Driver movements remain in the headlines this week, as rookie driver signings Predz and Minnow had their respective contracts terminated ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix. It was sad news for Sahara Force India, as the loss of Nobody earlier in the season now forces them to withdraw from the competition, driverless for the moment. Team Principal Vijay Mallaya remains hopeful that drivers can be found before the end of the season to get the team back in the game.
Amazingly, 2 time WCC and 1 time WDC winning team Mercedes find themselves in a similarly dire situation. With the termination of no-show Predz's contract, the failed attempt to secure Nobody and the absence of Wingnut, the team find themselves without a driver this week, and falling further and further behind the field.
So, from the 13 entered drivers, Wingnut's absence continued this week; RFR's ET ROM was sent to Russia after a flight booking error; and Sauber's Sora was out of action with technical difficulties. Ferrari's Toggsie was also forced to pull out of the race after electrical problems during qualifying.
Practice for this week's race had shown a marked difference in the level of grip between the option and prime tyres, throwing up the potential for multiple strategies come the race. Indeed the drivers were fairly evenly split on which tyre they took for qualifying - eventual pole sitter SOJ changing his strategy on the fly after seeing most of his rivals opt for the prime tyre. Williams' rogue eclipse would join the championship leader on the front row, also on the option tyre. Both STR's went the prime route, though they were split on the grid by Sauber's Prime on the options. Lotus and Williams split their strategies - Effing on the options for the Enstone boys, and Ploddy and zdievo on the primes. RFR's Fredz brought up the rear on the options.
It was an eventful first lap, with rogue jumping SOJ for the race lead on the run to turn 1. millen had another Webber-esque get away, causing Ploddy to be boxed in by the STR and his team mate. The championship leader quickly caught up the Williams, and stuck the pass down the back straight. Unfortunately for the Maranello Missile, rogue went too deep under brakes at turn 10, forcing SOJ wide. It wouldn't be rogue's only disruption on the opening lap, as his slide through the final chicane forced the cars close behind to take evasive action. Jase was forced to pull over to hand back positions to avoid a penalty, SOJ spun avoiding the slow down and hit the pit wall; and all of this allowed Lotus' Ploddy to follow in the footsteps of Steven Bradbury and pinch the race lead.
As rogue struggled with the heavy fuel load, he held up the charging STRs, allowing Ploddy to build a gap out front. There followed some fantastic racing, it was edge of your seat stuff for STR Team Principal Franz Tost as Jase and millen diced in close quarters. Prime and rogue mixed it up with the Torro Rossos as SOJ worked his way back through the field from his difficult start. Further back, Effing had zdievo covered, as Fredz fought to keep it on the black stuff. There was a heart-in-your-throat moment for Williams and Sauber as the RFR went careening between the battling cars on lap 7.
millen began trying to reel in the Doritos Kid as his team mate fought to hold off the championship leader. However, catching the Lotus was proving more difficult than it might have been, as Ploddy put in a clinical performance over the opening half of the race. millen began to fall back into the clutches of his team mate as the Missile launched his charge, setting purple lap after purple lap through the middle stint.
rogue had managed to beat Prime's attempt at an undercut and was ably assisted by zdievo, who put in some good laps to keep the Sauber behind him and allow rogue to build a gap. It was a good performance from the improving Williams driver, though he couldn't hold Prime or Lotus' Effing over the distance. With ET away, it was down to Fredz to get the job done for RFR, although the veteran driver found it tough going, at one point exclaiming that he was spending most of each lap in the sand.
Back at the front, millen had made in roads on Ploddy, and as the race leader pulled into the pits at the end of lap 21, the STR was right behind him. He would exit ahead of millen, but SOJ had already flashed by to take the lead and Jase stuck the pass on the Lotus' outlap to drop the Iceman to third, narrowly ahead of millen. A DRS failure on lap 24 relegated the Lotus to P4, and when SOJ pitted for the final time, the race was poised for an enthralling finish.
There were clearly no team orders at STR, as Jase and millen picked up where they started the day, nipping at each others heels. The result would go right down to the wire, millen finally getting the better of Jase under DRS on the penultimate lap, before Ploddy made a brave move down the inside at turn 10 to take P2. Jase nearly had the place back after Ploddy slid at the final chicane, forcing the STR to avoid and then hand back a place for passing off the track - almost a mirror image of the events of lap 1 - also allowing SOJ to sneak through for P3.
In the end, millen would take his first victory of the season ahead of what must have been a frustrated Ploddy and the ever present SOJ. Jase held P4 but would be similarly frustrated after he seemed set for at least a podium finish. rogue cruised home in P5 for Williams, having seen off the early challenge from Sauber's PessimistPrime in P6. Lotus' EffSea came home ahead of a plucky zdievo in P7 with Fredz rounding out the field.
"Well done millen on a fantastic win. I can't believe I fucked up enough to let you guys back in it, but that's racing. Kinda sick of being the bridesmaid though." - Ploddy - Lotus
"Happy with the result and the way we handled the first lap situation calmly. It was the best we could do today and that is all that matters. Congrats to Millen and Ploddy for running a great race and hard luck to Jase on the penalty's. Your luck will change mate. Good luck to everyone in the coming weeks, we will be looking to return stronger than ever." - SOJ - Ferrari
"I think the racing gods are against me this season or I might just need to sacrifice a chicken to get a win. Had fun all the same and battled the whole race so a good result in the end." - Jasegp - Toro Rosso
"Congratulations to millen on the win, always pleased to see my old team mate do well. We had a good start today, but in the end made the wrong call on strategy and lacked the outright pace to go with the lead group. Still, a solid finish after a difficult couple of weeks and a better day for the team. Well done to evo on another good performance." - rogue eclipse - Williams
"Race start was great, hectic battles all round - nearly took SoJ out as he spun across the track, nearly got killed by Ploddy as we went four around the last bend. Nearly killed Jase a lap after that, then my tires went bad somewhere after that and that was about it. Not a fan of this track, just can't make the Primes do anything. Going into the race with this in mind I expected to finish where I did. Looking forward to leaving for Monaco, hopefully the team don't put on options in the rain again." - PessimistPrime - Sauber
"Happy with the result, think a chance to fight for 7th was possible today, but overall a good result for myself and the team, continued improvement race to race, which is what I need. Congrats
to the STR guys, making for one hell of a battle for the Constructors and Drivers title, we at Williams need to start beating the Lotus boys for points." - zdievo - Williams
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