In Formula One, all it takes is one mistake to ruin your day. Lewis Hamilton had the superior race pace despite not having as quick qualifying paste as his teammate, Nico Rosberg. However, a spin at the end of his second stint ended any chance he had of getting past Rosberg and instead kept his teammate alive in the hunt for the World Drivers’ Championship.
Of course, that wasn’t all of the news of the weekend. Money was still a hot topic of conversation and it looks like that discussion is only going to get more contentious from here.
The race started with Rosberg on the pole after leading each of the preceding three free practice sessions and each of the three parts of qualifying. He also led the race for all but on the exchange of pit stops as he had the leader’s advantage on pit stop strategy.
It almost didn’t work out for Rosberg, though. He came out nose-to-tail with Hamilton after the first pit stops but held on ahead of his championship leading teammate. During the second round of pit stops, Hamilton found a lot more speed than he had tucked up behind Nico. It looked like he would be able to stretch the gap enough that he would be able to overtake Rosberg.
However, he might have pushed a little too hard or, if you were to listen to Lewis, stayed out one lap too long and spun into Turn 4. That cost him all the time that he made up in clear air and allowed Rosberg a clear run to stay in front. Lewis was able to claw back towards Nico but found that catching was one thing and passing another.
The win was Rosberg’s fifth win of the season. That leaves him 17 points behind teammate Lewis Hamilton for the World Drivers’ Championship. Hamilton’s 2nd place was the third one of the season. He has one DNF and one podium in Rosberg’s other two wins. That’ll be an important statistic to remember for next week. Rounding out the podium was Felipe Massa who picked up a 3rd place despite a pit road speeding penalty and almost stopping in McLaren’s box.
Jenson Button finished in 4th thanks to Williams’ pit troubles. Sebastian Vettel crossed the line in 5th. Fernando Alonso led Kimi Raikkonen home with the Ferrari pair finishing 6th and 7th, respectively, but still lost two points to Williams in the World Constructors’ Championship. Nico Hulkenberg finished 8th. Kevin Magnussen is trying to hold on to a ride at McLaren next year but a 9th place finish might not be enough to save him with Button running in the top five. Rounding out the points was Valtteri Bottas who had pit stop problems that kept him from holding onto his 4th place starting spot.
The discussion of the finances of Formula One and those of the smaller teams continued this week and it’s certainly not looking good to not be backed by a major manufacturer or big sponsors.
This weekend, Bernie Ecclestone told reporters that he and series commercial rights owner CVC have no intention of increasing the sport’s prize pool beyond the current $900 million commitment. It also seems as though they have no intention of adjusting the current prize pool distribution to help the smaller teams.
Autosport quoted Bernie as saying, “I tell you the way forward: it is very easy. Don’t spend as much. We are giving these teams collectively $900 million and that’s enough. To survive in the way they have been surviving, start running the business like a business rather than a hobby.”
Basically, Bernie has told Force India, Lotus and Sauber that they’re on their own if they want to continue in the sport. Interestingly enough, Force India, a relatively successful team with a lot of sponsorship on the car, had their financial statement audit report posted by Formula Money this weekend and it said that if the Sahara Group stopped funding the team, it wouldn’t be able to continue. In fancy accounting parlance, a going concern emphasis of matter paragraph was included in their audit report.
And they’re not the only team with a going concern issue. Bernie has said that if Marussia were to miss the next race in Abu Dhabi, they would be deleted from the 2014 World Constructors’ Championship and the 2015 World Championship entry list. What that would mean hasn’t been officially disclosed but it’s believed that Marussia would forfeit points and prize money for the season. That would move Sauber into Marussia’s 9th and Caterham into the Column 1 and 2 prize money.
Bernie hasn’t really talked about Caterham’s position in the 2014 and 2015 championships but that’s because he has matter of greater embarrassment to deal with.
While both Caterham and Marussia are trying to make the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Caterham’s efforts are going in a direction that isn’t to Bernie’s liking. Caterham have taken to a crowdfunding website called CrowdCube to secure funding to get to the next race. They’re asking for £2,350,000 from fans in order to race in Abu Dhabi.
Personally, I think this is a terrible thing for a team to ask. Some millionaires (or billionaires) are asking fans to give them $3.7 million so they could potentially earn another $50 million but the fans will never see a penny of it despite being the only reason the team got there. At least Marussia is attempting to get there on their own merit.
As for next season, Bernie says that the teams have not been asked to field a third car to fill out the grid. Rumours during the weekend indicated that Red Bull and Ferrari had been asked to field a third car in 2015 and those rumours expanded to include Mercedes over the weekend. Apparently those rumours are false but that should have a “for now” appended as so many things in F1 has.
Speaking of money troubles, Sauber is finding their way around their current cash shortfalls through the driver market.
They’ve signed Williams reserve driver and GP2 2nd place man Felipe Nasr to be the second driver for the team alongside Marcus Ericsson in the 2015 season. That means that the current lineup of Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez are without rides next year, though I’d imagine Sutil and his lawyers may have something to say about it as he says he has a contract for 2015 and I doubt he’d back down without a fight.
Like Ericsson, Nasr is also coming with personal backing. His sponsor, Banco do Brasil, will be on the Sauber next year. Reports are Nasr’s Banco do Brasil sponsorship was worth $13 million to Williams. Some reports suggested that their upgrade to the sidepod and rear wing branding on the Sauber will cost them $24 million. That means that their two drivers will add over $40 million to the team’s coffers along with some $50 million from the prize pool. It’s sad that Sauber is making decisions based solely on having enough money to keep the doors open but that’s the current reality of F1.
And so we come to the final race of the 2014 Formula One World Championship. It’s one race for double points… and the World Drivers’ Championship. It’s one last race from dusk into night at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.
The mission for Lewis Hamilton is pretty simple. Finish in the top two or ahead of Nico and you’ve won your second World Drivers’ Championship. Nico has a much harder task. He has to score 18 more points than Lewis to win the title. That leaves a few permutations. In order for Nico to win, there are the following title permutations:
- Nico wins, Lewis finishes 3rd or worse
- Nico finishes 2nd, Lewis finishes 6th or worse
- Nico finishes 3rd, Lewis finishes 7th or worse
- Nico finishes 4th, Lewis finishes 9th or worse
- Nico finishes 5th, Lewis finishes 10th or worse
All of those scenarios have no chance of happening under completely normal circumstances. Of course, if every race was under completely normal circumstances, we wouldn’t bother running any of them. The reason we runs these races is because anything can happen until the chequered flag drops.