Lewis Hamilton won his fourth Grand Prix in a row at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya today, leading home his team mate Rosberg by less than a second. Daniel Ricciardo came third had the biggest smile on the podium, considering the misery of Australia.
It’s been three weeks since the race in China, and it’s the first race of the European season, so a lot of cars have new upgrades fitted to try and find some extra performance. Lotus seem to have made improvements, after their adbismal start to the year.
Qualifying was a fairly standard affair, the two Mercedes cars rising to the top. Sebastian Vettel had a gearbox hitch, and so while he got through to Q3, couldn’t participate. A gearbox change then dropped him from 10th to 15th. More on Qualifying here.
At the start, Hamilton got away well and led into turn one. Behind, Bottas managed to get past Ricciardo, and Grosjean also looked racy. He crept up beside Ricciardo’s Red Bull but had a huge lock-up into turn 1 and had to settle for fifth place.
At the back, Pastor Maldonado who started in 22nd position was making place up. He came across a slow Marcus Ericsson in a Caterham, but when he tried to pass at the slim piece of track that is turn 11, he found little room, and clouted the Swedish rookie. Neither driver had damage, and both continued. However, Maldonado was slapped on the wrists with a 5-second stop/go penalty, and a point on his Superlicense.
The first retirement of the race was that of Jean-Eric Vergne, who pulled over on Lap 24 with exhaust problems. Kamui Kobayashi joined him ten laps later with brake failure, a problem Geido van der Garde had on Friday afternoon practice in his Sauber. They were the only two non-finishers.
The action in this race took a long time to arrive and presented itself right at the end. Everything had fallen into place and meant that there were several close battles in the last ten laps or so.
Sergio Perez had been stuck behind his team mate Nico Hulkenberg for the majority of the race, separated by less than two seconds for the duration. On lap 51, the ex-McLaren man finally affected a pass on The Hulk and there he stayed.
The final round of stops threw everything in the air. The Mercedes drivers were about four seconds apart when they pitted, Hamilton chose the hard tyres, while Rosberg went for the medium compound. The advantage seemed to be with the German, and he began to make in-roads into Hamilton’s lap times.
At the same time, Alonso was catching Raikkonen who had been faster all afternoon. It was not a good time for the F1 Finns, as Sebastian Vettel was also chasing Valtteri Bottas for fourth place. It was a brilliant turnaround from his qualifying setback, and on lap 64, he finally got the move done. Almost simultaneously, Alonso got the better of his team mate to delight his home crowd.
That left only the Hamilton/Rosberg debacle to be settled. Nico closed up to his team mate, breaking the 1-second barrier to earn DRS on the very last lap. It was not quite enough though, and much like in Bahrain, Hamilton showed he would not simply roll over to his team mate just because he has faster tyres.
Romain Grosjean finished eighth to secure Lotus’ first points since 2013, after a torrid winter and season start for the team. The Force India duo rounded out the top 10.
1) L Hamilton, Mercedes AMG
2) N Rosberg, Mercedes AMG
3) D Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing
4) S Vettel, Red Bull Racing
5) Valtteri Bottas, Williams
6) F Alonso, Ferrari
7) K Raikkonen, Ferrari
8) R Grosjean, Lotus
9) S Perez, Force India
10) N Hulkenberg, Force India
11) J Button, McLaren
12) K Magnussen, McLaren
13) F Massa, Williams
14) D Kvyat, Toro Rosso
15) P Maldonado, Lotus
16) E Gutierrez, Sauber
17) A Sutil, Sauber
18) J Bianchi, Marussia
19) M Chilton, Marussia
20) M Ericsson, Caterham
K Kobayashi, Caterham (Brakes)
JE Vergne, Toro Rosso (Exhaust)
The win is the first in Spain for the Brit, and his fourth in a row this year, crucially elevating him to the top of the drivers’ standings by three points over Rosberg. Behind him, it’s a long way to Alonso who has 49, Vettel who is on 45, and smiley Aussie Daniel Ricciardo, who has 39.
The next race is in the illustrious principality of Monaco, on May 25th.