Formula 1

Assessing The Grid – 2021 Spanish Grand Prix

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Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The Spanish Grand Prix wasn’t the most spectacular of races but still gave us a grand battle up front between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Despite the race being not as action-full as previous races, there was still some stand-out performances up and down the grid. From a tactical master class to a unfortunate retirement, let’s take a look at how the grid did.

TOP OF THE CLASS

Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: – -0.132s | Race margin to team-mate: – -15.841s

Hamilton won his third race of the year in spectacular style. His weekend was already off to a great start when became the first driver in F1 history to reach a century of poles. 

Come lights out, Verstappen got the jump on Hamilton, claiming first after the first turn. Hamilton then sat behind Verstappen until the latter pitted on Lap 24. It was a slow second for Verstappen, but Hamilton wasn’t able to get the undercut as he stayed out three laps too long before pitting.

Still not able to catch the charging bull, Hamilton and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team took the tactical decision to pit again on Lap 42. Verstappen stayed out.

Hamilton had caught up to Verstappen by Lap 58 and eventually overtook on Lap 60 and eventually crossed the line victorious. Yet again, Hamilton showing why he’s one of the F1 greats.

Credit: Steve Etherington

Max Verstappen – Red Bull Racing

Qualifying margin to team-mate: – -0.924s | Race margin to team-mate: – -47.830s

Despite losing the win in the dying stages of the race, Verstappen still put up a good fight. The Spanish Grand Prix is notorious for being having the pole sitter lead the whole race to the end, but Verstappen made sure there was a great display for the win up front.

The race was predicted to be one-stop, so this took Red Bull Racing by surprise with Team Principal Christian Horner claiming ‘It’s Hungary 2019 all over again’ on the team radio. In hindsight, keeping Verstappen out instead of pitting for a second time may have cost him the race but he still battled to the end and held Hamilton at bay for as long as he could.

Charles Leclerc – Scuderia Ferrari

Qualifying margin to team-mate: – -0.110s | Race margin to team-mate: – -20.054s

The Scuderia Ferrari driver has nearly half the points he claimed in the 2020 season with just four races complete. He’s constantly been a thorn to the fast pacers from Mercedes and Red Bull and is edging ever closer to a podium.

He finished fourth in Spain, keeping Sergio Pérez at bay. He was a little lonely for most of the race but I’m sure he wouldn’t have been bothered come the chequered flag. 

With his home race, the Monaco Grand Prix the next race on the calendar, Leclerc will be pushing more than ever to get himself back on the podium.

Daniel Ricciardo – McLaren F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: – 0.388s | Race margin to team-mate: – – 1 Lap

The start to Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren F1 Team career hasn’t been a smooth one. While his teammate Lando Norris has been flying high, claiming three top five position and a podium, Ricciardo has struggled to get the pace.

Spain changed that for him when he was able to defend off a late charge from Carlos Sainz Jr. to take home sixth, his joint highest finishing position. 

The race in whole was much better from the Australian driver. If he’s can continue to improve, McLaren will look very strong and may even get themselves on the podium again.

Esteban Ocon – Alpine F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: – -0.567s | Race margin to team-mate: – – 1 Lap

He may have not had the best of races, but Esteban Ocon still put Alpine F1 Team’s name on the map in Spain. Ocon managed to outqualify both McLaren’s, a Red Bull and a Ferrari to take a starting position of fifth, his highest start all year.

Not everything went to plan during the race, with tyre degradation being much higher than anticipated but, he still battled for every position he could and managed to keep his car in the points, taking ninth. The race may have not shown much promise for the team, but it’ll surely give Alpine the boost they needed.

Credit: Alpine F1 Team

HOMEWORK TO DO

Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: – +0.132 | Race margin to team-mate: – +15.841s

Yet again, Valtteri Bottas was less than impressive. Yes, he may have got himself on the podium with a third-place finish, but he barely challenged Hamilton and Verstappen.

One stand out moment that put a strike against Bottas was his lack of obeying team orders. He was told by his team not to race Hamilton when the latter was on his charge. Bottas decided to not let Hamilton by easily and forced Hamilton into an on track overtake. I doubt the team would have been impressed with Bottas after that. 

Fernando Alonso – Alpine F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: – +0.567 | Race margin to team-mate: – + 1 Lap

A starting position of tenth compared to a finishing position of seventeenth doesn’t look well for the Spaniard. 

Fernando Alonso was forced to pit again later in the race due to high tyre degradation. This lost him positions on the grid and found him crossing the finish line nearly two laps down on the race leader. He’s still yet to show off his race winning skills.

Yuki Tsunoda – Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda

Qualifying margin to team-mate: – Knocked Out in Q1 | Race margin to team-mate: – DNF

Yuki Tsunoda’s weekend took a dark turn when he was knocked out in Q1 during qualifying. He then complained during an interview that he was unsure if him and Pierre Gasly had the same car. He subsequently apologised for his comments.

His race went from bad to worse when he was forced to retire on Lap 6 due to an engine failure. This weekend will be one to forget for the young rookie.

Nikita Mazepin – Uralkali Haas F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: – Knocked Out in Q1 | Race margin to team-mate: – + 2 Laps

Nikita Mazepin qualified last and crossed the finish line two laps down from Hamilton. He hasn’t left his mark since being in F1 and eyebrows are being raised at if he deserves his place on the grid. He needs to do more to prove he’s got what it takes.

Sebastian Vettel – Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: – Knocked Out in Q2 | Race margin to team-mate: – + 1 Lap

Four races in and Sebastian Vettel is yet to score a point. His move to Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team was supposed to rejuvenate his career but instead he’s falling even further down the grid.

The Spanish Grand Prix was no exception, starting thirteenth and finishing the same, it was another lacklustre performance.

Credit: Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team

THE REST OF THE GRID

Pérez may have come in fifth but he’s still lacking overall compared to teammate Verstappen. He struggled during qualifying, taking a spin during Q3 and only getting a time that put him eighth on the starting grid. He needs to improve, and quick, if he wants to fight at the top.

Sainz Jr. has also had a slow start to the season in a new car. He is yet to beat Leclerc on race day and was unable to overtake Ricciardo in the latter stage of the race. He’ll want to do more in Monaco.

Norris didn’t have a bad race, just wasn’t as good as his previous three. He still walked away with points in eighth, meaning McLaren still continue to be the only team were both drivers have scored points in every race. 

Pierre Gasly quietly made his way into the points after starting outside of the top ten. His car has shown pace in recent races, it just wasn’t the greatest weekend for him.

Lance Stroll just missed out on a top ten finish with eleventh place. It was another quiet weekend for him.

Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi have yet to score points for Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN but are getting ever closer to them. Räikkönen had a good stint on his tyres before he first pitted, putting him in the mix with the top half of the grid. He didn’t finish too far off of Gasly, who occupied the last points place. 

George Russell was looking so close at getting his first Williams Racing points but was stuck in the slowest car of a DRS train which eventually saw him down in fourteenth. He is getting ever so closer to a top ten finish. Teammate Nicholas Latifi finished not too far behind in sixteenth, keeping Alonso at bay.

Mick Schumacher continues to outqualify and outrace his Uralkali Haas F1 Team teammate but is still struggling to challenge those teams in front of him. 

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