Rain - Friend Or Foe?
This weekends Russian Grand Prix in Sochi was a race that had twists and turns. What it did was highlight how important the teams of staff behind the drivers are. The drivers take the glory but the faces behind the scenes are just as important. Formula One is one sport that relies heavily on data and the teams work accordingly to what the stats tell them. One team ignored what the figures were telling them and paid the price. This should have been an easy decision as the drivers know and can call it as they are the best reference. The drivers can feel the track and in hindsight should have come in on lap 46.
You can see how the race changed so quickly as on the left is how the race was before the rain arrived and 6 laps later many benefitted and climbed up the leaderboard thanks to the rain.
The race was going according to plan for McLaren right up until lap 47 of 53 when the rain started to drizzle. Norris and Hamilton stayed out whilst others stopped to change to the intermediate tyres. That at this point could be understandable as the rain was not so heavy and there was literally 5 laps to go so maybe just over 6 minutes of racing.
Perfectly summed up by ex Racing driver Karun Chandhik.
Technology should have overruled human intervention as the data told them the rain was coming in heavier. The other teams called their drivers in yet they went with their gut feel and paid the price. Maybe next time they will believe the radar more and not roll the dice as the gamble never paid off.
Common sense surely has to kick in even if it is your first Grand Prix you could possibly be winning. Lando Norris was that desperate and was caught out with his pig headedness. One could see the rain coming in over the Black Sea and trusting your back room staff is part of being a good team player.
Lewis Hamilton ignored the first call by his team to pit but he came to his senses and pitted the following lap. With a gap of over 25 seconds Norris was out in front but was as commentators called it "Bambi on Ice" and going nowhere. That same lap Hamilton overtook Norris as he spun off. The race was turned on it's head within 2 laps.
I think this is why us spectators love rain so much as it changes everything. What would have been a boring finish turned out to be a highlight full of drama and heartbreak. I wouldn't call it luck or bad luck like some called it as it was stupidity mixed with a lack of experience.
The teams have strategists and the latest weather updates which they pay for. Teams even have staff positioned in towns away from the race keeping an eye on the weather. Maybe with budget cuts they may no longer be part of the weather plan lol. The weather came from the sea so unless you were in a boat you wouldn't know as everyone could see the rain coming when it was already at the track. 25 championship points lost which is $25 million so a costly error based on a huge gamble going for the win.
Max Verstappen was probably the biggest beneficiary of the wet weather having started in 20th after receiving penalties for an engine change before the race. A top 5 would have been the ultimate result but ended up 2nd overall which after where he started was a dream result for the team.
7 races to go with 2 points separating Hamilton and Verstappen. This is far from over as Hamilton is expected to also have to start at the back of the grid before the season end when they take a new power unit. Mercedes goal is to win the constructors title however as they are on a 7 year streak and 8 would break another record which they already hold. 33 points clear in that race so they need to increase that and why they swapped Bottas engine this last weekend countering Verstappen's move.
Turkey is next on the calendar so not the best circuit around and possibly we may see another upset with McLaren challenging for the third race in a row. The teams performances have been brilliant up until the rain intervened so there are still positives to take away.