Hamilton leads emphatic 1-2 win for Mercedes in Spain


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.

Vettel pits at the end of lap 17, the German switch to the mediums. He rejoins in 7th behind Magnussen.

"Push hard now, push hard now," Bottas is told, Mercedes clearly reacting to the undercut.

In response, Bottas goes quickest in S2, while Hamilton posts a new fastest lap (21.328).

In fact, Bottas doesn't pit, instead posting a PB (21.485).

Going quickest in the first two sectors, next time around Bottas does pit. Switching to mediums also, he rejoins behind Magnussen just as the Dane is passed by Vettel.

Leclerc pits at the end of lap 20 as Hamilton is told he doing a "great job". The Briton is also assured that there is no rain on the radar.

A new fastest lap, but from Bottas, who stops the clock at 20.402 on the mediums.

Alonso pits at the end of lap 21, rejoining in 16th ahead of Stroll.

Second-placed Raikkonen lapping a second slower than the leader.

Asked if he's OK with doing a "few extra laps", the Finn politely replies: "Yeh, it's OK".

Verstappen passes Raikkonen who appears to be slowing. "I have some issues, I have no power," says the Iceman. He is told to "stop the car".

Meanwhile Hamilton pits, as does Sirotkin. The Briton, on mediums, rejoins behind Verstappen and ahead of Ricciardo.

As was the case of Friday, Raikkonen is able to coast back to the pits but clearly the issue is terminal.

Perez pits at the end of lap 26, rejoining in 15th.

A new fastest lap from Hamilton (20.131) as he closes to within 2.3s of Verstappen.

Woah! Ericsson and Sainz almost touch wheels as the Spaniard attempts to pass the Swede. Just behind them is Leclerc who has Alonso all over his rear.

Ocon pits from 7th at the end of lap 29, the Frenchman rejoining in last place following a disastrous pit stop due to a stubborn right-rear.

Sainz continues to harry Ericsson who is having none of it, while Leclerc continues to hold off Alonso. Two great scraps.

A lonely afternoon for Magnussen who is currently 6th, 19s down on Bottas and 30s ahead of Vandoorne.

Bottas is warned that the Bulls are on a one-stop strategy, and that they are a threat.

Magnussen pits at the end of lap 32, rejoining still in sixth.

Ricciardo pits at the end of lap 33, the Red Bull driver rejoining in 5th.

Next time around Verstappen pits, as does Hartley. The Dutchman rejoins in fourth comfortably ahead of his teammate.

Now in clear air, Hamilton immediately goes quickest in S2, as Vandoorne pits from 13th.

As Ericsson pits, 11th placed Perez suffers the ignominy of being lapped by the leader. Incidentally, Ericsson is the last driver to make a scheduled pit stop. The Swede is on the softs while everyone else is on mediums.

After 38 laps, Hamilton leads Vettel by 11s with Bottas a further 2.4s behind. Verstappen is fourth, ahead of Ricciardo, Magnussen, Sainz, Leclerc, Alonso and Perez.

Ocon has stopped on track follow an obvious engine issue, resulting in the VSC being deployed. "No power, no power," says the Frenchman.

Vettel pits under the VSC, as does Perez. The German takes on a new set of mediums. Following a slow stop he rejoins behind Verstappen whose tyres are not that much older. Another strategic boob by the Maranello outfit.

The VSC is withdrawn and Alonso catches Leclerc napping. The pair go into T1 side-by-side but there is no holding the Spaniard.

Meanwhile Verstappen has clumped the rear of Stroll's Williams, incurring front wing endplate damage.

Replay shows one of the Force Indias (Perez) running over the debris following the Stroll incident.

Despite the damage, Verstappen is setting a good pace though Vettel is now just 1.5s behind.

A new fastest lap from Bottas who crosses the line at 19.944.

Vandoorne slows on the main straight and pulls over. "I've lost drive," he reports.

Hamilton responds to his teammate's pace with a 19.766.

Down in fifth it's all gone to pot for Ricciardo who is now 17.8s down on Vettel.

"A reminder, there is still a long way to go in this race, and you know Bottas tyre age," Verstappen is told.

From out of nowhere, Ricciardo produces a 19.147.

And now Vettel finds some pace, going quickest in the first two sectors.

Sixth place Magnussen is lapped by the race leader.

Indicating the black clouds at T3, Alonso's hopes of some intervention by the weather gods are cruelly dashed by the news that rain is not expected.

Perez closes on Leclerc as the Sauber driver drops to 11.8s behind Alonso.

"Keep pushing like this," Vettel is urged.

As Leclerc soaks up the pressure from Perez, Hartley closes on Ericsson.

Perez finally nails Leclerc, courtesy of a DRS and a tow on the pit straight.

"Just confirm you're happy to go to the end," Bottas is asked. "It'll be tough," he admits.

Another fastest lap from Ricciardo (18.441) as he remains 20.8s down on Vettel.

"Engine, engine, fuel drop out," reports seventh-placed Sainz. The Spaniard currently 7.5s ahead of countryman Alonso.

Hamilton begins his final lap 20.081s clear of his teammate who is 6.205s ahead of Verstappen. Vettel is a further 1.733s down the road with a 21.006s advantage over Ricciardo.

As they take the chequered flag, Hartley slows on the main straight, finally pulling over to the side of the track.

Hamilton wins, from Bottas, Verstappen, Vettel, Ricciardo, Magnussen, Sainz, Alonso, Perez and Leclerc.

Stroll is eleventh, ahead of Hartley, Ericsson and Sirotkin.

Not the most exciting of races, indeed, despite the promises of the first few rounds it looks like business as usual for Mercedes, the Silver Arrows taking an emphatic 1-2. In addition to it being Hamilton's second successive win, today's result sees him extend his title lead to 17 points.

Having thanks the usual suspects, Hamilton adds: "I felt the synergy today which I haven't felt all year. This is where we're going to start to apply the pressure," he continues.

"Of course I wanted to fight for the win, we had such a good car," adds Bottas. "The team was so reactive with the strategy, I never believed we could do one stop but we could. I'm happy.

"As a team, this weekend we've been perfect," he adds, "we just need to continue like that, and for me also the wins will come."

Looking down at the damage to his front wing, Verstappen says: "The car was working really well. As you know, it's pretty hard to pass but we could stay close to everyone. We got lucky with Kimi retiring and then the degradation wasn't bad, the car was handling really well. I think that gave us third position today." The youngster omitting to mention Ferrari's strategic error.

In the podium ante room the Mercedes boys are in deep discussion.

"After the first corner I thought shoot," says Hamilton, "maybe I should have gone to the inside and given you some drag, coz I think Sebastian pulled out and got my tow." "Yes," nods Bottas.

And talking of difficulty in passing... it's off to Monaco we go.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Barcelona, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 13/05/2018
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