Lewis Hamilton conquered, without much effort, the 2019 F1 Spanish GP last Sunday at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit in what was Mercedes’s fifth consecutive 1-2 of the season. His teammate Valtteri Bottas and a very strong Max Verstappen (Red Bull), completed the podium.
The disappointing Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc took fourth and fifth respectively on the asphalt of Montmelo. While, Spaniard Carlos Sainz put in a strong drive to finish eighth after climbing four positions. The lucky driver from Madrid, who managed the race to perfection, finished on the points for the second consecutive weekend.
The Barckley team continues to display an overwhelming superiority with five one-twos in five races this season and a feeling of uncontested dominance. The team from Maranello, on the other hand, seems helpless before the Germans. If the Italians want to stand a chance, they better get their act together now or the championship could become a one team game.
Hamilton takes the lead from the start
As is often the case at the Catalan circuit, the race is largely decided from the start. Lewis Hamilton managed an extraordinary exit overtaking poleman and teammate Valtteri Bottas right away. Once again the five-time champion has shown the greatest skill in a close combat situation.
As the lights went out, Bottas, Hamilton and Vettel’s cars ran in parallel to the end of the straight. Three authorities of the wheel in the struggle to claim the first bend in the lead. A very brave Vettel attempted unsuccessfully to make the most of the war between the two Silver Bullets on the outside.
The breaking in extremis of the German driver caused some tyre damage on the right front wheel which would weigh hard upon the development of the race. From that moment on, the Silver Bullet #44 would escape unrivalled.
In a couple of laps, Hamilton was nearing a 2-second advantage over Bottas. Verstappen kept behind them but ahead of Vettel and Leclerc. Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz climbed one position to eleventh place.
Struggles and hesitation in Ferrari
By the tenth lap, Leclerc was tailing Vettel persistently. The German driver, slower after the incident with his tyre was holding the #16 back. The young Monegasque was watching how his podium options were slipping away beyond recall as he couldn‘t unstick himself from his teammate.
Ferrari engineers were once again too slow on the mark as their drivers were getting further away from the leaders and Pierre Gasly was closing in from behind. Finally, Leclerc passed Vettel on the eleventh lap but it was too late for Ferrari to stand any podium chances.
Meanwhile at the lead Hamilton had opened a three-second gap with Bottas. Nine laps after that Vettel suffered a slow pit stop of 4,4 seconds and was pushed back down to the tenth position. Verstappen would copy the German driver on the following lap for his first pit stop.
On the 26th lap, it was Leclerc’s turn to go to boxes. Mercedes and Bottas would also change tyres on the following two laps. Then, bizarrely, there was a repeat on Ferrari’s strategy, roles reversed when it was Leclerc that was slowing Vettel down.
The safety car…and the tension
With just nine laps remaining it seemed as if the dice had been cast and positions would not change again. Hamilton was leading comfortably with ten seconds to spare. Bottas was second followed by Verstappen, Vettel and Leclerc.
On lap 47, however, a crash between Stroll and Norris triggered a safety car and all cars were regrouped again, shattering any accrued advantage. When the safety card abandoned the track it was the start of a new battle for glory.
In the end, the leaders didn’t shift their original positions but further down Sainz would take full advantage of the situation. The Spaniard made the most of the Hasses’ showdown to climb in front of Romain Grosjean, then tenth.
And this is how the Silver team got their fifth consecutive one-two of the season and the driver from Stevenage regained the lead of the standings. Verstappen consolidates his third position overall thanks to his excellent and very consistent year.
It seems a lot has to change for this season not to become a replica of 1988, year in which the MacLaren MP4/4 belonging to both Ayrton Senna and Allain Prost took 16 of the 17 races.
Images: McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull, Circuit of Barcelona.