Spanish Grand Prix: Hamilton breezes to victory as Grosjean breaks everything

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Uh-oh Ro-Gro: Somewhere in the tyre smoke, Romain Grosjean is creating his own special havoc at the Barcelona circuit
Uh-oh Ro-Gro: Somewhere in the tyre smoke, Romain Grosjean is creating his own special havoc at the Barcelona circuit

Announcing the return of normal service to F1 … for now at least.

Lewis Hamilton drives off into the distance, the wheels come off at Ferrari and Romain Grosjean is back in the clown car.

The Spanish Grand Prix wasn’t a classic but that doesn’t mean there was nothing to talk about…

Decline and fall of the Romain empire

Lick of paint and she’ll be good as new, guv: All things considered, Grosjean’s car was remarkably intact after his accident
Lick of paint and she’ll be good as new, guv: All things considered, Grosjean’s car was remarkably intact after his accident

Zut alors, can it really be Romain Grosjean back in the wars? Did he ever leave the wars?

Grosjean unwittingly provided the most exciting seconds of the afternoon just three turns into the race with a masterclass in how not to behave when your F1 car spins.

His misfortune began when he had to react to a momentary loss of control by his Haas team-mate, Kevin Magnussen, and his back end slid away.

READ MORE: Spanish Grand Prix: LIVE

READ MORE: Formula One – Second stop was the right thing to do, says Vettel

READ MORE: Formula One – Spain victory felt ‘special’, says Hamilton

Grosjean just about held the spin but he decided to control things by flooring the throttle, rather than letting his car continue out on to the generous run-off area around turn three.

As a result, his Haas pirouetted into the middle of the circuit, in a stinking blanket of tyre smoke and, inevitably, collected other cars – the unlucky Pierre Gasly was taken out in his Toro Rosso, and Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault was thumped from behind.

Out came the Safety Car and off walked Grosjean, who was spotted sitting forlornly on some steps, helmet still on, presumably running through his extremely familiar post-crash routine, prior to getting his familiar backside kicking from both team and race stewards.

The accident could have been much more serious – following cars were braking desperately into that blinding fog of tyre smoke, and Grosjean’s Haas was facing oncoming traffic while its rear wheels were still spinning furiously.

For Grosjean, who is surely in the twilight of his mercurial F1 career, there was more bad news: his team-mate, Magnussen, whose twitchy turn three moment triggered the crash, finished in an impressive sixth place.

Magnussen spent most of the afternoon in his own one-man race, pootling round the Barcelona circuit half-a-minute adrift of the top five and half-a-minute ahead of the following pack.

Haas were definitely ‘best of the rest’ today and Grosjean, yet again, threw away valuable points with some questionable driving.

He’s been given a three-place grid penalty for the next race (as it’s Monaco, that will hurt) and a couple of points on his licence too.

Still, at least no one was hurt – though who knows what hellish ordeal team boss Gene Haas has in store for Grosjean once the press have gone home.

Dear F1, Ham back where ah belong

Ham on Ham cam: Lewis Hamilton celebrates with a selfie after his Spanish Grand Prix victory
Ham on Ham cam: Lewis Hamilton celebrates with a selfie after his Spanish Grand Prix victory

Lewis Hamilton was in his groove all afternoon. As others struggled with tyre issues, he led from the front and, within two laps of the race re-start, was already two seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel.

You could tell he was in the groove because, in the post-race interviews, his mid-Atlantic drawl started to creep in.

Mercedes dominated this weekend in a way that suggests the upgrades they brought to Barcelona were better than their competitors – and that the tyre changes they suggested to Pirelli are hurting others more than Mercedes.

It remains to be seen whether this dominance will translate to other circuits but, in a season that started with Ferrari quickly establishing themselves as title favourites, Merc have managed to establish a 27-point lead in the Constructors’ Championship after just five races.

Hamilton has a 17-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship and, in the battle of the No.2s, Valtteri Bottas leads Kimi Raikkonen.

Perhaps the greatest threat to Ferrari isn’t from the Mercedes upgrades, though. If Hamilton really has his groove back, then he’s going to start owning qualifying sessions and race days too for the rest of the season’s European F1 gatherings.

That’s what happened last year – Hamilton won two-thirds of the European races and the rest, as they say, is history.

Mamma mia, here we go again

Eye-eye: Even those new ‘eyebrow’ mirrors on Sebastian Vettel’s car couldn’t get him on to the Barcelona podium
Eye-eye: Even those new ‘eyebrow’ mirrors on Sebastian Vettel’s car couldn’t get him on to the Barcelona podium

This will have been a deeply uncomfortable weekend for Ferrari.

Out-qualified by both Mercedes cars, they faced an additional headache when Raikkonen’s engine was changed on Friday night as a precaution.

The new engine lasted only until lap 24, when Kimi retired. As each car is supposed to get through the season on three engines, it’s already looking like there will be sleepless nights ahead for Ferrari mechanics.

Then there was Vettel’s lacklustre showing, finishing fourth and unable to chase down Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, even though it had a broken front wing.

Until this weekend, it’s been Mercedes who have struggled with tyre performance but, in Barcelona, Ferrari found themselves hamstrung by the Pirellis.

Ferrari came in for criticism for pitting Vettel under a Virtual Safety Car and costing him track position, so vital at this circuit, where overtaking is harder than being Grosjean’s panel beater.

But Ferrari had little choice – Vettel conceded that the scarlet cars were chewing up their tyres quicker than the opposition, which left the Maranello strategists with precious little room for manoeuvre.

That allowed Mercedes the luxury of a slow pit-stop for Bottas – who would have leap-frogged Vettel in the early stops were it not for a recalcitrant rear wheel – and gifted Verstappen a much-needed podium.

For the sake of the season, let’s hope Ferrari aren’t back in that familiar loop of irritating failures which has so blighted them and their fans in the past.

Leclerc of the course

New kid on the block: For those of you who don’t yet know what he looks like, this is F1 star-in-waiting Charles Leclerc
New kid on the block: For those of you who don’t yet know what he looks like, this is F1 star-in-waiting Charles Leclerc

Quietly scoring another championship point in the Sauber – the Sauber! – was newbie Charles Leclerc, putting his knowledge of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to good use – in recent years, he’s won here in both F2 and GP3.

Yet again, he comprehensively outperformed his experienced team-mate Marcus Ericsson, and now sits a genuinely impressive 13th in the Drivers’ Championship.

This is no fluke – watching him battle with Alonso, in the improved McLaren, his race-craft was obvious.

He’s a Ferrari junior driver and, after just five F1 races, the question is already being asked about which team will want him next.

At the old end of the grid, the wrinklier drivers were still putting on a good show too, particularly Fernando Alonso.

He made his intentions clear early on, coming out on top in a cracking tussle with Esteban Ocon, passing the Force India around the outside of turn three on lap 7.

McLaren’s raft of upgrades helped Alonso to eighth – admittedly, behind a Renault and a Haas, and the last of the cars not to be lapped twice. That’s progress of a sort.

Verstappen gets a nod for his deserved third place too, after what has been a torrid and clumsy start to the 2018 season for the Red Bull driver.

Verstappen’s GP wasn’t without its scares though – at the end of the Virtual Safety Car period on lap 43, he bumped the back of Lance Stroll’s somewhat pedestrian Williams, damaging the Red Bull’s front wing in the process.

Verstappen stayed out and, despite his old tyres and beaten-up wing, never looked like he would lose third place to Vettel.

Now, if he could just get through a race without bumping into anyone at all…

Next up is Monaco, in a couple of weeks – no overtaking, lots of bad-taste billionaires and yet always a big draw. Put your champagne on ice.

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