The good news from Barcelona is that the circuit has renewed its contract though the 2019 season so for those of you worried that Europe is losing all of its grands prix, we know there will be at least one race in Europe in 2019.
The Spanish Grand Prix may not have been an edge-of-your-seat race but it did offer some intrigue and backstory to carry into Monaco. The teams all brought a raft of upgrades to the first European race in 2015 and the expectations were high—very high.
Ferrari were hoping to close the gap to Mercedes but as they quickly found out, Mercedes were hoping to stretch their gap more than they already had over Ferrari. In the end, Nico Rosberg gave Mercedes a comprehensive win and his pace and perfect weekend started on Friday’s free practice sessions.
The German was able to get his car perfectly balanced and prepared for his first pole position on Saturday and subsequently his first win of 2015 on Sunday. Nico didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend and showed us that writing him off for this season may not be a bet you want to take.
For his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, the weekend wasn’t nearly as successful. The 2-time champ had major difficulties with finding the balance of his car and seemed completely out of sorts all weekend long. Some suggested his globe-trotting lifestyle since the Bahrain Grand Prix with trips to fashion gala, a boxing match in Las Vegas, a trip to Los Angeles, two trips to London, time in Monaco and then to Monza might have played a role in taking his eye off the ball considering his teammate spent the time at home with his wife who is expecting their first child.
Regardless, the British champ did manage to make a strategy change work early on moving from a two-stopper to a three-stopper and with some excellent driving, he finished second in the race. Lewis was the marker for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel but the team chose not to cover Hamilton’s strategy change, oddly, and this left the German 45 seconds adrift of Rosberg’s Mercedes and standing on the third step of the podium.
The reality was that Ferrari had hoped their new upgrades would close the gap but at this circuit, it simply didn’t materialize. Even Kimi Raikkonen reverted to the old kit for his Ferrari and only managed fifth for his efforts in what was a ragged weekend for the Finnish driver.
His countryman, Valtteri Bottas had a stellar performance claiming fourth while Carlos Sainz Jr. was the talk of the paddock having finished in the points at his home grand prix. In fact, both Toro Rosso drivers made Q3 in qualifying in cars that struggle with the same Renault power that their parent team, Red Bull Racing, are suffering with.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo is already on his fourth engine and each driver is only allowed four for the entire season. They can certainly use a fifth engine but they will start garnering grid penalties every time they use an additional engine.
As Formula 1 heads to Monaco, it is a race that Nico Rosberg won last year and his home race as well. The German does well in the principality but as usual, Monaco can throw up a surprise now an again. Mercedes still look to be the team to beat but the real question could be, will Lewis regain his balance and take the fight straight back at Nico or has the German found his mojo and is it enough to beat Hamilton again?
One other surprise for Monaco? Lewis Hamilton says he is 99.6% on his contract negotiations and should have an announcement to make at Monaco. Some have suggested that the 2-time champion may have been speaking with Ferrari but most bets are on his remaining with Mercedes—and why not? It’s clearly the class of the field in 2015 and there is no sign of letting up for next year either.
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