The long run to turn one at the Spanish Grand Prix settled Lewis Hamilton’s fortunes for Sunday’s race, as he was able to get off to an excellent start from second on the grid and make his way past the pole sitter, his teammate Valtteri Bottas.
The battle went three wide at turn one, as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel made an attempt around the outside as well, but was awarded nothing but a flat spotted tire for his efforts. By locking up and going wide, Vettel held up his teammate Charles Leclerc behind, allowing Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to leapfrog both of them.
From there, Mercedes had the run of the race, and Ferrari’s consistently indecisive race strategy did the team in red no favors in an attempt to regain anything it lost.
At first Ferrari told Leclerc to stay behind Vettel, despite his tire flatspot causing constant consternation, which lost both Ferrari cars time to the leading Mercedes. Then, after 12 laps of following in the aerowash, Leclerc was finally allowed past into fourth. Seb had already been complaining about his tires and requested new ones be fitted immediately, but the team told him to stay out.
Vettel: “Do you have a gap?”
Team: “Not yet”
Vettel: “You should find one then - I don’t care if there’s traffic”
The team waits until lap 20 to give Vettel the tires he desperately wants. He immediately goes out and sets a fast lap, catches up to Leclerc, and begs the team for several laps to force Charles to pull aside and let him chase for third. After a few laps of Leclerc holding up a visibly faster Vettel, the team makes its drivers swap places again. By this point, Verstappen ahead already has an 11 second margin.
Despite a safety car period on lap 46 caused by contact between McLaren’s Lando Norris and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll that sent both of them into the kitty litter with broken cars, Vettel could do nothing to close the gap to Verstappen. Mercedes streaked off with another 1-2 finish, Red Bull snagged third from the boys in Red, and they trundled home dejectedly in fourth and fifth, exacerbating their points deficit to Mercedes.
The safety car pulled in at lap 53, allowing the drivers a 13 lap sprint to the finish. Some risked a tire change as the safety car came out to make a last attempt at passing on fresh tires, but most of the battling was way down the grid for 9th, 10th, and 11th.
Will anyone be able to stop Mercedes dominance this season? My Magic 8 Ball says Outlook Not So Good.