2015 Spanish Grand Prix: Race Analysis

Rosberg Notches First Victory of 2015

Second best to his teammate at each and every round so far this season, Nico Rosberg has finally delivered a performance to convince his critics that he can challenge the reigning champion for title honors in 2015. The German’s Sunday performance matched the efficiency of his Saturday triumph, aided by the fact that Hamilton needed to negotiate a rather stubborn Sebastian Vettel in the opening exchanges after a below-par start by the Briton. Ultimately, Hamilton could never challenge his teammate after his early set-back. The race did, however, highlight some rather pressing issues for the sport which have been bubbling to the surface in recent races.

Package Delivered In Time

For several races now, pundits have been coining the familiar point that “this has to be the race where Rosberg beats Hamilton”. 2014’s strong runner-up to Lewis has certainly made his fans wait for the launch of his 2015 campaign, but a solid drive today and a much-needed 25 point boost in the championship marks lift-off.

To describe a race winning performance as one at a canter is always an eye-brow raising comment, but in truth, Rosberg was left with few concerns over the course of the 66 laps. After an excellent start, he was able to build a gap to the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel behind, as Lewis Hamilton was unable to navigate past the prancing horse, which in fairness, never broke into the gallop which we have come to expect. The time lost in the first stint, compounded by the slow pit-stop, gave Rosberg an insurmountable advantage.

Nonetheless, Hamilton’s third stint, where he took on the hard compound tyre, was a game-changer. The Briton broke free of the two stopping Ferrari for the first time in the race and laid down a crushing pace, which saw Vettel dispatched with ease. Caught out in traffic and on a two stop strategy which pushed the envelope of tyre longevity, Vettel was no match for the Mercedes duo today.

Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen once again took on the challenge of running a middle stint of the prime compound tyre, in an attempt to snatch P4 away from the Williams of Valtteri Bottas. Ultimately, this plan was scuppered when the Finn arrived behind his compatriot in the closing stages and failed to make the tyre advantage work. He was unable to stay with the Williams through Turn 12, and also the final corner, and therefore, was never quite close enough to make a move at the end of the straight.

Not Quite A Procession

The Spanish Grand Prix was not a procession, because that implies that the race was a matter of “follow the leader”, which is exactly the pressing issue which I mentioned a few hundred words ago.

The first five races of 2015 have not featured the type of blockbuster entertainment which most races in 2014 delivered. So far, it seems that following cars is as difficult as it has ever been with Lewis Hamilton stating in the opening laps that it was “impossible” to get within an overtaking distance of Vettel ahead.

It could be argued that this is simply a problem at the Circuit de Catalunya, with its high-speed nature typically inducing races which are fought out in the pit-lane rather than on the race-track itself. However, the inability to attack the car directly ahead has been a feature of the season so far, particularly in the poignant battles for the major rewards. Back in Australia, the true pace of the Ferrari was masked during the race, as Vettel was simply unable to pass Felipe Massa’s Williams. He faced an identical issue in Bahrain, during the latter stages, but on this occasion, Valtteri Bottas was the cork in his bottle of performance.

This race was certainly not as concerning as Australia was, but aside from Sebastian Vettel’s shock win in Malaysia, I can understand why many fans have lamented the action, (or lack of it), displayed so far in 2015. Unfortunately, I can see this type of race becoming a trend. It could be argued that if Hamilton had repelled Vettel at the start, the Mercedes duo would have been able to entertain the masses, but considering that Rosberg was unable to close in on Hamilton from a strong position in China, I have my doubts as to whether Hamilton could have gone wheel-to-wheel with his chief title challenger.

Pit Stop Drama

The 22-men that are required at a pit-stop are certainly among the bravest folk in sport – often undervalued by the casual fan, but their work should never be underestimated.

Fernando Alonso’s front jack-man deserves the award for reactions of the day, after avoiding Alonso’s McLaren as the Spaniard arrived into his pit box as he lost his brakes due to a visor tear-off becoming lodged in the brake-ducts. The pit-stop drama largely opitimised what has been a very disappointing weekend for McLaren. Yesterday’s qualifying suggested that they had moved ahead of Force India and Sauber, but after a race in which Jenson Button struggled throughout while his teammate made an early trip to the media pen, plenty of issues are still unresolved by Honda.

Romain Grosjean also managed to give his mechanics a scare – and a few bruises. The front jack-man took the full force of an E23 moving at pace when the Frenchman overshot his marks by a significant margin. Fortunately, it appears that everyone has escaped the incident relatively unscathed.

Conclusions

Driver of the Day

Valtteri Bottas

Ice-cool under pressure once again, the Finn found a Ferrari filling his mirrors in the closing laps for the second successive race, but managed to hold on for another P4. Splitting the Ferrari’s was the aim for Williams and Bottas duly delivered the result the team desired.

Overtake of the Day

GROSJEAN vs Kvyat

Lotus may have only managed 4 points from a day that promised so much after impressive early pace, but Romain Grosjean takes my acclaim for the day’s best maneuver. He took the ambitious outside line through the first corner, making the move stick against Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat.

Team of the Weekend

Mercedes

For Mercedes to take the Team of the Weekend award, it requires a truly special performance from all involved. Hamilton’s poor start was the only blot on an otherwise clean copybook this time out and even then, the team redeemed themselves, as James Vowles performed the perfect strategy to put Lewis comfortably ahead of his chief rival in the race, Sebastian Vettel. With Nico Rosberg in imperious form throughout the Grand Prix, his 25 point contribution was never in doubt.

Race Result

1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
6 Felipe Massa Williams
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
8 Romain Grosjean Lotus
9 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso
10 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull
11 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso
12 Felipe Nasr Sauber
13 Sergio Perez Force India
14 Marcus Ericsson Sauber
15 Nico Hulkenberg Force India
16 Jenson Button McLaren
17 Will Stevens Manor Marussia
18 Roberto Merhi Manor Marussia
DNF Pastor Maldonado Lotus
DNF Fernando Alonso McLaren

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