The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX: Spain: Mercedes Reign In Spain

22-05-2018

By Jack Target

Formula 1 made its return to Europe this week and it was a return in ways to 2017.

Lewis Hamilton dominated the weekend, following up pole on Saturday with an easy race win on Sunday. He was also accompanied by Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas on the podium, giving the silver arrows maximum points. The similarities don’t end there though as this race wasn’t exactly as exciting as what we have had on offer so far this season. But then maybe we shouldn’t be so greedy. Four exciting races out of five so far isn’t bad going.

It was a bit of a weekend to forget for Ferrari, with Sebastian Vettel, never really challenging for the win. He had a chance at the podium, but was let down by a strategic trye change that didn’t quite go to plan. The German finished fourth with his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen retiring from the race with an engine failure. 

Eyes may be looking already at their young protégé in the Sauber. Charles Leclerc impressed again for the struggling Swiss team with a 10th place finish, his second points finish in a row. It would be quite a leftfield move for Ferrari to go with a young driver but if he keeps pulling out results like this than his time may come sooner than we expected.

Whenever F1 heads in to Spain though, all eyes are on Fernando Alonso and also now compatriot Carlos Sainz. Both had fine races but it was Sainz who won the Spanish duel again as he took his Renault to 7th in front of the new and improved McLaren.

To the action on Saturday then, as we nearly didn’t have all 20 drivers take part. After Ricciardo had trouble a few races ago in P3, only to win the race that weekend, Brendon Hartley had similar problems when he wrecked his car towards the end of practice. However the Kiwi’s car was beyond repair, especially since the back end was falling off when the crane took it away from the track!

There seems to be a shock in Q1 each race now which makes things quite exciting and this week it was Nico Hulkenberg in the Renault. The French team were struggling a bit themselves in practice and it proved to continue, although Sainz just about got the car in to Q3.

With quite a few teams from the middle pack having their drivers split between Q2 and Q3 places, Haas once again managed to get both cars in to the final stage of qualifying with Kevin Magnussen claiming the ‘best-of-the-rest’ spot in 7th

At the top end the Ferrari’s really struggled whilst Hamilton was flying. The Brit took pole as Mercedes got a much needed front row lock out.

Things were set up perfectly for Mercedes on Sunday but once again Hamilton would have took in his mirrors from the start as Bottas was overtaken by Vettel, who had made a quick start and was up in to 2nd place.

There were a few casualties further back as Romain Grosjean spun his Haas in the first lap and tried to correct it, only to generate a lot of smoke as his car skidded across the track taking out Hulkenberg and Pierre Gasly.

Young Leclerc managed to avoid the early mess and continued his way in great fashion, even holding off Alonso for some time in 9th place. In the end he held his nerve and had a fine drive to finish 10th.

Bottas was the first driver of the big teams in to the pits as the Finn looked to get back in front of Vettel. When the Ferrari did go in however, he managed to come out, ducking and weaving around Magnussen and crucially in front of Bottas.

The small win for the Tifosi was cut short however as around a third of the way through Raikkonen’s car gave up the ghost. 

From then on it was pretty much the status quo for some time. One pivotal moment came with around twenty laps to go when Esteban Ocon’s engine blew up. The virtual safety car was on and in came Vettel. Expecting the Mercedes to also do the same, this seemed like a smart move but it later became apparent the Mercedes were staying out. But a podium place was lost when the German had a long five second pit stop which let Max Verstappen in to third place.

There was a glimmer of hope for Vettel to reclaim that place back later on when Verstappen went in to the back of Lance Stroll in the Williams. The Dutchman did get some damage to his front wing, with some of the drooping off the car, but he managed to get round without much fuss to keep his podium place.

In the end it was a perfect comeback from Mercedes, who had had some difficulty in recent weeks. Lewis lead was extended to 17 with his team now holding a 27 point lead in the constructors. 

For those of you who were worried that we could see a trend of boring racing creep back in to Formula 1 after a magnificent start to 2018, fear not, as Monaco awaits in two weeks time.