The Mercedes-Benz drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg only managed fifth and seventh place at the Korea International Circuit last Sunday. Both the team and the two individual drivers did not manage to take advantage of similarly below-par performances from their nearest rivals. Moreover, the already slim chances of Hamilton (or anyone else) catching Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel now look to have disappeared, as the German driver claimed his eighth win in 14 races.
After a reasonable start that saw Lewis Hamilton in third place (and comfortably ahead of his closest rival on the leaderboard, Kimi Raikonnen of Lotus), the Mercedes driver noted that his medium-compound Pirelli tyres were losing grip and performance. Faced with a dilemma between stopping two or three times, team principal Ross Brawn decided to press ahead with the original two-stop strategy.
Hamilton lost ground to end in fifth position, following a valiant struggle to stay ahead of Ferrari’s Ferdinand Alonso. An unfortunate result was made worse for Hamilton by the loss of his two-point lead over Raikonnen, who takes his third position in the F1 driver standings. “We’d obviously have liked to finish higher and I think we deserved higher”, he lamented. “Things just didn’t go our way today”.
Technical problems also dogged Nico Rosberg. When overtaking Hamilton for third place, the structural join between the nose section and the chassis partially gave way. A pit stop was necessary, resulting in a seventh-place finish. Again, the theme for a Mercedes driver was of frustration and a missed opportunity; a collision put Red Bull’s Mark Webber, occupying the position above Rosberg in the driver standings, out of the race. This gave the German driver a chance to make drastic inroads on Webber’s 14-point lead, but in the end he could only gain on the Australian by six points.
As a whole, the Mercedes-Benz team gained slightly on Ferrari in second place, with the efforts of Hamilton and Rosberg putting them just a point below their competitors. Despite the frustrations of the day, Lewis Hamilton’s victory over Alonso in the struggle for fifth place could still be significant for the team at the end of the season – even if Red Bull, like Vettel, now look unstoppable.
Ridgeway wish the Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 team the best of luck at the Japanese Grand Prix next Sunday. Hopefully, the prodigious skill of both our drivers will yield the results they deserve in the next race.