The 2016 F1 season has all been about the success of Nico Rosberg and the woes of Lewis Hamilton. Could the tide finally be changing after Lewis Hamilton secured pole for the Spanish Grand Prix and has a new star be born already this weekend?
The final practice session had seen Rosberg again finish fastest, 0.126 seconds ahead of Hamilton. Sebastian Vettel was hot on their heels in third 0.021 seconds behind. Fourth place went to the promising Max Verstappen and that was a sign of things to come for the driver who is making his debut for Red Bull this weekend.
When it came to qualifying though it was Hamilton who got the upper hand on his Mercedes team mate grabbing pole position. A huge relief for the British driver after having to start the last couple of races at the back of the grid for various reasons.
Nico Rosberg, championship leader by 43 points and attempting to win his fifth straight Grand Prix this season (and eighth altogether) was in second place. Hamilton will be hoping for a good start on Sunday and not lose the advantage he has earned.
Hamilton getting pole was certainly a surprise. Practice hadn’t been going well but suddenly during qualifying that all changed as he was lapping 0.6 seconds quicker than Rosberg. He nearly blew his chances though when breaking too late for the hairpin at Turn 10 and was trailing not just his team mate but teenager Verstappen too. All came well in the end though for the defending world champ who is desperate to close the gap between him and Rosberg.
We’re used to the Mercedes being chased home by Vettel and Raikkonen in their Ferrari’s but not this weekend. It’s the two Red Bulls who start in third and fourth with Daniel Ricciardo ahead of new rising star 18-year-old Max Verstappen who continued the promise shown in practice.
Qualifying proved another disappointment for Ferrari with Raikkonen down in fifth, a second slower than the Mercedes and Vettel in sixth a further 0.2 seconds behind. Already their President Sergio Marchionne had been saying it’s time the team started winning but getting ahead of the Red Bulls as well as Mercedes is their task this weekend. Sebastian Vettel believes there had been a mistake made in the preparation of their car but wasn’t sure exactly what. “Something made us fall out of the window. We lost quite a lot of competitiveness” said Vettel.
One team celebrating was McLaren-Honda with Fernando Alonso finishing 10th. That’s the first top ten finish since the partnership began last year with Button two places behind him. Lovers of the Carry On movies might revel in Jenson Button’s comments after qualifying – “I had a floaty rear weekend all weekend, which is not a nice thing.”
So what can we expect on Sunday? A battle between the two Mercedes is of course likely with the start being vital for both drivers. Will Max Verstappen’s fantastic debut weekend for Red Bull end in a podium finish or will his inexperience catch him out? Then there’s Ferrari who may struggle on this track against cars with a better chassis than theirs.
It promises to be a fascinating race. Is this the start of the Hamilton fightback? I’ll be back again next week, in the meantime enjoy watching your racing.