Hamil­ton’s Olympic gains

F1 Racing - - FINISHING STRAIGHT -

It was gold for Lewis at Sochi 2014, while Nico Ros­berg’s race went down­hill after the first turn

It was a week­end of con­trasts. There were the cham­pagne-soaked cel­e­bra­tions of a tri­umphant Mercedes, joy­ous in their garage a few hours after their ninth one-two of the sea­son; Lewis Hamil­ton once again vic­to­ri­ous ahead of his team-mate Nico Ros­berg.

After a sea­son of in­tra-team ten­sion, you couldn’t deny team boss Toto Wolff his broad, vic­to­ri­ous smile. As F1 de­parted Rus­sia, Mercedes had racked up a for­mi­da­ble points tally, 223 more than their clos­est ri­vals, the on­ce­dom­i­nant Red Bull. Con­struc­tors’ ti­tle clinched with three races re­main­ing – even tak­ing into ac­count that un­pop­u­lar dou­ble points nale.

And yet, away from the cel­e­bra­tions there was un­ease and fear. The thoughts of all were with Jules Bianchi, still ght­ing for his life in a Yokkaichi hos­pi­tal bed. Team prin­ci­pal John Booth re­mained at his side, as Jules lay in a crit­i­cal but sta­ble con­di­tion, and was a source of support for his close fam­ily and friends who ew out to Ja­pan to be with the Marus­sia racer.

The rst world cham­pi­onship F1 race to be held on Rus­sian soil was a tri­umph for the or­gan­is­ers, from a lo­gis­ti­cal and spec­ta­tor point of view, but for many trav­el­ling di­rectly from Ja­pan, the race was an ob­sta­cle ahead of their longed-for re­turn home.

Tech­ni­cally, Marus­sia en­tered Amer­i­can Alexan­der Rossi into this event on the Thurs­day evening, but be­fore Fri­day morn­ing prac­tice com­menced with­drew the en­try, and, as a mark of re­spect, el­ded only Max Chilton for the week­end. This was the rst one-car team at a grand prix since Simtek ran just David Brab­ham in Mon­tréal in 1994. Ev­ery­one agreed that rac­ing was the right thing for Marus­sia to do in such dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances, but that didn’t make it any eas­ier. On the grid the team stood in support of their ab­sent driver, hold­ing a sign that read: ‘Rac­ing for Jules’, while ev­ery driver came to­gether to cre­ate a cir­cle prior to the race start in trib­ute for the in­jured 25-year-old.

In the af­ter­math of that ter­ri­ble ac­ci­dent, which had hap­pened just seven days ear­lier, emo­tions were raw. Both FIA pres­i­dent Jean Todt, an old friend of the Bianchi fam­ily, and team boss Graeme Low­don were sub­dued as they ad­dressed the press ahead of the Rus­sian GP.

“It’s been an in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult week for For­mula 1 and it’s been an in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult week for our team,” said Low­don. “But it’s also been a time that has re­minded us of just how much support there is for peo­ple within this sport. Jules is an ex­cep­tional For­mula 1 driver but he is also an ex­cep­tional hu­man be­ing. I don’t know a sin­gle per­son who doesn’t like him.”

There was re­lief that the Rus­sian Grand Prix passed with­out ma­jor in­ci­dent, but the on-track ac­tion might have dis­ap­pointed some

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