Monthly Archives: May 2014

Horner: We didn’t realise Ricciardo would be so quick

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Practice

In an interview with Sky Sports F1 today, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner has admitted that they “didn’t realise how quick” Daniel Ricciardo would be when they signed him up to replace Mark Webber for this season.

Ricciardo fought off competition from Kimi Raikkonen and Jean-Eric Vergne to secure the vacant seat at the World Champions and he has made an immediate impact out-qualifying and out-racing Sebastian Vettel 5-1.

In his interview with Sky Sports F1, Horner has nothing but high praise at the job that Ricciardo is currently doing with the Red Bull team. He stated the following:-

‘Daniel has been a real surprise this year. We knew he was quick – we just didn’t realise how quick. And he is so cool as well, he is quick, he’s good looking, he has got everything going for him.’

I would have to agree with what Horner has stated about Ricciardo. So far this season, I have been really impressed with the performances that Ricciardo has achieved already with the Red Bull team. He has managed to settle into the team really well, has managed to extract pace and performance from the car and is being rewarded for his efforts.

Many pundits and fans before the start of the season (myself included) wondered if Ricciardo would be able to handle the pressure of being promoted from the Toro Rosso team to the Red Bull team despite showing promises of his talent during his two years here. But he has already proved his doubters wrong and continues to do so by showing that he can when he is provided with the opportunity, he can deliver.

Further on in his interview with Sky Sports F1, Horner believes that Ricciardo’s performance at the Monaco Grand Prix is a turning point for the Red Bull team. He stated the following:-

‘For the first time this year we were actually racing them and I think if we had qualified better we could have given them a harder time. But it is definitely a positive step for the team this weekend, we have taken the fight to them a little bit more and there is more to come.’

Even though I can understand why Horner thinks that their pace at Monaco was a step forward for the team, I do still feel that even though it is a step forward for them, they still have a lot of work to do in order to close the gap and advantage that Mercedes have over them currently. There is no question that Red Bull has the personnel and the resources at their disposal to close the gap to the Mercedes team, but I fear it could be too late for them to mount a challenge for the title.

Whilst Horner feels that the Ricciardo’s pace was better, he is realistic enough to know that finding a way past on the tight confines of the Monaco circuit was unlikely admitting that only when Hamilton’s eye issue became apparent did he think they had a chance. He added the following in his interview on the matter:-

‘When he said he got a bit of rubbish in his eye and started to slow down, but with a driver of Lewis’ quality you know he is not going to give up a second place easily. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, overtaking is another thing.’

As Horner rightly points out, despite the issue that Hamilton faced with his eye in the race on Sunday, this would not stop him from racing and performing in the best way that he could. Even though Ricciardo was catching Hamilton at a fast and consistent pace, I feel that passing Hamilton would have not been possible for him due to the characteristics of the Monaco circuit.

In regards to what Horner has stated about Ricciardo today, I feel that Ricciardo has managed to surprise many pundits and fans with the performances he has managed to achieve at the Red Bull team so far this season. There is no question that Ricciardo is a talent of the future, he is improving race by race and is gaining more confidence in himself.

He has shown that he can perform well and also consistently, if he is given the tools and equipment to do the job. Already, he has proven that he is more of a match to his team mate Sebastian Vettel who at this present time is struggling to get to grips with the RB10 and extracting pace from the car.

I would not be surprised if this season sees if Ricciardo is provided with the opportunity to achieve his first win in the sport. It would be thoroughly deserved and would do no further harm in establishing himself as a serious contender in the future to be fighting for more race wins and maybe even a championship further down the line in his career.

Can Ricciardo get quicker throughout the season ahead? I feel that Ricciardo will only get quicker and he has a lot more to give in his first season with Red Bull. We can only watch this space.

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Abiteboul: Caterham not a suitable target for Haas

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In an interview with Sky Sports F1 today, Caterham Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul has denied the suggestion that Gene Haas buying the Caterham team would not be a “suitable target” as he looks into setting up in Formula One in either 2015 or the 2016 season.

With Haas recently announcing plans to enter the sport in either 2015 or 2016, he has also stressed his desire to the media that he would like to base the operation in the United States, most likely in North Carolina alongside his NASCAR team.

It would appear from Abiteboul’s interview with Sky Sports F1 today that Haas’s statement of intent is one that he has personally taken on board. Abiteboul stated the following in his interview:-

‘I think they have a very strong opinion of how they want to do Formula 1. I don’t think that we tick their boxes.’

With what Abiteboul has stated during his interview, it would seem that he is under the impression that he believes that Haas will keep his promises that he has made when his entry until Formula One was confirmed and will undergo pursuing and creating his own team as planned ready to enter the sport in 2015 or 2016.

There have been many rumours circulating around the media that Haas has reportedly been in talks with the Caterham team and could maybe be looking at the options of buying the team for himself. Abiteboul has not stated one way or the other that talks about this have taken place. But I do believe that these talks may have taken place as Haas is currently taking the time to explore every avenue that is available to him.

But it has been speculated that alongside the Caterham team, the likes of Marussia, Lotus and Sauber and perhaps even Toro Rosso and Force India are all joining Caterham in being open to new ownership. Abiteboul seems to suggest further in his interview that this could be a possibility that the teams and even Haas could be exploring further. He added the following:-

‘I think everything is for sale in Formula 1, so every team is looking for sponsors, for investors, so I think it’s then just a notion of limits. But I can’t really comment on the limitation. We’ve been talking to potential investors since I joined this team to be honest.’

It would be hard not to argue with what Abiteboul has stated here. With the current economic climate and the rising costs that running and operate a Formula One team competitively rising, there is no question that some of the smaller and independent teams are looking for ways to try and keep going within the sport for as long as they possibly can.

With the issue of a cost cap being introduced into the sport still being debated amongst those running the sport, it may already be too late for some teams to stay within Formula One for the foreseeable future. As Abiteboul rightly points out, every team on the grid is looking to secure their future for as long as possible and looking to keep and gain partnerships in order to do this.

In regards to the Caterham team, let us not forget that the team’s owner Tony Fernandes after five years of keeping the Caterham team in the sport with his investment looks to have had enough of what his investment has given him. Already this season, Fernandes has not visited a Grand Prix which is causing many pundits and fans reason for concern regarding the team’s future within Formula One.

With his other sporting interest in football with Queens Park Rangers gaining promotion back into the Premier League, it could be suggested that his attention maybe turned in getting the most of that investment for the foreseeable future despite their driver Marcus Ericsson equalled their best-ever result with 11th but rivals Marussia had plenty to celebrate when Jules Bianchi finally broke their own points duck by finishing ninth.

As I have argued in a previous article, It’s a result that in terms of prize money that the teams receive based on their performance in the Constructors Championship could have implications for both and also confirms the suspicion that Marussia have been edging clear of their rivals.

Abiteboul believes that despite this concern, the team need to believe that they have a future still in the sport and it’s up to them to show their investor or potential investors that they can achieve what they want to achieve within the sport still. He stated the following:-

‘It’s up to us to demonstrate that we deserve opposition in Formula 1 and to demonstrate to our shareholders that we are a sensible value proposal for themselves.’

Abiteboul sums it up perfectly. All the Caterham team can do for this season is to ensure that they throw every personnel, resources and capital that they can spare in order to unlock and improve the performance of their car throughout the season ahead. Even though Caterham have got limited resources at their disposal, they have to just keep motivated and try to do the best with what they have in order to have a fighting chance of staying in the sport.

In regards to what Abiteboul has stated about Haas, I feel that if Haas was to buy the Caterham team, he would only purchase the factory and the resources that they have alongside running his operation in America. This would then give him an advantage and save him money on building an infrastructure that he could gain for when he enters the sport with his team. This would also keep Haas at the centre of Formula One and close to everything that is going on within the sport’s epicentre.

But will Haas like Abiteboul believes stick to his original plan and base in his team in America and America only? We shall have to wait and see.

Boullier: McLaren have turned a corner

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In an interview with Autosport today, McLaren Team Principal Eric Boullier believes that the team has turned the corner on its season at the Monaco Grand Prix, as it knuckles down for a major development push with its 2014 car.

After three non-point finishes, the team managed to get both of their drivers Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen in to the top ten in Monaco. After the Monaco Grand Prix, Boullier welcomed the significance of finally getting back in the points for the first time since the Chinese Grand Prix in mid-April.

He also reckons that the medium-downforce package the team has for Canada, allied to major upgrades for the Austrian and British Grand Prix is going to give the McLaren team a good reason to be more optimistic about its future.

In his interview with Autosport, Boullier was asked if getting points in Monaco was important and he agreed. He stated the following:-

‘We could actually have finished sixth and seventh, but we had a loss of electrical power on Kevin’s car which is why for a couple of laps he was struggling to keep the pace. Then obviously Kimi’s move ruined his race.’

I would have to agree with Boullier here and it was great to see that McLaren were able to score points at Monaco last weekend. The fact that McLaren achieved to gain some points out of the race is an achievement in itself in terms of where they are currently in the grid regarding their performances. It would seem that McLaren are starting to achieve little steps forward with unlocking more pace and performance with the car.

In terms of the race on Sunday, McLaren appeared to look comfortable with their levels of performance within the Grand Prix. In regards to what Boullier has stated regarding Magnussen’s electrical power failure, I do believe that both cars could have kept their positions within the race but only due to the characteristics of the Monaco circuit.

Even though the points may not be to the level that the team would like to achieve and score during a race weekend, this will only help them push on and develop their car further in order to get back to competitive ways once more.

‘We need to get back to where we should be. That is the most important thing. Monaco is a special race. It is good to be in the points, but the target is to be in the points every race and then the big points every race.’

In terms of what McLaren have achieved from last weekend, it would appear that they are making small progress in order to try and improve their car and its performance as much as they can. But they need to ensure that they keep on pushing and developing the car for this season before turning their attentions to the 2015 season and their renewed partnership with Honda.

As Boullier has stated today, McLaren need to get back to where they should be as quickly as they possibly can. There is no reason why McLaren cannot get back to how they used to be. They have the resources and the budget required to pursue a continuous development programme that could be the key ingredient to unlocking the true potential of the MP4-29. In my opinion, McLaren just need to believe that it is possible and keep on pushing themselves to get the most of that car as this season continues.

With the car demands of Monaco and the next race in Montreal being unique, McLaren is delaying its major upgrade package for the Austrian Grand Prix next month. However, McLaren have announced that they will be bringing another step and improvement for their car for the British Grand Prix, with the team determined to keep developing its 2014 car as many of the design elements will be relevant for its 2015 challenger.

In regards to what Boullier has stated today, I feel that McLaren have made small progress to try and get back to competitive ways. They still have a lot of work to do in order to close the gap to their rivals and I think that if the team cannot close the gap by Germany, they should focus their attentions on the 2015 car but still try and develop the current car until the season finale at Abu Dhabi.

But will the upgrades announced by McLaren today be the start of the team’s challenge and ambition to be at the front of the grid again? Only time will tell.

Horner: Vettel will not give up

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Practice

In an interview with Autosport today, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner has stated that Sebastian Vettel will not let his current frustrations with Red Bull’s RB10 get the better of him throughout this season.

Vettel failed to finish at Monte Carlo on Sunday when while running third in the race, he was stopped by a failed turbo. But Horner has faith that however downbeat Vettel was after Monaco, he will continue to work hard to help turn things around. In his interview with Autosport, Horner stated the following:-

‘Obviously this weekend was pretty tough on him and he is doing nothing wrong. He is smart enough to recognise that. Like any sportsman he is going to be frustrated when things go wrong but with time to get breath, and reflect, he will just keep working away at it.

‘It is the nature of who he is. He will keep his head down and keep working harder and harder.’

As Horner states, Vettel did not have the weekend that he would have expected at Monaco. At the end of the day, Vettel has been experiencing difficulties with the RB10 since the start of pre-season testing, but he will analyse the data from yesterday and see if there is anything that he can do to help come to terms with getting the maximum performance out of the car.

But despite the issues regarding his failed turbo that he experienced in the race yesterday, there is no question that this will only spur Vettel on to try and improve himself and the car further in order to achieve the best possible result that he can at the next Grand Prix in Canada in two weeks time.

Despite the disappointment for Vettel, further on in his interview with Autosport, Horner says that Ricciardo’s challenge on Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages of the race was a sign that the team’s approach on Sunday was the right one. He added the following:-

‘I think we set out to do our best race and once Dan was in clear air, after Kimi [Raikkonen] had picked up his puncture with [Max] Chilton on the endplate, we were able to run our own race. And rather than go bananas as it looked like the Mercedes guys were pushing each other incredibly hard, we thought let’s just run our fastest race.

‘So we built up and up and up and, in the last 20 laps really, started to push. Daniel had tremendous pace at that point of the race and was able to close Lewis down. But unfortunately around here you are never realistically likely to overtake unless the driver ahead makes a mistake.’

In regards to the performance of Ricciardo, once again he managed to extract the best possible performance from the car that he could achieve. As Horner points out, the only thing Red Bull could do was to run their own race with Ricciardo and see what they could gain from the race yesterday.

Once again, Ricciardo put in an astonishing performance within the last twenty laps of the race in order to close the gap between himself and Hamilton. However, if it was at another racetrack, Ricciardo could have tried to pass Hamilton for position but with the characteristics of Monaco, that was sadly not possible.

But in regards to what Horner has stated today, there is no question that Vettel will not give up his fight to keep himself in the title race for as long as possibly can and also to try and get back to winning and scoring podiums once again as quickly as he can.

I fear that by the time Red Bull are in a position to try and at least challenge the Mercedes, the title will too late for Red Bull and Vettel to achieve. The Mercedes are just quite simply in a class of their own at the moment and have quite a significant advantage over the rest of the field.

This season might be the year that Red Bull is out of the running to secure their fifth consecutive Constructors and Drivers titles. But they may have a fight on their hands in the latter part of the season for “the best of the rest” and it is a fight that Red Bull currently may have the advantage.

But one thing is for sure; they will keep fighting until it is mathematically impossible for them to fight for both titles. Can Red Bull close the gap to the Mercedes team during the season? At the moment, they look the only team that is capable of least trying to close the gap now.

But will they be able to close it enough to keep themselves in the fight for the title? We can only wait and see.

Alonso: We need to push development

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In an interview with ESPN F1 today, Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso has stated that Ferrari need to step up its development push to put itself in a position to capitalise on the simmering war at Mercedes.

The title fight took a new twist in Monaco, with the relationship between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton reaching a critical point for the first time this season.  Alonso fell out with Lewis Hamilton during the pair’s time together at McLaren in 2007, a feud which ultimately left the door open for Kimi Raikkonen to snatch the title from under their noses.

Alonso was a distant fourth in Monaco but he thinks Ferrari could put themselves in a position to capitilise if it takes a big step forward soon. In his interview with ESPN F1, Alonso stated the following:-

‘I think we are a little bit too far away in the championship battle with them. We would like to be a little bit closer to challenging them for victories or a little bit closer in the points. I think for us they are so much in front we only can see this battle and this relationship from far, from the outside, it’s not really making any difference to us in this moment.

‘But if we get into a position to fight for victories or to fight for the championship that will be interesting, if we are in that position and they are struggling with the relationship.’

I would have to agree with what Alonso has stated in his interview today. As he rightly points out, Ferrari are simply just too far away to even consider fighting for the championship this season despite them hoping that the new technical regulations would provide them with the opportunity to do so.

Quite simply, Ferrari has an awful lot of work to do in order to even challenge for podiums or victories throughout the remainder of this season. All that Alonso and the Ferrari team can do is work together and push to bring as much improvements and updates to their car in order to try and close the gap to their rivals as much as they possibly can before turning their attentions to next season.

There is no question that if the relationship between the Mercedes drivers rapidly starts to ungravel and starts to affects the team’s performances, there is no doubt that if Alonso has an opportunity to seize the advantage, he will do so. But that all depends of if (and it is a big if) that situation occurs in the remainder of the season.

Further on in his interview, Alonso has stated that he thinks it is perfectly natural to see the Mercedes duo at odds this season. He added the following:-

‘I think it is normal with sport and with Formula One, there’s a lot of pressure and a lot of media attention, you should beat your team-mate to get good respect. If you put a championship battle in that garage then things become tense and more public, even sometimes exaggerated.

‘I’m sure they have up and downs throughout the year but things get exaggerated. I hope they have a clean championship both and whoever wins is hopefully the best of the two and the one who deserves it more.’

As Alonso points out, Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport. It is a high pressured environment that pushes the drivers and the teams to perform at the best they possibly can achieve. Alonso makes a valid point that there is a lot of media attention attached to the sport that can help a driver when he is performing or can hinder a driver if he is not performing.

At the moment, the spotlight is firmly on the Mercedes drivers who are pushing each other to try and achieve the best possible chance to take the title for themselves. As Alonso rightly states, with the media attention, things may become exaggerated and taken out of context that may help one driver and hinder the other and vice versa. But I would have to agree with him and I think that the best driver will win the championship at the end of the year and who ever that is, they will deserve it.

But in regards to what Alonso has stated today, will the battle between the Mercedes drivers allow Ferrari the opportunity to keep pushing on with their development programme in the hope that they could close the gap to their rivals? Ferrari will be looking at everything they can in order to gain more performance and pace from the F14 T without the battle that the Mercedes drivers find themselves in.

But will the battle at Mercedes allow Ferrari to capitalise on any opportunity that may occur in the remaining races of the season? I am not so sure. As I have already stated, they have a lot of work to do in order to get that position to capitalise on the Mercedes battle if that situation presents itself.

Can Ferrari get to that position? We can only wait and see what happens during the season ahead.

Booth: Bianchi is ‘ready’ for Ferrari

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In an interview with the media today, Marussia Team Boss John Booth believes that his driver Jules Bianchi has demonstrated that he is “ready” for Ferrari as and when he is required.

As many pundits and fans know, Bianchi is backed by the Ferrari team through the Ferrari Academy Drivers Programme and Bianchi himself was quick to thank Ferrari for the support after netting his first F1 Championship points in Monte Carlo. In an interview, Bianchi stated the following:-

‘I would like to thank the Ferrari Driver Academy, who support me every step of my career.’

It is extremely nice to hear that Bianchi has thanked the Ferrari for all the support that they have provided him with over the course of his career in motorsport and also within Formula One so far. With so many young drivers in programmes with teams such as Red Bull, Caterham and McLaren, this will only highlight once again how vital these programmes are in order to bring in talent for the future.

It has been known that Bianchi was linked to a seat at Ferrari prior to Kimi Raikkonen’s return, however at the time he was deemed to be too inexperienced in order to take the seat vacated by Felipe Massa leaving the team last season. But whether Sunday’s points will change the opinion remains to be seen.

When asked in his interview with the media, Booth believes that the future of Bianchi in a Ferrari will depend on where Raikkonen and even Bianchi himself see their futures in the sport. He stated the following:-

‘A lot will depend on Jules and Kimi I’m guessing. If Ferrari need him, I think he’s ready to go now. A lot will depend on how those two (Fernando Alonso and Raikkonen) finish up. But I think he’s a long career ahead of him in F1. He’s an absolute top driver.’

I would have to agree with Booth and I think it depends on where Alonso and Raikkonen see their future within the sport over the next few seasons. But I do believe that whatever happens at Ferrari over the next few seasons, there is no question that Bianchi has a bright future ahead of him within the sport. He is a potential talent of the future and will secure a drive within the sport, even if it is not with the Ferrari team.

Meanwhile, Alonso has praised Bianchi for breaking his duck and securing his first points at the Monaco Grand Prix. Alonso stated the following to the media:-

‘I’m very happy for him. He’s part of the Ferrari driver academy, but also a friend. We spend a lot of time together in Maranello, we play football, go cycling, we travel together on the same plane for some races.

‘He’s a friend and I’m extremely happy for him and very proud of what his result will mean for him in his career. I have no doubt it will be a good career. Hopefully with this result he can have a more competitive car next year and show his talent even more.’

It is extremely nice to hear what Alonso praising the achievements of Bianchi yesterday. It would appear that even Alonso himself has nothing but high praise for him and has a lot of respect for him not just personally, just also for his talent as well. For a double world champion to say such nice things about Bianchi will only help him as he looks to not only develop his talent further but also to have a role model to look up to and seek advice from if he continues within the Ferrari programme. And there is no question that Bianchi will not be leaving the programme anytime soon.

As Alonso rightly points out, this result will help Bianchi further enhance his career within the sport and I am sure that Ferrari will have noticed his performance yesterday. The performance that Bianchi managed to achieve yesterday will start to open up potential opportunities that he may not have imagined in order to try and move closer to a competitive seat that is worthy of the natural talent that he possesses.

In terms of what Booth has stated today; do I feel that Bianchi is ready for Ferrari? I believe that he is. But I do feel that if he can gain more experience with a more competitive car than the Marussia is currently next season, this will only further help him gain more experience when the call to the Ferrari team does come in the near future.

Will this result at the Monaco Grand Prix be the turning point that allows Bianchi the chance to get into a competitive car next season? We can only wait and see.

Hamilton: I will come back stronger

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In an interview with the media today, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has played down claims of a “rift” within the team despite events that happened in the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend.

Tensions bubbled over in the wake of Saturday’s qualifying when a mistake from Nico Rosberg saw the German hold onto pole position. Questions were immediately raised about the incident by pundits and fans over the weekend that brought out the yellow flags and put paid to Hamilton beating Rosberg to pole.

The matter was put before the stewards who ruled that the number six had done nothing wrong. Even though Hamilton was unhappy about this, this seemed to only add to how he felt especially after Rosberg won the race from pole position yesterday.

Despite claiming yet another 1-2 for Mercedes, the atmosphere on the podium was positively frosty with Hamilton claiming “we are not friends” while Rosberg said they “always will be friends” but in a broad sense of the word. However, hours after the race Hamilton’s mood had mellowed out a bit with the 2008 World Champion insisting there is no feud at Mercedes.

In his interview with the media today, Hamilton stated the following when asked about the subject at hand:-

‘We’ve sat down and cleared whatever air was needed to be cleared, and we’ve been through the data and seen what needed to be seen. I wish you guys could see it.

‘Otherwise, we’re good. It was a difficult weekend, but what doesn’t break you will make you stronger. I can only get stronger from this weekend.’

From what Hamilton has stated in his interview with the media today, it would appear that he feels a little bit more satisfied about what happened during the weekend. Even though, it is nice to hear that the relationship between Hamilton and Rosberg appears to be okay and both of them have cleared the air after this weekend. I still feel that some parts of their relationship might have changed ever since Bahrain and especially after this weekend.

Of course Hamilton will still not be happy with what has happened this weekend and losing the championship lead to his team mate but as he says himself this will only encourage him to push himself further at the Canadian Grand Prix and regain the lead back for the championship.

Further in his interview with the media, Hamilton believes that the relationship between himself and his team mate Rosberg will not be perfect as many believe it could be due to the fact that both of them are championship rivals. He added the following:-

‘It (the relationship) is never going to be perfect because we’re fierce competitors. You can never expect us to be best friends and compete as fiercely as we do, but we will remain respectful – or I will try to remain respectful.’

Hamilton makes a fair point here. At the end of the day, both of the drivers have known each other since they competed against other in junior formulas and both drivers have a lot of respect for each other. But both of them are racing drivers and will on the track want to have the opportunity to beat each other as often as they possibly can. As Hamilton says himself, all they can do is try and beat each other as often as they can while remaining respectful of each other.

‘Look man, the weekend’s done and dusted. We’ve a one-two for the team, so let’s just focus on moving forward and I plan to be stronger in the next race. We’ll continue to do what we do, work with the team. The team is the priority and that’s what we have to keep in front. We want to get the points for the team. I didn’t do anything silly, just looked after the car.’

As Hamilton points out, there is nothing that he can do about what happened this weekend apart from try to take some small positives from it. Hamilton may have lost the chance to take Pole Position, the victory and keep the lead of the championship, but this will not stop him from trying to be the best driver that he can be throughout the season ahead.

This weekend may not have gone according to plan for Hamilton but he managed to provide the Mercedes team with a 1-2 finish in a consecutive race since the 1954 and 1955 Italian Grand Prix which is a fantastic achievement. And let us not forget that Hamilton scored points again in order to keep himself in the hunt for the title.

All Hamilton can do is analyse the data from this weekend and as he rightly states concentrate on improving for the next race in Canada in two weeks time. And I am sure that Hamilton will do this by sitting down with the team and seeing if there is anything he can work in order to achieve this objective.

Will we see Hamilton bounce back to his very best at Canada in two weeks time? Only time will tell.