Spanish Grand Prix: Talking points

Richard Hazeldine Richard Hazeldine

Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag at the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday, strengthening his position in the championship race as he earned his second successive victory.

We take a look at his return to form and the rest of the major talking points from Barcelona.

Red Bull rising
Following the ‘Bullfight in Baku’, most observers would have predicted an incident-free race in Barcelona for both Daniel Ricciardo and his team-mate Max Verstappen. An that is exactly what occurred as Verstappen avoided trouble for the first time in what seemed like an age to earn his maiden podium of 2018. It wasn’t a completely clean race for the Dutchman as he suffered front wing damage after clipping Lance Stroll, but he rode his luck to earn a result that will no doubt please his masters.

Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, endured a strange afternoon, finishing a disappointing fifth more than 20 seconds behind Sebastian Vettel, despite setting three lap records late in the race. We later found out the reason for the Honey Badger’s poor showing was that he had lost control, and around 15 seconds, after spinning out during the restart from a virtual safety car. An incident that somehow escaped the attention of TV cameras. An error Ricciardo attributed to the upgraded car.
One thing is for sure, there’s never a dull moment when the Red Bulls are around.

Hamilton back on track?
Lewis Hamilton looked more like the driver Mercedes fans have come to know and love as he completed a convincing win in Barcelona, the Brit leading from start to finish as he extended his lead at the top of the standings to 17 points.

Has the defending champion rediscovered his mojo and will to win after an unusually mediocre start to the season, or were the performance gains he experienced in Spain track specific given the well-publicised resurfacing of the Circuit de Catalunya?
Race fans and Ferrari will be eager to find out in Monaco in a fortnight’s time.

Grosjean’s gross error
Romain Grosjean has enjoyed a disappointing start to the 2018 season, the Haas driver is just one of two drivers yet to score a point this season along with Sergey Sirotkin of Williams. Granted, Grosjean has had his fair share of misfortune in the first few races, most notably in Australia when a pit-stop error cost him a potential top-five finish, but in Spain his downfall was entirely his own doing.

The 32-year old appeared to lose control on lap one as he was about to ram into the back of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, spinning off before sliding back across the track with his foot hard on the accelerator, creating a cloud of smoke and taking out both Nico Hulkenberg and Pierre Gasly.
The Frenchman will no doubt be feeling down after he was hit with a three-place grid penalty for Monaco following an investigation. Grosjean may feel that luck is against him right now, but there’s only so many times you can use that excuse given that his teammate Kevin Magnussen has racked up 19 points.

No excuses for Vettel
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel refused to apportion the blame after the Scuderia’s two-stop strategy cost him dearly on Sunday, the German finishing way back in fourth place and losing vital ground in the race for the championship. Ferrari arrived in Barcelona full of confidence and things looked rosy early on as Vettel got past Valtteri Bottas and into second place. But that was as good as it got as the extra stop for tyres saw him drop down the order.
Ferrari have had the best car so far this season, but there was a shift in momentum this weekend as the Silver Arrows dominated in Barcelona.

Vettel later said the second stop was unavoidable as the Ferrari was unable to use the tyres as efficiently as its rivals, the change in tread depth proving crucial.
After a thoroughly disappointing weekend that saw the Prancing Horse lose the lead in the constructors championship, Vettel and Ferrari will be hoping that events in Spain were indeed just a one off.

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