(© Ben Johnston 2015)
MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s Nico Rosberg took a dominant first victory of 2015 at the Barcelona Circuit De Catalunya on Sunday as the European season got underway. The German led home team mate and world championship leader Lewis Hamilton to claim a 1-2 finish for the Brackley based outfit for the second year in a row at this event.
Rosberg won the race by a whopping 17.551s from Hamilton and speaking following the race, Rosberg stated:
‘We had a perfect weekend here in Spain. We have a fantastic car and everybody did a really great job in the break, so thanks to the team for everything. My start was great for the first time this season. From there I was able to control the pace and I never felt in danger throughout the whole race. I'm so happy about this win. It's still early days in the season so it's good to close the points gap to Lewis. I will continue to push hard - starting with a home race for me in Monaco!’
Despite finishing the race in second place Lewis Hamilton leaves Spain with a 20 point lead of Nico Rosberg as the team head to Monaco in two weeks. Speaking following the event which he won last season, the double world champion stated:
‘I got off to a poor start with too much wheel spin and had to fight hard just to keep third. From there it was always going to be tough as it's difficult to run right behind another car here and even tougher to pass. I managed to stay close enough to Seb before the first stops but unfortunately we lost a bit of time there. In the end, we went for a three stop strategy to try something different. That call was made quite early on as it was clear it wouldn't have worked to stay out for that long and, again, passing on track was almost impossible. Luckily we had the pace to make it work. Nico was then 22 seconds ahead with 15 laps to go which was a big gap. I pushed really hard to close up until about 6 laps from the end but I was only gaining about a second per lap which wasn't enough. So, damage limitation on a difficult weekend for me. But I'm grateful that I could score some good points for the team.’
Mercedes Motorsport Director Toto Wolff stated:
‘That feels like two P1 results today after such a demanding race. Nico did the perfect job this afternoon: he had a great start, built the gaps that he needed and made his two-stop strategy work in a fantastic way. He was controlled and composed throughout. Lewis lost a position on the start, then had a slow first pit stop, and that left him stuck behind Vettel’s Ferrari in the second stint. At that point, we knew that the only chance of getting past Sebastian was to do something different with the strategy but it was still a bold move to try the three-stopper. It was only going to work if Lewis managed to overtake on track and he made it work with great moves on Räikkönen and Bottas – he was decisive when he needed to be and showed some incredible pace on the prime tyre. As Lewis was building the gap he needed ahead of Sebastian in his third stint, we actually compromised Nico a little bit by leaving him out longer than optimum before his second stop. This made sure the two cars didn’t trip over each other on track, while running different strategies, and gave Lewis the clear air he needed to build the gap to secure P2. Following Lewis’ final stop, it was clear after a few laps pushing that the pace difference between the cars wasn’t big enough for him to challenge for the win, so we then told both drivers to bring the car home. It’s a great feeling to take a one-two finish at this circuit, which is a really severe test for the complete car package, and a confirmation that the updates we brought in a number of areas correlated to the track and delivered a good performance improvement. Well done to everybody back at both factories, now we will get our heads down and start working for Monaco.’
Mercedes have extended their advantage over Ferrari in the Constructors champion and now lead the way by 70 points. Speaking following the race, Executive Director (Technical) Paddy Lowe stated:
‘We’re absolutely delighted with today’s result. Nico took an excellent pole yesterday, which put him in prime position to drive a controlled and disciplined race from the front. This is precisely what he did to take a well-earned first win of the season. It’s important for us as a team to have two drivers competing and pushing each other – which is exactly what we’re seeing again this year – so well done to Nico on a very strong weekend. For Lewis, the race didn’t start off well with a lot of wheel spin off the line. From there, it was impossible for him to overtake Sebastian with the very marginal pace advantage we enjoyed in the first stint. We therefore attempted the undercut with an early stop but, unfortunately for Lewis, this didn’t work out after a problem with the left rear in the pit stop, so our apologies to him for that. This then required us to pull out something more extreme with the three stop strategy – which seemed like a bit of a long shot at the time. But Lewis’ pace on the prime tyre and then again on the second set of options was extraordinary. This enabled him to break free enough to avoid an overtaking situation before the third stop, making it a much more comfortable second place that it could have been. So, a huge congratulations to everyone on an important result to start the European season and a special thanks to everyone at our factories for all their hard work.’
Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished the race on the final step of the podium in third place while Williams Martini Racing Team’s Valtteri Bottas held off a late charge from Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari to finish in fourth place. Speaking following the race, the Finn stated:
‘It feels good to split the Ferraris for a second race in a row and this has been another solid points haul for the team. Tyre life was better than we expected and as a result we changed from a three-stop to a two-stop race, which was a good strategic choice from the team because it allowed me to keep Räikkönen behind. The big positive is that we were closer to the leaders than we have been at any point this season. That gives me a lot of hope because we have shown that the updates we are bringing are improving our performance. I want to thank all the team here and in Grove for providing me with a great car to go racing with, and I’d also like to thank Mercedes HPP as they continue to push hard on the power unit to help us keep our competitors at bay.’
Scuderia Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen had a disappointing race following such a strong result in Bahrain three weeks ago the Finn qualified down in seventh place and went on to finish the race in fifth place, just over a minute behind race winner Nico Rosberg. The Iceman struggled all weekend with the set-up of the car dumping the new upgrades the team had brought this weekend while his second new set of Medium tyres in Q3 were mysteriously fried by the tyre warmers and destroyed.
The Finn will be hoping for better luck in Monaco in two weeks. Felipe Massa had a solid race for the Williams Martini Racing Team as the Brazilian finished the race in 6th place just behind Raikkonen and speaking following the race, he stated:
‘It was a good race for the team, scoring 20 points, not losing too much to Ferrari, but also getting a lot more than Red Bull which is really important and positive for our championship position. I managed to overtake cars on the first lap and then fought hard with Kimi (Räikkönen) for a long time, which was hard on the tyres. Because of the extra degradation a three-stop race was better for me today, but it meant the others were too far ahead. We finished with one car in front of a Ferrari so we have shown that we can be competitive with them and we can now look forward to Monaco which will be a very different test for the car.’
Williams Martini Racing remain in third place in the champion following their double points finish today ahead of Infiniti Red Bull Racing. Speaking following the race, Williams Head of Performance Engineering Rob Smedley commented by saying:
‘Overall I’m pleased with the result today. The car has shown pretty good pace throughout the weekend and we wanted to see if we could convert that potential into points. There was a lot of talk about different teams bringing updates for this race with big gains. We have shown that our improvements have moved us forwards and this ended up being our closest finish to Ferrari. It was a good job by the aerodynamic team and all the people back at Grove, as well as an excellent operational performance from the team today, with good strategy choices and well executed pitstops. We need to keep heading in this direction and to keep finding additional performance gains in this package to help us challenge for podiums in future.’
Daniel Ricciardo had an ok race for Infiniti Red Bull Racing unfortunately however he was unable to repeat his podium finish from last season but managed to finish the race in seventh place. Speaking following the race, the Australian stated:
‘I am more satisfied today as we achieved everything we could and seventh was the maximum I could get out of the car. There were some parts of the race that were encouraging but we’re still further off than where we want to be, but we’ll keep pushing. We came here with upgrades this weekend but they didn’t give us what we were expecting, so that’s something we’ll keep working on. We’re still a fair bit behind Williams at the moment but I think we have a good chance to close the gap a bit further in Monaco.’
Ricciardo ended the race just ahead of the Lotus F1 Team’s Romain Grosjean who continued the Enstone outfit’s points scoring run. Speaking following the race the Frenchman stated:
‘It was a tough and eventful race. Firstly, I’m glad to say that no-one was seriously injured in the pit stop. The rear tyres were experiencing a lot of degradation and I just couldn’t stop in time. It was a really scary moment for me, but probably more scary for the crew. I checked everyone was okay and I certainly owe them some beers! In the race, I lost fourth gear during the race which made things a bit of a challenge. It was a tough race but it’s good to be in the points for the third race in a row and we can be proud for what we’ve achieved today.’
Grosjean finished the race ahead of home favourite Carlos Sainz who scored more points for Scuderia Toro Rosso however he was involved in what the stewards deemed a racing incident with Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat who finished the race by rounding out the top ten. Speaking following the event the Russian stated:
‘We didn’t have enough pace today. I had a poor opening lap, dropping a few places and from then on that compromised my race. Because here at this track, if you lose places at the start, it’s almost game over, as it is so hard to get close enough to pass. I had a nice battle with Sainz towards the end, but now we will wait and see what the Stewards say about how it ended. We need to improve the car in every area at the moment. On the positive side, both our cars finished the race, which is good on the reliability front. This was a bad day for me, so now I just want to look ahead to Monaco in the hope we can be more competitive there.’
Infiniti Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner commented on the weekend by saying:
‘Daniel drove a strong race today, and did a great job to extract everything he could out of the car to finish seventh which is where we are for the moment. Dany had a tricky first lap which landed him in traffic, and as a result used up his tyres fairly quickly and needed an early pit stop. He drove a solid race over the next two stints to cross the line in tenth place. We’ll have to wait and see what the outcome of the Stewards is regarding the incident with Carlos.’
Renault Sport F1’s Thierry Salvi commented saying:
‘The weekend was focused principally on the reliability of the power units. We limited mileage where we needed to and did not suffer any issues in qualifying or the race, which was the first step we needed to take to recover after the last events. It’s obviously not enough to do just this, but we have to get back to form step by step. Everyone at Renault Sport F1 is focused on this and we look forward to being able to work on power unit performance very soon.’
Following a fantastic result in qualifying yesterday, Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen was left disappointed as he was unable to translate it into a strong result as he finished just outside the points in eleventh place.
The Sauber F1 Team’s Felipe Nasr ended the race in 12th place just ahead of Sahara Force India’s Sergio Perez. Speaking following the race the Brazilian commented saying:
‘It was a difficult race. We have been missing some lap time on medium as well as hard tyres compared to our main competitors. We still lack some downforce, which compromised our race. Our two stop strategy was overall a good choice. From my point of view, I took the maximum out of the car, so more than P12 was not possible.’
The Sahara Force India Formula One Team’s disappointing start to the season continued as Sergio ‘Checco’ Perez ended the race in 13th place, one lap down. Speaking following the race the Mexican stated:
‘Considering where I qualified, we probably maximised our race today. Maybe a three-stop strategy would have been a little bit better, but it wouldn't have made much difference in the end. My last stint was really on the limit - nearly 30 laps on the same set of mediums - but we managed them well and I was able to control Ericsson who was putting pressure on me. Once again we showed today that our car is more suited to Sundays, so if we can improve our qualifying pace we can definitely fight for points at the next few races.’
The Sauber F1 Team’s Marcus Ericsson ended the race in 14th place and speaking following the event he stated:
‘Overall, 14 is not satisfying, but I think we have extracted the maximum out of the car this weekend. I had a reasonable start, but afterwards for a few laps got stuck a bit in traffic. It is a shame that we lost some time, especially during my first pit stop. We need to make sure to make the next races, and I am confident we will do so. Now we need to focus on the test days and try to make sure we improve the car for the next races’.
Sauber F1 Team Principal Monisha Keltenborn commented on the race weekend saying:
‘We already had a difficult situation for the start with 15 and 16. That’s why there was no more we could achieve today. Our drivers put in a solid performance. Now we need to focus on the next race in Monaco, a track that should suit our car better.’
The Swiss based outfit’s head of Track Engineering, Giampaolo Dall’Ara commented by saying:
‘After a difficult qualifying we expected not to have an easy race. The change from a three to a two stop strategy didn’t help us much. During testing on Tuesday and Wednesday we will continue to improve the performance of the Sauber C34-Ferrari.’
The Sahara Force India Formula One Team’s Nico Hulkenberg had a disastrous race as he came home in 15th place. Speaking following the race, the Hulk stated:
‘It was always going to be difficult to score points today, especially on a track where it’s so difficult to overtake. I was always stuck behind other cars and, even with better pace, you lose too much performance running in the dirty air. My three-stop race was the more aggressive approach, but we didn’t have the track position to make the most of it. Maybe things would have worked out better if I had run in some clean air, but points were too far away today. Hopefully we can be more competitive in Monaco. It’s often an unusual race and we will have completely different tyre compounds, which should suit us better.’
Sahara Force India Deputy Team Principal Robert Fernley commented saying:
‘I think we can be content with today's race despite finishing outside the points. Our pace was more convincing than our qualifying performance, which allowed us to battle against the Saubers and McLarens, but anything more was just outside our reach. We chose early on to split the strategies so that we had the opportunity to make the most of any unexpected developments, but as the race was fairly uneventful, both drivers ended up pretty much in the same place. The main regret is the amount of time Nico lost behind Maldonado in the middle of the race, which again proved how difficult it is to overtake here – even with a tyre advantage and DRS. Looking at the championship table, we are only eight points adrift of fifth place, and we are now one step closer to our big upgrade package, which is encouraging for everyone in the team.’
McLaren Honda’s Jenson Button put another race distance under the partnership’s belt however, the 2009 world champion ended the race in 16th place, two places down from where he started and speaking following the race he was down beat suggesting that the Woking based outfit won’t score points this season.
Will Stevens finished the race for the Manor Marussia F1 Team albeit 3 laps down while his team mate Roberto Merhi finished his home race four laps behind Rosberg. However the Manor Marussia F1 Team can be satisfied with yet another double finish.
There were just two retirements from the race, Pastor Maldonado was forced to stop after suffering car damage. Speaking following the race, he stated:
“We were having a pretty great race at the start and our strategy was working well but then the damage to my car meant that I had to make an extra stop and my race was completely compromised. For sure, we have the pace in the car and in every race we have shown the potential to be in the points so it’s only a matter of time before we get a good result; I’m looking forward to Monaco."
McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso was also forced to retire to the massive disappointment of the Spanish crowd as a result of a brake failure at his pit-stop.
© Ben Johnston 2015