Spanish GP 2017
MAY 15, 2017
Race Report - Nosing Ahead
By Dan Knutson in Barcelona
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel had a fierce duel in the Spanish Grand Prix which Hamilton narrowly won. Here were his keys to victory.
Prior to the race, Niki Lauda told German TV that whichever driver gets the nose of his car in front after the start is halfway to victory. That's often the case at Barcelona where it is so difficult to overtake, but in this case Vettel led the wrong half of the race despite getting his nose in front at the start.
It's not likely that Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) and Max Verstappen (Red Bull) would have played a role in the fight for the victory, but any chances they had ended in the first corner just after the start when Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) bumped into Raikkonen who then hit Verstappen. Only Bottas was able to continue.
Hamilton and Vettel both started on Pirelli's soft compound slicks, but at their first stops Vettel took on another set of softs while Hamilton switched to the mediums. On their second and final stops, Hamilton got the softs and Vettel the mediums.
Hamilton sounded breathless when he was talking to the team on the radio.
"It was the intensity of the fight," he said. "How much I was on the edge. I was very much on the edge and it is hard to really explain but I was pushing until I could not push anymore and that was for every lap."
All that physical training paid off as Hamilton's body held up to the strain.
THE HOLD UP
After his first stop, Vettel was on fresh tires and behind Bottas who was still out on worn rubber. Vettel lost valuable time, about four seconds, having to battle his way past the Mercedes driver.
THE LOST 8 SECONDS
Still, Vettel had an eight second lead over Hamilton just prior to their final stops.
"I was eight seconds ahead, and then I came out side by side (with Hamilton)," Vettel said. "I don't know how we lost that time."
As they fought side-by-side after their final pit stops, Hamilton and Vettel were fierce but fair, giving each other barely enough room. Any harsh contact could have ended the race for one or both of them.
"That's how racing should be, as close as it can be," Hamilton said. "Sebastian was incredibly fast. In the heat of the moment it's difficult, and that's how it should be. I loved it."
THE FINAL PASS
Having failed to get by Vettel in the post-pitstop-battle, Hamilton eventually was able to use his DRS to pass the Ferrari at the start of lap 44.
"He just blew past," Vettel said.
NO PLAN C
Ferrari considered switching Vettel to a three-stop strategy and bringing him in for a fresh set of the soft compound Pirelli tires near the end of the race. But the team decided not to implement "Plan C."
No one could touch Hamilton and Vettel whose raw pace was so fast that they lapped everybody but Daniel Ricciardo in third place. Vettel, therefore, was the only driver out there capable of winning besides Hamilton.
THE NEAR MISS
Vettel got things wrong coming up to lap Felipe Massa and nearly hit the Williams. But he managed to avoid contact and stayed in the race.
Would Hamilton's soft Pirellis hold up for the final 22 laps? He had to push on them, save them, and hope they held on long enough so Vettel, on the mediums, couldn't launch a bid for the lead in the last laps. They lasted. And Hamilton won.
"I tried to stay in the fight," Vettel said. "We did all we could. We were hoping that Lewis would struggle at the end but he didn't have any problems. We were never close enough."
MAKE THAT 55
Hamilton has now won 55 World Championship Formula 1 races.