Spanish GP 2017: Sebastian beaten by Hamilton after courageous battle

To be honest, it has been a bit difficult for me to get my feet back on the ground after the magical and unforgettable Russian GP weekend. However, now I’m back to watching Formula 1 on TV at home again. What an exciting GP weekend this has been!

My heart skipped a few beats in qualifying already as Sebastian was hit with unexpected reliability issue in Q1. Sebastian had just embarked on a quick lap when he was instructed first to stop the car and then to pit. However, he got instructions on the team radio to make changes on the engine settings and, miraculously, Sebastian banged in the fastest lap time! It was extremely tight between Mercedes and Ferrari during the qualifying. All top teams had brought major upgrades to Barcelona, but, as it seemed, they had no significant effect on the current pecking order. The upgrade packages of Mercedes and Ferrari seemed to be of almost equal value.

Hamilton had been lacking performance in Russia, but at Circuit de Catalunya the Briton was back on top. Hamilton conquered the pole, but only 51 thousandths of a second separated him from Sebastian Vettel! Sebastian made an impressive improvement on his second run and he was well ahead of the Briton in the first two sectors. Unfortunately, Sebastian couldn’t quite get the last chicane right, and he lost four tenths in the last sector compared to Hamilton! Teammate Bottas qualified third, and Kimi had to settle for P4. In spite of the upgrades, Red Bull was still significantly down from the top two. Verstappen was only half a second off pole-setter Hamilton, but teammate Ricciardo was already over a second down on Hamilton. Home hero Alonso in his McLaren surprised everyone by qualifying 7th.

The red-suited drivers shared mixed fortunes at the race start. Sebastian on the front row took a magical start and stormed to the lead past Hamilton. Teammate Kimi had an unfortunate incident going into Turn 1. Compatriot Bottas hit the right rear of Kimi’s SF70-H, causing Kimi to crash into Verstappen’s RB13. Due to the collision, Kimi’s suspension got damaged and the Iceman’s race was over. Verstappen made it into the pits, but the Dutchman had no choice but to retire. What a disappointing start to the race!

On the other hand, I was happy to see how quick Sebastian was. He was able to build the gap between him and Hamilton lap by lap. Sebastian’s driving was such a pleasure to watch; he seemed self-confident and determined to win the race. Sebastian was the first top driver to pit already on lap 15. The German opted for another set of soft tyres, and re-joined the track right behind ex-teammate Ricciardo. I was impressed to see a great overtaking move by Sebastian shortly after his pit stop. Hamilton, who did not pit until lap 22, turned out to have a different tyre strategy. The Briton opted for a fresh set of white-marked medium Pirellis and re-joined the track in P3. Sebastian had chased down Bottas, who hadn’t pitted yet. The Finn made everything he could to keep the hungry German behind him, but Sebastian was passionate to get past. On the finish straight he made a bold overtaking move, which even made him go wide. But Sebastian snatched the race lead from Bottas back to himself!

Lap35 was a turning point in the race, as McLaren’s Vandoorne and Williams’ Massa collided when fighting for positions at the back of the pack. Massa dived into the outside of Vandoorne to make an overtaking move, but the Belgian ended up crashing into the Brazilian. Vandoorne’s car got stuck in the gravel and virtual safety car was deployed. Hamilton pitted for the second time; he was going to run the soft tyres on his last stint. Sebastian pitted a lap later, but the Ferrari ace had to opt for the medium compound to fulfil the tyre rule. There was a hair-raising battle with Hamilton as Sebastian exited the pits. My heart definitely skipped a few beats, as Sebastian and Hamilton were battling wheel-to-wheel! Their wheels even touched slightly but Sebastian managed to keep the Mercedes ace behind him. Meanwhile, Bottas experienced a bitter moment, as his engine blew up without any warning and he had to park his Silver Arrow on the track.

Hamilton started to put serious pressure on race leader Sebastian. The Briton had already gotten within DRS distance from the German and, in addition to that, he had an advantage in terms of the tyre compound. The inevitable happened on lap 44; Hamilton moved past Sebastian on the finish straight. After that, Sebastian did everything he could to challenge Hamilton for the victory, but, unfortunately, the Briton had the upper hand this time. Hamilton drove to the chequered flag as the race winner - for the 55th time in his career.

At the halfway point of the race I honestly thought that victory was within Sebastian’s grasp. That’s why I was kind of disappointed not to see him on the top step of the podium, although he drove a brilliant race. In my opinion, Sebastian was the quicker of the two, but Hamilton had the better strategy, plus he benefitted from the virtual safety car. Ricciardo in his RB13 completed the podium. Shocking is the fact that the "Smiling Avenger" was already 75 seconds down on race winner Hamilton! The pink-liveried Force Indias had an amazing weekend, as Perez finished 4th and teammate Ocon 5th. And who could have predicted to see Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein in P8? All in all, I’m extremely happy that Sebastian is still leading the drivers’ championship standings with 104 points to Hamilton’s 98. Mercedes has an upper hand in the constructors’ standings, as they have 161 points to Ferrari’s 153. So, the battle will get even more heated in Monaco in a fortnight!

What really made a huge impression on me today was the heart-warming and touching gesture by Kimi and the whole Ferrari team during the race. After the unlucky first-corner incident between Bottas, Kimi and Verstappen, there was a small Ferrari fan in the international TV footage, crying heart-broken because of Kimi’s retirement. Around the halfway point of the race the very same boy was in the TV footage again, this time in Ferrari motorhome comforted by Kimi himself! I got cold shivers when I saw this adorable gesture by Kimi and the whole Ferrari team. I mean, Formula 1 is all about strong emotions! I’m sure this little boy will remember this day for the rest of his life. And this has definitely made him admire Kimi even more!

With passion for racing red, 
Iina Huhmarniemi

May 15, 2017
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