TOP 10 DRIVERS
Car: Citroen DS 3 WRC Team: Abu Dhabi Total WRT Wins: 2 Podiums: 2 Championship position: 9th If all that Meeke had achieved this year was that stunning performance on Ouninpohja then he’d still have made it to number two. That sublime effort was befitting of man and machine in perfect harmony on one of the most balls-out, demanding stages in the championship. It will go down in WRC legend. Latvala was destroyed and Meeke, after far too many years of being a pretender, announced himself as a proper challenger for WRC glory.
Plenty will say that Nico Rosberg got a bit lucky this year, thanks to a better reliability record than Lewis Hamilton. Critics will also decry his somewhat ‘android’ manner and squeaky-clean ‘Euro-clone’ image. Let them, for in taking on Lewis Hamilton in the manner he has these past four seasons, as one half of an immensely strong Mercedes pair, Nico has shown himself to be a driver of great speed and courage. But, perhaps more importantly, also one of heroic determination.
A lesser man would have buckled under the weight of Hamilton’s brilliance and accepted a number-two mindset. Not this guy, not Nico – son of Keke – Rosberg, with sisu in his veins – that defining Finnish quality translated variously as ‘stoicism’, ‘guts’, ‘bravery’ or simply ‘resilience’.
Lewis is certainly the more gifted driver, unquestionably one of the most talented, ever. All the more credit, then, to Rosberg for taking Hamilton on – and beating him – in the same car.
To finish the season as ‘best of the rest’ is a massive achievement for this team of old-skool-meets-nu-skool battlers.‘old-skool’ because the way Force India go about their racing harks back to a simpler time: uncluttered, unfussy, focused closely on the matter in hand without any excess marketing baggage.
‘Nu-skool’, because Force India are quiet innovators within their well-established mould.there’s no dedicated manufacturer partner, such as Honda at Mclaren, but instead SFI have bought in the best of what manufacturers have to offer: an engine from Mercedes, wind-tunnel time from Toyota.
Lean operations at their Dadford Road, Silverstone factory (the ex-jordan base), racy choices on driver pairings, and a ‘performance-first’ mindset all result from the distinct leadership style laid down by deputy team principal Bob Fernley and operations boss Otmar Szafnauer. Bob handles the politics, Otmar runs the race team, which leaves a talented engineering staff led by Andy Green to get on with what they do best: make a bloody fast race car.
You know it’s a ‘big one’ when the press room goes silent. Lap 17 of the Melbourne season-opener and Fernando Alonso, in P13 after his first tyre stop, is closing down the Haas of Esteban Gutierrez on the curved approach to Turn 3, at more than 200mph.
Both cars are arcing gently toward the braking zone but, just as Alonso is jinking out to pass, Gutierrez drifts further to the left than Alonso had reckoned for. Contact between Haas left-rear and Mclaren right-front, then instant chaos.
Alonso pinballs into the circuit wall on the left, speed unabated. It’s a hefty initial impact that trashes the lefthand side of the car.then things get worse.with the MP4-31 little more than a sled, it skids broadside towards the gravel trap, flipping the chassis up and over. It barrel-rolls mid-air, flies, then pirouettes, before landing on the gearbox and slamming down into the barriers.
It is a monstrous shunt, but – almost unimaginably – Alonso wriggles out from beneath the crumpled, smoking heap that used to be a racing car and gets his breath back. Rib and lung injuries keeps him out of the following Bahrain GP, but he knows – we know – he is incredibly lucky to be alive.
When Fernando Alonso clipped Esteban Gutierrez’s Haas and went flying through the air at the season-opening Australian GP, he was extremely lucky to survive, but he suffered broken ribs and a minor collapse in his lung. One man’s bad fortune was another’s opportunity, as reigning GP2 Series champion and Mclaren reserve driver Stoffel
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