Hat-trick of Poles for Bottas but it’s a hat-trick of wins for Hamilton in Spain; 2019 Spanish Grand Prix Review

The Spanish Grand Prix at the 4.655 km, 16 turn Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is always an intriguing weekend. The teams and drivers return to the venue of pre-season testing and use it as a benchmark of where they are at. It is also an opportunity for the teams to bring big upgrades. For example, Ferrari brought forward an upgraded engine ahead of schedule while Renault, for example, were looking to ‘reset’ in Barcelona.

Despite the raft of upgrades brought to Barcelona, it was a familiar story in the timesheets. Mercedes have been the dominant force in 2019 despite Ferrari being tipped to have the quicker car. Indeed, the Ferrari was quickest at this circuit in pre-season testing bit it is Mercedes who arrived with four successive 1-2 race finishes and it was Mercedes who set the pace in Spain. The Silver Arrows topped all three practice sessions and all three parts of Qualifying before Valtteri Bottas claimed his third successive pole position by a storming 6 tenth margin.

The start of the race was tense. A poor start for Bottas coupled with strong starts for Hamilton and Vettel from 2nd and 3rd respectively meant we saw three cars a breadth approaching turn 1. On the outside, Vettel locked his brakes taking him wide and he just retained 3rd at the expense of his teammate; though he would lose 3rd to Verstappen at turn 4. Bottas in the middle was squeezed out by Hamilton who came down the inside to take the lead and from there the reigning world champion did not look back as he controlled what was, for the most part, a processional race.

That said, there was some overtaking with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat pulling off a number of eye-catching moves, most notably on 2007 Champion Kimi Raikkonen around the outside of turn four. There was drama at Ferrari with the team agonising on using team orders to swap their drivers around not once but twice during the race. However, the real drama came after lap 46 when Lando Norris and Lance Stroll made contact at turn 2, ending both of their races and bringing out the Safety Car for surprisingly the first time this season.

With the grid huddled up again for the restart the action restarted. The two Haas cars of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean came to blows at turn 1 with Grosjean being forced wide as he lost 7th to his teammate despite calls for the pair to be calm on team radio. However, out in front, it was Hamilton who led from start to finish to win his third race of the season and retaking the Championship lead from his teammate Bottas in 2nd. Max Verstappen claimed his second podium of the season with a fantastic drive to finish 3rd while the two Ferrari’s finished 4th and 5th with Vettel the lead car. Pierre Gasly finished 6th. Magnussen retained 7th to finish; best of the rest’ ahead of home favourite Carlos Sainz while a slow pit stop prevented Kvyat achieving more than 9th as Grosjean just held on for the final point on offer in 10th.

2019 Spanish Grand Prix Result

Q1: 1st Valtteri Bottas 1:16.979……………15th Danel Ricciardo 1:18.385
OUT: 16th Nico Hulkenberg +0.019, 17th Lance Stroll +0.086, 18th Antonio Giovnazzi +0.279, 19th George Russell +0.687, 20gh Robert Kubica +1.869

Q2: 1st Valtteri Bottas 1:15.924………10th Daniel Ricciardo 1:17.299
OUT: 11th Lando Norris +0.039, 12th Alexander Albon +0.146, 13th Carlos Sainz +0.300, 14th Kimi Raikkonen +0.489, 15th Sergio Perez +0.587

Q3: 1st Valtteri Bottas 1:15.406, 2nd Lewis Hamilton +0.634, 3rd Sebastian Vettel +0.866, 4th Max Verstappen +0.951, 5th Charles Leclerc +1.182, 6th Pierre Gasly +1.302, 7th Romain Grosjean +1.505, 8th Kevin Magnussen +1.516, 9th Daniil Kvyat +2.167, 10th Daniel Ricciardo +2.700

Race Result
1st Lewis Hamilton 1:35:50.433, 2nd Valtteri Bottas +4.074, 3rd Max Verstappen +7.679, 4th Sebastian Vettel +9.167, 5th Charles Leclerc +13.361, 6th Pierre Gasly +19.576, 7th Kevin Magnussen +28.159, 8th Carlos Sainz +32.342, 9th Daniil Kvyat +33.056, 10th Romain Grosjean +34.641, 11th Alexander Albon +35.445, 12th Daniel Ricciardo +36.758, 13th Nico Hulkenberg +39.241, 14th Kimi Raikkonen +41.803, 15th Sergio Perez +46.877, 16th Antonio Giovinazzi +47.691, 17th George Russell +1 lap, 20th Robert Kubica +1 lap, Lance Stroll DNF, Lando Norris DNF

Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton

Team by Team Review


Mercedes
Qualifying: Valtteri Bottas 1st, Lewis Hamilton 2nd
Race Result: Lewis Hamilton 1st, Valtteri Bottas 2nd
Drivers Points: Lewis Hamilton 26, Valtteri Bottas 18
Constructors Points: 44

Championship leaders Mercedes brought a raft of aerodynamic upgrades to Barcelona including a new front wing and it seemed to work with Bottas claiming it felt ‘completely different to how it was in winter testing’. The Silver Arrows were dominant in Barcelona as they topped every session of the weekend with Bottas taking his third successive pole position which Team Principal Toto Wolff felt ‘deserves to be on pole’. The intra-team battle was decided at turn 1 where Hamilton breezed passed his teammate and controlled proceedings. The Safety car did not disrupt Mercedes who recorded their equal-best 5th successive 1-2 race finish which given the struggles they had at this circuit in pre-season testing was a ‘fantastic result for the team’.

Hamilton was bested in Qualifying by his teammate but was not so kind at turn 1 as he controlled the race from start to finish. [Image from formula1.com].

You can never write Lewis Hamilton off. The reigning world champion struggled against his teammate for much of the weekend and before lap 1 of the race had only finished top of the timesheet in final practice. He struggled with battery issues in Qualifying as he finished 6 tenths behind his teammate in the final reckoning. Despite that deficit, Hamilton came back determined on race day and was not so friendly in turn 1 as he had been in Baku. That saw him take the lead from his teammate down the inside of turn 1 which Hamilton described as ‘a great battle and also a decisive moment in the race’. It was decisive. From there, he did not look back as he led from start to finish uninterrupted for the 16th time in his career. It was not dominant but it was controlled and measured from the reigning champion who also picked up the added point for the fastest lap to boot. The timing of the Safety car was also perfect for him to maintain his lead at the second round of pit stops. Dedicating his win to Harry…who sent him a message was also a nice touch from the Champion who regained the championship lead with this performance,

Valtteri Bottas took a third successive pole position in Spain but a clutch issue arguably cost him the race win. [Image fro formula1.com].

For much of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, it looked to be going to plan for Valtteri Bottas who is putting up an almighty fight against Hamilton this year. The Finn was quickest in both Friday practice sessions despite a fuel leak in the opening session. Even though he span in final practice, Bottas was imperious in Qualifying and took pole position by a mighty six tenths from Hamilton. Quite rightly, he claimed it was the best pole of his career. However, in the race, the smallest of margins cost him as they did so much last year. A clutch issue which he described as ‘vibrating and it seemed like it was biting and releasing at a very quick frequency’ at the start meant his getaway from the start was not ideal and meant he was in the sandwich of a three-car battle into turn 1. While he fended off Vettel on the outside, his teammate slipped in down the inside of turn 1 and from there that did seem to determine the race. Bottas had no answer for his teammate on race day as he twice pitted before his teammate with no sign of an undercut working effectively. We will never know if it would’ve worked the second time if the Safety car had not been called on lap 47 but other than the start, Bottas was in brilliant form and a repeat in Monaco should see him in contention for victory in the principality.

Ratings: Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 
Qualifying: Max Verstappen 4th, Pierre Gasly 6th
Race Result: Max Verstappen 3rd, Pierre Gasly 6th
Drivers Points: Max Verstappen 15, Pierre Gasly 8
Constructors Points: 23

Red Bull brought what they described as ‘very subtle’ upgrades to their car for Barcelona but it did not have an easy start. They had reliability concerns in Friday practice with Verstappen reporting drop outs in power but he described Red Bull’s progress as having a ‘good feeling about the upgrades, which work for sure’. The Milton Keynes outfit then failed to get any Qualifying sim runs in final practice due to a red flag but despite that, they managed to qualify 4th and 6th which is a fantastic effort all considered. Red Bull decided on a two-stop strategy fairly early into the race when they put Verstappen onto a second set of soft tyres for his second stint. It paid dividends with Ferrari and Mercedes having to pit too and the pace of Verstappen ensured they picked up a second podium of the season. red Bull left Barcelona adrift of Mercedes but picking up more points than Ferrari and of those two trailing the silver arrows, they seemed by far the more comfortable as Horner hopes they will be able to ‘continue to close the gap’ to Mercedes.

Verstappen put in another consistent performance driving the wheels off his Red Bull to his and his teams second podium of the season. [Image from Fox Sports].

Power issues meant Max Verstappen struggled in the opening practice session but from there on in, he was his typical bullish self in Spain; the site of his famous victory three years ago. The Dutchman was consistently quicker than his teammate and put in a quality Qualifying performance to split the two Ferrari’s to line up 4th on the grid. The power of the Ferrari’s over the Honda engine showed on the start as Leclerc seemed to be getting passed until Vettel came back to the circuit at turn 2 which allowed Verstappen to pass both Ferrari’s in the opening four turns to be third by the end of the opening lap. His race pace was excellent as he kept them comfortably behind and Red Bull pitted their lead man for soft tyres on lap 20 as they committed to a two-stopper. His pace was such that he looked closer to the Mercedes than the Ferrari’s as Christian Horner praised him for driving the socks off the red bull again. He survived the safety car restart on medium tyres while the Ferrari’s were on soft tyres to finish 3rd and his second podium of the season. It is his 10th successive race finish inside the top 4; a record only Hamilton can match. With a bit more performance in the Red Bull, he could be challenging for wins but will it come in Monaco where Red Bull have done so well in recent years?

Gasly couldn’t quite match his teammate but is slowly but surely getting there as his Qualifying margin was the shortest it has been all season. [Image from formula1.com].

Pierre Gasly was well out-performed again by his headline-grabbing teammate in Spain but it is clear that the Frenchman is finding his feet at Red Bull. He got his car into Q3 again and while he qualified his 6th, the 0.315 margin to his teammate in the final reckoning was the smallest margin between the two this season. Galsy held position at the start and looked at passing Leclerc around the outside at turn 3 on the opening lap but was unsuccessful. Red Bull pitted him on lap 22 for Medium tyres as he ‘started to struggle with grip and degradation’. He took the medium tyre to lap 46 as they pitted him just before the Safety Car. The restart gave him a second opportunity at Leclerc which he came close to doing but he was not helped by debris caught in his front wing. Still, the team are satisfied that he is making progress and bringing in important points for the team. Surely, his breakthrough against Verstappen will happen soon.

Ratings: Red Bull, Max Verstappen, Pierre Gasly
Scuderia Ferrari
Qualifying: Sebastian Vettel 3rd, Charles Leclerc 5th
Race Result: Sebastian Vettel 4th, Charles Leclerc 5th
Drivers Points: Sebastian Vettel 12, Charles Leclerc 10
Constructors Points: 22

Ferrari arrived in Barcelona desperate to kick start their title challenge, even bringing with them an engine upgrade earlier than planned. After Friday practice, they looked to be there or thereabouts in terms of pace against Mercedes despite neither driver being comfortable with the handling of their car. It did not come together really for Ferrari and despite being the quickest team around this circuit in pre-season testing they were well off the pace in Qualifying. 4th and 5th was not what the doctor ordered at Ferrari with team Principal Mattia Binotto describing it as a ‘difficult qualifying session’. The race did not go much better for the Scuderia. After finishing 4th and 5th with Vettel claiming they ‘more for less maximised our result’, it’s ‘well below expectations’ of the team. It wasn’t for the want of trying as Ferrari twice swapped their drivers around during the race to try and maximise their result. Time is running out for Ferrari to get to the root of their problems and mount a challenge on Mercedes.

Sebastian Vettel’s attempt to pass the Mercedes pair at turn 1 backfired as he eventually finished behind Verstappen in 4th. [Image from Speed Sport].

Sebastian Vettel cannot be faulted for trying in Barcelona but it did not work out as well as Ferrari would have hoped. After ending the first practice session just 0.115 behind the lead Mercedes he must have sensed there was a chance of victory in Spain. However, when it mattered in Qualifying he was a mammoth 8 tenths adrift of Bottas in 3rd. Still, third was not a bad starting spot and he knew he could challenge going into turn 1. Indeed, he was but there was certainly a feeling of desperation to try and kick start a title challenge. He was way too late on the brakes down to turn 1 as he was alongside both Mercedes but that cost him and his teammate position to Verstappen when he returned to the circuit. The flat spot on his front wing meant he struggled for the first stint as he pleaded with his team to find him a gap in traffic and was even ordered to let Leclerc by. We haven’t seen that much this season. When Ferrari got him on a fresh set of the Medium tyres, his recovery was decent as he took them to lap 40. Despite having the older tyres of the top 6 runners at the Safety car restart, he had enough about him to keep Leclerc behind but not enough to challenge Verstappen enough for the final spot on the podium. That rash charge int turn 1 arguably cost him a podium but it seemed unlikely he could have taken the lead of the race any other way to cap off another disappointing weekend for Ferrari.

Ferrari team orders saw Leclerc ahead of Vettel in the early stages but the decision to go to hard tyres and 1 stop backfired. [Image from formula1.com].

For most of practice around Spain, it seemed Charles Leclerc had the measure of his four-time world champion teammate. However, the key moment for his weekend seemed to be in Q2 where he damaged his front wing off a curb. The loss of downforce and having to run the same set of tyres in Q3 cost him performance to Vettel and the Red Bull of Verstappen as he qualified 5th. In the opening exchanges, he seemed to have passed Verstappen for 4th heading into turn 2 but his teammate coming back on to the circuit cost him that position. For the first stint, Leclerc was certainly quicker than Vettel and took the soft tyres further than his teammate to lap 23. Ferrari put him o the Hard count tyre to try and get to the end but it was clear the performance was not there as he eventually had to let his teammate through. He had to end off Gasly again on the Safety car restart to finish 5th but in the final reckoning, it just did not work out as well as it could have for Leclerc who will be hoping for much better for his home race next time out.

Ratings: Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel, Charles Leclerc
Haas F1
Qualifying: Romain Grosjean 7th, Kevin Magnussen 8th
Race Result: Kevin Magnussen 7th, Romain Grosjean 10th
Drivers Points: Kevin Magnussen 6, Romain Grosjean 1
Constructors Points: 7

After a somewhat difficult start to the season, Haas were hoping to change that when they brought a whole raft of upgrades to Barcelona; a circuit they had done so well at in pre-season testing. They included a new front end floor, bargeboards and front wing updates. The indicator from Spain was that they worked well. Both drivers were comfortably in the top 10 throughout practice and locked out the fourth row of the grid which Team Principal Gunther Steiner described as ‘a good result’. The struggle for Haas this year has been managing their tyres in race trim. That wasn’t the case in Spain as both cars had solid race pace and looked set for a comfortable double points finish. That was until the Safety Car restart and they were battling again for position with Grosjean coming off worse and almost slipping out of the points altogether. It brought perhaps some unwanted attention to the team and cost them some points. Despite that, Steiner was happy for the team having ‘a good weekend points-wise.’

Grosjean qualified ‘best of the rest’ in 7th and was on course to finish there but being forced wide several times first by his teammate cost him dearly as he finished 10th. [Image from F1i].

Romain Grosjean for much of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend looked by far the quicker of the two Haas drivers. The French driver was consistently in the top 6 of the practice team sheets but while he could not qualify in the top 6, he did qualify ‘best of the rest’ in 7th. The race was going well for him too. He held 7th off the line from his teammate and looked at challenging Gasly for 6th. He just did not have enough pace in the car to sustain a challenge and was comfortably 7th when the Safety Car came out. Upon the restart, getting out of sorts challenging Gasly again put him in the direction of his teammate and after they almost touching at turn 1, he was forced to go wide and use the escape road. That happened on several occasions as he struggled with his damaged tyres as Sainz and Kvyat also came through as he just about held on for the final point. It should have been 7th for Grosjean; it is no less than he deserved but on the plus side, even with 10th he is off the mark with his first point of the season.

Magnussen was bested by his teammate in Spain but took advantage after the Safety Car restart to claim an unlikely 7th place finish. [Image from formula1.com].

Spain is a reminder that you should never give Kevin Magnussen a sniff of a position as he will take it with brutal efficiency; even if you’re his teammate. The Danish driver had been slower than Grosjean during all three parts of practice and was eventually out-qualified by his teammate by 0.011s. Off the race start, he held 8th and for most of the race that looked to be the best possible result for him after he was passed by Kvyat on lap 38. However, the Safety car gave him a reprieve against the Russian and upon the restart, he left no quarter for his teammate as he sniffed out a 7th place finish that had looked destined for Grosjean. Speaking post-race, Magnussen described it as a ‘good race in terms of pace, we had strong pace – especially towards the end. I didn’t have that many problems with tyres. It’s been much better for us this time.’

Ratings: Haas, Kevin Magnussen, Romain Grosjean
McLaren
Qualifying: Lando Norris 11th, Carlos Sainz 13th
Race Result: Carlos Sainz 8th, Lando Norris DNF
Drivers Points: Carlos Sainz 4, Lando Norris 0
Constructors Points: 4

McLaren were modest in their assessment of the upgrades they brought to Spain. they brought a new front wing and were trialling aero paint in first practice as well as also bringing changes to the rear wing, bargeboards and a shark fin engine cover. Their practice pace indicated they could be in the top but Sainz stressed caution, ‘…’. He was right to. While the team did not make Q3 qualifying 11th and 13th left them with some strategic options. The race was a disappointing one for Norris who suffered a poor start before failing to finish the race while Sainz managed to bring home points. However, judging by his comments on team radio post-race, the long run pace that McLaren felt they had was not there and instead team principal Andreas Seidl confessed it was more of a well-executed strategy that delivered points. McLaren will want to address that and whether their long run pace issues was just circuit specific.

Sainz passing Ricciardo not long after their pit stops was key to the Spaniard being best placed to finish in the points later in the race. [Image from formula1.com].

Carlos Sainz enjoys racing at his home Grand Prix. The Spaniard had never been out-qualified by a teammate around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya until this year but maintained his 100% record of scoring points. He was in the top 10 of the timesheets throughout practice and looked a solid contender for a spot in Q3. However, a costly error in Q2 meant he missed out by three tenths. On that disappointment, he had this to say, ‘A snap-in Turn 5 in my last attempt compromised my lap so I tried to recover in sector three, pushed too hard and did a mistake.’ Starting 12th, he gained a place off his teammate on the opening lap as he was followed by Ricciardo. While the Australian got passed during the pit stops when Sainz pitted on lap 24, the Spaniard passed him two laps later but it was only after the Safety Car when McLaren pitted him for soft tyres that Sainz’s race came to life. He banged wheels as he passed Grosjean for 8th on lap 57 to collect four points on home solid despite claiming to have no race pace.

Norris became the first teammate to out-qualify Sainz on his home turf but his race went from bad to worse as he ended it in a collision with Stroll. [Image from formula1.com].

The home favourite had never been out-qualified by a teammate in Spain until 2019. Credit has to go to Lando Norris for his qualifying efforts given that the teenager was nowhere near his teammate’s pace in practice and went into Qualifying almost a full second adrift in the final session. Still, he ended up just shy of Q3. That proved to be the high point of his weekend, however. Norris went wide at turn 3 on the opening lap which saw him drop from 10th to 16th. He was coming back passing Giovinazzi and Hulkenberg twice as well as Raikkonen as he started pressing Stroll for 14th. That was when they collided at turn 2 on lap 46 as he seemed to pass some blame on to Stroll, ‘I don’t know if he just didn’t see me as he turned in’. It was Norris’s second DNF of the season and after a race to forget he will be looking forward to Monaco.

Ratings: McLaren, Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris.
Scuderia Toro Rosso
Qualifying: Daniil Kvyat 9th, Alexander Albon 12th
Race Result: Daniil Kvyat 9th, Alexander Albon 11th
Drivers Points: Daniil Kvyat 2, Alexander Albon 0
Constructors Points: 2

Toro Rosso has been a bit of a surprise package for me this year and they continued to do so in Spain. Both cars looked quick in practice and looking likely to be competing for a spot in Q3. Kvyat achieved that goal in Qualifying while Albon was unlucky to miss out in 12th. Still, with fresh tyres available neither car was in a bad position. That transpired in the race with both cars in the top 10 after the opening lap. It looked like Toro Rosso were set for a first double points finish in two years (Spain 2017) but an error in the second pit stops behind the Safety Car cost them. As he explained it, Franz Tost blamed the incident for not taking full advantage of their performance, ‘…a really good job until the safety car came out, when we lost everything because of a radio miscommunication between the pit wall and the mechanics.’ Prior to the incident, their cars were 8th and 10th; they finished 9th and 11th.

Kyvat produced a number of good moves including this pass on Raikkonen around the outside of turn 4 and deserved more than 9th. [Image from formula1.com].

Daniil Kvyat had a very good performance in Spain. The Russian was in the top 10 in both Friday practice sessions and still thereabouts in the final session (11th). His Qualifying performance was clean as he got into Q3 for the second successive race; qualifying 9th with the Russian stating, ‘I’m really happy with how qualifying went’. In the race, he held his position on the opening lap but seemed to come to life more after pitting for the Medium tyre on lap 21. He passed Hulkenberg on lap 33 but not before a spectacular move around the outside of Raikkonen at turn 4 on lap 25. He was 8th after passing Magnussen on lap 38 and could bite possibly have finished there if not for the events behind the Safety car. The delay in having his tyres ready cost him time as Magnussen and Sainz jumped him. Ultimately, he had to contend for 9th after passing Grosjean on lap 61. He admitted ‘It was a very last-minute call to pit’ that cost him but his performance in Spain was more deserving of 9th.

Alex Albon could have scored points in Spain but was left to rue the pit stop error behind the Safety car more than his teammate. [Image from The Chequered Flag].

Alexander Albon spent much of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend behind his teammate in the timesheets but he was still in contention for Q3 after he was 8th in the final practice session. He had a shot at it but by his own admission, ‘too many mistakes’ cost him in Q2 as he qualified 12th. That was 11th after Ricciardo’s grid penalty for reversing into Kvyat in Baku and after gaining a place on the opening lap was in the points. He was down to 13th after pitting on lap 26 for fresh tyres but was back up to 10th when Toro Rosso pitted both drivers behind the Safety Car. It cost him time but not as much as his teammate but it now left him with an outside chance of points. The Thai driver chased down Grosjean for the final point in the closing laps but ran out of laps to pass the stricken Haas for 10th. Still, while he was outperformed by his teammate, he was still in the mix for Toro Rosso and is still a decent showing form Albon.

Ratings: Toro Rosso, Daniil Kvyat, Alexander Albon
Renault
Qualifying: Daniel Ricciardo 10th, Nico Hulkenberg 16th
Race Result: Daniel Ricciardo 12th, Nico Hulkenberg 13th
Points: 0

Renault Team principal Cyril Abiteboul had spoken of the Spanish Grand Prix being a ‘reset’ for his team. The Enstone outfit brought a new engine with them to Spain and judging from practice, they looked stronger on their long run pace. Consequently, it was a bit of a surprise for them to get a car into the top 10 in Qualifying but Abiteboul was ‘reasonably happy’. The race did not provide the reset Renault wanted as they struggled. It is not the result Renault will have wanted and while he felt points were possible, Abiteboul stressed, ‘We are not in line with the targets we have set ourselves.’

Daniel Ricciardo qualified 11th and finished the race 12th but felt that his pace deserved more than that. [Image from Fox Sports].

It was never going to be an easy Spanish Grand Prix for Daniel Ricciardo after the three-place grid penalty he had after the reversing antics in Baku. But still, he struggled and was slower than Hulkenberg in all three practice sessions so the honey badger getting the car into Q3 was a relate surprise especially as he just squeezed into Q2 and then Q3. From 13th on the grid, he passed Norris for 12th on the opening lap and was racing Sainz hard as they both took their soft tyres to lap 24 before Renault pitted him for the Hard tyre in an attempt to go to the end. He emerged from the pits ahead but the tyres meant that Saiznwas able to pass Ricciardo within two laps and even pitting behind safety car later in the race left him with a slim chance of points. He chased Albon and Grosjean for the final points position but fell short after a performance Ricciardo felt ‘we were certainly quicker than twelfth today and, in the end, it wasn’t a perfect Sunday’.

Nico Hulkenberg struggled in Spain after being eliminated in Q1 he did fairly well to finish just behind his teammate. [Image from Pitpass].

It was a difficult weekend for Nico Hulkenberg as in the final reckoning he came up just short behind Ricciardo. The German had actually been the quicker of the two Renault’s throughout the weekend until Qualifying. That is where it began to go wrong for Hulkenberg as a crash in Qualifying contributed to him falling out of Qualifying in Q1 by just 0.011s. To make matters worse, a front wing infringement meant he had to start the race from the pit lane. From there, he passed both Williams cars and Raikkonen within the first few laps as he took the medium tyres to lap 35. He struggled nearer the end of that stint at Grosjean and Kvyat found their way passed in quick succession on lap 33. He was 10th when he eve tally pitted and was passed by Ricciardo after the Safety car restart but given he started from the pit lane, Hulkenberg did give a good account of himself in the race to add some shine to a disappointing weekend.

Ratings: Renault, Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg
Alfa Romeo
Qualifying: Kimi Raikkonen 14th, Antonio Giovinazzi 18th
Race Result: Kimi Raikkonen 14th, Antonio Giovinazzi 16th
Points: 0

Alfa Romeo looked fairly strong at this circuit in pre-season testing yet like Ferrari, it was not such a promising weekend when they returned for the Spanish Grand Prix. Their race in practice did not look so stellar but again Raikkonen looked like he could challenge for Q3. When it came to Qualifying though they just did not have enough pace even for Raikkonen to get into the top 10 for the fourth time in five races this year. The race was equally difficult for the team as neither of their drivers managed to finish in the top 10. Overall, it was perfectly summed up by Team Principal Frederic Vasseur, ‘It was a disappointing weekend where we never managed to express our potential. It is difficult to find some positives’.

Raikkonen ran wide on the opening lap through the gravel as his and Alfa Romeo’s 100% points scoring start to 2019 came to an end. [Image from formula1.com].

Kimi Raikkonen had scored points in every race for Alfa Romeo this season until the Spanish Grand Prix. After struggling with overheating brakes in Friday practice, he was back to extracting his best out of the car but ultimately fell short of reaching Q3; qualifying 14th, as he explained, ‘we did the best lap of the weekend in qualifying, unfortunately, it’s not fast enough’. The race was uncharacteristically underwhelming for Raikkonen. He ran wide at turn four on the opening lap as he went across the gravel and that put him on the back foot. That dropped him to the back of the field but he was 15th when the race restarted after the Safety Car. After that, he passed the Racing Point of Perez to finish 14th as his 100% points record in 2019 came to an end. If you ever wanted to know what Raikkonen thought of the weekend, ‘Good that we have two days of testing ahead’.

The Spanish Grand Prix was a difficult and disappointing weekend for Giovinazzi. [Image from The Chequered Flag].

Antonio Giovinazzi is not having the best of times this year, He had a cleaner Friday practice but struggled to find his bearings as he repeatedly ran wide and then in Qualifying was half a second adrift of his teammate as only the two Williams drivers qualified slower. A gearbox change saw the Italian start from the pit lane which arguably kept him out of trouble as he climbed to 15th by the end of lap 1. He was the first to pit for fresh tyres on lap 6 as the team opted to mix it up in a bid to get him up the field. Describing this post-race, he claimed the team, ‘went with a bit of different strategy to try and gain some positions, in the end, it didn’t work because the pace just was not there’. That did not materialise as again only the two Williams drivers were behind the Italian at the finish. Overall, a disappointing weekend.

Ratings: Alfa Romeo, Kimi Raikkonen, Antonio Giovnazzi
Racing Point
Qualifying: Sergio Perez 15th, Lance Still 17th
Race Result: Sergio Perez 15th, Lance Stroll DNF
Points: 0

It was a difficult weekend for Racing Point in Spain. Team Principal Otmar Szafnaeur was content after Friday practice that all the boxes had been ticked as they went about learning about the new parts they brought to their car but Qualifying was disappointing as he admitted the steps they had made ‘wasn’t enough to get us through to Q3.’ The race was similarly disappointing at what the team admitted was not their strongest circuit. Stroll failed to finish after tangling with Norris at turn 2 while Perez just could not get enough out of the car to get near the top ten as Szafnaur again reiterated, ‘we simply didn’t have the pace to challenge for points in the closing stages’. After their tremendous performance in Baku, Spain was a comeback down to earth sort of weekend for the team who will be hoping to do better in Monaco.

Spain was a difficult weekend for racing point and Perez as he called it ‘a weekend to forget’. [Image from The Chequered Flag].

Sergio Perez struggled, for the most part, to get a clean lap together in practice as he languished behind his teammate in the timesheets. However, when it mattered in Qualifying the Mexican had enough pace to out-qualify Stroll and get into Q2. That was as good as it got for Perez as he could only finish 15th in Q2. Starting the race on the soft tyre, he benefited from the struggles of Norris and Raikkonen on the opening lap to be 13th before pitting on lap 23 for the Medium tyre which he used until the Safety Car. Despite fitting the quicker soft tyre for the final stint, he still struggled and finished the race where he started; 15th. The pace just wasn’t there in the car for the Mexican who described it as a ‘weekend to forget’.

Stroll’s forgettable weekend ended in a collision with Norris. [Image from formula1.com].

If it was a weekend to forget for Perez, then I don’t know what it was for Lance Stroll. The Canadian was quicker than his teammate in Friday practice despite sending his car into the barrier after touching some of the grass on the inside of turn 9. His bad luck in Qualifying continued however as the 0.185s difference saw Stroll fall out of Qualifying in Q1 for the 9th successive time. Stroll had a clean first lap as he climbed from 16th to 14th and pitted for the Medium tyre on lap 22. He had Norris behind him after the McLaren from lap 28 onwards and culminated in the pair coming together at turn 2 on lap 46. That brought an end to a disappointing weekend as Stroll insisted, ‘we just need to put it behind us and focus on bouncing back in Monaco’.

Ratings: Racing Point: Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll
Williams
Qualifying: George Russell 19th, Robert Kubica 20th
Race Result: George Russell 17th, Robert Kubica 18th
Points: 0

2019 has not been kind to Williams but any hopes of a reprove would not happen in Spain. However, there were some signs of progress and that is reflected ever so slightly in the teams rating. They were only 0.3s off the next quickest car in opening practice and the gap to Giovinazzi in Q1 was 0.4s; the narrowest it has been to the car in 18th this season. However, after those encouraging signs, their race pace did not look so promising. It was another race at the back for the Grove-based team with Senior Race Engineer Dave Robson describing it as ‘Another difficult race for us but both drivers did well to avoid trouble and bring both cars home’. That really is the scope of their ambition at present and that is quite sad.

Russell again did all that he needed to do for Williams, out-qualifying and out0racig his teammate including a late pass at turn 1 on lap 11. [Image from formula1.com].

Goerge Russell believes there are positives for Williams, as he said post-race, ‘We have brought some test items and got some decent information from those. I think we are going in the right direction’. The British driver did all that could be asked of him even if a crash at the end of final practice want he would be starting from the pit lane. Still, he out-qualified his teammate again and despite starting from the pit lane finished the race ahead of him with a cleanly executed late move down to turn 1 on lap 11. That would have felt good and will certainly d his reputation no harm.

It was another difficult weekend for Kubica. [Image from The Chequered Flag].

The fairytale comeback for Robert Kubica looks like it isn’t working out for the Polish driver. Kubica was quicker than his teammate in first practice but the positive feeling he had slowly ‘disappeared session by session’. He again found himself being beaten consistently by his teammate in the time sheets and qualified over a second behind Russell. In the race, he started he was beaten again and embarrassingly caught off guard by Russell’s move on lap 11 claiming ‘I wasn’t practically ready to defend’.

Ratings: Williams, George Russell, Robert Kubica

Talking Points


Stroll and Norris collide

The Racing Point of Lance Stroll and McLaren of Lando Norris were battling for 14th when they made contact at the start of lap 45. Norris had been attacking Stroll and was on the outside of turn 1 but then had the inside of turn 2 as Stroll on the right-hand side went to make the turn. Both drivers were forced to retire from the race due to the contact. Consequently, the stewards reviewed the incident after the race and ruled it was a racing incident, taking no further action.

skyLance Stroll,I braked on the inside while he was on the outside and then I had to turn in to make the left-hand corner. Unfortunately, there is not enough space for two cars and there was not much I could do. I felt contact on my rear and I was sent into the gravel.

Lando Norris,Later I tried to get past Stroll. I was on the inside and I don’t know if he just didn’t see me as he turned in but there was contact and it put me out of the race. I didn’t want to just sit there and do nothing.

It is clear from the comments that each driver blames the other for the incident. From the onboard shots, it is a different story.

Turn 2 saw Norris and Stroll collide but the stewards ruled it a racing incident. [Image from formula1.com].

As they approach turn 1, Norris comes close to Stroll on the outside and as the circuit then switches to a left-hander, he is on the inside. However, at no point does Norris have his nose ahead of the Racing Point. The stewards were therefore right to state that Norris could have backed out of the move. It was a rash move from Norris as he went for the gap and it is possible that he could have been a bit more patient. Could he have had a better shot the next lap? The stewards did not absolve Stroll of any fault. They believed that Stroll could have been more aware that Norris was on the inside and they are right. Stroll could easily have taken a wider line instead of trying to make the apex. The steward’s decision I feel is the right one as both Norris and Stroll could have backed out at any point and neither did.

Haas Tensions

The Safety car inadvertently brought attention to Haas. Their drivers were 7th and 8th at the restart but soon enough Magnussen sniffed a chance to make 7th and relentlessly pursued his teammate to pass at turn 1 after banging wheels the lap prior. That was all despite pleas form the team to calm down. Magnussen eventually got passed while a compromised Grosjean just about held on to 10th for the final point on offer.

Gunther Steiner,It’s ended as being a little bit of a controversial weekend, but we’ve sorted it out – cleared the air between the drivers. That’s the most important thing after their race. We may be lost a couple of points, but we’re all happy to move forward from here, everything is fine.

Kevin Magnussen,We’ll go and have a chat. It’s worth talking about. It’s not what you want to have, to have contact between team-mates, but no intentions from me or Romain I’m sure.’

Now, I don’t like seeing the implementation of team orders and that is what they did and the reasoning for that I can understand. Had the two drivers held position then Haas would easily have left Spain with 10 points (6 for 7th and 4 for 8th). Instead, they left with 7 after Grosjean finished 10th. Those three points may not seem like a lot

Just where has Ferrari’s pace gone?

Ferrari was the quickest team outright in pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya with them having the fastest car on…of the 8 days. Yet, at the Spanish Grand Prix just 10 weeks later at the same venue, they qualified 8 tenths adrift of the Mercedes of Bottas and their fastest lap in the race was 1.3s adrift of the fastest set by Hamilton; even slower than Verstappen’s best in the Red Bull. Team Principal Mattia Binotto had some select comments in an interview with Sky Sports.

We are losing a lot in each corner, not only in the last sector. In each single corner, we are slow, quite a lot of understeer. Is that only downforce? Is it more than that? I think it’s something we really need to analyse and understand. Any early conclusion would be wrong, it will take some days to really have some proper analysis and understand. Is it a matter of balance? Is it a matter of downforce? Is it a matter of different concepts? I don’t think we have the answer yet.Mattia Binotto.

The comments have led to speculation the Ferrari car is flawed as a concept. That is a drastic fall from pre-seasn expectations where Ferrari was believed to have the fastest car. There has been some bad luck for Ferrari. If not for engine issues with Leclerc in Bahrain then they would have a win under their belt their performance deserved. That race aside though, they have largely been second best to Mercedes. The upgrades that were brought earlier than expected to Barcelona did not get them ahead of Mercedes as they instead seemed to be a bit further back in terms of overall performance.

If the Scuderia is to challenge though that will need to be rectified quickly. They will hope the issues were just circuit specific but the picture painted by Binotto is one that Ferrari don’t actually know what is wrong with the car which is extremely worrying for those who want an interesting title race. Instead, it could be that the battle for the Championship with Mercedes is already over.

Championship standings!


Championship Standings after the Spanish Grand Prix [Image from BBC Sport].

After his third win of the season and third successive win at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Lewis Hamilton is back on top of the standings and has a 7 point lead over his teammate Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton has 112 points to Bottas’s 105. They are comfortably 1 and 2 in the Championship with a 49 point gap between Bottas in 2nd to Max Verstappen in 3rd on 66 points. The Red Bull man’s podium elevates him above both Ferrari’s on the standings with Sebastian Vettel 4th on 64 points with Charles Leclerc 5th on 57. Pierre Gasly remains 6th on 21 points while his 7th place finish in Spain lofts Kevin Magnussen to 7th and Carlos Sainz is only 2 points behind his teammate in 11th after his 8th place finish. Daniil Kvyat is now level with Alexander Albon on 3 points after finishing 9th. Antonio Giovinazzi and the two Williams drivers are now the only three drivers without a point in 2019 after Romain Grosjean finished 10th in Spain.

Constructors Championship after the Spanish Grand Prix. [Image from BBC Sport].

In the Constructors Championship, Mercedes have trailblazer the way so far and after their fifth successive 1-2 race finish sits top of the pile on 217 points, 96 clear of Ferrari in 2nd! Red Bull are 3rd on 87 points and have a huge lead on McLaren who sit 4th on 22 points. With their first double points finish of the season, Haas is now only 1 point adrift of Racing Point in the battle for 5th as Alfa Romeo drop to 7th after failing to score a point for the first time this season. Renault are 8th while Toro Rosso now has 6 points in 9th as Williams remain bottom without a single point.

Next time!


It needs no introduction, does it? It is the crown jewel of Formula One racing and one of the most prestigious races in the world. It was the site of Daniel Ricciardo’s redemption victory last year…It is the streets of the principality; Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand Prix…

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