After 66 laps at the Circuit de Catalunya for this afternoon’s Spanish Grand Prix, we saw a further increase in the dominance by Mercedes AMG Petronas. The team secured another successive 1-2 finish, as Britain’s Lewis Hamilton narrowly took the win ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg. Rounding out the podium was Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo ahead of defending champion Sebastian Vettel, who fought his way back from starting fifteenth.
From the onset, the pair of W05 AMG Hybrids sped away into Turn 1, with Hamilton leading the way, as Williams’ Valterri Bottas passed Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo for third off the start. Lotus’ Romain Grosjean suffered a major lock up into the first corner, but kept himself ahead of the Ferrari pair of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen.
Several drivers including McLaren’s Jenson Button and Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez suffered dreadful starts, dropping down the order. Reigning champion Sebastian Vettel decided to be one of the first to switch to the hard compound tyres on lap 13.
Pastor Maldonado collided with Caterham’s Marcus Ericcson at the chicane at turns 12 and 13, with the Venezuelan receiving a five second stop-go penalty for the infraction. Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne became the first driver to retire on lap 23, as he was instructed to pit with an exhaust issue. That was later followed by Kamui Kobayashi on Lap 39, who suffered a left front brake failure going straight off track into turn 1.
The battle for victory between the Mercedes pair turned to be a strategic one, as Hamilton pitted first for another set of the option Pirelli tyres on Lap 19, with a split strategy being employed by Rosberg, who switched onto the primes just two laps later. The gap between Rosberg and Bottas further extended to 11 seconds after just a head
Hamilton was able to make it count, as he pushed hard when he needed to when it counted the most during a faultless performance from the lights out until the chequered flag, but he did have a fight on his hands towards the end. Both drivers were setting similar lap times, but were having to negotiate traffic as the gap dropped from 4.5 seconds to around the 2 second mark.
Vettel was the man on the move, as he climbed the order following a change in strategy from Red Bull, passing Alonso and Räikkönen in the latter stages. The German was looking for Bottas as his target for fourth place, gaining on the Finn by 1.6 seconds a lap. Ricciardo was battling with the Williams driver in the early stages before the pair went of differing paths, and spent the majority of the race on his own.
As the laps counted down, Rosberg had Hamilton on his sights, as Alonso was looking to finish ahead of his teammate on home ground, just four tenths behind. The battles for the majority of the top six positions were building in excitement as just four laps remained, with both Vettel and Alonso charging hard. Alonso passed his teammate in Turn 5 with just two laps left, with Bottas trying to fend off Vettel, as Rosberg was gaining on Hamilton.
Vettel passed Bottas for fourth place, as Hamilton looked rather messy into the turn 12/13 chicane, with Rosberg closing fast. The battle intensified on the start/finish straight as the final lap started, with just six tenths between the pair of Silver Arrows. But several lock ups from the German gave Hamilton the chance he needed to pick up his fourth win and take the lead in the driver’s standings by just three points heading to Monaco in just a fortnight’s time.
Bottas finished as best Williams driver in fifth place, ahead of Alonso and Räikkönen, with Grosjean finishing in 8th, ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez and Nico Hülkenberg. McLaren’s woes continued as Button and Magnussen finished just outside the points, ahead of Felipe Massa in thirteenth. Rookie Daniil Kvyat finished ahead of Maldonado with Sauber also not able to make the best of the upgrades they had brought to Spain. Both Gutierrez and Sutil finished ahead of the Marussia pair of Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton, with Ericsson completing the finishers for the first race in Europe.
The teams and drivers will now focus on the task at hand in two weeks’ time, as the glamour, glitz and opulence of Monaco will be the backdrop for the jewel in the Formula One calendar. Will Hamilton be caught by Rosberg, or will the Brit continue his winning ways in the Mediteranean?