F1 2014 Chinese Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton now stands four points behind Nico Rosberg after his third consecutive win in season 2014.
TV: Sky Sports F1 (UK), NBC (USA)
Lewis Hamilton stormed to his third consecutive victory in Shanghai with a faultless race that had everyone else trailing in his wake. It was quite an exquisite performance, especially considering his troubles on the Friday, but there was little doubt over who deserved to win this race and take the 25 points home.
Hamilton’s race was effectively won, barring any miracles, with an amazing showing in qualifying. In the wet conditions where every other driver struggled for grip and pace, Hamilton shone so far ahead, the rest where left pondering whether they’d been racing on a different circuit.
It’s these performances that remind us why there is such tremendous hype around Lewis Hamilton, a driver who has relatively underachieved for the talent that he seems to possess. His third win in a row means he positions himself four points behind teammate Nico Rosberg, who battled well to recover to the second step of the podium.
After a poor start, Nico Robserg’s luck appeared to have deserted him. A devastating missed opportunity in Bahrain, and having fallen so far behind Hamilton in the opening lap, Rosberg could have been forgiven for believing that this just wasn’t his month.
Even though he was driving the Mercedes, a car that has proven itself to be so much faster than its rivals, he still drove a sensational recovery race to minimise the damage and maintain his championship lead into the European swing.
What’s become abundantly clear in the first four races of Formula 1’s brave new world, is that there are only two drivers competing for the World Championship, something that could be the case for the foreseeable future. The Mercedes AMG F1 team have invested so much time, money and effort into developing their car for this season that, even though they have quite comprehensively succeeded, they have also comprehensively killed of all competition.
It would be remarkable to see any other team win a race by outdriving a Mercedes’ car, of course barring any failures to the Mercedes’ cars themselves.
Due to this complete dominance, it’s better to reflect on third place as the best of the rest. In the Chinese Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso was perhaps the driver of the day, after Hamilton, with such a calculated and calm race to the podium it was reminiscent of the Spaniard’s sensational 2012 form.
While Alonso’s long awaited quest for a third title is definitely not going to materialise this year, Ferrari appear to be making positive changes in their performance, starting with a change in management. While Stefano Domenicali was by no means the root of their perennial struggles, Ferrari’s change in team principal was a much needed one, bringing a fresh face to head the team as they attempt to get back on track to where they expected to be this season, the number two team behind Mercedes.
Red Bull escaped from the Chinese Grand Prix by avoiding a major disaster. For the second race in a row the team asked their star four time World Champion Sebastian Vettel to move over for their number two, Daniel Ricciardo. In Bahrain Vettel responded surprisingly well, taking the team orders and following them without any fuss. However, pulling the same stunt for the second time proved too much for the German, and his response of “tough luck” perhaps gave us the clearest indication of where the power lies in Red Bull Racing. Would this have been any other driver in any other team, almost definitely a sterner message would have been heard, this time in the form of a command, not a request. This is the second clear time within 13 months that Vettel has blatantly denied team orders. Last year in Malaysia, it shattered the frail remnants of the relationship that existed between Vettel and Webber, ultimately causing Webber to quit Red Bull and F1 altogether. This time Red Bull have luckily saved face due to Ricciardo’s more and more tremendous driving ability, allowing him to negotiate Vettel fair and square. However, the next time such a situation arises and Vettel doesn’t obey, the team have to stand strong and punish their driver, no matter how many races and pole positions he has won.
All in all, the Chinese Grand Prix was a bit of the same old same old, nothing new as far as this season goes. Unfortunately for racing fans, it doesn’t appear as though the current status quo of F1 is going to change anytime soon. Mercedes are simply way too good for any team to make a challenge in the foreseeable future.
However, Mercedes can’t maintain this dominance forever, at least to this extravagant margin. The law of diminishing returns tells us that at some point other teams will have a steeper development curve that is able to reduce the gap the Silver Arrows, perhaps even close it.
Until that point, bring on Barcelona, and bring on another Mercedes victory.
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