#MsportXtra sums up a rather dull 2019 Spanish Grand Prix race day in which Mercedes trounced the opposition, Ferrari were out of sorts again and Red Bull made steady progress with their Honda package.
Sum up the #SpanishGP #MsportXtra: The weekend started with a lot of updates for all the teams, so the anticipation was high but after Friday, it didn’t seem as if there was a big reshuffle in the order. During Saturday, it was sure that Mercedes was in a league of their own, with Ferrari and Red Bull needing to catch up. In the midfield, Haas showed great potential, as they did during pre-season testing. Sunday came and when the lights went out, it was Hamilton who made the move into Turn 1 and made it stick. Bottas couldn’t really get the pace he showed before but stayed in P2 while Verstappen took third and didn’t let go. Both Ferreri’s seemed to be more busy with each other than with the race and because of the on-track scrap, they lost touch with the Red Bull of Verstappen. The midfield also started to settle down with Haas best of the rest and both Toro Rosso boys doing a steady race. Something was needed to spice things up and when Norris tried to make a pass on Stroll on the outside, they touched and both were out which cause Bernd Maylander to do his job and the safetycar bunched everybody right up again. At the restart, nothing much really happened except the Haas boys fighting each other. Magnussen was aggressive but fair and Grosjean lost out a few times which caused him to take the ‘escape road’ a few times too, dropping places at the same time.
Thoughts on Mercedes domination? #MsportXtra: So far, Mercedes haven’t put a foot wrong and both drivers combined, have won all races and even took their fifth one-two finish of the season. Although many don’t like the domination, you can’t blame the team for being perfect in their executions and having a small share of luck. I feel it is more down to how other teams can improve to close the gap. For example, Ferrari seems to have a pretty quick car but strategy and certain updates aren’t working out for them. With Red Bull, you couldn’t make a prediction as they have a new engine partner for this year and if you look at that fact, they have done more than expected. With 16 races to go it is harsh to say but if the other teams don’t make a jump forward or Mercedes runs into some trouble, I’m afraid that both driver and team championships could be decided well before the end of the season.
Lewis versus Valtteri. Thoughts? Since friday, I really thought Valtteri had the upperhand. Even after qualifying, it was obvious that Lewis was pushing maybe too hard to try and catch Valtteri. Therefore, after the start, I was surprised that Lewis took the lead and was so much faster than Valtteri. It might be that Valtteri has a bowl of porridge before Monaco and wins in two weeks time but I do know that, if he keeps his focus high, he could make life really difficult for Lewis but if Valtteri is on 99%, Lewis will take it away and go on to his sixth championship. He remains so consistent during the races, you need to bring your A-game including something extra, to stay on top of Lewis.
Thoughts on Haas? #MsportXtra: Haas impressed me to a certain point. Although they had a great race and scored some solid points, they were already pretty solid during pre-season testing so I’m not 100% convinced their upgrades made them faster, or that the circuit helped their outcome.
What is happening at Ferrari? #MsportXtra: Ferrari keeps missing pace. They have high straight-line speed but they are losing a lot in the slow corners. Much of that is to due to aero and it might even be that their unusual front-wing concept, isn’t given them what they expected. They need to fix their issues very quick or this is already a lost season.
Who surprised you the most? #MsportXtra: I was [pleasantly] surprised with Kvyat. He drove a great race and came home in ninth position after having had a few battles to get there. Sainz also did great with a P8 at his home race.
Who was a bit disappointing? #MsportXtra: As a factory team, Renault disappointed me the most. Both Ricciardo and Hulkenberg couldn’t bring something special to the table. They had a new spec engine for reliability and although they both reached the finish, neither took points with Ricciardo in 12th and Hulkenberg in 13th. It also seemed as if Alfa Romeo made a wrong turn with their upgrades as they went backwards and couldn’t do anything in the race.
Thoughts on the midfield? #MsportXtra: The midfield stayed pretty close during the entire race with Haas a bit ahead with Toro Rosso on their heels. McLaren were in the mix with the Renault and Racing Point guys not too far off. In the closing stage, the gaps became bigger allowing a handful to stay with each other which made it a bit exciting while others dropped off the pace. Although Williams showed slight progress on Friday and Saturday, they were nowhere during the race and came home stone last and both being lapped aswell.
Trending on social media? #MsportXtra: I think the expectations were higher than what the race ultimately delivered as social media was rather quiet during the race. A lot of people really started tweeting when the safetycar came out, which meant that not much was happening. That Mercedes was well in control was obvious when an engineer of Mercedes @EngineeringDan, started tweeting about the English premier league football DURING the race!
Other bits of note… #MsportXtra: Not much. Gasly showed improvement but was again in no-mans-land when the race finished as he came home in 6th position. He really needs to take bigger steps to close the gap to Verstappen or else Helmut Marko will be looking at the Toro Rosso boys, as Kvyat seems to be more mature this time round. Then there is Racing Point which, according to the team, brought the real 2019 car to Barcelona this weekend. If this is the best they have, they need to step up if they want to meet their own expectations of finishing fourth in the constructors’ championship. Next up it’s the #MonacoGP with lots of glamour and bling, where a great starting position is key to a good race. Let’s hope it delivers a bit more than what Barcelona gave us. And if it’s true that this was the last race at Barcelona, I say…. gracias!