LeClerc and Vettel went into the Barcelona race on Sunday somewhat downhearted as Ferrari only managed P9 and P11 on the grid in qualifying, with LeClerc ahead of Vettel. Despite the car’s underperformance this season, Charles’s driving has been exceptional and one can never count him out from seizing a podium place. And that’s where the excitement now lies for Monaco – watching him carve his way through the field, often driver of the day, fighting against the deficiencies of the car.
Vettel – Driver of the Day with Hamilton
In Barcelona, in blistering heat, it was Vettel’s turn to outperform for Ferrari and he managed to finish seventh, making up four places from his start in eleventh position on the grid.
Four-time world champion Vettel does at least have the consolation coming away from Spain of being only the second driver in history to amass more than 3000 points. Of course, the first driver to achieve this feat is Lewis Hamilton, on 3563 points.
Engine Cut Out Defeats LeClerc
As for Charles Leclerc, he had been running ahead of Vettel in Barcelona aiming for just one-stop in the pits but spun on lap 36 when an electrical fault cut his engine. Charles struggled to get the car going again and managed it at the second attempt; but the race was then over for him limping back just one lap into the pits, where retirement from the race was his only choice.
With Ferrari out of the picture, Verstappen and Red Bull could have been the story as he has potentially shown himself as a real threat. Before the race Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff had admitted that Verstappen was favourite because he had shown himself to be capable of being quicker when the teams were doing their race prep.
And Verstappen did manage to upset the starting one/two grid positions of Hamilton and Bottas when Bottas made a poor start and dropped to fourth on the first lap. The Dutchman finally managed a creditable second even as Bottas put in the fastest lap and tried to chase him down on fast soft tyres.
In the end Barcelona was all about Hamilton who was masterful and lapped everyone except the first three. He was just too fast, starting on pole and leaving everyone in his wake, dominant particularly after lap 10. Michael Schumacher’s records are starting to fall to Hamilton’s brilliance. His win in Barcelona is his 156th podium finish, a new record, erasing Schumacher’s previous historic mark.
This is the 88th victory of Hamilton’s career and he is now just three shy of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 91 wins. One wonders if Hamilton could be the first, before his career is over, to chalk up 100 wins before Verstappen and LeClerc challenge him for preeminence. Hamilton’s lead in the World Championship is now 37 points over Verstappen, who is just six points ahead of Bottas.
At 43 points behind Hamilton, Bottas has little chance of catching up his team-mate for the Driver’s title. A win yields 25 points, second 18 and third 15. The math all points to Hamilton having an insurmountable lead.
First – Hamilton, Mercedes
Second – Verstappen, Red Bull
Third – Bottas, Mercedes
Drivers’ standings after the Spanish Grand Prix:
1 Lewis Hamilton 132
2 Max Verstappen 95
3 Valtteri Bottas 89
4 Charles Leclerc 45
There will be a weekend off now after which will be the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.