Nico Rosberg’s grip on the 2016 Drivers’ Championship only got tighter in Russia as he left the Sochi Autodrome with maximum points (25). The Mercedes driver dominated the weekend after his nearest rivals hit bad luck – Hamilton’s repeat power unit failure in Q3 of qualifying and Vettel’s double-whack by Kvyat on the opening lap of the race.
Is destiny keen on crowning the German-Finnish driver as Formula One’s new world champion? Is destiny also trying to make Lewis Hamilton work harder than ever before to claim his fourth world championship? If that really is the case, it would be ill-advised to miss any race of the 2016 Formula One Season.
Rosberg joined the ranks of former Formula one greats like Michael Schumacher and Alberto Ascariand as he romped to his seventh consecutive win – three wins towards the end of 2015 and four wins at the start of 2016. It has been 189 days since a driver other than Rosberg stood on the top step of the podium and he also scored his career’s first ‘Grand Chelem’ (pole position, race win and fastest lap of the race) at Sochi. Lewis Hamilton, on the other hand, is yet to win a Grand Prix since he lifted his third World Championship crown in October 2015.
Rosberg’s 100/100 points haul from the first four races must be applauded, but the reality also is that he’s yet to take on Lewis Hamilton on the track. Lady Luck has compromised most of Hamilton’s races this season which raised eyebrows on social media and made fans wonder if Mercedes has been purposely sabotaging Hamilton’s car. While I understand the frustration of Hamilton’s fans, it would be foolish to assume that the German manufacturer would do this to their ‘star’ driver who is still one of the most talented drivers on the grid and won them two World Championships in the last two years.
But can Lewis Hamilton still win this year’s title? This will be the story of 2016 and while a 43 points deficit seems almost insurmountable, Hamilton is one of the few drivers on the grid who you can confidently bet on to do so. Although he will need lady luck to be his ally – not just to ensure that he doesn’t suffer more reliability issues but also to help him launch a multiple race winning streak that will allow him to narrow the gap and eventually take the lead from Rosberg. For those interested in numbers, if Rosberg finished second to Hamilton, it would take the Briton seven races to overcome the points deficit.
Apart from the Mercedes drivers, Sebastian Vettel believes that he and Ferrari are also in the title fight for 2016 – this is despite suffering his second retirement of the season already. The former quadruple World Champion is fifth in the Drivers’ Championship, 67 points behind Rosberg. Vettel’s Russian Grand Prix ended in the barriers on the opening lap after he was hit twice by Russian driver, Daniil Kvyat. Kvyat-Vettel seems to be the new Bottas-Raikkonen – they had an on-track moment in China too!
The Russian Grand Prix saw seven constructors finish in the top 10 and the surprise entry was Mclaren-Honda. The British team’s double points finish brought some rejoice for the Macca fans as Alonso finished P6 and Button, P10. Haas proved that the result in China was only a blip in their performance as Grosjean finished P8. The biggest shock in Russia was for the two Red Bull funded teams – Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso as neither of their drivers finished in the points for the first time this season.
In the week leading up to the Russian Grand Prix, the Strategy Group announced new power unit regulations for 2017-2020. The key take away from this announcement is that the sport will not introduce a standard engine and that every team would have a ‘right’ to an engine. This would safeguard the current engine manufacturers (Ferrari, Mercedes, Honda and Renault) and their investments in the hybrid power units against the introduction of a cheaper engine. This would also ensure that the sport doesn’t face the issue Red Bull Racing faced in late 2015 where no manufacturer was keen on supplying them with engines. As for the always neglected smaller teams, the cost of their power units will be cheaper by 4 million Euros over the next two years.
Formula One's next venue is the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain, one where almost every team and driver has done many a hundred miles on. The question is – will Lewis Hamilton’s championship challenge start from Spain, or will Rosberg score yet another maximum to make it 125/125 points? To think of it, 2016 has only just started.
Updated Date: May 02, 2016 18:40 PM