Spanish Grand Prix 15/5/16
I have suggested before that the desire for a neutral (and currently possibly anyone but Mercedes) is for there to be no runaway winner in this competition. Rosberg looked unstoppable, Hamilton frustrated – and it was this combination that led to the pivotal moment in Spain.
At Turn 4, Lap 1 – Hamilton, desperate to regain pole after being overtaken on Turn 1, dived for the inside – causing Rosberg to defend his position by coming across the track. Hamilton was forced on to the grass, lost control and spun into his teammate.
” I saw Lewis closing in so as soon as I could I closed the door to the inside with a clear, strong move… I was very surprised that he went for it anyway” (Rosberg)
After they collided – putting them both out of the race – it was anyone’s for the taking. No team other than Mercedes had won since Singapore in September last year when Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel triumphed. Suddenly the competition was open wide. And then for the climax – a phenomenal win by the youngest ever Formula One driver – this looks like the most exciting fixture of the season so far.
Was Hamilton ‘”too aggressive to pass him” as Niki Lauda suggested? Or was Jacques Villeneuve right in saying Rosberg “defended far too late”? Neither were punished – so the authorities must have believed that Rosberg’s manoeuvre was legitimate and Hamilton’s attempt to overtake was justifiable. Rules dictate that if a driver moves to defend his position he must leave a car’s width if the attacking driver has a ‘significant’ part of his car alongside any part of the car in front. The front wing of Hamilton’s car was in line with Rosberg’s rear wheel while still on the track.
“I saw a gap and went for it and that’s what racing drivers do” (Hamilton)
Neither Hamilton nor Rosberg would have wanted a 10 place penalty in Monaco a track notoriously difficult for overtaking.
Who can blame Hamilton for trying to grab any chance, however slim, after struggling so far this season as defending champion? This all leaves him precisely where he was before the race – 43 points behind Rosberg – with a possible 400 points up for grabs in the remaining 16 races.
But this article should really be about Max Verstappen; the youngest ever driver to win at 18, the only Dutch man to have won, the son of Jos Verstappen. He was driving for Toro Rosso only a few weeks ago, then promoted and given the seat of Danii Kvyat of Red Bull. Increasing in confidence – he qualified in the second row for the Spanish Grand Prix.
Ricciardo had appeared on course for the win – indeed he was leading for the first 28 laps – but Red Bull decided on a 3 stop plan to counter Vettel, while Verstappen and Raikkonen went head-to-head on a 2 stop strategy. On this track famed for high and low speed corners, an abrasive and bumpy surface – tyre wear is high – making the 2 stop strategy risky. Though for Verstappen and Raikkonen it paid off. Raikkonen was within a second of Verstappen for the last 22 laps. While Ricciardo eventually finished 4th, lamenting post race the strategy “didn’t make sense”. Frustrating for him. But he feels after a positive test and with Renault’s imminent engine upgrade, that Red Bull is poised for more success. With Verstappen’s astonishing win in Spain buoying his confidence and perhaps a change to the tyre strategy for Ricciardo – things are looking bright for Red Bull as we approach the Monaco Grand Prix.
Last year in Monaco, Verstappen walked away without a scratch after crashing head-on into the barrier at St Devote. Can the ruthless confidence of a young driver today really be directly related to the fact that the sport has never been safer?
So on next to the Monaco Grand Prix, for some the sport’s crowning glory; we have two warring teammates neither of whom got to prove anything last race, a young talent looking to build on his first win, a frustrated Ricciardo looking for his first victory – all on one of the most challenging tracks in Formula One…… This should be good….
1st- Verstappen (Red Bull)
2nd – Raikkonen (Ferrari)
3rd – Vettel (Ferrari)
4th – Ricciardo (Red Bull)