We’re only four races in, but it’s clear Lewis Hamilton has made himself at home on the top step of the podium.
The 2014 Chinese Grand Prix saw Hamilton brush off all-comers to record his third win on the trot – his first career hat-trick. If that wasn’t enough proof of Mercedes’ early-season dominance, after Sunday the German outfit holds a 97-point advantage in the constructor’s championship as Hamilton combines with Driver’s leader Nico Rosberg. At this rate, the only thing that can stop the Silver Arrows any time soon may be another invasion of Poland.
While the Chinese Grand Prix was by no means the heart-stopper we had two weeks ago in Bahrain, there were nonetheless several big stories to talk about as the F1 circus makes its way back to Europe.
Ricciardo Continues to Impress as Vettel Searches for Answers
Sebastian Vettel has never exactly been the most popular figure on the grid, which is exactly why his current performances are giving legions of F1 fans something to cheer about.
If there was any disagreement which RBR driver had been the more impressive so far this season, this past weekend did little to help those arguing in Vettel’s favour. On Saturday the German was soundly out-qualified by over half a second, but even that paled in comparison to what transpired on Sunday. It’s not just that Vettel was comfortably beaten by Daniel Ricciardo, or that he was ordered to let him past for the second race in a row, but that the Red Bull pit-wall seems to be intent on reigning in the famously combative world champion. On lap 25 Vettel received the team’s orders, only to respond ‘tough luck’ when he was told Ricciardo was on the same tyres (To be fair, if Vettel had instead responded with the much more hilarious ‘tough titties’, I’d have a much harder time criticising him). A lap later and Ricciardo was past, as Vettel was informed they were on different strategies. The interesting thing was they both ended up doing only two stops, which means it’s possible Vettel was lied-to as a ploy to make him move over. Even if that wasn’t the case, there’s reason for continuing friction as Ricciardo probably could have used those extra two laps spent chasing his teammate in his late charge at Fernando Alonso.
Regardless, the reality is that Vettel finds himself in unfamiliar territory. For the first time in forever, Red Bull seem to believe they have a guy sharing the garage who can be just as fast Vettel is, and they’re not afraid to let him know it. In a year where they seem resigned to at best, second in the constructor’s championship, the team may have little patience for his antics. I wouldn’t go as far as to say continued drama will result in a countdown (from both sides) ’til Vettel’s contract expires at the end of 2015, but if Ricciardo keeps this up, they certainly have more cause to think along those lines.
Mattiacci Era Begins at Ferrari as Kimi Continues to Struggle
For more than a few people at Ferrari, the times they are a-changin’.
Despite their poor start to the season, the announcement that team boss Stefano Domenicali would be stepping down took everyone by surprise. In the job since 2008, his tenure had been marked by Ferrari’s inability to secure a driver’s championship since Kimi Räikkönen did so in 2007, and generally a series of backwards steps over the past couple of seasons. The new boss, Marco Mattiacci, comes to the team from Ferrari’s North American division, where he was CEO. It will probably be a while before he can make any possible impact to lead the team back to its ’99-’07 form, but Räikkönen’s performance on Sunday will have him praying it’s sooner rather than later.
I wrote a few weeks ago that Kimi may be running out of time to mount another WDC-challenge, but if his quotes after the race are to be given any credit, that time may be already gone. The Finn admitted he’s having trouble adapting his driving style to the 2014 car, as he struggled to get the necessary heat in the tyres, finishing 50 seconds off teammate Fernando Alonso. It may be the case that Kimi’s success in the inferior Lotus had more to do with its ability to complement his driving style than him getting the most out of the car. Certainly his struggles have nothing to do with motivation (as he made clear in classic Kimi fashion), and he certainly seems to be enjoying life on the road more than he ever has in the past. Fingers crossed he can find his groove soon, otherwise it could be a while before we hear the Finnish national anthem at a Grand Prix again.
Classic Kobayashi Just Doesn’t Give a Fudge
Four-time world champion. Fresher tyres. Slower car. 18th place. These are but words to Kamui Kobayashi, if he sees a potential pass, you can bet he’s gonna take it.
At the 0:48 mark:
(GIF in case the youtube link goes down)
Such was the case on Sunday, as all the aforementioned words applied as the Japanese Jesus (™) decided it was a good idea to come out of nowhere and put the business on Sebastian Vettel. Literally a lap down, there was no reason for such a move, but Kamui knows such logical thinking is for suckers, and that’s why we love him. Never change, mate.
Next up: Barcelona on May 11. Can anyone stop Mercedes?