The Spanish Grand Prix was another comprehensive domination by Mercedes and the fourth win in a row for Lewis Hamilton who, with teammate Nico Rosberg in tow, nearly lapped the entire field.
One could argue that the Barcelona circuit favored the Mercedes and challenged the other team’s iniquities and that may be a very true statement but it also is starting to expose the results of dramatic regulation changes in the sport for 2014.
When the sport makes a significant regulatory change, the first year can find the on-track action confined to team-by-team islands of racing. Two Mercedes, Two Red Bull’s, two Ferrari’s and a couple of Force India’s running close to each other and these islands are then separated by the distance that each team has over the next in pure performance.
The disconcerting issue is that Mercedes seem to have well over a second per lap over the other teams and it is unclear as to if and when the other competitors might claw back time on the Silver Arrows. While fans still cheered Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel’s bad luck over the weekend to show their joy that he isn’t running away with another title, they could be missing the plot as Mercedes is so comprehensively superior now that Fernando Alonso does see them conceivably winning every race this year. Not even Vettel and Red Bull pulled that off in their 4-year run.
There is precedent for this kind of domination from 1988 when Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna won a combined 15 of 16 races for McLaren.
Sebastian Vettel had car troubles all weekend and suffered a 5-place grid penalty to relegate him to starting from 15th on the grid. He drove an impeccable to finish 4th and may have signaled his possible podium had he not experienced the transmission issues in qualifying.
Lewis Hamilton seemed very nervous in the car today and was seeking more feedback from his team and then questioning their tactics when they did give him information. Regardless, Lewis managed to hold off a charging Rosberg on stickier tires to secure his 4th win in fine fashion. This could very well be the defining moment when Lewis took the driver’s title lead and secures his 2nd world championship.
As expected, Valtteri Bottas held up the pride of Williams F1 with a fine drive to 5th in Spain and simply couldn’t manage to keep Vettel behind him with better tires. The strategy did play out for Williams and they secured much-needed points.
Fernando Alonso was able to give the crowd something to cheer about when he put a move on his teammate Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen had the measure of Alonso for most of the weekend but when it came time to race, Alonso proved that he’s the number one at Ferrari and a slightly resurgent Kimi wasn’t going to rattle him. To be fair to Kimi, his car looked like it was running on Vaseline instead of asphalt such was the handling of the F14T.
A win for Sergio Perez who has been beaten by his teammate of late and found the split strategy the team used the perfect opportunity to pass Nico Hulkenberg and secure a points finish for both cars. Good job Sergio.
Lotus driver Romain Grosjean turned a resurgent qualifying into a points-paying performance and it is something the team desperately needed. The team are lucky to have Romain and he even managed to control his start with a bit of a lockup into turn one without having any collisions like he would have had in the past.
Pastor Maldonado crashed in qualifying and then had a coming together with Marcus Ericsson incurring a drive-through penalty. The issue now is that he’s on the FIA’s radar and they will be handing out penalties for the slightest infractions and this doesn’t help Lotus at all. Even with Maldonado money, if your driver is always penalized and never capable of being in the points, the money starts to fade in it shiny allure due to the championship money you may be missing by not finishing in the points.
Felipe Massa had a bad day at the office considering what his teammate was capable of and while most fans are happy for his second life at Williams, this is most likely not a surprising result—he can’t blame Kobayashi for the lack of points in Spain.
Adrian Sutil managed to be beaten by his less experienced teammate Esteban Gutierrez while Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen failed to score points for the Woking-based McLaren International.
Ferrari were lapped. ’nuff said.
Five races into the season and I see no concern or even frustration with the completely lopsided nature of the racing. Not even Red Bull’s 4-year domination was this comprehensive and galvanizing. Two of those title were down to one point int eh final races. This is even more comprehensive than Ferrari’s domination in the Schumacher years. If Lewis wins the title, I can’t help but think it will be one of the most empty title victories on hand in many years. Lewis said last year that he wouldn’t feel good about winning like Vettel did with being in a clearly dominant car…let’s see what he says when if he wins the driver’s championship in 2014.
Mercedes seemed to put Lewis on the back foot a bit with their pit stops which were 1 to 2 seconds slower than what you would normally expect while Rosberg’s stops were at times 1 second or more quicker. Whatever Lewis gained on track was hampered by what he lost in the pits.
Lewis was uncomfortable in the car and was looking for feedback and when it was given to him, he was questioning if it was the best decision. That very easily could be Lewis being uncomfortable, nervous and amped up. What surprised me was the clinical replies by his team instead of realizing that Hamilton needs encouragement that what he is doing is good, what the team is doing is spot on from a tactics point of view and that everything is working to plan.
A little radio encouragement may have gone a long way to calming Lewis down and getting him focused and in the zone instead of their Spartan replies and sterile commentary devoid of any empathy.
Could Jean-Eric Vergne have any worse luck?
Thanks NBC for cutting to Barclay’s Premier League instead of giving us the podium interviews…I missed the magic that only Eddie Jordan can provide. Tight pants always makes a podium better.
Results of the Spanish Grand Prix
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1hr 41mins 05.155secs,
2 Nico Rosberg(Ger) Mercedes GP 1:41:05.755,
3 Daniel Ricciardo(Aus) Red Bull 1:41:54.155,
4 Sebastian Vettel(Ger) Red Bull 1:42:21.855,
5 Valtteri Bottas(Fin) Williams 1:42:24.355,
6 Fernando Alonso(Spa) Ferrari 1:42:32.855,
7 Kimi Raikkonen(Fin) Ferrari at 1 Lap,
8 Romain Grosjean(Fra) Lotus F1 Team at 1 Lap,
9 Sergio Perez(Mex) Force India at 1 Lap,
10 Nico Hulkenberg(Ger) Force India at 1 Lap,
11 Jenson Button(Gbr) McLaren at 1 Lap,
12 Kevin Magnussen(Den) McLaren at 1 Lap,
13 Felipe Massa(Bra) Williams at 1 Lap,
14 Daniil Kvyat(Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap,
15 Pastor Maldonado(Ven) Lotus F1 Team at 1 Lap,
16 Esteban Gutierrez(Mex) Sauber-Ferrari at 1 Lap,
17 Adrian Sutil(Ger) Sauber-Ferrari at 1 Lap,
18 Jules Bianchi(Fra) Marussia at 2 Laps,
19 Max Chilton(Gbr) Marussia at 2 Laps,
20 Marcus Ericsson(Swe)Caterham at 2 Laps
21 Kamui Kobayashi(Jpn) Caterham 34 Laps completed,
22 Jean-Eric Vergne(Fra)Scuderia Toro Rosso 24 Laps completed