Saturday, 10 May 2014

Spanish Qualifying: Mercedes, Mercedes, Mercedes!

It was The Mercedes story again, in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix. There were high expectations for the other teams being able to catch up with the Silver Arrows, as we approached the first of the European races, but that failed to materialise. Hamilton and Rosberg were a full second faster than third place Ricciardo, in the Red Bull. We may find ourselves ignoring the Mercedes cars again, as they power away from the rest of the field, to seal the victory. Perhaps if somebody can get past them, away from the lights, then the race at the front might be a little closer.

The other teams are extremely well matched for pace, with Williams, Ferrari, McLaren and Force India all thrashing it out for the same grid positions. Out of all of those teams, Force India appeared to be the weakest, dropping out of Q2. Its a shame, because their progress has been impressive over the last few seasons, but that progress seems to have ground to a halt in the opening races of 2014. It wasn't only Force India who were struggling. It appeared that Caterham's progress at the start of this season also hit a speed bump, as they qualified twentieth and twenty-first. The only driver they out-qualified was Pastor Maldonado, who managed to throw his Lotus in to the wall, after only a couple of laps of the first session.

There were two red flag periods during qualifying. The first one was due to Maldonado's excursion in to the wall. The second came as a result of much more exciting circumstances. Reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel crawled out of the pits, near the beginning of Q1 and stopped just after the first chicane, with an electrical fault. It's the second time Vettel has had to drop out with technical difficulties and Christian Horner hit the nail on the head when he said "it's character building". Sometimes it's quite entertaining to observe the way the race engineers and drivers use the team radio to manipulate the race officials. Hamilton tenuously attempted to accuse Vettel of blocking him, which Sebastian countered with apologies directly aimed at Hamilton.

It was the second red flag that produced a good old fashioned end to Q1, with over half of the drivers leaving their final fast laps until the last couple of minutes. They fought out the final top ten positions, but there was no question of Mercedes being abe to secure the top two grid slots. Once again they look unbeatable. Williams are looking very strong and are bringing their fight closer and closer to the front runners. Perhaps they will be able to do what Red Bull have so far struggled with, and challenge the dominant Mercedes team in the coming races.

The Grid:
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:27.2381:26.2101:25.23216
26Nico RosbergMercedes1:26.7641:26.0881:25.40019
33Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing-Renault1:28.0531:26.6131:26.28516
477Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes1:28.1981:27.5631:26.63217
58Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault1:28.4721:27.2581:26.96018
67Kimi RäikkönenFerrari1:28.3081:27.3351:27.10418
714Fernando AlonsoFerrari1:28.3291:27.6021:27.14016
822Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes1:28.2791:27.5701:27.33518
919Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1:28.0611:27.0161:27.40216
101Sebastian VettelRed Bull Racing-Renault1:27.9581:27.052No time11
1127Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1:28.1551:27.68513
1211Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1:28.4691:28.00216
1326Daniil KvyatSTR-Renault1:28.0741:28.03912
1421Esteban GutierrezSauber-Ferrari1:28.3741:28.28012
1520Kevin MagnussenMcLaren-Mercedes1:28.389No time10
1625Jean-Eric VergneSTR-Renault1:28.194No time6
1799Adrian SutilSauber-Ferrari1:28.5639
184Max ChiltonMarussia-Ferrari1:29.5866
1917Jules BianchiMarussia-Ferrari1:30.1776
209Marcus EricssonCaterham-Renault1:30.3128
2110Kamui KobayashiCaterham-Renault1:30.3756
2213Pastor MaldonadoLotus-RenaultNo time2