Notable battles broke out at Mercedes & Ferrari during Sunday’s race, so let’s go through the field and give out the Team Mate Battles points for Spain.
1 point is awarded to the driver who sets the faster lap.
3 points are awarded to the driver who performs best in qualifying.
5 points are awarded to the driver who performs best on raceday.
Both drivers were unanimous on Saturday, complaining endlessly about the extent of their lack of grip and balance. It showed too, with the Caterham boys qualifying last of those who completed laps, and had Jules Bianchi not made a muddle of his final Q1 run, they would have been almost a second off the pace of the Marussias.
Ericsson outqualified Kamui for the first time this season, by a full 0.063 seconds, but undid all his good work at the start by falling down to last place. Kamui jumped up to 18th, following Bianchi, but was unable to keep Jean-Eric Vergne or Maldonado behind over the opening laps. Ericsson was clobbered by Pastor in another badly judged moment from the Venezuelan, and was very fortunate to not suffer front left suspension or wheel damage, as it was a hefty bump between the pair.
Despite suffering from traction issues, Kamui was pleased with his degradation in the opening stint, and ran longer than Marcus. Ericsson, who had fallen around ten seconds behind Kamui by Lap 17 when the Swede pitted, used his fresher rubber to close back in to around 5 seconds after Kobayashi pitted. Kamui then set about opening up a gap again, increasing it to 15 seconds over the next eleven laps when his left front brake failed, pitching him off the circuit.
Kamui had weathered the difficult part of his race, running 6 laps longer than Marcus in the opening stint, and due to the fact he was a second a lap faster after the first stops, Kobayashi gets the race points despite retiring at half distance. Marcus brought the car home 20th and last, 20 seconds behind the next finisher up the road Max Chilton, and was well off the pace, setting a fastest lap 0.3 seconds slower than Kamui, despite having an entire extra half a race with lighter fuel.
Fastest lap: Kamui Kobayashi (3-2 to Marcus Ericsson) (after Round 5)
Qualifying: Marcus Ericsson (12-3 to Kamui Kobayashi) (after Round 5)
Race: Kamui Kobayashi (20-5 to Kamui Kobayashi) (after Round 5)
Caterham: 34-11 to Kamui Kobayashi (Total After Round 5)
Marussia were particularly upbeat following the race, evidently pleased by the pace improvement they found through their upgrade package that they brought along to Catalunya. Both cars finished, and Chilton got involved in a scrap with Kamui Kobayashi for almost the entirety of Kobayashi’s race, before the Japanese driver suffered his brake failure.
Chilton outqualified Bianchi on the Saturday, due in part to Jules messing up his final run, in which he looked to be challenging the pace of Adrian Sutil. He outbraked himself into Turn 10, and that was that. Max made no errors in qualifying, and despite complaining of some mild balance issues, seemed satisfied with his qualifying efforts.
Jules made amends at the start of the race, jumping up to 17th place ahead of the Caterhams, Max, Maldonado & Jean-Eric Vergne. Max had a bad start, and fell down to 21st, due to running wide leaving Turn 2. Due to Max’s tardy getaway, he got stuck behind Kamui Kobayashi and was unable to pass him, which meant Marussia switched him to a three stop strategy. Jules was able to run the planned two stopper that Marussia had intended to run with both cars, and came home 18th, over a minute clear of the sole Caterham of Marcus Ericsson. Chilton, who couldn’t get past Kobayashi until Kamui’s retirement, was roughly 20 seconds down on Jules with three laps remaining, having made an extra pit-stop, which was respectable, but then Max seemed to give up trying in the closing laps. Having run consistently in the 1.32/1.33s for the final 15 laps, he dropped to 1.37 and 1.42 at the end, allowing Jules to finish 40 seconds ahead.
Max has definitely upped his game this year, and is running consistently closer to Jules. Pace-wise, he also seems to have unlocked something compared to last year, as evidenced by setting the quicker race lap on four out of the five races so far. Last year, this was one of the most one-sided Team Mate Battles, and Max still leads Jules a quarter of the way into this season. Does that reflect well on Max, or badly on Jules?
Fastest lap: Max Chilton (4-1 to Max Chilton) (after Round 5)
Qualifying: Max Chilton (9-6 to Jules Bianchi) (after Round 5)
Race: Jules Bianchi (15-10 to Max Chilton) (after Round 5)
Marussia: 25-20 to Max Chilton (Total After Round 5)
Felipe Massa’s weekend all went wrong in Q3. Quicker than Bottas in every session that the pair took part in (Bottas again losing FP1 to Felipe Nasr), Massa made a crucial error in Q3, losing the back of his Williams at Turn 10 on his final run. Having been comfortably faster than Valtteri throughout qualifying, Massa looked extremely likely to continue to do so in Q3, and may have ended up in the P4 that Bottas achieved.
However, Massa did make an error, and owned up to said error, while Bottas put in a stonking lap when it counted. The Finn said the weekend had been difficult up until Q3, and was as ecstatic after qualifying as you can reasonably expect a Finn to be. Valtteri’s weekend got even better at the start when he eased past Ricciardo into the first turn, while Massa made another lightning getaway. He was actually alongside Kimi Raikkonen into Turn 1, but got blocked in behind Daniel Ricciardo, and fell back down to 8th place, but still gained on his starting position.
With Massa unable to make progress, Williams attempted a three stop strategy with him, but that plan was scuppered when he emerged on track behind Fernando Alonso. Unable to make progress, Massa got shuffled backwards as he made his pitstops. Bottas utilised his two stop strategy efficiently, and while he ultimately fell to the superior pace of the Red Bulls over the race distance, he put in the clean and consistent weekend that Williams require. Interestingly, in terms of outright pace, there was little to separate the pair, with Bottas and Massa setting almost identical personal best laptimes, and with Felipe & Valtteri being closely matched for most of the season so far, it will be fascinating to see if Massa can redress the balance in Monte Carlo.
Fastest Lap: Valtteri Bottas (3-2 to Felipe Massa) (after Round 5)
Qualifying: Valtteri Bottas (9-6 to Felipe Massa) (after Round 5)
Race: Valtteri Bottas (20-5 to Valtteri Bottas) (after Round 5)
Williams: 28-17 to Valtteri Bottas (Total After Round 5)
Jean-Eric Vergne had yet another unlucky weekend, particularly in FP2 when he was sent out on track with a loose wheel. The new strict penalties for such a transgression is harsh on drivers, but, as commented on by Sky pundit Martin Brundle, a monetary fine only won’t discourage teams from pushing the envelope with tyre securing methods. Vergne was the unlucky victim on this occasion, but remained philosophical about his situation, saying: “This is part of the game. I always do all I can, my team is working really hard and problems can happen. For the ten grid positions penalty I don’t blame anyone. When I crash the car it’s the team that pays my mistake, so this is part of racing.”
Vergen made it into Q2 with Kyvat, setting a Q1 time 0.1 seconds slower than the Russian, and Toro Rosso clearly felt there was no advantage to going any further, opting not to set a time in Q2. Kyvat went no faster in Q2 than he had in Q1, and lined up 13th, with Vergne ultimately having to start right at the back. At the start, Kyvat held position in 13th, as Vergne set about clearing the Caterhams, Marussias and Maldonado. Succeeding in doing this, Vergne had gotten past Sutil through the first pitstops when the Toro Rosso developed an exhaust problem, and the Frenchman had to retire.
Kyvat made his way up to 6th by Lap 18 as other cars pitted, right behind the Force Indias when he came into the pits. Kyvat said afterwards the first stint went well, including a fantastic pass around the outside of Gutierrez on Lap 9, but after that, the Toro Rosso suffered from heavy tyre wear, and couldn’t maintain its early competitiveness. Shuffled back to 14th, Kyvat’s lowest finish so far in F1, the signs that Toro Rosso are being to fall behind are there.
Fastest Lap: Daniil Kyvat (4-1 to Daniil Kyvat) (after Round 5)
Qualifying: Daniil Kyvat (9-6 to Jean-Eric Vergne) (after Round 5)
Race: Daniil Kyvat (20-5 to Daniil Kyvat) (after Round 5)
Toro Rosso: 30-15 to Daniil Kyvat (Total After Round 5)
The new lightweight Sauber meant a slight shuffle forward, as opposed to a big leap. Monisha Kaltenborn & Giampaolo Dall’Ara seemed slightly underwhelmed by the development package that Sauber brought to Barcelona, possibly indicating that they expected more, but Dall’Ara in particular seemed to take heart from the fact that the pace deficit to their competitors was reduced to around 0.5 seconds, instead of a second. Quite who he meant as the competitors is unclear, as Sauber remained mired in the lower midfield, Sutil failing to make it out of Q1 again after complaining of overheating tyres, while Gutierrez made it into Q2 with a time 0.3 seconds quicker than Adrian.
Esteban made a goot start to get up to 11th on the opening lap, and that was pretty much as good as it got for the Hinwil squad. With both cars suffering an inability to use their tyres correctly and struggling with grip, Esteban attempted a three stop strategy, while Adrian stuck with two stops. Just like their Ferrari counterparts, Esteban & Adrian were rarely separated by more than a few seconds, and Gutierrez made use of his fresher tyres towards the end to pass Adrian.
Neither driver has a package that enables them to shine at the moment, but Esteban looks to be able to match and beat Adrian on a more consistent basis than the more experienced German should find acceptable.
Fastest Lap: Esteban Gutierrez (5-0 to Esteban Gutierrez) (after Round 5)
Qualifying: Esteban Gutierrez (9-6 to Esteban Gutierrez) (after Round 5)
Race: Esteban Gutierrez (15-10 to Esteban Gutierrez) (after Round 5)
Sauber: 29-16 to Esteban Gutierrez (Total After Round 5)
Force India struggled in Barcelona, but it is a reflection of their heightened standards that a result which saw both cars finish in the points is seen as a poor result. P9 & P10 was viewed as ‘damage limitation’ by Nico Hulkenberg, who was beaten home by a Sergio Perez who seems to be rediscovering the mojo that McLaren were attracted to in 2012.
Hulkenberg outqualified Perez by 0.4 seconds in Q2, with neither driver making it into the final ten, although Perez said afterward that he believed he may have made the cut had he prepared his tyres better on his final outlap in Q2. Between that and some traffic on his final run, it wasn’t to be, and the Mexican started behind Nico.
Both gained a position at the start, courtesy of Jenson Button’s bad opening lap, and the two Force India drivers then remained nose to tail for a straight 50 laps, including through their respective two stops. Similarly to Mercedes, the team also split their tyre strategies, putting Hulkenberg on the medium tyre for the short middle stint, and hard to the end, with Perez running the opposite. Perez thus ran longer on the quicker tyre, and made the mediums last 28 laps to the end, including a great DRS assisted pass around the outside of Hulkenberg into Turn 1.
Hulkenberg doesn’t appear to have lost any of the momentum that he has had since the start of the season, Sergio Perez has just responded well to the intial barrage of results from Nico. Since Bahrain, Sergio looks to have found some of the confidence that he lost while at McLaren, and is now firmly on Nico’s performance level. Will either driver crumble?
Fastest Lap: Sergio Perez (3-2 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 5)
Qualifying: Nico Hulkenberg (12-3 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 5)
Race: Sergio Perez (15-10 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 5)
Force India: 30-15 to Nico Hulkenberg (Total After Round 5)
Mercedes AMG Media
As affable a fellow as Jenson Button is, he probably would be slightly nightmarish to work for if he was an employer. His comments over the Spanish Grand Prix weekend about Kevin Magnussen’s lack of experience costing McLaren a tenth or two in terms of pace were, as true as they were, unnecessary at best and desparate at worst. Much like the everyday vicious circle that we are all familiar with, you need experience to do the job, but you need a job to gain the experience….something which Kevin is doing.
Has Jenson forgotten what it was like for him when he was the inexperienced rookie at Williams and Benetton a decade ago? Button, as the experienced team leader, is supposed to be the one that helps the team with setup and development, an area in which the team look completely lost right now. Magnussen is supposed to be the inexperienced rookie, a part he is playing perfectly and predictably…. Slightly inconsistent, slight unsure of himself sometimes, with flashes of talent to justify his presence. It is only two seasons ago since Jenson ran in the lower midfield in a car which team-mate Lewis Hamilton was challenging for podiums, and that was with two experienced World Champions in the team, so it remains to be seen whether Button’s comments are justified.
If this is an attempt from Jenson to suggest that McLaren should replace Magnussen, then that may hint at some internal pressure on the Englishman, particularly with Vandoorne now being given some track time, and revolution in the air at Woking. The McLarens looked in reasonable shape throughout practice, with Kevin quicker in FP2 & FP3, and only marginally behind Jenson in Q1. A spark plug issue put Magnussen out in Q2, while Jenson put in a great lap to get into Q3 in 8th place, ending the session in the same position.
Jenson did not have a good start to the race, falling down to 13th, and he found himself scrapping with Kevin as they approached the chicane at the end of Lap 1. Magnussen had a fairly scrappy opening lap, running onto the grass at the start while trying to pass Kyvat off the line, before he attempted to take Jenson around the outside into the chicane. Kevin ran wide, and almost collected Vettel when he rejoined the track, Button surviving the attack. Both McLarens ran an identical two stop strategy, and while Jenson opened up a ten second lead at the end of the second stops, Kevin had superior pace in the final phase, and finished only 0.6 seconds behind Button. Jenson gets the race points on this occasion, but only just.
Fastest Lap: Kevin Magnussen (4-1 to Kevin Magnussen) (after Round 5)
Qualifying: Jenson Button (9-6 to Jenson Button) (after Round 5)
Race: Jenson Button (20-5 to Jenson Button) (after Round 5)
McLaren: 30-15 to Jenson Button (Total After Round 4)
Maldonado continued his penalty points scoring streak, now up to 4 out of 5 events, showing true consistency from an otherwise inconsistent package. With the Venezuelan claiming the top 5 was possible in Barcelona prior to the weekend, he was proven exactly correct, when team-mate Grosjean qualified a magnificent 5th place. Another repair bill for Lotus after qualifying, allied with a backrow start, nibbled another little chunk out of the PDVSA money Pastor brings to Lotus.
What was odd about Pastor’s Q1 shunt was his immediate instinct to pull the clutch in and ensure the car didn’t stall, despite pointing the Lotus straight at a wall. An instinct to keep the wheels remaining on his car may be more beneficial to a driver who doesn’t appear to be learning anything from the mistakes he’s making, unlike the ever maturing Romain Grosjean. Is the Frenchman beginning to knock on the door of becoming one of the elite drivers in the sport?
Outqualifying both Ferraris of former team-mates Raikkonen and Alonso in a car which showed up considerably later to the party, as well as pulling away from a struggling Kimi in the opening stint of the race showed Grosjean’s prowess. However, a developing power unit problem meant he couldn’t keep the Ferraris behind after the pitstops, but Romain fought on, and finished a remarkable 8th to take Enstone’s first points of the season. Maldonado whacked into one of the slowest cars on the track while negotiating his way around Ericsson on Lap 3, and was given a 5 second stop and go penalty, which he took at his first stop. Proving that there is nothing particularly wrong with his pace, Maldonado only lost 3 seconds to Grosjean between Lap 22 and 66, running an identical pit and tyre strategy.
At this point of his career, it’s probably safe to assume that Pastor is not going to get any wiser or more consistent than he has shown, and it’s ironic that the money Maldonado is bringing to Lotus is probably saving former GP2 sparring partner Grosjean’s career, and not his own.
Fastest Lap: Romain Grosjean (4-1 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 5)
Qualifying: Romain Grosjean (15-0 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 5)
Race: Romain Grosjean (25-0 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 5)
Lotus: 44-1 to Romain Grosjean (Total After Round 5)
Kimi Raikkonen may have felt hard done by after Sunday’s race, as evidenced by his post race ‘interview’ where he couldn’t hide his distress. A race weekend that finally went the way it was supposed to put Raikkonen firmly back at Alonso’s level, where he should have been right from the start. Beating Alonso on Saturday, despite Ferrari exceeding the MGU-K power limits on Alonso’s car, was a great effort from Raikkonen and set him up well for the race. While a good conspiracy theory makes everything slightly more fun and tension-filled, there isn’t really enough meat to the story to suggest that Raikkonen was screwed over by Ferrari’s tactics on Sunday.
The two stop strategy, from comments from pundits and teams prior to the race, was the desired option, supposedly around seven seconds quicker over a race distance than a three stopper. With the Ferrari’s initially setting out with that aim, it’s no surprise that in the first stint they were roughly even-stevens, with Kimi arguably holding up Fernando a little. What Raikkonen may have been unpleasantly surprised by, was Alonso being brought in a lap earlier than the Finn on Lap 18, something that potentially could have given the Spaniard an advantage at that time. Alonso’s earlier stop was justified by a need to cover off Massa, which was done successfully, but almost gave Alonso track position over Kimi when the Finn stopped a lap later.
Ferrari and Alonso then swapped to a three stop strategy, and made an early second stop, while Raikkonen was left out on the medium tyres to continue with the two stopper. Where it all went wrong for Kimi was Ferrari leaving him out for a massive 26 laps on the medium tyres, longer than his eventual hard tyre stint, which didn’t make much sense. Lapping up to two seconds a lap slower than Alonso before Raikkonen made his second stop meant that Kimi started his final stint only 5 seconds clear of Fernando, with Alonso on the medium tyres. Together with Kimi failing to make use of his fresh rubber on Laps 46-49, lapping slower than Alonso whose tyres were ten laps older at that point, Raikkonen was doomed to come under intense pressure at the very end. There are some slight hints that Ferrari may have balanced the books in Alonso’s favour, due mostly to the excessively long middle stint for Raikkonen, but that could also be an innocent tactical error from an inexperienced race engineer.
Another race that just so happens to work out the same way for Alonso may hint that there is something awry, but for now, we must give Ferrari the benefit of the doubt.
What is good to see, is that Kimi was right back where he should be. There isn’t much to choose between Alonso & Raikkonen, and that was exactly the case during Sunday’s race. Kimi still has a little bit more to find before he may beat the canny Alonso, and with the Finn demonstrably antagonised by the thoughts of being No.2, its very clear that Ferrari have not gotten a demure Massa-type rear gunner for Fernando.
Fastest Lap: Fernando Alonso (4-1 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 5)
Qualifying: Kimi Raikkonen (9-6 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 5)
Race: Fernando Alonso (25-0 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 5)
Ferrari: 38-7 to Fernando Alonso (Total After Round 5)
Another head to head battle, another failure for Nico Rosberg. With a quarter of the season gone, Nico has failed to beat Lewis in a straight fight even once. Not a good omen for the young German, whose self belief is taking a severe beating over the last two months. Nico was excellent throughout the weekend. Losing most of FP1 to an ERS cooling problem didn’t seem to slow Nico down too much, as he clocked up the laps in FP2, finishing P2 to Lewis.
Nico looked as though he had turned the tables in qualifying, going fastest of all in Q1 & Q2, but Lewis found a full second between Q2 & Q3, and took pole by 0.1 seconds over a disappointed Rosberg. The start gave Nico another opportunity to redress the balance, but instead he had to worry more about defending from Valtteri Bottas than attacking Lewis.
Lewis tried to stretch his legs at the front, but wasn’t really able to pull away from Nico, and with the Mercedes trying opposite tyre strategies through the seconds and third stints, the pressure ramped up on Lewis as the race went on. While Nico was ultimately unable to quite attack Lewis as hard as he’d like, it was unlikely that he’d have been able to pass Lewis within the extra lap that he so vociferously wished he’d had. Catalunya is a difficult track to overtake at, as evidenced by Alonso’s frenzied and unsuccessful attack on Maldonado in 2012, and Lewis didn’t put a wheel wrong all race, much like he hasn’t all season.
The good news for Nico fans is that despite taking a psychological battering since Australia, it is only now that Lewis has taken the lead of the championship. Different drivers respond differently to the pressures of attacking or defending a championship lead, and it’s quite possible that Nico may respond better to being the man attacking Lewis’s championship lead, rather than defending his own. Lewis, in the meantime, is driving at his highest level since he burst onto the scene in 2007, maybe realising that this season only requires him to beat an adversary he saw off as a teenager.
Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg (4-1 to Nico Rosberg) (after Round 5)
Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton (12-3 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 5)
Race: Lewis Hamilton (20-5 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 5)
Mercedes: 33-11 to Lewis Hamilton (Total After Round 5)
Red Bull, despite being comprehensively beaten by Mercedes so far this season, are in a great place at the moment. Sebastian Vettel looks as though he has figured out his early season woes, and produced a race that showed, yet again, just how far he has come as a racer since 2009/2010. The RB10 chassis is excellent, competing with Mercedes as the best, with around 0.5 seconds a lap greater pace than teams like Williams, Ferrari, and Force India, despite running the supposedly weakest power unit.
With the team being strengthened by the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo, who is driving at or above Vettel’s level so far, there is even an argument to be made that Red Bull are even stronger than they have been over the last few seasons. The weak point, of course, is the power unit, but Red Bull’s demotion from the top of the grid is more due to Mercedes greater gains, than Red Bull performing worse. The first five races of the new formula are completed, and while Red Bull are seriously behind Mercedes, they have handled the formula change remarkably well, and with the strength of their development department arguably the best on the grid (helped by almighty resources, of course), it wouldn’t be surprising to see Red Bull close down Mercedes over the next 6 months.
It’s likely too late to challenge for this season’s titles, but the Milton Keynes squad have set themselves up very well for another few years of competing at the very top, and while Sebastian Vettel may not have enjoyed the opening races of this season, a much-rumoured move to Ferrari would be a very silly choice right now. Vettel’s weekend was disastrous, with the German scarcely getting out on track before his RB10 would ineveitably break down again. His qualifying technical failure meant he couldn’t respond to Ricciardo’s monster lap in Q2, which saw Daniel 0.4 seconds quicker than Seb. There’s nothing to suggest that Vettel wouldn’t have been there or thereabouts with Ricciardo, but with Ricciardo putting in a great lap in Q3 as well, it would be unfair to deny him the qualifying points.
Vettel’s quiet first stint aside, he produced a great race, the perfect mix of relying on strategy, aggression, and speed when required. He almost didn’t make it through Lap 1, due to Magnussen barely avoiding him at the chicane, but Vettel avoided trouble throughout. A perfectly judged move around the outside of Gutierrez on Lap 10 was one of the overtaking moves of the race, and Raikkonen & Bottas were powerless to stop the Red Bull charging through in the closing laps. Ricciardo’s start wasn’t as good as Bottas’s, allowing the Williams to get ahead for the first stint, but once he’d cleared the Williams through the undercut, he was home free in third spot, barring any technical problems.
The gap between Vettel & Ricciardo was around 26 seconds at the chequered flag, having been 16 seconds on Lap 10. A net loss of 10 seconds over the final 56 laps, despite making an extra pitstop showed there was nothing wrong with Vettel’s pace, having been a second a lap slower in China. While Ricciardo gets the race points on this occasion, there was very little to separate the performance of the two drivers.
Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (3-2 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 5)
Qualifying: Daniel Ricciardo (12-3 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 5)
Race: Daniel Ricciardo (20-5 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 5)
Red Bull: 35-10 to Daniel Ricciardo (Total After Round 5)
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- Team Mate Battles – Chinese GP
- Team Mate Battles – Bahrain GP
- Team Mate Battles – Malaysian GP
- Team Mate Battles – Australian GP