Nico Rosberg converted pole into a comfortable first victory of the 2015 Formula 1 season with a dominant performance at the Spanish Grand Prix, ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
After comfortably claiming pole position on Saturday, Rosberg got the best start from the clean side of the grid to lead the chasing pack into the first corner, and from that point he was never headed.
The main factor in the outcome was that his teammate Hamilton had a sluggish getaway from his side of the front row, and was jumped by both Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas on the approach to Turn 1.
Vettel was easily through into second place, but Hamilton managed to tough it out through the opening sequence of corners to reclaim third from Bottas’ Williams.
It still left him stuck behind Vettel, whose Ferrari SF15-T had shown a better rate of tyre degradation all weekend, and so Mercedes’ hand was forced into a three-stop tyre strategy, while the Ferraris could run on a more conventional two-stop plan.
It still took until Hamilton’s final stop before he was able to get the jump on the German, thanks to a slow tyre change at the Englishman’s first stop which guaranteed he would run his second stint stuck under the rear wing of the Ferrari.
When Vettel peeled into the pits for his second and final stop, Hamilton had to put the hammer down to build enough of a gap to ensure he would emerge in front. By that point, Rosberg had cruised to a lead of over 20 seconds, and Hamilton was only able to trim the gap to 17 seconds by the end of the 66-lap race after being advised by his engineers to save the car.
Once Hamilton was clear, Vettel wasn’t able to mount a counter-attack and steadily slipped back to finish a distant third, almost 30 seconds adrift of second-placed Hamilton, with his cause not helped by a succession of rather uncooperative backmarkers.
Bottas finished fourth, narrowly holding out the second Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen in a tense battle which ran for the entire final stint. Räikkönen clearly had the advantage in raw speed, but he was unable to follow the Williams driver closely enough through the final corner to make a DRS-assisted overtaking manoeuvre stick into Turn 1.
Sixth place went to the second Williams of Felipe Massa, who recovered from a poor first lap where he was pushed onto the run-off at the second corner.
A lonely (and lapped) seventh went to Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull Racing, who similarly had a poor opening lap and had to fight his way up the order.
The Australian finished ahead of Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, whose early race pace came undone with a broken gearbox dog ring. The Frenchman also hit his mechanics during one of his pit stops when he overshot his marks.
The Toro Rosso rookies’ qualifying pace flattered to deceive in race conditions, with both Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen proving to be easy meat down the start/finish straight on heavier fuel loads.
Sainz Jr managed to finish ninth after a controversial overtaking move on the second Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat – the pair touched at Turn 1 – but no action was taken by the FIA Stewards after a post-race review of the incident.
Behind eleventh-placed Verstappen, the Saubers and Force India runners occupied the next four positions. Felipe Nasr finished ahead of Force India’s Sergio Pérez, while Marcus Ericsson achieved a similar result against the sister VJM08 of Nico Hülkenberg.
McLaren’s hopes of claiming its first points finish will again be delayed to another Grand Prix after a troubled race for the Woking squad.
Despite switching to a striking graphite livery scheme, neither car ran reliably. Jenson Button managed to limp home in sixteenth place with a range of handling difficulties, while crowd favourite Fernando Alonso was forced to retire with a brake failure that saw him almost flatten one of his mechanics when he pitted to retire his MP4/30 Honda.
The day’s only other retiree was Pastor Maldonado, who suffered extensive damage his his Lotus’ rear wing early in the race. The Venezuelan managed to still show solid pace despite the lack of rear downforce, running in the points before he notched up his fourth DNF in five races.
|Formula 1 Gran Premio de España Pirelli 2015 – Provisional Classification (66 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||66||1:41:12.555|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||66||+ 17.551|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||66||+ 45.342|
|4.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||66||+ 59.217|
|5.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||66||+ 1:00.002|
|6.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||66||+ 1:21.314|
|7.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||65||1 lap behind|
|8.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||65||1 lap behind|
|9.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||65||1 lap behind|
|10.||Daniil Kvyat||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||65||1 lap behind|
|11.||Max Verstappen||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||65||1 lap behind|
|12.||Felipe Nasr||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||65||1 lap behind|
|13.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||65||1 lap behind|
|14.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||65||1 lap behind|
|15.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||65||1 lap behind|
|16.||Jenson Button||McLaren Honda MP4-30||65||1 lap behind|
|17.||Will Stevens||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||63||3 laps behind|
|18.||Roberto Merhi||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||62||4 laps behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Time|
|DNF.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||46||Rear Wing|
|DNF.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda MP4-30||27||Brakes|
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team
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