The Hamilton juggernaut refuses to slow down. With Mercedes machines affirming their outright supremacy, race after race, this season, other participants and their once-famous engines have much to improve. Last Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona will be remembered for a nail-biting fight to the very end between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg for the 1-2 spots. Though the two drivers are spearheads of team-Mercedes, at individual levels, there is no love lost between the two of them. In the 66-lap long circuit at Barcelona, Rosberg gave jitters to Hamilton in the last lap and finished less than a second behind in the end.
Hamilton is all set to create another record for 4 consecutive wins in a season and being named as the world champion at season’s end. At Barcelona, Hamilton has crossed the first hurdle and the way he has been going thus far, the crown of world champion looks entirely achievable. At this moment, only Nico Rosberg, his own team-mate, is capable of spoiling Hamilton’s party. The margin of victory at Barcelona showed that for the rest of the F1 season, Hamilton will have to work harder to ward off the challenge from Rosberg. On Sunday, the determined Briton appeared to be in no mood of giving up his exalted position, despite Rosberg eating into his lead as the laps got fewer and fewer at the Barcelona GP circuit.
It was a long 3-week respite, after the Chinese GP and it afforded a great chance for teams to mull over their chances and plan new strategies before the European leg of F1 got underway at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya. Usually, this is the time of the racing season, which provides an indication on the proceeding over the rest of the season. The McLaren team, for example, needed to change the front-wing and repackaged rear. While they thought they have a better outfit now, it did not reflect in the team’s performance during the qualifiers. Jenson Button had to be content with 8th position on pole, while team-mate Kevin Magnussen finished 14th. As for Mercedes, it was only a question of whether Hamilton could still finish first on pole or Rosberg would deny him that this time round. In the last five outings this season, Hamilton has taken the pole on four occasions. On Saturday, therefore, no one talked about other teams but Hamilton and Rosberg, because that was really the only issue. When the crunch time came on Saturday’s qualifiers, Rosberg did everything to snatch the pole from the Briton. Hamilton trailed during the final free practice. He was also behind in the first qualifying round and again tailed Rosberg in the second qualifying. But when it mattered, he cruised ahead on a track, where overtaking was not easy. The 29-year old Hamilton was only too aware of the importance of taking the pole before the race. The drivers know the crucial advantage of leading from front in F1 and Hamilton did not want to hand over that advantage to the most dangerous challenger this racing season, even if the man happened to be his Mercedes’ team-mate. History at Barcelona showed that out of 23 races on this track, 17 have been won by drivers, who had the first pole positions. Out of the dumfounded rest, Daniel Ricciardo did the best by taking the third place on the grid. Regardless, Ricciardo was exasperated to see the gap between him and Rosberg, who finished second. Last year’s hero, Sebastian Vettel was far behind on the 15th place. But that could have happened as the Red Bull driver needed to change his gearbox in the last qualification session.
As the race began, Hamilton and Rosberg were off their post pretty cleanly. Williams’s Valtteri Bottas stole the third place from Daniel Ricciardo. Though Hamilton continued to lead, Rosberg ensured that he was not more than 2 seconds behind. The third-placed driver however, was at least 10 seconds from Rosberg after 15 laps. At lap 18, just as Hamilton went to the pits, Rosberg flew away with a clear field in front and continued like this for the next three laps. On lap 22, it was Rosberg’s turn for the pits and expectedly, Hamilton was back in the lead. At lap 27, Vettel came to the 9th spot despite starting at 15th. But the focus of the race was elsewhere. When merely three laps were left, Hamilton was just 1.1 second ahead of Rosberg and an interesting tussle was on for the third and fourth places. The final lap was incredible. Hamilton found Rosberg breathing down his neck as the gap came down to 500 milliseconds. Rosberg did his best to go past but the Briton held on to win his fourth successive race of the season. Ricciardo was third, followed by Vettel and Bottas for fourth and fifth places.