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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Shoeys all round! // Ricciardo cashes in as his luck finally changes

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Finally, Daniel Ricciardo was able to string everything together
Credit: Clive Mason/Getty

A chaotic race where it appeared all teams were making it up as they went along to fit to Virtual Safety Car windows went from an intriguing battle to a key moment in the championship as Lewis Hamilton’s engine went up in smoke, creating a 28-point championship swing, proving it’s better to have your misfortune at the start and recover than late on. Hamilton had been the class of the field all weekend but there were others who starred and delivered crucial points, with machinery that didn’t let them down.

Aussie grit pays off

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing: Started 4th, Finished 1st

Finally, Daniel Ricciardo was able to string everything together. He has arguably been the best driver all season but when the Red Bull has been competitive for victory, his luck has been out. In fact, there was almost a literal path carved out for him on the way to victory. Ricciardo had been beaten in qualifying by Verstappen, a rarity, into fourth place on the grid. Having lost out off the line to Vettel, Ricciardo hung back ready to pounce, and as the trio of Rosberg, Vettel and Verstappen collided, Ricciardo could cruise around the inside and up into second.

Ricciardo looked on for another solid result, hanging on to Hamilton but gradually falling back. The pair stayed out under the Virtual Safety Car, leaving them needing to open a gap to Verstappen. When he pitted from the lead on lap 27, after staying out an extra lap than Hamilton, Ricciardo knew he needed to make the hard tyres last 34 laps and hold off his teammate, who would then pit on lap 28, on fresher rubber toward the end for second place. It was at this point that Hamilton opened the gap significantly, able to manage the tyres at a faster pace and allowing the gap to open up to 22 seconds.

There was almost a literal path carved out for him on the way to victory

What’s more, Verstappen had closed in and was desperate to challenge for the win. But Ricciardo knew that he needed to hold him back to maintain his standing in the team. The pair duelled it out side-by-side through turns 4, 5, 6 and 7 before the Australian eventually pulled ahead. The stoic defence proved critical two laps later as Hamilton pulled off disconsolately, leaving Red Bull alone at the front. The retirement allowed Red Bull a security pitstop under the Virtual Safety Car, which in turn helped Ricciardo to open up a gap as Verstappen had to wait to be serviced. On fresher soft tyres, there was no way Ricciardo was going to yield with a fourth victory on the line and he showed his maturity to spoil Mercedes and Hamilton’s day.

Alonso recovers from more engine woe

Fernando Alonso, McLaren Honda: Started 22nd, Finished 7th

Alonso’s outlook got a lot better
Credit: McLaren Honda

Once again Fernando Alonso started at the back after multiple engine penalties. Even he wouldn’t have been optimistic enough to predict big points. Like in Singapore, Alonso’s outlook got a lot better with a stunning opening half lap as he went from 22nd to 12th, even despite having to go around the outside of the chaos at turn one. Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon were his next victims before Romain Grosjean spun off with broken brakes.

McLaren opted to split their strategies during the first round of pitstops, leaving Alonso 15th. By the time he pitted to move from hards back to softs, Alonso was up to 10th. McLaren went aggressive, with two more stints, pitting under the VSC for Hamilton, allowing him to jump teammate Button and Sainz and beat Hülkenberg. It was a great drive from Alonso as it becomes clearer that McLaren are moving in the right direction.

Palmer proves a point

Jolyon Palmer, Renault F1 Team: Started 19th, Finished 10th

There’s a lot of pressure on Jolyon Palmer at the moment, likely to lose his drive at the end of the season, so he will have been desperate to silence his doubters. Qualifying hardly helped as he made an error in setup, leaving him 19th, five places behind Kevin Magnussen. Palmer avoided the turn one mayhem to jump up to 14th, knowing his strategy demanded patience, having started on the hard tyres. The Briton ran a 31 lap first stint, moving up to 10th briefly early on and then ninth before he stopped.

Palmer came out in 14th but a maiden point was on if he could make the soft tyres last. He was soon past Nasr, then Sainz and Ericsson to move up to 11th, before Hamilton’s retirement elevated him into 10th. With points a rare opportunity for Palmer, his previous missed opportunity played on his mind but he was able to maintain his composure and hold off Sainz for a very meaningful point.

He will have been desperate to silence his doubters
Credit: Renault Sport F1

From zero to (championship) hero?

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team: Started 2nd, Finished 3rd

On the face of it, dropping a place and being soundly beaten in the sport’s most dominant car seems like a forgettable weekend. And to be fair, up until the end of qualifying, Nico Rosberg’s weekend might have been but when an ambitious move by Sebastian Vettel left the championship leader facing the wrong way, it gave him the opportunity to showcase his aggression, mirroring the serenity that he exhibited under the lights in Singapore.

The last two races have been great for Rosberg, gaining 25 points on Hamilton to retake the championship lead and proving a lot of people wrong with his performances. Yes, Rosberg has the quickest car on the track but it would have been easy for him to get stuck in the midfield and settle for fifth or sixth as damage limitation.

It gave him the opportunity to showcase his aggression

Rosberg dropped to 17th at the end of lap one as several pitted for repairs. By lap 6 he was 12th, past Nasr, Wehrlein, Palmer, Ericsson and Ocon. With nothing to lose, Mercedes gambled on the Virtual Safety Car for Grosjean’s brake failure, pitting on lap 9 to try and get back amongst the points.

Rosberg was soon back in his comfort zone. By lap 13 he was ninth and able to run in clear air as those ahead stopped. It was a tactical masterstroke from Mercedes, as it removed the trickier Force Indias and McLaren from the equation. The hairiest moment came on lap 38 as Rosberg made a bold, borderline move on Räikkönen to barge his way up to fourth, but he was smelling roses three laps later as Hamilton retired, creating a 28-point swing in the title battle. Even before that, Rosberg had done everything he could to recover after being an innocent victim in turn one.