October 6th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Mercedes will feel they did not make the most of their opportunities in the Korean Grand Prix. After qualifying both cars on the front two rows of the grid, they slipped to fifth and seventh by the end of the race.
Lewis Hamilton lost a position to Romain Grosjean at the start of the race, and was thereafter unable to get past the Lotus, despite some very aggressive attacking on the opening lap. Hamilton then struggled in his second stint, first with graining and then when his right front tyre lost performance suddenly.
At that point, Mercedes should perhaps have pitted Hamilton, as he lost so much pace that he was at points three seconds per lap slower than the cars ahead and just behind. But they chose to keep Hamilton out, opting to try to stay on their planned two-stop strategy rather than make an extra pit stop.
Hamilton was so slow that Rosberg managed to catch him easily despite having been quite far behind at that point of the race. Rosberg cruised past using DRS after turn 2, but then suffered an unusual failure of the nose of his car, which saw the whole nose drop forward to the point that the front wing was running along the track. Rosberg made it back to the pits and put on a new nose, but his race was heavily compromised as a result.
Rosberg's failure also meant that Hamilton had no choice but to carry on for another lap on his worn-out tyres while Mercedes replaced the nose on Rosberg's car. The extra time lost could have been the difference that cost Hamilton a chance of finishing ahead of Hulkenberg and challenging for the podium. Considering that the safety car provided two opportunities for extra pit stops, Mercedes will feel they missed a trick by not piting Hamilton as soon as his tyres started to go off in his second stint.
Aside from his unusual nose-cone failure, Rosberg had a solid race, and was challenging Fernando Alonso for sixth place in the closing stages. His performance was proof that the Mercedes car is quick and all that is required for better results is a bit of good fortune.
Mercedes are now just one point behind Ferrari in the Constructors' Championship, and appear to have the quicker car going into the last five races of the season. They will be looking to take over second place from Ferrari at next weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.
This is what the drivers had to say after the Korean Grand Prix:
Lewis Hamilton: "That was not a great day for us and it feels like we deserved more as a team. After Grosjean got ahead of me at the start, there was no way past and it seemed that we were losing out to other on traction cars all day.
"In my second stint, running the prime tyre, my right front was just destroyed all of a sudden. When that happens, you start losing temperature, understeering and locking up under braking, so it was really hard to maintain the pace in those laps. It was a really difficult part of the race but I had to get to a certain target lap before I made the final stop.
"After the Safety Car, we were just losing out in traction to the Sauber. Our car was really strong through the middle sector but not quick enough on the straights to stay ahead. It was a nice battle with Fernando but it's hard to take when it's only for P5 or P6. It was just not a good race for us today but we have the chance to bounce back in Suzuka."
Nico Rosberg: "That was another very tough race for me. I couldn't believe what happened with the wing: I was on course for a podium finish after overtaking Lewis and two seconds later, the front wing just broke. It was pretty scary because that could have been a dangerous situation but the engineers told me over the radio that it was under control and I could carry some speed back to the pits.
"It's a shame because the car felt great today and I found a good balance and how to get the most out of the car, which I hadn't managed until this point of the weekend. It's been a real up and down season so far for me but it's good that we have another race in a week's time. Our car is very competitive and I had good pace compared to the cars on the podium. So I'm looking forward to the next races."