Martin Brundle column: Delivering the verdict on F1's Spanish GP
Martin reviews a race that truly put the grid to the physical test but which ultimately was totally dominated by one in-the-zone driver
Last Updated: 18/08/20 4:01pm
I saw a lot of hot and exhausted drivers mooching through Parc Ferme as I waited to interview the podium winners. We also witnessed several drivers resting their necks through the race, the heat and the relentless G-forces taking their toll.
There was little or no banter or interaction, just a slow march to the weighing scales followed by the interview pen to explain their stories of being a support act to Lewis Hamilton.
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For a couple of drivers, if their chins had been any lower they would have tripped over them. Our sixth race in seven weeks wasn't the most exciting for those of us at the circuit, or indeed for fans on the sofa. It was one of those typical Barcelona races.
Hamilton extends his championship lead to 37 points in what is at least a third of the way through the season already. He lapped everybody except his fellow podium dwellers. I'm told he could have one-stopped if required such was his parsimonious use of tyres.
He did not achieve the full house of fastest lap and the associated extra point because Valtteri Bottas grabbed that with new tyres on the final tour, as a consolation prize for once again being outshone by his team-mate and Max Verstappen.
Hamilton was in a class of one or, as he called it, a 'daze'. He didn't even know it was the last lap he was in such a metronomic zone, winning at ease by 24 seconds over Max and, due to the extra tyre stop, his all-important number of 44 seconds over Bottas for his 88th F1 victory.
My driver of the day was Carlos Sainz in sixth who put in a feisty charge in front of his home grandstands for McLaren, always hustling in attack or defence.
Racing Point delivered more of their pre-season and recent promise with fourth and fifth albeit finishing over a lap behind. Lance Stroll earned his fourth place with some brave and bold driving down to the first corner, and then making it all stick to the apex on arrival.
There was briefly some energetic side-by-side action between the two RPs but Sergio Perez later incurred the wrath of the Stewards and was relegated behind Stroll to fifth for not jumping out of the way fast enough in view of blue flags while being lapped. As did Daniil Kvyat, so it seems we have a new focus on that aspect.
A low point of the race for me was when we heard Perez over the radio asking his team how his tyres were. That feels very much the wrong way around to me and another endorsement for limiting car-to-pit telemetry only to items which are safety critical for driver (and therefore those trackside too) and the rotating hot oily bits. As the regulations say, 'the driver must drive alone and unaided'.
In fact, on that subject, it was interesting to hear both Hamilton and Verstappen influencing their own race strategies. Hamilton declined a set of the usually happy-hour soft tyres as unsuitable for his Sunday afternoon drive, instead demanding the mediums. He was right, they were relatively rubbish when fitted to his team-mate's car.
Max was more along the lines of 'my tyres are finished, I know you have a stash of replacements we made earlier and I want some right now'. In addition to 'we weren't as fast as Mercedes on the same tyres, stop worrying about them and let them do their thing, and let us focus on getting me to that funny piece of waved black and white cloth as fast as we possibly can'. Or something like that.
There was some brutal midfield action in the yo-yo world of pit stops and desperation for a few world championship points. As ever, if it was all for a victory it would bring the house down and make the front pages, but as impressive as the bravery and skills were, it was for minor placings.
Seb Vettel received the fans' driver of the day after a fine drive one-stopping and somehow making a set of soft tyres last 36 laps, starting 11th and finishing seventh in a works Ferrari… His worst Spanish GP result since breaking down in 2008.
Charles Leclerc had his first mechanical retirement since joining Ferrari when the engine switched off and gave him an unexpected handbrake turn.
Kimi Raikkonen had a reasonable day for 14th in the Alfa Romeo, at the same time taking Fernando Alonso's record for the greatest distance covered in F1 races at around 52,000 miles.
Pierre Gasly and Kvyat for AlphaTauri were giving it plenty in ninth and 12th, which I appreciated. Gasly is on fire.
Alex Albon was lapped by his team-mate Verstappen after curiously being the only driver in the race to sample the hitherto unloved hard-compound tyres.
And Renault had a very ordinary race, uncomfortably so with the new company boss Luca de Meo in town.
We have a weekend off now before the next triple header of Spa, Monza and Mugello, all of which will make a nice change of location and pace, especially with the unknown and very high-speed challenge of Tuscany's (and Ferrari's) Mugello. Looking forward to that.
Hasta la vista until we report to you from the picturesque Spa in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile may you have no tyre degradation or blistering.