Hamilton denies Rosberg again to take his points lead

2014 Spanish Grand Prix review

Lewis Hamilton took the lead of the drivers’ championship off his team mate in Spain – but Nico Rosberg didn’t give it up without a fight.

Rosberg came on strong in the final stint of the race and was within striking distance of Hamilton when the chequered flag fell at the Circuit de Catalunya.

It was a race which started slowly but came to life at the end, with Sebastian Vettel fighting his way up from 15th on the grid and the two Ferrari drivers doing battle in the closing laps.

Rosberg loses out at start

Start, Circuit de Catalunya, 2014With the Mercedes cars occupying the front row of the grid for the second time this year there was little chance of them doing anything other than motor off into the distance, and so they did. Hamilton left Rosberg behind on the run to turn one.

“The start unfortunately was poor,” Rosberg admitted afterwards. “It’s a bit of a weakness that we have at the moment, just inconsistent and now I’ve had a couple of bad starts in a row – actually three bad starts in the races.”

Rosberg’s start might have cost him a place to Daniel Ricciardo had the Red Bull driver not made an even worse getaway. That allowed Valtteri Bottas through into third, and he even made a token attempt to get around Rosberg at the first corner.

Romain Grosjean nearly followed him past the Red Bull, but locked his tyres up heavily at the first corner. The two Ferraris fell in behind him, Fernando Alonso backing off from an attempt to pass Kimi Raikkonen, who in turn thought better of attacking the Lotus at turn four.

The field almost completed the first lap without incident. But at turn 11 Pastor Maldonado, who had started from the back row after crashing in qualifying, threw his Lotus up the inside of Marcus Ericsson’s Caterham and made contact with him.

“His move risked putting both of us out of the race,” said an unhappy Ericsson afterwards, “but luckily the car was OK and I was able to continue”. The stewards handed Maldonado a stop-go penalty and another penalty point on his licence.

Meanwhile Kevin Magnussen was trying hard to stay out of trouble. He took to the run-off at turn 13 while scrapping with his team mate and returned to the track just as Sebastian Vettel was passing by.

The Red Bull driver left Magnussen little space as he swept by. Magnussen, who has damaged his front wing once too often in the early races, clambered across the turn 14 kerbs to avoid doing so again.

Rosberg switches strategies

Hamilton quickly pulled out of range of attack from Rosberg’s DRS – by the end of lap three he was almost two seconds clear. But Rosberg was able to halt Hamilton’s progress when he needed to, and over the next dozen laps the gap between them changed little.

As in Bahrain, Mercedes felt comfortable that their pursuers were far enough behind that they could allow their drivers to race each other. As usual Hamilton, as the leading driver on track, had the first call on strategy and duly pitted first on lap 20 for another set of medium tyres.

Rosberg was momentarily confused about his team’s plan. “I thought they were going [hard] because they thought I had graining, but I didn’t have graining, so that’s why I was confused.”

“But then I understood: it was to offset my strategy so that I would have a chance to fight Lewis at the end so it was fine – and just what I wanted.”

Rosberg stayed out three laps longer before taking on a set of hard tyres. As the second stint began both Mercedes drivers were advised what gap they needed to their team mates by the end of the stint: Hamilton 5.5 seconds, Rosberg two. The pair played a game of cat-and-mouse as they swapped lap times and dodged through traffic throughout the stint.

All weekend long hot temperatures and a slippery track had created difficult track conditions for the drivers. Now overnight rain and overcast race day conditions had thrown the drivers another curve ball.

“The big challenge was tyre degradation,” said Rosberg. “Very, very big tyre degradation. That was really difficult to manage that.”

“But I found my way and was quite comfortable with it, and then graining on the hard tyre which is the opposite of what we expected. We expected to have graining on the soft tyre. So it was very strange. Graining on the hard tyre and no graining on the soft tyre, it was really weird and unexpected.”

Hamilton was less happy with his medium tyres, complaining several times about oversteer during his second stint. As their final pit stops approached Rosberg reduce Hamilton’s lead to less than four seconds.

Vettel and Alonso opt for three stops

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2014The two Mercedes cars had pulled away from their pursuers as quickly as usual. By lap seven Bottas was 11 seconds behind.

As the lap began Ricciardo made an attempt to pass the Williams at turn one but had to pull out of it. He had been advised to drop back and protect his tyres, which he now did, biding his time until the pit stops. He made an early pit stop on lap 14 and Williams decided against pitting Bottas immediately to cover it.

Ricciardo was able to come in so early because a gap had appeared in the traffic behind him. That space was created by his team mate, who had pitted from 13th place two laps earlier.

A gearbox change penalty having left him 15th on the grid, Vettel hadn’t been able to gain any places off the line but had followed Daniil Kvyat and Jenson Button past the struggling Esteban Gutierrez. His early pit stop paid off handsomely, allowing him to jump Button and Kvyat plus both the Force Indias. But it meant he would have to make a third pit stop.

Grosjean pitted on the lap after Ricciardo, promoting Raikkonen to fourth and Alonso to fifth. But surprisingly it was the second of the two Ferraris which appeared in the pits first. And just as surprisingly Alonso didn’t take advantage of the undercut to get in front of his team mate – though he came close.

Alonso spent much of the following stint staring at his team mate’s rear wing. But he returned to the pits for his second visit eight laps before Raikkonen as Ferrari switched him to a three-stop strategy.

“Don’t waste time with Vettel”

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2014It had started off as a processional race but in the closing stages several battles for position were developing. Vettel and Alonso made their third pit stops and went on the attack, and Rosberg was bearing down on Hamilton.

Vettel’s last pit stop moved him ahead of Alonso and within two laps he was bearing down on the other Ferrari. “Don’t waste time with Vettel because he’s too quick anyway,” instructed Raikkonen’s engineer Antonio Spagnolo, and he duly offered no resistance to the world champion.

He was less generous towards Alonso though, edging off-line at turn one as his team mate came within range on lap 63. Alonso had glimpsed a chink in Raikkonen’s armour, however, and using the benefit of his fresher tyres he claimed the inside line for four and took sixth place.

Vettel was long gone, however, and on the same lap he picked off Bottas for fourth to complete an impressive recovery to claim fourth place behind his team mate.

As the final lap began a silver blur appeared in Raikkonen’s mirrors. It wasn’t the lone Mercedes of Hamilton, it was both of them. Both had switched tyre compounds at their last pit stops and Rosberg used the new set of mediums he’d saved to close within a second of his team mate.

Hamilton repeatedly quizzed his engineer on the gap to Rosberg, where he was losing time and what he could to do resist Rosberg’s onslaught. As Rosberg said afterwards, if the race had lasted another lap he’d have been well-placed to launch an attack: little more than half a second separated them at the line.

Grosjean grabs first points for Lotus

Behind the lapped Raikkonen was his former team mate – Grosjean gave Lotus their first points of the year with eighth, having been passed by the Ferraris when his Renault power united developed a fault.

The two Force Indias completed the points scorers having run very long final stints. Sergio Perez passed Nico Hulkenberg after their final pit stops, as Hulkenberg was initially concerned he wouldn’t complete his 29-lap run to the chequered flag without another pit stop.

A three-stop strategy failed to pay off for Felipe Massa, who finished 13th behind the two McLarens. “The three-stop strategy would have worked had the first stint been clean,” he said, “but I had cars in front which damaged my tyres a lot”.

“This meant that rather than pulling away from them and having clean track, when they pitted they had the advantage. This happened again at the start of the second stint, so things just didn’t go my way.”

Kvyat also three-stopped and took 14th after passing Maldonado late in the race. The other Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne dropped out early on having started the race with an exhaust problem the team were aware of but couldn’t fix.

Hamilton takes lead in title race

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2014Hamilton’s victory came on an important day for Mercedes as Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche had appeared at the first European race to keep an eye on his team.

“Every time Dr Zetsche came last year we generally had a bad race,” said Hamilton, “so it was really important to get a good result for him to get rid of that negative bug, or bad luck that I guess he thought he was bringing.”

It’s taken four wins in a row for Hamilton to wrest the championship lead from his team mate, who after winning the opening race of the season has finished second to Hamilton in every race since.

But although he ended the race within striking distance of Hamilton, Rosberg believes it was decided much sooner than that. “The race was really lost in qualifying and at the start,” he said.

“Those were the two opportunities I had. Qualifying was very very close, I even had a bit of a problem which we found in hindsight, where I was a little bit down on power on the straight, but the difference was not enough to get pole, but still it was actually even closer than it looked.”

The championship now heads to the streets of Monaco, where Rosberg won last year. If he can’t stop his team mate’s victory streak there, his hopes of regaining the championship lead are going to look increasingly forlorn.

Images © Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Red Bull/Getty

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56 comments on Hamilton denies Rosberg again to take his points lead

  1. Bradley Downton (@bradley13) said on 11th May 2014, 22:47

    Vettel was awesome today, but to me the stand-out of the Weekend was Grosjean and Lotus. He put that car fifth, and to me having watched it in practice it still seems very very difficult to drive. Once they’ve fully fully refined it, I reckon Lotus can challenge Red Bull for second.

    • Breno (@austus) said on 11th May 2014, 22:56

      Lotus also need a new driver. Red Bull have two strong drivers, Lotus have one and Cecoto Sr.

      • Jazzman said on 12th May 2014, 9:05

        They really do, Maldonado is just awful this year. Unfortunately they need the money he provides….

    • JCost (@jcost) said on 12th May 2014, 7:20

      Romain Grosjean is a true talent. If McLaren fails to bring Alonso and Jenson go, they should thinkg about either Grosjean or Hulkenberg.

      • Jon Aspinwall (@caboose117) said on 12th May 2014, 8:24

        i agree, but why would Grosjean want to jump ship? I mean, yes lotus has had quite the rough start to the season. but that chassis has show incredible potential and its in my eyes superior to that of the Mclaren. This is two years in a row that lotus has produced a car that is superior to Mclaren. I dont believe that a switch to honda power is going to help as much as everyone thinks either. bottom line is that Mclaren is in a slump, and lotus, despite its serious financial woes looks to be on the way up. if lotus can keep its head above water, i think they will continue to perform well and the money will eventually sort itself out. the only reason Grosjean would have any reason to make the switch is because of Eric Boullier. So long as Grosjean is getting paid, and lotus doesnt go belly up, i dont see him going anywhere. your thoughts?

        • f1forever (@kimi93) said on 12th May 2014, 9:10

          mclaren problem is not the driver , everyone here remember jenson winning title on a grat car like brawn , but the problem is like you said mclaren team is on a slump and the only reasons can make romain think to leave are only economical reasons , cause i think we’are not going to see mclaren as we used to see on eraly’s 2000 when drivers like hakkinen were writing the history of modern f1

  2. Mr win or lose said on 11th May 2014, 22:54

    Nice report!

    I think Ricciardo’s start was alright. I got the impression he was just blown away by the Mercedes engines. Red Bull once again did a great job in the pits and Ricciardo’s second stint was impressive, while Vettel was really fast in the closing stages (he was two seconds per lap faster than Alonso). I guess he had been saving some fuel in the beginning of the race, so he didn’t have to lift in the breaking zone, which enabled him to outbrake everyone before turn 10. By the way, was Hamilton underfuelled? I was very surprised to see his low fuel usage in the race, especially since the track is notorious for its high fuel consumption. The ability to save so much fuel, in combination with his poor pitstops, mean that Hamilton fully deserved this victory.

    • JCost (@jcost) said on 12th May 2014, 7:24

      He was not saving much fuels, his consumption was on high all race long. Seb could well be extracting a bit more time from his slightly lighter car.

      • Mr win or lose said on 12th May 2014, 9:22

        Indeed it makes sense to consume a little more fuel at the beginning of the race in order to run a lighter car in the race, but that cannot account for such a big difference in stopping distance. Perhaps Vettel managed to save fuel in a different way (apart from lifting in the breaking zone like most drivers), so he could attack there from nowhere.

  3. Damonw said on 11th May 2014, 23:17

    Good win by Lewis, still the worrying thing is that on two dry weekends he’s gone backwards in performance after practice one. I still don’t understand why the team made changes for Saturday when he was on fire??

    • David BR2 said on 12th May 2014, 1:01

      Rosberg using Hamilton’s data to adjust by Saturday morning and qualifying is perhaps one factor, mentioned indeed by Hamilton and the Mercedes team after Bahrain. I’ve no idea if this is happening consistently, but it was certainly a feature at McLaren where Button would often use Hamilton’s Friday setup, based on Hamilton’s better intuition and feel for the car after new upgrades etc. Or maybe the opposite is happening and his side of the garage are overcomplicating things with Rosberg’s data.

      • Albert said on 12th May 2014, 2:51

        Gotta love how minimal gimpses of speculation are treated like confirmed truths by so many people.

      • Damonw said on 12th May 2014, 8:42

        Facts are it Hamilton’s and his side of the garage to make the car improve over the weekend. If it ain’t broke why fix it??

        Friday sessions don’t mean much, it’s all about Saturday and Sunday. Worryingly he’s gone backwards after Fridays practice in both Bahrain and Spain.

        • Jason (@jason12) said on 12th May 2014, 11:23

          The Engineers really need to get on top of this.
          It’s unacceptable that Lewis has to continuously feedle with the car throughout the race whilst also trying to race.

          • Erik Kennedy (@erikkennedy) said on 12th May 2014, 12:12

            Of course, during this nightmare period he has won four times in a row. It’s easy to make too much of what is clearly not proving to be a big problem.

          • Damonw said on 12th May 2014, 18:02

            Well it’s also part of Lewis’s job too, if he feels fine in the car he should insist on not making any changes. He looked super smooth on Friday and was in a league of his own speed wise, come Saturday is car was all over the place.

        • dkpioe said on 13th May 2014, 14:09

          Hamilton has a history of being quick out of the box on weekends, then not improving by as much as the other driver coming up to qualifying. this year it is enough but. in fact his career reflects that.. quick, maybe quickest in 2007 and then 2008 – and after that other drivers like Alonso improved, while he did not.

  4. scuderia_fan85 (@scuderia_fan85) said on 12th May 2014, 0:30

    Rosberg has not enough talent to beat Lewis…that’s it.

    • Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 12th May 2014, 1:01

      @scuderia_fan85
      He beat him in 8 races last year.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 12th May 2014, 8:05

      I think Rosberg says it pretty accurately:

      “The race was really lost in qualifying and at the start,” he said.

      “Those were the two opportunities I had. Qualifying was very very close, I even had a bit of a problem which we found in hindsight, where I was a little bit down on power on the straight, but the difference was not enough to get pole, but still it was actually even closer than it looked.”

      • DMC (@dmc) said on 12th May 2014, 9:34

        I don’t think there is anything between Hamilton and Rosberg
        If they both keep the same form it will be a fascinating season
        seeing two excellent drivers trading blows.

      • nidzovski (@nidzovski) said on 12th May 2014, 9:55

        @bascb
        I think Rosberg says it pretty accurately:
        “The race was really lost in qualifying and at the start,” he said.
        I think that race for Rosberg eaw really lost after Hamilton sign a deal with Mercedes :))))

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 12th May 2014, 10:30

          nope. Rosberg has already stepped up to improve, and he is forcing Hamilton to improve himselve as well.
          I don’t think Rosberg can’t do it if he gets himself pushed.

          • Robbie (@robbie) said on 12th May 2014, 14:47

            Agreed. This is new territory for NR and I think he deserves great kudos for doing as he has this season. We already know what LH is capable of as he has had top equipment in the past with which to show us his stuff. So no real surprises there. The hugely pleasant thing here is that NR is absolutely holding his own, keeping LH honest, and showing us that they may dominate as a team but that does not have to mean a foregone conclusion for the season. And even to those who do feel the handwriting is on the wall and LH will not be caught…that may be the case but let’s give NR the same chances LH has had to gain the experience of having top equipment, and then let’s see how he does next year too. This is just the beginning for NR now that he has the equipment.

    • Jonathan189 (@jonathan189) said on 12th May 2014, 17:43

      Hamilton is 1/5 on for the WDC with most bookmakers; Rosberg is 4/1 against. That says it all.

  5. Fernando Cruz said on 12th May 2014, 1:04

    Hamilton deserved to be leading the championship with a bigger margin. If it wasn’t for the mechanical failure in Australia probably he would have 5 wins to 0 and 125 points to 90. It took him 4 races to recover the lead, which i think is unfair. Maybe the system used in 1988 was better. As it is now, with a championship battle between team mates (just like in 1988), luck can play an important role. I think we all want the best driver to win the championship, not the luckiest…

    • Albert said on 12th May 2014, 2:54

      Welcome to F1?

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 12th May 2014, 15:00

        @Fernando Cruz NR had clutch issues at the start of China due to telemetry issues, and he didn’t ‘deserve’ that either. I think usually issues even out fairly closely between drivers once the whole season is taken into account. Mechanical failures are a part of racing and always will be. And if you want to change the points system to skew more heavily toward wins, then we could also end up in the territory of the season being decided way too early too. Besides, a bit of luck is often a necessary ingredient to winning a WDC, and it is never even close to being all about luck. Also…define luck. LH and NR are both lucky to have such a good car relative to the rest of the field. The other drivers are wishing they were that lucky to have such a dominant car.

    • oliveiraz33 (@oliveiraz33) said on 12th May 2014, 5:03

      I agree that Hamilton deserves to be in the lead, had a very unlucky start, he has been quicker than Rosberg, but don’t relax, because Rosberg is very well on the tail of LH, and he’s Hungry and Motivated, and all we know that despite all we have seen this season, we know that Rosberg has enought talent to also be in front of LH. Small tweaks on setup can make the Win to either one or another on next tracks

    • PorscheF1 (@xtwl) said on 12th May 2014, 6:19

      I think the 7 extra points the winner gets is to much. I know it is winning the race but you’re still only one spot ahead of second. I prefer the MotoGP system by a mile.

      • MaroonJack (@maroonjack) said on 12th May 2014, 8:11

        I think victories should be worth much more. I’m supporting Nico, but I want him to win the championship fair and square, not through Lewis’ DNFs.

        My favorite F1 point scoring rules were used from 1991 to 2002. According to this system, Hamilton would lead the championship with 40 points to Nico’s 34. In fact Lewis would have led the championship after his victory in China, 30 to 28.

        Unfortunately this system was scrapped as a knee-jerk reaction to 2002 Ferrari domination and like with most knee-jerk reactions, it wasn’t a great idea.

        In my opinion, if we want to award points to the top ten drivers, then it should be 20-12-9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, instead of what we have now.

    • Diego (@ironcito) said on 12th May 2014, 8:26

      The fairest points system is usually boring.

      In tennis, you can win the most points and the most games, but still lose the match. The fairest system would be to just count the number of points and the winner is the first to reach 100, or something like that. But most matches would be boring.

      In knockout competitions, the second-best could be eliminated in the first round if they happened to play against the best, while the 10th-best could play the final if they had an easy path. The fairest system is a round-robin with points, but imagine a round-robin FIFA World Cup or NBA finals. It wouldn’t be the same.

      The fairest system in F1 would probably take into consideration if the winner was a minute ahead or barely in front, and things like that, but there has to be a balance between it being reasonably fair, easy to understand and implement, and entertaining.

  6. Nick (@nick-uk) said on 12th May 2014, 1:18

    According to the official F1 website… Vettel has no championships to his name.

  7. RL said on 12th May 2014, 1:34

    It’s been a while since I’ve relied on Sebastian Vettel to provide me with the best on-track action in a Grand Prix.

  8. oliveiraz33 (@oliveiraz33) said on 12th May 2014, 4:58

    Great race, with a great mix of overtaking on track, and strategy overtaking… I’m not really a Vettel fan, but he looked like vettel today, very very quick, would have given a Ricciardo a run for his monye if he didn’t start so far back

    • jochenrindt78 said on 12th May 2014, 11:24

      We must have been watching different races – Total bore fest, slight intrigue in the last 5 laps does not constitute a great race!

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 12th May 2014, 15:09

        I was intrigued for most of the race to see the LH/NR duel, and it was always so close I don’t get the snorefest/borefest opinion. You have to read the whole book, and watch the whole movie, to get to the climactic conclusion. You don’t get the full splash at the start or everything else would be anti-climactic. Thank goodness the exchange from Red Bull dominance to Mercedes dominance hasn’t also come with just one driver dominating.

  9. Jazzman said on 12th May 2014, 9:04

    I hope Red Bull can challenge at least one of the Mercedes cars in Monaco, they are looking like the only team that are almost getting there with both drivers putting in great performances on Sunday. Also, if Rosberg and Hamilton remain as close as they are, I can see one of them being screwed over by the 50 points rule come Abu Dhabi.

    • Bobby (@f1bobby) said on 12th May 2014, 16:21

      My fear exactly. 49 points ahead going into Abu Dhabi, bonked at first corner and title goes to a driver who should have been well out of it.

      Is there still a chance they’ll scrap the rule before we get there?

    • Steven said on 12th May 2014, 16:50

      The way I see it, if RBR can pull off what Mercedes did last year, that’ll be their best bet. Reliability aside, they may be able to pull something off at a track that’s less engine dependent and more chassis/aero stability dependent (well, that’s what I think Monaco requires, but I’m no F1 engineer).

      Was happy to see Ricciardo get a podium place (which he can keep). I never expected him to compete at such a level so quickly.

  10. Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 12th May 2014, 10:25

    Down the back of the field, I wonder if Sauber are really considering whether it’s worth giving Giedo (or even Simona) more time in the car with the intention to get them into Sutil’s car permanently… He’s just not working, brings a bit of money but his size disadvantage is making an already uncompetitive car even worse.

  11. Bobby (@f1bobby) said on 12th May 2014, 16:20

    DNFs could determine this championship. It’s taken Hamilton 4 rounds with perfect scores to overturn his Australia DNF.

    • DaveW (@dmw) said on 12th May 2014, 16:31

      Can’t bear to think about that. This is now like an intense tennis match between evenly matched players. It would be terrible if the match was decided by some freak thing like a broken string at a game point or a terrible over-rule by the umpire. Indeed, if we think of last year, it’s foolish to think that Hamilton or Rosberg will “break” the other or whatever. It’s going to ebb and flow. The car will develop, conditions will vary, and things can shift.

  12. dkpioe said on 13th May 2014, 14:07

    When Ferrari and then Redbull were dominating, it was not like this. at that point the car had the advantage, now it is the engine that has the advantage. yes Mercedes are beating the other Mercedes powered cars, but that was expected. this engine freeze should be lifted to allow Renault and Ferrari to develop so the sport can stay interesting. they can develop the car, then why not the engine? why lock in an advantage that Renault and Ferrari can not catch up. in the previous years of engine homologation, it was ok, as the teams had relatively the same power. this is just plain ridiculous, Redbull may have the best car, but now have to create a super human Newey to develop something even Nasa could not do, just to stay in touch. I sincerely hope Redbull cut their contract with Renault and pay Honda a lot of money to use their engine next year. otherwise this sport is going to be duller then ever for the next few years. If Honda make a winning engine, Mercedes will still be infront next year as McLaren will not have the car to match them, they need 2-3 years to catch up now – McLaren have probably made a worse car then last year, when you consider they have the best engine now. The engine companies need competition, or the losing ones will leave if they cannot develop.

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