Monday, 12 May 2014

Hamilton and Mercedes dominate in Spain as Vettel carves his way through the field

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)

Lewis Hamilton took an absolutely dominant victory for Mercedes at the Spanish Grand Prix at the Barcelona Circuit de Catalunya. The 2008 world champion collected his fourth win in a row and said afterwards:

'It’s fantastic to get my first win here after eight attempts and it’s really difficult to put that feeling into words right now. We have our bosses from Mercedes-Benz here today and it’s great for the team that we were able to give them a one-two finish. In all my career, I’ve never before had a car or a performance gap like this. Nico drove a fantastic race and I struggled to keep him behind, but I just managed it at the end. I had the same problems with the car this afternoon that I found yesterday in qualifying: I couldn’t attack the corners properly because of snap oversteer and that’s where Nico was catching me. I’m just so proud of this team: we are looking very strong and I’m enjoying every moment and every step of the way. There’s still a long way to go this season, though, so we are staying humble, getting our heads down and working hard. I still have a bit more time to find from the car because it’s very, very close with Nico, so I have to keep working on that. But it’s a great feeling to be leading the championship.'

Hamilton started the race from pole position with team mate in second place, the reverse order of last season. The pair were utterly dominant in a race that saw the Silver Arrows lap everyone up to and including Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen who finished the race in seventh place proving that Mercedes are completely dominant and are out on their own in the Constructors champion on 197 point's. 

After claiming his fourth second place of the 2014 season, Nico Rosberg said:

'The race was so close at the end today and with one more lap, I could have tried to overtake Lewis for the first time. My start was bad. It is a weakness that we have and we will try to improve. Once it was clear that I was in second place, we chose to go with the slower strategy using the prime tyres in the middle stint to get a shot at Lewis at the end when I was on the options. It was very close but not quite close enough so naturally I’m disappointed but I can take a lot of positives from this weekend. We have an amazing car and my pace was really strong here so I just need to find an extra little edge to capitalise on. The next race is Monaco which is not only my home race but has some great memories from my victory there last year.'

Mercedes will now along with the other teams stay in Barcelona for two days of in-season testing with Tuesday being set aside for some teams to carry out tyre testing ahead of the next race in Monte Carlo.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was full of praise for both of his drivers saying:

'That was a fantastic afternoon of sport. We have two incredible drivers who are capable of fighting until the last corner of the last lap to achieve success. That was the case again today and they were incredibly closely matched in spite of running different strategies in the race. Their battle is so intense and so close that I am sure it will carry on all the way to the final race. We will savour this victory tonight and enjoy our success - but from tomorrow, our focus is on Monaco. We had a very strong result there last year and our target will be to improve on that this year.'

Behind the Mercedes duo was Infiniti Red Bull Racing's Daniel Ricciardo who, after out qualifying his team mate collected his first ever Formula One podium finishing the race in third place just ahead of Sebastian Vettel who drove a fantastic race to come from 15th place on the grid to finish the race in fourth place.

Following the race Daniel Ricciardo said:

'Holy Doly! The race was not overly exciting, although I don't know how it was behind, maybe there were a lot of fights going on and for viewers there was a bit more to watch, but for us it was a good result. We knew we could not catch the Mercedes, but we believed we had better pace than the guys behind, so before the race we’d said that third was going to be a good day. It's nice to stand back up on the podium – I actually still feel a bit awkward up there, but I'm sure I will get more comfortable. It seems at the moment it’s Mercedes who are battling between themselves and they are doing a tremendous job. With Seb coming through the pack for fourth today, it seems we have been the second best team this weekend. I think it is still going to vary a bit, but maybe it will be a battle for that last place on the podium with me and Seb in Monaco, we will see. Monaco should be okay for us and hopefully we can get a bit closer to the Mercs there. It will be interesting and we will try as much as we can to catch them.'

Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel was happy with his performance in the EB10 following his problems earlier in the weekend commented:

'All in all I think that was the best that we could do today; the start was not so great and I lost a place, but then I was able to get it back towards the end of the lap; it’s always tricky when you are further back. It was a very busy first lap. I was then sort of stuck in the train, so I couldn't really feel how far we could go today and how quick we were, but once we came in I was on the harder tyre and was able to stick with the people in front and even catch them a little bit. I think we realised that the pace was there and after that we had two fresh sets of tyres from yesterday, so we could go even further up the road! I enjoyed it a lot and I think fourth was the best we could do today. Daniel drove a good race today and I think, from a team point of view, third and fourth is what we could get today. Mercedes is very strong – they have a phenomenal engine, two very good drivers, a very good car, and a very good team, they're doing a good job so it would be wrong to complain and moan about how dominant they are - they worked better than everyone else in the winter and deserve to be in that position. Hopefully, from our point of view, rather sooner than later we'll give them a hard time – that’s our motivation. I hope that in time we can catch up, and as I said start giving them a run for their money.'

The Milton Keynes based outfit are currently 113 points behind Mercedes after a somewhat challenging start to the 2014 season for the reigning world champions. This time last season, the team had two race victories under their belt. Team boss Christian Horner commented on the race result:

'A great team performance today. Daniel is thoroughly deserving of his first official podium having been faultless all weekend. Sebastian, after a nightmare start to the weekend losing all of Friday, a gearbox failure on Saturday and a further five place grid penalty, produced a fantastic comeback drive to come back through the field. With the help of a strong strategy and great team work, including the fastest team pit stop of the day, Sebastian moved back up to fourth place and got the fastest lap, so all things considered, it was a positive race.

The Williams Martini Racing Team had another incredibly strong result as Valtteri Bottas finished the race in fifth place to collect ten more points for the Grove based outfit. The result leap frogs the team above McLaren Mercedes in fifth place in the Constructors championship. Bottas drove a fantastic race and was involved in a great fight with Daniel Ricciardo for the final podium place but unfortunately for the Finn he was unable to match the pace of the Red Bull.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who was out-qualified by team mate Kimi Raikkonen went on to finish the race ahead of the Finn in 6th place. Kimi Raikkonen was not happy with the situation during the race as Alonso pitted first following a strategy call from the Italian team.

Romain Grosjean had a great race for the Lotus F1 Team as the Frenchman secured the Enstone based outfit's first point's of the 2014 season with an 8th place finish to collect four very valuable points.

Force India's Sergio Perez had a difficult day despite finishing in the points. The Mexican said after the race:

'It was quite a hard afternoon, so to come away with two points is not too bad. I had pretty strong pace in the race and my tyre degradation was okay so I think we probably could have been a bit more aggressive with the strategy. Maybe if we had stopped earlier I could have jumped ahead of some more cars because my pace was good, but it was just so difficult to overtake. We knew this track would be a tough test for us, so this result is more or less what we expected here. Maybe P7 or P8 was achievable today, but we should feel quite happy to keep up our run of points.'

Nico Hulkenberg had another good race in the second Force India as the German scored another point in tenth place:

'It was a case of damage limitation today. We knew from the early practice sessions that this wasn't going to be our strongest track so to get two cars in the points is a positive result. The tyre degradation was high and the car was not so easy to drive, but I think everybody was struggling in the final part of the race. I thought we would need to make a third stop, but fortunately the tyres held on and I was able to score a point. We will use all the data we got over the weekend to improve for the next few races where we hope to be a bit more competitive.'

It was a very disappointing weekend for the two McLaren's as Jenson Button finished the race in eleventh place while Kevin Magnussen was 12th while Felipe Massa was left disappointed as the Brazilian finished the race in 13th place.

Daniil Kvyat finished the race in 14th place while the Lotus F1 Team's Pastor Maldonado finished the race in 15th place. Esteban Gutierrez finished the race in 16th place with team mate Adrian Sutil coming home in 17th respectively. 

Marussia F1 Team's Jules Bianchi finished the race in 18th ahead of team mate Max Chilton while Marcus Ericsson was the final finisher in 20th. There were just two retirements from the race as Kamui Kobayashi and Jean Eric Vergne retired from the race.

It was an absolutely incredible Grand Prix to attend, it was full of action behind the Mercedes duo and the atmosphere was fantastic and I would recommend it to all Formula One fans. The next race takes place in Monaco in just under two weeks time so it will be interesting to see who will win.

©Ben Johnston 2014

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