Nico Rosberg became the ninth different winner in a row of the Spanish Grand Prix, after racing to victory in his Silver Arrow 17 seconds ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton and 45 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastien Vettel.
Whilst it was an easy light out to chequered flag victory for Rosberg, two-time world champion Hamilton had to fight for his victory using strategy after a poor start allowed Vettel to pounce into turn one. All throughout the first stint Hamilton was complaining about not being able to get close enough to the prancing horse on his Medium tyre, which prompted Mercedes to move him onto a three-stop strategy in order to undercut Vettel during the first wave of pitstops.
They came in admittedly early by about four laps, with Hamilton first out of the two. He managed to stop on his marks, but disaster struck as the left rear didn’t’ fasten properly and cost him crucial time. This was further damaged by Hamilton funnelling out behind Maldonado, and by the time Vettel pitted he lost around a net four seconds to the Ferrari driver – whose team performed a good pitstop to get him out comfortably ahead.
At this point Mercedes started to look towards the end of the race for Hamilton. He clearly didn’t have the pace to make his moves on track, so it came down to the next round of pitstops with about a quarter of the race left still to run. Hamilton pitted but Ferrari did not respond, which all but confirmed they were sticking with their two-stop strategy plan.
However for Hamilton, this meant he could set about building up a gap to Vettel once he did eventually pit so he could secure second place. As it happens he spent most of this stint in clean air as Rosberg pitted for his final stop, allowing him to put in the lap times necessary for building up that gap of twenty two seconds.
Rosberg meanwhile was just cruising up front, managing the pace and putting in the lap times with pace in reserve. Hamilton tried to do a late challenge, but his engineer told him it wasn’t possible and to set about saving the life of the engine.
In the midfield we saw some scraps for position. Toro Rosso seemed to loose places all day long after getting their rear wing configuration wrong, leaving them vulnerable to the faster, DRS-assisted cars on the pit straight. Sainz also got a pretty bad start which cost him a lot of places, with Maldonado pulling off an aggressive move on Vestappen for 8th in the opening stages.
Maldonado was in the wars quite a bit today, damaging his right rear wing end-fence after colliding with his teammate Romain Grosjean in the early parts. The team didn’t get the black and orange flag, however they did remove it during his next pitstop for safety reasons. He later retired with an issue on his car after just reaching half race distance.
Grosjean probably had better races. Despite finishing in eight place, he had to manage an upshift problem from third to fourth by taking his foot off the throttle early on, then later in the race he took out his front jackman after missing his pit box marks by a country mile.
We actually saw a lot of action pit lane today, the next coming from Alonso who arrived with no brakes after his brake-by-wire system failed due to a visor-tear off overheating his rear discs. Whilst nobody was injured, it was a scary moment for the Spaniard who had to retire on home ground after just 27 laps.
Towards the end a battle shaped up for fourth place between the two fighting Fins of Valterri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen. The Ferrari driver was on the Medium tyre having used the Hard in his middle stint, whilst Bottas was on the Hard. Kimi was able to get close on occasions, however it looked as if the Medium’s started to overheat as he got closer and they started to age with lap time.
Finally we saw a late move from Kvyat into the first corner on Sainz for P9, which caused the pair to bang sidepods and Sainz to take to the escape road after a rather late defensive move. Judging by the way he came back on track, the stewards – who are currently investigating the incident – will likely rule that he gained an advantage, giving him a time penalty.