5 Thoughts After the 2020 Spanish Grand Prix
Hamilton coasts into the record books and extends his championship lead.
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Barcelona, Spain - We had high hopes for this race after the surprise events of seven days ago in Silverstone. Scorching hot temperatures and Max Verstappen starting third on the grid gave us high hopes for a repeat of the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. Unfortunately, it was back to status quo in Barcelona as we got another stale race and an easy victory for Lewis Hamilton. It was much harder to pick out five thoughts from this race as not much transpired but let's give it a shot anyways, here are my five thoughts after the 2020 Spanish Grand Prix.
1. Ferrari's new chief strategist pays off!
Their was a new hiring mid race at Scuderia Ferrari at the Spanish Grand Prix and it was the promotion of Sebastian Vettel to Chief Strategist! You can't help but laugh when Vettel's team radio graphic pops up during the race because you know it's going to be something good. During qualifying, Vettel opted for a 'radio silent' approach to his engineer but during the race, he once again had to take matters into his own hands and decide his strategy. After pitting to the soft tyre, Vettel inquired about the pace he should be doing in relation to whether they will go to the end or stop once again. At the time of the message, it didn't seem like he got a concrete answer which explains his frustration when many laps later, his race engineer asked if he could go to the end of the race on those tyres. Vettel obliged as they had nothing to lose and in the end actually managed to come home in a decent 7th place. When it was all said and done, Vettel completed a whopping 37 laps on the soft tyre and managed to pull of a successful one stop strategy. The Spanish Grand Prix was just another example of the slow deterioration of the trust between team and driver. It also seems like Ferrari isn't too concerned with assisting Vettel in getting better results for the team. When Leclerc had his engine issue, many online joked that Ferrari had pulled the plug on the wrong car. It's really sad to see the state of the Ferrari/Vettel relationship in 2020 no matter what side of the fence you're on. It was a decent weekend for Vettel and a slight improvement over the last two weeks but Ferrari are still miles off the pace. It looks as if in the coming races, Sebastian Vettel will have to assume the role as his own Chief Strategist and drive for himself for the remainder of his Ferrari career.
2. Old guys make F1 history
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It wasn't the most exciting F1 race but the 2020 Spanish Grand Prix will be memorable as two drivers entered the record books on Sunday. Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton both made a little bit of their own history during the race as they both set records they can be proud of. 40 year old Kimi Raikkonen set the record for most kilometres driven with 83,978KM, more than any other driver in F1 history. To put that into perspective, the circumference of the earth is 40,700KM, so the Iceman has done two tours of the Earth in an F1 car. It's also important to note that Kimi set the record for being the last man on Earth to even care about this record. When asked about how he feels about making F1 history, Raikkonen had this to say. Classic Kimi right? Hamilton on the other hand achieved a slightly more impressive record on Sunday in Spain. With that victory, Hamilton surpassed Michael Schumacher's record of 155 podium finishes and is now the all-time leader with 156. It was such an easy victory for Hamilton that this record will be overlooked but it is quite an amazing achievement for the 35 year old. With the way this 2020 season is shaping up, Hamilton is on a path to break or equal many Schumacher records. His victory in Spain moved him four wins away from breaking Michael's all-time wins record and his 37 point lead in the championship has him well on his way to equaling the incredible record of 7 Drivers World Championships.
3. Racing Point finally maximize results
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It was a return to the site of the debut of the 'Tracing Point' saga in Formula 1. Racing Point headed to Barcelona feeling good about their chances at a track they did very well at during winter testing. They were also fired up about the return of veteran driver Sergio Perez after missing two races due to a positive Covid test. Their pace didn't disappoint as they qualified 4th and 5th and as a team, they were finally able to execute a successful race strategy for both cars that maximized the results. A team that has at times shown race winning capable pace in their car, Racing Point were yet to bring all elements together to bring both cars home in a high points paying position. To their satisfaction, they were finally able to get it done at the Spanish Grand Prix. Lance Stroll had a lot to prove after a disappointing Silverstone outing and he absolutely delivered with a blistering start. He passed his teammate and the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas to hold P3 for a handful of laps. After the race settled down a bit, Racing Point split strategies by putting Stroll on a two stop and Perez on a one stop. This worked out really well considering Sergio Perez is a master of tyre management and he was even ahead of his teammate who was on fresher tyres. It was unfortunate for Sergio to get that five second penalty which oddly enough has happened to him this season every time he ends up running in the top five. Luckily for Racing Point, they had a big enough gap to maintain fourth and fifth and secure their best result of the 2020 season. With that result, the Pink Panthers now take over third in the Constructors standings which is a great result for them considering the team controversies of the past few weeks.
4. It's time to move on from Barcelona
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I know I probably don't have to say it but I will anyways, it's time to rid the F1 calendar of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. We were hoping for a thrilling fight between Red Bull and Mercedes and another exciting race with high drama and tyre issues but that was all a dream considering the track we were racing on. If we're being honest, what else did we think was going to happen at the Spanish Grand Prix? It's a track that is notoriously difficult to overtake and actually statistically speaking, it is more important to be on pole here than in Monaco. It's not all the tracks fault either, these modern F1 cars being so wide and aerodynamically sensitive just provides us with a lethal combination of boring racing and predictability. Spain absolutely deserves to have some form of F1 action in their country but I think not in the form of this racetrack. Personally, this circuit is brilliant for testing. The combination of corners and challenges to drivers gives teams and excellent examination of their cars in the pre-season. But with all that running and data in winter, it just doesn't translate to good exciting racing. With some of the new tracks like Portimao and Mugello being added this year, I hope that gives F1 the opportunity to replace this circuit with something that allows for more exciting racing. I know we can't have classic races every weekend, but this circuit has provided us with the same problems for many years now and it won't get any better.
5. Driver of the day - Carlos Sainz
It hasn't been the smoothest operation so far in 2020 for Carlos Sainz. It's been a mix bag of bad luck and unfortunate strategy calls that saw Sainz out of the top ten drivers standings before the Spanish Grand Prix. After a superb 2019 season, it was Carlos' younger teammate who has actually been carrying the team so far this season so Sainz was due for a good race weekend. And what better place to do it than your home country's race in Spain. A change to Sainz's power unit really paid dividends for qualifying and the race. Sainz started in P7 and ended up bringing home a strong P6 finish for McLaren. In comparison to his teammate who started in 8th and finished 10th, it was perfect execution from McLaren to make the two stop work and get Sainz ahead of the Ferrari and Red Bull of Vettel and Albon. Sainz's brilliant defensive driving also stood out in his battle with Albon and we got to see the strong race pace that Sainz showed so many times in 2019. A lot of credit also goes to the McLaren mechanics as all of their pit stops were under three seconds which made a sizable difference in the battle off of pit road. Sainz said after the race, "“A very good day for me and the team. To finally get a good result after the issues of the previous four races feels great and I honestly think we deserve it." It hasn't been the best start to the season for the Spaniard, but if you're a Sainz fan you have to consider the positives in the fact that Carlos is now ninth in the drivers championship and McLaren fourth in the constructors.