Our resident F1 writer and lover of motorsport, Nick van der Meulen, presents his F1 review Spain 2019.
Mercedes F1 racing team rewrote the history books at Barcelona, Spain, by finishing first and second for the fifth consecutive time since the beginning of the season. While bad luck may have dogged Ferrari at Bahrain, they (nor any other team) have been close to challenge the silver cars for supremacy. It is clear that the German marque remains the team to beat and further underlines that times posted in pre-season testing raise expectations that cannot necessarily be met.
A quick start
The race was decided in the first two corners of the race, where reigning World Champion, Lewis Hamilton, got the drop on Valtteri Bottas and charged into a lead, which he never relinquished. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel started extremely well, pulling alongside Bottas on the outside while charging to Turn 1, but had to back out of it and flat-spotted his tyres in the process. Bottas had the rear of his machine step out on him into Turn 2, which compromised his momentum. A clearly disgruntled Finn, he admitted that he had clutch issues at the start which required investigation.
Ferrari woes… again
Other than Vettel’s attempted charge to Turn 1 the team was rather subdued, the team again running a dubious race strategy, with the result being no red car finished on the podium. It was clear they were trying hard to run the two drivers on different strategies, but the decision to run Charles Leclerc on hard tyres hurt his chances of a good finish… particularly when Ferrari pitted him during the safety car period. Any ground he may have gained was lost and he trailed home behind his team leader. That being said, Vettel was less than thrilled not to have had the opportunity to pit during the safety car period – the team kept him out on track. The team’s strategists are still not on the top of their game.
Click here to read about why Scuderia Ferrari is its own worst enemy.
The use of hard tyres was also the main reason Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo didn’t finish in the points, the “Honey Badger” being in close contact with local hero Carlos Sainz when both drivers pitted. Ricciardo on hard tyres, couldn’t match Sainz (on medium rubber) for the remainder of the race and the Spaniard scored points for 8th place, while the Australian finished a frustrated 12th.
The safety car period was due to contact between McLaren’s Lando Norris and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll: Norris having a go on the outside through Turn 1 and hoping to have the inside line for Turn 2. Turn 2 is a quick flick to the left after Turn 1, though, and soon both drivers were vying for the same piece of tarmac…
The Haas drivers made contact at the same place once racing was underway again, with Kevin Magnussen forcing the issue and Romain Grosjean had to exceed the track limits. Sainz followed suit soon afterwards – at the same place – also robust in his overtaking Grosjean for 8th place. The Frenco-Swiss driver made it to the line to claim the final point, marginally ahead of Alex Albon (Toro Rosso) and Ricciardo.
While Ferrari was woeful with regards to strategy, the same could also be said for Toro Rosso who squandered a double-points finish when they stacked the pit stops for their two drivers. The team was unprepared for Daniil Kyvat when he pitted, however, and this cost valuable seconds for both drivers as the mechanics scrabbled to find tyres to fit to the cars and only the Russian scored points (9th place) as a result.
On the up
Red Bull Racing can be pleased with their points haul for the weekend: Max Verstappen put in a sterling drive to claim the team’s second podium finish of the season, while Pierre Gasly put in a feisty performance to keep Magnussen at bay and claim 6th place. Red Bull has a good track record at Monaco and, taking this performance into consideration, must go to the next round with their tails up in anticipation.