2017 Formula 1 Spanish GP: Hamilton outraces Vettel
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The Spanish GP will forever be remembered for the first lap clash between Merc drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in 2016, with both cars taking out each other, careening into the gravel trap and unable to continue. Last year also saw Max “The Flying Dutchman” Verstappen take his first grand prix win and the record of being the youngest-ever F1 winner.
This year saw Hamilton take pole ahead of Vettel and Bottas. Lewis is now just one shy of tying Ayrton Senna for second on the all time list for most pole positions. Another noteworthy item was Fernando Alonso in the struggling McLaren getting his best grid position to date. The Spaniard finally made it to Q3 and slotted his MCL32 in P7 just behind the two Red Bulls.
The start saw Vettel launch off the line far better than Hamilton. The Ferrari got its nose ahead of the Mercedes as they reached turn 1, forcing Lewis to take position behind the Ferrari. Meanwhile, Bottas got tangled up with Kimi and Verstappen who were running three abreast at turn 1. Valtteri braked earleir than usual and nudged Raikkonen into the side of Verstappen. The collision broke the suspension of the Ferrari and damaged the steering of the Red Bull. The biggest loser at the start was Fernando Alonso. The McLaren, in its attempt to stay clear of the carnage, ran wide to avoid getting caught in the melee, thus dropping the local hero down to P13.
As the race progressed, there was no doubt, it was a race between only two drivers. It was Vettel versus Hamilton, while everyone else had to fight for third. Lap 14 saw Ferrari call in Vettel for his tire change, handing the lead to the Mercedes. Lewis now had clean air in front, and the undercut was now a viable option for Mercedes.
Hamilton kept his foot down to try to get a substantial gap between him and Sebastian. But lap 19 saw the Mercedes lose pace in relation to the Ferrari. Lewis was slowing down, his tires lacking traction. Meanwhile, Sebastian was gaining ground. Mercedes had no option but to call in Lewis on lap 22, handing the lead to Bottas. Valtteri tried his best to keep Vettel behind but the German just had more traction out of the corners and top end speed, easily passing the #77 Mercedes on lap 25.
Vettel was now on a mission to keep Lewis behind. Unfortunately for the German, he had to contend with tire degradation, unlike Lewis who was on fresher tires and gaining fast.
A virtual safety car period was enforced on lap 34 when Stoffel Vandoorne collided with Felipe Massa. The Belgian just turned into the side of the Williams with the resulting collision leaving the McLaren stranded in the gravel trap. Hamilton was called in for his last pit stop on lap 37, but Ferrari opted to keep Vettel out for one more lap before bringing him in. The resulting time spent in pit lane meant that Lewis had a chance for the undercut, but the Ferrari mechanics were quick to turn the car around and get Vettel out in front of Lewis.
What followed was some of the best racing seen this year, Hamilton trying everything to get past. Even when aided by DRS, the Mercedes came close, but every time, Vettel was able to resist the attack. It was only when the backmarkers held up Sebastian, did Hamlton finally get the chance to out drag the Ferrari and take the lead.
Despite valiant efforts of Vettel to get back the lead, Lewis kept his composure to go on and win the 2017 Spanish GP. Sebastian Vettel followed in 2nd place, with Daniel Ricciardo taking an unexpected 3rd place.
Vettel still leads the championship standings at 104 points to Lewis’ 98. Valtteri Bottas remains in third place with 63 points.