F1 2017: Spanish Grand Prix Race Recap

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Lewis Hamilton won the 2017 Spanish Grand Prix, despite second place finisher Sebastian Vettel taking the lead on the start. They would run with the German ahead for the first half of the race, despite a messy start behind them and a Virtual Safety Car. Hamilton fought back, with the two coming together as Vettel rejoined from a pit stop. Hamilton would not gain the lead then, but would do so soon after, sweeping around the Ferrari on the outside with DRS assistance. Daniel Ricciardo had a lonely race to finish third, gifted the position when Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes suffered engine failure in the latter stages.

As expected, drivers gave a show on the start, with Max Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen, and Bottas trying to put three cars side by side into T1. Neither Verstappen nor Raikkonen would complete the race due to damage. Despite the difficulties in passing at Barcelona, Formula One gave a good show for fans at the track and at home. Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon made massive headway for Force India, rounding out the top five finishers. Though Pascal Wehrlein finished seventh, he had a five second penalty added to his time.

Results of the 2017 Spanish Grand Prix

DRIVER TEAM GAP
1.  Lewis Hamilton  Mercedes
2.  Sebastien Vettel  Ferrari  3.490
3.  Daniel Ricciardo  Red Bull  1:15.820
4.  Sergio Perez  Force India  1 Lap
5.  Esteban Ocon  Force India  1 Lap
6.  Nico Hulkenberg  Renault  1 Lap
7.  Pascal Wehrlein*  Sauber  1 Lap
8.  Carlos Sainz  Toro Rosso  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  2 Laps
13.  Felipe Massa  Williams  2 Laps
14.  Kevin Magnussen  Sauber  2 Laps
15.  Joylon Palmer  Renault  2 Laps
16.  Lance Stroll  Williams  2 Laps
 Valtteri Bottas  Mercedes
 Stoffel Vandoorne  McLaren
 Max Verstappen  Red Bull
 Kimi Raikkonen  Ferrari

*5 second time penalty added to race time

Hamilton (1:19.149) kept pole away from a charging Vettel, who ended Q3 just five hundredths of a second slower after an engine change Saturday. He split the Mercedes drivers, as Bottas spoiled his early Q3 lap coming out of the final turn. Raikkonen set the fourth fastest time, making the second row of starters a Finnish row. Verstappen beat teammate Ricciardo by four tenths for a red Bull third row.

Despite only one lap run in the first practice, Alonso hauled his McLaren through all three qualifying sessions to qualify seventh in front of his home crowd. Perez, Massa, and Ocon rounded out the top ten qualifiers.

Vettel powered through an issue in Q1, staying on the circuit when the team told him to pit if he could make it back to the garage. Kvyat, who qualified an unexpected dead last, joined the more traditional fallers Ericsson, Palmer, Stroll, Vandoorne in Q1.

Palmer, Kvyat, and Vandoorne started on medium tires, with the rest of the field going for the soft option.

Race Start:
Hamilton lined up straight in his grid box, but Vettel made the faster start, leading into T1. He blocked Bottas, with Raikkonen and Verstappen dicing off the track. Multiple cars took to the gravel, with Raikkonen’s left front askew. Massa also seemed to suffer a puncture, strolling slowing back around to the garage. Verstappen looked to be limping his Red Bull around as well, complaining of suspension damage.

Replays showed a clean start, until Bottas, Raikkonen, and Verstappen tried to make T1 three-wide. Raikkonen sat in the middle, with a push from Bottas sliding Raikkonen into Verstappen. Raikkonen made the move to slide between the two younger drivers, eventually breaking his suspension over the speed bumps off the turn. The stewards decided no penalty needed to be assessed between Verstappena and Raikkonen. Behind and somewhat separately, Massa and Alonso came together, forcing the Spaniard into the gravel. The incident would be investigated by the stewards.

Vettel, led Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Peres, Massa, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Magnusen, Wehrlein, as the top ten at the end of L1. Alonso dropped to 13. Vettel gained a massive lead over the two Mercedes drivers, over two second just laps into the race. Raikkonen pulled off to the mercy of the marshals. Meanwhile, Alonso moved up to eleventh by the end of L3. Verstappen returned to Red Bull to retire.

By L4, Magnussen and Sainz provided entertainment, scrapping over eighth. Soon Vettel and Hamilton began trading race fast laps, though the gap hovered around two and a half seconds.

End L10 of 66:
Vettel led Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Perez, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Sainz, and Grosjean as the top ten at the end of the tenth lap. Mercedes told Bottas that he must speed up, six seconds behind his teammate, while Hamilton complained he could not keep up with the Ferrari. Sainz began to be frustrated, feeling as though he sat behind Magnussen too long. The Haas, however, continued to hold off the Toro Rosso for the position. The stewards announced no further action taken from the Massa/Alonso incident on the first lap. They next announced an investigation into the “causing a collision” in the Verstappen, Raikkonen, Bottas first lap squeeze.

Pit Stops Begin {L13 of 66}:
Alonso pitted on L13 from eleventh. Magnussen and Sainz stopped on the next lap, the Haas keeping position, despite both drivers looking for any angle to stay ahead leaving pit lane. The stewards made a note of their forcefulness. Vettel left the lead to Hamilton on L14. Mercedes encouraged him to “give it everything you’ve got.” Ferrari helped, with a slightly slow 3.2s stop. Hulkenberg (3.0s stationary) pitted the next lap, spreading the stops through the field. Vettel rejoined fourth and quickly dispatched Ricciardo.

Perez pitted on L19. At the front, Hamilton had twenty seconds on Vettel, not enough to stop and gain the lead, especially as Vettel made up the difference very quickly on fresh soft tires.

Meanwhile, Kvyat and Alonso diced over twelfth, the Russian leaving little room for the Spaniard. On the radio, Hamilton offered to make the tires last a little longer, but audibly panted at the effort. Grosjean pitted on L21. Hamilton made his stop at the end of L22, with Ricciardo also pitting. Hamilton rejoined third, wearing the medium tires, leaving Bottas to the lead and with Vettel a second and a half behind. Ricciardo also chose the mediums, leaving both with the technical ability to finish the race from L22.

Within a lap, Vettel gained another second on Bottas, with the call seeming to be for the Finn to back Vettel into his teammate. Mercedes reassured Hamilton he would have opportunities at the end. Quickly, Hamilton gained three seconds on Vettel. The German pushed Bottas hard, looking for any way around and back into the lead. Bottas locked up, but Vettel could not quite make the move to take the lead. They soon encountered a McLaren that moved right out of the way onto the front straight. Using DRS, Vettel made the leap to the lead, diving around behind Bottas. He left a puff of dirt behind, going to the inside and the lead on L25.

Bottas allowed Hamilton through, then pitted. He took the medium tires and soon posted a race fast lap from third. Teams and drivers seemed to settle in for the halfway point of the race. Vettel slowed slightly, while Hamilton claimed to be unable to then close the gap to the race leader, over six seconds ahead on the track.

Halfway {L33 of 66}:
Vettel led Hamilton by more than seven and a half seconds. Bottas held station for Mercedes in third, with Ricciardo, Perez, Ocon, Wehrlein, Hulkenberg, Magnussn, and Sainz the top ten.

Second Pit Stops Begin {L34 of 66}/Virtual Safety Car:
Alonso made his second stop on L34, just before much of the rest of the field dove for the pits. Massa and Vandoorne collided at T1, bringing out the Virtual Safety Car. Vandoorne turned in on Massa, ending his own day. Hamilton, notably, pitted on L37. Vettel followed him in on the next lap. When the German rejoined, he came out directly next to Hamilton. They fought over the lead into T1, coming together, with Hamilton complaining, “he pushed me wide.” The stewards declined to investigate, leaving the pas stand.

At the end of L38, the VSC having been removed, Vettel led Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo (who immediately pitted), Perez, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Wehrlein, Sainz, who finally passed Magnussen, and Grosjean the top ten. Kvyat, Stroll, Ericsson, Alonso, Massa, and Palmer rounded out the seventeen drivers still circulating. Bottas soon stopped on track on L39, with rather a lot of engine smoke leaving the rear of his Mercedes. Nearly a minute behind the top two, Ricciardo soon picked up his pace in third as the leaders battled traffic. Hamilton considered making T1 three wide with traffic, but chose discretion. He politely asked the team, “leave me to it please,” when his engineer reminded him how to use the battery pack for overtaking.

As the excitement continued, Hamilton made the move for the lead into T1 with the DRS along the front straight. Vettel looked to save the inside, but Hamilton took the long way around into first as they began L45. Vettel told Ferrari, “no chance, no chance. Like a train.” Hamilton complained that the rears were already overheating, asking if he should open a gap then or conserve the tires.

20 Laps Remain of 66:
Hamilton’s radio worries continued, with more than a second gap to Vettel and twenty laps to go. He concluded he needed to get his Mercedes well away, as the tires would be worse for him at the end. Meanwhile, Wehrlein gained a five second penalty for failing to stay to the right of pit entry. He ran seventh.

Though Hamilton said he would attempt to increase the gap, he had only two seconds over Vettel with fifty laps elapsed. Vettel lapped more quickly than Hamilton, who continued to ask for details regarding his lap times. Alonso made yet another stop on L53, stationary for 3.7s.

10 Laps Remain of 66:
Hamilton gained time and room on the track, posting a lap three tenths quicker on L56, and a half second faster on L57. The gap continued to grow slightly as the final laps ticked by, though advantage swayed between the Mercedes and the Ferrari as they moved through traffic. With eight to go, Hamilton wondered if Vettel would be making a three stop, necessitating a reminder of the few laps to go. Vettel had a bit of an issue getting under Massa, who gave the German room he did not take.

Magnussen pitted with two laps to go, a puncture after possible contact with Kvyat ruining the last moments of his race. Hamilton began the final lap with more than four seconds on Vettel. He would win, but Vettel kept the lead in the driver’s championship by six points.

{VMR}

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