Front to back: the Spanish Grand Prix

Our review of every F1 team and driver after an extraordinary Sunday in Barcelona.


Lewis Hamilton:
qualified 1st, did not finish
Nico Rosberg: qualified 2nd, did not finish
Things we know about Sunday’s race: Hamilton made another slow start from pole as he’d done twice already this season, and trailed teammate Rosberg into the first corner. That much is indisputable. What happened after that? Open for debate. Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda blamed Hamilton for the “unacceptable” incident that saw the Briton slide from the trackside grass on the inside of Turn 4 into Rosberg, ending both of their races on lap one. Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff said it “was not clear-cut” who to blame for the crash. Whatever the case, Rosberg’s run of seven straight wins is over, and the soap opera that defined Mercedes’ first year as an F1 front-runner in 2014 is back, and with interest. Other than wall-to-wall coverage about a young chap named Verstappen (and we’ll get to him), expect this story to rumble on and on for the coming weeks.

Sebastian Vettel:
qualified 6th, finished 3rd
Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 5th, finished 2nd
Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne upped the ante at the Scuderia when he said in the lead-up to the Spanish GP that he “expected” the Prancing Horse to start winning races, and pronto; second and third after 66 laps at the Circuit de Catalunya was the next-best thing, but there will be an element of regret that it was Red Bull rather than the red team that made the most of a rare day of Mercedes misfortune. Raikkonen shadowed Verstappen on the same two-stop tyre strategy for much of the day but never once stuck his nose down the inside of the Dutch teenager; in finishing six-tenths of a second behind Verstappen, Raikkonen climbed to second in the drivers’ standings. Vettel would surely have had more of a go, but a switch to a three-stopper never really worked out, and he spent the final stint in a fierce battle with Ricciardo, who was also condemned to what was, as it turned out, the wrong strategy. He was also less than pleased with Ricciardo’s daring passing attempt into Turn 1 with seven laps to go – “If I don’t avoid that he is going straight to my car! Honestly what are we doing? Racing or ping pong?” came his agitated response over the team radio. Scoring 33 points from the third row of the grid isn’t to be sniffed at, but Ferrari may never get a better chance to win a race in 2016.

Front to back: what happened in Russia?

Felipe Massa:
qualified 18th, finished 8th
Valtteri Bottas: qualified 7th, finished 5th
A reasonable save for Williams after a poor Saturday, where Bottas was 1.5 seconds off pole position, and Massa out in Q1 after he was sent out late in the first session of qualifying and was compromised by traffic. Bottas spent much of the race in a lonely fifth, way off the pace of the front quartet but comfortably ahead of the rest, while Massa used an early stop and a canny strategy to make the best of a bad situation. Fourteen points was reasonable, but there’s no doubting that the Grove team is now no longer the third-fastest in F1.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo:
qualified 3rd, finished 4th
Max Verstappen: qualified 4th, finished 1st
Where on earth do we start with Verstappen. The youngest race-winner in F1 history at 18 years and 227 days? The first Dutchman to win a Grand Prix? A winner on his first weekend at Red Bull Racing? A result that entirely justified Dr Helmut Marko’s decision to demote Daniil Kvyat to get Verstappen in Red Bull’s ‘A’ team? All legitimate headlines in and of themselves, but the detail of how he made his breakthrough – by doing 32 laps on a set of medium-compound tyres to finish the race where 25 laps was thought to be the limit they could handle, and all while without making a single mistake – was as unlikely as it was impressive. His first first will be the first of many. Ricciardo was aggrieved after the race by not finishing on the podium in a Grand Prix where he led for 31 laps, with a late-race puncture consigning him to a last-lap pit stop and a fourth fourth-place result in five races this year. For once, that trademark smile was turned upside down. “We were leading then we got pulled to a three-stop strategy when in the lead and we then had to pass three cars. That was not the (original) plan. In hindsight it was the wrong thing to do and maybe during the race it seemed a good thing to do. To not be on the podium sucks. The puncture at the end was salt in the wounds.”

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg:
qualified 11th, did not finish
Sergio Perez: qualified 9th, finished 7th
Joy on one side of the Force India garage, despair (once again) on the other. Perez did brilliantly after making the top 10 in qualifying for the fourth time in five races to finish a season-best seventh, staying ahead of a surging Massa late to collect six precious points, while Hulkenberg had to retire on lap 21 with flames bellowing out of the back of his car – and then had to deploy the fire extinguisher himself when the trackside marshal couldn’t handle the job. The German’s six points from the season-opener in Australia must seem like an eternity ago after his second consecutive retirement.

Jolyon Palmer: qualified 17th, finished 13th
Kevin Magnussen: qualified 15th, finished 14th
Renault provided some level of intrigue by running the non-preferred orange-banded hard tyre for the majority of the race in an attempt to sneak into the points; that Palmer and Magnussen finished 2.7 seconds apart and in 13th and 14th suggested both drivers got what they could out of a chassis that will struggle to get into the top 10 on merit.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat:
qualified 13th, finished 10th
Carlos Sainz: qualified 8th, finished 6th
A penny for Kvyat’s thoughts on Sunday night? He’d just seen the car he vacated driven by Verstappen to a history-making win, and then found himself lapped but sitting right behind the fight for third between Vettel, the man he hit in Russia last time out, and old Red Bull teammate Ricciardo for the final few laps, biding his time on faster rubber and not getting involved. A single point for 10th and the first fastest race lap of his career was a strange end to a bizarre and difficult fortnight. Sainz on the other hand was ecstatic after the best finish of his career at his home Grand Prix, and ran as high as third in the early stages after the safety car period to clean up the Mercedes lap one mess. Seeing his former Toro Rosso teammate on the top step would have been hard to swallow, though.

Felipe Nasr:
qualified 20th, finished 15th
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 19th, finished 12th
The Swiss team was all but anonymous in Spain other than when their drivers were fighting one another, Ericsson having to take avoiding action at the first corner on lap 43 when chasing Nasr, and later complaining about the Brazilian’s efforts to keep him at bay. The Swede finished closer to the points, but ‘closer’ is relative. Sauber had 19 points banked by Spain last year, which seems a long time ago indeed.

Jenson Button:
qualified 12th, finished 9th
Fernando Alonso: qualified 10th, did not finish
A good and bad news weekend for those at Woking, with Alonso getting the team into Q3 for the first time in this iteration of the McLaren-Honda axis on Saturday, but retiring from his home Grand Prix on lap 47 with a loss of power while in the mix for points. It was left to teammate Button to grab what points were on offer, and he jumped to ninth with a strong pass of Gutierrez’s Haas with six laps left. The steps are small, but that’s points in three of the past four races for McLaren.

Pascal Wehrlein:
qualified 21st, finished 16th
Rio Haryanto: qualified 22nd, finished 17th
The Mercedes-powered Manor cars lacked nothing in straight-line speed – they figured near the top of the speed trap figures all weekend – but the rest of the Circuit de Catalunya proved to be more problematic as Wehrlein and Haryanto were the final two finishers, the German nearly 15 seconds up on his Barcelona-residing Indonesian teammate. Like Sauber, the wait for 2016 points continues.

Romain Grosjean:
qualified 14th, did not finish
Esteban Gutierrez: qualified 16th, finished 11th
Yes, that really was a Haas in second place in the early laps, Grosjean trailing only Vettel on lap 13 as the first round of pit stops shook out. It was the highlight for the sport’s newest team, the Frenchman forced to retire with 10 laps to go, and Gutierrez tumbling out of the points with five laps left, finishing seven seconds from getting his 2016 tally off the mark.


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