Lewis Hamilton has narrowly won the Spanish Grand Prix after a close battle with Nico Rosberg towards the end of the race. Hamilton had the measure over his team-mate for most of the race, but as the last ten laps rolled around, it was Rosberg who began charging and closing the gap.
Hamilton had narrowly taken pole position from Rosberg at the last minute in Qualifying but very little separated the two men and this promised a race-long battle between the Mercedes cars, who were expected to shoot away into the distance from the offset.
The predictions were half right: Mercedes did drive off into the distance but Rosberg could not stay on Hamilton’s gearbox. Hamilton bolted off the line while Rosberg slotted in behind, leaving Ricciardo to battle unsuccessfully with Valtteri Bottas who moved up to third by the first corner. Behind them, Grosjean retained his fourth place while Raikkonen led Alonso by inches through the first sector. Kevin Magnussen was battling with Sebastian Vettel before running wide out of turn 13, leaving him off line for the T14/15 chicane where he narrowly avoided making contact with Vettel.
Pastor Maldonado, after his rookie error during Qualifying which saw him crash on his first flying lap, was back in the wars today as he slid wide in turn 7 and hit Marcus Ericsson’s Caterham, sending the Venezuelan airborne briefly. Somehow, neither driver had taken too much damage to their respective cars so they both continued and Maldonado was handed a five-place grid penalty for causing the accident.
Daniel Ricciardo was right behind Valtteri Bottas and was told to either overtake the Finn or drop back to a gap of two seconds in order to maintain his tyres. In typical fashion, Ricciardo opted to try to overtake but failed to do so. Nonetheless, he stayed right behind the Williams in case he would make a mistake.
Sebastian Vettel was stuck behind Jenson Button who was himself stuck behind Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber as the race began to settle down. Button slipped past the Sauber and up to twelfth while Gutierrez turned his attention to keeping Vettel behind him. It was in vain, however, as Vettel pulled a great move around the outside of turn 10 and pulled past him in the run up to turn 11. After passing the younger driver, Vettel turned his attention to the experienced McLaren driver ahead of him who defended hard against Vettel before Vettel dived into the pitlane – the first driver to pit.
He rejoined all the way back in 21st while Daniel Ricciardo followed his team-mates example and ventured into the pitlane, emerging in twelfth. As Vettel fought to get back towards the front, he met a particularly tricky Kamui Kobayashi who he eventually out-dragged with the aid of DRS.
Romain Grosjean pitted from fifth and freed Kimi Raikkonen who was giving everything to keep his team-mate behind him. Alonso pitted to attempt the undercut while Daniel Ricciardo was temporarily held up by a slower Kvyat. Ricciardo got past the Russian and was obviously pushing hard, pulling a great move on the outside of Perez in turn 3.
Hamilton was the next man into the pitlane but the Briton’s stop wasn’t flawless and cost him an extra second. Rosberg pushed hard to take the lead through the pit stops, but he failed to close the gap and instead lost several seconds to the sister car. Behind them on the timing sheets were Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo but after the former emerged from the pits, it became clear that the latter’s blistering pace gave him the advantage and he moved into third.
Further behind them again, Raikkonen was scraping with former team-mate Grosjean and he pulled a DRS-assisted overtake into turn 1. He overshot the braking zone, however, and allowed Grosjean to pull back up the inside of the Ferrari into turn 3 – an incredible effort by the Frenchman. Raikkonen’s repeat attempt on the next lap was successful and he moved up to fifth. Meanwhile, Jean-Eric Vergne climbed dejectedly from his cockpit as he became the race’s first retirement.
Back on the track, Alonso was now chasing down Grosjean’s slow-looking Lotus but a mistake by the Frenchman into T10 went unpunished as Alonso seemed uncharacteristically unprepared to pounce. He made up for this mistake by speeding past the Lotus into turn 1 shortly afterwards.
As Hamilton reported slight oversteer, Kobayashi was left fighting to keep his Caterham out of the barriers at turn 1 following a brakes failure, similar to the one that Giedo van der Garde suffered at the same point on Friday morning. This left the Japanese driver carefully navigating the circuit and returning to the pitlane to become the race’s second retirement.
While Kobayashi cursed his bad luck, Vettel was storming towards the front of the grid, catching Felipe Massa unaware and slipping past the Brazilian into T10. Meanwhile, Hamilton was told to pit but bypassed the pitlane once before coming in for his final stop. It was another slow stop for the Briton who was being caught by Rosberg, but once Rosberg pitted and emerged from the garage, it was Lewis who was still in the lead.
The race began to reach a stalemate behind the Mercedes duo, and all attention was on Rosberg who was slowly cutting the gap to Hamilton. With ten laps left, Rosberg was hovering a second behind the leader, but crucially was not within the DRS range from where he could begin to close the gap. While they pushed to their limit, Alonso passed Raikkonen into turn 3 after a tight battle through the fast right-left first corners.
Five laps later saw Rosberg no closer to Hamilton – but he eventually got DRS on the penultimate lap on the run up to turn 10. He closed the gap to Lewis, now a mere 0.6s behind his team-mate and prepared himself for a final challenge. He was met with the issue of Raikkonen’s Ferrari however, as the Finn slowed to allow both Hamilton and Rosberg to lap him on the start/finish straight and obstructed an overtake attempt. Rosberg nonetheless continued to push, albeit in vain as Hamilton crossed the line first, a mere half a second ahead of Rosberg. Ironically, Hamilton lost the race to Vettel in Catalunya by the same margin in 2011.
Daniel Ricciardo took third to take his first podium (as he was disqualified after his podium in Australia) while Vettel finished fourth, an impressive effort by the German who started fifteenth. After winning today, Hamilton has now taken the lead in the World Driver’s Championship – 100 points compared to Nico’s 97.
Provisional Race Result:
- Lewis Hamilton
- Nico Rosberg
- Daniel Ricciardo
- Sebastian Vettel
- Valtteri Bottas
- Fernando Alonso
- Kimi Raikkonen
- Romain Grosjean
- Sergio Perez
- Nico Hulkenberg
- Jenson Button
- Kevin Magnussen
- Felipe Massa
- Daniil Kvyat
- Pastor Maldonado
- Esteban Gutierrez
- Adrian Sutil
- Jules Bianchi
- Max Chilton
- Marcus Ericsson
- Kamui Kobayashi
- Jean-Eric Vergne
Image courtesy Mercedes AMG F1 Team.