Hamilton goes fourth: Spanish GP review

By on Sunday, May 11, 2014
Mercedes AMG Petronas

Mercedes AMG Petronas

It’s never ideal to suggest that a 19 round title battle will be between just two drivers after five races, but that’s the sort of domination currently being shown by Mercedes.

It’s also not necessarily a bad thing.

The race wasn’t a wheel-to-wheel thriller like in Bahrain, but in Spain the duel between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg was settled by just 0.636s after over 100 minutes of non-interrupted racing.

It was Hamilton who led away from pole position for the fourth time this season, with the Brit stretching his advantage over Rosberg across the opening lap of the race. Hamilton broke the DRS range but from there the gap remained relatively static between two and three seconds. Once it dipped down to 1.6, Hamilton bolted for a fresh set of option tyres. It wasn’t the quickest stop in the world, but Hamilton maintained his advantage when Rosberg stopped a few laps later for primes. Again, the game of cat and mouse continued. Hamilton pulled a tenth, Rosberg dragged it back and this went on until the second round of stops. This time the tables were turned – it was Hamilton who now had to go onto the slower prime tyres, with Rosberg on the faster option rubber.

Rosberg emerged almost six seconds behind, but the gap was being sliced down. 4.8, 4.6, 3.6, 3.1. Hamilton was struggling in traffic, while Rosberg had a slightly easier time. Suddenly it was down to 2.1, 1.8, 1.4 and 0.9. DRS range. Somehow Hamilton pulled out a slight gap, but Rosberg kept coming. A few lairy backmarkers aided Rosberg’s progress as the two Silver Arrows flew around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya duelling it out for victory.

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Hamilton locked a tyre and ran wide, giving Rosberg a sniff of a chance. A lap later, it was Rosberg’s turn to make an error and Hamilton held on. The championship lead changed hands for the first time all year. Hamilton 100, Rosberg 97.

“In all my career, I've never before had a car or a performance gap like this,” said Hamilton. “Nico drove a fantastic race and I struggled to keep him behind, but I just managed it at the end. I had the same problems with the car this afternoon that I found yesterday in qualifying: I couldn't attack the corners properly because of snap oversteer and that's where Nico was catching me.

“I'm just so proud of this team: we are looking very strong and I'm enjoying every moment and every step of the way. There's still a long way to go this season, though, so we are staying humble, getting our heads down and working hard.”

Rosberg reckoned that a 67 lap race would have had a different outcome.

“The race was so close at the end today and with one more lap, I could have tried to overtake Lewis for the first time,” he said.

“My start was bad. It is a weakness that we have and we will try to improve. Once it was clear that I was in second place, we chose to go with the slower strategy using the prime tyres in the middle stint to get a shot at Lewis at the end when I was on the options.

“It was very close but not quite close enough so naturally I'm disappointed but I can take a lot of positives from this weekend. We have an amazing car and my pace was really strong here so I just need to find an extra little edge to capitalise on.”

Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

Behind them there were a few battles for the places within the top 10.

Daniel Ricciardo bogged down at the start, allowing Valtteri Bottas an easy run into third place. The Williams was no match for the Mercedes so the Finn soon turned his attention to his mirrors. Ricciardo had a nibble into the first corner but backed out and waited for the pit window. He duly dived into the pit box fairly early and when Williams stopped Bottas a few laps later, the RB10 was clearly up the road. From thereon Ricciardo had an easy run to third, albeit a massive 49 seconds behind the race winner and he was pleased to claim his first proper podium.

“We knew we could not catch the Mercedes, but we believed we had better pace than the guys behind, so before the race we’d said that third was going to be a good day,” he said. “It's nice to stand back up on the podium – I actually still feel a bit awkward up there, but I'm sure I will get more comfortable.”

In fourth place was Ricciardo’s Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel. The reigning world champion dropped a place at the start but soon made his way through the field as he executed a three stop strategy to perfection. He muscled his way past a couple of rivals in the space of one lap and had no problem in picking off Kimi Räikkönen and Bottas during the closing stages. It was a stellar recovery after a difficult weekend for the German, who says he is motivated by Mercedes’s form.

“Mercedes is very strong – they have a phenomenal engine, two very good drivers, a very good car, and a very good team, they're doing a good job so it would be wrong to complain and moan about how dominant they are - they worked better than everyone else in the winter and deserve to be in that position,” he said. “Hopefully, from our point of view, rather sooner than later we'll give them a hard time – that’s our motivation. I hope that in time we can catch up, and as I said start giving them a run for their money.”

Bottas settled for a commendable fifth place, ahead of home favourite Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard made little progress in the recalcitrant F14 T but gave the Spaniards something to cheer about when he won a battle with Räikkönen late on in the race. But in finishing the event 87 seconds behind the race winner, there’s little to shout about for the Scuderia.

Romain Grosjean finally collected Lotus’s well-deserved maiden points of 2014 in eighth place despite battling power unit issues, while Force India lacked pace all weekend and completed a damage limitation job in ninth and tenth, Sergio Perez ahead of Nico Hulkenberg.

McLaren had another shocker as Jenson Button made a poor start and was compromised by the timing of his second stop. He was 11th, while Kevin Magnussen erred at the start on his way to 12th.

Sahara Force India

Sahara Force India

Felipe Massa was thirteenth after a three stop strategy failed to work out for the Brazilian, ahead of Toro Rosso youngster Daniil Kvyat.

Pastor Maldonado was 15th after collecting a five second stop and go penalty for hitting Marcus Ericsson on the first lap.

Maldonado climbed onto the kerb at turn 11 and bounced into Ericsson, sending them both onto the run-off.

“Maldonado hit me pretty hard as he tried to pass going into turn 13,” said Ericsson. “His move risked putting both of us out of the race, but luckily the car was okay and I was able to continue, even though that had put me back to 22nd.”

Esteban Gutiérrez showed his tenacity during the opening stint as he battled with faster drivers but ultimately regressed to 16th place due to a lack of straight line speed, while team-mate Adrian Sutil was 17th after complaining about a general lack of grip.

Jules Bianchi was 18th, while Max Chilton continued his finishing record in 19th place.

Kamui Kobayashi was running towards the back of the field when his brakes went at the first corner.

“I had a pretty scary moment going into turn one when the left front brake failed and I was just able to keep the car out of the wall,” he said. “That was the end of my race and the end of a difficult weekend.”

Jean-Éric Vergne’s miserable weekend came to an end after 24 laps with an exhaust failure, having started from 21st place after a 10 place grid drop.

The next round of the season takes place in Monaco – the proverbial jewel in the crown. But which of the Mercedes drivers will be the Monte master?

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Mercedes AMG Petronas

PositionNumberDriverTeamLapsTime/RetiredGridPts
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes66Winner125
26Nico RosbergMercedes66+0.6 secs218
33Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing-Renault66+49.0 secs315
41Sebastian VettelRed Bull Racing-Renault66+76.7 secs1512
577Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes66+79.2 secs410
614Fernando AlonsoFerrari66+87.7 secs78
77Kimi RäikkönenFerrari65+1 Lap66
88Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault65+1 Lap54
911Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes65+1 Lap112
1027Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes65+1 Lap101
1122Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes65+1 Lap8
1220Kevin MagnussenMcLaren-Mercedes65+1 Lap14
1319Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes65+1 Lap9
1426Daniil KvyatSTR-Renault65+1 Lap12
1513Pastor MaldonadoLotus-Renault65+1 Lap22
1621Esteban GutierrezSauber-Ferrari65+1 Lap13
1799Adrian SutilSauber-Ferrari65+1 Lap16
1817Jules BianchiMarussia-Ferrari64+2 Laps18
194Max ChiltonMarussia-Ferrari64+2 Laps17
209Marcus EricssonCaterham-Renault64+2 Lap19
Ret10Kamui KobayashiCaterham-Renault34+32 Laps20
Ret25Jean-Eric VergneSTR-Renault24+42 Laps21

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