Team-Mate Wars: Russian GP

Date published: October 14 2014

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

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg 3 – Lewis Hamilton 13

Race: Hamilton
Before the race there was an aerial display from the Russian equivalent of the Red Arrows, flying red, blue and white vapour trails over Sochi. Sutton motorsport images have taken a picture of Nico Rosberg braking into Turn 2 from above which makes it look like Nico had decided to imitate the trainer jets with his two front tyres, producing a spectacular trail of smoke as he slid. It was another example of the difference between how the Mercedes duo manage their braking. In Monza Rosberg messed up his braking into the first chicane a couple of time and lost the race as a result, and it was the same story here. It was a good job he didn’t hit Hamilton on the way through – that would have made for a fun three weeks before Austin.
What’s the betting that Lewis was saving this particular engine for Abu Dhabi…?

Red Bull
Daniel Ricciardo 12 – Sebastian Vettel 4

Race: Ricciardo
You can always learn things in F1 and right now Sebastian Vettel needs to learn how to exit a Red Bull team that has given him four World Championship winning cars, with elegance. It would have been no difficult thing for him to move over and let Daniel Ricciardo follow his slim mathematical pursuit of Rosberg and Hamilton, and made up for the kind of malaise that has descended on him.
Daniel did his best, but this wasn’t a Red Bull track. Earlier in the weekend, there had been a touching moment as Dan pulled his car up to a halt out on track in Friday practice. It was like a scene from the best medical drama, as the dying engine finally shut down and emitted some tell-tale wisps of smoke Dan came on the radio and said slowly and mournfully, “She’s gone.”
Ferrari
Fernando Alonso 14 – Kimi Raikkonen 2

Race: Alonso
Yet again Alonso increased what is the most emphatic team-mate difference in the Championship. Raikkonen’s temporary happiness with his turn-in of the F14T and the braking under turn-in has disappeared and we’re back to unusual gaps in qualifying.
The worrying thing going forward is that, in a lot of respects, the Sochi track is similar to the end-of-season points bonanza Abu Dhabi track. And the form the cars showed at the Sochi Autodrum could be translated forward to the double points race. In which case, McLaren’s resurgence could be slightly alarming for the Scuderia who are only 45 points ahead of the Woking team. Jenson and Kevin scored 22 points in Russia, so double that up and it’s a haul of 44 points. They still need some results to go their way in Texas and Brazil, but stranger things have happened.
So right now Marco Mattiacci needs to keep working on Raikkonen’s set-up problems to give them the car in which he can show the kind of stellar drives we saw over the last two years with Lotus.
McLaren
Jenson Button 13 – Kevin Magnussen 3

Race: Button
Button outqualified and outraced his rookie team-mate who finished 23 seconds down the road. Magnussen’s weekend was compromised by a series of glitches, such as malfunctioning fuel flow sensors, but he coped with it all pretty well. Although the paddock is a sombre place after the Jules Bianchi accident, Magnussen is looking particularly downbeat right now and although they’re still saying the right things, neither McLaren driver seems comfortable with his role in the team. Well done, Ron.
Williams
Valtteri Bottas 9 – Felipe Massa 7

Race: Bottas
It’s really hard to judge this one, because Massa had a problem right from Q1 on Saturday which he didn’t get out of, so he was never in a position to challenge Bottas. However if you take the last time they were running reasonably competitively – in FP3 – Valtteri had a 0.9 second edge.
The contrast in races was marked, but neither had a smooth path to the finish line. In the last ten laps Bottas said his tyres went through odd phases. Looking strictly at the timing screens, he would close up to Nico Rosberg by 0.3 or 0.4 one lap, and then lose all that time the following lap, then he’d put in another fast lap, and then back off again. It looked like he was fuel saving and the team couldn’t quite work out how much fuel he had to save. But after the race, the Williams team put it down to tyres.
Toro Rosso
Jean-Eric Vergne 8 – Daniil Kvyat 8

Race: Vergne
Vergne couldn’t outqualify Kvyat, but he could outrace him. The rookie Russian had a dismal race in front of his own crowd – almost colliding with Nico Hulkenberg at one stage, and generally being roughed up by the senior drivers. It’s not great to be overtaken by two cars on one lap – twice. He’d probably have preferred his useful learning curve to have been one race later.
Force India
Nico Hulkenberg 9 – Sergio Perez 7

Race: Perez
Given how much engineer Bradley Joyce was pleading with Checo to save fuel, the Mexican must have done a phenomenal job in the closing stages to get his car to the line and keep the marauding Massa at bay.
Lotus
Romain Grosjean 10 – Pastor Maldonado 6

Race: Grosjean
Great news that Lotus will receive Mercedes engines next year even though the team are managing to get both cars to the finish now. Despite a penalty for what looked like a 50/50 with Sutil (or maybe a 55/45) Grosjean came home in front of Maldonado.
Sauber
Esteban Gutierrez 8 – Adrian Sutil 8

Race: Gutierrez
Gutierrez went a long way (40 laps) on a set of Soft tyres, which only added more weight to the argument that Pirelli had been ultra-conservative in their tyre choices. At the flag he was sixteen seconds ahead of Sutil. Usually you can rely on the broadcasters to supply some blonde footage of a girlfriend looking shocked during the race – usually Adrian’s girlfriend – but I must have missed it this race.
Caterham
Marcus Ericsson 3 – Kamui Kobayashi 12 – Andre Lotterer 1

Race: Ericsson
Great qualifying from Marcus Ericsson to come within a tenth of a second of making it into Q2. And not through any element of astute tyre timing in mixed conditions, through straightforward pace.
Marussia
Max Chilton 4 – Jules Bianchi 11

Race: N/A
Star of the race
Lewis Hamilton 7, Daniel Ricciardo 4, Sergio Perez 2, Jules Bianchi 1, Valtteri Bottas 1, Jenson Button 1
Overtaking Move of the Race
Lewis Hamilton 5, Daniel Ricciardo 3, Valtteri Bottas 2, Kamui Kobayashi 1, Sebastian Vettel 1, Nico Hulkenberg 1, Fernando Alonso 1, Jean-Eric Vergne 1, Nico Rosberg 1
Sat on the Naughty Step
Kevin Magnussen 4, Pastor Maldonado 3, Max Chilton 2, Christian Horner 1, Ecclestone 1 (for suggesting it would be no problem to lose cars off the grid), Kimi Raikkonen 1, Charlie Whiting 1 (safety issues in Germany), Perez 1 (the totting up system), Nico Rosberg 1 (Proving-a-point-gate),
Media Watch
The step up from junior formulae to F1 is a big one, as Sergey Sirotkin found out after first free practice when he was cornered by the BBC’s Jenny Gow. The 19-year-old Sauber apprentice speaks good English, but now has to deal with questions like: “Sergey, what information were you gleaning?” Gleaning?! It’s difficult enough to work out the Sauber hybrid system and the practice start procedure without Jenny chucking in some questions in Olde Englishe she got off Geoffrey Chaucer.
I’m surprised Jen didn’t try him with: “Ful wys is he that kan himselve knowe the track layout…?”
Eddie Jordan to Christian Horner, after Daniil Kvyat qualified 5th on the grid. “You must have had a smile on your face, chuckling away inside yourself there.”
After listening to many of the engineers say things like “keep going, you’re doing well, mate,” David Coulthard chucked in a reference to the old Harry Enfield show. Harry and Paul Whitehouse played two former Radio One DJs who’d been passed over to local radio, known as ‘Smashy’ and ‘Nicey’ and on their show addressed each other as “mate” all the time. So David said: “All these radio messages are getting a bit Smashy and Nicey.” Gloriously, he didn’t bother to explain it and Ben Edwards just carried on with the commentary. Wonder what they made of it in China?
Andrew Davies