Three into one won’t go
As Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton would prove later in the race, getting two cars through Turn 1 side-by-side is hard enough – so going three-wide through the opening corner on the first lap was never likely to work out well. As you can see from this exclusive four-way onboard camera view, Valtteri Bottas kick-started the rapid chain reaction when, having braked much earlier than Vettel and Hamilton ahead, he tagged the rear of Kimi Raikkonen’s car, which had taken advantage and drawn alongside. The contact put the Ferrari on a collision course with the unfortunate Max Verstappen, who up until that point was looking likely to ride the outside line into third. The only consolation for the Dutchman and Raikkonen was that as they spilled back onto the circuit, suspension damaged, they weren’t collected by the onrushing field.
Alonso’s gamble backfires
Having qualified a season-best seventh on Saturday, it somewhat summed up Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s year that all of his hard work and heroics were undone almost immediately in Sunday’s race when he banged wheels with former team mate Felipe Massa going through Turn 2. As the above head-to-head video shows, Alonso was taking something of a risk by attempting to go around the outside of the Williams – a risk that backfired when Massa, compromised through Turn 1 by the presence of Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull, drifted slightly to the right under power through the left hander. With another couple of inches to spare, we might have been talking about another epic Alonso move through Barcelona’s first few turns. As it was, the home favourite tumbled down the order and never really recovered.
Hulkenberg’s bravery is rewarded
The big winner on the opening lap in Spain was Renault's Nico Hulkenberg, who made up six places thanks to a combination of bravery, luck and astonishing car control. After making an average getaway, the German was still P13 as he headed into the braking zone at Turn 1 – but then he pounced, diving up the inside of Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso and also picking off Kevin Magnussen’s Haas as it was slowed battling Esteban Ocon’s Force India. Disaster nearly followed as 'The Hulk' was only just able to skirt round the outside of Raikkonen and Verstappen’s wounded machines, but after instinctively catching a huge slide on the artificial grass run-off he then moved past Fernando Alonso’s gravel-bound McLaren and (a few corners later) Felipe Massa’s punctured Williams to complete a highly profitable few corners.
Sainz and Magnussen's pit-lane battle
Having spent the majority of the first part of the race trying to find a way past Kevin Magnussen, you can imagine Carlos Sainz’s frustration when the Haas not only pitted at the same time as him (preventing the opportunity for an undercut) but was then released immediately ahead of him. “He pushed me off!” the Spaniard exclaimed as he took to the grass in the pit exit trying to pass, but in reality, as this video shows, the Dane merely held his ground, leaving the hard-accelerating Toro Rosso with nowhere to go – and the stewards with no action to take.
Vettel sells the dummy
F1 has witnessed some great ‘dummy’ passes over the years - think Nigel Mansell’s unforgettable move on Nelson Piquet at Silverstone in 1987 - and now we have another to add to the list. Having tried and failed to pass Valtteri Bottas into Turn 1 on lap 24, and with Lewis Hamilton starting to breathe down his neck, Sebastian Vettel finally made a move stick on the Finn the next time around – and what a move it was. "It was really close,” the German admitted. “I faked on the inside, went back on the outside and then on the inside to surprise him, which worked - but I nearly lost the car doing that because I had the DRS open and it was a quite aggressive move on the steering wheel.”
Stoffel caught napping
Felipe Massa called Stoffel Vandoorne ‘crazy’ for turning in on him as he attempted to pass the McLaren at Turn 1 mid-race, but in reality the Belgian wasn’t so much callous as he was unaware. “I wasn’t really expecting Felipe to be there,” he explained. “I think I left enough space for him to be able to pass – but unfortunately we made contact and my front wheel broke, so that was the end of the race for me.” After assessing the incident, the stewards decided to hand Vandoorne a three-place grid drop for Monaco – a significant penalty in any circumstance, but especially so heading to a track so notoriously hard to pass on.
Vettel and Hamilton get too close for comfort
When he radioed his team saying, “That was dangerous”, it may not have sounded as though Lewis Hamilton enjoyed his wheel-to-wheel tussle with Sebastian Vettel on lap 38, but after the race the Briton swore blind he did. “I didn’t say anything bad, just ‘be careful, that was very, very, very close,’” explained the three-time champion. “I enjoyed it and I’m glad that afterwards I was able to have a battle and didn’t damage anything and there’s nothing lost between us. The respect stays the same. I think he was tough and hard - just to the edge and no more. I think if he’d hit me that would have been a bit different...” Two of the world’s best drivers pushing each other to the limit for the lead – what could be better?
Magnussen left deflated after Kvyat contact
Having had Carlos Sainz breathing down his neck for much of the race, Kevin Magnussen spent the end of it trying to fend off the advances of the other Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat in the battle for P9. Matters came to a head in the closing stages when, as this side-by-side onboard shows, the Russian brilliantly fought his way around the outside through Turn 3 only to find a tenacious Magnussen charging his way back up the inside at Turn 4. But in getting back through, the Dane also made contact with the STR12, and that contact would ultimately lead to a puncture, dropping him to 14th at the flag.
Massa gives Vettel deja-vu
Having been delayed in the closing laps of the last round in Russia as he lapped Williams’ Felipe Massa, Sebastian Vettel definitely had a sense of ‘Oh no, not again’ in Spain. In Sochi he had been hunting down the leading Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas at the time. In Barcelona his prey was the Silver Arrow of Lewis Hamilton. On this occasion, however, the Ferrari driver conceded he was at fault for any time lost, admitting he underestimated how slippery it was after he locked up as he came upon the white car. “Sometimes I wish I had a handbrake to get the rear turned,” he joked afterwards. Could come in handy for the hairpin in Monaco…
Hamilton steams into the lead
Given the titanic scrap he had lost with Sebastian Vettel at the same corner just a few laps earlier (see above), it was with seemingly remarkable ease that Lewis Hamilton swept past the Ferrari in Turn 1 in what would prove to be the decisive pass of the race on their 44th tour. The key, of course, was strategy – or more precisely the fact that Hamilton was on the quicker soft tyre for that final stint whereas Vettel was on the medium. Add to that the benefit of DRS down the main straight and Vettel was powerless to prevent the Mercedes surging ahead. “Like a train” was how the German described it, as he saw his title rival go by en route to victory.