Russian roulette that cost Norris first F1 victory


The weather in Sochi was a game of Russian Roulette. Some lost, while others won. Lando Norris was about to win his first Grand Prix victory, a day after securing pole position. But the rain arrived with five laps remaining. It was heartbreaking to decide whether to keep his slick tires on or to do what McLaren asked for to refuel the intermediates. It is clear that he made a poor decision to get dirtyroulette girls, but it was not obvious whether the outcome was good or bad for either the drivers or teams. It was all about the pilot reacting to the current conditions. At the moment it felt like the rain was ending. It was about reading weather radar lines and translating them into lap times for the different tires. It’s not an exact science.

Lewis Hamilton won instead – for the 100th consecutive time. However, even though he had argued with his teammates over whether to enter, he delayed the decision by one round.

Max Verstappen was another winner. He started in last place after his Red Bull powertrain replacement, and took advantage of the rain to climb from seventh to second in an amazing damage control feat.

The decisions that determined the outcome were made long before race day.

Power supply Replacements

Red Bull has won the fourth Honda engine race of the season, despite Max Verstappen being penalized three grid positions for his Monza incident. Red Bull was able to start at the back due to the combined penalty and all associated components. However, it did so on a track that allows for overtaking slower cars.

Verstappen was lined up at the back with Leclerc

Ferrari received a specification upgrade. The 800V electrical system was installed in place of the 400Vs. This allows for more efficient use of battery power and gives Ferrari a slight power boost. Charles Leclerc had a problem with his existing battery, which was damaged in the crash in Hungary. His car was brought up for replacement. Verstappen would remain in the back row.

Mercedes had to make a difficult decision about Valtteri Bottas’ powertrain. He had already identified a problem with the new Monza unit. He qualified here using an older, high mileage unit. He had qualified seventh in qualifying, so it was worth buying a new fifth engine. This would result in only a 10-seat grid decrease, as only the internal combustion engine would need to be modified. This may have been a compensatory bonus that allowed Verstappen to slow down Verstappen’s progress and thus his potential point score. Bottas was forced to accept Mercedes’ call.

Wing Levels

This track offers a great lap time reward for downforce. Qualifying was also wet which increased the chance of downforce. There’s a long stretch between the pit start and the turn 2. There is conflict.

Verstappen was able to secure a spot in the peloton thanks to his trimmed rear wings

Low-bank Mercs are naturally low-drag, so they could afford a large wing. The team will have its largest (on Bottas’ car) back-to-back with its next largest (on Hamilton’s). He chose to go for the larger one. The result was faster lap times, but still very respectable straight line speed.

McLaren split their picks. Higher support for Norris and lower for Daniel Ricciardo.

Sergio Perez was charged by Red Bull with the rearwing. He knew that Verstappen would not be participating in qualifying due to grid penalties. He would need assistance, starting from the rear. When managing the Perez Wing, Nicholas Latifi and Williams were tasked with helping him, they decided to cut it.

Tire choice Q3

On Saturday, the weather forecast was first to take its turn. Qualifying was held on a track that was slowly drying out. Intermediates were able to compete in Q1, Q2 or the first Q3 runs.

Hamilton was still ahead of Bottas, despite them being on the same level of downforce and the track being slippery. What to do now that the dry line was starting to fall with the clock? You can either stay on the intersections or you could go in for slicks, which would take around three laps to reach temperature.

Hamilton won Q1 and Q2 in Sochi but was fourth in Q3.

Williams had no choice but to go with Williams. George Russell had done a fantastic job getting into Q3, and had used all his inters to get there. He was not likely to get slick tires after his Q3 lap. He would finish 10th, even if things went wrong. If everyone had been running inters, this is how it would have turned out.

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