Winners and Losers at the Spanish Grand Prix
12 May 2014 – The Spanish Grand Prix yielded yet another thrilling Mercedes intra-team battle, with Lewis Hamilton again getting the better of Nico Rosberg to notch up his fourth successive victory and move into the lead of the championship. As the dust settles, GPUpdate.net presents its winners and losers...
Lewis Hamilton, who had never previously excelled at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, bossed Friday practice and ended the day odds on for victory. But changes made on Saturday meant the car went away from him, leading him to struggle during final practice and qualifying. Nevertheless, when it mattered the Brit put the car on pole position and made a flawless getaway from top spot. He managed his tyres well and executed his race strategy to notch up a fourth successive victory and perhaps more crucially, the lead of the championship. All of this, despite repeatedly claiming that Nico Rosberg remains the faster Mercedes driver. Mind games?
Daniel Ricciardo arrived in Barcelona riding the crest of a wave after an impressive start to his Red Bull career. The Australian driver was regularly 'best of the rest' across practice and qualified his RB10 in third place. A bad start saw him drop behind Valtteri Bottas and he was perhaps a little fortunate to retain fourth position. He had a go at passing the Finn but settled to do it through the pit stop phase and duly emerged in third place when all was said and done. By then, the half minute gap to Mercedes was insurmountable but he drove a mature, if lonely, race to claim the first official podium of his Formula 1 career.
Valtteri Bottas and Williams had so far not lived up to pre-season expectations. But in Spain the Finn excelled, despite having to sit out the first 90 minute session in favour of reserve driver Felipe Nasr. Bottas put in a stellar lap in qualifying to take fourth place on the grid, which translated into third on the first lap once Ricciardo bogged down. Williams opted to put Bottas on a two stop strategy and ultimately he was unable to fend off the advances of Ricciardo, while later in the race a charging Vettel made his way through on fresh option tyres. But 10 points is a strong haul for a team currently in the mix for a solid placing in the championship.
It was all going fairly well for Pastor Maldonado during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend. He was popping up in the top 10 across practice while team-mate Romain Grosjean struggled with the feeling of the Lotus E22. At the circuit where he emerged victorious two years ago, perhaps this was Maldonado's time to shine? Such thoughts quickly diminished a few minutes into qualifying when the Venezuelan kept his foot in it exiting turn three and shunted the car into the barrier. Game over. He started from last on the grid which handily gave him 21 cars to run into – he chose his closest rival Marcus Ericsson and punted the Swede onto the grass. Maldonado was duly handed a five second stop and go penalty for his latest, and probably not final, transgression.
In a parallel universe a driver called Jean-Éric Vergne can exploit his potential with a consistently reliable car. But in this world the Frenchman is left to pick up the pieces when it all goes wrong, which it did in Barcelona. The car was not necessarily in the mix for points, but his race was effectively over when his right rear wheel adopted an alternative approach to turn two during Friday practice. He received the obligatory 10 place grid drop and the team was fined. In the race a brake problem developed within his STR9 but it was an exhaust failure which condemned him to a third retirement in five races. Monaco and Montreal – two circuits which traditionally suit his aggressive style – are up next. Crucial times for the Frenchman.
McLaren's difficult season continued in Spain, with Jenson Button admitting that the team is probably further off the pace relative to the opposition compared to their annus horribilis in 2013. Button qualified in the top 10 but made a bad start and dropped down the order. It was a strategic error which ultimately compromised his race as in attempting to jump one of the Force India drivers during the second stop, Button was delayed in the pits by the arrival of Daniil Kvyat. Upon emerging from the pits, the Brit was stuck behind race leader Hamilton, who was on much older tyres. Unable to exploit the best of the tyres, Button had to settle for 11th. Kevin Magnussen meanwhile had his weekend scuppered by a spark plug failure in Q1, which left him out of Q2. He touched Sebastian Vettel on the first lap and spent much of the race following Button, eventually coming home half a second behind.