Nico Rosberg secured an easy victory in Russia, winning from pole position as teammate Lewis Hamilton had it all to do from tenth. Early chaos allowed Lewis to move up the field, and he fought his way back to second place but late stage water leak issues stopped him challenging his teammate for the win. Kimi Räikkönen ended up third for the final podium position.
An afternoon of racing in Russia has been completed, culminating in a somewhat predictable podium, four drivers retiring from the race, one safety car, one engine issue, and just 26 pit stops throughout the 53 laps. After first lap chaos brought out the virtual and then the actual safety car, the bunched up field spread out once again to limit the number of battles occurring on track.
For the second race in a row, qualifying did not go defending champion Lewis Hamilton’s way. The Brit made his way into Q3 but couldn’t participate due to the same engine problem that caught him out in China. That left Nico Rosberg untroubled in his quest for pole position, the German finishing ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari. Vettel’s five place grid drop, however, means that it will be Valtteri Bottas, who completed an impressive lap for Williams, who lines up on the front row of the grid tomorrow.
Sebastian Vettel has had a difficult start to his Russian race weekend, enduring a curtailed practice session after his Ferrari stopped out on track, and now picking up a five place grid penalty before qualifying has even begun. Ferrari decided to change the gearbox on Vettel’s car after finding damage that is reportedly left over from the German’s first lap collision with his teammate in China.
After Formula One bosses tried and failed to come to an agreement about engines, the F1 Commission finally got the teams to come together and submit a proposal for 2017’s power unit regulations. The WMSC have ratified the proposed changes, with the FIA saying: “The global agreement on power units covers four key areas relating to the cost and supply price, obligation to supply, performance convergence and the sound of the power units.”
Nico Rosberg was the fastest driver in first practice for the Russian Grand Prix, as he and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton duked it out for the top spot in those initial ninety minutes. Vettel and Räikkönen were close behind with Felipe Massa fourth fastest, despite having a short session due to a clutch problem.
Daniel Ricciardo debuted the cockpit protection design from Red Bull during the first practice session in Russia, completing just one installation lap to give the canopy its first run. Red Bull’s design is simply like a windscreen and as you might imagine, the visibility was relatively good.
The Russian Grand Prix has moved from its spot at the end of the calendar to take a more prominent position at the front of the 2016 season - this time it is the fourth round and so we're headed their next. A couple of drivers are looking forward to making their home visits count, but most watching from the outside are wary about what the Russian race can deliver after a rocky start to Sochi's F1 history.
This week has been all about Daniel Ricciardo and Felipe Massa. The budding friendship between the two has blossomed when Daniel headed over to the Brazilian's house to kart race his son around an impromptu indoor track. It was an incredible amount of fun for everyone involved, it seems, and for everyone watching at home.
Ex-team principal of the Manor Marussia squad John Booth has been hired by Toro Rosso as a consultant, with the official title of Director of Racing. Booth left Manor behind at the same time as Graeme Lowdon, both departing under something of a shadow after disagreeing with the new bosses there.
You would forgive the F1 drivers for taking some time off after the chaos that was the Chinese Grand Prix, but for Daniel Ricciardo, the last few days offered up a new opportunity for some racing action. Challenged by Felipe Massa's six year old son, Felipinho, Daniel Ricciardo accepted the call to arms for a head to head kart race.
The Chinese race gave our drivers a chance to take some time in the spotlight, particularly considering how much drama there was before, during and after the event itself! This week feels more like Red Bull and their sister team Toro Rosso have dominated things, with Daniel Ricciardo being his particularly awesome self, and all four of them getting up to things that no racing driver should experiment with (ie. being in a band).
There’s been a storm brewing between the FIA and Pirelli recently, regarding the tyres for next season. The new tyres are significantly different as they are wider and according to Pirelli have “a much larger thermal zone.” The Italian supplier wanted to increase the amount of in-season testing specific to the tyres during 2016 so they’d be ready for the new year.
The Chinese Grand Prix was end to end action, with Daniel Ricciardo getting into the lead off the line but falling back behind polesitter Nico Rosberg after picking up a puncture. The safety car was called moments later to clear up some debris after first lap crashes.
The Chinese race delivered everything that qualifying promised - action from start to finish, changes in leadership (however briefly), a fight back through the field by Lewis Hamilton, and some frantic but fantastic midfield action. From the moments the light went out, there was barely a moment to blink as cars were battling for position throughout.
A dramatic qualifying session ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix saw mixed fortunes for the Mercedes team. Lewis Hamilton suffered an engine problem that meant he couldn’t set a time in the first session, but he was joined by Pascal Wehrlein who also didn’t complete Q1 after knocking his Manor car against the barriers.
The first practice session in Shanghai was a stop-start affair, with two red flags during the ninety minutes of running. The first came after Felipe Massa’s rear left tyre punctured, and tipped his Williams into a spin through the gravel. After recovering to the pit lane, Massa headed out again and the exact same issue happened a second time – the team realising they’d made an error somewhere and patching him up for some flawless running in the afternoon.
The FIA stewards have given McLaren driver Fernando Alonso their go ahead to race this weekend at the Shanghai circuit, after undergoing the process they call “reintegration.” He is allowed to race in the weekend ahead providing he passes a further test following first practice to ensure he is fully fit. The Spaniard was forced to sit out the last race in Bahrain due to rib injuries sustained at the first round in Australia, and he was replaced by rookie Stoffel Vandoorne.
This week, Formula One heads to Shanghai for the third stop on the 2016 calendar. We've had two action packed race weekends already and it's time for China to see if they can deliver more of the same. The qualifying format debacle has thankfully been resolved (for now), we've got our full complement of drivers fit and healthy to race again, and everyone is looking forward to getting back out on track.
Being a new team gives you some leeway in terms of expectations. Everyone else has to deal with the scrutiny that comes from having experience in the sport, which brings with it the assertion that you should be on top of things by now. For the 2016 season, it looks like Toro Rosso have finally managed to pull things together and could be in with a real shot of putting together an impressive season of running.