Spanish GP | Hamilton edges Vettel after VSC pit stop

Lewis Hamilton wins the 2017 Spanish Grand Prix.

The Spanish Grand Prix had seen 10 different drivers stand gladly upon the top step of the podium in the past 10 races. Etching their name onto the trophy for the first time, like Verstappen and Maldonado, or adding to their tallies, like Alonso and Raikkonen. This year, the man standing on the top of the podium with a beaming smile was Lewis Hamilton, as he claimed his second victory around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Ending the run of new winners in Spain.

The run of new consecutive winners in Spain could have gone either way in 2016. When Hamilton and Rosberg, both previous winners, fought from the front when the race engaged.

But when the two collided and took each other out of contention, Verstappen snuck in to claim his maiden and only win to date in Formula One. Preventing his team-mate from continuing the flow of fresh winners and Raikkonen from bucking the trend.

And at first when Formula One returned to its European heartland, the trend coming to an end looked more likely as Hamilton took control from the first session of the weekend. Setting the fastest laps in both Friday practice sessions as his weekend got off to a comfortable and controlled start.

The same could not be said for Vettel and Ferrari, though. For while the championship leader bettered the Silver Arrows’ pace on Saturday morning, the German’s Ferrari was left limping with an engine issue. Keeping the team busy ahead of qualifying, as they were forced into a full power unit change.

Their efforts then seemed rushed when qualifying engaged and Vettel was asked to switch off. Luckily for the team, though, Vettel’s calm “are you sure?” gave his pitwall another chance to check their data, noting a sensor error was the cause for their concern.

With that blip in the past, Vettel then set about fighting Hamilton for pole. A battle that went the distance and saw Formula One’s target of five seconds a lap faster cars reached as Hamilton snatched pole by just five-hundredths of a second.

Lewis Hamilton clinching pole for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton clinching pole for the Spanish Grand Prix. Photo credit: Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

Pole, though, does not mean victory. Especially when the German mustered the better launch to pull alongside Hamilton when the lights went out. Keeping the front row in the lead and in with a shout of extending the 23 wins from the last 26 Spanish Grand Prix.

Hamilton did not have a poor start himself, but as the second stage kicked in Vettel simply drove out the box to move alongside the pole-sitter. Taking the inside line into the opening corner and keeping his nose ahead to take the lead.

But while one Ferrari took the lead, the other was taking the Rallycross route out of the race after contact with both Bottas and Verstappen.

No fault could be placed firmly at either drivers’ foot, as Bottas tucked himself onto the apex after breaking marginally early. Raikkonen then saw that as a chance to get ahead as he switched to the outside line and pinched down to take the place. Ultimately clipping the Mercedes’ front tyre and flicking the Ferrari into the Red Bull on the outside – snapping both Raikkonen’s and Verstappen’s front suspension arms as the pair bounced across the speed humps.

Contact continued throughout the field as they field through the opening corners. Seeing Fernando Alonso’s amazing qualifying effort of seventh place for McLaren-Honda thrown away as he was clipped by Massa and pushed into the gravel trap. Losing the home-favourite places, while his ex-Ferrari team-mate limped back to the Williams’ box with a puncture.

Massa pitting early on left the Brazilian far down the order and running almost a lap down from the start of the race. Gradually being caught more and more by Vettel and Hamilton, as the Briton radioed in: “It’s not easy to keep up with him {Vettel]”.

Struggling to keep hold of the Ferrari left the Mercedes pitwall considering an undercut. But that option was soon taken off the table when Vettel came into the pits. Yet his clean track they had aimed for was not on offer either, with Felipe Massa stopping again marginally down the road.

At least with fresh tyres, Vettel could lap the Williams that stole his clean air. Picking up his pace to reduce Hamilton’s lead the longer the Mercedes remained out on his qualifying tyres.

Still out as well remained Valtteri Bottas, as the Finn adopted the race lead when Hamilton eventually stopped. Following Carlos Sainz and Kevin Magnussen in stopping, as the two jousted again for the low points scoring places.

Sainz and Magnussen first came close on track at the start of the race. But not as close as the pair came when exiting the pits after a quick stop by the Toro Rosso mechanics allowed Sainz to depart first.

Haas’ garage being closer to the pit exit, though, allowed Magnussen to nick in front at the last chance. Forcing Sainz to flick back across the pit lane to prevent any contact, yet opening the door to a run out onto the track.

Sainz’s risky run, however, was just that. Risky. As the Spaniard attempted to drive out of the pits, he ran out onto the grass and lost the ground he was attempting to gain.

As for Hamilton, his rears had begun to fall away prior to his stop. Taking to the pits for a change onto the medium tyres and elevating the Russian Grand Prix winner into the lead of the Spanish Grand Prix.

Vettel on soft tyres, though, was catching the Finn with ease, but now in a situation where he had to get ahead as soon as possible. Closing the gap out of the final corner, while DRS welcomed a lunge into the opening bend.

Bottas https-::twitter.com:MercedesAMGF1:status:863756593917198336

Valtteri Bottas running during the Spanish Grand Prix. Photo credit: Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

Strong defence by Valtteri, however, kept Vettel behind as Hamilton began to reduce the gap. But all his efforts to aid his team-mate’s race nearly came to an end at Turn 10 as Bottas locked up and narrowly avoided allowing Vettel through.

The lost time, though, did come to Valtteri’s demise moments after as Vettel was able to edge closer. Swiftly using Bottas’ error to dummy a move to the Finn’s inside before flicking back to the outside and inside again – clipping the grass as he moved ahead.

Now back out in front, Vettel was able to regain some of the lost margin over Hamilton. Stretching his middle stint to prevent a pro-longed period on the slower medium tyres.

But the German’s effort was soon in vein as Stoffel Vandoorne took himself out of the race through contact with Massa at Turn 1.

Stoffel had been running ahead of the Williams driver. But through the limitations of his Honda power unit, Massa was able to easily breeze up alongside the McLaren. Almost catching the Belgian surprised as he simply turned in as if Massa was not there – breaking the front right suspension of his McLaren at the spot that terminated Verstappen and Raikkonen’s races. While also handing himself a three-place grid penalty for the upcoming Monaco Grand Prix.

The stricken McLaren then called for a Virtual Safety Car as marshals edged towards the track. Handing Sauber a welcome chance to stop Pascal Wehrlein for the first time as he continued to run within the points.

Pascal was not alone in pitting under the VSC, either. With Mercedes taking Hamilton back off the medium tyres while Vettel continued to slug around at the set pace. Leaving Lewis facing a long stint on soft tyres to see the flag without further pit stops.

Perfect timing by Mercedes, as well, saw Lewis exit the pits as the VSC ended and racing speeds resumed. Giving Hamilton the chance to push as Vettel came in, instantly killing his eight-second lead to leave the German exiting the pits alongside Hamilton.

Greater speed thanks to full racing conditions had allowed Lewis to carry greater speed down the pit straight. Going side-by-side into the first corner with neither driver wanting to give the other the lead.

That being the case, Vettel eased off the brakes early to stop Lewis from nosing ahead through the opening bend. Understeering marginally with his tighter turning angle, and forcing the Mercedes off the road.

Hamilton: “That was dangerous,” but no action was taken by the Stewards.

After playing the team game by holding Vettel up, Bottas completed his pit stop too to return in third place. His race, however, was soon over as he pushed through Turn Three before being hit with a sudden turbo failure in his old power unit hastily put back in after a water leak during practice.

Flames flowed gently out of the rear of Bottas’ car once the Finn parked aside the track. Safely keeping the race flowing as Hamilton dragged himself closer to Vettel with each passing lap.

Vettel https-::twitter.com:ScuderiaFerrari:status:863750646603939840

Sebastian Vettel during the Spanish Grand Prix. Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari.

Moving closer to the Ferrari, however, was the easy part. Taking the lead from Vettel was another challenge. A challenge which took until lap 44 before Vettel could no longer utilise DRS to defend and was forced to accept Hamilton was moving ahead as he lunged through under braking.

Now back in front of Vettel, Hamilton considered stretching the margin knowing Sebastian would come back to him later in the race on the medium tyres. But at the same time, Ferrari was considering another pit stop as their remaining driver held a more than comfortable margin over third placed Ricciardo.

The brief consideration was no more than that, though. With both Vettel and Hamilton continuing to the flag as they negotiated lap traffic. Something that nearly caught Vettel out and take away his chance at victory, as the Ferrari driver out-braked himself at turn 10 to nearly collect the rear of Massa.

That warning for Vettel was then met by Hamilton showing he still had life in his old soft tyres as he set the new fastest lap of the race as the chequered flag began to loom.

The chequered flag being unravelled did not mean the action was over yet, though. With Daniil Kvyat and Kevin Magnussen now putting a Toro Rosso and a Haas at war despite the Russian qualifying at the back of the grid.

The late fight between Kvyat and Magnussen saw the Russian attempt to run around the outside at turn four. Something Magnussen was not prepared to do as he lifted off the brakes to edge out towards the outer limits of the track and towards the Toro Rosso. Clipping the front wing of the Red Bull Cola liveried car and leaving himself with a puncture to end his chances of points.

In the remaining Red Bull car, Daniel Ricciardo crossed the line to claim his first podium finish of the year. Ending Red Bull’s run of podium lacking results, despite crossing the line 75-seconds off the lead of the race.

Pos. Driver Chassis Engine Time Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 1:35’56.497 25
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 3.49 18
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG 1’15.820 15
4 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1 lap 12
5 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1 lap 10
6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault 1 lap 8
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso Renault 1 lap 6
8 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1 lap 4
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Renault 1 lap 2
10 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1 lap 1
11 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 2 laps
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 2 laps
13 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 2 laps
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 2 laps
15 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault 2 laps
16 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 2 laps
Ret Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes
Ret Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda
Ret Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG
Ret Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari