Who would’ve thought it? On a circuit where overtakes usually come at a premium and Mercedes have dominated of late, we were instead treated to a blockbuster afternoon in Barcelona, headlined by a tense duel between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
Modern classic would admittedly, be a slight overstatement, but the Spanish Grand Prix certainly delivered.
Statistics are key in any sport. One of the favourite past-times of the armchair pundit is to dissect all the key facts and figures and whenever a record is broken, it is quite the occasion. As such, Max Verstappen’s shock win at Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix took on greater significance than the typical first time win. The 18 year old obliterated the previous record for youngest winner, in turn toppling top spot for the youngest driver to both stand on the podium and lead a lap, all in his first weekend at a new team.
The Dutchman is quite the record breaker, but follows in the footsteps of numerous other emerging talents who re-wrote the record books over the years.
Occasionally, sport will provide a storyline which defies belief. Max Verstappen has completed the impossible, writing his own fairytale by winning his first Grand Prix at the tender age of 18. He has not only broken Sebastian Vettel’s record as the youngest ever race winner, but managed it in his first race with Red Bull. There is not a superlative to do justice to the scale of the achievement.
It was, however, made possible by the latest drama in the Mercedes camp. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg collided on lap one, with both ending the race in the gravel trap at turn four, following decidedly aggressive maneuvers.
With the European season set to begin in earnest with this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, teams will look to deliver their first major update package of the 2016 season. Force India have hinted that their car could look very different when it takes to the track in Barcelona, as the team are set to introduce significant changes to the VJM09, which has – up until now – proved a touch underwhelming.
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.
Just when critics limber up to lament another predictable outcome, Formula 1 has the ability to throw a surprise. Lewis Hamilton may have taken four consecutive pole positions, but it was Nico Rosberg’s time to shine, as he dominated qualifying to take top spot by a relatively comfortable margin. The German was imperious today and has achieved the result which has the potential to launch his 2015 title tilt in earnest. Elsewhere, Sebastian Vettel’s third place was courtesy of a typically efficient performance but teammate Kimi Raikkonen failed to deliver and was duly engulfed by his rivals and will start P7. Toro Rosso proved that their practice pace was no fluke, with Sainz sensationally lining up in P5, and will be joined on the third row by his fellow rookie Max Verstappen.
The first sessions of the fledgling European season saw familiar names at the top of the timesheet. Ferrari may have bolted an ambitious 16 individual upgrades onto the car, reforming much of their aero package, but it was Mercedes who controlled day one of the event, with Rosberg and Hamilton sharing top honors and displaying impressive race pace to compliment their ever-present short run credentials. With plenty of comparatively unfamiliar faces taking advantage of track time at a venue that everyone knows so well, today had more talking points than I can possibly plough through in under 1000 words – but let’s make an attempt…