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Hamilton leads emphatic 1-2 win for Mercedes in Spain

NEWS STORY
13/05/2018

It's fair to say that to the casual observer, thus far the Barcelona weekend has been more than a little confusing.

First Red Bull appears to have an edge then it swings in favour of Ferrari before Mercedes go and lock-out the front row.

However, despite the fact that Lewis Hamilton starts from pole alongside Valtteri Bottas and all those stats insisting that nobody starting from wherever in whatever car goes on to win here, we have our doubts.

OK, it's not exactly the sort of clue that would have Lt Columbo insisting "just one more thing", but why, despite losing pole, does Sebastian Vettel look so pleased with himself?

What was already looking to be a very confusing race strategy-wise and especially tyre-wise, has been given a further twist by the heavy overnight rain which has washed much of the rubber away and left the track as green as it was on Friday... and we all know what happened on Friday.

Starting in two-by-two fashion, the first three rows are going to be where the action is this afternoon, as drivers battle not only for supremacy over their title rivals but their teammates also. While in the case of Mercedes and Ferrari this should be a formality, it will add extra spice to the situation at Red Bull where Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will be aware that if things begin to get 'heated' the engineers will decide who gets preference... therefore getting the edge in those first few corners is vital.

Then again, let's not forget the events of 12 months ago when Kimi Raikkonen and Verstappen's race came to an end just moments after it had begun.

As if all this wasn't enough, right behind the 'big six' we have the Viking and the Samurai, or Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso as they are commonly known. Both of these drivers has a point to prove, and neither is known for giving an inch away, and while Magnussen should have had the edge, the re-greening of the track should suit Alonso who is the only driver in the leading ten starting on supersofts.

Behind them we should witness further fun and games as the battle for midfield supremacy continues, a battle, like that between the big three this weekend, appears to swing one way and then another.

Having got both cars into the Top Ten, Haas has to take full advantage and press home its obvious strength here. This means no more mistakes. Far too often, most notably Australia, just when the American outfit seems to set to make that vital step it falls apart.

A number of the teams have had very mixed weekends, with one driver doing well while his teammate struggled, hence the 'Noah's Ark' effect pretty much falling apart after row three.

On the other hand, this means that those drivers who have fared less well and are therefore out of position will have to work that little bit harder, push that little bit more.

In particular, Perez and Hulkenberg will be worth watching, as will Leclerc, who for the second successive race starts from 14th.

Watching the back end fall off the Toro Rosso yesterday reminded us of our early efforts with the Tamiya kits in the early 70s, but on a serious note, kudos to the engineers for rebuilding it overnight and Brendon Hartley for having the guts to get into it.

While he scored his first point in Azerbaijan, for the most part the Kiwi is being out-classed by his young French teammate, and this being a Red Bull team one feels he needs to up his game.

For one team, the weekend cannot end quickly enough, Williams having encountered the weekend from hell thus far, with the promise of further such weekends to follow.

Then again, while the Grove outfit really needs to sort itself out, McLaren also needs a strong result here if it is to fend off Renault and, to a lesser extent, Force India.

As for those round black things on the corners of each car, the quickest strategy today is a two-stopper. One stint on supersofts for 16 laps, one stint on softs for 25 laps, then one more stint on softs to the flag. A one-stopper is also worth looking at, this would involve a stint on softs for 35 laps, then one stint on mediums to the flag. Then again, a slightly slower one-stopper would involve one stint on supersofts for 29 laps then one stint on mediums to the flag.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers head out. The dark clouds from earlier have lightened a little and the sun is attempting to break through.

"I feel quite low on power," warns Hamilton. Ocon is warned of a tailwind in T3.

Despite the fact the sun has broken through, Sainz clams there is a talk of a "seventy percent chance of rain" during the race. At which point race control warns of an 80% chance of rain.

That should certainly add some spice.

As they prepare to head off on the warm-up lap, the air temperature is a very cool 15 degrees C, while the track temperature is 34 degrees.

All are starting on the softs bar Alonso on the supers and Hulkenberg and Ericsson who are on mediums.

"Just seeing spots of rain," Hamilton is told, "but nothing threatening." The Briton asks if the wind is similar to FP2.

They head off on the warm-up lap, all getting away cleanly.

The grid forms.

After an inordinately long wait for Hamilton they're away. Vettel moves from one side of the track to the other as he looks for a gap between the two Mercedes.

As they head into T1, Hamilton leads but Vettel gets around the outside of Bottas to take second having benefitted from a tow down the straight. Further back Vandoorne runs wide in T1.

As they continue through the first complex of corners, Alonso appears to touch Sainz in T2, the McLaren looking very wobbly and lucky not to follow his teammate's example and go off.

Magnussen gets a little out of shape and as he seeks to avoid his teammate Grosjean spins, kicking up a great cloud of tyre smoke as he slides across the run off. As he slides backwards on to the track he collects an innocent Hulkenberg and then Gasly who is right behind. All three are out on the spot, Hulkenberg failing to complete a single race lap in his last two outings.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," says Grosjean. "I tried to go around the outside and I lost it."

"F*** guys, massive crash, massive crash," says Gasly, "I cannot believe it."

The safety car is deployed, Hamilton leads Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Magnussen, Sainz, Leclerc and Ocon.

Looking on from the Renault garage, the legendary Alain Prost looks singularly unimpressed.

In the midst of it all, Hartley and Sirotkin have pitted, while Stroll is up to 12th.

"We need to get the safety car to go faster or there is going to be chaos," warns Sainz.

As the field continues to circulate behind the safety car, the marshals use the tried and trusted means to clear up the track... the humble broom.

Meanwhile, Grosjean cuts a forlorn figure as he sits on a step, his helmet still firmly in place, the Frenchman staring at his feet, gloves in hand.

The stewards are to investigate the Grosjean incident.

As the safety car prepares to withdraw, at the end of lap 6, Hamilton is not happy with the state of track claiming there is still debris. Vettel is warned of oil on the track.

No issues at the re-start, though it is clear drivers are struggling for grip.

Alonso goes around the outside of Ocon in T3 to take 10th.

As Verstappen closes on Raikkonen, Ricciardo is dropping back, clearly struggling.

Sainz is all over Magnussen as the Dane shadows Ricciardo.

Hamilton posts fastest lap (21.631), as he builds a 2.146s lead.

Vandoorne is under investigation for failing to stay left of the bollard at T2 on re-joining the track. The Belgian is subsequently handed a 5s penalty.

Another fastest lap for Hamilton (21.386) as he extends his lead to 3.7s.

"We think about Plan B," Sainz is told.

Down in 13th, Perez is making hard work of passing Stroll.

Ricciardo is told to be sensible with his tyres, that it is still early days.

Having been passed by Alonso earlier, Ocon is now all over Alonso, which has allowed Leclerc to build ac1.6s lead over the Spaniard. The McLaren driver, of course, on the supersofts.

Happy with his tyres, Bottas closes to within 1.3s of Vettel, while Raikkonen is now 3.3s behind the Mercedes.

Lapping around 0.4s quicker than his teammate, Ricciardo is seeking permission to pass the other Red Bull.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Barcelona, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by nonickname, 13/05/2018 18:14

"And so ends the most boring afternoon of the year. I am impressed that they all actually got over the line in the 2 hours alloted time.
A procession that was so spread out that the camera's had to look at the bottom end of the field to find 3 cars in the same frame.
As for Mclaren...the happiest man in the world must be Ron Denis.
Please team,after all the bs you were lapped."

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