Next was the race at the temple of speed -Monza, Italy. Hamilton took pole from his team mate but had a slow start to the race and quickly fell to second behind Nico. Nico was comfortably leading till lap 28 when he succumbed to pressure and missed the first chicane on lap 29, going into the run off area and giving Hamilton the lead who went on to win the race with Nico second. Massa secured his first podium for Williams by finishing third. Tensions at the Mercedes team lead to many believing that Nico was forced to give away the lead but the team brushed away the accusations and so did the drivers.
The European leg of the season ended and Nico had a small 22 points lead going into the last 6 races. It was sure meant to be a close encounter between the two. Only driver close to the Mercedes duo was Daniel Ricciardo who mathematically was still in the hunt for the championship.
The night race at Singapore was up next. Rosberg started from the pit lane after failing to get off the grid during the warm up lap having qualified second while Hamilton was at pole.
Hamilton was off to a good start and easily won the race by 13.5s. Nico Rosberg’s race came to a halt at lap 14 thanks to an electrical glitch and he could only watch in frustration as Hamilton won the race and took the lead in championship by 3 points-first time since Spain.
With Hamilton 3 points in the lead, F1 headed to Japan next. Rosberg continued his good form of qualifying with yet another pole. It was heavily raining and the race started behind the safety car. Rosberg lead the race till lap 29, when his team mate Hamilton overtook him with a daring move. Sutil lost his car at turn 7 owing to heavy rain and a lap later Jules Bianchi also collided at the same corner. This called the Safety Car and the Medical Car, onto the track. The race was run for a while behind the Safety Car but was later red flagged. Hamilton went on to win the shortened race and Rosberg came second. Bianchi had a severe crash with the recovery vehicle with a heavy impact on his head. He was unconscious after the incident and was rushed to a hospital.
The race, the victory or the championship were no longer in focus. In focus was Bianchi and his life threatening crash. The entire paddock was in shock and grief. Out of the 22 drivers on the grid, one was now battling for his life. It showed the ugly side of the sport-the side everyone feared, the side involving life and death. There have been no casualties in F1 since AyrtonSenna and everyone was praying that this doesn’t change. He was put into a medically induced coma and ever since has remained critical and unconscious though out of the coma now. His condition still hangs in balance.
On the backdrop of the Bianchi tragedy, F1 moved towards the inaugural race at Sochi, Russia. There was silence and gloom in the paddock with cars running the slogan, “#ForzaJules”. Hamilton took pole at the new circuit with Rosberg second. Rosberg committed a grave mistake at lap 1 trying to take the lead, flat spotting hisboth front tyres and forcing him to take an early pit stop. He managed to run 51 laps on this new set of tyres managing to gain back the second position behind Hamilton who finished first extending his championship lead to 17 points. Hamilton dedicated the win to the ill-fated Jules Bianchi.
With yet another 1-2 finish, Mercedes wrapped up the constructors championship breaking the Red Bull dominance of the last four years. In the last 16 races, Mercedes had won 13 races, secured 15 pole positions and had one driver in the podium in all 16 races. No other driver or team came close to challenging them. It was a well-deserved feat.
After the Russian Grand Prix, Caterham team having joined in 2010 as Lotus Racing filed for bankruptcy citing lack of funds to race in Ausitn, USA -the next stop for Formula 1. It hoped of getting new backers but failed to do so by the next race. Simultaneously Marussia Racing, went into administration having faced financial issues the entire season. Both of them were allowed to miss the US Grand Prix as well as the Brazilian Grand Prix and were asked to find investors till then.
With two teams absent from the grid and the title race heating up, the paddock was filled with tension and controversy as the F1 world moved to Austin, Texas. Sebastian Vettel knew even before the weekend began that he would have to start the race from the pit lane as he was using a 6th power unit, a sacrifice he was making to ensure he finished the next 3 races without any major concerns. Qualifying arrived and with Mercedes in a league of its own, locked out the front row with Hamilton trailing Rosberg as the former suffered from brake problems. With Rosberg high on optimism, he lined up on the grid. Hamilton was handed the win on a silver plate when Rosberg selected an incorrect ERS setting for his car, making him easy prey for Lewis. Daniel Ricciardo rounded up the top three executing his strategy beautifully. Perez was handed a 7 place grid penalty for the next race for his 1st lap collision with Adrian Sutil’s Sauber. With Hamilton in a “Drive it, like you stole it” mindset, he focused on the next race in Brazil.
With the tightest qualifying of the season on the newly laid asphalt at the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo, where Rosberg beat Hamilton to pole by only 0.033 seconds, the race looked set to be another thriller. Williams were too close for comfort for Mercedes but during the race, they fell back as Massa incurred a 5 second stop go penalty for speeding in the pit lane and Bottas was hampered by a loose seatbelt. Meanwhile at the sharp end, Rosberg held off Hamilton to win, after Lewis spun and recovered brilliantly but unfortunately had to settle for second, and reduced Hamilton’s lead to only 17 points and with the Double Points finale at Abu Dhabi, it was all to play for.
Caterham took to crowd funding and was thus able to secure enough funds to run in the final race in Dubai and also take part in the end of season testing. They were also allowed to run with the 2014 cars next season as their foggy future, seemed to look a little clear now.
Marussia on the other hand, was sold off, with nearly 200 jobs laid off. They failed to find investors despite scoring 2 points and finishing above Caterham and Sauber in his season.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was bound to be a controversial one because of the unpopular double points. Mind games were the norm of the weekend with the two championship contenders lashing comments at each other, but the racing is on the track and that’s where being the best counted. The stage was set with Rosberg taking pole position yet again and with that sealing his Pole Position Trophy, now all that remained was its bigger brother, The Drivers’ Championship. Rosberg had to win the race with Hamilton 3rd or worse for him to be champion. The tension rose as the five red lights illuminated. As they went out, the clutches disengaged, the wheels turned, the engines roared. For the last time in 2014, the cars set off. Rosberg had a below average start which allowed Hamilton to go into the lead by the first corner. It looked set to be a thrilling decider, but just when it looked better, it went all wrong for Rosberg as his ERS failed. He went out of contention for the win, handing Hamilton the championship.
2014 was a step into the unknown for the world of F1, with criticisms to praises, highs to lows, smiles to frowns, friendships to rivalries. The season saw it all. It may not be the best season yet, but it’s definitely one of the best yet. Lewis saw, came but had to fight to conquer it. Nico proved his mettle to the world, Alonso bid goodbye to the Italian Mafia’s, while Sebastian jumped ship as well. 2015 is sure to be a spectacular one, with HONDA back in the sport with McLaren and the rivals doing everything they can to stop the massacre by the Mercedes Power Unit. Will they succeed? Or will we see Rosberg vs Hamilton Round 2? March 15 2015, just can’t come sooner.