel, so read on for a look at an if not enthralling, nevertheless dramatic 2016 Russian Grand Prix.

    hamrosrussia.jpg Rosberg charges ahead as misfortune continues to pile on Hamilton

    After two years firmly in the shadow of his teammate Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg came into this year determined to finally take his place at the top of the F1 championship. And yet with the confidence of a three-race win streak to finish 2015, even the German can’t have expected it to be this easy.

    There’s been something of a common theme for Rosberg in each of his four victories with the sheer ease with which he has taken them. Always occupying a spot on the front row, the pre-race wait on the grid seems to have made up a sizable chunk of Rosberg’s camera time, as he disappears off-camera for large chunks of the race, with attention only truly shifting back to him when he’s taking the chequered flag. And while that’s not unheard of, thanks to the superiority of the Mercedes package, it’s becoming increasingly remarkable how consistently Rosberg’s doing it, in no small part thanks to Hamilton’s seemingly endless bad luck.

    With another engine failure relegating Hamilton to tenth on the grid, the three-time world champion hasn’t been allowed a chance to respond to Rosberg, and that hurts them both. Speaking after the race, Rosberg conceded the “ecstatic feeling” of beating Hamilton “isn’t there” with their lack of on-track tussles, and it’s sure to be held against him by his detractors even though it is through no fault of his own. Hamilton or not, this is a new Rosberg, and he deserves to be applauded for the steps forward he has made since losing the title in Austin last year.

    For Hamilton, the damage is more obvious. He now finds himself 43 points behind Rosberg in a car that seems to have taken a step back reliability-wise from last year, and it would be unrealistic to expect a man who has had at least one DNF in each season of his career to go the rest of 2016 without enduring the same. We may be just four races into a 21-race season, but Hamilton’s margin-for-error has already significantly narrowed. There’s a saying that it’s better to be lucky than good, right now Hamilton desperately needs both.

    kvyatrussia.jpg First-lap shenanigans leave Kvyat playing the villain

    If the goal of Daniil Kvyat wanted to shake any reputation gained in the wake of China as a reckless driver, it’s safe to say his performance on Sunday failed to do him any favours.

    Two weeks after coming together with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at the first-corner in Shanghai, Kvyat decided to come back for seconds – and thirds – with the German, clashing in two consecutive corners to sink both Vettel and his own team’s hopes for the race.

    While in China the Russian was adamant he had done nothing wrong, he was far more sheepish this time around, admitting that “all the mess came from me” in his post-race interview with Sky. He was certainly at fault for the first clash, locking up under braking and running into the rear of Vettel, but while the second looked more damning, was much harder to avoid with the slowing Ferrari leaving Kvyat little time to avoid once again running into his rear. In any case, as he managed to take out an already aggrieved Vettel and damage both his and teammate Daniel Ricciardo’s car – costing the Red Bull any chance of a points finish – the Russian is sure to find himself in some very hot water.

    Rightly or wrongly, Kvyat finds himself in an awkward position not too dissimilar to a circa-2012 Romain Grosjean or rookie Pastor Maldonado, and it cannot have come at a much worse time. This is a make-or-break year for Kvyat, who (even with a points advantage in 2015) is playing second fiddle to Ricciardo just as the team is looking to bring on board for 2017 the prodigious Max Verstappen. Unless he can put to rest this reputation and massively reverse his head-to-head with Ricciardo, he’ll find himself looking for a job elsewhere.

    In that respect it’s hard not to feel for Kvyat. Outside of the pair at Mercedes, no other driver is under as much pressure at every single race, as the 22-year-old could very possibly be looking at the end of his Red Bull career. Whoever occupied Red Bull’s second seat was always in danger of being a mere placeholder for Verstappen the moment the Dutchman signed with their junior programme, it just happened Kvyat would take that mantle. And while it’s a bit extreme to say Kvyat has been set up to fail, given Ricciardo’s three wins before he even got there, he was always up against an almost impossible bar of success. Brain farts like the one he suffered on Sunday only further impede what was an already herculean mark to beat, and as Verstappen has lived up to everything he promised, that might not be enough to earn a reprieve anyway.

    alonsorussia.JPG Double-points finish has McLaren looking up

    Still a long way from their lofty championship aspirations, the McLaren-Honda partnership could be forgiven for taking Sunday as a victory.

    Taking just their second double-points finish after capitalising on a chaotic 2015 Hungarian GP, their result in Russia was even more impressive given the more “normal” circumstances in which it was achieved. While undoubtedly capitalising on the drama surrounding Vettel and the Red Bulls, McLaren were able to stake their claim to “best of the midfield” in outscoring all but the Mercs, Ferraris and Williams’.

    Perhaps the best indication was simply the positivity flowing from both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button in their post-race interviews. Neither one known for holding back criticism, 10th-placed Button labelled it a “fantastic result” as the track “didn’t really suit our package”, while Alonso (6th) acknowledged that the team should see “Finishing in the points [as a] regular target from now on." That’s certainly a far cry from their quotes last year, and if we didn’t know any better, it’d seem as though Ron Dennis had had them brainwashed.

    So after impressing with Stoffel Vandoorne’s 10th in Bahrain, backing it up with an even more extraordinary result two races later at a track that does not suit their car, shows just what a massive leap McLaren have made, even if they find themselves still languishing on the lower end of the totem pole. Clearly the drivers’ hopes are up, and with promising early results like Sunday’s, they have every right to be.

    Are Mercedes' reliability issues already a threat to Hamilton’s title defence? Has Kvyat already jeopardize his seat for 2017? Can McLaren realistically target points at every race going forward? Sound off in the comments below.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2016
    • Like Like x 9
  2. Cote Dazur

    Cote Dazur

    Wunderbar!, very happy for Nico.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  3. Hor-hay


    Never thought I'd say this, come on Hamilton...wipe that smile off Nico's face.
  4. Bertil


    By the way the drivers were acting, you'd think someone had died during the race.

    We really needs some new people on the podium, someone who'd actually enjoy it, and display some happiness rather than acting like being on the podium is a chore.
    • Sad Sad x 1
  5. Kakusso


    Is Mercedes working on a german champion?
    First clutch letting down Hamilton at the start now successive engine problems at qualify.
    Has the switch of mechanics has something to play here?
    Did someone dicided that since Hamilton won in the previous years with many races to spare, that there is the need of some kind of handicap?
    Probably not but too many facts to make a buzz.

    One thing is true, a championship without a fight is not a championship. It is a parade.;)
    Last edited: May 4, 2016
    • Haha Haha x 2
  6. Grand Tourist

    Grand Tourist
    Enjoying the beautiful world of Assetto Corsa


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