By Sean Kelly, C4F1 statistician
It had been a refreshingly different start to 2018. No Mercedes win in the first three races? Ferrari taking a hat-trick of poles for the first time in over a decade? How long can this continue!?
Well, ever since Sebastian Vettel’s mistimed attempt to pass Valtteri Bottas for the lead in Baku, the front of the field has assumed a more familiar look. Bottas’ late Baku puncture gave Lewis Hamilton a fortuitous first win of the year, given that he had led only 26 laps all season.
The Englishman built on that in Barcelona with a dominant victory, breaking Michael Schumacher’s all-time F1 record of 40 wins when starting from pole, a record the German had held since passing Ayrton Senna’s total of 29 at the 2004 Australian GP.
Lewis Hamilton dominated the 66 laps of Sunday's #SpanishGP - and he's done another 71 in testing at @Circuitcat_eng today— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) May 15, 2018
The world champ says he's almost "at one" with his Mercedes after being told to question himself by the on his shoulder! https://t.co/Oq47OHz4uZ
Hamilton's third success in Catalunya means only Schumacher (six wins) has been more successful since the Spanish GP moved there in 1991, and his pole time of 1:16.173 was over NINE SECONDS quicker than his 2014 pole. Yes, the track has been resurfaced and yes the regulations have changed, but let’s not spoil a great headline...
The margin of victory was 20.5 seconds, the largest of 2018 so far and the biggest seen in Barcelona since Mark Webber beat Fernando Alonso by 24.065 in 2010. Hamilton was the 25th winner from the front row in the 28 races held at this venue, and he has now become the first person in F1 history to reach 30 consecutive points finishes.
Today is the 68th anniversary of the inaugural world championship Grand Prix. In that race Alfa Romeo dominated and nobody else was within 2 laps of them. So, could be worse.... #SpanishGP— Sean Kelly (@virtualstatman) May 13, 2018
Sunday was Mercedes' 78th win as a constructor in F1 – they’ve now won as many races on their own as they did when they were an engine supplier for McLaren between 1995-2014.
Second place for Bottas confirmed a first 1-2 finish of 2018 for the Silver Arrows. It completes a full year of classified finishes for the Finn – although his puncture stopped him in Baku he was classified as a finisher, meaning his last retirement was officially Barcelona 2017. Sunday was also his 25th career podium finish.
Perhaps a little unexpectedly, Max Verstappen finished third to claim Red Bull’s 150th podium finish in F1, and his first podium since winning in Mexico, seven races previously. It was unexpected due to breaking his front wing in contact with Lance Stroll, shortly after Vettel’s ill-conceived pit stop dropped him behind the Dutchman.
For his part, Vettel has now finished in the top four in Spain for the past six years running, but without winning any of them. It’s possible that Ferrari also threw away six points by pitting him when they did, but the team have been burned in the past when leaving Vettel out too long on worn tyres (he suffered a blowout while leading the 2016 Austrian GP).
I was hoping Raikkonen would win today to end a 98-race streak without a win, on the 28th anniversary of Riccardo Patrese setting the F1 record 99-race interval by winning at Imola in 1990 #SpanishGP— Sean Kelly (@virtualstatman) May 13, 2018
Fifth-placed Daniel Ricciardo had another mercurial afternoon on Spanish soil, and was over 50 seconds behind the winner at the chequered flag. This is a quiet habit of the Australian’s when he races in Catalunya – in seven Barcelona starts Ricciardo is astonishingly yet to finish within 43 seconds of victory.
In spite of this, Ricciardo’s fastest lap was 0.687s quicker than anyone else, and his 10 best laps of the race were a total of 1.820 seconds quicker than Lewis Hamilton. And yet...
Kevin Magnussen had one of the lonelier races of his career, and hardly saw another car for position after the first lap. Not that he will care – sixth place on Sunday means the Dane has equalled his entire 2017 points total (19) after only five rounds this season. Not bad for a man who had never previously scored a point in Spain.
The Spanish fans may show up to see Fernando Alonso more than anyone else, but Carlos Sainz Jr has done more than enough to get their attention in recent years. Sunday was Sainz’s fourth start in his home race, and he has beaten Alonso on every occasion – this time by 3.1s to take seventh place for Renault. Sainz has a 100% point-scoring record in Barcelona, also placing ninth, sixth and seventh for Toro Rosso.
Alonso to Lee: "We lost positions at the start. At that point I thought points were impossible today!"— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) May 13, 2018
The McLaren racer overcame his woes at the start to secure points in P8 on home soil #C4F1 #SpanishGP https://t.co/VXrPG0oAyB
As for Alonso, Sunday marked five years since winning the 2013 race, his last F1 success. On the plus side, he remains the only man other than Hamilton and Vettel to score in every race this season, and is on an eight-race points streak, the longest for any McLaren driver since Jenson Button reeled off 10 in a row in 2011-12.
Force India had a quiet weekend here, especially in light of Sergio Perez’s surprise podium finish last time out in Baku. The Mexican finished ninth in Spain for the fourth time in his eight Catalunya starts, but that was still a better weekend than Esteban Ocon, who has now suffered consecutive retirements for the first time in his F1 career.
What a race weekend for @MercedesAMGF1— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) May 13, 2018
After trailing Ferrari by four points at the start of the weekend, they are now a whopping 27 points clear in the constructors' championship
Now that's what you call teamwork #C4F1 #SpanishGP pic.twitter.com/yQk0PlNjAD
Finally, contrast Force India’s below-average performance this season with that of Sauber, or more specifically Charles Leclerc, who became the team's first driver to finish top-10 in consecutive races since Felipe Nasr at the 2015 Russian and US Grands Prix.
A note of caution though – Leclerc has scored on the same two circuits on which Sauber scored their only points of 2017. The question is now whether or not such form can be maintained elsewhere.
Having been 17 points behind the championship lead after Bahrain, Hamilton will now go to Monaco 17 points in the lead, and looking to complete a hat-trick of victories this season.