Formula 1 returned to Europe last weekend with a spring in its step, as the promise of upgrades and updates for all of the cars threatened to shake up the pecking order once more. Although there was some movement further back, at the front, Mercedes once again reigned supreme. The more things change, the more they stay the same…
Lewis and Nico round four
After Mercedes once again dominated practice and qualifying, it was pretty clear that the race would be another straight fight between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. However, when Mercedes opted to split their strategies and put Rosberg onto the prime tyre during the middle stint, the advantaged appeared to lie with Hamilton. Just as he had done in Bahrain before the safety car, it appeared that he would be able to eke out a gap, and simply bring the car home by five or so seconds.
However, Rosberg enjoyed a remarkable middle stint where he in fact cut the gap to Hamilton despite being on the slower tyre. Ultimately, he fell just 0.6 seconds short, but had he got a chance to make a move, it could have been a different result. A fine team display, but Nico is not going to back down in this title fight.
Seb fights back, and Dan keeps his trophy
Red Bull might not be on a par with Mercedes (or, indeed, in the same postcode), but the team certainly did prove itself to have a fighting spirit once again in Spain. Daniel Ricciardo finally reached the podium, and even got to keep the trophy this time! He had a quite simple race. Williams’ decision to pit Valtteri Bottas so late meant that the Australian was well out in front, and he did a fantastic job of looking after his tyres. Dan is really proving himself to be the real deal.
And if anyone said: “Vettel cannot overtake” before, they certainly won’t be saying it now. The defending world champion stormed from P15 to P4 on track with a tremendous drive. After getting stuck in the mix-up with Gutierrez, Magnussen and Button, Seb pitted early and put his fresh rubber to good use. Come the end of the race, he was able to fight his way past Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas to bring it home in fourth, marking a great result. It was the best that the team could have hoped for, and after such an unlucky weekend, some just desserts for Seb in the form of 12 points.
Ferrari risks riling Kimi
Five races. It took five races for the number two driver debate at Ferrari to come up. Kimi Raikkonen had the edge on Fernando Alonso all weekend, but he finished the race in seventh place behind his teammate by no fault of his own. Indeed, Raikkonen was put onto a two stop strategy after the first round of stops, where he had come in just one lap after Alonso. Ordinarily, the man ahead – Kimi – comes in first. All a bit bizarre, and certainly a mistake on the Ferrari pit wall. By the end of the race, Kimi’s tyres were finished, and Alonso swept past with a few laps to go.
Raikkonen was not happy. When spoken to post-race by Sky, he just mumbled a few words and walked away, such was his frustration. Trouble in paradise, perhaps?
Silly season is here!
Silly season has started particularly early this year, much like easter or the Grand National. “Really? It’s this weekend?!” So in Spain, the Alonso leaving Ferrari story once again did the rounds (an oldie but a goodie), but I’m still very, very skeptical. Why would Mercedes get rid of Rosberg? He’s done nothing wrong, and has scored 97/125 possible points so far this season with one win and four second places. It has been a great effort by him, and as Toto Wolff told the BBC: “I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
I do accept that Alonso has every right to be unhappy at Ferrari, but where can he go? Red Bull and Mercedes have perfect line-ups. McLaren has a clear succession plan that should see Stoffel Vandoorne get the nod when Button retires. Lotus? Ha. Sauber? Hell no.
The slightly more feasible (yet equally sensationalist) story that came out of Spain was that Ferrari has made a big money offer to Adrian Newey. Now, Newey has little reason to leave Red Bull given their success, but the mystique of Ferrari, the challenge of rebuilding the team, and a huge wad of cash could just be too much to turn down. However, for the time being, let’s stick this in the box marked “silly season rumours.”
The glorious return of Eddie Jordan
Ah, EJ. When the BBC first got the rights back in 2009, fans were tearing their hair out over what Eddie was saying and doing. There was even a Facebook page petitioning for him to be removed from the coverage. However, over the years, he has become the star: endearing, hilarious, and on the money when it comes to the rumour mill. After missing the first four flyaways, he is back on the BBC’s coverage and back in the paddock, which is great news for everyone. The BBC’s coverage opened with a lovely tribute to Senna from Jordan, who it transpires offered him 50% of Jordan Grand Prix to come and drive for him.
He then took to the podium at the end of the race to interview the drivers, which was, again, entertaining. We now know he’s Nico’s favourite neighbour in Monaco (just in case you ever swing by), and he also called Daniel Ricciardo a rookie – he’s been in F1 four years, now.
Eddie, it’s great to have you back. However, McNish might just have the edge on the shirts this year!
And so, to Monaco!
We’re over one-quarter of the way through the season already, but it does mean that next up is Monaco – can I get a hell yeah? The glitz, the glamour, the girls, the racing, just everything. It’s going to be great. As per usual, Richland F1 will be with you for every session, overtake, spin and spill of champagne, so be sure to stick with us for the race in two weeks’ time.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic.