“Thanks everyone, the car was very good and very quick today.” That was Seb’s message to the team over the radio, similar in fact to what he had to say after qualifying. Scuderia Ferrari leaves Spain with Vettel still leading the championship, while Kimi had the misfortune to be the first retirement, after a collision on the opening lap. In the five races so far this season, the Scuderia has always finished on the podium.
One of Ferrari’s best races
This race was one of the best of the year. A perfect getaway from second on the grid saw Seb move ahead of Lewis Hamilton and into the lead. Things did not go so well for Kimi: at the first corner, he was tapped from behind by Bottas and that pushed him into Verstappen which meant the Iceman had to pull over to the side of the track with broken front left suspension.
Seb pulled away in the early laps and behind him, Hamilton reacted. For the opening laps, the gap stayed around the 2 second mark and then it looked as though the Mercedes man was trying to close with the intention of pulling off an “undercut” by pitting early to emerge in front. Ferrari reacted, bringing Seb in on lap 14, fitting another set of Softs. Vettel rejoined behind Ricciardo. At the start of lap 16, he passed the Red Bull under braking and set a fastest lap of 1’24”901.
Duel on top
Hamilton pitted on lap 21 and went for the Medium tyres, while Seb was attacking Bottas who was doing everything he could to keep ahead. Lap 35 and Seb dived to the left, went onto the grass and got by at Turn 1, so the Vettel-Hamilton duel was back on. Lewis was 4” down but on the harder rubber. On lap 33, Vandoorne closed the door on Massa, went off the track and the race went into Virtual Safety Car mode. Hamilton came in on lap 37 and soon after the race was on again. Seb went for the mandatory set of Medium tyres.
Hamilton was passed on the straight and yet again the duel resumed. Seb pushed hard, really hard in the first two corners. The SF70H hung onto the lead, while Bottas retired. Vettel made the most of getting through the backmarkers to also be able to use the DRS down the main straight. But with a clear track, Lewis made the most of his tyre advantage and the moveable wing to get ahead finally on lap 44.
But the fight wasn’t quite over, because Seb’s rival had to look after his softer tyres. “Keep your head down,” engineer Ricky Adami advised his driver. But there were no more opportunities for attempting one final assault. The next episode in this thriller will unfold in Monaco in a fortnight.
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