Daniel Ricciardo won his first ever grand prix this Sunday when he seized the lead from Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg with just two laps remaining. The Australian kept a cool head in an incident-packed race, which saw eleven drivers retire, including Lewis Hamilton. The race concluded under dramatic circumstances, with a collision between Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez bringing out the Safety Car.
Qualifying saw Lewis Hamilton edged out by Mercedes team mate Rosberg for the second race in succession. The pair locked out the front row, and Williams nearly took that honour for the second row, only to have Sebastian Vettel pip them and start third. The two Williams of Bottas and Massa then followed.
Kamui Kobayashi had an unscheduled gearbox change and so started with a 5-place penalty, making his 20th in Qualifying 21st. Slot 22 was not occupied, because Esteban Gutierrez would start from the pit lane thanks to a heavy crash in Saturday morning practice, which the team could not repair in time.
At the start, Hamilton made a great getaway but being on the outside saw him take avoiding action from Rosberg. He went wide and onto the grass momentarily, which let Vettel through into second. Everyone followed round the first sector, except for both Marussia cars. After their incredible points-scoring weekend in Monaco, the team came back down to reality with a very literal and heart-breaking crash.
Max Chilton lost the rear of his car, and when he corrected the slide, he surged hopelessly into the rear wheel of his team mate Bianchi. The Frenchman – who currently has two World Championship points – was flung into the wall at a vast rate of knots, with bits of bodywork, wheels and gearbox fluid leaking everywhere. The crash puts to an end Marussia’s points-scoring run of one race, and Max Chilton’s slightly more impressive string of 25 finishes.
The safety car was inevitable on such a narrow track, because while Bianchi’s car was easily extractable thanks to the crash being right next to a Marshal post, Chilton’s crumpled red and black mess was a little further down the road and required a crane and flat bed truck to remove it. Whilst the safety car was out, Marcus Ericsson retired in his Caterham with a malfunctioning turbocharger.
After leading the cars for seven laps, the Safety Car pulled back in and left Nico Rosberg in charge, who led from a spirited Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. That order soon changed; Hamilton got the better of Vettel on Lap 10 with the might of the Mercedes too great for that of the Red Bull. Meanwhile, Sergio Perez got the better of his old team mate Button.
The race stabilised for a while, with Rosberg and Hamilton trading fastest sector times. Then, barely half-way through the race (36/70 laps) Hamilton reported “No K (ERS)”. Within the space of the next lap, incredibly, Rosberg had the same issue.
For 2014, drivers get their engine power through not only the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) but also two turbochargers: The MGU-H (Heat engine recovered from a turbocharger in the exhaust system) and the MGU-K, which is essentially what was known as KERS – energy recovered from braking forces.
KERS in 2009, 2011-2013 gave roughly 80 Horsepower of boost for just under 6 seconds of a lap. Now, ERS is fully-integrated into the engine, and so a loss of ERS power severely dampens the power output of an engine.
Massa, Hulkenberg, Perez and the rest of the chasing pack began to make serious in-roads to the Mercedes drivers’ lead. Rosberg pitted at the end of Lap 44 and had a slight delay with the front-left. Massa jumped him in the stop. The next lap saw Hamilton come in too, and thanks to a stop that was two-seconds faster, he got out ahead of Nico. However, the Mercedes was not in the lead, and instead, Felipe Massa became the first non-Mercedes driver all season to lead a race.
Hamilton’s MGU-K issue left him with limited braking power (The MGU-K unit also slows down wheel rotation) and on his first lap out from the pits he tailed Massa. At the hairpin, the issue became terminal – his brakes faded completely and he went straight on, handing seoncd place to Rosberg. This gifted Lewis DRS for the back straight, and amazingly he got alongside Rosberg once more, but when he braked for the final chicane, he went straight on once more. Rosberg re-took second again, and Hamilton limped round the next lap, to retire at the end of it.
Plumes of smoke could be seen coming from his right-rear tyre, indicating that it was indeed a failure of brakes that cost him the retirement. Canada is notorious for brake wear and a slowing-down issue for Sergio Perez manifested a little later.
Massa pitted to leave the wounded Rosberg heading a a train of Perez, Ricciardo and Vettel. A few seconds back, Hulkenberg was leading a similar string, of Bottas, Massa and Alonso. Of this group, Massa was the only driver on new tyres, thanks to his stop.
This was apparent on Lap 58 when the Brazilian passed both his team mate and Hulkenberg after they diced at the hair pin. Massa then set off in pursuit of the top four.
Alonso also got past Bottas, leaving him chasing Hulkenberg. Jenson Button had a very quiet drive and crept up behind them also. There was a lot going on everywhere in this race.
Massa got up behind Vettel to make it a five-way fight for the lead. The first to make a move was Ricciardo, who made a splendid move around the outside of Perez (who was now suffering from brake-wear) and moved in to second. The next move would be from the Australian again, when he swept past Rosberg on Lap 68 to take the lead of the race.
Vettel got the better of Perez too who looked to be in serious trouble. Massa noticed this and went for an optimistic move down his inside at turn one, but was caught out by Perez’ lack of braking ability, and smashed into his rear wheel, sending both cars into the barriers at a sickening speed. Both cars were completely wrecked and Vettel was lucky not to be hit by either of the carbon carcasses.
There was much dispute over who was at fault – some said Perez moved over, while others said Massa got too hot-headed and excited. Former Formula 1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya and I had a brief discussion on the incident.
The seven-time race winner said:
I then replied:
However, the Colombian took the side of the older of South American Continental compatriots and thought that Perez was at fault. The race stewards agreed, handing him a 5-place grid penalty for the race in Austria.
With two cars buried in the tyres and debris everywhere, the Safety Car came out for the last lap, and gave Daniel Ricciardo his first ever win at a leisurely pace.
Nico Rosberg clung on to finish second, even though he thought he had finished fifth, and Sebastian Vettel completed the podium. Nobody would have predicted two Red Bulls on the podium before the race; the result makes Ricciardo not only the first non-Mercedes victor of the year, but also the fourth Australian winner after Alan Jones, Jack Brabham, and his predecessor Mark Webber.
In the madness of the incident, Jenson Button’s amazing moves on Alonso and Hulkenberg were overlooked; he seized 7th and 6th at their expense when the two fought, and then 5th and 4th thanks to the crash.
1) D Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing
2) N Rosberg, Mercedes AMG
3) S Vettel, Red Bull Racing
4) J Button, McLaren
5) N Hulkenberg, Force India
6) F Alonso, Ferrari
7) V Bottas, Williams
8) JE Vergne, Toro Rosso
9) K Magnussen, McLaren
10) K Raikkonen, Ferrari
13) A Sutil, Sauber*
*Massa and Perez were two laps ahead of Sutil when they crashed, hence he did not pass them.
F Massa, Williams (Collision)
S Perez, Force India (Collision)
E Gutierrez, Sauber (ERS)
R Grosjean, Lotus (Rear Wing)
D Kvyat, Toro Rosso (Drivetrain)
L Hamilton, Mercedes AMG (Brakes)
K Kobayashi, Caterham (Suspension)
P Maldonado, Lotus (Power Unit)
M Ericsson, Caterham (Turbocharger)
M Chilton, Marussia (Collision)
J Bianchi, Marussia (Collision)
The result sees Ricciardo the third winner of the season, and only non-Mercedes one. He moves up to third in the drivers’ championships behind Hamilton, who is now 22 points behind Rosberg. The next race is in Austria which has been re-profiled since it was last used to race in 2003.