The Spanish Grand Prix started out with a bang with Grosjean’s orchestrated carnage, before immediately declining into a bore-fest. The 2018 Spanish, or “Spainish” GP will immediately be forgotten in my mind.
Lewis Hamilton made an excellent start from pole position to lead the pack into turn 1, while title rival, Sebastian Vettel picked up a tow from Hamilton to sweep around the outside of Valtteri Bottas to move into second position. This was before, the turn 3 carnage caused by Romain Grosjean spinning out in a cloud of tire smoke through the turn 3 right-hand sweeper, taking out, not only himself but also Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and STR’s Pierre Gasly, bringing out the safety car while marshals cleared the track.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso clean drove around the outside of Force India’s Esteban Ocon at turn 3 after the restart to move into the points, meanwhile Hamilton was quietly building his lead, which was more than 10 seconds by lap 18. At which time, Vettel pitted for fresh rubber, moving onto the medium tire, but got held up by Kevin Magnussen for two laps. The German had to make a late dive past Magnussen to maintain his second position ahead of Bottas as the Finn had stopped and was exiting the pit lane.
On lap 25, the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen seemed to make a move towards the pit lane, then suddenly aborted, allowing Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to slip by at the final corner. But, it was race over for Raikkonen as he failed to accelerate down the straight, also being passed by the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo. Raikkonen was left to limp back to the Ferrari pits and into retirement from the race.
Hamilton pitted from the lead on the next lap, also switching to the white marked medium tire, to rejoin the track in 2nd place behind Verstappen, who had not stopped yet. Verstappen finally pitted nine laps later, relinquishing the lead back to Hamilton, where the Englishman stayed until the end of the race in what has to be considered a dominant performance. Verstappen rejoined the track in 4th place ahead of his Red Bull teammate, a few laps before Ocon stopped on the side of the road, causing a VSC period.
During this VSC period, Vettel unexpectedly pitted to put on fresh medium tires while everyone else, bar Force India’s Sergio Perez continued on track under the VSC delta times. This cost Vettel and Ferrari big time, not only losing out to Bottas, but also, Verstappen, rejoining the track in 4th place after a slow stop, which Maranello blamed on Perez pitting at the same time, and not wanting to risk an unsafe release. In my view, it was a poor strategic call, that cost them two places, blaming Force India is a BS excuse.
Meanwhile, during the VSC period, Verstappen had his fifth collision in five races, driving into the back of Williams’ Lance Stroll. The Dutchman damaged his front wing, which, luckily for him, didn’t seem to hinder his pace, managing to maintain a gap to Vettel to claim his first podium of the 2018 season. The final action of the race was Fernando Alonso claiming 8th place from the restart after the VSC, the Spaniard caught Charles Leclerc down the start/finish straight to complete the move into turn one.
As ever with the 2018 season so far, we have some controversy in regard to the -0.4mm change of tire tread, which many see as an advantage for Mercedes who benefitted from a major change of fortune using the new Pirelli rubber. Of course, Mercedes have rubbished these claims, as you would expect, but many Ferrari fans have been pushing the conspiracy theory that Pirelli, The FIA and Mercedes colluded on this change to advantage the silver arrows. I’m not convinced by the narrative myself, what do you think?
Spanish Grand Prix 2018 Results
|1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:35:29.972
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +20.593s
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +26.873s
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +27.584s
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +50.058s
|6. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +1 LAP
7. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +1 LAP
8. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +1 LAP
9. Sergio Perez (Force India) +2 LAPS
10. Charles Leclerc (Sauber) +2 LAPS