Rosberg revives title hopes with Barcelona win


In a week in which the British electorate has witnessed Prime Ministerial hopeful Ed Miliband cast a number of his election promises in stone, a la Moses, it is only fitting that we might witness Nico Rosberg mount a title revival of Biblical proportions.

With his teammate taking pole for all four preceding races, and going on to win three of them, the German must today begin his mission to derail the Stevenage Rocket.

Toto and Niki did look down on their warring sons and wondered how it might end, whilst Nico wanted to take down his 'brother', the big question is would he be Abel.

Going into the final stage of qualifying, it was Noah that came to mind; whilst Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, Toro Rosso and Red Bull went in to Q3 two-by two, so two-by-two were the final rows of the grid decided, with the tribe of Lotus leading the tribes of McLaren, Sauber, Force India and Manor.

With a mighty lap, Rosberg did smote his rival's ambitions, for seeing his was a scruffy lap Hamilton did settle for second, albeit with a slight gnashing of teeth.

Vettel, in his new clothes of bright red colour, did continue to impress and held off the warring Bottas who openly coveted his place on the grid, while the Toro Rosso duo did perform miracles to take fifth and sixth, thereby invoking the envy of their sister (team).

Not a burning bush but a burning blanket was to add to Raikkonen's misery, the Finn seemingly destined for another forty days and nights of team ineptitude and a whole heap of work to do on what should be the day of rest.

Red Bull, previously enticed by the allure and promises of its (engine) partner, did become increasingly weary of the marriage, and with the increasing likelihood of penalties there was much wailing and a great gnashing of teeth.

Envy too at Williams, where Massa did look upon his teammate's performance and realise that he must dig deep and find his inner resolve or perish by ending his career in a Manor not best suited to his talents.

The editor did look down on his opening to the Spanish Grand Prix and convincing himself that it was good, opted not to overdo it and get serious.

The almost perfect symmetry of the grid gives us excellent insight into the pecking order as we head into the summer, for despite the updates, the order for the next few races - excluding the freakish Monaco - appears to be fixed.

With eleven of the previous thirteen winners starting from pole, Rosberg and Hamilton both know what they have to do. However, expect Vettel and Bottas to take full advantage, even though they will be under pressure from the Toro Rossos and Raikkonen.

Last season of the eight times Rosberg started from pole ahead of his teammate, only twice did he succeed in holding him off for the remainder of the race, in Monaco and Brazil.

As ever, the big question is tyres. A three-stop strategy is theoretically slightly quicker but doesn't justify the traffic risks involved. Consequently, a two-stopper is actually more likely: especially for the cars at the front of the grid.

The best strategy would be start on medium, medium again on lap 23, hard on lap 50. The theoretically fastest three-stopper is to start on the medium, switch to medium again on laps 17 and 35, before a final stint on the hard from lap 55.

However, other than the fact that the Mercedes duo and Vettel have saved a brand new set of both compounds, the lack of degradation suggests that the red cars could opt for a two stopper.

Furthermore, Lotus, and to a much lesser extent Force India, could benefit from having two sets of brand new options to play with.

Also, it's worth noting that yesterday was the first time this year that all four Renault powered cars made it to Q3. Interestingly, only once this season have all four made it to the flag - Malaysia - all four scoring points in the process.

At 12:30 the pitlane opens and Hamilton leads the way.

As the national anthem is played the air temperature is 26 degrees C, whilst the track temperature is 44 degrees.

As the field heads off on the warm-up lap all are sporting the option rubber, the Lotus, Force India and Manor duos all on brand new boots. Verstappen's set has already done six laps.

As Rosberg leads the field around on the way to the grid, Hamilton comments that it feels warmer now than at any previous point this weekend.

They're away. Rosberg, following a great start, leads into T1 whilst a poor start from Hamilton means he is passed by Vettel and challenged by Bottas, the Finn almost going through on the inside in T1. However, the Briton holds off the Finn while Massa runs wide exiting T2 thereby losing out on the great start he had made which saw pass both Toro Rossos. A great start also for Raikkonen who is soon past both Toro Rossos with some typically bullish driving. Unlike Massa however, there are no mistakes.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Rosberg, Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Sainz, Massa, Grosjean and Ricciardo

Whilst Maldonado is under pressure from Alonso, Massa passes Sainz into T1 and next time around makes equally short work of his teammate, both Torros clearly struggling.

Maldonado is in a great battle with his Lotus teammate, the two touch. “Check my front,” the Frenchman tells his team. However, it is the Venezuelan's car that appears to have damage.

After 4 laps, Rosberg leads Vettel by 2.7s with Hamilton a further 0.9s down, and Bottas a further 2.2s down the road.

Both Toro Rossos are really struggling, Ricciardo picking them off one by one.

Now Verstappen (seventh) is under attack from Maldonado. The Lotus has a look but the Dutchman slams the door.

"I'm struggling with the rears," complains Button, "and I've still got understeer."

Maldonado passes Verstappen to take seventh courtesy of DRS.

After 9 laps, Rosberg leads Vettel by 6.6s, with Hamilton third just 1.3s behind. Bottas continues to lose ground in fourth, ahead of Raikkonen, Massa, Maldonado, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Grosjean.

At the end of lap 10, as Verstappen re-passes Ricciardo, Hulkenberg is the first driver to pit.

Next time around Kvyat pits rejoining in 16th.

"Tyres looking good from our side, "Bottas is told looking good for Plan C. Meanwhile, Hamilton is told to prepare for "Hammer Time".

At the end of lap 12, Nasr and Button pit whilst Hamilton is told to do the opposite of Vettel. As the German continues around the Briton pits. There's an issue with his left-rear and as a result the Mercedes driver rejoins in seventh behind Maldonado.

Next time around Vettel pits, rejoining ahead of Hamilton, thereby promoting Raikkonen to third.

Rosberg pits at the end of lap 14, leaving Bottas leading the race. However, the Finn pits, thereby promoting Raikkonen to race leader.

Massa, Maldonado and Grosjean pit, Lotus checking the damage to the Venezuelan's rear wing following his earlier clash with his teammate, leaving Raikkonen, Alonso, Ericsson, Perez and the Manors as the only drivers yet to stop.

Told that he has to push, Hamilton and take on Vettel replies: "That's impossible, so we'll have to find another solution".

Raikkonen pits at the end of lap 17, rejoining in fifth ahead of Massa. He is now on the prime rubber whilst teammate Vettel is still on options.

A frustrated Hamilton, now 7.1s down on his teammate, tell his engineers not to speak to him in the corners.

As Ericsson pits, the Toro Rossos have dropped to eleventh and fourteenth.

Whilst Raikkonen is told that his pace is matching the Williams, Vettel on the option rubber, is struggling and under intense pressure from Hamilton.

Hulkenberg goes wide, wide, wide in T1 in his attempts to pass Sainz. He has to yield the position to the Toro Rosso and is passed by Nasr in the process.

Alonso finally pits at the end of lap 21. Seventh at the time of stopping he rejoins in fourteenth.

Kvyat passes Verstappen for tenth with a bold move, the two so close as they battled in to T1.

After 23 laps, it's: Rosberg, Vettel (6.8), Hamilton (0.7), Bottas (9.5), Raikkonen 99.1), Massa (21.1), Ricciardo (23.5) and Grosjean (3.5).

"As soon as I touch the throttle I have wheelspin," complains Button, "this is not normal." The Briton is currently 17th and about to be lapped by the race leader.

Hulkenberg and Alonso pit at the end of lap 27, the Spaniard failing to stop and overshooting his lot. Thankfully nobody is hit. Told to switch the car off and retire, it is clear the McLaren suffered a brake failure.

Next time around Button pits, but thankfully this time there are no dramas.

Now 0.9s down on Hamilton, the Briton appears to have missed his chance to nail Vettel, the German looking a little more comfortable now. His teammate is now 8.7 up the road and looking good as he laps (14th placed) Perez.

At the end of lap 32 Hamilton pits. Having previously asked for a pit stop with no errors the team obliges, 22.7s later he rejoins in fifth behind Raikkonen. Massa also pits, rejoining behind the McLaren.

On fresh rubber, Hamilton soon nails Raikkonen, and sets off after Bottas who is 9.8s up the road. As the Briton posts a new fastest lap (29.910), he is told: "OK Lewis, you know what you have to do". He clearly does... Vettel's last lap was 32.5.

As Button is told that Alonso's (brake issue isn't relevant to him, Vettel is told that Hamilton is on a three-stop strategy, clearly suggesting the German is on a two-stopper.

Hamilton continues to set a blistering pace, lapping in the 30.5s whilst those ahead are in the 32.1s to 32.7s.

Raikkonen is told that Bottas' tyres are "dropping off" and that he can catch him. The Finn is 10.4s down on Hamilton who nails the Williams into T1 to take third.

Verstappen makes his second stop of the day, as does Kvyat.

Raikkonen up to his usual; "Get that Marussia out of the way," he thunders.

Vettel pits at the end of lap 40, as does Nasr. 21.8s later the German rejoins the race in fourth.

Grosjean pits but is well off his mark sending two of his crew flying... though they appear to be OK. Indeed, the front jack man is sent flying but keeps hold of his jack and gets on with his job. Raikkonen also pits but with no drama. The Finn switches to the option rubber.

Bottas pits at the end of lap 42, rejoining 21.8 just ahead of his fifth placed teammate.

Great move by Grosjean on Kvyat, both doing a superb job not to touch. Elsewhere Sainz and Ricciardo both pit.

After 44 laps, Rosberg leads his teammate by 22.2s, with Vettel a further 14.8s behind. Bottas is fourth, 14s down on the German, ahead of Massa and Raikkonen.

At the end of lap 45 Rosberg pits, 22.45s later he rejoins 2.2s down on his teammate who we believe still has to stop again. Indeed, Rosberg is told that his teammate has one more stop to make and is racing Vettel.

Raikkonen is all over Massa, the Finn now showing strong pace on the options.

Maldonado is told to retire his car, the team finally realising that his rear wing damage is compromising safety, as Raikkonen sweeps by Massa on the pit straight to take fifth. The Brazilian subsequently pits.

With an 18.7s advantage over Vettel, Hamilton almost has a pit stop over the German.

Raikkonen, lapping around 0.7s quicker than Bottas, is now 6.4s down on his countryman.

As Maldonado talks to his crew, Hulkenberg pits.

At the end of lap 50, Hamilton is told: "Box, box, box!". And box he does, rejoining the race 21.9s later in second.

Aware that the fight for second is lost, Vettel admits, "we lost too much time in traffic".

With Hamilton closing the gap to 20.6, Rosberg posts a new fastest lap (29.109), however, Hamilton responds with a 28.401 and closes the gap to 19.9 with 13 laps remaining. Vettel is already 7.3s down on the Briton.

"Come on, blue flag, blue flag, otherwise I just get stuck" shouts Vettel as he closes on a couple of back markers. Teammate Raikkonen continues to hunt down Bottas.

After 55 laps, it's: Rosberg, Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Massa, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Kvyat, Verstappen, Sainz and Nasr.

A big debate between Hamilton and his engineer as to whether he can catch and pass his teammate. Told it is highly unlikely, the Briton is warned to conserve his tyres. He responds posting a time almost a second quicker than the other Mercedes.

Raikkonen is all over the back of the Williams now, however he is unable to get close enough to make a move. Traffic ahead however, could play in to the Ferrari driver's hands.

Out front, with 5 laps remaining, Rosberg leads by 13s with Hamilton now 27.8s ahead of third-placed Vettel.

A bold move on a Toro Rosso gives Bottas a little breathing space. But soon Raikkonen is snapping at his heels again.

Elsewhere, Kvyat is all over Grosjean for eighth whilst the two Toro Rossos battle for tenth. Verstappen is unable to defend on his older tyres however, and teammate Sainz sweeps by.

For lap after lap Raikkonen shadows his foe but simply cannot get close enough to make a move.

Behind them, Kvyat and Sainz battle for ninth, they touch and as a result the Spaniard runs wide and gains the position, which he will surely have to hand back.

Rosberg takes the flag and gets his title challenge back on track. Hamilton is second, ahead of Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Massa, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Sainz and Kvyat.

Verstappen is eleventh, ahead of Nasr, Perez, Ericsson, Hulkenberg, Button, Stevens and Merhi.

The stewards announce that they will indeed investigate the Kvyat/Sainz incident.

And lo, on the seventh day, the silver star shone brightly in the firmament, Nico did wrap up another win for his team and it was good.

The people thanked the good lord Bernie for a good race - though there was much gnashing of teeth and wailing as the F1 timing app failed yet again - which brought the championship alive once again.

Sebastian licked his wounds, mildly cursing his team for its strategic failure, whilst his 'brother' Kimi cursed everyone and any one.

The wise old Sir Frank was mighty content with third and sixth, whilst Ricciardo was relieved that his donkey of a bull made it to seventh.

Grosjean was happy to feast at the points table whilst Sainz and Kvyat awaited the decision of the elders.

Here endeth the Gran Premio de Espana Pirelli race report.

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Published: 10/05/2015
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