APART from the people in the Mercedes pit, nobody was shouting ‘Ole!’ at the end of the Spanish F1 Grand Prix.
It was the most boring race of the season so far, with Lewis Hamilton easily leading all 66 laps of the fast 4.6km Catalunya circuit, followed by teammate Valtteri Bottas.
In fact, the first four places were a replay of last year’s race, with the Merc procession leading home Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and the Ferrari of Sebastien Vettel.
This time Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc was fifth, with Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly sixth.
Next came Kevin Magussen in the Haas, Carlos Sainz (McLaren), Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) and Romain Grosjean, who secured the final championship point for Haas, giving the US-based team its first double points finish.
Earlier, there was a spirited battle for 11th between Carlos Sainz in the McLaren and Daniel Ricciardo in the Renault, with Ricciardo getting in front of the young Spaniard, but the positions reversed after a change to harder tyres.
The start was dramatic, with Vettel and the two Mercs storming into Turn 1 three abreast. Vettel had to brake hard, flat-spotting a tyre, which quickly ended his challenge.
The race then settled into repetitive laps, with little change in the order until a late incident when backmarkers Lando Norris (McLaren) and Lance Stroll (Racing Line) collided and brought out the safety car.
It provided a handy time for Hamilton and a few others to pit for fresh rubber.
Then, with 10 laps to go there was a fierce barney between Haas teammates Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen for 7th place.
Grosjean got bumped off the track, then made contact with Carlos Sainz before finishing three places back from Magnussen in 10th.
It could so easily have been a 7th and 8th for Haas and instead of celebrating, team principal Guenther Steiner found himself having a serious talk with his two drivers immediately after the race.
“I think the good thing is we entertained a little bit in an otherwise quite boring race,” he said.
“We lost some points, we’re not happy about that — but is one (of the drivers) to blame more than the other?
“We decided we go forward, we are okay with the situation, we know we have a good car and we just need to get the best out of it and not run into each other.”
It was another forgettable day for the French team, with Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg finishing 12th and 13th.
“It was a frustrating race,” Ricciardo said.
“In the first part, we had the pace on Sainz and at the end of that first stint I was able to take him.
“We then pitted and put the hard tyres on and he got me back quite quickly.
“It wasn’t a perfect Sunday. The midfield is so close and everything has to be executed to the maximum for a strong result. We’ll regroup and look forward to the next one.”
Even winner Lewis Hamilton agreed the race was not what fans expected.
“Racing within a team is not really what F1 should be,” he said.
“People might be unhappy at the gap we have to the Ferraris – but it’s not our fault.”
The question now is is how much longer it will be before Mercedes faces any real opposition?
Mercedes has now had 1-2 finishes in all five grands prix so far this season.
Memories of 1955 spring to mind. That was when Mercedes quit F1 racing after a similar situation, saying they had nothing left to prove.
Team principal Toto Wolff, while delighted with the result, was also concerned about the future.
“I’m in an awkward position,” he said.
“We’re trying to push the benchmark every single day and seeing this all come together gives a super satisfaction.
“But as a fan, the sport needs a certain unpredictability.”
The Monaco Grand Prix is next, on May 26.
Maybe the tight confines of the street circuit will change things a bit up front, but on the showing so far . . . probably not.
|8||C. Sainz Jr.|
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