The website Atlas F1 was a popular and comprehensive website dedicated to Formula One, which eventually merged into a partnership with Autosport in 2004. The site was well known for its excellent articles and insight into Formula One and maintained a loyal fanbase, who still enjoy browsing the ‘nostalgic posts’ maintained on the internet from the site’s former glory days.
In 1957, controversial Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand published her longest and best-known novel Atlas Shrugged, set in the indeterminable future and revolving around a society strangled by excessive government regulations. The best inventors and brightest minds in the world keep mysteriously disappearing, refusing to have their ideas watered down to mediocrity by the all-powerful beurocrats and declaring the State holds no right to tax away their wealth in the name of ‘fairness’. Throughout the novel, people attempt to answer the question ‘Who is John Galt?’, a phrase which becomes the equivalent of saying ‘I don’t know the answer’.
In GP Atlas: Shrugging… there is growing discontent amongst the Formula One teams and fans as innovation upon innovation is banned by the FIA to slow the cars down and ‘prevent dominance’. This leads to a grid of cars which all look very similar, with little change in performance from one circuit to the next. Measures designed to help the poorest teams by cutting costs, such as engines and gearboxes which last for almost a quarter of a season, coincide with the longest ever run in Grand Prix history of the poorest teams not scoring a single point.
The series explores the efforts of a breakaway series with the goal of returning Grand Prix racing to the ‘Golden era’ of noisy cars with fat tyres, wacky designs and exciting tracks, at a price affordable to the fans. What can the new series learn from the mistakes made during the CART Vs Indy war? Will such a liberal rule-book ever work for real? And who is John Galt?
Disclaimer: Whilst real names have been used in this series to help tell the story, the opinions expressed within the series may not be those belonging to the persons mentioned, and ultimately represent the author’s view of current affairs in motorsport.
For better understanding, Please go through the first three parts of this article:
Part 1: The Dawn of GP Atlas
Part 2: [Round 1] The Betway Grand Prix - Egypt
Part 3: [Round 2] Indian GP: 'Welcome Back'!
Wednesday 16th March
Although plans to put an Italian race on the calendar had not yet come to fruition, Italy remained an important country to the World Professional Motor Championships. As the teams competing in the Hong Kong Grand Prix were preparing for the race weekend on the other side of the world, Dallara and Coloni were hard at work back at their factories, desperately trying to improve their cars. Dallara’s poor record in the opening two races was going to be bad for business if they did not improve quickly, and the engineers were hard at work in the windtunnel working in non-stop shifts. Their main rivals in the customer car market, Lola, had pulled a masterstroke by hiring Adrian Newey and had consistently and comfortably beaten the Dallara runners at both the Egyptian and Indian Grand Prix. The board of directors had broadly stuck to their strategy during the pre-season; that of focusing on reliability and providing a car that could finish races when Newey’s faster machine would be breaking down. But a reliable car would be of little use to a set of customer teams that were too slow to even qualify for the main races with any regularity, and so Dallara had thrown their plans out of the window and ordered the designers to create a radical new car to be rolled out as soon as possible. Martin Brundle had always said in Formula One that it was far easier to make a quick car reliable than to make a reliable car a competitive car, so the first goal had been to qualify for the races. Finishing them could come next.
Amongst the Dallara workforce, there was a general consensus that missing a race or two was the right move, if it meant turning the team’s performance around, and the accounting department were already busy trying to make up for the lost sponsorship income. The ‘B’ spec chassis was beginning to take shape, and if the development team could pull out all the stops, there was even a small chance they could make it to Suzuka for the fourth round of the championship, as was the goal for Coloni. Facing less pressure as a non-factory team, Coloni were still running a tight budget and couldn’t afford to waste money on races they didn’t expect to start. Their small but impressively efficient factory was bustling with activity, and despite several weeks out of the car, drivers Brendon Hartley, Manel Cerqueda Jr and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs were feeling optimistic about their futures. The team had made some aerodynamic adjustments to the bodywork for their car, deviating from what had been the standard Dallara package supplied to their customers, and with additional technical support from Quaife-Hobbs’s family business, the team were hoping to at least get one car into the main race when they returned at Suzuka. There was still some concern over the Avon Tyres, but assurance from the rubber company that newly developed compounds would be available by the time of the Japanese Grand Prix had put any overbearing concern to relative rest.
The drivers would reserve judgment on Avon’s promises until they had tested the new tyres in the build up to the Suzuka race weekend, with the track’s owners offering three days of testing before and after the event which many of the teams were choosing to utilise, not least the team’s engine supplier Honda who were keen to put up a good performance in front of their home crowd; especially so since arch rivals Toyota had started the season to such aplomb.
Thursday 17th March
As one of the WPMC’s three global offices, Hong Kong was growing in relevance to the motorsport world with each passing day, and the build up to the Hong Kong Grand Prix was attracting much attention both on and off the island. As those who worked for the Italian teams fortunate enough to get a chance to sleep were getting into bed, those with business to do in Hong Kong were either heading out for, or sitting down to, an important breakfast. John Galt himself was one of many diners in the official WPMC hospitality area, as he sat with the Hong Kong minister for Sport. Across from them on a table for three sat representatives from Dallara, Coloni and Honda, deep in conversation and discussing their plans for the test at Suzuka. A lesser known paddock journalist pretended not to listen as they spoke.
‘You see, our main problem is finding a consistent engine. We understand that when you’re selling customer chassis, people need to be able to fit their engine of choice to them, we can handle that, but… Well, for our works team, we really need someone building an engine to go with our chassis specifically, it would make next year’s car an awful lot easier. We asked Renault to do that but they’re far too busy with Williams…’
Honda’s representative, who had come into Formula One in the mid 1990s with Tyrrell, listened with caution. He could well remember the trouble BAR had experienced when trying to work with the now-folded chassis constructor Reynard and Honda’s engine factory.
‘Let’s do some tests at Suzuka and see how things work out. I can appreciate your contract with Renault ties you in for this season, so we’ll run some things on the Coloni and see what we can get out of it. If it works well, we’ll talk more about a partnership in the future.’
Coloni’s sporting director smiled to herself. With little effort, she had just secured her team an exclusive right to be the first inline for all the major upgrades from both their chassis and engine partners. Dallara’s representative had given her his word with a warning that everybody would be demanding the new technology if it was successful, and Dallara had a profit to make, and a business to run, but they would always be one or two weekends ahead of the game, and it was up to them to learn how to use it.
Galt had a busy day ahead of him, not only was he giving his now regular interview to Sport 4 for their pre-race coverage, he was also helping to give a guided tour of the circuit in addition to his regular business activities in his office, which was situated near the Southeast point of the circuit. Proud of his whole series though he was, this particular track was one he felt to be one of the WPMC’s best features. The Hong Kong government had been sympathetic to the private firms keen to develop a race tack on the island to promote both business and tourism, and to provide a rival event to F1’s Grand Prix in Singapore. A street circuit had been decided upon to keep costs to a minimum, not to mention the ability to save space.
‘Our brief to the circuit architect had been to give us a state of the art permanent pit area like the Targa Florio sportscar race in Sicily used to enjoy, and a temporary street circuit that could be set up and dismantled before or after the event with minimal inconvenience like Monaco,’ the minister told Sport 4 in his part of the interview. When the young course designer Dave Waters had presented five provisional outlines to the organisers the previous August, Galt had seized on the opportunity to increase fan involvement by offering a public vote on which course layout would be used. The result was a long, fast and strenuous circuit with hints of Monaco, Macau and Montjuich park. Running clockwise, twenty-four corners would test the drivers in another sixty lap race, although this event was longer overall than the previous Grand Prix and was expected to be the most challenging so far, for both competitor and equipment alike. The Hong Kong offices of the WPMC were situated close to turn six, and the very long and slow pitlane which ran from the final ninety degree turn in the North West most point of the course down to turn two, made many think this could become a one-stop race to minimise lost time underground. Another busy support package was accommodated on a floating paddock a short drive from the circuit and assembled, as Galt had put it, ‘like a much bigger Red Bull energy centre on water’. Support race cars then drove in convoy through the town before their session was due to start and took up residence in the pit garages before driving back again afterwards. Entry to the floating support paddock was free and had drawn plenty of fans in the build up to the race weekend, a trend which would continue until the middle of the week after when it was finally dismantled and the last teams had packed up and left.
In addition to the Pan-Asian Touring Car Cup, and the Carrera Cup Asia Series which were supporting the championship from India, through Hong Kong and on to Suzuka, there was added interest in the World 2 and World 3 races taking place this weekend. For the first time, the regional and world-level series would be merging and taking one another on in just a single race to count towards both standings. Galt had described it as a setup with an opportunity to impress that matched the Monaco F3 and F3000 races of years before, a prestigious standalone status to rival the Pau Grand Prix in the days when the event had still meant something, but with a night time spectacle like nothing ever seen before in junior formulae. Both series would run to a schedule that bore closer resemblance to the WPMC than in previous races. Each category had sixty drivers trying to make the field and none had been guaranteed a place on the grid. The sixty drivers would be split into two thirty-driver groups for practice, with the bottom three in each group being eliminated. The top twelve in each group qualified automatically for the main race and would go through a knock-out qualifying session to set the grid, just like in the WPMC. The drivers between thirteenth and twenty-seventh in each group would make up a thirty car B-race with its own qualifying session and the top six finishers making it into the main race. It was designed to give the younger drivers a closer taste of the format used in WPMC as well as providing a standout event that everyone wanted to win.
Galt continued to show Sport 4 around the track.
‘You’ll notice how close the barriers are here. I didn’t want to have useless runoffs nobody could use; I think it’s far better to test the drivers and punish them for making errors. You might say it discourages overtaking, but I think if you’re only pulling a pass because there’s a run-off you must use and then have to give the place back it somewhat negates the pass in the first place, and I don’t want a great big rigmarole after qualifying with times being disallowed and changing the grid order; for me, it’s far better to have a barrier there and if you make a mistake your laptime will disadvantage itself. I think a lot of people, drivers included, have found circuits too easy in recent years, and it’s why for our purpose built circuits coming later in the year, I’ve asked Howard to have gravel runoffs that put you out of the race rather than tarmac runoffs that allow drivers to behave ridiculously and get away with it. We’ve opted to develop safer cars and safer barriers, and the added danger of retiring is something we think will help to reduce risk taking and bring speeds down.
Speaking of which, I think you’ll really enjoy the Roarke circuits we go to later in the year, they’re true to his philosophy of making every design unique in its own right and to reflect the character of the surroundings and to make full use of the materials on offer, especially the ones available locally. Here in Hong Kong though, all the praise has to go to Dave Waters, and I hope he’s as excited to see the cars run out on track in practice as I am’.
Waters himself had been contacted by Galt directly as a result of his growing popularity as a virtual circuit designer with a reputation for delivering designs before time and under budget that drivers flocked to. The Hong Kong circuit had been his first foray out of the virtual world and many were already expecting him to be lined up for future street circuits on the calendar.
Galt headed back to his office for the afternoon. The outside of the building was smart, clean and tidy but relatively unassuming, whilst the inside had a motorsport inspired but art-deco style décor. The floor was patterned with tiles in a pattern that resembled wheels from famous racing cars with big, fat tyres clasped around them. Galt’s favourite was the five pointed gold star used on Dan Gurney’s Eagle Weslake in the mid 1960s, but the one that drew the most attention was just by the coffee table in the reception area; a replica of the wire wheels on a Jaguar E-type, with each spoke studded with jewels to look like a chequered flag. Business people from all over the world were in the reception area talking of the building rather than business, and drinking rare blends of coffee from all over the world. Galt had instructed his staff to spread his passion for human craft and passionate dedication whenever possible, in all details of life. A copy of the unofficial WPMC magazine The Wider Line lay in the hands of many of the sponsor’s guests who were still learning about the sport whilst others examined the calendar considering sponsorship opportunities. The viewing figures on television had been strong in Egypt and India and were expected to grow again this weekend, too.
As the afternoon passed by and the office emptied of guests who headed for the VIP lounge on the other side of the circuit, deeper into the city. Galt finished some paperwork and headed in the same direction. The VIP lounge was at the top of a corporate skyscraper used for all kinds of business functions and taken over in its entirety for the weekend by the WPMC. Rain had fallen in the afternoon but cleared by the evening, and the rooftop garden filled with traditional flowers smelt fresh and cleansed. As the evening got later, so the smell of traditional street food being cooked and served to the guests in small but plentiful portions grew stronger. Everyone present was taken in by the view; the sight of the water in the distance, the skyline filled with the tall buildings – themselves, a symbol of man’s achievement and thought process – lighting up the sky. And, on a less serious note philosophically speaking, it provided a good backdrop for the rest of Galt’s interview.
‘And, for all my criticisms, I think to some extent we shouldn’t be too harsh on Hermann Tilke – the man has to design according to the brief he’s given and when you look at places like Istanbul park in Turkey and Sepang in Malaysia it’s clear he can design exciting courses, I just think he ends up with one hand behind his back. That said, I still remain critical of a lot of his methods, I seem to remember he begins every layout by assessing the parking lots, and that’s going about it all wrong.
Friday 18th March
Friday dawned over the circuit with a dry, but largely dull day, and all eyes were on the clouds that had started to form in the sky by the time the first track activity took place at half past eleven. The Pan Asian Touring Car Cup cars had driven through the city to the support car pit area, from the floating paddock on a route lined with both amateur and professional photographers, and the press from both the island and mainland China were optimistic that they could see at least one local driver take victory over the course of the weekend. China was naturally an important market for the global automotive industry, but the tracks on the mainland hadn’t suited the needs of the series when the calendar was being assembled, and an event in nearby Hong Kong had seemed like a good compromise and was still drawing plenty of coverage from Chinese media.
Local outfit SFR Team China were under pressure to start performing, but still had the well-funded Ma Qing-Hua behind the wheel of their lead car. However, desperate to get a good result, they had hired the more experienced and better rated Ho Pin Tung to drive an additional entry, and members of rival squads had even commented they might finally get a true sense of what the car was really capable of. Over at Minardi Mark Webber was missing a round to tend to his sportscar commitments, though he would be back in Japan alongside the team’s new lead driver Aidan Wright who made his debut this weekend. Carlos Sainz Jr meanwhile had brought in additional Red Bull backing, and would field a second car from the Russian Grand Prix onwards and would begin his tenure driving a test car in practice here in Hong Kong and next time out in Suzuka. Minardi were joined in taking advantage of the opportunity to run T Cars by Force India, who planned to field four cars only very rarely during the season and to rotate James Calado and Karun Chandhok in their third entry. With Chandhok gaining automatic qualification following his top ten finish at the Indian Grand Prix, Calado was on test driver duty for this weekend and would run during Friday.
Fifteen cars would qualify automatically for this race, leaving room for eight cars to qualify after practice in the other group, and the rest set to fight it out for a top three finish in the B race. Stefan GP had dropped out of the top ten after India and were now facing it difficult to having to qualify, although Alexander Rossi remained in good spirits as he spoke to the press in the run up to the practice sessions. Out on track, the Touring cars quickly got up to speed before giving way to the first World 3 practice session, where possible drivers were being given the opportunity to learn the circuit in the daylight during first practice, before the competitive sessions were held at night-time. The Carrera Cup Asia Series would go out on track at four o’clock, as the evening began to set in, followed by the World 2 cars.
The first practice session for the automatically-qualified cars was the only dry practice session held on the Friday and saw Lewis Hamilton top the timesheets, as he quickly dialed in to the circuit and found himself feeling just as at home, as he had been six months previously, sweeping to victory in Formula One’s Singapore Grand Prix. Calado did a good job for Force India to take second place, whilst Pastor Maldonado was fourth for Williams and still looked to be a formidable driver on this street circuit layout. Sainz was near the back for Minardi but spent all his dry running on a heavy fuel load, whilst Toyota looked to be struggling in both the wet and dry conditions, a fate shared later on for Stefan GP users of an updated Toyota chassis from their stillborn F1 2010 entry.
Rain began to fall during the second World 3 practice session, and the circuit would not properly dry up, until the very end of the Touring Car race. Favourites for both the World 2 and World 3 races found themselves either knocked out in practice or relegated to the B race after incidents on the wet track, whilst the Carrera Cup Asia Series practiced and qualified in the wet only to have their night-closing first race held in the dry on a grip-less surface.
In the WPMC, Avon were still trailing their new dry compounds that had been desperately needed, but along with Michelin, they looked to have strong rain tyres and enjoyed seeing Marussia lockout the top three places in the session for cars still trying to make the grid. There were many accidents on the difficult wet track and even the fastest man Jules Bianchi had three brushes with the wall. Prodrive Aston Martin got both cars into the race in fourth and fifth places, but the stars of the show would be the three drivers in sixth, seventh and eighth; young Swiss driver Matheo Tuscher making it onto the grid for debutants Status Grand Prix after an incredibly controlled showing, in which he did just sixteen laps all day, then Tung for SFR Team China as he carved through the rain, suggesting set-up improvement after set-up improvement and constantly bringing the car into the pits for more work to be carried out, before putting in mistake-free laps almost immediately. Wright qualified on his debut for Minardi in eighth place after catching the track at an optimum time, and just narrowly pipping Simtek’s Robert Frijns, the popular Dutchman looking to be a contender for B race honours, despite the closeness of the chasing pack. Status Grand Prix were joined by fellow debutants Durango-Villeneuve at the end of the pitlane, the latter kept busy after drivers, Will Stevens and Mikhail Aleshin both took one quarter off their cars with heavy accidents.
Saturday 19th March
Tuscher was busier in Saturday’s dry practice session, and it was only then he really felt like he’d properly learnt the circuit and was getting the maximum out of the car. Hamilton and Maldonado were the only other two drivers to come even close to Tuscher’s level of running as they topped the timesheets. The rain began to fall again just before the WPMC’s B race qualifying session, and it was left to Frijins to delight the Simtek team and his many fans with pole position, ahead of Rossi’s Stefan GP. Robery Wickens was on row two again for Drayson Racing, whilst Racing Engineering struggled for pace and Heidfeld could only manage eighth fastest. Brabham, in their second of three outings for Conquest, would fail to set a time, as did Davide Valsecchi in a session that saw his Epsilon Euskadi teammate Sam Bird secure third.
The rain was still falling heavily when qualifying for the main race got underway at half past eight in the evening. Williams’ four entries were quickly reduced to two when Karthikeyan and Bottas both struck technical trouble, and they would be joined at the back of the grid by Toyota after Kobayashi crashed down an escape road on his first flying lap and Petrov had to return to the pits with an expected electrical fault. Hamilton was quickest for most of the session and sat comfortably in the pits, just as Maldonado stole the fastest time and laid down his claim for pole, with championship leader Rosberg content in third in the first knockout. Aon and Michelin seemed to have a small advantage in wet weather tyres and Marussia saw all of their cars finish the first knockout in the top ten, with Wright impressing again in eleventh. Ho Pin Tung got all the speed out of his SFR Team China car that it had to offer and then a little more to slide in to Q2 in sixteenth spot, much to the delight of his team, whilst Tuscher continued to win plaudits with his seventeenth-best time, narrowly beating compatriot Buemi in the better developed and better funded Prodrive Aston Martin. Susie Wolff was the slowest timed runner for Hesketh and would start nineteenth, whilst team-mate Mike Conway demonstrated that he was another strong street circuit driver and made it into Q2 with fourteenth spot.
Come the second session, the rain was still falling but not so heavily, and Hamilton returned to the top of the timesheets from Maldonado and Sutil. Force India did well to get all of their three entered cars into the top eight shootout, whilst Sergio Perez became the next casualty of the circuit when he locked up on his outlap and damaged the car to such an extent that he would not make it back out on track and relegate himself to sixteenth on the grid. The circuit was improving slowly but surely, and running as late as possible in Q2 was the optimum strategy, which caught out Max Chilton, and saw him shuffled down all the way to fifteenth spot. Marussia’s good form in Q1 came to an end, after Razia looked to have displaced team-mate Bianchi in the top ten, only for a late lap from Davidson saw them both knocked out.
The rain had stopped entirely by the final shootout for the top eight places on the grid. Davidson was delighted with making it into Q3 for Lola, but the team called him back to the pits on his warmup lap after seeing something concerning on the telemetry, leaving him to take eighth on the grid. A mistake on the still wet surface from Karun Chandhok meant he would start in front of Davidson on the fourth row, behind a ‘Noah’s Arc Grid’ from first to sixth. Hamilton had looked set for pole until Rosberg snuck over the line at the last moment and would steal pole position to maintain his record of three poles in the first three races. Maldonado bested Raikkonen for third on the grid and looked to be a good outside bet for victory, whilst Sutil just came in ahead of di Resta on row three.
Nobody really seemed sure yet which strategy they would choose for the race. The long, slow pitlane made pitstops very costly, but with weather likely to change, it didn’t make sense to carry more fuel than was necessary. Most journalists in the paddock agreed some people would try to one stop, and others to two stop, with three seeming very unlikely, despite the anticipated very high chance of a safety car.
Pleased though they were to have locked out the front row the Mercedes team and both their drivers still had securing a first win of the season as their main priority. For Sutil and the Force India team, a repeat victory as they’d enjoyed at Buddh wasn’t their major goal, so much as another solid finish to keep them in the hunt for both titles. Williams were busy reassessing if running four cars was a good idea given their apparent difficulties with reliability, although they were certain that both Maldonado and Raikkonen would be contenders during the race.
The track remained damp for both the Touring Car and Carrera Cup races that closed the day’s running, both producing first time winners starting outside of the front row, and many were confident the WPMC wasn’t about to have its first repeat winner on the Sunday.
Sunday 20th March
Sunday dawned over a dry circuit still giving relatively little grip, with rain predicted for the night time but only likely to affect the WPMC main event. As per usual, the warm-up saw relatively little running, with Hamilton again the fastest driver just ahead of Maldonado. As the B race cars headed to the grid, Stefan GP were trying to mask their concern that they may not be in the main race at all, such were the difficulties all of the Toyota Motorsport chassis were experiencing around the circuit. Simtek boss Nick Wirth on the other hand proudly looked at Robert Frijins on pole position and Felix da Costa in fifth and saw them both as genuine candidates for making the main grid; an achievement which he hadn’t entirely been confident of so early into the team’s season. Hesketh Racing weren’t able to extend their run of B race wins, but were more than happy to just have both their cars in the main event, and relatively speaking, free time during the early Sunday sessions!
Frijns drove brilliantly and won the race from pole, whilst also setting fastest lap. Racing Engineering again benefitted from their use of the Williams KERS unit, which flattered their otherwise difficult time around the Hong Kong circuit, as they finished fourth and fifth. Wickens impressed again with second place in his underpowered car, and Sam Bird also made the grid for Epsilon Euskadi. Alguersuari had been in contention for the main grid for a lot of the race, before a misfire in the closing stages dropped him well down the order. Valescchi’s terrible weekend continued when he crashed out on the first lap, and Conquest recorded another triple-DNQ for a Dallara team after Briscoe hit the wall, Brabham was off the pace and Baguette got stuck behind Racing Engineering’s Mitch Evans. As Simtek celebrated Frijns’ success, the team kept an eye on the oil pressure problem which had put da Costa out of the B race in the other car, and gave Frijns’ machine as much of an extra service as time allowed, before the main event cars took to the grid.
The rain began to fall just before the gridwalk for the main event started, and it was just enough to make the track sufficiently wet throughout to make some teams consider a late gamble on a rain set-up, although most were still expecting the track to be dry by the end of the race. Hamilton told the press he was expecting most of the grid to run a two stop strategy given the longer race distance.
‘The rain’s probably a blessing, as it’ll take some of the physical load off, to be honest. But yeah, I’m expecting most guys to two stop today, but the weather and any safety cars could really shake things up’.
Marussia were one of the happiest teams about the rain, as it gave them a real chance of taking their first major points haul of the season, after the disappointment of their first two weekends.
As the drivers circled round on their warmup lap the attention was no longer on just the Williams flywheel KERS unit for the start, but also on the Avon and Michelin tyre users, who looked to have an advantage in the rain. To everyone’s pleasant surprise all the cars made it round the first lap unphased, with Maldonado storming in to the lead and Hamilton passing team-mate Rosberg to hold second place with Raikkonen slotting into third. Luiz Razia leapt up the order for Marussia to fifth spot, as Davidson began to fall back early on, with all the Aston Martin engine users suffering with the extra weight of their power unit. Ho Pin Tung was attempting an ambitious one stop strategy with a long first stint and would also be fighting the extra weight in his car for the opening stages. Karthiekyan and Bottas had been unable to make the use of their KERS off the line as they got stuck behind the Toyotas.
Out front, Maldonado was building up a lead, with Hamilton comfortable in second place after he took a few laps to shake Raikkonen’s momentous gain. The early laps of the race actually looked to be fairly quiet, save for the heaviest cars dropping back, and the best rain tyres slowly moving up the field. Rosberg had a small gap in fourth back to Razia in fifth, the Brazilian doing an excellent job of fighting with the Force Indias.
The first major incident came on lap six, with the tail end of the field bunched up behind Kovalainen's Prodrive Aston Martin in eighteenth downwards. When Perez stood on the brakes to avoid going in to the back of Tung, he allowed Buemi and Petrov up the inside through turn six at the bottom of the circuit, as the cars behind began to fly by. When Perez twitched going through the next left hander, he caught out Bottas who slammed into the back of him and the pair ran out to take off the end of Wickens front wing and forcing the Canadian in for a pitstop as the first safety car was thrown.
When the race resumed, Maldonado made a good restart and reestablished his lead, with Raikkonen locking up after aborting a move on Hamilton and slipping down the order. Frijns was doing well in the Simtek to slowly move up the field, and bring himself into contention for stealing a points finish by the time, the race reached quarter distance. Karthikeyan was running at the back for Williams after developing a problem with the car and giving Wickens the opportunity to sneak past.
Maldonado’s first stop on lap sixteen saw him lose almost half a lap given the length and speed of the pitlane, and he emerged in the middle of the pack. Hamilton’s stop three laps later saw the Englishman emerge closer to Maldonado than before the Venezuelan’s stop, but it was enough for Williams to still retain the lead. Cheers went up for the underdogs when Razia moved into third during the first round of stops and Frijns found himself in fifth when it emerged he was attempting to pull off a one-stop strategy. As Sutil exited the pits behind the Simtek, the German attempted to take fifth place on the road as his tyres wore in, but he was lucky to avoid the wall after a small lock-up, which allowed Bianchi the opportunity to sneak through for Marussia. Tung was also moving moderately up the order for Team China by virtue of not stopping. Conway’s street circuit prowess was no match for Raikkonen’s faster Williams as the Finn set off on his recovery drive, and overtook the Hesketh for eighth place on lap twenty. Williams were down to two cars by this point, after Karthikeyan brought the car back to the pits with what turned out to be an electric problem. Kovalainen was next to retire with a KERS issue.
By the halfway point, Hamilton was putting some real pressure on Maldonado, with the battle for third, five seconds down the road and the field down to twenty runners after Wolff’s engine blew and Petrov’s gearbox expired within a lap of each other. With Hamilton breathing down his neck at the front of the pack, Maldonado had to come in for fuel and emerged in the middle of the field, as Hamilton and Rosberg both put up fast laps in out front. By the time the two Mercedes had stopped, Hamilton was seven seconds clear of his team-mate with Maldonado in third and unable to find a way past. After their one and only stops Frijns and Tung were eighth and fourteenth, although Frijns excellent run would come to an end after the Simtek team again suffered with oil pressure problems and Tung would also retire with a transmission fault.
As the race approached the two hour mark, and the closing stages set in, Tuscher’s impressive weekend came to an end when he hit the wall coming out of the final turn on lap forty eight. Despite the retirement, the young Swiss driver had won many fans and Status GP had made an impressive debut. Running at the back, with a car that didn’t seem to be working correctly at all, Kobayashi elected to park up two laps later. Max Chilton also hit problems in his Marussia and he found himself having to shortshift, as he slowly fell out of the points. Sam Bird made it into the points for Epsilon Euskadi, as did Aidan Wright in twelfth on his debut for Minardi. Mike Conway put in another good showing for Hesketh with an excellent eighth place, holding off di Resta until the flag.
Further up the field, Luiz Razia managed to keep Raikkonen behind to the flag and take an excellent fourth place for Marussia, whilst Hamilton was instructed by the team to back off when they spotted a potential engine problem from the pits. Rosberg would close in, but ultimately took his third second-placed finish from pole as the Englishman won by just over a second, with Maldonado having to be content with a podium in third place after losing time in his second stop.
As Mercedes celebrated their 1-2 finish, Hamilton lifted the winners trophy into the air, delighted with his first win of the season, and his second successive night race victory. Marussia celebrated their massive points haul after Razia came home in fourth, whilst Rosberg’s lead in the championship, still wasn’t enough to banish his annoyance and still failing to convert pole position into a win.
Rain stopped falling from the night sky just as the drivers stepped off the podium and returned to the pits. Toto Wolff collected the trophy on behalf of Mercedes Benz for the winning team, still under scrutiny from Renault Sport in the battle for engine supremacy. Renault themselves left Hong Kong satisfied with Maldonado claiming the bonus point for most laps led, and with Raikkonen taking an extra point for fastest lap. The big three teams were already cementing their position at the top of the standings, and were the only outfits to have already broken a hundred points, despite an even split of one win each. With so many points available each weekend, the drivers standings were still yet to take proper shape, and Rosberg and Sutil at the top were still looking over their shoulders all the way down to di Resta in sixth place, as being the potential challengers.
As Hong Kong moved steadily towards Monday morning, the celebrations went on as long as time would allow, before the teams headed off to Suzuka; some due on track as early as the Tuesday.
Few in the paddock who were still asking ‘Who is John Galt?’, instead, they were now asking whose win would be the major story carried in the sports pages. Hamilton’s in WPMC or Button’s in Formula 1?
- by, Josh Wood
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- Josh Wood is taking part in ‘Movember’ this year to raise money for Prostate cancer charities. You can donate to his fundraising my following this link: mobro.co/jaywalkingjosh