Spanish GP: Rosberg wins, Hamilton overcomes Vettel

Nico Rosberg scored his first victory of the year in the Spanish GP at Barcelona for Mercedes, dominating from start to finish as Lewis Hamilton had to switch strategy to beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

The slow-starting Hamilton was forced into a three-stop strategy to beat Vettel to the runner-up spot, who frustrated him over the first two stints.

Poleman Rosberg made a good start, as Vettel passed the slow-starting Hamilton, who only just held off Bottas around the outside at Turn 1. Verstappen grabbed fifth initially, but Raikkonen drove around the outside of him at Turn 7.

Rosberg held a 1.1s lead over Vettel at the end of the first lap, and continued to pull away up front, leading by 3s by lap 5 and 6.6s by lap 10.

Much to Ferrari's delight, however, Hamilton struggled to get within DRS range of Vettel. "I can't get close," he complained.

Hamilton was told to do the opposite to Vettel at his first pitstop on lap 13, but a slow change on the left-rear hampered his efforts to undercut the Ferrari, and meant he rejoined behind Maldonado's Lotus, whom he passed at Turn 5.

Vettel's first stop, a lap later, was a much quicker 2.3s, and he rejoined well clear of Hamilton, who immediately set fastest lap and closed in again.

He got into DRS range on lap 20, but again couldn't fashion an opening in Vettel's defence.

Raikkonen briefly led after Rosberg's first stop, and he gambled on running the hard tyre in the middle stint. Just as in Bahrain, he made this strategy work. By half distance, Raikkonen was lapping faster than the four soft-shod cars in front of him.

Hamilton attempted to undercut Vettel again in his second stop, which was much faster this time. He had to pass Raikkonen for track position, using DRS on the start/finish straight, and then – despite switching to the hard tyre – set the first sub-1m29s lap of the race.

Vettel didn't move to cover Hamilton, who had clearly switched to a three-stop strategy. Hamilton DRS-ed past Bottas for third on lap 39, as Vettel stopped for his second stop on lap 41.

Raikkonen went back to mediums for his final stint on lap 42, and had to pass Massa on track to take fifth. He closed right in on Bottas in the closing laps, but just couldn't quite get close enough to try to pass.

Hamilton's charge defeats Vettel 

Hamilton briefly took the lead after Rosberg's final stop, and ran for 20 laps on the hards before pitting on lap 52, rejoining well clear of Vettel. "We lost too much time in traffic," grizzled Vettel.

Hamilton on fresh softs was over 20s behind Rosberg with a dozen laps remaining.

"Is it impossible?" Hamilton asked of catching Rosberg, and was advised not to risk his car attempting to chase his teammate down.

Rosberg won the race by 17.5s ahead of Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen and Massa.

Tough battling in the midfield

In the midfield tussle, the star of qualifying, Carlos Sainz Jr, slipped back from fifth to seventh on the first lap, and then had to battle to contain Felipe Massa's Williams. Massa passed Sainz at Turn 1 at the start of lap 3, and then DRS-ed past Verstappen on the following lap to run sixth.

Meantime, the Lotuses of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado swapped places at Turn 3 on lap four with slight contact, and Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo further demoted Grosjean at Turn 5.

Ricciardo later botched a move on Verstappen at Turn 1, before passing him in the second stint, while Kvyat came very close to rear-ending the Dutch rookie when he did likewise on lap 23.

Maldonado DRS-ed past Sainz on the start/finish straight, as Toro Rosso had a clear straightline deficit to its rivals, and took a couple of laps to do likewise to a feisty Verstappen for seventh place.

But Lotus's race was affected when damage to Maldonado's rear-wing endplate caused a slow first pitstop while it was torn off, and eventually was forced to retire on lap 48.

Grosjean suffered a gearbox problem that forced him to lift off the throttle as he changed gear. He then overshot his box during his final pitstop, sending his jackman flying and losing 15s in the process.

That meant he had to battle back past Kvyat's Red Bull to take eighth, behind Ricciardo.

Sainz passed Verstappen late on for ninth, but later straightlined Turn 1 on the final lap after contact with Kvyat, who went on to finish tenth. The incident is under investigation. 

Behind Verstappen, Felipe Nasr (Sauber) was 12th, ahead of Sergio Perez (Force India) and Nico Hulkenberg (Force India).

Troubles for McLaren

McLaren suffered another difficult day: Jenson Button suffered a terrible start to the race, dropping to 18th on the opening lap and complaining of a total lack of rear-end grip. He switched to a three-stop strategy and finished 16th, ahead only of the Marussias.

Teammate Fernando Alonso overshot Turn 1 on lap 27, and then gave his pitcrew a scare when his brakes failed and he ploughed into the front jack as the jackman wisely jumped out of his way.

Pos  Driver   Car / Engine  Time/Gap 
Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1h41:12.555 
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +17.551
Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +45.342
Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes +59.217
Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +1:00.002
Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes +1:21:314
Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault +1 lap 
Romain Grosjean Lotus/Mercedes +1 lap 
Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Renault +1 lap 
10  Daniil Kvyat Red Bull/Renault +1 lap 
11  Max Verstappen Toro Rosso/Renault +1 lap 
12  Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari +1 lap 
13  Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes +1 lap
14  Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari +1 lap 
15  Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes +1 lap 
16  Jenson Button McLaren/Honda +1 lap 
17  Will Stevens Marussia/Ferrari +3 laps 
18  Roberto Merhi Marussia/Ferrari +4 laps 
  Retirements    
Pastor Maldonado Lotus/Mercedes  
Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Spanish GP
Track Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
Drivers Nico Rosberg
Teams Mercedes
Article type Race report