'Wild scenes' in the F1 stewards' room: inside view from a penalty controversy
It could have been the corner that changed the course of the title race. The door closed on Lewis Hamilton, but he went on to win the grand prix after…
Nico Rosberg looked as if he’d rather have been anywhere else in the world than sitting next to Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel answering questions about how it feels to be a multiple world champion. Stony faced at every one of their jokey little asides, he couldn’t have made his displeasure more obvious. There’d been the incident with the hat too – in the waiting room behind the podium as Lewis threw him a cap and Nico threw it right back at him with a look of intense irritation.
There are a couple of obvious points that may have been at the root of his annoyance – the way Hamilton had banged wheels with him at turn one seconds after the start, a more extreme version of what he’d done to him at Suzuka. Or maybe it was irritation at himself for having thrown the race away in the late stages when the various safety cars had played to his favour to put him ahead of Hamilton with just nine laps to go; a little too hard, too early on the power and there he was sliding offline, onto the runoff – and there went Lewis, a silver flash to his right, a third world title his. It’s got to be hard to take when the guy keeps doing this to you. But that’s Lewis Hamilton the unstoppable force.
Niki Lauda knows exactly where Rosberg was coming from. “There was the first corner and I understand why Nico is upset about that. But then he had everything back under control and was going to win the race, then he made the mistake. That’s really why he is annoyed, I think. Because he had it in his hands even after what happened at the first corner and then he screwed it up. He was only going to delay Lewis’ championship by winning here, but this would have been important to him. I delayed Prost’s championship at Zandvoort many years ago, so I know what it means to have lost anyway but to want to give a final message of ‘take that, guy’ and Nico today missed his chance of doing that.”
Rosberg wasn’t the only one thinking ‘if only’. Sebastian Vettel might have won this race from 14th on the grid but a possibility that was created by one safety car was denied by another. Had the race stayed wet – it began with the field on inters – then Daniil Kvyat is convinced he could have won it, for the Red Bulls were actually much quicker than the Mercs in these conditions and the young Russian did actually briefly take the lead from Hamilton. Daniel Ricciardo in the sister car eventually thrust his way to the front, but even before he was assaulted by Nico Hülkenberg he’d lost out to the Mercs’ much superior pace once the track had quickly dried.
This race was reset many times thanks to two safety cars and two VSCs. Each time it changed the complexion – and probably the result – of the race. Only at the fourth time of asking did the dice fall in Hamilton’s favour. And from there all that was required was a small error from Rosberg and we have the second British triple world champion, 42 years after the last. “I realise that what I do is a platform to inspire young people,” said Hamilton, “and from today I hope the message is never give up. So many times I thought I’d lost this race but never for one second did I think I couldn’t do it. As I was following Nico after the last safety car I was thinking, ‘OK, there’s the world championship, right in front of me. How am I going to get it?’ It was so close I could smell it.”
Such a hazy-mazy sort of race was a fitting reward to those fans present who’d braved the horrible conditions of the previous two days only to see very little action. On Friday morning they’d even been told the circuit wouldn’t open until noon but the cars went out at 10am, such was the confusion and disruption caused by the floods. It really was exceptionally bad luck that the break in the region’s recent drought should have come in such spectacular fashion on the same weekend as the race.
A third of the county’s average annual rainfall was said to have dropped in three days here – and most of that seemed to be on Saturday, when conditions were truly biblical in the afternoon. Postponement after postponement came until eventually it was confirmed that they would try to run qualifying at 9am race day. And that’s what played out – but only for a wet-tyred Q1 and Q2. At the end of the second session, with the rain increasing again, the track was adjudged too wet and so the Q1/Q2 sessions formed the grid: Rosberg taking his third successive pole a couple of tenths ahead of Hamilton, with Ricciardo best of the rest around 1sec slower.
On Saturday morning practice Rosberg had aquaplaned off at turn three and lightly damaged the left-front suspension. In doing so he’d also flat-spotted one of his three sets of wets. So with only two to work with for qualifying and race, he was using his shaved flat-spotted set in Q1 and Q2, saving one of his fresh sets for Q3. It was all the more impressive then that he was a couple of tenths faster than Hamilton in both sessions – though giving best to Ricciardo in Q1. “Yes, I was just very comfortable in the car,” reported Nico. “The car is great in any conditions, on any tyre. But in these conditions it’s about adapting to the changing track. There’s a line through the water, making it more grippy there, and you keep finding the new limit, then it starts raining more again. You’re still trying to improve when it’s not clear if the track is getting slower or not.
Hamilton seemed a little crestfallen at Q3’s cancellation: “I think we could have dried it out enough ourselves just by running on it – but there you go. I was looking forward to fighting it out in Q3.” He was one of many to have spun at the fast downhill kink of turn 10 in Q2 where the problem wasn’t so much the water through the corner but that which was draining downhill on its exit.
Ricciardo reckoned the extra little bit of rain from Q1 to Q2 played to Mercedes’ advantage. Otherwise he’d fancied his chances of repeating what he’d done in Q1, where he was a couple of tenths faster than Rosberg. He was a full 0.5sec faster than team-mate Kvyat who lined up fourth.
The Ferraris were taking 10-place penalties for fresh engines. Vettel was fifth fastest, having only narrowly escaped going out in Q1. He’d spun at turn 10 and lightly touched the wall and so was in the pits for repairs as the track was improving towards the end. Only big moments from the Sauber drivers on their final laps rescued him. Into Q2 he was a regular 1sec faster than team-mate Kimi Räikkönen, who was three places back.
The Force Indias were in great shape, with Sergio Pérez and Nico Hülkenberg going sixth and seventh (fifth and sixth after Vettel’s penalty), Sergio taking longer to get up to speed in these conditions than Nico, but acing it when it mattered.
As is usually the case in the wet, Williams was struggling for rear grip and had Q3 happened ninth fastest Felipe Massa would have been the team’s only representative there. Valtteri Bottas was back in 12th struggling particularly with traction, later traced to a damper problem. In addition he would take a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. Max Verstappen got his Toro Rosso comfortably through to Q2 but went only 10th fastest there. He’d been struggling even more than everyone else with track time, an engine problem keeping him from any representative running in P3. Team-mate Carlos Sainz didn’t even get a qualifying lap in before going off at the treacherous turn three and taking off the left-front. In P3 the day before, which at that stage might have been forming the grid and was approached as such by everyone, he’d been an impressive fifth fastest. Hamilton had topped that particular session with a beautiful lap, 0.8sec ahead of Vettel, with Hülkenberg a resounding third.
Fernando Alonso, in the McLaren with its new Mercedes-like front wing, Ferrari-like slotted footplates ahead of the rear wheels and upgraded Honda engine was 11th, albeit a chunky 3.4sec off the pace of the Mercs. Romain Grosjean out-qualified Lotus team-mate Pastor Maldonado for the 15th time in 16 races, always a few tenths faster. “We always knew the deficit to the fastest cars would increase in the wet,” accepted Grosjean. Maldonado reported it difficult even holding the car in a straight line such was the lack of rear grip.
Jenson Button’s old-spec Honda-powered McLaren nestled between the Lotuses and was another complaining of an acute lack of rear grip in the conditions. Those besides Sainz not making it out of Q1 were the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr and the Manors of Alex Rossi and Will Stevens.
The rain had finally stopped about an hour before the 2pm start. The track’s terrific drainage and a stiff wind saw the surface quickly drying out and it was good for inters at the start – not a tyre anyone had been on at any previous point in the weekend. Rosberg was very unhappy with how his car felt on the way to the grid, with a crazy amount of wheelspin and locking front brakes.
Inters phase – Ricciardo the man
More wheelspin at the start saw Rosberg lose out to Hamilton who hugged the inside as they accelerated up that steep hill to turn one. The two Mercedes turned into there side-by-side, Hamilton squeezing Rosberg out towards the exit kerb, like he’d done at Suzuka but more extreme. This time they banged wheels and from in-car it was pretty obvious that Hamilton could have used more lock to have given Rosberg room – rather than sending him onto the run-off, with the Red Bulls and Pérez streaking past as he rejoined.
While that was happening Massa was understeering wide mid-corner, smack into Alonso’s left-rear wheel, this spinning the Williams and damaging the McLaren. Massa rejoined, Alonso limped to the pits with a puncture. In related incidents, Grosjean’s Lotus hit the back of Bottas’ Williams – and both would be in for repairs at the end of the lap. The two Saubers collided, with Nasr damaging a front wing and pitting a lap later. The two Manors also came together, damaging Stevens’ rear-wing endplate and making him the race’s first retirement. Rossi would get going again after repairs.
As Ricciardo and Kvyat charged down the hill to the fast right of turn two, Daniil had the momentum and braved it out around Ricciardo’s outside to take up second place. Rosberg retaliated on Pérez down the long back straight between turns 11 and 12 to take fourth place back, with Pérez closely followed by a group comprising team-mate Hülkenberg, the Ferrari of Vettel – who’d benefitted greatly from the turn one carnage – Verstappen’s Toro Rosso and Räikkönen’s Ferrari. Behind them were Sainz’s Toro Rosso (from last on the grid!), Button’s McLaren, Ericsson’s Sauber, Massa and Maldonado’s Lotus. High-speed puffs of plooming spray were spat from the diffusers as the cars danced over the standing water that lay mainly in the middle sector. This, in fact, would make this opening stint of the race very tricky for the middle sector remained too wet for slicks, while the drier sectors one and three quickly burned the inters up.
1 L Hamilton Mercedes 1h50m52.703s
2 N Rosberg Mercedes +2.850s
3 S Vettel Ferrari+3.381s
4 M Verstappen Toro Rosso +22.359s
5 S Pérez Force India +24.413s
6 J Button McLaren +28.058s
7 C Sainz Toro Rosso +30.619s
8 P Maldonado Lotus +32.273s
9 F Nasr Sauber +40.257s
10 D Ricciardo Red Bull +53.371s
11 F Alonso McLaren +54.816s
12 A Rossi Marussia +1m15.277s
DNF D Kvyat Red Bull 41 DNF
DNF N Hülkenberg Force India 35 DNF
DNF M Ericsson Sauber 25 DNF
DNF K Räikkönen Ferrari 25 DNF
DNF F Massa Williams 23 DNF
DNF R Grosjean Lotus 10 DNF
DNF V Bottas Williams 5 DNF
DNF W Stevens Marussia 1 DNF
Both Bottas and Nasr had decided to gamble on an immediate switch to the soft-compound slick tyre in an attempt at rescuing their races as they pitted for damage. They were each massively off the pace, teetering around totally gripless. Nasr returned for a corrective stop to inters a lap later. Bottas persevered for another four laps before surrendering. He did only one part-lap on his newly-fitted inters however, as a rear damper failure forced retirement.
It was very apparent that the Red Bulls were much quicker than the Mercedes in these conditions, with Kvyat climbing all over the rear of Hamilton but without the straightline speed to make a pass. The Merc was over-working its rear tyres, giving oversteer and locking rear brakes, but the Red Bulls were beautifully balanced. Rosberg fell away from the back of Ricciardo – though they were all pulling quickly clear of the Pérez-headed queue behind. Sergio was being typically canny with his tyres. Keeping the inters in one piece long enough to co-incide your stop with when the track was ready for slicks was going to be key. So this phase of the race became a strange dance – one where even the leaders were lapping no faster than they had in qualifying when they’d been on full wets.
But the cautious pace that Pérez was setting was bunching up those directly behind. Vettel slipped by Hülkenberg – who was struggling with the inters – on the long run down to turn 12, leaving Hulk to fend off Verstappen, Räikkönen and Sainz. On the fourth lap Verstappen went by the Force India into turn 12, with Hulk then side-by-side with Räikkönen. As he tried to defend from the Ferrari, Hülkenberg was zapped also by Sainz and so fell to the back of the group.
Up front, Kvyat was getting ever closer to Hamilton and launched a late one down the inside of turn one to begin the fifth lap. He was briefly in the lead – but only until running wide on the exit, where Hamilton was able to repass on the inside. A few moments later the race came under a virtual safety car so that the debris littering the exit of turn one could be safely cleared. The VSC was released part way through the eighth lap – and Rosberg caught Ricciardo napping, pouncing upon the Red Bull between turns two and three. Nico got hard onto Kvyat’s tail and exited the hairpin of turn 11 with the Merc motor giving all it had, allowing him to slipstream effortlessly by on the straight, long before the braking zone. “There wasn’t much you could do about that, Daniil,” his engineer reassured him, as the Mercs were now in their familiar 1-2 formation.
Through the slower turns that follow, the Red Bulls were still crowding the Mercs, but the silver cars simply had the grunt to cover themselves at the passing places elsewhere in the lap. This was frustrating Kvyat, who on the 13th lap tried a late-braking lunge on Rosberg up to turn one, only to go wide onto the run-off – this allowing Ricciardo to pass. Now freed of his team-mate, Daniel set to attacking Rosberg immediately – and succeeded where Kvyat had failed, forcing the Mercedes to run wide exiting turn one and zapping him on the exit.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 327
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 251
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 247
4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 123
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams 111
6 Felipe Massa Williams 109
7 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 76
8 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 74
9 Sergio Pérez Force India 64
10 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 45
11 Romain Grosjean Lotus 44
12 Nico Hülkenberg Force India 38
13 Felipe Nasr Sauber 27
14 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 26
15 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 18
16 Jenson Button McLaren 16
17 Fernando Alonso McLaren 11
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 9
19 Roberto Merhi Manor Marussia 0
20 Alexander Rossi Manor Marussia 0
21 Will Stevens Manor Marussia 0
22 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 0
Hamilton lay just ahead – still struggling with his locking brakes, wheelspin and snappy rear end. Ricciardo was upon him, getting side-by-side on the downhill run between turns one-two on lap 15 before tucking back in. The decisive move came at the long loop of turn 18 later in the lap as Hamilton went wide, struggling for rear grip, and Ricciardo drove clean around his outside to take the lead. From fourth to first in four laps, it was beautiful, clinically judged racecraft. A lap later Ricciardo was 2.6sec ahead of Hamilton and pulling away. Lewis was by now really struggling with his rear tyres – and even Rosberg was soon trying to pass him, briefly getting ahead into turn 12, with Lewis retaliating on the exit.
Seven seconds behind, Pérez continued to lead the next group, where things were getting thrillingly fraught. Verstappen went ahead of Vettel into turn nine but ran wide, then incurred Räikkönen’s displeasure by banging wheels with him to stay ahead. Kimi then came under attack from the other Toro Rosso of Sainz, who got ahead briefly before running wide at turn 12 and allowing Räikkönen back through.
Change to slicks – Rosberg set to dominate
Ericsson had pitted his Sauber on lap 16 for a change to option slick tyres. His middle sector was immediately better than he’d been doing on the inters – and he was followed in immediately by Button. The others ahead of Jenson were past the pit entry by the time Ericsson’s sector time came. Mercedes called in Hamilton on the 18th lap, shortly before he was passed in the turn 12 DRS zone by Rosberg who’d got his rear tyres to hold on longer.
Hamilton pitted at the end of the lap but Red Bull wasn’t convinced the track was ready yet and left both its drivers out for another lap, Ricciardo pitting from the lead and far enough ahead of Kvyat that Daniil could come in on the same lap without being delayed. Rosberg came in at this time too.
Ricciardo exited still leading, while Hamilton’s gripless in-lap saw him lose time to Rosberg, who was 3sec behind Ricciardo, and Kvyat – who exited just ahead, in third. In the group behind, Force India left Pérez out for an extra lap after Vettel and Verstappen – and this lost him places to them. Struggling badly to get the slicks up to temperature, he was now under attack from Sainz and would soon succumb to the Toro Rosso. Räikkönen had fallen out of this group with an off on his out-lap. The Ferrari hit standing water and slid into an exit barrier, wedging itself against an advertising hoarding. With a bit of vigorous wheel turning and clutch slipping, Kimi managed to extricate himself, but the impact damage blocked a brake duct, causing the disc to overheat, bringing about his retirement a few laps later. Grosjean had long since retired for a similar reason, the ducts blocked from his first lap touch with Bottas. Massa retired from a lowly position just a couple of laps before Räikkönen, with the Williams suffering the same damper problem as Bottas.
The change from inters to slicks had brought the Mercs and Vettel’s Ferrari alive, but had dulled the Red Bull. Rosberg quickly closed down on Ricciardo – and passed him for the lead under DRS into turn 12. A few seconds behind them, Hamilton did the same to Kvyat. Daniil was now being caught hand-over-fist by Vettel. “The car was fantastic on the options for the first couple of laps,” related Seb. Two laps later Vettel went past Kvyat at the same place Hamilton had.
Rosberg was nailing a super-hard pace at this time, making this race his own. By the time Hamilton had found a way past Ricciardo, Rosberg was over 10 seconds ahead. Kvyat, really struggling on the slicks, was only 3sec ahead of – and being caught by – Verstappen who had pulled out a decent gap on Hülkenberg, who had passed both the struggling Pérez and Sainz and was absolutely flying. Only the Mercs were lapping faster than him at this point.
Then Ericsson’s car suffered electrical failure as he exited turn 11, an awkward place from which to retrieve a stationary car. The safety car was duly scrambled.
Phase 3 – Vettel’s race
For Mercedes, this was too soon after the last stops to take advantage of the safety car by coming in again. With 29 laps still to go, Rosberg’s tyres were only eight laps old, Hamilton’s nine. Twenty-nine laps would have been a stretch for another set of softs. But what if you were to gamble that a set of mediums would get you to the end? Ferrari brought Vettel in to do just that. “Yes, it made sense for us,” said Vettel. “The options were falling off quite dramatically, with front graining. With a green track that’s what happens.” His gap was such that he lost only one place – to Kvyat – in pitting, while the 15sec gap to leader Rosberg was largely nullified. He was followed in by much of the midfield – Verstappen (options), Hülkenberg (primes), Sainz (primes), Pérez (primes) and Button (options).
Rosberg could consider himself extremely unlucky in the timing of this safety car. Not only had his 10sec advantage over Hamilton been wiped, but he was now at a strategic disadvantage to Vettel too. Lined up behind the safety car the two Mercs led Ricciardo, Kvyat, Vettel, Verstappen, Hülkenberg, Pérez, Button and Sainz, the latter having lost out to Button with a slow stop.
As racing got underway again the Mercs – knowing they had to attempt to build up enough time to buy an extra stop – sprinted away, Hamilton keeping Rosberg in his sights but unable to pass. Kvyat, struggling for heat in his tyres, went off the track exiting turn one, allowing Vettel up to fourth. The Ferrari caught Ricciardo within a lap. After not quite making a move stick through turns 12-13, the Ferrari went through turn one side-by-side with the Red Bull, with Vettel getting ahead as they flew down the hill to begin lap 34. He was now up to third and 7sec behind the Mercs. They were lapping faster than him but needing to make up an extra 16sec. They were probably going to run out of tyre life before they’d achieved that. This was shaping up into Vettel’s race.
1 Mercedes 574
2 Scuderia 374
3 Williams 220
4 Red Bull 150
5 Force India 102
6 Lotus 70
7 Toro Rosso 63
8 Sauber 36
9 McLaren 27
10 Marussia 0
Verstappen on his fresh option tyres passed Kvyat into the turn 11 hairpin, immediately following up with a DRS pass on Ricciardo into turn 12. Kvyat ran wide onto the run-off here and was passed by Hülkenberg. Both Red Bulls were struggling now and Hulk was closing down on Ricciardo. Just as Hulk lined up the Red Bull at the end of the DRS zone on the back straight and dived for the inside, the Force India’s front wing – damaged in the early laps – collapsed. Unable to get fully alongside before the apex, he came into hard contact with the Red Bull, destroying the Force India’s front suspension and making it an instant retirement. A virtual safety car was imposed while marshals cleared the car to a safe place.
Phase 4 – back to Rosberg
This was a disastrous development for Vettel, for it meant the Mercs could get a free pit stop – getting onto fresh tyres without anything like the time loss to the Ferrari of a stop at full racing speeds. Rosberg came in and was fitted with a new set of options. Hamilton stayed out. To have pitted Hamilton would have required him to have been stacked for a vital few seconds. “Stacking would have made it much more difficult to recover that position to Nico,” explained Toto Wolff, “and we were not sure it was the right call. Because we wanted to check the wear on Nico’s old tyres and only then could we understand what was the right call.”
In other words, Mercedes had split its strategy. As it happened, the wear rate shown on Rosberg’s discarded tyres strongly suggested that Hamilton would not be able to complete the distance without stopping. The plan was therefore to bring him in next lap – on the assumption that the VSC would remain in place. But when the VSC was released part-way through what was going to have been Hamilton’s in-lap, he now had to stay out, as to pit would cost positions. He was still leading – with 5sec in hand over Vettel and 8sec on Rosberg – but he’d need to stop again, and they didn’t. With just 16 laps left, Hamilton was surely now going to finish no better than third. Rosberg meanwhile was on brand new option tyres in a Mercedes against Vettel’s Ferrari on 13-lap old primes. He’d surely devour the Ferrari. It took only two laps for Nico to catch and pass Sebastian, going ahead into turn 12 and quickly pulling away. Hülkenberg’s front wing problem had gifted Rosberg a race that the earlier Ericsson electrical failure had taken away from him.
Aided by the timing of his tyre stops and the earlier bunching by the safety car, Verstappen was less than 6sec behind Vettel at this point and well clear of Button and Alonso. The McLarens had risen to fifth and sixth. Their earlier big deficit to Pérez had been wiped by the Ericsson safety car and upon resumption of racing Button had passed the struggling Force India. Alonso had done likewise after the Hülkenberg VSC was rescinded. Sainz lay just behind Pérez but was struggling now with his tyres, the primes just not suiting him. Maldonado behind him had no great pace but just kept the Lotus chugging along, the gaps that built being eliminated each time by the safety cars/VSCs. Ricciardo, with his damaged car, was slow, and allowed Kvyat by – but both had pitted for fresh rubber under the VSC and were now behind Maldonado.
Kvyat was chasing down Maldonado when he took a little too much apex kerb at turn 19, this putting him onto the still-wet astroturf on the exit and from there the Red Bull looped into a high speed spin, straight into the inside wall. “I was driving a bit over my limit,” he admitted, “just tried to carry a bit more speed but it didn’t work out and I’m disappointed with myself.”
Cue another safety car!
The final phase – Hamilton
This was perfect for Hamilton. It meant he could now make his pit stop, almost for free – and in he dived from the lead. He exited having lost position only to Rosberg. Vettel too came in – again. This was just a no-lose late throw of the dice, a reaction to the safety car. He was fitted with a set of options and the stop lost him a place to Verstappen, who would surely be passable. He would then be on fresher tyres than Rosberg. Button also chose to pit at this time – reasoning that the fresh tyres would probably be enough to see him past the cars – Alonso, Pérez, Ricciardo – he’d lose position to by pitting. Toro Rosso did the same thing with Sainz, losing him a position to Maldonado.
Rosberg no longer had a potential pit stop’s advantage over Hamilton – but he still led the race, and his tyres were only five laps older than his team-mate’s. It was still his race to lose. And that’s what he did. Racing resumed on the 47th lap, with nine to go. Rosberg streaked off, Hamilton went with him. They crossed the start/finish line 1.6sec apart. But entering the loop of turn 16-17-18, from low speed, he gave it just a little too much throttle, the wheels spun, the car twitched to the left, onto the artificial grass and the run-off – and Hamilton was through.
“The wheels just spun up,” said Rosberg. “It’s never happened to me, ever. Not in testing or racing. I can’t explain it, it’s unbelievable… I’m not saying there was something wrong with the car. For now I’m assuming that it’s a mistake I made, just getting too much wheelspin going away on cold tyres. But it felt very strange and has never happened to me before.”
All that was left to play out as Hamilton responded to Rosberg’s fastest race lap to keep himself clear was whether the fresh-tyred runners could pass those that had stayed out. Vettel immediately took Verstappen at turn 12 and came back at Rosberg, but not by enough to prevent a Mercedes 1-2. Sainz launched himself down the outside of Ricciardo into turn one, rubbing wheels against sidepod. Carlos got through but as they bundled each other to the exit, so Button was able to jump ahead of them both. Ricciardo would later pit with damage from the incident, have a new set of options fitted and rejoin.
Next target for Button was team-mate Alonso – whom he passed, surely with some relish, along the pit straight to go sixth, behind Pérez. Alonso was complaining of a power loss. It was later cured with a switch re-set, but Jenson was long-gone by then, and Fernando had also been passed by Sainz, Maldonado and Nasr for seventh, eighth and ninth. Sainz launched one down the inside of Button into turn 11 but Jenson, knowing Carlos had been given a 5sec penalty for crossing the pit exit line didn’t fight it, and chuckled on the radio: “He’s a bit of a nutter, isn’t he.” With the penalty awarded, Sainz duly went back behind Button in the official order.
Ricciardo, with his damaged bodywork but new tyres, picked off Rossi and – on the last lap – Alonso, to take the final point. His day had promised so much more.
Hamilton’s on the other hand had not initially looked all that great, but brightened considerably. Rather like the Austin weekend, in fact.
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