May 25, 2015

Horse 1906 - F1: The Silver Streak Continues to Continue Continuing (Round 3)

The steel lined streets of the Principality of Monaco are an anachronism in an age of high tech monitoring and measurement of every aspect of a modern Formula One car. Despite that the streets of Monte Carlo yield both the slowest corners on the calendar and the slowest average lap times, it can not not be included, simply for the iconic status of the Grand Prix. It is the blue riband event on the calendar and the residential address of many of the drivers.

The start of any Monaco GP is always fraught with the possibility that half the field could be wiped out on the first corner as the track swings right and left before the right hand turn to take the cars up the hill at Saint Devote. The only casualty in the first corner mêlée this year was the Williams of Felipe Massa who had his front wing damaged and he came in a lap later to replace it.
Fernando Alonso tried to jam his McLaren into a space that was never there on the inside of Nico Hulkenburg's Force India going into Mirabeau and he was forced to take a 5 second penalty when he stopped later. Hulkenburg who was speared into the wall, came in to replace his nose cone and his chances of picking up a points scoring position were dashed into as many pieces as his front wing.

From here the race settled into a fairly regular sort of groove with Lewis Hamilton drawing to a distance 18 seconds ahead of Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari hanging on a further two seconds behind the silver arrows.
On lap 8 Pastor Maldonado had a brake by wire failure and the Lotus engineers retired the car on the basis that it was unsafe. Maldonado now holds the double dubious distinction of retiring from every Grand Prix in 2015  and personally never finishing a Monaco Grand Prix in his career.
By lap 19, Hamilton had caught the rear end of the field and was now lapping backmarkers and the Mercedes domination of the event was set to continue. After a round of pitstops on laps 37 and 38, the running order of Hamilton, Rosberg, Vettel, Kyvat, Raikkonen and Riccardo remained unchanged. Alonso's McLaren expired on lap 43 when the software running the Honda engine, shut the engine off for no immediately discernable reason; thus adding to Honda's streak of embarrassing results.
I think that we can all definitively say now that the Honda powerplant in the back of the McLaren, is monumentally horrible and a opprobrium to automotive history. Even the engine knows this. It unilaterally decided to shut itself down in Alonso’s McLaren because it brought shame and disgrace to its family name for generations to come.

The complexion of the race was changed suddenly on lap 64, when 17 year old Max Verstappen misjudged the braking distance of the remaining Lotus of Romain Grosjean ahead of him at Saint Devote and he ran his Toro Rosso into its rear right hand wheel at over 200km/h, sending both of them into the barriers. Verstappen's Toro Rosso went into the barriers nose first but he was able to step out of the car fairly easily..

Responding to what would be an immediate safety car, Mercedes brought in the leader Lewis Hamilton for a tyre change but when he reentered the race, he found himself alongside Vettel's Ferrari and ended up surrendering two places rather than one. If there were questions about Vettel's ability as a driver (having won four World Championships in the Red Bull which was clearly the best package for a long time) then these surely need to be laid aside. Vettel has very much asserted himself as lead driver at Ferrari over Kimi Raikkonen (who is also a former World Champion) and his performance here, to pinch third place from Lewis Hamilton under safety car conditions, shows his ability to think through the rules; even under quick changing conditions.

When the marshals had made the necessary repairs and threw the race to a full course green again, there was an eight lap sprint to the finish. Daniel Riccardo tagged Raikkonen's Ferrari in an incident which would later be deemed that no action would be taken and Red Bull decided to release him to try and attack third place; so teammate Kyvat acquiesced and gave up fourth spot to him. This would be to no avail though and shortly before the end of the race, Red Bull redressed the inequity and Riccardo returned fourth spot.

Up front though, Nick Rosberg remained unchallenged by Sebastian Vettel and they finished the race in the order that they had been eight laps earlier.
Rosberg, Vettel, Hamilton, Kyvat, Ricciardo and Raikkonen was how the top six finished but notably, Jensen Button had finally got  the McLaren Honda to show a modicum of adequacy and he finished a credible eighth; although it’s impossible to make a silken purse from a sow’s ear, he showed tact and enough mechanical empathy, that he was able to bring a modicum of adequacy to an engine which deserves for it to be thrown into the centre of the sun by Captain Planet.
Jensen carried the machine to eighth; which is nothing short of a minor miracle. The only miracles that this Honda engine is capable of is making deaf people blind and poor people lame. Jensen only needs two more miracles before the church of Castrol grants him sainthood.

Race Results:
1. Rosberg- Mercedes
2. Vettel - Ferrari
3. Hamilton - Mercedes
4. Kyvat - Red Bull-Renault
5. Ricciardo - Red Bull-Renault
6. Raikkonen - Ferrari

"The John Logie Baird Television Was Better in 1984 Memorial Cup" at the end of Round 3 looks like this:

22 Hamilton
19 Rosberg
12 Vettel
7 Raikkonen
5 Riccardo
3 Massa
3 Bottas
3 Kyvat
2 Nasr

The Constructor's Championship is thus:

41 Mercedes
19 Ferrari
7 Red Bull
6 Williams
2 Sauber

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