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Team-Mate Wars: Chinese GP

Tuesday 22nd April 2014

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Careful with the Chinaware...

Careful with the Chinaware...

It's been pointed out to us that Autosport have now borrowed the Team-Mate War phraseology in their post-GP analysis; this after they came up with 'Secret Mechanic's Diary' after we ran Secret Tageblog and Secret Diary of Adrian Newey for many years. Well they say it's the sincerest form of flattery.

In F1, the first person you have to beat is your team-mate.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg 0 - Lewis Hamilton 4

Race: Hamilton
Lewis was supreme and serene out front, pulling away from the rest of the field while still lifting and coasting down the long back straight, giving him a massive fuel advantage on the rest of the field.

Nico Rosberg had a race that echoed the plot of Toy Story 3, where he spent the entire 1 hour 40 minutes trying to get back to his rightful place. It was the kind of thing that Mark Webber often had to do after a poor start. Rosberg tried to blame his own poor start on the lack of telemetry and being unable to set a clutch bite point. But Paddy Lowe - who you think would know this kind of stuff - said it wasn't. When the team boss says definitively it wasn't, yet the driver says it was, it does make you think about the effects of pressure. Lewis has been there and done that. It's all new for Nico.

Red Bull
Daniel Ricciardo 3 - Sebastian Vettel 1

Race: Ricciardo
Ricciardo qualified in front of Vettel again to make it 3-1 in the Saturday battles, more than Webber achieved for the whole of last year. And Vettel is supposedly good in cold and wet conditions after his debut win for Toro Rosso at Monza. Christian Horner says that Seb can't get his head round the 2014 tyres. Last season the Red Bull team couldn't get their heads round the 2013 tyres but after the Silverstone debacle they managed to apply pressure to get them changed in a way that suited their car. That isn't going to happen this year.

The incident with Vettel refusing to respond to team orders was another PR disaster for the four-times World Champion - "tough luck" was the real Vettel stripped of all the engineered niceties. And yet again Christian Horner handled it with all the authority of a supply teacher put in charge of the worst form in school. If Christian likes his drivers to be a bit feisty and ignore team orders, "they're racers" then why bother saying anything to them? An instruction is an instruction. Or maybe add "in your own time..."

Daniel Ricciardo is emerging as the real star of 2014 and he is going to be Red Bull's saviour. Many people in the sport are fed up with the team's attitude to the rules, Mateschitz's politicking, Horner sucking up to Bernie, their overspending and their failure to control a driver who has enjoyed more than his fair share of the spotlight. But you cannot hold that against Ricciardo - the quintessential nice-guy actually coming good for once.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso 4 - Kimi Raikkonen 0

Race: Alonso
The usual qualifying position for Fernando - some stat monkey said that the Chinese GP was Fernando's 18th time in P5 on the grid for Ferrari. In the past he's used P5 as a springboard to P2, P3 or P4 on the opening lap, but this season he hasn't been getting away from the line so well. Not this Sunday. He was off at speed with only the small blemish of a wheelbang with his former team-mate.

Finishing third this year is like a win in class in one of the Le Mans WEC categories. This year the grid is divided into three classes: Mercedes (two entrants), F1 (16 entrants), GTA (four entrants). Alonso set an impressive series of laps, all Personal Bests, from Lap 44 through to Lap 48 to keep Daniel Ricciardo at bay and take his first podium of the year. Team-mate Raikkonen had no serious issues on his car but felt that his style of driving didn't get enough heat into the front tyres.

Is it just us, or does Marco Mattiacci look suspiciously like Giancarlo Fisichella's dad?

McLaren
Jenson Button 3 - Kevin Magnussen 1

Race: Button
Jenson was least worst of the McLaren drivers both battling to get the downforce needed to put heat in their tyres. The good news - and we've heard it before, but this time it'll look terrible if it doesn't come about - is that they've got downforce on the way. The wind tunnel results have demonstrated sizeable gains with new aero set-ups and by Barcelona they'll be on the car. Eric said so.

Williams
Valtteri Bottas 0 - Felipe Massa 4

Race: Massa
Another rocket off the line for Felipe, who is now in the uncharted territory of leading his team-mate 4-0, something that hasn't happened since he was driving a Sauber. Massa has produced so many brilliant starts - two in a row for Williams, many more for Ferrari - that it cannot be down to the machinery. He is what Alan Henry would call a true "lead-foot" away from the grid.

The fact that Bottas finished in front of him matters not. Felipe was stung by the debilitating minute spent sorting his left rear tyre from his right rear tyre. Rob Smedley took the operational blame for the mix-up though it clearly wasn't his fault. It's a pretty desolate time for any pitcrew member after that happens. So just imagine the pain should that happen at the double-points finale...

Toro Rosso
Jean-Eric Vergne 1 - Daniil Kvyat 3

Race: Kvyat
Kvyat may be two-tenths quicker than Vergne thanks to his lack of kgs, but JEV outqualified him. In the race Kvyat got the better start and though they were rarely separated by more than two places in the race the Russian kept his early advantage.

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg 3 - Sergio Perez 1

Race: Hulkenberg
Hulkenberg continued the magnificent run of form for Force India, putting points on the board before Renault and Ferrari get their engine mapping finessed. Perez suffered from starting so much further back on the grid and never got near his team-mate.


Lotus
Romain Grosjean 3 - Pastor Maldonado 1

Race: Grosjean
There was speculation in the PF1 office that Maldonado's car didn't spring an oil leak between FP3 and Qualifying. Having bent the E22 in practice, as well as having driven off the road while fiddling with his steering wheel (the kind of acute lack of attention that can have him run into Saubers), the view was that with a grid penalty to take, there was little point in risking him in a wet Qualifying. But they couldn't tell Pastor that, so lo and behold his car was sidelined.

Romain showed that the E22 is capable of a Q3 slot in his hands and he ran as high as P8 in the race before troubles set in. Given the team's rate of improvement, the mid-grid is going to become very contested very soon.

Sauber
Esteban Gutierrez 2 - Adrian Sutil 2

Race: Sutil
Sutil managed to qualify far enough away from Jules Bianchi to get round the first few corners without contact from the Marussia. However this grand prix his engine decided to play up and he finished the opening lap in a familiar P22. He'd already got the jump on Gutierrez from Qualifying.

Caterham
Marcus Ericsson 1 - Kamui Kobayashi 3

Race: Kobayashi
Kamui produced the Moment of the Race for many people when he overtook an exasperated Sebastian Vettel using his new tyres to unlap himself. Providing he didn't impede Vettel he was quite entitled to do this. And let's be fair, he held Vettel up much less than Vettel held up his own team-mate.

Marussia
Max Chilton 3 - Jules Bianchi 1

Race: Bianchi
Jules had been slower than Max in FP3 but turned it on in Qualifying and was a lot further ahead in the dry on Sunday.

Star of the race
Lewis Hamilton 2, Daniel Ricciardo 1, Sergio Perez 1

Overtaking Move of the Race
Valtteri Bottas 1, Daniel Ricciardo 1, Lewis Hamilton 1, Kamui Kobayashi 1

Sat on the Naughty Step
Pastor Maldonado 2, Christian Horner 1, Kevin Magnussen 1,

Media Watch
There's an old Eddie Izzard sketch (back in the 90s when he was a lot funnier - though nothing can excuse the sitcom Cows) about cats secretly drilling behind the sofa. And David Coulthard invoked those kind of word/picture associations during Qualifying when Fernando Alonso very nearly dropped his Ferrari F14T into the gravel.
"Cat-like reactions from the Spaniard there" enthused an impressed DC.

We all know that cats can twist as they fall, but are they really any good at stopping the back end of single-seat racing car snapping out of control on a tightening right-hander and then judiciously re-applying the throttle in one seamless movement? No, they can just twist as they fall.

Andrew Davies

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