After watching a somewhat less-invigorating race at Indy on Saturday, we were treated to a much different show Sunday in Barcelona with the F1 Spanish Grand Prix.
The tango (and yes, all puns intended) between Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton was the stuff to make you sometimes sit on the edge of your seat. Unless you are entirely into strategy and then trying to figure out when they will pit and what tire they’ll change to for each to possibly win and you’re just too excited and a complete nerd.
(That was me, but we’ll move on.)
Mercedes took a gamble starting Hamilton on a Medium tire that would prove not as fast as Vettel’s starting softs. Intelligent pitting strategy and an intense drive from Hamilton would bring him the first place podium. The poor man worked so hard he was breathless on the radio the entirety of the race.
And it’s not to say it shouldn’t have been Vettel’s race. He had a great start and pushed just as hard. Perhaps Ferrari’s tire strategy worked against them and an improvement could have been made to give Vettel that win.
The real race was definitely between the two though. Red Bull, even with their new improvements debuting this weekend, couldn’t quite keep up. After Max Verstappen was literally knocked out of the race (by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen due to a collision with Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas), it left Daniel Ricciardo to represent for the wings team.
Raikkonen sustained enough damage from the collision that he retired immediately–same as Verstappen. Bottas was holding third for some time before an engine fire caused his retirement. Mercedes however, had set Bottas with an engine he had already used for four races, and the age and wear on the engine was most likely the cause of it to die mid-race. Absolutely unfortunate, but the retirement of one car per the top three teams spread the wealth this weekend and allowed for a few surprises.
Aside from Ricciardo’s lonely third place drive as part of the result (and a happy first podium of the season for Red Bull), the Sahara Force India drivers, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon both scored high points for the championship with a 4th and 5th place finish respectively. This made for Ocon’s top finish of his career–and a good chunk of points received for the small team.
And the last fantastic piece of news for this race, is that Fernando Alonso not only qualified 7th, but finished the race and his home GP on Sunday. Yes, it was only a 12th place finish with no points, but it wasn’t the bottom spot and his McLaren-Honda actually passed another car. Teammate Stoffel Vandoorne didn’t experience the same fate, but again, a McLaren-Honda made it to the end of the race and the car is showing very steady improvement, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.
For now, the rival between Mercedes and Ferrari is clearly established and it looks like it will be Vettel and Hamilton’s season. So many of us are excited to see two different teams actually competing for the championship this year. It’s going to make for an intense and exciting season to watch.