Spanish GP 2015
MAY 11, 2015
Race Report - Rebound
BY DAN KNUTSON IN BARCELONA
Lewis Hamilton defeated Nico Rosberg in the first four races of this season, but Rosberg rebounded with a controlled victory in the Spanish Grand Prix in his Mercedes.
It was a perfect weekend for Rosberg from start to finish. He made no errors and nothing went wrong. Hamilton, meanwhile, had a bit of a messy weekend and never quite seemed in total control of his Mercedes.
Crucially, Rosberg started from the pole. He took the lead at the start ahead of Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) who had qualified third but got the jump on Hamilton who had gridded third.
It is almost impossible to overtake around this track if the cars are evenly matched, so the pole usually translates into a win. And win Rosberg did for the ninth time in his F1 career.
"It was a perfect weekend," he said. "Great to be on pole and great to win the race like this. Very, very happy. Also thanks to the team, the car has been awesome, all weekend perfect, so yeah, really great."
Stuck behind Vettel, Hamilton never had a chance at the victory. He eventually got ahead of Vettel by using a three-stop strategy while Rosberg and Vettel pitted twice. That also allowed Hamilton to lead laps 46 to 50 (the only other driver to lead any of the 66 laps was Kimi Raikkonen on lap 16), but when Hamilton made his third stop that put Rosberg back in the lead.
"I had quite a poor start," Hamilton rued. "It's been a long time since I've had such a poor start. I tried my best to recover - I nearly dropped back to fourth at the start so I was very fortunate to keep third - and then it was just trying to fight.
"Unfortunately, this track isn't very good for overtaking. Actually it's the worst for overtaking. It's impossible to follow here, which is a shame. I don't know how it was further back but for the guys at the front it's just... it doesn't matter what you do you cannot get close enough even with the DRS, which is a shame.
"Nonetheless, I did everything I could behind Sebastian (Vettel) and did enough, I think, in the first stint but then I had a very long pit stop and then had to kind of do it all again. But fortunately towards the end it was enough to get it done on a three-stopper, I was able to get by. If I was behind him in traffic I wouldn't have got past."
Vettel said the Mercedes cars were just way too fast.
"I thought it would be tricky to keep him (Hamilton) behind because they were a fair amount quicker, as we saw, at the end of the race," he said. "Obviously we were a bit lucky with the first pit stop - Lewis had a problem - so we were able to stay ahead, I think we reacted well and we did everything we could. Then obviously they decided to pit very early, go for a three-stop. I think it was our best chance to stay out, which is what we did.
"Unfortunately then I came out a bit in traffic after the second stop and lost maybe a couple of second, maybe two or three seconds, which would have been maybe just enough to stay in front but arguably with the speed they had you have to be fair and accept that they deserved to finish in front of us today, so well done to both of them."
Valtteri Bottas did a solid job to finish fourth in his Williams, and he fended off a charging Raikkonen in the closing stages of the race.
"It feels good to split the Ferraris for a second race in a row and this has been another solid points haul for the team," Bottas said. "Tire life was better than we expected and as a result we changed from a three-stop to a two-stop race, which was a good strategic choice from the team because it allowed me to keep Raikkonen behind. The big positive is that we were closer to the leaders than we have been at any point this season."
Raikkonen had qualified seventh, so he tried a three stop strategy with a long run on the hard compound Pirellis in the middle of the race. That got him up to fifth place.
"Overall, it has been a difficult weekend, but not a disaster and we learned a lot," he said. "In the race today we gained a few places, but I was not very comfortable with my car, as it was sliding around. Besides that, and for whatever reason, we are able catch the Williams but it's very difficult to overtake them: they are very fast down the straights and once we get behind them, our car starts to be difficult to handle, much more than when you're following other lapped cars."
Vettel ran the updated aero package in the race while Raikkonen stuck with the old one.
"It was good for all of us to be able to compare them on the circuit and I was prepared to run the risk," Raikkonen said. "Maybe it would have been better with the new bits, that is probably the case, but at least now we know about it."
Felipe Massa started ninth in his Williams and finished sixth.
"I managed to overtake cars on the first lap and then fought hard with Kimi (Raikkonen) for a long time, which was hard on the tires," Massa said. "Because of the extra degradation a three-stop race was better for me today, but it meant the others were too far ahead. We finished with one car in front of a Ferrari so we have shown that we can be competitive with them and we can now look forward to Monaco which will be a very different test for the car."
Best of the rest behind Mercedes/Ferrari/Williams was Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull.
"I am more satisfied today as we achieved everything we could and seventh was the maximum I could get out of the car," he said. "There were some parts of the race that were encouraging but we're still further off than where we want to be, but we'll keep pushing.
"We came here with upgrades this weekend but they didn't give us what we were expecting, so that's something we'll keep working on. We're still a fair bit behind Williams at the moment but I think we have a good chance to close the gap a bit further in Monaco."
Romain Grosjean brought his Lotus home in eighth place. He nearly ran over one of pit crew when he overshot his entry into the pit stall.
"It was a tough and eventful race," Grosjean said. "Firstly, I'm glad to say that no-one was seriously injured in the pit stop. The rear tires were experiencing a lot of degradation and I just couldn't stop in time. It was a really scary moment for me, but probably more scary for the crew. I checked everyone was okay and I certainly owe them some beers!
"In the race, I lost fourth gear during the race which made things a bit of a challenge. It was a tough race but it's good to be in the points for the third race in a row and we can be proud for what we've achieved today."
Toro Rosso teammates Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen qualified fifth and sixth and ended up ninth and 11th after battling each other, and then Sainz fighting with Daniil Kvyat who ended up finishing 10th in his Red Bull.
"It was a tricky start to today's race and I was a bit disappointed when I saw that the fifth position from which I had started from didn't last much," Sainz said. "But I kept my head down, started to save my tires early in the race, as I know that our car behaves better with lower fuel, and I managed to extend my stint a bit on the Prime tires.
"That enabled me to go for it during the final five laps and go for the last two points. It was a tricky moment: I had DRS and managed to get ahead of Daniil before Turn 1 and crossed the line in ninth position. It's good to add another two points to the team's tally at my first home race."
Kvyat's view: "We didn't have enough pace today. I had a poor opening lap, dropping a few places and from then on that compromised my race. Because here at this track, if you lose places at the start, it's almost game over, as it is so hard to get close enough to pass. I had a nice battle with Sainz towards the end."
Verstappen said the race was difficult.
"It was very hard for the rear tires," he said. "In addition to this, having to deal with blue flags at the end of the race also put me in a difficult position. It wasn't the race we expected after a very strong qualifying session yesterday."
Now it is on to Monaco. Last year Rosberg qualified on pole and won the race. Can he do a double and do it again? Hamilton will do his best to see that does not happen.