Practice Sessions, FP1:
For once teams might have thought, is this really a race in Europe? Different atmosphere in an European race as it was scorching hot to start the weekend with a warning of temperature rising all the more (both air & track temperature). All eyes were on the new tyres from Pirelli, this weekend would show initial changes in order if any according to the changes in tyres. RBR it seemed were not bothered by the change as Vettel ended P1 with his teammate Webber at P2 and Kimi at P3. Bit of a mixed bag for SFI as Sutil appearing in his 100th GP ended P7 while di Resta was way down in P18. Certainly, Paul was way off the mark to start off the weekend.
The sweltering temperatures continued as the teams now focussed on longer runs to check on the tyres. One could understand that all the teams were in somewhat desperate situation to learn more on the tyres as all the teams ran more than half the race distance during the session. RBR continued it’s dominance as Vettel took P1 while Webber P2. This time the other Lotus of Grosjean ended P3. A slightly better session for SFI but there was still much to do as Sutil ended P10 and di Resta ended P11. They looked in a decent touch on the longer runs but it was only Friday.
Though the conditions were almost same as Friday, probably a bit hotter but the positions changed a bit on top as neither of the RBR made it to the top 3 even. Grosjean topped the timesheets as for the first time Ferrari looked better, Alonso taking P2. Before crashing out Perez’s time was comfortable enough to give him a P3 place. SFI’s bit of trouble weekend continued as once again they had a mix outing with Sutil ending P10 and di Resta ended P13. Is it due to new tyres or the car not suiting the track, only time would tell.
The battle for pole though was looking like inter team battle for RBR but no one could count out the likes of Lotus & Mercedes. The FP session didn’t give us the exact picture but one would have guessed that Vettel was to take pole, perhaps easily. As for SFI, it was the case of making it in Q3, the competition with McLaren seemed to be getting close now. I believe the aim was at least one car should be in Q3 if not both.
The track temperature was almost touching 50C during the qualifying session. It was straight forward session for teams but strategy was always important as we saw many teams opting only one run on the soft tyres. Rosberg ended P1 as his teammate rounded up at P2 and Grosjean at P3. It was an unfortunate disaster for SFI as di Resta was knocked out in Q1 itself ending at P18. This time it wasn’t any mistakes but he just didn’t get any grip on his soft tyre. Sutil though on the other hand made it through. Estaben along with both the Caterham’s & Marussia’s were knocked out.
Pretty important session for few of the teams who were hovering around the bottom half of top 10. Anybody could have just pushed out of top 10 which happened as as many as 4 drivers clocked their best times on the last lap of the session to move into the top 10. Unfortunately, Sutil fell victim to it as he only finished P11. His lap was though good enough for him to be in top 10 but that few thousands of seconds made the difference. Just like in Q1, we had Rosberg in P1, Hamilton in P2 while Vettel ended at P3.
It was straightforward fight between Mercedes & RBR as out of nowhere the Mercedes were back in the game after being behind during FP sessions. Until qualifying, it was almost certain that Vettel could just take the pole but in F1, nothing can be a surety. Hamilton took pole after a superb lap which even he couldn’t believe it. Vettel had to settle with P2 while Grosjean got to P3. Webber didn’t set any time with the KERS failure.
Qualifying went a little different with Mercedes joining the party and snatching pole from Vettel. Though it did make an interesting scenario for the race with Hamilton leading the pack. Title challengers starting P4 & P5 behind Vettel wasn’t a big cause of worry but only strategy could get them ahead it seemed at that moment. SFI had mixed sort of qualifying but they were banking on the race pace which looked good during Friday sessions. Double point was the aim in order to stay ahead of the improving McLaren.
Once again we had a Mercedes starting ahead of the RBR but the pundits verdict was that, it won’t take long for the RBR to get ahead specially because of the 50C track temperature and Mercedes tyre problems. Though in the race it was a different situation all together as it didn’t looked at all that Hamilton’s tyres would fade as in Germany, it pushed Vettel a bit behind then with Grosjean hanging in behind him. Meanwhile, Rosberg went down the field after a tangle with Massa. Both the SFI had a mixed start really as di Resta made lot of positions up to be at P13 while Sutil lost positions to be at P14, behind his teammate.
Hamilton was comfortably ahead as he stretched his lead when Vettel got stuck behind Button who started on medium tyres. It was a costly stuck up as it diminished the chances of Vettel overtaking Hamilton but increased the chances of Kimi catching up Vettel and take the P2 position as he was the only driver on 2 stop strategy. Even Grosjean lost crucial positions due to the drive through penalty and his hopes of a podium finish dashed there and then. Alonso was quietly keeping himself in the top 4 while Button was showing some pace in the improved McLaren. Caterham’s continued to lead the Marussia’s with a healthy advantage.
After a difficult start for Sutil in his 100th GP, he steadied himself in points when other made their pit stops. He was doing a good salvaging job until his pit stop when the team found a hydraulic issue ending his race there and then. He could have scored points if he had run a full distance and every point counts in a competitive P5 battle. On the other hand di Resta wasn’t looking good there at all, though he was running around P11-P15 mostly, his pace just wasn’t there to challenge for points at that stage. He had been struggling all weekend with pace and it showed during the race.
Hamilton got a good favour from his old teammate Button as he cruised to victory towards the end of the race. His first victory in Mercedes colours after a great drive and no tyre trouble, only worry about the engine but thankfully it went the distance. Kimi’s 2 stopper came out well indeed as he fended off great pressure from Vettel in the end stages of the race, giving us an epic battle between the two. McLaren showed a strong show to inch closer to SFI in the P5 battle while Maldonado brought home the much needed first points for Williams in 9 races. Caterham took the battle of the new teams as van Garde drove a good race leading the new drivers pack.
It was a disappointment in the SFI camp as di Resta too retired (classified P18) after the team found a same problem in his car. A troublesome weekend for the team ended with a double DNF, that’s two races with no points for the team which could hurt their chances in the P5 battle. They are still 2 points clear of McLaren but they are catching up quickly now. The summer break is a blessing in disguise for the team to work out their tyre problem which seems like is hurting them, the new tyres that is.
The championship battle seems to remain the same with Vettel leading comfortably while Kimi chasing him on. RBR is holding fort in the CC but the real battle is for P2 which Mercedes for the moment is looking like to take it. Now it’s time for some break, the season has already been getting quite many weekends off as it is but this is the time when the factories have to be shut down fully. Don’t worry, there will be few articles on during the break. As for the weekend review, you have to wait few weeks before the next one.
Thanks for reading,