In a new feature for the 2016 season, we look at the intra-team rivalries on the grid and decide after each grand prix just who came out on top – catch up with the Australia entry HERE, and Bahrain HERE.
Remember; the first person you must beat in Formula One is the guy in exactly the same car as you.
Lewis Hamilton 0 – 3 Nico Rosberg
Race: Nico Rosberg
Another race in the win column for Nico, both literally and figuratively, as Lewis’ gearbox issues meant he never really had the level pegging that he’s entitled to. For the third straight weekend there was a lot of talk about “damage limitation” once again – for the third straight weekend, no less – thanks to contact from Felipe Nasr right at the start, causing to handle “like a four-poster bed”, according to the Brit.
Nico must be in disbelief at his luck so far in 2016. He’s had a win handed to him in Australia because Ferrari bungled Vettel’s strategy, and has now escaped two races that were defined by first corner contacts. Hamilton’s woes, either self inflicted with the start procedures or out of his hands with gearboxes and gung-ho overtaking attempts from others, are adding to his confidence, which has slowly built from Mexico last year. The stats are now the knife edge on which his legacy rests – no driver has won six consecutive races and not won the title, but he’s also the most successful driver in terms of race wins without a World Championship – and the German has to capitalise so he doesn’t end up as the modern day Stirling Moss.
Sebastian Vettel 2 – 1 Kimi Raikkonen
Race: Sebastian Vettel
Speaking of damage limitation, if you ever wanted to see blame deflected after a Formula One race, watch the heated pre-podium discussion between Vettel and Daniil Kvyat. The Ferrari driver knew the pressure the team was under in China, with Sergio Marchionne in attendance and looking for some return on the team’s expenditure and failure to deliver on pre-season promise, you can’t help but feel that the use of the words “suicidal”, “madman” and “torpedo” were nothing more than excessive justification. It put the tarnish on a stellar recovery drive, with his early pitlane entry antics a highlight, and from here smelt a little hypocritical when it comes to being ruthless in the search for success – Malaysia 2013, anyone?
Kimi drove well and had the measure of Vettel for a solid part of the weekend, especially Saturday where he out-qualified his teammate, but the recovery drive was just a tad more unimpressive than Seb’s. Still, the jury is still out on whether the Scuderia can actually challenge Mercedes, even if they do avoid each other and the team gets it right strategically.
Daniel Ricciardo 3 – 0 Daniil Kvyat
Race: Daniel Ricciardo
Two vastly different, and exciting, stories on how their drivers got there, but finishing 3rd and 4th at a power-orientated track such as China is stuff of dreams for Red Bull. Both Ricciardo and Kvyat put in impressive shifts in the car, but the Aussie nabs this round thanks to that lap in Q3 that put him on the front row next to a Mercedes and in front of both Ferraris, and the adventures of Sunday that started with the lead, marred by a puncture and then the cream-of-the-crop of all the recovery drives of the afternoon.
Daniil really needs some credit for his manner when confronted by Vettel after the race. Taking a risk into Turn 1 like he did is part of how popular F1 drivers pick up their supporters – “if no longer go for a gap”, etc, etc – and if the roles had been reversed and Kvyat had been the aggrieved party we might be viewing it in a slightly different way.
Max Verstappen 2 – 1 Carlos Sainz
Race: Max Verstappen
The most fascinating intra-team battle on the grid saw both participants have solid races that led to points. Max finished ahead of Carlos after a feisty final stint on softer tyres, which was the uppercut-style reply to Sainz out-qualifying him by three-tenths. When it came to the race though, Max reasserted himself as the performer of the team, pulling off some strong overtakes in the latter laps that might make his career montage (which is already overflowing after last season).
Sainz can’t be ignored as a consistent, reliable points scorer, however. If Max is taking all the plaudits for his “do-or-die” attitude to overtaking, which does make headlines, who do you want in your car when it’s at the front of the grid? Top teams would be fools to pass up Carlos.
Valterri Bottas 0 – 3 Felipe Massa
Race: Felipe Massa
Williams have slipped back into the midfield pack this season and are now slightly slower than Red Bull in terms of pure pace, which must rankle them slightly after their results in the past few seasons, but the experience of Massa has been one of the positives in 2016 so far. The red flag on Saturday may have even masked how fast his car was in China, as it was fully capable of a Q3 berth, but thanks to Hulkenberg’s penalty and the choice of tyres meant he could stay out when the Safety Car made it’s appearance, and even run in the podium places for a good proportion of the race.
You could say the fact that Bottas got into Q3 was the reason for him slipping back towards the end of the race, as he was on used tyres and was a sitting duck to the Toro Rosso pair. It means that Williams are in a strange “damned if you do, damned it you don’t” position on the cusp of Q2/Q3 for a race, which really isn’t a place they want to be.
Nico Hulkenberg 3 – 0 Sergio Perez
Race: Nico Hulkenberg
This type of race is usually when Perez shines the brightest; a mixed up order because of a safety car putting him on a stop less than most of the field, and then the Mexican eeking the harder compound out, gaining places once the softer compounds go on. But in 2016, with the additional compound in the mix, he’s been found out, or at least, had that part of his racecraft neutered. Once the Safety Car has made it’s appearance, he was sitting in 3rd place, but after a final stint on mediums, he was easy prey for faster cars, finally finishing a disappointing 11th.
Couple that with Hulkenberg’s pair of unfortunate incidents and it was a weekend to forget for Force India, which is becoming an uncomfortable theme. Out of the two drivers, Nico seems to be coping with the adversity slightly better – and set fastest lap of the race on Sunday – which is more telling when it comes to both drivers temperaments. It’s now clear that both are in for a long, long season.
Jenson Button 0 – 2 Fernando Alonso
Race: Fernando Alonso
Back in the car after missing Bahrain, Fernando was bullish ahead of his comeback, refuting even more claims that he’s past his beast by declaring that he was “the best driver on the grid” still. That’s still to be debated, but he was definitely the faster of the two McLaren drivers all weekend, edging out teammate Button in qualifying, which could have been a Q3 appearance based on their feedback, but both were thwarted by the red flag.
Alonso’s edge on Button also came from the Brit’s failure to get his two-stop strategy to work the way he wanted, with the mediums just not switching on enough, and then the switch to three-stops not working in their favour either. Jenson has been out of luck with decisions made from the pit wall so far in 2016 – the team will need to address this to gain those much needed points.
Romain Grosjean 2 – 1 Esteban Gutierrez
Race: Esteban Gutierrez
Eventually Haas were going to have a race which every expected them to have, further down the grid and scrapping for grip. Romain complained about the pressures of the Pirelli tyres almost from the off on Friday and that set the tone of his grand prix; without the confidence in his car he fumbled at the tail end of the midfield, his position compounded by contact with Ericsson’s Sauber almost straight away.
At least Esteban looked a bit more assured on track, finally getting a race finish under his belt, finishing in front of his teammate and, at one point, setting the fastest lap of the race, so there was at least a silver lining to Haas’ Chinese cloud.
Felipe Nasr 0 – 3 Marcus Ericsson
Race: Marcus Ericsson
“When life throws you lemons, make lemonade”, a common phrase to help people overcome adversity through adapting, or, in simpler terms, how Marcus Ericsson is taking to the C35 compared to teammate Nasr, who, given the chance, would probably swap it for Hamilton’s four-poster of a bed. Ericsson managed to manhandle his Sauber in front of both Manors, both Renaults and Romain Grosjean – who had some choice words for the Swede after the race thanks to some lap 1 contact – as well as his teammate, and deserves a pat on the back for that effort.
Jolyon Palmer 1 – 2 Kevin Magnussen
Race: Kevin Magnussen
Points were the aim, but Renault fell well short in China. Magnussen beat Palmer fair and square after an afternoon of dicing with the Sauber and Manors, but in a race that saw them well behind Red Bull and the equivalent power unit it’s the only consolation the Dane can take. Palmer even got sworn at by Kvyat over the radio to really compound the issue.
Pascal Wehrlein 3 – 0 Rio Harayanto
Race: Pascal Wehrlein
Another convincing victory for Pascal in the fight between the Manors, despite the accident in qualifying, but he bounced back from that to run his car high up in the points while the order sorted itself out in the race, and had a stellar final stint on supersofts to challenge Magnussen’s Renault. His final placing of 18th doesn’t look great, but when you think that there was a Haas, a Sauber, the other Renault of Palmer and his teammate Haryanto, who looks less like a threat and more like an investor with each passing race.