Spanish GP

Spanish GP power rankings

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Welcome to the European season! With so many changes in the air, we're pulling one ourselves with the introduction of the "power rankings" (aka, the ratings formerly known as Winners and Losers).

In a lacklustre race, let's review who's hot and who's not.

Moving on up

Lewis Hamilton looked like the reigning champion of old, taking a commanding pole position and controlling the race from lights to flag. Extending his lead over his main rival, it finally looks like Hamilton's championship challenge is hitting its stride.

Max Verstappen managed to put together a complete weekend for the first time this year, and was rewarded with a (unexpected?) podium. Despite almost losing his front wing behind Lance Stroll on the VSC restart, he kept his nose metaphorically and literally clean for the rest of the race and hopefully gets himself out of the dog house.

Charles Leclerc delivered Sauber their second successive points finish, with the current-gen Ferrari engines powering them to another impressive result. In fact, when the only downside from your weekend was that you forgot how doors work, things are going pretty well. 

Back-sliding

Ferrari are the talking point of the race, with their questionable decision to stop for fresh Medium tyres during the VSC. A dodgy stop didn't help, and Vettel tumbled from a steady 2nd position to 4th and never recovered. Although Vettel defended the move, it seems all teams were expecting to two-stop, and Mercedes shifting to a one-stop meant Bottas was unlikely to attack. Whether it was a strategic or technical set-up issue, these are points Vettel can't afford to lose.

Romain Grosjean just can't seem to keep it together. His first-lap spin wiped out a number of other cars and earned him a three-spot grid drop for next race. Although he has claimed there was little he could do, it does raise a question mark over the guy formerly labelled a "first-lap nutcase". Like Verstappen, after a series of incidents in successive races, he needs to pull his head in and get a decent result. Soon.

▼ Twitter's post-race show launched after the race, and although it was their inaugural effort, it leaves a lot to be desired. After many attempts, we finally got the show to load, but having missed most of the action the content was underwhelming, pulling audiences around the 7,000 mark. Add to this the complication of how users will actually find the content in the first place, and it becomes clear there's still plenty of work to do.

Honorable mention: F1 TV Pro launched to mixed reviews, with users reporting low-pixelation and drop outs throughout the weekend. A rocky start for a service that delayed its launch to work out the bugs.

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Tell us your Driver of the Day from the Spanish GP!

Ricciardo points the finger, hints at future team orders after Baku crash

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As expected, as drivers hit the track ahead of the Spanish GP there was only one real topic of discussion: What happened at Red Bull after their drivers took each other out in Azerbaijan?

Ricciardo hasn't wasted any time, saying he had a gap that was taken away from him, leaving him a passenger and unable to influence the crash.

From RaceFans.net's coverage

“I definitely committed early enough and, at the time, with a clear inside,” said Ricciardo. “I’m then on the brakes and when you get the air taken away, you could see I tried to pull out of it but there was no real escape route after that.

“You lose all downforce and everything. Even the brakes, they lock a lot easier when you don’t have the downforce on. That was like the end result but it was due to that inside closing up.”

His comments would suggest that either the team agrees with his assessment of the incident, or at least hasn't told their drivers that they can't talk openly about it.

Although all angles have been considered, from what the drivers could have done to what the team could have done, the only clear takeaway from the comments is that all parties are doing their best to avoid inflammatory comments that escalate the situation.

Interestingly, Ricciardo has come of these discussions with the impression that — if the situation were to happen again — the team may use team orders to control the situation.

“I think if it got to that point again where there’s banging wheels and stuff then [they would]. Especially if the car [behind] is faster then you’d probably expect at some point they’ll [say] swap cars and release one of them. There’s no guarantee but that was one thing they certainly talked about.”

Perhaps it's because Verstappen is committed to the team for the coming years, while Ricciardo is shopping his services around, but the previous agreements where the faster driver is released with the understanding that if they don't progress up the field the position is given back seem like a distant memory.

Winners and Losers: Spanish Grand Prix

Big winners

  • Lewis Hamilton can thank a perfect strategy for getting him on to the top step. Waiting until the end of the Virtual Safety Car period to pit (when his Medium tyres still had plenty of life) was a masterstroke that forced Sebastian Vettel to respond by pitting but did so while his competitor was flat out down the main straight and on his way to steal yo race victory.
  • Force India claimed 4th and 5th and leave Spain with a swag of points. They put some distance between themselves and their nearest rivals... unless you consider Red Bull their nearest rivals, which isn't as crazy as it sounds. 
  • That Ferrari kid who captured the attention of the race director bawling his eyes out when Kimi retired at the first corner. A joint effort between Ferrari and FOM saw him invited into the paddock to meet Kimi and the team, presumably they shared an ice-cream. He'll be the most popular kid at school on Monday.

Big losers

  • Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen who were both skittled out at the first corner by Bottas. All drivers were blameless, but it left Bottas free to "race" (aka following the leaders at a cautious distance). That is, until his faithful engine that powered him to his debut victory crapped out. 
  • Fernando Alonso had high hopes of defending his qualifying position of P7, but when Massa was trying to avoid the incident at Turn 1, Alonso was pushed wide and the chance of a points finish at his home race slipped through his fingers. But, the wait is finally over and Fernando is off to Indy... what a weekend it is going to be!
  • Lance Stroll again failed to deliver, finishing only his second race of the year albeit the last of the running cars. Get used to seeing Stroll and Palmer's name in the "losers" column unless their form drastically improves.

Verstappen claims astounding victory on debut for Red Bull

In a thrilling finish to the Spanish GP Max Verstappen has won his debut race for the Red Bull senior team, becoming the youngest driver to win a race ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.

Any criticism aimed at the Red Bull camp for switching Verstappen and Kvyat after Sochi was silenced as Verstappen unveiled yet another weapon in his arsenal; conserving tyres while defending. The result gives Red Bull their first win since Belgium in 2014, and announces the arrival of a new F1 superstar in the machinery to challenge for victories.

"It feels amazing, I can't believe it," said Verstappen on the podium. "I need to thank the team for giving me such a great car. To win straight away in the first race is an amazing feeling."

In the final ten laps Verstappen led the race, with Kimi Raikkonen close behind and both trying to make their ageing tyres last well past the optimal operating window. Behind them Ricciardo was chasing down Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari who had pitted earlier in the hope of grabbing track position leaving the Australian all the work to do.

The 2nd place was enough for Kimi to jump Hamilton to claim second place in the drivers' championship on 61 points ahead of Lewis' 57.

In the end the battle for P3 was too much for Ricciardo, who was also defending from a lapped Daniil Kvyat before suffering a left-rear puncture, amazingly still finishing fourth ahead of Valtteri Bottas in P5.

Speaking after the race Ricciardo was bemused about the strategy choice which saw him drop from the lead to fourth and the opportunity for a podium, let alone a race win, slipping through his fingers.

"It's frustrating, it feels like we threw the win away today," Ricciardo vented. "I don't understand why... Normally the guy in the lead gets the best strategy."

On the attempts to overtake Vettel, Ricciardo was unapologetic. "Apparently he said I was a bit aggressive on the radio. Typical." 

On the opening lap, Hamilton managed to hold his lead off the start line, but Rosberg pulled into his slipstream and carried a speed advantage into the next few corners eventually squeezing past Hamilton for the lead. Coming back at Nico, Hamilton made a move which Rosberg defended, leaving Hamilton no choice but to take to the grass which sent him in to a spin and collected Rosberg ruining both of their races.

It was immediately unclear which driver was at fault, although both Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff expressed their disappointment with Hamilton's challenge.

After the discussing the incident with the stewards, their decision was that the crash was a racing incident and no further action was taken.

Hamilton takes third pole for the season in Spain

Despite being ahead on pace throughout the early stages of qualifying, it was pole position for Lewis Hamilton ahead of Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo saving his best effort for the dying moments on Q3 and stealing P3 from Max Verstappen.

Searching for an incident-free weekend, Hamilton has his best chance yet of chalking up his first victory for the season and get his championship challenge back on track. 

Both Ferrari's looked unsteady with Kimi Raikkonen particularly struggling through the fast corners with understeer. 

Daniil Kvyat failed to progress into Q3, failing his first test upon returning to the Red Bull Junior team with Carlos Sainz comfortably progressing into the top ten. Kvyat also upset that the team didn't listen to his suggestion to save tyres for the race, but understandably the car was better than was able to achieve at a race that is difficult to overtake.

In Q1 Felipe Massa was a surprise exclusion and the Brazilian was visibly frustrated with the result. "I just had traffic on my first lap, and we didn't have enough time to go out again," said Massa, after the team tried to save tyres for the race by doing one run.

Red Bull showed promising speed over both Toro Rosso and Ferrari which means the races here and in Monaco could see them pulling clear of their main challengers and chasing down the Mercedes drivers.