Mercedes scores another win in Spain, Lewis scores 100 and Redbull are left wondering what they can to beat the best ….
2020 has already seen its fair share of incidents, the coming together between Bottas and Russell in Imola, track limits at well every track, the fall of Aston Martin and of course the ongoing saga of Nikita Mazepin.
With the Formula 1 circus arriving at the Circuit de Catalunya with no preseason testing at the track (first time since 2014) and a re profiled turn 10, it was hoping that this could help with the racing, lets face it, Spanish Grand Prix at Catalunya has not given us classic races, classic moments- of course (Mercedes 2016, anyone?), this was not a classic, however it did give us a race, more on that later.
As per usual we have three practice sessions, qualifying and the race over the course of three days, practice was topped by Valtteri Bottas with Verstappen and Hamilton coming in second and third, respectively. Most of the teams were using the hard (white stripped) tire, this was not well liked by the teams, with most if not all going with a soft and medium strategy.
Mazepin did not himself no favours again, spinning the HAAS a few minutes into the session. The HAAS driver really needs to have a safe and clean weekend. Robert Kubica in the Alfa Romeo also had a trip in the kitty litter at the new look turn 10. Not much else happened in the first practice session, other than Roy Nissany making an appearance for Williams Racing.
Free Practice 2 did not have a HAAS in the gravel, yes that is not a typo. McLaren struggled with pace in the session finishing in the lower half of the timing sheets, while Alpine are beginning to show promise after an underwhelming start to the season, speaking of underwhelming, Aston Martin were part of FP2, Vettel managed to complete the session 11th but a massive 0.777 second away from the front of the grid.
Free practice three, is the time where the finer details are worked on, some qualifying runs are attempted, and drivers get one more feel of the track before the serious business begins.
Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen completed the top 3 in the session, with some solid lap-times, although times in free practice is rarely representative of how Qualifying and the race will go, Verstappen was around half a second away from Hamilton’s time.
Let Battle Commence
Qualifying is the beginning of the business end to the weekend, who will get first blood? Will it be Max? or will it be Lewis?
Q1 finished with the usual suspects at the rear, the HAAS drivers at the bottom with Mazepin in 20th and Schumacher in 18th. There was a couple of surprises in this session with Kimi Raikkonen failing to make it out of Q1, the Alfa Romeo car was looking good in practice. The other big surprise was the Alpha Tauri of Yuki Tsunoda managing only sixteenth. The young rookie would insinuate to the media that his car was slower than his teammates car. That is not a good way to endear yourself to the engineers in the garage, unsurprisingly he would apologise for his remarks later in a post on social media.
“Even every time it’s opposite, so I have a little bit of a question mark if it’s the same car. Of course it’s the same car, but the character of the car is too different. Maybe of course it’s just the driving style, but I don’t know what’s happened and why I’m struggling this much.”Yuki Tsunoda’s remarks about the Alpha Tauri and his 16th place for the Spanish GP
Q2 saw the disappointment of the season continue with Vettel and Stroll stuck down in 11th and 13th, with Gasly joining the Aston Martin World of Disappointment in 12th.
This was it the top ten shootouts, a chance for the 7-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to claim his 100th pole position in his career, a record that has never been achieved in the history of Formula 1, or will Max Verstappen spoil the party?
Nope, he did it!! Sir Lewis Hamilton made the Spanish GP 2021 his 100th pole of his career.
Max Verstappen was a mere 0.036 seconds from the Mercedes, with Bottas rounding off the top 3.
Ferrari continue the rebuild with Leclerc in an impressive 4th on the grid.
TODAY WE RACE
Race day was upon, what kind of race will we get, well surprisingly we got one! Max Verstappen got a better start heading into turn 1 and took the lead, forcing Hamilton wide, the question of wither Bottas would be a factor in the race was also answered, when Leclerc got round the outside of the slow to react Mercedes driver.
The race will be a test of grit, patience, and determination, that is what is needed when lapping Mazepin!
The first and only retirement happened early, when the Alpha Tauri of Yuki Tsunoda stopped on track with a fuel issue, the Alpha Tauri retirement capped off a horrible weekend for Yuki and Pierre, Yuki had a horrible qualifying and Pierre Gasly forgot how to park on the grid resulting in a 5 second penalty. Gasly was able to rescue a decent race with a point finish, however it shows how the Alpha Tauri drivers are not getting the best out of the car.
Report Card- MUST DO BETTER
As the race developed it was clear that this was going to be won on the track and by strategy, Redbull were caught napping. It was a masterclass in driving and strategy. The Spanish Grand Prix has given a wakeup call its not just hard to fight against Lewis Hamilton, its just as hard to fight against the might of Mercedes F1 team.
For the Redbull team there are a couple of takeaways from the race, Sergio Perez needs to get back into the fight, if the second Redbull car was in the top 4, Mercedes would not have been able to execute the strategy, which would have led to a (possible) different outcome.
The other takeaway, as I have just mentioned, the Redbull team need to sort out the strategy. They cannot be caught out by Mercedes in the same way again.
The Rest of the Field
With 50 percent of the Redbull and Mercedes teams away to the front, the rest of the field had some interesting battles (or not if your Aston Martin). Daniel Ricciardo had a great race, finishing in 6th place, the maximum they could achieve. The is a very stable and settled weekend for the Australian driver. His teammate, Lando Norris finished 8th in a decent if unspectacular performance.
Esteban Ocon continues to prove me wrong with a great performance in the resurgent Alpine crossing the line in 9th, the finish is even more impressive, with Fernando Alonso finishing in a lowly 17th.
With the Aston Martin floundering down at the arse end of the grid and Alpha Tauri just not hooking up a clean weekend, the spot for the best of the rest challenge has fallen to Ferrari, Charles Leclerc is continuing to show his talents in qualifying, with Ferrari providing a car that is able to replicate the pace in the race. Carlos Sainz is proving to be a great piece of business in the second Ferrari car, he has become one with his car much better than the other drivers in new teams.
The bright green sponsor on the Ferrari must be Kryptonite, if it can stop Superman, it must be able to make a Ferrari F1 car faster?
A final shoutout to the Alfa Romeo pit crew that spotted the flat tire during a pitstop, a great catch that kept Giovinazzi in the race.
We head to the Monaco Grand Prix in a couple of weeks, what is next chapter in the race for the 2021 Championship?