Nico Rosberg won the Spanish GP at Catalunya with a strong drive from pole as Mercedes posted yet another 1-2 finish, with Hamilton second and Ferarri’s Sebastian Vettel third.
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 11, 2015
This article titled “Nico Rosberg wins Spanish F1 Grand Prix to cut Lewis Hamilton’s title lead” was written by Paul Weaver at the Circuit de Catalunya, for The Guardian on Sunday 10th May 2015 14.05 UTC
There was no surprise in encountering a relieved and ecstatic Toto Wolff, his face beaming in the Catalan sunshine, an hour after the conclusion to the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday. This was not the perfect race for Lewis Hamilton, who came second to Nico Rosberg and had his world championship lead cut by seven points, but in the eyes of Wolff, the Mercedes team’s motorsport chief, it was almost faultless: the drivers produced another 1-2 result and hardly saw each other throughout the race, so reducing the considerable potential for a nasty coming together of the two cars.
Rosberg put together a very solid race, starting well from his pole position and winning comfortably by 17.5 seconds for the ninth victory of his career. But considering everything he had to put up with, a case can be made for judging Hamilton’s the more impressive afternoon. His poor start on the dirty side of the track compromised his race and it was even more seriously damaged when his team fluffed his first pit-stop, ruining his chance to get past second-placed Sebastian Vettel. That forced him into a three-stop strategy, against Rosberg’s two, and in effect ended his chances of winning.
Wolff said: “The result feels like P1 and P1. Because on a three-stop, with a compromised start, a compromised pit stop, finishing P2 is really great driving from Lewis. Both of them were faultless and it is extremely satisfying that we can pull it out even when things are not running perfectly.
“The pit stop compromised Lewis’s race a lot. We have to analyse it but it looks like a problem with the wheel gun.”
Rosberg got off to a strong start from pole but Hamilton made a sluggish getaway alongside him and was immediately passed by Vettel’s Ferrari and almost by Valtteri Bottas in the Williams.
So one of Hamilton’s best chances of getting into the lead – on the long, 800-yard stretch to the first corner – was already gone. And it was merely the start of a difficult afternoon.
Rosberg, making the most of his first pole since the end of last season, stretched his legs at the front and by the end of the fifth lap his lead over Vettel was already 3.1 seconds. On lap nine Mercedes informed Hamilton: “We’re thinking of Plan B,” indicating a three-stop strategy.
But when he did come in, at the end of Lap 13, it was poorly handled, taking 5.3 seconds. Vettel then went into the pits, but his new rubber took only 2.3 seconds to fit, a gain of three seconds, and he retained his lead. It was a crucial moment in the race.
Hamilton sounded a little grumpy all afternoon, not without reason, and his mood might have darkened when he heard that Rosberg’s first stop took just 2.85 seconds.
After botching Hamilton’s stop, Mercedes told him: “You will have to pass Vettel on track.” Hamilton replied: “I can assure you that’s pretty much impossible. Find another solution.” When Mercedes next talked to Hamilton, he replied, testily: “Don’t talk to me through corners.” Which doesn’t leave a lot of time for conversation.
Overtaking is difficult at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, even when a driver is within DRS range, which explains why eight of the last 10 pole winners have gone on to take the race. Here, it added to Hamilton’s frustrations.
When he came in again halfway through the race he was told he could push his tyres hard, suggesting he would come in a third time before the end of the race. He did so but, by the time he emerged from that, Rosberg was 22 seconds ahead and out of sight. Hamilton said: “I clearly got a bad start. I had lots of wheel spin. But it was a good race. Nico did a fantastic job and I’m grateful that I could get back up to the podium for the team. This was a difficult weekend for me, but I’ll definitely take it.” This was the 75th podium finish of his career.
Vettel was third and was followed by Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa. It was a deeply frustrating day for McLaren, who were hoping to make some sort of a step forward with their upgrades and to score their first points of the year. Jenson Button was 16th and Fernando Alonso was forced to retire with brake problems.
Button said: “The first 30-odd laps were the scariest 30 laps of my life. The rear just wasn’t there. Any time I touched the throttle at any speed, the rear was gone. It just wasn’t normal.
“The rear felt like it wasn’t connected to the front. It felt like every gust of wind had a massive snap. It was pretty horrific for the first half of the race. Switch changes and new tyres at the end helped a bit.”
He added: “After today I don’t think I expect points at all this year, but hopefully today was an off-day.”
At one point Alonso, who was on a different strategy, was running seventh. But he had to retire and when he came in he overshot and knocked over a jack.
It was a difficult day for the jack men. Romain Grosjean also overshot in his Lotus to send a member of his team tumbling to the ground. Most of the action took place in the pits.
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