Alonso relies on his reactions
Fernando Alonso has long been regarded as one of the best starters in F1, but on Sunday his cat-like reactions didn’t just get him off the line quickly, they kept him out of trouble. The first obstacle for the Spaniard to avoid was Esteban Gutierrez’s slow-starting Haas, which barely crept off the grid. But no sooner had Alonso negotiated the Mexican’s car than he was forced to take evasive action again - this time as Felipe Massa’s Williams swung right around Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India and into his path. For a split second it looks like Alonso might lose control, but the double world champion’s deft control keeps his McLaren pointing in the right direction - and all with barely a lift of the throttle.
Hamilton begins his fight back
Having slipped back to sixth at the start, Lewis Hamilton knew he could ill afford to spend time bottled up behind Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull if he was to have any hope of challenging Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg for victory. What the world champion needed was a quick, decisive move - and that’s just what he produced. Having been repelled by a stubborn Ricciardo into the first chicane at the beginning of lap two, Hamilton used a superior exit from the right-left switchback to get a run on the Red Bull into Curva Grande, and without needing a second invitation he coolly dispatched the Australian around the outside. The fightback was on.
Button wins McLaren battle
After qualifying on Saturday, Jenson Button made waves by announcing he wouldn’t be on the grid in 2017. The following day he gave F1 fans a taste of just what they’ll be missing with a stirring drive to 12th which, though much lower than he’s been accustomed to in his career, was a solid effort considering he’d been pushed off at the Lesmos on the first lap and gone to the back of the field. One of the most memorable moments was this pass on McLaren team mate Fernando Alonso, which came after a dogged pursuit. In need of a break? Not on this evidence.
Mistake brings Hamilton’s charge to an end
In 2014 Lewis Hamilton pressured Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg into a mistake at the first chicane which ultimately cost the German his shot at the win. But this year it was a mistake from the Briton at the same corner that more-or-less rubber stamped Rosberg’s own victory chances - and ended Hamilton’s already slim hopes of a miraculous recovery to P1. As he crossed the line to begin lap 41 of 53, the world champion had cut Rosberg’s advantage to 10.5s. But after this mistake at Turn 1 he dropped 12.1s back, and from then on the gap never fell as low again.
Ricciardo celebrates brilliant move on Bottas
“I was a long way back,” said Daniel Riccardo of his decisive pass on Williams' Valtteri Bottas for fifth place, which came six laps from home. “Valtteri’s normally pretty clean so I knew he wouldn’t turn in on me. I was giggling in the car. Out of the last corner I knew it was on, but I wasn’t convinced I would pull it off. So once I did it was like, ‘cool!’” And what of his unusual post-pass celebration? “I was just giving it a little bit of ‘shakas’ I guess. It was good fun, I was pretty pumped!” And the move itself? Not quite as good as the one he pulled on then-Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel at the second chicane in 2014, according to the perma-smiling Aussie.
Verstappen nips past Perez
A lap after team mate Daniel Ricciardo’s late lunge on Valtteri Bottas, there was a case of ‘anything you can do, I can do too’ as the Australian's team mate Max Verstappen pulled off a similarly impressive move of his own. Approaching the second chicane the Dutchman was still a long way back from Sergio Perez’s seventh-placed Force India, but that didn’t stop the Red Bull star from forcefully picking the Mexican’s pocket with an inch-perfect dive up the inside.
Bottas proves the value of fresh rubber
Passing a rival is always satisfying - but two in one go? That’s got to feel good. Yes, Valtteri Bottas had much fresher tyres than either Jenson Button or Carlos Sainz - neither of whom had stopped - but even so, the way the Williams thundered past both the McLaren and the Toro Rosso out of the first chicane and through Curva Grande was a sight to behold.
Hamilton engulfed off the line
Having taken pole by nearly half a second on Saturday, Lewis Hamilton was the overwhelming favourite for victory on Sunday - but in the event his chances more or less disappeared within the first 50 metres. “I can assure you we’ll be talking about it at the factory,” Hamilton said of his dreadful start, which saw him pick up massive wheelspin before being overwhelmed by his rivals. “We’ll try to get as much information, and learn as much as we can, to try and make sure in the remaining seven races we’re not struggling getting off the line from pole positions.”
Anti-stall plunges Verstappen down the order
Hamilton wasn’t the only driver to make a tardy getaway on Sunday - in fact Max Verstappen and Esteban Gutierrez both suffered far more off the line. In Verstappen’s case, who we ride with here, the error was not of his own making, with his Red Bull mistakenly kicking into anti-stall as the Dutchman hit the throttle. From then on all Verstappen could do was hope he wasn’t passed by too many cars…