What happened at the Spanish Grand Prix?

Daniel Ricciardo takes his first podium of 2017 as Mercedes and Ferrari fight for glory in Barcelona.


Lewis Hamilton: qualified 1st, finished 1st. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 3rd, did not finish.

Mercedes elected to zig where Ferrari zagged in Barcelona, and the result was Hamilton’s second victory of 2017, one that reduced his deficit in the drivers’ championship to Vettel to just six points. The German beat Hamilton into the first corner, and Mercedes then elected to run the slower medium-compound tyre for Hamilton’s second stint, meaning he’d be on the softer rubber at the end. Hamilton then fitted the faster tyre on lap 34 under the virtual safety car caused by Vandoorne’s retirement and began his quest to chase Vettel down, the pair touching wheels at Turn 1 on lap 38 before the Mercedes came past for good five laps later. Such was the pace of the front two that they lapped everyone up to and including fourth-placed Perez, with the race featuring the fewest cars on the lead lap (three) at the end since the 2008 British GP. By contrast, Bottas’ weekend was compromised when the team had to re-fit the engine he’d used in the opening four races of the season before final practice, and while he qualified third, the Russian GP winner’s main impact on the race came when he nudged Raikkonen into Verstappen at the first corner, ending the Sundays of the Ferrari and Red Bull drivers before they really started. Bottas was on course for a distant third-place finish behind the flying front pair, but his old engine finally packed it in on lap 39, meaning he’s now a whopping 41 points behind Vettel’s series-leading tally of 104.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 6th, finished 3rd. Max Verstappen: qualified 5th, did not finish.

After non-finishes through no fault of his own in Australia and Russia, Ricciardo was pleased to take his first podium of 2017, but only to a point; he was the only car not lapped by Hamilton and Vettel and nearly 74 seconds from the win as Red Bull’s much-anticipated aero upgrade for Spain did little to arrest the chasm between it and the dominant two teams. While he’ll take it, it’s hard to remember another of Ricciardo’s 19 career podiums where he’s been more anonymous or fortunate, given Bottas, Raikkonen and Verstappen all retired after qualifying ahead of him. A year after his Barcelona breakthrough on his first weekend for Red Bull, Verstappen’s race was over within 30 seconds after a strong qualifying performance where he’d beaten his teammate by half a second. Monaco – a bogey circuit for the Dutchman since he made his F1 debut and one where Ricciardo is typically sublime – is up next.

Sebastian Vettel: qualified 2nd, finished 2nd. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 4th, did not finish.

Sunday made it five podiums from five races this season for Vettel, and while he finished in the wheeltracks of a Mercedes for the second race running, it could have so easily been worse for the four-time world champion. Ferrari frantically installed a new engine in the two hours between final practice and qualifying on Saturday, Vettel admitting it was “a miracle’ that he was able to take part in qualifying at all, let alone miss out on pole by 0.051secs to Hamilton after locking up in the final sector. The team was tempted to take a late pit stop to change to the faster soft-compound Pirellis to chase Hamilton down given the rest were so far behind, but didn’t roll the dice and banked 18 points as a result. Raikkonen could do little to avoid his first-lap clash with Bottas, and looks destined to do little more than play rear gunner for Vettel for the rest of the year given he’s already 55 points adrift of his teammate after five Grands Prix.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 8th, finished 4th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 10th, finished 5th.

Force India’s perfect points-scoring record for its two drivers hit new heights in Spain, with Perez in the top 10 for the 15th race running, and Ocon achieving a career-best result in fifth. Remarkably, the little team that could is now just 19 points behind Red Bull for third in the constructors’ race, and has more points than Toro Rosso, Renault and Williams combined.

Felipe Massa: qualified 9th, finished 13th. Lance Stroll: qualified 18th, finished 16th.

There’s no way to sugar-coat a wretched Sunday for Williams in Barcelona, with Massa’s race wrecked by his coming together with old Ferrari teammate Alonso on the run to the second corner on the first lap, an incident that forced the McLaren driver into the gravel and left the veteran Brazilian with a right-front puncture and a long limp back to the pits. He still finished ahead of Stroll through, with the Canadian teenager continuing to look well out of his depth at F1 level after qualifying nine spots behind a driver who elected to retire last off-season before coming back after Bottas jumped to Mercedes. A Williams driver finishing last suggests, for now at least, Stroll just doesn’t cut it, no matter how much funding his connections brings to the team.

Fernando Alonso: qualified 7th, finished 12th. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 19th, did not finish.

After he didn’t even make the start in Sochi, Alonso’s first lap in practice at his home GP lasted all of three corners before another Honda engine let go. The Spaniard’s response – to return to his hotel to play tennis with his trainer while FP1 continued on track – gave an insight into his mood, but he channelled that fury and more besides on Saturday when he produced what will surely go down as one of the laps of 2017 to qualify seventh, hauling his recalcitrant car into a position it had no business being in thanks to 80-odd seconds of pure genius.

Any chance of points for the combative Alonso were lost thanks to his first-lap incident with Massa, but he at least saw the chequered flag for the first time this year before flying to Indianapolis to start his preparations for the Indy 500 immediately after the race.

Vandoorne had another torrid weekend, falling in Q1 for the fifth race running and then breaking his front suspension when he inexplicably turned in on Massa as the pair fought into Turn 1 on lap 34, ending up stranded in the nearby gravel trap and ensuring he’d take a three-place grid penalty into the next race. McLaren now sits 10th and last in the constructors’ championship, and is the only team without points after five races.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat: qualified 20th, finished 9th. Carlos Sainz: qualified 12th, finished 7th.

The chances of Toro Rosso placing two cars in the points looked remote on Friday when Kvyat and Sainz struggled in practice, and, for Kvyat at least, downright impossible after Saturday when he qualified a dispiriting last. But the Russian made a great start and got the slower medium tyre stint of his race over and done with on lap one, and equalled his ninth place in Australia for a season-best result. Sainz continued to impress in his third Toro Rosso season, keeping up his perfect record of scoring points when he’s seen the chequered flag so far this year. With eight points between its drivers, STR leapfrogged Williams into fifth place in the constructors’ championship.

Romain Grosjean: qualified 14th, finished 10th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 11th, finished 14th.

Pain for one Haas driver was pleasure for the other, with Magnussen’s desperately unlucky puncture on the penultimate lap after coming off second-best in a clash with Kvyat necessitating a late-race pit stop that elevated teammate Grosjean into the points, as the downcast Dane was left to finish in 14th place. After his best qualifying effort since 2014, Magnussen deserved better. Grosjean had a ragged qualifying with a pair of spins, but 10th means he now leads his teammate by a point in the drivers’ standings.

Jolyon Palmer: qualified 17th, finished 15th. Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 13th, finished 6th.

Like Williams, Renault remains a team where one driver is doing all of the heavy lifting, Hulkenberg extending his qualifying head-to-head over Palmer to 5-0 and scoring eight points for sixth place to top his tally earned in the previous four races combined. The German benefitted from the chaos of the opening lap to leap up the order from outside the top 10, and stayed there to take his – and Renault’s – tally to 14 for the season, already more than it managed in a disastrous 2016. Palmer did manage to set the sixth-fastest lap of the race, but electing to start on the medium-compound tyre from near the back did him few favours, and the former GP2 champ has now managed one career point in 26 races to date.

Marcus Ericsson: qualified 16th, finished 11th. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 15th, finished 8th.

A quite brilliant day for the Swiss minnows, with Wehrlein’s marathon first stint – he came in on lap 34 under virtual safety car conditions and pitted just once – setting up an eighth-place result that came with four precious points to lift Sauber from the foot of the constructors’ standings. The German finished seventh at the flag, but was penalised five seconds for a pit lane entry infringement at that sole stop, which dropped him behind Sainz in the final classification. Ericsson was two laps behind Hamilton, but 11th made for his best race result of the season so far.


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