Rosberg rejoined the track 4.8 seconds behind Hamilton with 20 laps remaining. On the faster option tyre. Suddenly the Spanish Grand Prix had come alive and memories of the Sakhir thriller were revisited.
Lewis at times was so anxious with his race engineers that it seemed he was suspecting the team’s strategy and finishing preferences. The pit wall crew calmed him down and let him know exactly where he was losing time to the German. He demanded more info and pit-stop rationale constantly, knowing Nico was gaining on him rapidly.
The gap was down to .663 of a second on the penultimate lap! He had the AMG Hybrid W05 #6 car filling his mirrors menacingly. It wasn’t clear if he was panicking to keep his winning streak intact or whether he felt Nico’s superior car set-up would comfortably clinch the race. Or did he not want to tangle again, banging wheels to decide P1?
But he held on stoically. Win number 26 was his. And fourth on trot from his teammate.
In the post-race conference the mind games were evident. Lewis reiterated that Nico had the better and faster car in Spain. Yet he won.Â Rosberg insisted he would’ve had Hamilton if there were one lap more. But that’s his theory. If it were one lap shorter Lewis would’ve probably been even more difficult to beat.
Meanwhile team Mercedes AMG Petronas are earning the respect of Formula One fans for allowing their racers to race. That’s as important for the brand as the transfer of technology to their road cars.
Behind the Mercedes intra-team mind games and on-track strategic battles, Red Bull Racing showed first signs of waking up to take the fight. Daniel Ricciardo drove a lonely calculated race to cover any threat from Williams driver Valterri Bottas to record his first podium finish. He finished 49 seconds behind Hamilton and about 27 seconds ahead of his charging World Champion team mate.
Sebastian Vettel drove a fighting race of recovery after being shifted down to start at P15 by the stewards. His car lacking straight-line speed and not working perfectly to his corner-entry preference the four-time champ is making slow but sure progress back to the top. The lack of testing pre-season courtesy Renault’s engine woes has hurt him big time.
We’re experiencing a precision racer being put to the test. It was interesting to watch him make quick work of both the Ferraris and Bottas’ Williams. The RBR10 might come back to him before the season is out but most certainly will not help him fight for the championship with the Silver Arrows, who are in a class of their own. Atleast for now.
At Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen expressed concern about the team’s strategy to pit Fernando Alonso first although he was behind on track position. But the more telling quote from him post-race was “…we cannot be happy with sixth and seventh places, because we are a long way off where we want to be.” The Italian team’s updates at Barcelona weren’t making a visible difference. They could, however take consolation from the fact that their traditional arch rivals McLaren are deeper in performance trouble with Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen finishing P11 and P12 respectively.Â The Force India’s rounded off the bottom of the top ten finishers with Sergio Perez overcoming Nico Hulkenberg once again.
If there’s one race on the calendar where any of the top six teams have a fairly reasonable shot at victory it is Monaco.
The tight twisty street circuit offers very few overtaking opportunities, so all emphasis will be on qualifying. Both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are now residents of the principality. A win would impress the neighbours mightily. It’s no secret who has the momentum for pole position on Saturdays. But on race Sundays the armco barriers at Monaco have historically taken no prisoners.
Mercedes versus the chasing pack. It’s going to be a classic street fight.
P1 Hamilton -Â Mercedes AMGÂ 1hr 41m 05.155s
P2Â Rosberg -Â Mercedes AMG
P3 Ricciardo â€“ Red Bull Renault