Spanish Grand Prix: To the Max!
After the first four races of Mercedes dominance, Ferreri fans could be forgiven for letting out a collective sigh as their team would do no better than 5th and 6th in Saturday's qualifying. They were on the grid behind Mercedes one and two and separated further by the reemerging Red Bull team. It looked that Spain would either bring good fortune or drive a nail through any remaining pursuit of a title for teams not named Mercedes. While normally it would be too early to write off anyone, Nico Rosberg's dominance of the early season has put him in the company of others who've used seasoning opening dominance to cruise to a World championship (Schumacher and Vettel, to a name two).
This race would "not go as expected." Tension between Mercedes drivers Hamilton and Rosberg finally reached its peak, taking only take a few corners for the fury to be unleashed with both drivers finding themselves facing an internal inquiry from Mercedes and an inquiry from the race stewards after crashing out of the race. By the time they reached turn 1 Hamilton's first place was taken away by Rosberg but as they headed through turn 3 and into turn 4 something seemed off as Hamilton got an incredible run on Rosberg out of turn 3. Rosberg would move over to defend and push Hamilton onto the grass where he would become a passenger as the car lost all grip and collided with Rosberg taking them both into the turn 4 gravel trap and out of the race. Reports have emerged a day later that Rosberg's decrease in speed was due to an incorrect engine/electrical power unit management setting as Rosberg failed to select the proper engine mode until it was too late. On-board video would clarify that he was aware of his mistake in the seconds before the crash and was selecting the correct mode right before the crash. While the race stewards would not place blame on either driver it's questionable that Rosberg would close the door on Hamilton when he clearly knew that he was way down on speed due to the mode selection error. (Maybe Hamilton should have backed off when he knew he was getting chopped, but maybe he wasn't realistically expecting his TEAMMATE to take him to the wall either) It would be the first non-finish for the Mercedes team since Australia 2011.
After the wreckage was removed and the two fuming drivers were off to explain themselves to Mercedes’ central command, F1 fans would finally get an answer to the questions of what would a race look like without Mercedes pulling away from the pack.
It would become a battle between Ferrari and RedBull and most of the race would feature the top four competitors in the same television frame lap after lap. It was a battle of game-plans and patience as the teams would used pit strategy to put their drivers in the best position.
Kimi claimed a valliant second place and Vettel claimed third place after holding off Daniel Ricciardo who made several massive passing attempts into turn one in the closing laps, but Vettel would position his Ferrari perfectly to defend.
This is where we must pause to go back in time a little over week for a driver switch that may change the face of F1’s future. After an early season of missteps and collisions, including a major incident that took out Sebastian Vettel at the Russian Grand Prix, RedBull driver Daniil Kvyat would be demoted to the Toro Rosso team and 18 year old Max Verstappen would be promoted to the Red Bull seat.
After a series of pitstops Verstappen took the lead with Kimi Raikkonen following in second place. The 18 year old showed race craft rarely seen as he smartly kept Raikkonen in second. Verstappen would go on to the win and become the youngest driver to win a Formula 1 grand prix. Max did what his father Jos was never able to do in 106 attempts....laying claim to top step of the podium.
Taking everything into account, including the Mercedes-on-Mercedes violence, the Spanish Grand Prix served as a perfect canvass to show why F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport. The technology, strategy and most of all the drama would show that F1 still has it all.