Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Suzuka, 2016

Title beckons for Rosberg after Hamilton stumbles at Suzuka

2016 Japanese Grand Prix reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Round 17 of the 2016 Formula One world championship was held at Suzuka, a divine circuit unlike any other, which nonetheless produced a race that was very familiar.

For the tenth time this year we had two Mercedes drivers on the front row. And once again one of them started poorly, was swamped by the chasing pack, leaving the other to cruise to victory.

The result was the ninth win of the year for Nico Rosberg, and a serious blow to Lewis Hamilton’s championship hopes.

Hamilton starts slowly

Start, Suzuka, 2016
Rosberg left Hamilton behind at the start
Was Hamilton feeling the pressure of the championship contest? Fortune had swung sharply against him in Malaysia. Rosberg was consistently the quicker of the two in practice at Suzuka, and duly captured his third consecutive pole position at the track by just 13 thousandths of a second. On the eve of the race Hamilton caused a sensation by walking out of a media commitment.

But Hamilton has never seemed particularly susceptible to pressure. Mercedes’ starts have been notoriously variable this year and this appeared to be just another of those, though Hamilton has been more susceptible to them than Rosberg.

There were damp patches on his side of the grid but Hamilton declined to blame that. He spun his rear wheels and the drivers behind – Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel and the rest – scrambled to avoid him. “Sorry guys,” he told his team on the radio.

“We know that our clutch is tricky to manage and we have not given the drivers the easiest system to use this year,” admitted Mercedes’ executive director Toto Wolff afterwards. “Our first indications suggest that the clutch release was the problem today – but we will look into all the data before reaching a definitive conclusion.”

The top three drivers at the end of lap one had all come from the fully dry side of the grid: Rosberg pursued by Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. Vettel had got by Ricciardo into fourth and shortly afterwards zapped Perez too.

Behind them it took a few more laps for Kimi Raikkonen to do the same to the other Force India of Nico Hulkenberg. Once he did Hamilton was swiftly by the VJM09 and up into seventh place: the first act in his race-long climb back to the front.

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Red Bull’s double shuffle

Start, Suzuka, 2016
2016 Japanese Grand Prix in pictures
Hulkenberg dropped back quickly from Hamilton and in turn had a gap opening up to Romain Grosjean behind him. Further back Fernando Alonso headed for the pits on lap nine, and expecting the others would follow Red Bull went all in on the next lap, servicing Verstappen and Ricciardo within a few seconds of each other.

Suzuka’s abrasive surface makes the effect of the ‘undercut’ especially strong, explaining Red Bull’s eagerness to exploit it for both their drivers. It tightened Verstappen’s grip on second place, but Ricciardo fell further back in the pack, where he became unstuck.

Passing Jolyon Palmer at the Spoon Curve the Red Bull ran wide, coating its new Pirellis in green dirt and undoing the pass. It took him another lap to re-take the Renault, by which time Perez and Raikkonen had made their stops and were on his tail.

Perez made an unsuccessful attempt to pass Palmer going into 130R – the Renault’s power unit serving it surprisingly well in this battle against F1’s benchmark engine. That allowed Raikkonen to close on Perez, so that the three came past the pits three-wide, Raikkonen passing Perez as both passed Palmer.

Had the Mercedes mechanics been slower with Hamilton’s stop they could have gone four-abreast, as he returned to the track at the same time, consolidating his position in front of both of them. From there Hamilton out-dragged a tentative Ricciardo at the exit of Spoon, and ended a productive lap by demoting the yet-to-stop Felipe Massa.

Vettel misses podium chance

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Suzuka, 2016
Ferrari’s tactics attracted more criticism
Neither Williams driver had qualified inside the top ten, so both had started the race on new sets of the medium compound tyres. This made them easy prey for Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Perez and Hulkenberg who took each of them in turn. Hulkenberg added a dash of flair to the last of these eight overtaking moves, rounding Bottas on the outside of the chicane and remarking “see you later” on the radio as he accelerated away.

Hamilton pressed on, lapping up to half a second quicker than his team mate ahead, who was cruising, and Rosberg and Vettel between them, who were not. He took around three-and-a-half seconds out of those ahead of him during his second stint before Verstappen pitted for the second time on lap 28.

Red Bull brought Verstappen in before he encountered a clutch of lapped cars which Vettel now faced. The Ferrari driver fumed as he lost enormous amounts of time in traffic – as much as 2.7 seconds on one lap. Hamilton cut his lead from nine seconds to just over four in four laps – then pitted. With a rapid in-lap, quick work by the Mercedes crew and the benefit of the undercut, Ferrari could see Hamilton was going to jump Vettel. But they were close enough to the end of the race to risk running the softs again, which Vettel was keen to try, so their hopes of a podium finish were not yet extinguished.

But within a few laps of Vettel rejoining the track, they were. He quickly closed on the tail of the Mercedes but even with tyres two stages softer and the benefit of DRS, he couldn’t get in a position to pass, nor lap more than a few hundredths of a second quicker than the Mercedes. His pace soon faded along with his tyres, and with that he was forced to settle for fourth.

Hamilton rejects Verstappen protest

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2016
Verstappen closed down Hamilton’s attack
Ironically hard tyres might have given Vettel a better chance of keeping up with Hamilton and taking advantage of the Mercedes drivers’ efforts to pass Verstappen. Hamilton feinted towards the inside at the chicane on the penultimate lap but Verstappen saw him coming and covered the line. Hamilton ran wide and through the slower run-off route back onto the track – fortunately by this time Vettel was nowhere near to deprive him of the final podium spot.

“Max moved under braking,” Hamilton complained as he rejoined the track, his shot at second place having slipped away. But a few minutes later he was phlegmatic about this incident.

“It’s done and we move forwards” he told the media in the (mandatory) post-race press conference, apparently unaware Mercedes were already planning a protest.

Their prospects of success seemed slim as similar moves by Verstappen earlier in the year had gone unpunished. Hamilton later stated plainly he wasn’t behind the protest and the stewards said a decision would not be reached until the next race in two weeks’ time. It was therefore best for all concerned that Mercedes withdrew it.

Poor race for Honda at home

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Suzuka, 2016
“Nasty”: Alonso’s verdict on a tough home race for Honda
While Ferrari’s strategy had arguably cost Vettel one position, they gained one for Raikkonen by making his final stop before Ricciardo’s. Red Bull responded the only way they could, by leaving Ricciardo out as long as they dared so he would have a fresher set of tyres for the final push. But his last pit stop was the slowest of any driver in the race, losing him three seconds compared to Raikkonen, and that consigned him to a lonely final stint.

Both Force India drivers used the full range of slick tyres available during the race, running soft-hard-medium and keeping the Williams drivers behind. They had Grosjean and race winner Rosberg on their tail at the end of the race.

The two Williams drivers had swapped positions because Williams had pitted Massa, who was running second of the pair, before Bottas. Rob Smedley said Bottas was left out longer “to give him better tyres towards the end of the race”. But keeping him out for two laps while Massa was on fresh tyres left Bottas vulnerable. Massa’s pit stop was the fastest of the race while Bottas was delayed for two-and-a-half seconds longer. He was understandably not impressed to emerge behind.

Grosjean was even less pleased to finish the race in 11th, feeling Haas had failed to exploit the potential of his car. He described the race as one of the most frustrating of his career, a sentiment echoed by Carlos Sainz Jnr, who struggled to 17th after running wide twice while struggling to overcome the straight-line speed of the Williams drivers.

Between them were Jolyon Palmer, who made life interesting for Verstappen and Hamilton by going off in front of them at the hairpin, Daniil Kvyat, Kevin Magnussen, Marcus Ericsson and Fernando Alonso. With no drivers dropping out of the race points were not on offer for these drivers.

For McLaren at Honda’s home track, 16th for Alonso and 18th for Jenson Button was a tough result to take in a year of progress which has yielded a dozen points finishes.

The title is Rosberg’s to lose

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Suzuka, 2016
Championship glory beckons for Rosberg
Two important championship milestones were reached at Suzuka. The first was that Mercedes were confirmed as constructors’ champions for the third year running. It was another fully deserved triumph.

The second was the step Rosberg took to wresting the championship crown from Hamilton. With 33 points between them and four races remaining, Rosberg doesn’t need to beat Hamilton in any of the remaining races to become champion. Hamilton can sweep the remaining races and still lose the title to his team mate if Rosberg finishes second every time.

Barring technical problems, the title is Rosberg’s to lose. But he more than anyone knows not to underestimate his team mate and not to take for granted Mercedes’ reliability which has so far been much kinder to him than Hamilton.

Hamilton will be hoping this championship fight has one more twist left in it.

111 comments on “Title beckons for Rosberg after Hamilton stumbles at Suzuka”

  1. It is Rosberg’s year. Unless he suffers from a mechanical failure himself in a race I cannot see how he can lose it now. He doesn’t need to win anymore, just finish 2nd to Hamilton in every remaining race and it’s his championship.

    1. @rob91 and a fully deserved title it would be. He’s driven very well all year, except at Monaco, Silverstone and that crash in Austria.

      To be against one of the best in history for 3 years, and finally managing to win would be a great story for the sport. It also shows how much of an improvement Nico did at the end of last year. I can’t think of any driver that overcame such a disadvantage towards his team mate in this fashion, regardless of Hamilton’s mechanical failures. At times, he was simply the fastest of the Mercedes.

      1. ‘Regardless of Hamilton’s mechanical failures”

        erm, without those failures, Rosberg wouldn’t be leading the championship, thus everyone would be talking about him in the same way they have the past 3 years.

        I seem to remember just 1 week ago he was being out qualified by half a second and was due to surrender the championship lead, until his competitors engine went bang.

        1. Mechanical failures are part of this, it can happen to either of them. I’m just pointing it out that it must be very difficult for a driver to overcome 2 championships lost. After all, something changed after Austin last year, and he’s putting a lot more pressure on Hamilton. Specially in qualyfing, he seemed lost last year in that sense until Suzuka, and that was a strong point for him in 2014.

          1. Did something change though? Or is that just perception? Hamilton had poor reliability in the first third of the season an found himself 43 points down. The following races when Hamiltons car actually held together, that points gap got wiped out, and even grew in Hamiltons favour. For me this is the indicator that nothing is any different between them. Even after the summer break and Hamilton got Spa out of the way (were he was always going to lose some, if not all of that 19 point lead) we went to Monza and again Hamilton smashed Rosberg by half a second, only to be fouled by his equipment on race day yet again. Then we headed to Singapore and low-and-behold, Hamilton is forced to miss most of Free Practice because his car wouldn’t stop breaking which put him on the back foot for the race. Malaysia? Rosberg finds himself half a second down to Hamilton in qualifying again, but surprised surprise on race day when points are handed out, Hamiltons equipment says Nope.

            Rosberg has his days, sure, like Button did, even Hamilton didn’t beat Kovalinen on every race weekend… But overall, i don’t see anything different this year from Rosberg that we haven’t already seen, except actually, that this year hes been crashing into people more.

          2. I think if you look at their four seasons together we have seen a similar cycle. In the first season Rosberg was outscored but won one more race than Lewis, albeit I think Lewis had a DNF in a race he was sure to win. In season two the headline was Rosberg out qualified Lewis – however the fact Lewis had issues with his Brembo brakes and other set backs in qualifying was ignored, but these issues actually skewed the outcome of qualifying. Lewis also came back twice from points deficits in the 2014 season to take the WDC despite losing points because of several mechanical issues either in the race or qualifying. In 2015 barely half way through the season Lewis had won so many races and outqualified Nico, that it wasn’t possible for Nico to overhaul the number of Lewis’s wins in that season – Lewis then went on to win the WDC with races to spare. In 2016 just like 2014 Lewis has been up against it from the first race, however he overcame the points deficit (caused by numerous technical issues with his car) only for it to be wiped out after a penalty and further mechanical problems. Make no mistake Rosberg is a great driver and has been better in several races than Lewis this season, but surely if he wins the WDC it is tainted by the fact his only rival has had far too many issues with his car to compete. Just to pre-empt the argument that many present saying Rosberg has had technical issues too yes, but first of all when many quote this they only consider DNFs (which Rosberg has had more) but not issues that have meant they have lost points. Secondly I don’t believe that there has ever been a race in which Rosberg has had a technical issue and been ahead in points or even in the race. Abu Dhabi is a point in case, many say if Rosberg hadn’t retired – well Rosberg was not ahead of Lewis when he retired from that race and he only had a chance because of the double points. I think what I am trying to say succinctly is that Rosberg has not improved as much people think, it’s just an illusion presented by the media and others who simply dislike Lewis. Therefore I don’t think it’s a different Nico just a different season.

          3. So, Kwaw, aren’t any of Hamilton’s championships tainted by his rivals’s misfortunes? Just Rosberg’s if he manages to win it?

          4. From day one since Hamilton joined Mercedes, the team had been helping Rosberg match him… from putting together dossiers full of HAM data to constantly coaching him on the radio until the FIA tripped over themselves trying to stop it because to most fans IT LOOKED PATHETIC! To me, it suggests rather blatantly that despite being in the team for years & having the darn thing built to his liking, Rosberg had never even discovered the limit of that car until Hamilton showed him where the darn limit was. Of course he’s closer to Lewis now… Mercedes provided the files & switched the mechanics & changed the development direction JUST TO HELP HIM COPE WITH HIS TEAMMATE! And despite all the direct help, he still needed indirect help in the form of Mechanical troubles, and the FIA again trying to cut Merc’s legs from under them with the more “random” starts to even be in the championship hunt this year. And even with all that help, he was still about to lose the championship lead YET AGAIN last week until yet another Hamilton mechanical failure. And Rosberg is the guy some are hailing as more worthy of the championship this year? Really?

          5. @kwaw Yeah, Rosberg has never retired from the lead. Just Britain 2014 and Russia 2015.

        2. Lewis Hamilton’s poor starts have cost him dearly, as far as I can remember he got off the blocks poorly in Australia, Bahrain, Italy and Japan but one cannot ignore how damage poor reliability has done to his championship hopes, all those races starting from the back and what happened in Malaysia did play a major role in the current standings and Nico himself cannot pretend his opposition was beaten round and square.

          Nico has done a very good job this year, but let’s be fair, he is the master benefactor of Lewis reliability problems.

      2. So Aldoid, what you’re saying is that if Nico wins, he will be an undeserving world champion?

        I’d really like to know where you pulled out all the drivel you’ve typed up there.

        If Nico wins the title this year, its because he made the most of opportunities. For one the greatest of all time (according to some anyways), Lewis can’t seem to “drop the clutch” properly. Mechanical issues aside, if Lewis hadn’t botched as many starts as he has, he would be in a much better position.

        Mechanical issues are a part of this sport. What goes around comes around. Remember that Lewis has enjoyed having a quick car with good reliability for most of his career in F1. Many drivers only dream of this.

        Nico may not have Lewis’ natural ability, but he works hard to make up the differences, where possible. There is no such thing as an undeserving champion. If he wins ( its still a big if because I think Nico Bottleberg will rear his head again, at least once more), he will be a deserving champion, simply because he scored the most points at the end of the season.

        1. @jaymenon10 It is not the case of ROS, but IMHO there’s such thing as undeserving champion.

        2. Jeez.

          Show exactly where even once this year NR has had to start from either the back or near the back through either his machinery giving up or having to get that incredibly rare find, you know, a Mercedes engine penalty, the ONLY ones in the last three seasons. Think about that. It’s not just this year it’s the only engine penalties of any of the 120 or more engines that have been in use since 014! That simply defies statistical probability. But it’s handed NR a championship. And thus given he has not fairly beaten his only real competitor across the season (one has to accept he is able to win around 50% of the races per season as per 014,15) because half of the races have been hit with issues for his competitor and not him.

          In fact forget the complex. Exactly when has NR ever had a compromised qualifying resulting in anything other than say a self inflicted gearbox penalty?

          Or had his car die while ahead of his team mate? Or actually won a race by an on track overtake on his team mate. Or astoundingly, won a race by overtaking anyone, ever.

          He is a seriously fast driver. No question but his race craft and sense of entitlement makes it very difficult given the issues LH has faced this year, to even suggest he is fully deserving of this championship.

          His only competitor has been eradicated. He therefore could win a championship where he was for 50% of the season, the only competitor.

          And he still screwed up some of those races when required to perform?

          Imagine he was trying to overtake Max on Sunday? Actually we have seen what happens.

          Sorry – not at all convinced.

          1. Jeez.

            Apparently Hamilton is faster, BUT he is harder on his equipment than Rosberg is.
            Why does Nico have to destroy equipment and get a penalty to satisfy you?
            Rosberg obviously has a better grasp of the clutch bite point than Hamilton does. I could be mistaken, but it seems that Rosberg has spent more time in the car this year than Hamilton has. (test sessions)
            Remove the 2 Mercedes drivers from the team and insert 2 drivers from another team. Mercedes still wins the Title and one of the two drivers are WDC.

    2. James C – for the 2014-2015 driver’s championships I can’t recall any other particular driver having mechanical failures that gave them such a disadvantage, certainly not Nico. Of course there is the fact the Mercedes had been the fastest car for nearly all the races but that is why there is the driver’s championship and the constructor’s because part of F1 is about building the best possible car within certain parameters. For the 2008 season I really don’t know, but maybe rather than asking you could do some research and find evidence showing this was the case. I know some suggest that Timo Glock let Lewis past in the last race and this took the title away from Massa. The truth is, it was a call to keep him out on tyres that weren’t right for the changeable conditions on track that caused Glock to lose track position. However that was merely one race and just a few points, Massa had not built up a substantial lead and there were times during that season that things didn’t always go Lewis’s way which more or less balanced that out. In fact the thing that contrasts the 2008 season with the last seven is that no one car was as dominant as the Mercedes or Red bull have been.

      In regards to Aldoid’s points I found this article which is one example of Rosberg being provided with data from Lewis’s car that was supposed to help him compete: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/90ad4a8ea0304ff99c916bc45ec2a0bd/hamilton-top-opening-practice
      In contrast I gather despite losing practice time in Singapore Lewis declined to set up his car based on Rosberg’s data, some may call this foolhardy but it actually shows that Lewis like’s to achieve things through the hard work of his mechanics and his own technical data. So I am not sure which part of his so called drivel he actually made up ?

      1. Seb did have many mechanical issues in one year, I think it was 2010. He managed to win WDC because his car was clearly faster and his teammate did not capitalize on his misfortunes like Nico is doing.

        1. @jcost No. He won the title because Ferrari strategists did what they do best. :P

          1. @davidnotcoulthard Ferrari did screw up too, but Seb make the best of his machinery when it didn’t fail him.

          2. @jcost To be fair there was Turkey. And Spa. Does Hungary count?

            I don’t know – it seems the days he made the best of his machinery that year was not seldom when they would actually end up breaking (3 times from the lead, 2 of which ending in a DNF). At least the car held well in the 2nd half of the season though.

  2. There are still a million ways Rosberg could lose the title but from the bottom of my heart I hope he wins it. Hamilton has been outstanding and has been pushed to another level of his already immense talent. I will never become his fan but he is truly one of the best the sport has ever seen. Rosberg as a person leaves me cold too but after years of being a Webber fan I once again find myself rooting for the underdog. I wish them all the best in 2017 and don’t think they’ll all of a sudden will drop down the field. I just hope Rosberg clinches this one title which he simply deserves. It would’ve been an entirely different situation had he won in 2014 thanks to Abu Double but despite his many mistakes even this season he has been flawless on at least as many others. It’ll also just be refreshing to see a new champion, something we haven’t seen since 2010 mind you.

    1. @xtwl – Truly well said. 👍

    2. Couldn’t agree more.

    3. Can’t argue with the points you present – it’s refreshing to see such thoughtful comments rather than the “I hate Lewis I hope he loses” ones we are used to seeing. You seem to be very fair in your assessment and I understand why you would want Nico to win the WDC. However I am still rooting for Lewis, sorry !

    4. I also think Rosberg will be a worthy champion (at least as worthy as, say, Jenson Button). I just find myself scratching my head at you calling him an ‘underdog’.

      1. I just find myself scratching my head at you calling him an ‘underdog’.

        At the start of the year, even with the end of last season, I would say he was the underdog out of the 2 Merc drivers. It was still a safe bet that one of them would take the title, and he was less likely to than Hamilton.

        As the season has progressed I would say that, more often than not, Hamilton was the underdog of the two. His early setbacks left him at a significant disadvantage, he has started badly pretty often, and generally been on the back foot all season. When things have gone right for him*, he’s showed the same level of dominance as we have seen before, but things have gone wrong* for him a lot.

        * I am not saying it was all bad luck and mechanical issues, by any stretch of the imagination. But he has had more than his share of bad luck this season. He has also had his own problems, particularly with getting away from the grid. It’s been a bad season for Hamilton, all in all, but that doesn’t make Rosberg any less deserving of the WDC (assuming he does win).

    5. I can understand your sentiment it I cannot do similar because the reality is that for much of the season NR’s only competitor has been either eradicated or starting from the other end of the grid.

      You say ‘flawless’ yet without being controversial, can I ask you to review the seasons races where he has been required to overtake, fight from say 5th or has had his only real competitor near him?

      In essence his race craft has been substantially worse this year than at any time previously.

      Monaco, Silverstone, Canada, Austria (despite an amazing strategy that put him ahead) just to name a few.

      Truth. He has benefited more from strategy snafus, race ending issues and reliability issues over the last few seasons than pretty much anyone I can think of previously bar possibly Kimis mid 2000 season.

      And that says something.

      Lucky just don’t cut it frankly.

  3. I think the Red Bull’s may still have a part to play in this championship. I see them winning again.

  4. [quote]Vettel had got by Ricciardo into fourth and shortly afterwards zapped Perez in the DRS zone.[/quote]
    I am pretty sure move on Perez was before DRS was activated.
    Also line before that says;”… pursued by Max Verstappen and Max Verstappen”

    1. True! It was before DRS, makes it the best overtake of the race :D

      1. What about Hülkenberg on Bottas, also without DRS?
        Hamilton on Ricciardo coming out of Spoon, also without DRS, was quite impressive as well.

  5. We have heard it before, but this is certainly Rosberg’s best chance to bag a title. I have to admit that I was one of those who said that Rosberg was an average driver but he has turned it around to make me believe that he deserves the 2016 title. He has earned it with the amount of wins and some dominant weekends. Wheel to wheel with Hamilton aside, should Rosberg win the title, I wouldn’t have an argument against it. He has beaten Hamilton over a full season. If Hamilton turns it around in the next four races, then he would be deserving but I struggle to see this happening with Rosberg being this measured and mature in his approach.

    1. @f1p1: “If Hamilton turns it around”
      I think the critical point now is that nothing Lewis can do on his own will change the outcome. Winning all the remaining races is not enough, Nico would have to throw the championship away by scoring less than three seconds and a third. Barring a technical failure or massive mental aberration it’s in the bag for Nico.

    2. Sorry but I just can’t let ‘he has beaten Hamilton across a full season’ sit without comment. It reads like the Button apologists.

      That is entirely unfair and a simply ridiculous statement.

      He has not had to beat Hamilton this season, reliability and his team did that for him!

      While I appreciate the game has changed with two semi unapposed candidates for the championship, when one spends half the year with engine issues compromising qualifying and then becomes the only candidate for further back of the grid fun through being the only candidate for three seasons to serve a Mercedes engine penalty? How is the other chap beating him? NR is always on to win around half the races LH does. If the others are scewed through whatever reason the chances are NR will benefit. He just has to bring it home and not crash into other. Oh hold on!

      But ‘beating him across a season’ that’s not an accurate statement at all.

      Particularly when he was ahead on points having clawed back a 50+ point penalty in four races while his competitor was given absolutely every possible chance to win?

      Then having that momentum broken post summer break and then frankly, having the team failures, the accepted (can only fix it next year) clutch issues and an engine failure (again) to follow.

      Thus a points swing the other way.

      No I am sorry any sensible observer can see that team, car and engine failures for his team mate are the only factors that could win this for Nico.

      Given equal ‘luck’ he would be nowhere.

      1. Apart from the issues he had:
        Hamilton hasnt been his best this season, think he thought it was gonna be an easy one again. Rosberg has had perfect work ethic from even last season wins.

        I think he even took his last season ending winning streak to learn how he could beat Hamilton. You could even argue Hamilton opened the door to all this by going for party mode when he secured the championship. Never show your cimpetitors weakness…

        1. To add. He learned to avoid wheel to wheel action! Qualify ahead or win at start, manage gap, boring but effective.

  6. Fingers and toes crossed for Nico, I hope he wins the title.

  7. Congratulations Hamilton for being the first driver in the history of this sport to win 4 races in a row and not win the championship. It’s incredible that he has not won a race in the second half of the season even Maldonando would win a race in that Mercedes. It’s time for the Hamilton fans to admit that he isn’t as good as they think and his reputation will be going downhill after getting beaten by an average driver like Rosberg.

    1. Errr no, bias on for this post I’m afraid.

    2. Is it that hard to admit that Rosberg is a great driver after all he has done? Funny that Hamilton diehard fans say Rosberg is only winning because of Lewis’ misfortunes, and Hamilton haters say Rosberg is winning on merit, which means Lewis is not that great… Weird…

      1. Pretty much they are both not great… The car is…

    3. This would be true if the season was already over and Rosberg had already won. Or we would be already sure Hamilton won’t win again in 2016. Or if Rosberg was really average.

      But I am sure Maldonado wouldn’t have won in Malaysia either, even with Hamilton’s car. He would have parked the Mercedes in the wall before the engine blew up.

      1. Yeah the maldonado comparisson isnt too good. Could have a game of “engine vs talent: what runs out first”

    4. It’s either Hamilton or Rosberg to be the first man not to win the championship having won four races in a row.
      I guess it means little, considering there are so many races in the last few years.

    5. Obvious troll is obvious.

  8. I hope Nico wins the title this year.
    While he has undoubtedly been lucky, he has also been utterly flawless for complete weekends – Singapore and Suzuka especially. Even at Monza, Hamilton couldn’t reduce the gap to Rosberg once both of them were in clean air.

    Rosberg has a good points lead, but then he had that in 2014 too. But back then, it seemed that Hamilton could close down the gap whenever he wanted. But now, neither luck is with Hamilton nor is he outright faster than Nico.

    1. “Even at Monza, Hamilton couldn’t reduce the gap to Rosberg once both of them were in clean air.”

      Hamilton reduced the gap from 14 seconds to 9, but as he said, and as we’ve seen with Pirelli tyres, you can’t completely reduce a gap of that size because the tyres will be ruined once you do. In 2014 when Hamilton found himself behind Robserg, it was only ever by a couple of seconds so he constantly pressured Rosberg, which resulted in errors from Nico.

      “But back then, it seemed that Hamilton could close down the gap whenever he wanted. But now, neither luck is with Hamilton nor is he outright faster than Nico.”

      In case you didn’t notice, Hamilton this year again reduced a 43 point deficit to Rosberg, and turned it into a 19 point lead, this was of course, because mid-season his car stop falling apart every 5 minutes. After the summer break, Hamilton mechanicals had returned and suffered a hydraulic leak, suspension problem, and an engine blowing up while leading the race whilst the process of again, turning around a point deficit, into a points lead.

      Rosberg has done his job, hes turned up, qualified well, and raced as expected. He’s done nothing that i didn’t already expect from him. If he wins the title this year, its because his sole opposition has been taken out of the game.

      1. Reducing gaps means nothing since the guy ahead is coasting. Rosberg has reduced gaps to Hamilton, and Hamilton has reduced gaps to Rosberg. The real speed test is extending gaps, and those are the things we should be looking at to evaluate both drivers’ race performance.

        I always felt Rosberg buckles under pressure, from his Williams days (where he was, in my eyes, as good as he’s been at Mercedes until this year). The real problem with Rosberg is that, and only that. The guy is fast as Hamilton. Of course the real problem with Hamilton is he’s a spoiled brat.

  9. I hope he wins it too. I like others thought he didn’t have it within him. I thought he was a bit weak mentally and to inconsistent to win a world title. It’ll be tight, Lewis is still in it. But it would be nice to have a new WDC and also it is 20 years since Damon joined his dad to become champ. There is a great symmetry there.

  10. Does Nico deserve the title this year? You can argue yes based on his consistency rather than speed and race craft but that’s F1! With that being said anything can and probably will happen and I think it is two races too early to say its done and dusted.

    Everything is pointing towards a Nico title but that’s why it would be a sweeter title for Lewis if he were to win it!

    1. Rather than speed? I’d need to do a proper analysis to be sure, but looking at the qualifying figures, Rosberg has had the same amount of poles. Hamilton had a couple of quali sessions where he had problems though.

      1. You know that when Ham looses it’s an unfair misfortune of the genius but when Ros looses it’s just because he’s an inferior driver… Even when he’s faster.

      2. Love the understatement!

        Lewis had a ‘couple’ of qualifying issues…

        Just class –

    2. I don’t see how Rosberg has been more consistent than Hamilton either. In fact Rosberg had races like Monaco where he was absolutely terrible.

      I think Rosberg has been stronger this year than the previous two, but if he takes the title, it would be more down to the mechanical problems and penalties that Hamilton has had to incur rather than his outright pace and race craft.

      I’m fine with either driver taking the WDC, but for the sake of fairer competition, it would be good to see Rosberg have an engine failure while leading a Grand Prix, followed by a grid penalty in the following race. If Rosberg still wraps up the title, then he completely deserves it, and if he doesn’t, then it wasn’t his to begin with.

      1. I agree but he requires three back of the grids plus one blow up while leading just to even the score.

        Bottom line there are not enough races to even the reliability score.

        Buts that’s racing…

        1. drg
          Rosberg has already been sent at the back of the grid once by Vettel in Malaysia. He’s also had a gearbox penalty in Austria, which pretty much cancels out what happened to Hamilton in Russia (Lewis was further up the grid after lap 1 in Sochi than Nico was after lap 1 in RBring).

          Therefore, all that’s left for Nico now is one incredibly lucky back of the grid charge where he is already 5th by the red flag on lap 8, and one retirement from the lead.

  11. I did notice hamilton was very thankful to his whole team on the podium, seemingly making up for his remarks last week, which makes me wonder how “clear” his head is. Maybe all these tiny distractions have accumulated a bit and if you drive Rosberg where every tenth of a second matters, it might be enough just to tip the advantage in Rosbergs way.

    1. @thetick

      Hamilton always repeats the same nonsense media script, regardles of the question…

  12. The last three years show that a massively dominant team only makes the championship boring if their drivers can’t fight each other for the title.

    Ferrari’s early 2000s and Red Bull’s early 2010s were dull because their second driver was miles behind their lead driver.

    I can already see someone arguing that Webber wasn’t the same after breaking his leg and Barrichello wasn’t even allowed to fight Schumacher, but whatever the reason, the fact is those were tedious championships, with a few exceptions (2003, 2010, 2012).

    A fierce intra-team battle is much more exciting than a two-way fight with drivers from different teams, that can get help from their team-mate (like Massa handing his Interlagos win in 2007 to secure Raikkonen’s title, that in fact was a three-way championship when Hamilton and Alonso took points from each other).

    Except for the rare occasions when we have multiple teams and drivers fighting for title, like 2010, a Rosberg-Hamilton, Senna-Prost clash is the best we can hope for…

    1. So at least half Vettel’s championship-winning seasons were not tedious……..

      1. Sure! But Webber could have made them funnier…

        1. Lets wait for next year. Three topteams with each a pair of top drivers will deliver the ingredients for a season with lots of excitement.
          I hope they all get their acts together in the start of the season.

    2. @Daniel
      I get your point, but even with Bar having a full go at MSch in that period, the outcome would be very much the same.

  13. The following food for thought shows how open can be this championship still:

    How many times Nico and Lewis gained 34 points or more in 4 races on this season?

    1. Nico won 36 points from Lewis in the first 3 races, and 43 points in the first 4 races with no DNF’s from the 2 drivers.
    2. Lewis won 34 points from Nico in 2 consecutive races (Monaco and Canada) with no DNF’s from the 2 drivers, or in 3 races if you count double DNF in Spain.
    3. Lewis won 43 points from Nico in 4 consecutive races (Austria to Germany) with no DNF’s from the 2 drivers.
    4. Nico won 42 points from Lewis in 4 consecutive races (Belgium to Malaysia) with 1 DNF from Lewis.

    Nico only has to come 2nd every race (or a 3rd in one race). How many 1-2 from Merc this season? Only 4 races in 17 races.

    Both drivers won 4 consecutive races during this season.

    With no DNF to Lewis in Malaysia the difference to Nico would be only 5 points.

    Neverthless I would put my money (but not much of it) in Nico. Just remembering that the last races for titles are proud in wheel to wheel races between contenders.

    1. Interesting points @lumberjackpt81, gives me hope for a good fight for the WDC continuing.

    2. It ain’t over till the bean counter stops,huh? Interesting and highly informative stats, thx 4 that.

    3. @lumberjackpt81 – an interesting and unique way of looking at the status quo 👍

    4. Plus Nico has had 2-3 car failures(not crashes) per season since the hybrid era began. The statistical probability of him making to the end of this season with zero failures is low.

  14. I can appreciate the arguments for Nico to be champion. I can also see the cold facts that it would be a championship by, for the main part, default. Lewis messed up today with the start,but as ‘N’ stated above “If he wins the title this year, its because his sole opposition has been taken out of the game”. Nico has not been challenged much in racing terms this year.

    Lewis had a comforting day today, his car finished. That ‘comfort’ may restore some of his confidence in his car and it is not impossible for him to recover the championship at this stage. I remember a guy who pretty much defied the impossible when he first came to F1.

    Either way, it is a Constructors Championship victory for Mercedes today and I believe most commentators would fairly assess that Hamilton has, since joining Mercedes, contributed substantially to their continued success. Nico, should he win, can only add to that. Lewis, should he win, will not simply add but magnify that.

  15. I think it is too early to say who will be the champion. But If it is Nico, is Ok for me. A new champion is always welcome.
    Lewis is at the level of Schumacher or Vettel, he has an extra quality in his hands.
    Rosberg is at the level of Button, a very good driver only, good to win one championship sometime.

    1. Although Rosberg has grown since then, I would like to point out China 2010. That, in my opinion, is a nice example of Button’s class against Rosberg’s.
      I personally rate Button higher than Rosberg because of that, and because Button beat Hamilton in the same car over three years where Rosberg didn’t.

      1. Please no.
        Button has beaten Hamilton in 2011. That’s a fact.
        Hamilton has beaten Button in 2010, 2012. That’s a fact.

        That mythical 3 years long season has never existed in F1. Never has and (hopefully) never will be.

        1. @x303 I heard the FIA wants to add another meaningless trophy next to the DHL fastest lap award though.

          1. Oh really? Do you have any idea what that could be @xtwl?

      2. Although Rosberg has grown since then, I would like to point out China 2010. That, in my opinion, is a nice example of Button’s class against Rosberg’s.

        China 2010 was a nice example of McLaren’s superior car compared to Mercedes at the time.

    2. Button beat Hamilton in their time together… Ugh. Were you even watching formula 1 during those seasons? In 2011, I would agree that Button was the better driver. In 2010 and 2012, Button was no match for Lewis in quali or the race.

      1. Even in 2011, which is much exaggerated, JB was only actually quicker in 3 races – Suzuka, India and Brazil iirc. Possibly someone may remember a 4th.

      2. One should look at the bare facts.

        In 2011 Button scored more points.

        I suggest those that assume he ‘beat’ LH check the poles, race wins and reliability or pit issues that year. Or any of the years they were team mates (2012 being a farce with JB at the back and LH at the front for half the season – and I am a JB fan!)

        The facts are simple.

        Under no circumstances did JB ‘beat’ LH where circumstances did not or had not lent a helping hand. Just like this year and that with good old Paddy around will start a thousand rumours I can assure you. As for the three year championship. Words fail me.

        Nico has been a much tougher team mate and is I hate to say afforded a car that I am sure JB would have done much better with.

        Check the stats – they are stark.

        I am happy to post them if someone wants proof.

  16. There is little to choose between Rosberg and Hamilton, both are fast and giving each other a hard time, wouldn’t be surprise if Rosberg after so many failures gets to finally win one year, the fact is that real winners are Mercedes team, they would of won the WCC with any other driver pair of the top 5 teams.

  17. It will be one of the major upsets of the year if Hamilton loses this year.it reminds me mike Tyson v /s buster Douglas match where no one expected that result that is a bit of shocker for everyone that has been lvoted as the greatest upset of the sport that year .Here the difference is the luck conspired against Lewis.dont know if luck was the only thing conspired .by looking at the reliability of two cars in the same team.even after taking new engines Lewis’s car broken in Malaysia , Singapore fp2 had played an important part in race outcome.plus why Mercedes clutch issues hampered Lewis
    more.many things seems odd and suspicious.The sport needed great champions like Hamilton not Rosberg.

  18. Why did Hamilton say he had wheelspin at the start when his in-car camera clearly showed the problem was a bog?

    1. He had wheelspin initially and lifted off to counter it, causing the “bog”

  19. I’m having serious doubts about Ferrari strategy. Do their rivals pay Ferrari Strategists ? After the 1st round of pit stops, Kimi who was ahead of both Riccardo & Hamilton was behind both. After the 2nd round of Pit Stops, Vettel who was on the tail of Max was behind Hamilton who was nowhere in the picture before. The icing on the cake was the soft tyres vettel was sent out with & told to overtake Hamilton.

  20. I am still occupied with the big end failure and would like to ask any ‘experts’ out there about the issue concerning the change in oil viscosity at extreme temperatures. I am fascinated that Merc went to a ‘more conservative oil specification after the engine failure. I believe this issue will have a bearing on the rest of the season (xcuse that pls) and on the reliability or otherwise of both Merc cars.

    1. Hey Geoffgroom, first of all, I am no mechanical expert. But as you and many fellow posters fascinated by the cutting edge engineering going into making the perfect F1 car.

      The viscosity will determine how easily the oil is pumped to the working components, how easily it will pass through the filter, and how quickly it will drain back to the engine. The lower the viscosity the easier all this will happen. That is why cold starts are so critical to an engine because the oil is cold, and so relatively thick.
      I am quite intrigued by this big end failure as explained by Mercedes. Some many years ago we saw the last one in F1 me thinks. I am actually very surprised that it could even happen, and instantly, as Mercedes say they saw no prior warning signs in any of their real-time metrics. Think though they say tha both a more conservative oil will be used for remaining races but also more conservative engine modes. So all in all, it all appears that Mercedes engine engineering have come to the point where they operate at the where limit of what is durable and what breaks in terms of the load the oil can support of bearing on the crankshaft. Clearly they are all bringing it to the very limit of running as low oil viscosity as possible while maintaining required load support. The trade-off is higher viscosity brings more drag at the bearing =>power loss and increased fuel consumption. So a compromise is made to minimize power loss, but maximise load support.
      Engine life did not use to be critical in F1 as long as it lasted for a weekend, winning is, so these high performance engines can use lower viscosity oils to maximise power output to the wheels, but then again they generate a lot more heat so may use a higher viscosity anyway. But Mercedes must have come to the conclusion, with the increased use their drivers have of the aggressive engine modes not just in Quali but also in the races, their low oil viscosities can no longer guarantee the engines to last. Reason why they have decided to limit quali engine mode time, push mode time and also gone back to a more conservative oil with higher viscosity. Not sure we actually have seen all the facts just yet, we may never will…

      1. interesting. thx. I also feel they have reached the limit with their oil.
        I have run a Briggs and Stratton 4 stroke 1.5 bhp grassclipper engine without oil. It should have seized after 3 or 4 minutes. However, it had been treated with a proprietary PTFE engine treatment and I could still put my hand on the cylinder after 20 minutes of running with no oil in the sump (it was a demo engine with a window in the sump so you could see there was no oil). It also protected the engine at cold starts as all the parts covered by oil had a 3-4 microns coating of PTFE.
        I am surprised that F1 cars do not appear to use such a friction reducing additive – or maybe they are not allowed to do so.
        Anyway, the Mercedes mystery continues.

        1. @geoffgroom44

          Comparing a 1.5hp engine to f1, lol. Probably ptfe melts in f1, temps, not sure.

          In f1 they need to force the oil to the other side of the engine, by pumping, to counter the g-forces. Just to highlight a small difference.

          Also to my knowledge the cars are still “Hot started”. By heating the engine as the cilinders are made to exact clearance of working conditions (hot), no need for cold start considerations, f1 optimises for race conditions.

          1. Your point about the grassclipper motor would be very fair if it were not for the fact that I know this product was also used in: Rolls Royces, Gravel Wagons (especially ERF), god knows how many cars and,yes,even racing cars. I of course, having owned something like 30 cars in my life, would never have thought that oil had to be pumped…even if Mercedes had themselves, in their press announcement, referred to the loss of oil pressure prior to the failure of the bearing.
            Any material/compound that reduces friction in an engine necessarily reduces heat and subsequently stress upon metals in the engine.That is the whole purpose of oil is it not?
            May I sincerely recommend you buy better PTFE frying pans if you think PTFE ‘melts’ at engine temperatures? I believe a cursory search engine useage would reveal to you that PTFE is functioning at anything up to 250-320 degrees C. whereas I understand oil temp in a modern F1 engine can top out at 150 degrees C.
            otherwise I am happy I gave you an lol. You gave me a lot :-)

          2. Very true @CarWars, a F1 engine cannot even be turned manually/mechanically when cold due to the very tight bearing and piston-to-bore clearances. So all engines are put on heaters for 20-30 minutes, where the oil and water is heated to minimum 80 degrees. And even then, they have to crank the engine for a while without firing it. This to ensure the oil is circulated through all block galleries to ensure that the pistons, rings, bearings and con rods are covered with oil and building up the pressure.
            When finally fired up and in on track racing, think they run the water under slight pressure, so around 120 degrees or so is max, while the oil is just above 100 in normal conditions and up to around 140-150 in extremes. PTFE can certainly sustain that no problem. Did not find any references in the light version of the FIA regulations, so will probably have to read the full bible to get to the specifics of the oil lubricants allowed.

          3. @geoffgroom44

            The pumping system in f1 is just a little different…

  21. I’m a Lewis fan, have been since 2007 – I’ve never invested so much emotionally in a driver and I want him to win the Driver’s Championship.

    However, if Rosberg wins (which is looking likely at the moment, though never guaranteed) then I’ll be happy for him and will consider him a worthy champion who earned it. HAM has had reliability issues and his engine might be made from cardboard, but that doesn’t mean that ROS hasn’t driven fantastically well. Would HAM be in a stronger position if he had less car failures, absolutely.

    But like someone else said, the championship is very simple – most points wins, not “most deserving driver wins” – if that were the case then a driver in one of the cars at the back of the grid might find themselves holding the trophy, and Alonso would probably have more silverware on his mantelpiece!

    1. @geekzilla9000

      most points wins

      There was a few years (I think in the ’80s?) when it was almost, but still certainly not quite, that simple.

      Thankfully those days are behind us.

    2. a very fair and sporting comment,sir

  22. I am a Hamilton fan and would love him to still win it this year. However you have to give credit to rosberg. A lesser driver would have been crushed by losing the title two years running to his teammate. But rosberg has just put his head down and worked hard to improve both his one lap pace and race pace. I have been most impressed by the way he handles his lead, not scampering off in front but doing just enough to maintain a lead but not increase the wear and tear of his car. I maintain that when the stars align and Hamilton is at his best, and not being a grump, he is unbeatable. This year though, rosberg has driven like a champion and if he does win it, he deserves it.

    1. +1.

      Nico did a great job, however he still owes us a wheel-to-wheel battle with Lewis this year, hopefully USA will be the stage.

      1. He hasn’t won yet. Dont write Lewis off, I’d like Nico to win it but Lewis is a tough competitor. He loves COTA too. Take it race by race!

        1. :-) I luv that comment

  23. Rosberg has been good enough to capitalise on Lewis’ misfortunes. That’s still pretty good, and he’s won some weekends on merit. I just wish he wasn’t a cheat.

    1. How is he a cheat?

      1. In Monaco 2014 he ran a risky first ‘banker’ run in Q3 to get to run first on the second one. Then he deliberately ran off at Mirabeau to cause a yellow flag to kill Hamilton’s second lap. After that he steered into Lewis’ tyre at Spa, as Brundle’s still frame showed, for which his team actually fined him. There have been a couple of dubious incidents since: impeding at Sepang and brake-test at Sochi in ’15, and Austria this year of course. Great pity, and the root of their hostile relationship now.

        1. He didn’t deliberately run off in qualifying to disturb Hamilton’s lap, but what’s without doubt is that Hamilton backed out onto the track after an off in Baku qualifying to ruin Rosberg’s lap as he knew he was right behind.

          Neither was the Spa incident, but what is certain is that Hamilton deliberately tried to lose Rosberg positions by backing him into people behind in Hungary, lying to the team on the radio, pretending to be slow (but they know him by now and knew exactly what was going on and warned him off).

          Most damningly for Hamilton, these incidents came not long after Rosberg most sportingly gave Hamilton his place in Monaco which in effect became a victory. Talk about payback to him and the team.

          Add to that Hamilton purposefully pushing Rosberg off the track T1, L1 several times and he as much a cheat as anybody, but I guess maybe objectivity doesn’t really count here?

          1. Mirabeau was absolutely deliberate, as virtually all the drivers thought and as the tyre load data showed. Given that Rosberg had to choose to run first to make it work, instead of second as they normally do to take advantage of track evolution, it was pre-planned and worse than Schumacher at Rascasse.

            Then Spa, for which his team fined him, making Rosberg the only one to pull a major cheat twice in a season, as far as I can think, i.e. the worst cheat in F1 history. It’s disappointing that Warwick and FOM whitewashed it, but F1 has always been corrupt. Your inventions about Hamilton don’t alter that, unfortunately.

            If it were just on the driving and he wins the WDC I’d say ‘a bit fortunate but fair enough’. As it is I can’t.

        2. Unless your in Nico’s head or part of his family then how do you know he did it deliberately. Also if Rosberg at Spa did that on purpose he has to be the greatest ever, to be that precise and not damage his wing. But most of you lot say he’s bang average so that cant be true. Also dont talk about Brundle as if he’s the know it all of commentary, he said on TV he wanted less radio chatter, 2 races in and he wants it back. Singapore, he was wondering if it was time to change the starts back even though he advocated drivers having more control. Who did he impede at Sepang, I genuinely can’t remember. Austria, he made a bad mistake but to call him a cheat is like calling a footballer who gets red a cheat. He made a mistake.

          1. We know Monaco was deliberate because as I said the tyre load data showed he could have made the corner, as Mark Hughes reported. On top of which there’s no other explanation for running first or the line he took away from the left barrier.

            There’s nothing miraculous about Spa. The wing is 550mm wide, the cars are right next to each other having slowed for the corner and he’s one of the most skilled drivers in the world in the most agile car in the world. 3 miles from the pits a puncture was race over versus some seconds for a damaged fw endplate. Brundle published a still frame showing NR steering hard Right into the LH wheel when he should have been steering straight for the apex.

            Austria was no mistake – we all saw when he turned the wheel, several metres past the apex.

  24. I think one of the main actors himself doesn’t rally believe much in his chances this year anymore. I’m talking about LH. His body language on the podium, ouch.. And beforehand he even reached out to NR first ;-)
    But no, talkin’ bout your change in behavior.. It looked like, to me, for the first time this season, he reckons he will not be able to successfully defend his title.

    1. True, Hamilton have had a couple of race weekends this season where for some reason he seems ‘off the beat’ from beginning of FP to end of race. This last one at Suzuka was clearly one of them. That said, never write off Hamilton until its mathematically impossible for him to win the WDC. One crash or mechanical breakdown from Rosberg and a win from Hamilton and the WDC race would be back and tight as ever. Not saying I endorse WDC’s decided by mechanical misfortune (I don’t!), but its part of racing for all team’s and their drivers from time to time.

  25. It pains me to say it but Hamilton is done and dusted and he knows it.

    In a way I don’t feel sorry for him because he sulks like a baby instead of manning up and standing up for himself.

    You really think Alonso or Vettel would keep quiet about these engine and starting problems if they believed it wasn’t their own fault…..

    1. To protect their team, a team they respect, yes they probably would.

      1. Take it you’ve never heard of Fernando Alonso then….

  26. I do hope Rosberg wins the championship. I truly believe he deserves it. Sure there have been issues, but he comes back fighting each week. He’s won at locations that everyone said Lewis would dominate at, he’s been on pole, delivered faster laps, and really proven he deserves this championship title.

    What has annoyed me for most of the season are the stewards and commentators. I’ve seen a dozen moves that Rosberg has been penalised for, ignored in previous seasons, yet it’s Rosberg that has been handed them. The commentators have been begging for clean wheel to wheel racing from Rosberg which is what he delivered in Singapore with Raikkonen, yet the stewards went ahead and penalised him. Even the commentators said how harsh it was. The following week, the commentators forgot and said they want to see wheel to wheel racing from him because they conveniently forgot the incident the previous week.

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