The sixth instalment of the F1 season took place in sunny Spain. Perez returned to his seat at Racing Point after missing two races due to positive COVID-19 test results. Verstappen battled with the two Mercedes all race but Hamilton came out on top!
Free practice was uneventful this weekend as the drivers don’t need much practice around this track. Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is the venue for pre-season testing in January/February so the drivers and teams are very familiar with this track and its optimal race set-ups. The only difference this year is that the Spanish Grand Prix took place in August, rather than its usual May, so track temperatures were much hotter.
Ocon did crash out of FP3 after Magnussen, on a slow lap, decelerated in front of him leaving him no option but to swerve. No penalty was issued to Magnussen and on-board camera footage from Ocon’s Renault shows him distracted looking in his wing mirrors which may explain the late and sudden reaction to seeing a slow car right in front of him.
In qualifying, Räikkönen made it through to Q2 for the first time this season while the Williams’ weren’t so lucky. Vettel only managed 11th again. Hamilton, Bottas and Norris are the only drivers to have made it through to Q3 every race this season and Hamilton secured pole for his 150th front row start.
The beginning of the race was exciting. Bottas got bogged down and was jumped by Verstappen and Stroll while Hamilton crept out a lead ahead. Bottas eventually got past Stroll on lap 5 to get 3rd.
Albon was the first to pit on lap 18 onto hard tyres which seemed an odd choice. This strategy proved to be an experiment for Verstappen as the Dutchman later pitted and switched to the quicker mediums and got out ahead of the two Racing Points.
Mercedes reacted to Verstappen’s stop by double stacking their two cars. Hamilton retained 1stand Bottas stayed 3rd.
The only retirement of the race came on lap 38 when Leclerc spun after his engine cut out. He got it restarted again on track but came into the pits and was immediately wheeled into the garage.
On lap 47, Vettel was in 5th place after only stopping once. His frosty team radio conversations leave the impression that he doesn’t feel like the team are on his side. He was told to manage the tyres to make sure he doesn’t have to pit again to retain a points finish but maybe this message came too late as his soft tyres were already looking worn.
The stewards were hot on blue flags this race, with Perez and Kvyat both being given 5 second time penalties for ignoring blue flags (when a faster car is lapping a racer, they have 3 blue flag posts to move out the way and let them through; after that they would receive a penalty). By this point, only 3 of the 19 remaining cars were on the leading lap.
Grosjean’s race had been messy. He cut up Räikkönen and bumped Giovinazzi, losing him some bodywork and meant he had to use the escape road. He also drifted around a corner, looking spectacular but ruining his tyres causing him to pit again.
Hamilton crossed the line to take another victory in Spain, followed by Verstappen then Bottas who also clinched fastest lap for an extra point. Vettel finished in 7th due to his one stop strategy and good driving to keep those soft tyres alive. Räikkönen set another F1 record in this race: the longest distance raced in an F1 car. He’s raced 83,846 kilometres, more than 2 laps around the Earth!
Hamilton got a very good get away where Bottas didn’t, ultimately costing the Finn second place. Verstappen’s good start and undercut pit stop secured him second and he is slowly climbing the championship table after his DNF in Austria.
The Racing Points finished fourth and fifth once again proving they are no longer a mid-field team. This was also a great comeback drive for Perez after being out for two races.
The McLaren’s performed reasonably to finish 6th and 10th after evidently suffering in the heat this weekend. Let’s hope they can fine tune their cooling packages as this season is only set to get hotter.
Holly’s driver of the day…and loser
Vettel won the public’s vote for driver of the day but my vote goes to Perez. He made an excellent comeback after suffering from COVID-19, even though he was asymptomatic, and proved why he is a valuable driver for Racing Point to keep around for next year when they become Aston Martin Racing team.
Grosjean’s messy race and all-round lack of spark sadly earned him my loser of the day. Haas have been struggling this year and the car just isn’t as competitive as in previous years.