(Image source: Reuters/Albert Gea)
The start provides the action in Catalonia
Once again the Spanish Grand Prix provided the bulk of the action in the first lap, specifically in the first few corners. In 2016, there was the collision between Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton and last year Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen were out of the running after the first turns. This year was perhaps even more spectacular as Romain Grosjean overreacted to his teammate Magnussen losing traction at Turn Three. After deciding to speed up instead of slowing down, the Frenchman span from outside the track right across the line of the oncoming traffic. This created a massive smokescreen which obscured the destruction. Renault's Nico Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly weren’t able to avoid Grosjean's car and suffered race-ending collisions. Next year, we shouldn't expect anything less from Barcelona's first sector.
Ferrari dropped the ball technically and strategically
Ferrari came to Barcelona as the favourites, but Mercedes locked the front row in Saturday’s qualifying. In the race, the Prancing Horses were no match for the Silver Arrows, despite Sebastian Vettel's pass on Valtteri Bottas at the start. His podium hopes were botched by Ferrari’s strategists, who to pit him again during a virtual safety car in the latter half of the race. A slow pit stop dropped him into fourth place behind Max Verstappen. It was understandable that Ferrari pitted the German as he was the first of the top teams to pit and wasn’t certain if his tyres would last until the end of the race. However, this tactic failed as Valtteri Bottas kept his tyres alive to the chequered flag, completing Mercedes’ first one-two of the season.
Kimi Raikkonen’s race in Catalonia was yet again one to forget. The Finn was going steady in fourth place before the first pit stop but he didn’t even get to change his tyres as a technical issue forced him to retire his car. This isn’t good news for Raikkonen who has just changed to his second engine of the season. If it is broken, he will be down to his last penalty-free engine.
Ericsson shows great defending and teamwork
There was entertaining competition during the middle stages of the race, but from an unlikely source. Sauber's Marcus Ericsson was excellent as he defended his ninth place from Renault's Carlos Sainz. The Swede had started the race on the medium compound tyres when most of the grid went with the soft option. This allowed Ericsson to drive for much longer without a pit stop. Sainz having pitted caught Ericsson around Lap 30 and had a cushion over Charles Leclerc in the other Sauber. Ericsson held the visibly quicker Spaniard behind with some masterful wheel-to-wheel defending for almost ten laps, allowing Leclerc to catch Sainz. Unfortunately, Leclerc wasn’t able to capitalise on his teammates good work, and he finished tenth while Ericson ended up 13th.
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