Paddock Chatter; Spanish Grand Prix

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Welcome to Paddock Chatter, where we wait on the dust to settle and bring you the real stories and insights that matter following F1 Grand Prix weekends. 

Without further adieu, lets shed some spotlight on what matters most in F1 following the stunning Spanish Grand Prix.

The staggering statistics speak for themselves. 55 wins, 64 poles, and 108 podiums in only 193 starts. Yet, with all those dominant performances, uncanny overtakes, the three championships that match his idol in Ayrton Senna, this year’s Spanish Grand Prix may yet be the most masterful performance that Lewis Hamilton has ever delivered.

With the Mercedes and Ferrari cars proving to be quite evenly matched on the benchmark circuit that is Catalunya, we got to witness a truly fascinating, indeed, salivating fight for the top of the podium this past Sunday. Hamilton and Vettel, both panting furiously in radio transmissions, were clearly delivering their absolute best during the race, zooming off to a monstrous 75.8 seconds ahead of third place finisher, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. The rest of the field? Yeah; a lap in arrears.

Interestingly, Catalunya is known to be quite a boring circuit in terms of overtaking, yet it delivered what could be defined as the most competitive Grand Prix of the season thus far, sans the top two running a race of their own. Maybe in the increase in the DRS zone by 100 meters had something to do with it? Regardless, no one can complain with the product that F1 brought to Spain. Sure, the top two were almost a lap ahead of the field, Ricciardo was bored on his own silent quest, and The Force India’s were quietly scooting away on their own (if you paid attention to the timing boards,) but outside of that, 6th on back was an absolute battle.

Hulkenberg driving through the field from 13th on the grid, Sainz delivering another fine home GP performance in the underpowered Torro Rosso (by his own account,) and the magnificent, possibly drive of the race, Sauber’s Wehrlein delivering what may end up being their only points of the year. Yes, you could point to half a dozen different drivers to get a Driver of The Day vote, in what is normally a clear cut answer.

The focal points after a thrilling 66 laps in Spain:

Mercedes out-duels Ferrari:

What a brilliant strategy for Mercedes to pit Hamilton at the end of the VSC! Not only that, but to get on the ideal tire for the final stint, in which tire wear was less because of lessened fuel load and a rubbered-in track. That was a master stroke from Mercedes in an otherwise mediocre season of strategy miscalls.

Hats off to Lewis for performing as well. He still had to keep his car clean in a battle with Vettel coming out of the pits (a stunning, clean defence,) regroup, track down Vettel and perform a clean overtake with a little help from DRS. One hell of a way to snag a thrilling duel.

Force India Capitalising:

Perez, F1s Mr. Consistent, is putting in the performances that should make Ferrari keep an eye on their one-time Protege for 2018. He’s up to 15 races of points scoring in a row, the current top streak. On top of that, Ocon is continuing to impress with scoring in every single start he has made this year. Mercedes have to certainly be excited with their young lad waiting for the top opportunity to arise. Lastly, much has to be said of Force India continuing to be the best value for your buck on the grid. Their updates have delivered and show them not only continuing to supplant Williams as best of the midfield, but also to back up their ballsy claims of challenging Red Bull for 3rd! Indeed, they’re only 19 points behind Red Bull, who keeps struggling to get two cars to the finish. Force India generally start slow and finish strong, so one should be wary of them having such a lightening start to their season. Clearly BWT is being some great support to further their fight.

Wehrlein coming of age:

The unthinkable; Wehrlein scored points in an underfunded Sauber with over a year old Ferrari power unit in the back. In theory, notwithstanding Honda’s joke of a power unit (grenade) so far this year, Sauber should be the last two cars on the track all year long. Yet, here we are, discussing the masterclass strategy that Ruth Bruscombe employed in making Wehrlein the only one-stopper of the day. Bruscombe is making quite the name for herself after some great calls last year with Haas, and putting a Sauber in the points this year. On top of that, no one is talking about Wehrlein and his bad back anymore are they?

That first lap collision:

Not much to say here really. We can make a big to-do out of the Bottas-Raikkonen-Verstappen collision just for the sake of yelling matches, or we can be logical, calm headed adults here and be honest with ourselves. We had three excellent drivers whom all had three excellent starts, all trying to gain places into turn one from three separate positions on the track. Sure, Raikkonen ended up being a pin ball from Bottas’ left front wheel, but honestly, this was a racing incident, nothing more. The day any of those three drivers back out of a battle like that, is the day they don’t need to be in the car. Sure, it was painful for Ferrari and Red Bull to lose a car early on, but the racing Gods decided to even the field with Bottas going up in a small puff and fire later on, with an older power unit that had clearly been past its best days.

Qualifying lap of the year?

Fernando Alonso, the magician? How the hell could a Honda powered car make Q3 this year? We may never know the real scientific answer to that, but odds are, without Alonso at the helm it wouldn’t be happening. He easily (says me comfortable writing this piece from a coffee table…) put in the best lap of the year so far in grabbing 7th for McLaren and making a wonderful cameo in the post-qualifying interviews.

Speaking of Those Interviews:

Liberty is continuing to just make the right decisions, simple as that. They started the year by opening up social media for the drivers and teams, and they’ve now started adding in fan experiences on Fridays, the two-seater car, and even bringing the normally boring post-qualifying press conference to the front stretch, in front of all the cheering fans…which was a sight to behold, even from the tv screens. Good on them for making the smart and simple decisions for us fans.

Next up is the crown jewel in the principality, Monaco! We welcome back Button for a one-off cameo, bid adieu to Alonso chasing Indy and Crown Jewel dreams, all while figuring out how to navigate modern F1 cars around a laughably tight and twisty circuit.

See below for a full recap on the Spanish Grand Prix finishing order, drivers championship, and constructors championship:

 

Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain. Saturday 13 May 2017. World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images ref: Digital Image _ONZ4858

Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
Saturday 13 May 2017.
World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _ONZ4858

RESULTS – 66 LAPS:

POS DRIVER CAR GAP
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1h35m56.497s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 3.490s
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m15.820s
4 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1 Lap
5 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1 Lap
6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1 Lap
7 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Renault 1 Lap
8 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber/Ferrari 1 Lap
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Renault 1 Lap
10 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1 Lap
11 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 2 Laps
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 2 Laps
13 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 2 Laps
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 2 Laps
15 Jolyon Palmer Renault 2 Laps
16 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 2 Laps
Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Power Unit
Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Honda Collision
Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault Collision
Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Collision

DRIVERS’ STANDINGS:

POS DRIVER POINTS
1 Sebastian Vettel 104
2 Lewis Hamilton 98
3 Valtteri Bottas 63
4 Kimi Raikkonen 49
5 Daniel Ricciardo 37
6 Max Verstappen 35
7 Sergio Perez 34
8 Esteban Ocon 19
9 Felipe Massa 18
10 Carlos Sainz 17
11 Nico Hulkenberg 14
12 Romain Grosjean 5
13 Pascal Wehrlein 4
14 Kevin Magnussen 4
15 Daniil Kvyat 4
16 Marcus Ericsson 0
17 Lance Stroll 0
18 Fernando Alonso 0
19 Antonio Giovinazzi 0
20 Jolyon Palmer 0
21 Stoffel Vandoorne 0

CONSTRUCTORS’ STANDINGS:

POS CONSTRUCTOR POINTS
1 Mercedes 161
2 Ferrari 153
3 Red Bull/Renault 72
4 Force India/Mercedes 53
5 Toro Rosso/Renault 21
6 Williams/Mercedes 18
7 Renault 14
8 Haas/Ferrari 9
9 Sauber/Ferrari 4
10 McLaren/Honda 0
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