Formula 1: Martin Brundle column

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After an hour and 53 minutes and 44 pits stops, we had another cracking race with wheel-to-wheel action, crashes, changeable weather, brilliant, brave and skilful driving, and strategy gambles of which some succeeded and others failed, culminating in both happiness and heartbreak post race.
There will be any number of meetings to debate just how much better most car/driver combos could and should have done. Numerous what, if, and maybes, but the fact remains that it is what it is.
Mercedes will revisit whether either of their two cars should have won the race with different strategy calls, and torment themselves about whether Rosberg could have won if Hamilton had let him through when requested. All the more reason for Hamilton to have rejected the benevolent request, it would have been akin to a turkey voting for Christmas and even team boss Niki Lauda agrees.
If Rosberg had coasted effortlessly up behind him and been ducking and diving to make the pass on his alternative strategy then fair enough, but he didn’t and backing off so much would have damaged Hamilton’s chances.
The team may feel aggrieved that both sides of the garage had joined forces to prepare Lewis a new car for the race, but he didn’t smash it to pieces, it simply caught fire and wrecked his qualifying.
The Mercedes’ seem to be, if anything, increasingly fragile reliability-wise as they run through the five motors allowed for the season, and they often have to manage power and rear-brake issues. Having said that, it appears that Rosberg was a touch overzealous warming his brakes during the Safety Car. Lewis was told to rev his car harder in the final stages as it was helping his fuel pressure and minimising his power loss, otherwise he may well have won the race.
Pitlane to podium via a visit to the Turn Two barriers on the opening lap was a spectacular effort even if the two pace cars over nine laps helped. Without the benefit of a formation lap while starting from the pits he was guaranteed to have problems with cold brakes on the opening lap if he pushed too hard. Despite the awesome recovery I was in no doubt that I was talking to an unhappy Lewis on the podium. He seemed to be seething, presumably about the team instruction situation along with yet more reliability issues. To be fair to his team, the hurriedly-assembled car ran pretty well considering how complex they are nowadays.
Daniel Ricciardo made the most of the safety cars and his pace, and once again as the Mercs stumbled he and Red Bull were there to capitalise. Having rehearsed it several times in Hockenheim seven days before, his lunge to seize the lead from Alonso, albeit on much better tyres, was quite something and from so far back. A well-deserved victory, and if that boy smiles any harder the top of his head is going to fall off. He was simply jumping around with joy in unison with his trainer behind the podium post champagne.
Fernando Alonso drove yet another stunner, so close to victory and eventually a well-deserved second place. He’s a magician when it comes to making a strategy and a tortured set of tyres stretch out as required, in this case 31 laps on already used boots. Give that man a championship-contending car soon please.
McLaren and Williams will be grimacing for a day or two. The silver gang gambled on a wet weather radar, presumably from a strategy centre which couldn’t look at the sky, and stayed on inters when everybody else knew it was slicks. Jenson Button in particular was very nicely placed in conditions where he excels, especially around that track. The Williams team went big on the medium compound tyre which seemed strange because that looked plain slow all weekend and creating a one-stopper was a very long shot, and having used wet weather tyres they were no longer obliged to use both compounds of slicks.
There we some big shunts for Ericsson, Grosjean and Perez as the prodigious torque of the new motors on a damp track and kerbs caught them out, and Vettel had a very lucky escape in that respect. In the past two races it seems Vettel was getting back on top of Ricciardo, but the young Aussie shone through yet again as the chequered flag dropped on part one of an intriguing season.
Despite starting on rain tyres again on Sunday somewhat surprisingly we haven’t had rain actually fall now for 30 races. Spa in four weeks’ time might well change that and we look forward to talking to you from the Ardennes valleys. Have a great summer meanwhile.

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