Con­trolled Lewis has Ros­berg rat­tled

F1 Racing - - FINISHING STRAIGHT -

Mercedes were back at the front in China, but not ev­ery­one in the team was happy with the re­sult

It was soon af­ter the con­clu­sion of the 56-lap Chi­nese Grand Prix that ten­sions be­tween the two Mercedes driv­ers were once again thrust into the spot­light. Lewis Hamil­ton had beaten his hap­less team-mate this week­end – both in qual­i­fy­ing by 0.042 sec­onds and in the race by 0.714 sec­onds – and Nico Ros­berg had be­come un­der­stand­ably frus­trated by it all.

Af­ter qual­i­fy­ing, Ros­berg was up­set with his team be­cause of their sug­ges­tion that he should run quicker on his warm-up lap ahead of his best run, which took a lit­tle bit more grip out of his tyres. When he dis­cov­ered Hamil­ton had beaten him to pole, he ex­claimed: “Come on, guys!” over the team ra­dio. There was fur­ther frus­tra­tion dur­ing the race when Ros­berg felt that Lewis was driv­ing de­lib­er­ately slowly in a bid to push him back into the reaches of the chas­ing Fer­raris.

On lap 20, run­ning 2.351 sec­onds be­hind Lewis and 1.686 sec­onds ahead of Vet­tel’s Fer­rari, Ros­berg said to his en­gi­neer Tony Ross: “Lewis is driv­ing too slowly – get him to speed up. If I go closer [to Lewis] I de­stroy my tyres like in the rst stint. That’s the prob­lem.”

As in Malaysia, tyre degra­da­tion was a key fac­tor here. This no­to­ri­ously tech­ni­cal cir­cuit is tough on the left-front and left-rear axles and driv­ers and en­gi­neers strug­gle to nd so­lu­tions to the de­mands im­posed by the track. Watch­ing track­side on the en­try to the long ra­dius rst cor­ner, driv­ers take wildly dif­fer­ent tra­jec­to­ries on turn-in as their ti­ta­nium skid­block ma­chines throw up sparks on full tanks. Like­wise, driv­ers also differed with their lines around the tricky Turn 12 and 13 right-han­der to en­sure the best sling­shot for the 1,175 me­tre back straight, which also put a pre­mium on en­gine power.

Track tem­per­a­tures peaked on race day to roughly 46°C, but it was nowhere near as hot as Sepang was a fort­night ear­lier – and although the Fer­raris were close, they couldn’t match the Mercedes in race trim.

The grow­ing threat from Fer­rari has re­sulted in Mercedes be­ing more cir­cum­spect with race strat­egy. The James Al­li­son-de­signed Fer­rari SF15-T is kind to its rub­ber, so the early stages of the race were dened by the lead­ing Mercedes ma­chines show­ing strong pace, but en­sur­ing their soft (op­tion) tyres could last the re­quired stint. The strat­egy worked for Hamil­ton, who ran con­sis­tently in the 1min 44.4secs bracket and then pumped in a 1min 43.6secs a lap be­fore his rst stop. Again, just be­fore his sec­ond stop he was able to run a full sec­ond quicker to en­sure his place at the front of the eld was safe.

As the driv­ers nished their podium cel­e­bra­tions and came into the press con­fer­ence, Hamil­ton was ques­tioned over whether he was run­ning too slow and push­ing Ros­berg back to­wards the Fer­raris.

“I wasn’t con­trol­ling his [Nico’s] race, I was con­trol­ling my own race,” said the reign­ing cham­pion. “We knew the Fer­raris were very good

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