An upbeat Lewis Hamilton proved that the sudden change in leadership guard for 2018 season following his win at Baku was no flash in the pan. By grabbing pole position on Saturday for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix, Hamilton has drawn first blood in the two-way fight for the world championship, ensuring an early mental scar for arch-rivals Ferarri.
Hamilton fastest of all exults at Spanish Grand Prix Qualifying
Supremely quick and eschewing any signs of despondency that may have hurt his form in the opening few races of this season, Hamilton went ahead and clocked a sweltering 1:16:173 to clinch the pole, also a track record here at Catalunya Circuit, Barcelona. Even as the top four are separated by a dainty margin of not even half a second, Sunday’s racing gala at Barcelona seems set for a fiery wheel-to-wheel battle for supremacy between the Mercedes’ and Ferraris.
Although German driver Sebastian Vettel lost out to Hamilton by a painfully diminutive margin of 0.132 seconds, he’ll be focused on getting an error-free, clean start at Catalunya, knowing well that teammate Kimi Raikkonen is breathing on his tail. Raikkonen sits only 0.307 seconds shy of the currently third-placed Vettel on the starting grid. For Raikkonen though, the effort will be to better his 2017 result.
Kimi needs to come good for Ferrari
The last time the enigmatic Finn raced at Barcelona- the official start of the European Grand Prix season- he race-retired inside Lap 1, falling victim to a squeeze at the start of the Spanish Grand Prix.
Although the Spanish Grand Prix also puts a renewed focus on the Red Bulls, with both Verstappen and Ricciardo, clinching an impressive P5 and P6, respectively, following the two Ferraris. Could they be hoping for a scrap at the opening lap as to make inroads toward the competition at the front of the grid- we don’t know yet. But what the Christian Horner-led outfit would be certainly mindful of, would be to avoid any intra-rivalry skirmishes, the duo getting together on Lap 40 at Baku to register a double retirement for the speedy Red Bulls.
Alonso, Magnussen big gainers on Saturday’s qualifying run
At the same time, the action further down the grid looks promising and ups the prospect of evidencing some mouth-watering racing. Given that McLaren’s Fernando Alonso has already clinched P8 much to the delight of his home fans, just following the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, P7, both drivers look set to engage in the scraps as the battle for ascendancy in the mid-field seems promising. Can the MCL 33 bring up an ace, banking on the upgrades that a new, improved aerodynamic package has brought to Barcelona- we’ll have to wait and watch.
But that told, the Spanish Grand Prix can usually be expected to unfurl a tantalising battle.
The first two sectors being quickest with drivers carrying a lot of speed into Turns Three and Nine make the 66-lap competition- a speed fest. But the trickiness of racing here in the heart of Spain stems from the challenge of oscillating between speed and control in the feisty opening lap, so susceptible of producing collisions.
Although the track is completely different to those at Sakhir and Baku, one can expect a close competition and a two-way fight at the front of the grid, with Mercedes and Ferrari engaged in familiar battles for dominance at the top of the grid.
There’s hardly a surprise about Catalunya being one of the most complete and balanced tracks on the roaster, since it forms the base of the winter-testing for all 20 cars and 10 teams.
Will another Hamilton versus Vettel saga throw fans to the edge of their seats on a Super-Sunday or will Bottas ensure that Vettel doesn’t get close to any position of dominance of Hamilton- let’s wait for the five red lights to go off.