“Are you doing anything to stop Mercedes from dominating?” said Martin Brundle to Bernie Ecclestone before the race. “I have some bombs in my pocket!” he exclaimed.
Indeed. The next few moments of the Spanish Grand Prix were about to get explosive, as Rosberg took the lead heading into turn one. Having had the worst possible start to the season, Hamilton was keen to get back ahead of his teammate and gain the all-important track position. But as it turned out, he was about to add yet another blow to his 2016 campaign.
Mercedes bosses looked on, Hamilton jinked to the inside coming out of turn three, but so did Rosberg, forcing Hamilton off track and onto the grass. The pair met again on the entry to turn four, but this time it would be terminal. Head in hands, cars in gravel, it was game over.
Closer inspection of the crash revealed that Rosberg was changing dials on his steering wheel coming out of turn three because his car went into engine harvesting mode rather than giving him the full hybrid power. His momentary lapse in concentration provided the catalyst for the crash we’re all talking about, and with it threw away 43 points.
I don’t portion the blame to either driver on this one. For me both were overly aggressive, they knew they had a car advantage and the script was already written as far as the engineers were concerned. But much for the same reasons F1 has cut back on driver coaching, it’s the human error element that you can never plan for.
I love a good drama story and I thought we were done there, but what happened 63 laps later was just something else.
Having inherited the lead, Red Bull knew Ferrari were the favoured winners for this race. Their long run pace was superior and they were certainly the aggressors on track as they maintained the gap in the opening stints.
The only way they could react would be in the pits, where it soon turned out that putting their drivers on split strategies might be the best way to cover off both Ferrari drivers should either be quicker towards the end.
It soon emerged that Verstappen and Raikkonen got it right, and it wasn’t long before F1’s oldest driver was hunting down F1’s youngest for the lead. Try as he might though, Vestappen was quicker where it mattered on the long start/finish straight, and without any faults he achieved a record that will never be beaten again – the youngest ever Grand Prix winner at just 18 years old.
It’s crazy when you think that on Friday Verstappen was saying the he needed a couple of more races to get used to the car. I think I only seen one moment during the race on Sunday where he got out of shape, on what were exceptionally old tyres. Other than that he kept his cool ahead of the proclaimed Iceman.
To be fair to Raikkonen it is difficult to pass, as evidenced by Daniel Ricciardo’s Gilles Villeneuve move on Vettel towards the end for third. But you can’t say that he didn’t have any opportunity, especially the amount of times he got close heading into turn ten having went quicker through the first two sectors.
It was an opportunistic race win from Verstappen, who in one move has just cemented his presence in this sport as being a future world champion.
I thought his former team mate Carlos Sainz drove a good race. Having made his way past both Ferrari’s at the start and into third, he defended well in the opening laps of the restart, only to be out-raced by Williams on strategy later on – who yet again produced the fastest pit stops at 2.2 seconds.
It can be quite easy to overlook Sainz, and you just wonder whether his on-track fallouts with Vestappen have blocked any sort of promotion to Red Bull should Ricciardo depart any time soon.
As for Williams, it was a good strategy from them to bounce back on the mistake in qualifying that put Felipe Massa out in the first 18 minutes. They perhaps lucked a bit when the two Renault drivers elected to switch to the Hard tyre (I have no idea either!), but Massa’s swift stint on the Soft tyre set him up nicely towards the end when he had 20-lap younger Mediums – a strategy Ferrari could’ve perhaps employed with Vettel.
Jenson Button bagged more points for McLaren, after Alonso eerily stopped in the same place his McLaren career started to tumble in pre-season testing last year. It has been a long road for development for them, but they finally look to be on the up having showed good pace in Sochi. Monaco should be an interesting race for them.
In fact Monaco should be an interesting race for everyone. It’s the race Mercedes have famously had problems between their two drivers at in the last two years, and Rosberg didn’t seem overly happy with Hamilton post-race when speaking to the media. Are we about to see another twist to the tale?
Verstappen also showed quick pace during one of the practice sessions last year, matching the lap times set by both Rosberg and Hamilton at stages. Can he do the same thing again and make it two wins in a row?
The 2016 Spanish Grand Prix will go down in history as one of F1’s greatest displays of action. It had drama even before the weekend begun and it gave the decision makers something to think about when considering the future direction of the sport.
Photo Credit: XPB Images