German Grand Prix 2014
We came to Hockenheim on the back of a British Grand Prix that levelled the playing field between the Mercedes drivers, Rosberg a mere 4 points ahead of teammate and title rival Hamilton.
The controversial ban of the long-used FRIC suspension system hadn't entirely gone through, but the FIA's uncertainty about their own rules meant teams played it safe, nobody chancing the technology.
Rosberg was refreshed coming into the weekend: he had just got married, had watched Germany win the World Cup, and was arriving at his home race. He also had a contract extension in his pocket, as did Pastor Maldonado who has a 2015 seat with Lotus.
Marussia were running an experimental exhaust for Ferrari but it seemed to do little for them as we heard nothing about it beyond the start of qualifying.
Markus Ericsson's Caterham failed to even make it out of the garage in Q1, leaving him last and dealing a further blow to the already cash-strapped team running a skeleton crew after laying off 11% of their staff. However, the story of the first session was brake failure putting Hamilton into the wall. While he technically cleared the first session he was unable to continue due to both the extent of the damage and the fact the car was stranded out on track. Therefore he made 16th, ahead of Sutil's Sauber, Bianchi's Marussia, Maldonado's Lotus, Kobayashi's Caterham and Chilton's Marussia. Ericsson started the race from the pit lane in the end as the team were forced to break parc ferme – for which he also received a 10 second stop-go penalty, to be taken in the first 3 laps. Hamilton would then drop to 20th with a gearbox change.
A less dramatic Q2 saw Button 11th for McLaren, ahead of Raikkonen's Ferrari, Vergne's Toro Rosso, Gutierrez' Sauber and Grosjean's Lotus. Gutierrez dropped to 16th behind Sutil as a result of the penalty for launching Maldonado at Silverstone.
Rosberg claimed an easy pole from Bottas and Massa, the Williams pair fending off Magnussen's McLaren and an all-Red Bull 3rd row. Alonso and Kvyat took row 4 and Force India rounded out the top 10.
Raikkonen, Grosjean and Hamilton were the only drivers starting on the softs, while everyone else took the supers. Bianchi then had a slow start, dropping to last while at the sharp end Magnussen and Massa collided, leaving Magnussen a long way down the order, Ricciardo dropping a load of places to avoid retirement, and Massa flying through the air and lucky to land on his wheels, though unfortunately out of the race. The Safety Car was scrambled but only for a lap and a half. Racing then resumed for lap 3.
Kvyat tried a bold move around Perez but spun himself off instead and lost any chance of a decent finish.
Alonso changed to the harder tyres on lap 12, while Hamilton cleared both the sister Ferrari and Ricciardo, the Finn losing his front wing endplate to Hamilton. Button and Ricciardo followed Alonso's lead a lap later, both making the same tyre change. Vettel did the same on lap 14, and Rosberg and Bottas on lap 16. Raikkonen left the opposite change for another 4 laps.
Vergne took a penalty for exceeding track limits, compounding a rough day for Italy's second team. Hamilton followed Raikkonen's lead on strategy on lap 26. Grosjean then parked the Lotus with a power failure.
Hamilton misjudged a mistake from Button and lost his endplate against the McLaren's sidepod. He made the move cleanly a lap later.
Alonso went soft-soft on lap 33, with Vettel going soft-super a lap later. Alonso cleared the German on his outlap.
Ricciardo was in a lap later, copying his teammate's stop. On lap 38 it was Vettel impressing, clearing Hulkenberg in the wake of Alonso's move.
Bottas went soft-soft on lap 40, Rosberg following suit a lap later. By now the Mercedes had a 15 second lead.
Hamilton went soft-super on lap 42, switching to a 3-stop strategy. Vettel went the other way 3 laps later, before Kvyat retired in a spectacular fireball. Ricciardo once again followed his teammate's lead with the stops.
Any chance of rain was written off with 20 laps to go, a shame after the spectacle of GP2 earlier in the day.
Alonso saw no reason to fight Hamilton's much faster Mercedes, yielding 3rd to the Brit. Only Bottas stood in the way of a Mercedes 1-2.
Sutil spun and stalled on the main straight. Expecting a Safety Car, Mercedes pulled Hamilton in 2 laps early – only for the stewards to surprise everyone and leave the area under yellows.
A flurry of pit stops left Rosberg clear for an easy win – becoming the first German driver to win for a German team with a German engine in the German Grand Prix in F1 history in the process – from Bottas – taking Williams' 300th podium – and Hamilton. Vettel, Alonso, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Button, Magnussen and Perez completed the top 10. Raikkonen headed up the non-scorers, followed by Maldonado, Vergne, Gutierrez, Bianchi, Kobayashi, Chilton and Ericsson. Sutil, Kvyat, Grosjean and Massa were all unhurt but unclassified after their retirements.