Evenly matched. If allowed just two words to summarize the FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA PIRELLI 2017, these two would suffice. Ferrari and Mercedes proved to be evenly matched in a tight race, eventually racked up by Lewis Hamilton -who added the 55th Grand Prix victory to his personal account. The Briton came in 3.4 seconds clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who holds on to the world championship lead with a reduced 6 point gap over Hamilton. Daniel Ricciardo collected third place for Red Bull. Home drivers Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) and Fernando Alonso (McLaren Honda) finished the day in 7th and 12th place overall. Altogether, 177,984 fans enjoyed the Formula 1 experience live at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya over the weekend, and a capacity crowd of 94,623 cheered their heroes at Sunday’s showdown.
All the cars landed in the first European round with substantive updates, and innovations trimmed the gap between the Brackley and Maranello teams. Hamilton clinched the pole by a tiny half a tenth difference. However, a suboptimal start allowed Vettel to power into the first corner and nab the lead. This being a track with limited overtaking opportunities, the run down to the first corner at the Spanish Grand Prix is said to account for half a victory… the rest going down to tyre management and pit stop strategy.
In the first stint on soft tyres, Vettel ruled unchallenged. When pitting in lap 15, the German chose the soft compound again, and then the tactical battle moved to the garages. Hamilton stayed on the track for 7 additional laps and left the pits shod on medium tyres, heavily betting on keeping his last set of softs for the final stint. And then, a race incident tilted the scale in his favour.
Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren Honda) clipped Felipe Massa’s Williams going into Turn 1. The car was marooned on the gravel with a broken steering system. The Virtual Safety Car was therefore deployed, and Mercedes called Hamilton to the pits in a smart move, thus wiping out Vettel’s lead. The German was subsequently forced to pit for protection. As Vettel left the pit lane, the two cars run abreast and even seemed to touch at the end of the home straight.
With medium tyres and a dwindling gap, Vettel yielded to Hamilton’s soft tyre performance after five laps. From then on, Hamilton kept an eye on the championship leader, and strived to save his tyres to bring the car home.
In this two-horse race, the third step of the podium was not under great discussion. At first, it seemed it would end in Valtteri Bottas’s hands. Although he was not in the pace to challenge the lead, was well en route for a third place finish. Approaching the halfway point, however, his power unit surrendered and smoke poured out of the 4-race old engine he had been forced to reinstate on the eve of the event.
Two of the main contenders had already taken the long sad way back to their garages: Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) crashed in the first corner after Bottas clipped the Finn. So the path was cleared for Ricciardo to climb to podium, ahead of the Force India pair Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon (4th and 5th), with Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault coming in 6th fastest.
Carlos Sainz finished 7th after struggling to overhaul the cars ahead of him. He showed a competitive spirit on the Toro Rosso, and matched his best performance this year, in the Chinese GP. Sainz crossed the finish line in 8th place, but inched one place forward after Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber) was given a 5-second penalty for a pit lane error.
Fernando Alonso’s hopes were ruined at the very get-go, when Massa run into him in Turn 2. He was pushed onto the gravel and his praiseworthy seventh place on starting grid was put to waste. The Spaniard crossed the finish line in 12th place, successfully completing a Grand Prix for the first time this season.
Surprise comes knocking on the Formula 2 door
Nobuharu Matsushita (Art Grand Prix) secured victory in the second F2 race this weekend at the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya. Dams pair Oliver Rowland and Nicholas Latifi completed the podium. After leading with authority, Latifi run wide with only 4 laps to go, and had to be content with third place. Championship leader and first-race winner Charles Leclerc (Prema Racing) vaulted up the field to 4th. Home drivers Sergio Canamasas (Trident) and Roberto Merhi (Campos Racing), put up a strong performance, coming from the end of the starting grid and winding up 11th and 12th.
Imposing victory for Maini in the second GP3
Arjun Maini was crowned a convincing winner at the second GP3 race at the Circuit de Barcelona–Catalunya. The Indian Jenzer Motorsport driver stamped his authority from start to finish, and racked up his first victory this season. Dorian Boccolacci (Trident) finished a strong second, and Italian Alessio Lorandi (Jenzer Motorsport) revisited the third step of the podium he had already climbed onto in the first race. After the opening round, Nirei Fukuzumi (ART Grand Prix) leads the overall standings.
Ammermüller, unrivalled in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup
Michael Ammermüller certified his dominance of the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup with a back-to-back win at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. It took the German Lechner MSG Racing Team driver to grab a lead he was never to relinquish. Norwegian Dennis Olsen (Walter Lechner Racing Team) finished second, a repeat of his result in the previous race. Pole sitter Matt Campbell (Fach Auto Tech) visited the podium for the first time in this exciting championship.
FIA Formula 2, GP3 Series and Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup race news are available at www.circuitcat.com