F1 – Spanish GP – Race

Hola, MiniFans! After Saturday’s hectic qualifying session, Barcelona is more than ready to enjoy one more race, this time on a slightly modified version of the circuit that has gotten rid of the last chicane. Eyes turned towards the home hero, out of position after a costly mistake that wrecked his floor, as well as the other drivers that had ended up not quite where it was expected of them.

Soft tyres littered the grid, with Verstappen surprising the pack by choosing mediums. Despite this, he only needed to fight Sainz off for barely a corner even with the Spaniard’s great start, easily setting in first and second. Behind them, a small touch between Norris and Hamilton ended with the McLaren desperately calling to go into the pits and suffering a long stop. Stroll took advantage of all this, climbing up to third, while his teammate and Russell started to settle in sixth and seventh.

Little by little, Mercedes started to show a good pace, both drivers overtaking the Aston Martin cars in front of them. In other parts of the track, the ones who had been out of position at the start were slowly but surely getting back to where they belong, especially when very early stops for fresh tyres started to mess up the order, hinting at maybe a three-stop strategy or a two-stop with very long stints. The first of the front runners to change tyres was Sainz, getting some medium tyres to protect himself from Hamilton’s hypothetical undercut.

A third of the race had gone through when Russell pitched the idea of doing just one stop, reassuring his team that his soft tyres still felt good. Hamilton was the first to box, leaving the pitlane still behind Sainz, but with a significant tyre advantage, and both Russell and Verstappen followed suit for new rubber. Hamilton got past the Ferrari quite easily, as Russell started setting fastest laps to try and do the same.

A few drops of rain were reported by Russell, but in spite of the darkened sky, no one else seemed to see it, helping the British driver come to the conclusion that they may have been droplets from his own sweat. Just a handful of laps later, he was also past Sainz, pushing him out of the podium positions before the Spaniard made his last stop for fresh hards, hoping they’d work better than his previous mediums, and his teammate did the same as soon as he arrived at the pit entry. Soon after, Alonso did the same swap as the Ferraris.

The change to hards seemed to fuel up Alonso, who overtook two cars in two laps, needing a bit more to get rid of Ocon too but getting past nonetheless. Meanwhile, the front runners did their last stops for the soft tyres they had saved for this moment, taking care of them to cruise to the end with them, leaving the overtaking to the midfield and back of the grid. These battles included a penalty for Tsunoda for pushing Zhou out of the track, which kicked him out of the points.

With just ten laps to go, the sky was the darkest it had been all day, but rain still didn’t want to make an appearance, letting drivers and teams relax about it, but only that. The fastest lap was still up for grabs, and Verstappen, despite the pleas and requests from his race engineer due to having already seen the black and white flag for track limits, still pushed to get the extra point, even when Red Bull egged Pérez on to steal it from Mercedes, who had it before the showdown from the world champion started. Once he was satisfied with a purple hue beside his name, Verstappen finally listened to the voice on the radio and calmed down, taking his Red Bull to the finish line in first place once again.

The race didn’t quite go as planned for the Spanish crowd, who saw their home heroes wilt away on Sunday. Sainz kept their spirits up on Saturday, managing to snag a front row start after Alonso had problems with his floor, but Verstappen was just as untouchable as usual and Mercedes pulled an insane pace on Sunday, shattering all and any hopes to see either of them on the podium at their home race. However, we have yet to see whether Mercedes will continue on this path, challenging Aston Martin for the second team spot, or if it has been just a one-off.