Ambient 22° Track 39° Humidity 48% Wind 1.9 m/s
Brilliant weather for the Spanish Grand Prix as the sun glittered in the Catalonian sky and the wind gusted the occasional cloud about the horizon. Another meeting of the big chiefs as luminaries including Dr Zetsche and Marchionne had a pre-race meeting about which no one would say anything. Bernie mocked them as having no clue what they really wanted on the grid, but at the moment they pose a real threat to his continued rule of the sport. Bad news to for Maurizio Arrivabene as Marchionne has now publicly stated that his job is safe.
With a car that might not break, it’s possible there will be an actual race (sort of) for P1 between the Mercedes, and definite pressure on Lewis to get a decent start, his recent record along those lines being somewhat less than stellar. Ferrari vs Red Bull and Mad Max vs Danny Boy also gonna be potentially quite a scrap. The only top team to have Softs left is Williams, for Massa. Massa vs Symonds also quite the interesting thing as Big Pat served up a healthy heaping of blame for his driver, whilst Massa (rather correctly) pointed out catching a slowing Alonso at the apex of T9 would ruin many a lap and not having a plan for that was rather shortsighted, given, y’know, reality. Though strategy has not been the forte of Williams of late.
Well, there’s no denying the start was quite interesting, but much like the Spanish Inquisition, no one saw that coming. Rosberg grabbbing the outside through T1 and Hamilton coming back between T3 and T4 on the inside only to be squeezed onto the grass, which sent him hurtling into his teammate and setting comments sections alight across the internet. With 2 weeks and a spreadsheet it’s possible you could log every pundits reaction, but regardless of stewards decision, the team as a whole have called it a racing incident, which is the proper view, IMO.
— F1Writers™ (@f1writers) May 15, 2016
VIDEO: Mercedes out! Hamilton vs Rosberg crash! pic.twitter.com/Xb8ZBEaPEH
— F1Writers™ (@f1writers) May 15, 2016
Rashomon anyone? Anyone looking for a good breakdown go see Anthony Davidson on Sky post race breakdown. In particular he pointed out that Rosberg started with his car in the incorrect mode, and had to change his race mode out of T3 as his car was harvesting, which yielded Hamilton’s advantageous closing speed and crucially took him wide adn distracted him as he looked left to set the dial. That motion also gave Hamilton his look up the inside towards T4.But please, feel free to argue until the end of time as the commentariat certainly did, through the first third of the race. In fact, at times it was difficult to believe that the race had continued, though the Safety Car was in lap 3, with Ricciardo on it with a good restart and the Ferrari’s trailing the Red Bulls, who were faced with the defensive battle against the Ferrari’s that was expected, and a fascinating strategic battle about to unfold. Just rather surprisingly without the Mercedes in front of them.
But before they could get to terms with Red Bull, Ferrari first had to get round Sainz, who had snuck into P3 during all the confusion. Once that happened, Sainz continued to play guinea pig, pitting a lap before Ricciardo who had maintained the race lead. Red Bull pitted in sequence starting lap 11 both onto the Medium tyre and Verstappen tje lap after Ricciardo. Raikkonen covered off the Red Bull undercut while Vettel stayed out for a longer run on Softs where he continued to turn faster laps. Until lap 16, when Ferrari decided to bring a halt to the fun, putting him onto the Mediums as well.
A nice oil fire for Hulkenberg lap 22 distracted everyone from the Mercedes brouhaha, and once that excitement was sorted the commentariat seemed to realise a proper race was underway, one in which the winning team wasn’t known ahead of time. It was clear that their reflexes were rusty but as the laps fell away the old habits came back and the excitement built steadily.
The first round of pit stops settled, Bottas now ahead of Sainz, where they would stay for the rest of the race, in P5 and P6 respectively, the strategic implications of Vettel’s long run made themselves felt as he pulled himself into DRS range on Verstappen lap 24, though unable to get round the Red Bull due to their exceptional performance in S3, which gave them just the breathing room they needed.
Perhaps responding to the strategy they anticipated from Ferrari, Red Bull unexpectedly brought Ricciardo in lap 28, onto the Soft tyre. Vettel responded covering off Ricciardo whilst Max and Kimi stayed out on what was thought at the beginning of the race to be the optimal strategy. Gutierrez looked good for Haas, hovering around P8 and it was a rough day at the office for Grosjean, who was constantly having to fight his way through traffic.
It was also looking very rosy for McLaren with both Alonso and Button on for a points finish by the halfway mark of the race.
Verstappen led the way for the leading duo till lap 35 when he boxed for another set of Mediums. Raikkonen followed suit and it was clear now that Vettel and Ricciardo would be 3 stopping against the 2 stoppers Raikkonen and Verstappen. But what was also obvious , was that the new Medium was immediately faster than the Softs that Ricciardo and Vettel were playing on.
Ferrari brought in Sebastian as a result, but Red Bull opted to leave Ricciardo hanging off the front till lap 43, when they boxed him for his last set of tyres, Mediums 5 laps younger than Vettels. Of course the result of all that was that, Vettel and Ricciardo were now running P3 and P4, waiting for the tyres to go off as Verstappen continued to trundle around in the lead with Kimi unable to make any kind of headway, even with DRS.
The Saubers got into a bit of a tiff, round about lap 44 with with one of them going wide out of T1 as they scrapped for the remains at the back of the race and with that distraction done, it began to look increasingly likely that Max Verstappen might actually be able to hold on for the win.
Alonso departed the race lap 47 with unexplained car trouble, but with no safety car needed the gap slowly closed between the 2 pairs making the top 4.
It was Ricciardo making the most of his fresh tyres and by 10 laps to go it was a tense defensive battle for Vettel. Lap 60 was decisive as Riciardo got up the inside into T1 but couldn’t keep it on the track, letting Vettel retake the position and giving him a bit of a breather. The battle also cost the pair of them time, and it was now down to Verstappen defending against Kimi the last 5 laps.
The Iceman had no real chance however, as it was clear that the Ferrari was losing traction on exits, making it impossible for him to catch Max even with DRS. And Verstappen responded brilliantly, by not making a single mistake and taking the win for Red Bull, his first drive for the team and also the youngest ever driver to win a Grand Prix. A late puncture took Ricciardo out of any podium chance and both he and Vettel rued the switch to the 3 stop strategy that took them out of a chance for the win. Ricciardo seemed a bit more bothered post race, but it’s equally likely Red Bull thought they were defending P1 with that move rather than handing victory to their new media sensation.
Further back it was Massa making a late charge to P8 and a nice recovery, while Perez serenely sailed through to P7 making good the update to Force India’s car. Brilliant race for Sainz, forgettable for Kvyat who got stuck behind the Ricciardo and Vettel late. Also forgettable for Haas, with Gutierrez losing out on a points position late in the race and Grosjean struggling with brake issues in his race,eventually retiring lap 56.
Strategically Red Bull outdid Ferrari, but not by much and it’s clear that the Ferrari is the faster of the cars in race trim, but with the Renault engine upgrade coming next race that may no longer be the case and the Scuderia may have their hands full as the season progresses.
Official Stewards decision was no further action, but fairly sure that won’t stop you lot from apportioning blame anyway so have fun.
Thanks for stopping by and play nice in the comments! Like that’ll do any good this week. *Sigh*