Daniel Ricciardo has won the inaugural Grand Prix of Inner Mongolia after a race where not a single lap at racing speed was completed before the two-hour time limit.
The Australian took his third career win after starting from pole at the Inner Mongolia Tilkedrome in a race where there was no overtaking and finished after just six laps in front of a race-day crowd of seven people, three of whom stayed until the end.
Ricciardo made a good start from pole and led into the first corner, a tight right-hander that continually turns back on itself 360 degrees and feeds the cars back across the entry to the corner on the way to turn two.
While the Australian was able to avoid the backmarkers as he held position, Lewis Hamilton wasn’t so lucky, his Mercedes collecting teammate Nico Rosberg, who was slow to get away from the start after wrapping up his pre-race interviews in six languages while attending to his hair. While Ricciardo managed to avoid the recovering Rosberg, Hamilton wasn’t so fortunate, his attention perhaps distracted by the three new tattoos he’d acquired since the previous race in Brunei.
While both drivers escaped injury, the race was neutralised behind a safety car for the first two laps, after which the 20 remaining drivers lined up for a standing restart. The cars got as far as the first corner before Kimi Raikkonen was the next casualty, the Finn wrecking the suspension of his Ferrari after collecting an enormous sack of money that he’d misplaced after falling asleep during the pre-race drivers’ parade. Raikkonen’s post-race debrief shed little light on the incident, with 12 seconds of incoherent and disinterested mumbling being turned into an elaborately-worded eight-paragraph press release penned by Ferrari’s Department of Creative Writing.
After the track was cleared for a second standing restart following a 17-minute delay, Sauber withdrew both of its cars as they didn’t have the funds to complete a racing lap at full speed.
Fernando Alonso made the best of the second restart, the Spaniard recovering after Ferrari had mistakenly given him an old school bus with three wheels to drive for qualifying on Saturday. An internal investigation at Ferrari saw everyone sacked in the lead-up to the race, but Alonso prepared his own car with assistance from the Department of Creative Writing and stormed to second behind Ricciardo after the restart before being taken out by the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado, sending both cars into retirement.
Maldonado’s accident was his 16th incident of the weekend, but he was spared a mandatory five-race ban as the series next moves to Venezuela for the third PDVSA Grand Prix of the season, this year’s calendar dictated by the drivers who bring the most sponsorship money to the sport.
As the track was being cleared for a third restart, Caterham withdrew from the race, but nobody noticed until after the post-race podium ceremony.
Sergio Perez was also forced to retire after being voted out of the race by text message, part of the sport’s 2015 initiative to engage new audiences while infuriating its existing fans.
The third restart was calamitous, with sparks from the titanium skid block beneath the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne igniting some trackside tumbleweed and causing a fire, and McLaren’s Jenson Button running into an on-track TV graphic on the start-finish straight that had been installed after the widespread internal praise the sport’s organisers had given themselves for a similar graphic at the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix.
A planned fourth standing restart was scheduled, but the track wasn’t able to be cleared of debris before the two-hour time limit, which saw the result declared in Ricciardo’s favour. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Marussia’s Jules Bianchi rounded out a most unlikely podium.
With F1 fans taking to social media to voice their displeasure with the race, the post-podium interviews conducted by a local celebrity with no links to F1 were scrapped, and the sport’s organisers announced they were establishing a working group to look into whether or not social media was a fad, with an announcement of its findings scheduled for June 2023.
Hamilton continues to lead the championship by 106 points with three races remaining, but can ill-afford another slip-up given quadruple points remain on offer for the final Grand Prix of the season in Outer Mongolia.