You’d be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu watching the Spanish Grand Prix as Mercedes stormed to another crushing victory. That’s five 1-2 finishes in a row, the first time any team has achieved such a feat in Formula 1, and a remarkable achievement. The problem is it’s all getting a bit repetitive. What we want to see is wheel to wheel racing between all the top teams, not just between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas…
Ferrari looked poor this weekend, there’s no two ways about it. They arrived at Circuit de Catalunya with a new engine, a major aerodynamic upgrade, and the clear intention of serving it up to Mercedes. The problem? Mercedes had made aerodynamic upgrades of their own and reports suggest the Silver Arrows revised front wing and bargeboard area were worth up to 0.4 seconds a lap.
No surprise then that Qualifying went the Brackley based outfit. What did raise a few eyebrows was Bottas’ time of 1:15.406, a full 0.6 seconds ahead of Hamilton. Lewis looked punch-drunk in the post session interviews and was clearly surprised how far behind he was. This obviously didn’t sit well and come Sunday he flew out of the blocks with one of the fastest starts we can remember. What followed was a nightmare scenario for Bottas, a split second slower, who found himself sandwiched between Hamilton and Vettel as a result. Seb left it too late on the breaks, flat spotting his tyres, but Hamilton took full advantage sneaking round the inside and into first place.
Truth be told the race was won at the first corner. It was brave from Hamilton, and momentarily heart-stopping for Mercedes, but from that moment on their victory never looked in doubt. But even as race winner, Lewis Hamilton seemed to acknowledge the need for a closer championship, commenting: “It’s not as much fun, for sure as when you’re competing against another team… That’s what Formula 1 is about. That’s the exciting part, when you arrive and you’re competing against one or two other teams who are also bringing their A-game. Naturally in those teams, that’s another two drivers. That puts another spanner in the works and often when the cars are close, there’s strengths and weaknesses of either team, and how you play those and benefit from those, it’s awesome.”
Sebastian Vettel was equally frank in his assessment, saying: “Obviously a big step back in terms of pace with Mercedes being far away, but it is what it is. I know everybody is very keen to do better but it is a question of time. It is not easy. Other people are doing a very good job and you need to respect that.”
Lando Norris blotted his almost perfect copy book, making contact with Lance Stroll on lap 46. Both cars span out of the race and the safety car was deployed. Who was at fault? The stewards deemed it a racing incident and stated that neither driver was ‘wholly or predominantly to blame’, but this was not the result the young Briton had been hoping for. The safety car bunched up the pack but at the re-start it was a case of business as usual with both Mercedes pulling clear and Hamilton claiming one of the more straightforward of his 76 career wins.
Next up is Monaco, a track Mercedes have traditionally struggled with, but one gets the sense this year they have an edge with the low speed corners too. If any team can give them a race you’d have to look towards Red Bull. Their car has an excellent chassis and Daniel Ricciardo’s imperious performance in Monte Carlo last year shows exactly what the team are capable of.
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