2016 Russian Grand Prix

Nico Rosberg celebrates in parce ferme

Grand Prix Photo

A crowd of sixty thousand in Sochi watched Nico Rosberg take his seventh consecutive Grand Prix victory, something made immeasurably easier by his team mate’s continuing reliability problems in qualifying. Lewis Hamilton limited the damage well enough, coming through from 10th to runner-up, putting feisty passes on Kimi Räikkönen and Valtteri Bottas along the way. Lewis’ task in this was made easier by the first lap crash of Sebastian Vettel, an innocent victim of two separate hits from Daniil Kvyat, the blame falling squarely on the Russian’s shoulders on this occasion – such that Seb made a point of having a word with his old boss Christian Horner about his charge. If it was any consolation to Seb, both Red Bulls were in the pits at the end of the lap for new wings and made little progress from there.

The more aggressive way the Williams uses its tyres relative to the Ferrari probably helped Bottas in qualifying, but worked against him in the race, Ferrari correctly judging that by staying out four laps longer in this one-stop race it could jump Kimi ahead for the final podium place. And that’s how it played out.

Any challenge Hamilton might have been able to launch on Rosberg was thwarted by a water pressure alarm on the number 44 Mercedes. But Rosberg anyhow looked to have the pace in hand to have handled that challenge even had Hamilton’s car remained healthy.

As ever, the smooth Sochi surface meant little tyre degradation and a one-stop race. “It may have been possible to have brought the ultra-soft here,” reckoned Pirelli’s Mario Isola. “But the compound choices had to be made before the teams had even tested in Barcelona.” As it was, it was less of a flat-out race than last year, the improved performance of the cars having increased their fuel consumption just enough to require careful management.


Things just aren’t going Lewis Hamilton’s way at the moment. This time he at least made it to the end of Q2, but a ‘feeler lap’ at the end of it brought that sinking feeling – the very same sudden loss of power he’d experienced at Shanghai two weeks ago. It was an identical problem with the MGU-H, but on a different unit, the one that had completed the race there. He’d qualified for Q3 but would be taking no part in it, consigned to start the race from 10th and leaving the way clear yet again for team mate Nico Rosberg. Maybe, for all the Merc’s apparently effortless superiority, they are on the edge with at least some of the technology – but whatever it was, the gremlin had struck twice on the same car. “Maybe things are a little on the edge,” allowed Toto Wolff. “I think as the regulations remain stable so it’s getting harder to find more performance and we are pushing very hard. [Mercedes HPP boss] Andy Cowell is Mr Performance pushing his guys all the way, but I have no doubt this is a group of great engineers and we will progress. But still, we finished 1-2.”

A new part had to be flown from Brixworth Saturday evening, which created certain logistical problems. “Niki [Lauda] was able to organise a plane and a slot,” explained Toto. “Paddy Lowe’s partner Nicole, who is Russian, sorted the airport and Mr Ecclestone sorted the customs. I know that the plane landed and within 90-seconds the box with the part was in a van on the way to the track. I don’t want to know how that was sorted.”

Hamilton’s problem defined Q3 as a wet blanket of a contest, Rosberg climbing out of his car with several minutes still to go – as if this were still elimination-style qualifying – correctly confident his lap (a two-lap single run, so as to give the super-softs time to come up to temperature, which they are always reluctant to do here) could not be approached. He was 0.5s clear of the opposition, the W07 absolutely in its element around this track with its 71% full throttle and its repeated low gear acceleration zones. All the Mercedes power units had been upgraded, a fuel system redesign costing two development tokens (11 remaining for the season) and accompanying this was a new Petronas oil.

Although there was never any question of the W07 being the fastest car in the place, on Friday it had been a handful, both Rosberg and Hamilton frequently to be seen locking up going into corners, correcting snaps of oversteer coming out. The increased minimum pressure requirements of Pirelli (23 psi front, 20 rear) was creating all sorts of problems for everyone as the vertical stiffness of the tyres over a smaller contact patch was extremely high, too high for what the cars really need. So in compensation the teams were having to run the springing unusually soft – and the Mercs in particular could be seen rolling dramatically on their suspensions through the building speed parabolica of turn three. Running with low spring rates not envisaged, many teams were finding themselves going beyond the designed camber range of their suspensions, impacting upon tyre temperatures, making for a tricky old set up conundrum. All this combined with the usual lack of grip from super-smooth Sochi’s surface. “There’s nothing particularly different about this track surface,” said Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola, “it’s more that it doesn’t get used in between Grands Prix so it still has that newness, so there is hardly any track evolution. As a track ages its micro texture decreases (the small stones are less sharp) but its macro texture increases (more gaps between the stones) and the bitumens dissipate etc.” It meant that there was hardly any degradation of the rubber but also bringing great difficulty in getting the tyres hot enough, especially when track temperature fell as it did in qualifying. As such, more downforce was even more valuable than usual – and the slower the car, the slower the car became relative to the opposition. It had the effect of exaggerating the difference between cars.  

“The car wasn’t great on Friday,” allowed Rosberg, “but the team made a great job of bringing it all together through the sessions. As we began qualifying it was almost there. I had a bit of understeer into Q1 so we added a bit of front flap and after that the balance was awesome. I was expecting some downsides with that change, but it was all positive. Just fantastic.”

There was no China repeat of running the soft (rather than the super-soft) in Q2 and thereby being able to start the race on it. Although the difference between the two tyres here wasn’t as big (around 0.7s), especially at the quite high track temperatures of Saturday, the degradation rates of all the tyres was so low, the super-soft comfortably able to run for more than 20 laps, that it didn’t really offer the track position advantage on race day.

Ferrari – just like Mercedes – had an engine upgrade and on one of its cars a mechanical problem. The upgrade was three tokens (leaving six remaining) for a combustion change. The problem was the gearbox on Sebastian Vettel’s car, damaged when the electrics died suddenly on Friday and seized everything up. He would thus be taking a five place penalty for a replacement unit. The upgrade is part of a cluster of developments that will not bear full fruit until other parts are added and in the meantime it’s believed the engine is still being run conservatively to protect the turbo. It appeared that it was simply out-powered by Mercedes around this very power-sensitive track, less competitive than at earlier races. Vettel set the second quickest time, 0.5s adrift of Rosberg, putting him seventh on the grid. “The car is never as strong as [the Mercedes] over one lap,” he admitted, “but our race pace is pretty good. Actually if we were going to have this problem, this is not a bad track for it to happen because overtaking is possible.”

With one Mercedes out and Vettel penalised five places, a place on the front row beckoned for Kimi Räikkönen, but he blew it. Marginally faster than Valtteri Bottas’ Williams at the end of sector two, he locked up into the final corner on the crucial lap – putting him behind the Williams. The lap was a chunky 0.5s adrift of Vettel’s.

“Partly it’s the nature if the track suiting us,” said Bottas of the FW38’s improved form, “but partly also it’s the new parts that are helping us. It definitely has made a difference.” This was a reference to the new short nose fitted to both cars, improving the airflow supply to the underbody. Team-mate Felipe Massa was 0.5s slower, fifth fastest.

Massa’s time only just shaded that of Daniel Ricciardo, the Red Bull out-powered even more than usual around this place. Furthermore looking to race day, as Daniel pointed out: “We don’t have our usual advantage on the tyres here because it’s a one-stop.” He went on to summarise the qualifying challenge of this place. “The track makes it hard to put a lap together, the grip comes and goes so it’s not easy to put all the sectors together.” There was no connection between his mirror falling off in Q2 and his running the Red Bull cockpit canopy on Friday morning for a lap.

Team-mate Daniil Kvyat lined up two places behind, 0.3s off Ricciardo’s pace. “Unfortunately we didn’t have time to do our warm up lap, so I had to go straight to the push lap with slightly cold tyres. That left us with understeer and costs us a couple of tenths.”

Sandwiched between the Red Bulls, Sergio Perez did a great job in the Force India, maximising the opportunity afforded by the Mercedes engine at this track. His laps in each of the sessions were faultless when many of those around him were being caught out by the track’s low grip. Being able to brake late but without locking up was gold dust in terms of lap time, but very difficult to achieve, and this is what Perez aced in particular. Team mate Nico Hülkenberg never got the set up that allowed him to do this, overnight changes from Friday not taking him in the direction he was seeking. He ended up a disappointed 13th.

Max Verstappen pulled out a great Q2 lap to get the Toro Rosso into Q3. With its combination of being a little too gentle on the tyres over one lap and a 2015 Ferrari engine on a power track as the others are now developing their units, the Toro Rosso was less competitive than usual. Once into Q3 though, Max’s crucial lap was slower than his potential in the final sector, leaving him ninth, between Kvyat and the non-running Hamilton. The final Q2 lap of team-mate Carlos Sainz was looking well on course to getting him to Q3 when he encountered a slowing Kvyat, leaving him a frustrated 11th.

McLaren was again knocking on the door of Q3, but not quite managing it. Button in 12th place was less than 0.1s away and 0.1s quicker than team mate Alonso in 14th. Both were limited by understeer which they were reluctant to dial out. “There’s a tipping point at which, when you dial in more front-wing, the balance suddenly shifts from under- to oversteer,” explained Jenson, “so we were being cautious in qualifying.”

The Haas remains a bit of an enigma, its speed from the first two races having just evaporated. Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez – 15th and 16th respectively – just could not conjure any grip from the car and Romain in particular was convinced there was something fundamentally amiss, but was unable to suggest what it might be. “I just don’t have the feeling with the car we had in the first two races,” he said, somewhat mystified.

Neither Renault made it out of Q1, Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer going 17th and 18th respectively, separated by just 0.1s, something of a relief for Palmer after struggling through Friday despite the fitment of a new floor. “We found something in the set up that’s put things right for me,” he explained. The car was a handful though, struggling under braking and traction in particular. In the hotter conditions of practice earlier that morning, Magnussen had found a much better balance between the front and rear of the car than what he found in qualifying. “We struggled to get the tyres into their correct operating window,” he said, “and that gave us the balance problems. It wasn’t a brilliant lap from me, either.”

Sauber’s Felipe Nasr – in a chassis new for him – vindicated what he’d been saying about the other one, by almost matching Palmer and comfortably eclipsing team mate Marcus Ericsson, who was last, slower even than the Manors. It made one wonder if the ‘new’ chassis for Felipe from this financially troubled team wasn’t simply a chassis swap. But it seems not. With the recent departure of a key race engineer, Marcus was running with Nasr’s engineer from last year and it just wasn’t gelling as they tried in vain to get the tyres into the correct temperature window. Actually, Felipe stood a chance of making it through to Q2, but locked up and ran off-track in turn two on his final lap.

Pascal Wehrlein was marginally quicker than traffic-compromised Manor team-mate Rio Haryanto, both impressing the team in their adaptation to tricky low grip conditions. The Manor was another car that didn’t respond well to the cooler track conditions of qualifying.


A beautiful day in Sochi, schools of dolphins breaking the water in the nearby Black Sea, the track still at 41-deg C and all but Hülkenberg, Gutierrez and Ericsson on the super-soft as they lined up for the formation lap. It looks great on the TV even if close-up the resort of Adler where the track is actually situated has a surreal, Disneyland feel. The hotels are spaced a long way apart, out of walking distance, apparently a deliberate choice as a counter-terrorism measure, and stray dogs roam the rubble in between. Patrolling policeman are very much in evidence, Putin-protecting snipers can be seen on roof tops.

But at least there are increasing numbers of people coming to see it. Sixty thousand showed up on race day, many carrying their Kvyat banners. The reflective glass of the pit buildings mirrored something like a vodka-enhanced image of the cars making their way slowly to the grid proper after a very slow formation lap, everyone keen to reduce the very high minimum pressures imposed by Pirelli.

The long run down through the three-abreast kink of turn one and how it funnels tight for the right-angle of turn two just invites incident – and we were to get it. Unfortunately for the crowd, Kvyat was right in the middle of it and very much the villain of the piece. Rosberg got away perfectly to lead, Bottas immediately falling behind and doing all he could to fend off the quicker starting Ferrari of Räikkönen. Kimi made a beautifully-judged late switch to the inside and in an almost action replay of last year’s start relieved Valtteri of second place. Massa looked on from just behind. The drama was unfolding behind them though as Vettel – more accelerative off the line than the Red Bulls ahead of him – sought to out-fumble Kvyat into turn two, with Ricciardo to their outside. Seb pulled off a super-late move on the brakes down the inside and was already cleanly ahead as they came to turn in. Kvyat misjudged the concertina effect as Vettel braked and couldn’t avoid touching the back of the Ferrari, nudging it into Ricciardo, slowing all three as they slewed sideways. Daniel’s car made light contact with the right-rear tyre of Perez’s Force India, which took an instant puncture.

With carbon fibre flying into the air, a few of those behind – notably Hamilton, Verstappen, Alonso and Grosjean – decided against getting involved and went pretty much flat-out through the run-off area to the left instead, taking care to stay left of the bollard there and thereby not infringe the letter of the regulation. This brought them a significant advantage, something that the more correct Button – who lost many places in the melee – felt a little sore about afterwards. “The bollard at turn two is the problem at the start because people are trying to [take advantage]. I think that needs some looking at.”

There was incident further back, too, as Gutierrez hit the back of Hülkenberg, spinning the Force India into the path of an innocent Haryanto. Hulk and Rio were out on the spot, Gutierrez needed a new front wing.

Vettel and the Red Bulls were still together, Vettel ahead, as they accelerated through the gears around turn three. Vettel, cautious that he may have damage, was very circumspect through there as Kvyat, tight behind, was looking to get a tow. Caught by surprise at Vettel’s caution, he hit it again – this time hard enough to spin the Ferrari out completely and into the barriers on the outside. It would be no exaggeration to say Vettel was incensed. The radio airwaves were turned blue. He later chose to ride the marshal’s motorcycle back to the pits himself – maybe he just didn’t trust Russian drivers…

With dead cars and carbon fibre debris littering the track, the race came under the virtual safety car, followed shortly afterwards by the actual safety car. Kvyat, Ricciardo, Perez, Gutierrez and Ericsson made for the pits. The Red Bulls received new noses and a fresh set of medium tyres each. The tyre choice was a gamble that didn’t pay off. The thinking was that this would get them to the end. Hindsight shows that the mediums were so much slower than the softs that they more than lost the extra 25s a pit stop costs. Kvyat was given a stop-go penalty for the Vettel incident, taking him even further out of contention and so he stayed with the mediums. Ricciardo, on the other hand, would eventually abandon the plan and make a second stop for softs. Either way, there would be no points for Red Bull this weekend, courtesy of Kvyat. “It was the messiest first lap of my whole career,” reflected Daniil afterwards. He was apologetic both to the team and Vettel. “Dany hasn’t ever been involved in an incident like this before,” said Christian Horner, “and I’m sure he’ll learn from it.” Gutierrez was another to be given a stop-go, for the Hülkenberg incident.

So they circulated behind the safety car in the order of: Rosberg, Räikkönen, Bottas, Massa, Hamilton, Verstappen, Alonso, Grosjean, Magnussen, Palmer (both Renaults benefitting from the carnage), Sainz (with a piece of Kvyat’s car lodged ahead of his radiator), Nasr, Button and Wehrlein. Then the pitters Kvyat, Ericsson, Ricciardo, Perez and Gutierrez.

They were let loose again at the end of lap three, Rosberg sprinting clear but Bottas immediately attacking Räikkönen down to turn three while – just behind them – Hamilton was doing the same to Massa. Valtteri made it past Kimi, just as Lewis did Felipe. Massa then had to get his elbows out to fend off Verstappen, as Alonso looked on. Rosberg was 2.9s clear of Bottas at the end of the lap and that was the foundation of his day now properly established. From now on it would just be about management – of the fuel (marginal here, but helped by the safety car), the tyres and the gap. The fastest car was at the front and the rest were fighting over his crumbs.

Bottas-Räikkönen-Hamilton would develop into an interesting little contest up to the stops, pulling out significant distance on Massa behind. The Williams is the hardest on the tyres of all these cars and Bottas was setting a pace he judged necessary to make his stint lengths – and this was allowing Räikkönen to apply pressure and Hamilton to be right up with them, aggressively pushing, power-oversteer out of turn 13. On the seventh lap, as Kimi lost momentum from an attempt at Bottas, he found himself vulnerable to attack from an opportunistic Hamilton as they raced up to turn five, the second of the tight rights after the parabolica turn. “I wasn’t sure if he had seen me,” said Lewis. “Yeah, I could see him,” said Kimi. “When I tried to pass Bottas then I was obviously close to him in there and got some understeer and ran wide, so [Hamilton] got a good run on me. I tried to block a little bit but it was too late, so I had to let him go.”

Once past the Ferrari, Hamilton was working out how he might pass the Williams. But it was quick at the end of the straights and after pushing Bottas hard for a while, Lewis dropped back a little, just kept an eye on the Ferrari behind.

This was quite a tricky situation for the Williams pit wall. As the window for the first stops beckoned, the Williams had already used up the best of its tyres. This was the downside to how quickly it fired them up in qualifying on a track where others were having difficulty in that. “It meant that there was no point staying out any longer as they [Hamilton and Räikkönen] would definitely pass us,” explained Rob Smedley. “They could have passed by pitting before us or pitting after. Had we stayed out it was even possible our tyres would have degraded so much they could have passed us on track.”

Valtteri was brought in at the end of the 16th lap and fitted in 2.7s with a set of softs which were to last him to the end. The quick Williams stop ensured he got out just in front of Grosjean’s Haas. Mercedes brought Hamilton in for his softs the next lap. Crucially, he slightly overshot his marks and was also a little to the right. The delay as the wheelgun guys shuffled up to him meant the stop was 3.2s – probably the difference between him emerging ahead of Bottas or not. They were neck-and-neck as the Mercedes exited the pit lane but Bottas had the momentum and the hot tyres and was easily ahead into turn two.

At this point the question was how much tyre life did Räikkönen’s Ferrari have? On his old super-softs could he pump in faster laps than Bottas on his new softs? Yes, turns out he could. He was 0.2s quicker on the 18th lap – so Ferrari left him out there. What’s more, Valtteri was about to be delayed fighting with Hamilton. Using DRS down the straight, through the kink and up to turn two Hamilton was down the Williams’ inside. As Bottas fought out the corner, so he was out onto the marbles as they began to turn left for turn three, Valtteri rescuing a big sideways moment very impressively. But now his rear tyres were covered in marbles and he was further delayed passing the yet-to-pit McLaren of Alonso. That lap was a full 2s off the pace – and Ferrari brought in Kimi. A super-fast stop for a set of softs and he was scuttling out the pit lane comfortably ahead of the Williams. Ironically, had Williams not made its super-fast stop and got Bottas out ahead of Hamilton, he would likely not have suffered the delay that then allowed Räikkönen to ‘overcut’ past too. Essentially the Williams was beaten by two faster cars.

Rosberg was a pit-stop plus 12s clear of Hamilton by the time Lewis had cleared Räikkönen and Bottas. But still Hamilton considered this a winnable race. He pressed on.

Before the stops Massa had been trailing Bottas by around 8s and a similar distance ahead of Verstappen’s Toro Rosso with Alonso, Grosjean and Magnussen fairly equally spaced behind. Magnussen was first of this group to pit – on lap 16 – triggering Haas into bringing Grosjean in. Magnussen’s out-lap was more than a match for Grosjean’s old-tyred in-lap (the undercut and overcut were very evenly matched through the field) and the Haas came out now behind the Renault which – not for the first time – was proving a faster race car than a qualifier on account of its gentle tyre use in Magnussen’s hands. On the other hand, Palmer in the sister car had used up his tyres by the 14th lap, when he’d been brought in. This dropped him off the back of his team mate and caused him later to be ‘overcut’ by Button’s McLaren.

Rosberg pitted without losing the lead on the 21st lap, he like everyone else but the Red Bulls, getting underway on the softs. Hamilton was just under 13s behind and going comparably fast. Räikkönen had been unable to live with this pace and since being passed by Hamilton 14 laps earlier had dropped to 16s behind, with Bottas a further 3s adrift of that and now just looking to get his tyres to the end – just like Massa well distant behind him. Perez on his off-kilter strategy because of his first lap pit stop, had risen up to sixth and it seemed like Force India was thinking of not stopping again, like Rosberg had done in 2014. His pace was still good and he was having no problem running ahead of Verstappen. Ericsson – also on a skewed strategy but having chosen super-softs on lap one, destined to make another stop – was temporarily next, ahead of Alonso and Ricciardo, the latter still struggling on the mediums fitted on lap one and being caught by Magnussen and Grosjean.

Just behind them, Sainz was making good progress in his second stint. His first had been badly compromised by the piece of Kvyat bodywork lodged in front of his radiator, losing the Toro Rosso 25 points of rear downforce and forcing an early stop to attend to the overheating. As he braked to a stop in the pits, the offending piece of debris fell out. He was in full attack mode as he rejoined and on the 23rd lap put a very robust move on Palmer through turn two/three – going off the track limits to make it work, for which he would have a 10s penalty added to his race time.

Perez felt that he wouldn’t, after all, be able to make his very old soft tyres last the distance and before it was too late Force India brought him in for a fresh set on lap 27, dropping him from sixth place to 11th, at the back of a very tight little group bunched up behind Ricciardo. This comprised Magnussen, Grosjean and Sainz. Things got mighty frantic as Magnussen and Ricciardo fought through turns two/three and four, with Grosjean slaloming past the Red Bull and just failing to pounce on the Renault too up to five. Ricciardo would be in for new softs at the end of the lap, finally surrendering the mediums. On the softs he was allowed a safe passage past Kvyat and would go on to pass Ericsson and Palmer.

Ericsson was going reasonably well on his unusual double super-soft schedule, not so far distant from Palmer and getting the upper hand over the delayed medium-shod Kvyat. Behind them, Nasr spent much of the race dicing with the Wehrlein’s Manor. The latter ended up pushing too hard on the tyres in fighting the Sauber and was forced to make a late second stop that put him at the back behind the delayed Gutierrez. Fresh super-softs late in the race did put Wehrlein artificially high up in the fastest lap list however. Nasr had been compromised by a slow puncture in his first stint, forcing an early stop that dropped him several places. He would also be having 5s added to his race time for having passed the turn two bollard on the wrong side on the opening lap – not enough to affect his final position.

Rosberg believed he had this all under control, but was always aware that Hamilton was around, still pushing. By the 30th of the 53 laps, the gap was still 12s but then Lewis began to close his team-mate down. As they hit a gaggle of lapped cars, Rosberg took longer to get through them and suddenly the gap was down to 7.7s. Verstappen’s sixth place Toro Rosso then suffered an engine failure as it entered the pit straight. This was lap 34 and for a moment it seemed as if this could be Hamilton’s chance. If there was a safety car to retrieve the broken-down car, the gap would be wiped. But Max managed to pull off to a safe place. Hamilton was delayed in lapping Wehrlein by the Verstappen yellow flags but he followed up with the fastest lap of the race so far to bring him within 7.5s of Rosberg. Nico, thus alerted, responded with a lap a full 0.6s faster even than that. But he needn’t have worried – Hamilton was about to be slowed with another mechanical problem. The water pressure was falling. “I stopped using full throttle on the straights,” explained Hamilton in how he brought things back under control. As he did this, Rosberg built up his lead all over again. That was effectively the end of any tension regarding the victory.

Räikkönen was having a now lonely time in third, well clear of Bottas. Fifth-placed Massa was having an even quieter race but suddenly seemed to perk up, picking up his speed significantly between laps 30 and 40. But all this did was kill his rear tyres. He had enough of a gap over Alonso that Williams was able to bring him in for a free second stop seven laps from the end.

Alonso, with one eye on the fuel gauge all race, occasionally let rip with a full-on fast lap just for the fun of it. This netted him fifth in the fastest lap list, 1.25s adrift of Rosberg’s best – which was set on the penultimate lap. Even on Nico’s final lap, under no threat, he set the race’s fastest sector two time. This gave him his first full grand slam victory: pole, start-to-finish in the lead and fastest lap. It also increased his points lead over Hamilton to 42 points. As he says, it’s only race four so nothing to get excited about. Another way of looking at it is: it’s only race four and already he’s 42 points clear.

Alonso was a lapped sixth, unchallenged by Magnussen. Just behind the Renault, Grosjean gave a masterclass in defensive driving as Perez, on tyres 10 laps newer, relentlessly attacked the Haas but to no avail. “Romain had very good traction onto the main straight,” surmised Sergio, “and that made it impossible to get a run at him.” Button made it a double-points finish for McLaren with 10th, his race severely compromised by losing all those places in the first lap chaos. That moment where the McLarens split off – Alonso full-throttle to the run-off area, Button circumspect through the corner – summarised the difference between them as well as that between sixth and 10th places. Sainz kept Ricciardo at bay over the last few laps but after his penalty was applied would be classified behind him.

“I was feeling really comfortable today,” said the victor, “especially at the end of the race. In the last 15 I opened the gas and pushed a little bit more because I knew it was safe to push and definitely get to the end of the race with that set of tyres. It was working really well. The whole weekend. Even in qualifying. Seldom had such an awesome car.”

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