The 2019 Spanish Grand Prix, and potentially the final race in Barcelona, came and went and there was no drama at the front of the pack as Mercedes continued their dominance as Lewis Hamilton led from start to finish to win his third race of the season and 76th of his F1 career.
Valtteri Botas comes home in second to complete Mercedes fifth consecutive one-two finish of the 2019 season, no team has ever done that to open a campaign. Max Verstappen was able to fend off the Ferrari’s for third. Sebastian Vettel finished fourth ahead of his teammate Charles Leclerc. Pierre Gasly finished an uncompetitive sixth. Kevin Magnussen was seventh ahead of Carlos Sainz in eighth, who scores points in front of his home crowd. Daniil Kvyat was ninth and Romain Grosjean gets his first point of the season and rounds out the top 10.
Hamilton got a great start off of the line as well as Vettel. The Ferrari of Vettel jumped to the outside with Hamilton to the inside and squeezed Bottas between the two, however Vettel locked up his tires and over ran turn one, going off slightly which allowed Leclerc and Verstappen to challenge Vettel. Leclerc was squeezed by his teammate making him lift off the throttle and Verstappen past both Ferraris. Red Bull knew that they were bringing the fight to Ferrari and Verstappen was able to pull away from Vettel in the first stint.
Hamilton and Bottas got clear of that fight out of turn two, Hamilton pulled away from the start and did not waver in dominating the rest of the grid. The Mercedes cars were able to pull away from the Ferraris by six seconds through the first six laps, however Verstappen in third was able to keep the gap within three to four seconds as Red Bull seemed to have more pace than Ferrari despite the fact that Gasly was uncompetitive in sixth through the first stint.
Sebastian Vettel was nursing his flat-spotted tires, and Leclerc was able to pull closer behind the four-time champion. The two battled for fourth causing them to lose more and more time to not only the Mercedes but also Verstappen in third. Once lap 12 arrived, Ferrari finally made the move to force Vettel to let Leclerc by so that the young Ferrari driver could try to decrease the gap to Verstappen in third.
As the first stint came to a close there was less action on the track but Leclerc did take out a few seconds out of the gap to Verstappen. Vettel was seriously struggling on his tires, while Gasly began creeping up on the Ferrari as the German begged the team to pit his car. Vettel finally pitted on lap 20 but they lost two seconds on the stop with a problem changing the back left tire. Verstappen pitted on the next lap for soft tires, meaning he would need to pit at least twice.
Leclerc came in for hard tires, which was much different than the rest of the pack, who pitted for medium tires. Ferrari looked to keep track position and pit only once in the race. This was an interesting strategy with the tire wear for Ferrari but they needed to get on the podium to get as many points as they could in Spain, they saw that Vettel had great pace on the medium tires but maybe that they were not sustainable until the end. Putting the hard tire on also meant Leclerc could have more pace towards the end with less worn tires.
Halfway through the race there was yet another squabble between the Ferrari cars, Vettel on the softer tire than Leclerc but Charles was ahead on track and holding up Vettel. The Ferraris eventually swapped drivers but it appeared that they were doing nothing more than battling for the first two spots off of the podium. Vettel eventually boxed again for mediums; he came out just behind Gasly in sixth, but took fifth from the struggling French driver on that same lap.
Leclerc was sitting within a pit stop of Verstappen as the Red Bull driver needed to stop again, so there was a race for third between the two former karting rivals. Verstappen pitted on lap 44 for the medium tires and chased down harder tire wielding Leclerc for third. Verstappen.
Then a wrench was thrown into the race as Lando Norris was looking to overtake the SportsPesa Racing Point of Lance Stroll. Norris did not have the room to complete the pass, they tapped wheels, and the two spun off to retirement, bringing out the safety car. Leclerc did not have a reason to stay out on worse tires so Ferrari pitted Charles for medium tires, moving Vettel up to fourth.
When the saftey car exited on lap 53, Gasly put a big challenge on Leclerc for fifth but was unable to get past, Magnussen was then able to put a fight on Gasly when the Red Bull driver lost time, but all in all the top ten stayed in position all the way to the end.
Other than the battle between the Ferrari drivers, there was not much action on the track as the Mercedes cruised to yet another one-two finish. Hamilton dominated, leading from start to finish to secure the victory and regain the championship lead from teammate Bottas. Five races into the 2019 season and there appears to be no competition for Mercedes, who is running away with what looks to be their sixth consecutive Constructors Championship.
The biggest single race jewel on the F1 calendar is next as the field heads to the streets of Monaco on the weekend of May 26th.