I don’t think there were too many people who were expecting history to be made on Sunday at the Spanish Grand Prix. In a race where Mercedes imploded, and Ferrari failed again to pick up the pieces for the second time this season, Max Verstappen drove his way into the history books as became F1’s youngest ever race winner. On a two stop strategy which should have seen him end the race in third place at best, Verstappen managed to bring his Red Bull home to the top step of the podium at the first time of asking in what will surely be the first of many race victories for F1’s newest prodigy. Much of the pre Monaco Grand Prix talk will now revolve around Verstappen, and rightly so, however below you can my assessment of four of the other biggest talking points from the Spanish Grand Prix.
Bungled strategy calls hamper Ricciardo and Vettel
I don’t think anyone at Red Bull or Ferrari expected the two stop strategy to prove the fastest over the course of 66 laps, yet it was Vettel and Ricciardo who found themselves behind the two stopping Verstappen and Raikkonen in the closing laps. It made sense for Red Bull to split their strategy, especially as Ferrari had the faster car yet I’m sure that despite Verstappen taking Red Bull’s first win since Spa 2014, there will be some serious head scratching going on as to why it was Verstappen, and not Ricciardo who was put onto the faster strategy. I suspect it was a miscalculation over at Red Bull which Ferrari simply covered but Ricciardo’s disappointment after the race was clear for everyone to see.
Over at Ferrari, it was another case of could-have-been. Whereas last year Vettel was on hand to capitalise on any Mercedes errors (and in doing so took three race wins), 2016 has seen a number of botched strategy calls from the Ferrari pit wall. Vettel was clearly the fastest car after Hamilton and Rosberg had retired on Sunday, yet like in Australia where they fitted the wrong tyres after the red flag, the Scuderia failed to make the most of the opportunity and take what should have been their second race win of the season. I’m sure pace, and race wins will come, but they need to start making improved strategy calls sooner rather than later. Of course, getting stuck behind Sainz in the early laps did nothing to assist Ferrari’s cause, but they should have the confidence in their own speed as opposed to having to cover their slower rivals.
Strong race performance from Toro Rosso
Danil Kvyat actually set the fastest lap of the race on Sunday, but that did little to hide his disappointment that Verstappen had just taken victory in what used to be his car. Talk of demotions aside, Toro Rosso enjoyed on of their best races of the season as Carlos Sainz Jnr came home in 6th, a career best finish and Danil Kvyat rose to finish in 10th place, and pick up his first points for his new team. Sunday’s points haul saw Toro Rosso jump above Haas F1 in the constructors points table, a position I’m sure they would love to remain in for the rest of the season and after a dismal Russian GP the Red Bull B team look to have got their season back on track. Of course, the question remains as to how long they will stay competitive, especially with a new Renault engine upgrade due to be in place before Monaco/Canada so bagging early season points remains the ultimate goal.
Consistency from Williams but more pace is needed
Williams have been the epitome of consistency this season with both Bottas and Massa finishing in the points at each race so far. Bottas finish 5th, and Massa 8th on Sunday to further consolidate what looks to be a certain 4th place finish in the constructors championship at the end of the season. Williams have clearly fallen some way behind Ferrari and Red Bull, yet remain far enough ahead of Toro Rosso, Haas, McLaren and Force India that they shouldn’t be in danger of falling further back down the field. Bottas perhaps had one of the loneliest races of the season on Sunday, something confirmed that we saw barely any shots of the Finn on the TV coverage. Nevertheless, a double points finish at one of their self confessed weaker tracks was probably about the best Williams could have hoped for now that they have been eclipsed by the financial might of Ferrari and Red Bull.
Much needed result for Jolyon Palmer
Palmer finished ahead of his teammate Magnussen for the second time this season (the first being Australia), a much needed result for the rookie who has had a frustrating opening to his maiden F1 campaign. After a great opening lap, Palmer drove with great maturity and enjoyed a good battle with the Haas of Gutierrez before coming together with his teammate on the final lap of the Grand Prix, a move which would later be deemed Magnussen’s fault. Palmer finished behind the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson yet a repeat of his 13th place from Russia shows that consistency is coming. I’m sure everyone at Renault is hoping their heavily published engine upgrade brings them closer to regular points.