Hamilton wrestles Drivers’ championship lead with F1 Spanish GP victory

  Nobody would have predicted this before the start of this year’s Formula One World Championships that the Mercedes F1 Team’d so completely dominate the early part of the season. It all began with Nico Rosberg’s win at the season-opener in Melbourne, then the three-in-a-row win for 2008 F1 Champion Lewis Hamilton. Fast forward to the fifth race at the Circuit de Catalunya for the Spanish Grand Prix, most F1 pundits are ascertained that the teams have some sort of upgrades or new parts for their cars just for the European leg to impede the Mercedes dominance; at least among the would-be Mercedes rivals Red Bull Racing, Ferrari and McLaren.

Unfortunately, even with the much needed new parts there’s just no stopping the Mercedes barrage as Hamilton and Rosberg took control right from the practice sessions on Friday and followed it up in the qualifying bout where the Mercedes cars occupied the front row by virtue of the top two fastest qualifying lap times. Hamilton topped it with a 1:25.232, which was only 0.17 seconds quicker than his team mate’s. In row two, Daniel Ricciardo found himself alongside the Williams of Valtteri Bottas. Romain Grosjean finally put a smile or two back to the Lotus F1 team when he qualified fifth to head Kimi Raikkonen on row three. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso started alongside Jenson Button in row four, then row five with the second Williams of Felipe Massa and four-time champion Sebastien Vettel; who abandoned his Q3 hot lap due to a gearbox issue on the RB10.

On to the race, we all knew who would have a walk in the park at the Catalan track. But, an F1 feature isn’t to be missed on www.motorsportchannel.com.

Hamilton and Rosberg are too quick for ’em all at the Spanish GP

As the lights went out, Hamilton led Rosberg, Bottas, Ricciardo and the rest of the pack into the first turn. A small drama developed on the opening lap as Kevin Magnussen’s McLaren and Vettel’s Red Bull got entangled. On to lap 5, Hamilton nailed a fastest lap and was 2-second at the head of the order. Rosberg, on the other hand, managed to pull away from the Williams to secure his second spot. The Mercedes cars were a second faster lap-on-lap in the early stint. Ricciardo tried to take Bottas for third, but couldn’t quite make it stick. The Red Bull driver quickly backed off a lap later to save tyres.

On lap 10, Vettel made a successful pass on Esteban Gutierrez for 13th position. Elsewhere, the two Ferrari were neck-to-neck; Raikkonen sixth and Alonso seventh. Vettel would be the first to stop for new shods on lap 13, followed by his team mate on lap 15. The first stop window was active, but as expected the leading Mercedes cars wouldn’t stop until later. On track, Rosberg had reduced his team mate’s lead time from 2 plus secs to 1.7s. Hamilton came in for medium tyres on lap 19, which meant Rosberg had the lead. Mercedes cars held 1 – 2 in reverse order, Rosberg ahead of Hamilton; although Rosberg had yet to pit. He did so on lap 21 and switched to the hard compound. The race lead switched back to Hamilton, with Rosberg holding a definite second position. At this point in the race, the Mercedes cars had everything under control as both drivers were signaled rather similar strategies: Hamilton to lengthen his lead time and Rosberg to shorten the gap to the lead Mercedes.

Rosberg captured a fastest lap when the race hit mid-distance as the gap between the Mercedes was 4.1s. The second stop window had started at this point in the race with Vettel stopping on lap 34. Grosjean, Alonso, Kobayashi and the rest of the field followed in corresponding laps. Moments later, Alonso and Vettel both made progress in race positions on lap 38. The Caterham of Kobayashi became a retirement on lap 39 due to a front brake failure.

Massa set things in order as he overtook Magnussen for eighth on lap 41, and up front, Rosberg managed to reduce Hamilton’s lead time to 3.7s. Ricciardo was about 33s from the lead Mercedes in third place as he primed himself for a first podium finish. Final stops for Hamilton on lap 43 and Rosberg on lap 45 as both Mercedes swapped places on track, with Hamilton again back on to the race lead. A slower stop for Rosberg confirmed the race win would swing Hamilton’s way. On lap 48, the Force India cars of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez were battling hard for ninth and tenth, with Hulkenberg in ninth. On lap 52, Perez made it stick as he dispatched Hulkenberg at turn 1 for position.

At the head of the order, Rosberg managed to cut Hamilton’s lead from 3.7 to 2.3s in the next few laps as the race moved into the last ten laps. A quick stop for Vettel on lap 53 meant the champ retook the track in seventh. Next, it was Alonso who pitted for a final time and the Ferrari rejoined alongside Vettel’s RB10 on track. Vettel didn’t budge and made a pass at turn 1 for sixth on lap 55. Two laps later, Vettel overtook Raikkonen for fifth at turn 10. Remember, the champion had started from 15th on the grid.

Final stint saw plenty of action apart from the leading Mercedes. First, Vettel successfully took on Bottas for fourth on lap 62. Next, Alonso took a position (6th) away from a never-give-in Raikkonen on lap 64. The top three were pretty secured at this point of the race. Mercedes cars were about to lap the Ferraris on the penultimate lap. The race would conclude with only four cars other than the Mercedes not being lapped. And that was how the all-conquering Mercedes cars went throughout  Spanish GP weekend. Hamilton jumps into the lead with 100 points in the drivers’ standings, followed by his team mate with 97. They should just hand Mercedes the constructors’ trophy as the lead to the next constructor has now gone up to 113 points.

The Formula One circus next move on to the Principality for the Monaco GP from 23 – 25 May.

2014 Formula One World Championships Spanish Grand Prix results

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:41:05.155
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes +0.6 secs
3 Daniel Ricciardo RBR +49.0 secs
4 Sebastian Vettel RBR +76.7 secs
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams +79.2 secs
6 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +87.7 secs
7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari +1 Lap
8 Romain Grosjean Lotus +1 Lap
9 Sergio Perez Force India +1 Lap
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +1 Lap
11 Jenson Button McLaren +1 Lap
12 Kevin Magnussen McLaren +1 Lap
13 Felipe Massa Williams +1 Lap
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso +1 Lap
15 Pastor Maldonado Lotus +1 Lap
16 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber +1 Lap
17 Adrian Sutil Sauber +1 Lap
18 Jules Bianchi Marussia +2 Laps
19 Max Chilton Marussia +2 Laps
20 Marcus Ericsson Caterham +2 Lap

Qualifying (Q3)
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:25.232
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:25.400
3 Daniel Ricciardo RBR 1:26.285
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:26.632
5 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:26.960
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:27.104
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:27.140
8 Jenson Button McLaren 1:27.335
9 Felipe Massa Williams 1:27.402
10 Sebastian Vettel RBR NA

Drivers standings
1 Lewis Hamilton 100
2 Nico Rosberg 97
3 Fernando Alonso 49
4 Sebastian Vettel 45
5 Daniel Ricciardo 39
6 Nico Hulkenberg 37
7 Valtteri Bottas 34
8 Jenson Button 23
9 Kevin Magnussen 20
10 Sergio Perez 20
11 Kimi Räikkönen 17
12 Felipe Massa 12
13 Romain Grosjean 4
14 Jean-Eric Vergne 4
15 Daniil Kvyat 4

Constructors rankings
1 Mercedes 197
2 RBR 84
3 Ferrari 66
4 Force India 57
5 Williams 46
6 McLaren 43
7 Toro Rosso 8
8 Lotus 4