Sunny and windy this morning in Barcelona, a few clouds gathering, but the rain is not falling today in Spain, unless you’re Vandoorne driving the McLaren-Honda as he takes a ten place grid penalty for a new battery and ECU. So from starting nineteenth to twentieth place, a smart move before Monaco GP all depends on how he finishes today.
Rest of the grid is all in order, with Hamilton in need of a clean start, but with Vettel beside him it will be a tightly fought battle into Turn 1.
As the lights go out, Vettel gets the better start, with Hamilton falling back, Bottas is up between them but drops back and its Verstappen on the outside with Raikkonen in the middle with Bottas on the inside.
Three a breast into turn one does not go, Raikkonen and Bottas touch, but Raikkonen is kicked off line into Verstappen and both break front steering and suspension, going off in Turn one, while Bottas drive clear, but as Verstappen and Raikkonen both rejoin the circuit in their broken unsteering cars, Massa in the Williams has to avoid them going wide and pushing Alonso out onto the gravel and grass of on the exit of turn two.
Massa comes of worst with a puncture and drops to last place as he limps back to the pits, followed by the stricken Red Bull of Verstappen, as the Ferrari of Raikkonen parks up, much to the disappointment of all the Ferrari fans, but one young boy is caught crying by the TV cameras, that sums up Raikkonen feelings on this incident with the young boys tears.
Vettel is in the lead, pulling clear of Hamilton and Bottas, with Ricciardo in fourth place and the two Force India cars in fifth and six places, nice clean start for Perez and Ocon.
Alonso has dropped down the field to eleventh place due to off track excursion, which has helped Hulkenberg in the Renault and Sainz in the Toro Rosso move up into the top ten.
Vettel is two seconds ahead of Hamilton and pulling clearer by the lap, on lap thirteen Alonso is the first to pit followed by Vandoorne in the McLaren-Honda.
Lap fourteen Hamilton has closed the gap to two seconds, upping his game and hunting down the Ferrari, while Sainz in the Toro Rosso and Magnussen in the Haas pit together and it’s a race down the pit lane, Sainz going for the overtake on the pit lane exit, running onto the grass in his attempt to pass to Magnussen.
Vettel pits on lap fifteen, coming out behind the Williams of Stroll and the Red Bull and Ricciardo. Hamilton has set the fastest lap of the race so far, while it’s not been called over the radio this session, it’s Hammer Time for Hamilton and he is pulling clear to enable a clean pit stop undercut overtake of Vettel.
Lap nineteen and Hamilton has still not stopped for tyres, but is on the radio saying looking for that pit stop call, but is told not yet by the team.
With all the early action the stewards are taking no action against any driver as they are all classed as racing incidents.
Mercedes finally call Hamilton in on lap twenty-two for the slower Medium tyre and he re-joins behind Vettel, but Bottas is in front of the Ferrari and leading the race. Vettel finally gets passed Bottas on lap twenty-five in turn one, but it has cost him time with Hamilton having an easy pass on his team mate on the next lap and the gap to Vettel is now only four seconds.
Bottas pits on lap twenty-seven, but Vettel and Hamilton are trading fastest sectors on each lap, the gap is now a steady six seconds.
Alonso makes his second stop on lap thirty-three, then on lap thirty-four as Massa running in last place makes his move on Vandoorne into turn one is hit by the McLaren-Honda. Vandoorne goes off with broken suspension and the Virtual Safety Car is out.
With the cars all running at a set speed, most head for the pits and tyre changes, Mercedes send out the pit crew, but neither Hamilton nor Bottas stop.
Lap thirty-five and Hamilton pits for the Soft tyre the faster tyre today, but Vettel still has a stop to make as he has not used the Medium soft tyre yet.
Hamilton made his stop just the VSC was ending, losing minimal time, while Vettel makes his final stop on lap thirty-eight, this could cost him the lead as he exits the pit lane, Hamilton is right beside him as they race into turn one.
Touching, brushing their rear tyres against each other, Hamilton is pushed wide while Vettel holds the line, but he did leave Hamilton room and they charge together up the hill towards turn three.
Vettel holds the lead, but just, as Hamilton is on the radio to complain that Vettel was dangerous in turn one.
Bottas retires on lap thirty-nine with a blown engine, which promotes Ricciardo in the Red Bull into third place.
Force India are quietly going about their business today running fourth and fifth now, but Hulkenberg in the Renault is up to sixth.
Wehrlein in the Sauber has driven brilliantly today, bring the underpowered Sauber into the points, running in seventh place, but fighting with Sainz and Kvyat in the Toro Rosso’s and Magnussen and Grosjean in the Haas’s.
Clean fighting in the mid field teams, but Wehrlein is given a five second penalty for crossing behind a bollard into the pit lane entry.
Hamilton is catching Vettel and while the Ferrari has the advantage with DRS on the main straight as he passes the back markers, Hamilton is only half a second behind him.
Lap forty-four and Hamilton sweeps passed Vettel into turn one, but with still a third of race to run, can Hamilton manage his tyres to the end. Radio message three laps later from Hamilton that he is overheating the rear tyres, Ferrari inform Vettel who replies, pity it hadn’t happened early.
With twenty laps left, Vettel is just behind Hamilton who cannot pull away more than five seconds from the Ferrari. Ricciardo is too far behind to make any difference to the race, but at least he gets on the podium today.
Sauber focus on the final laps to secure their points of the season with Wehrlein, while Magnussen and Kvyat come together on the run out of turn one, which results in a puncture for the Haas. Alonso has moved up to twelfth place, but is out of the points today.
Hamilton sounds exhausted on the radio as he battles with the Mercedes, holding of the charge of Vettel in the Ferrari. Ferrari however look settled for P2 today, as Kimi Raikkonen gets to meet that little boy who cried when he crashed out. Thomas he is called, has been brought into the F1 Paddock and the Ferrari motorhome, is all smiles as he meets his hero and given a hug by the Finn along with some nice new Ferrari goodies, signed by Kimi. Now that’s a heart melting moment from the not so cold Finn.
Meanwhile back in the race, Hamilton crosses the line ahead of Vettel and Ricciardo comes home over a minute behind Hamilton. So much for the Red Bull Spec ‘B’ car that has been hyped up for the past few weeks, Red Bull maybe holding on to third place, but Force India are not far behind and with both drivers scoring good points, the Bull needs to be worried.
Renault are happy with Hulkenberg in sixth place, but again Palmer has not delivered, as has the Williams team. While Massa was hit twice today, the young Lance Stroll comes home last, this loss of points is not what Williams expected this season, with Massa on a one year contract and able to get the Williams in the top seven places most races, could this be a home for Alonso next year or the Renault seat of Palmer?
Today belongs to Hamilton, but he does look tired, Vettel and Ricciardo both look fresher on the podium, maybe Hamilton needs to stop his partying and do more training, as Ferrari will be pushing him hard all season.
Five races in, Vettel leads the championship, two weeks until the F1 crown jewel race in Monaco, the return of Jenson Button and the Indy 500 race for Alonso, look out for Indy updates and the Monaco preview at In2motorsports.com
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 66 laps
2. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +3.4s
3. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +1m 15.8s
4. Sergio Perez Force India +1 lap
5. Esteban Ocon Force India +1 lap
6. Nico Hulkenberg Renault +1 lap
7. Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso +1 lap
8. Pascal Wehrlein Sauber +1 lap *
9. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso +1 lap
10. Romain Grosjean Haas +1 lap
11. Marcus Ericsson Sauber +2 laps
12. Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda +2 laps
13. Felipe Massa Williams +2 laps
14. Kevin Magnussen Haas +2 laps
15. Jolyon Palmer Renault +2 laps
16. Lance Stroll Williams +2 laps
Did not finish
17. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 39 laps completed
18. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Honda 34 laps completed
19. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 0 laps completed
20. Max Verstappen Red Bull 0 laps completed
* denotes 5 second time penalty applied for pit-entry infringement
Colin Logan for In2Motorsports.com
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