Today’s German Grand Prix marked the halfway point in a 2014 Formula 1 season dominated by Mercedes AMG Petronas.
The Hockenheimring played host to Round 10 of the World Championship but you wouldn’t have guessed much was at stake by the thousands of empty seats around the track. FOM have taken considerable criticism in recent months over the absurd prices they’re charging for tickets. Given that Germany is one of the wealthiest and most motorsport-crazed countries on the calendar, the lack of attendance further raises criticism.
On the heels of the German National Football Team’s World Cup dominance, the Formula 1 media made sure the attention was on Nico Rosberg, who was coming off of a retirement at Silverstone. The driver has been particularly vocal about half German heritage in the last few weeks and it became one of the primary story lines in the weeks leading up to the Grand Prix. Ultimately Rosberg did his do diligence and took the first “home” victory of his career. Most have been under the impression the Monaco was Rosberg’s home race, but apparently he drives for Germany. The whole thing is very confusing as Lewis Hamilton illustrated in the press earlier in the week – “He is German-Finnish-Monaco-esque, or whatever.”
Things didn’t fare so well for Hamilton on Saturday as he suffered a catastrophic failure of his right front brake caliper, which sent him into the barriers during Q2. He started the race from P20 and executed one hell of a drive, navigating a difficult field to ultimately finish on the podium in 3rd. Hamilton looked dejected during the podium ceremony, as he often does when the result isn’t a win.
The tension in the Mercedes paddock has clearly boiled over and it appears both drivers are barely on speaking terms. It does seem awfully odd that Hamilton has been receiving the brunt of the bad luck this season, in terms of reliability and slow pitstops. Despite a retirement for Rosberg at Silverstone, the rest of his season has gone without incident. It’ll be interesting to see how the remainder of 2014 plays out for both drivers. Judging by the recent long-term contract extension for Rosberg and the overwhelming support of the team, Hamtilon will certainly feel as if he’s playing second fiddle at Mercedes.
Elsewhere on the grid, more horrible luck for Williams and Felipe Massa. Massa can’t seem to catch a break this season and Germany marks the third Grand Prix in a row where he’s been involved in a crash. Luck wasn’t on his side at Silverstone as he became the collateral damage of Kimi Raikkonen’s off, but unfortunately heading into turn 1 at Hockenheim, Massa left McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen nowhere to go, which resulted in one of the worst looking crashes of 2014 and saw the Williams FW36 sliding on its top side.
Massa claims to have done nothing wrong, but this wouldn’t be the first time the Brazilian has refused to take responsibility. At times his mistakes have seemed very questionable for such a veteran racer. With the Mercedes-powered FW36 performing so well, Massa has all the opportunities to win races if he can keep himself out of harm’s way.
His teammate Valtteri Bottas has been making increasing waves recently and started from P2 after an excellent Q3 on Saturday. Ailing tires in the final laps of the race did nothing to favor Bottas, who still managed to hold off a charging Hamilton to finish 2nd. It was a consistently solid performance from start to finish for the Finn.
The real show of the day was an excellent bout between the F14 T of Fernando Alonso and the RB10 of Daniel Ricciardo. Germany was the second Grand Prix in a row where Alonso did what he does best against Red Bull Racing.
After Vettel’s petulant whining over the job of battling Alonso at Silverstone, it was a breath of fresh air to see Ricciardo take the challenge in stride and put up an honorable fight against the Ferrari. With the increasing levels of gimmicks being added to the sport and the FIA’s absurd desire for more “road relevancy”, these kinds of battles will continue to be a rarity.
Recently, Luca di Montezemolo called the drivers “taxi drivers” because the sport requires them to structure their races around fuel and tire savings. There’s a reason it’s called racing and fans want to see the very best drivers in the world going at the absolute limit for 58 laps. If refueling and longer lasting tires are required to do that, than so be it. Environmentalists have no shortage of other causes to seek out in place of exercising their blame game culture on international motorsport.
With the summer break looming, the teams will have to make the tough choice of fighting until the end of the season or throwing in the towel on 2014. Outside of Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams, it’s likely most teams will choose the latter. Despite Alonso’s best efforts on Sundays, the F14 T has been another misstep for Ferrari. The same can be said for McLaren, who have been historically bad the last 2 seasons. Neither of Formula 1’s winningest teams will want to carry on like this in 2015, which is why early development will likely take the priority.
The Hockenheimring may have played host to it’s last German Grand Prix. With their FOM contract expiring, it’s likely the event will remain at the Nürburgring annually. It wouldn’t be a huge loss to the sport as the track’s changed layout diminished everything that made it so brilliant in the first place. Today’s foibles by the stewards were highly unacceptable and a far cry from the Germany’s stereotypical efficiency. The safety car absolutely should’ve been deployed after Adrian Sutil’s Sauber became stranded on the home straight during lap 47. The trackside marshalls were also very slow to respond and it’s this level of confusion than can be so dangerous for the other drivers. The fact that the FIA can overlook incidents like this, while trying to enforce more “road relevant” cars shows just what a fractured and outlandish organization Jean Todt is running.
The teams head to Budapest this week for the Hungarian Grand Prix next Sunday. The Hungaroring is a track where Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have done well historically so next weekend should be very interesting indeed.
Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.