Yes you read that right. In only the second race of the season, Ferrari has proven they can take the fight to Mercedes after an emotional win for Sebastian Vettel. Mercedes seemed caught off guard by Ferrari’s unrelenting pace. A pace that forced Mercedes to consider unscheduled pitstops. A pace that caused tempers to flare over the Mercedes radio. A pace that won Ferrari the race.
Right from the beginning it was obvious that Sebastian Vettel was going to be a factor against Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton was able to get an excellent start, but Vettel was able to hold off Nico Rosberg after an aggressive move exiting the second turn. After that moment Sebastian kept his Ferrari less than a second behind Hamilton’s Mercedes, and consistently ahead of Rosberg.
A lap 4 safety car caused by Marcus Ericsson’s beached Sauber on the outside of turn 1 forced decisions that would expose Mercedes’ weakness, and reveal Ferrari’s strength. Both Mercedes pit, but 5 cars stayed out including the Ferrari of none other than Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton would return in sixth place, and Rosberg in 9th. This forced Mercedes to shred tires racing back to the front. Meanwhile Vettel was cranking out fast laps, increasing his distance from the pack.
In the end it was Ferraris efficiency on their tires that won them the race. The Mercedes team ended up considering an extra pitstop in response to Vettel’s pace. It almost seemed that Mercedes was caught off guard by how quick the Ferrari was, and how light it was on its tires. There were some heated radio transmissions between the Mercedes drivers and their engineers.
Lewis Hamilton after his final pit stop questioned the second set of hard tires that were fitted to his car. It was clear the team was not sure the mediums would have lasted until the end of the race. Vettel started on mediums, then pitted for a second set, then went to the hards on his second stop. That set Vettel up for 18 laps on his hard tires for the win. Hamilton crossed in second, and Rosberg finished third.
Kimi Raikkonen had a very tough race. His weekend started to go bad in qualifying when he was stuck behind Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber in Q2. This caused Kimi’s Q2 lap time to only be good for an 11th place starting position. This put Kimi right in the middle of the 1st turn gauntlet at the start of the race. Kimi was struck by Felipe Nasr’s Sauber on the opening lap. Shortly after Kimi passed the pit wall on the second lap, his left rear had gone flat. Kimi had to drive the entire second lap on only three tires.
This put Kimi back into 18th. This would normally end someone’s day, but not for Kimi. Kimi Raikkonen pushed on, all the way back up to finish fourth. Which ultimately suggests that Ferrari really may have what it takes to consistently bring the fight to Mercedes.
The two Williams of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa finished in 5th and 6th respectively. They had a spectacular race, and seemed to work together to cut through the field after their pit stops. They eventually had to stop working together to race each other in the closing laps, when Bottas eventually got the better of Felipe Massa. There was one hair raising moment where the two got into each other, but both cars came out fine and finished with a strong result for the team.
Finishing 7th and 8th were the Torro Rossos of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. Max became the youngest ever driver to score points with his 7th place finish. Max stated after the race that he was more proud of scoring points than being the youngest to do so. Max struggled with his brakes in the beginning stages of the race, but said after the race that they began functioning well after about 15 laps. This gave him the confidence he needed to put the moves on Daniel Ricciardo, and Carlos Sainz jr. to earn his finishing position.
The Red Bulls had another frustrating weekend rounding out the top 10. With Daniil Kvyat finishing 9th and Daniel Ricciardo finishing 10th. Both cars did finish in the points, but behind the Torro Rossos. With a final twist of the knife came ex-teamate Sebastian Vettel in the closing laps to put them both a lap down.
Outside the top 10, Grosjean took 11th after a terrifying moment when he spun at high speed after contact with Sergio Perez. Grosjean made an outside move on Perez that made it hard for Perez to stay low. They got into each other and Grosjean spun. Perez was later penalized 10 seconds for the incident.
Nasr took 12th. Perez managed 13th after his penalty. Nico Hulkenberg took 14th after his 10 second penalty for an incident with Danill Kvyat. Kvyat said after the race he felt it was a racing incident and that he holds nothing against Hulkenberg. Hulkenberg recognized that Kvyat probably didn’t expect anyone to be making a move for the inside at that moment. Both Force India drivers had points added to their super licenses.
Maldonado was given a 10 second Stop and Go Penalty for speeding under the Safety Car. He served it during his second pit stop. It was a really rough race for Maldonado, he suffered a puncture on the first lap, got a penalty then retired with brake issues on lap 48.
Both McLarens also retired. Alonso suffered from an issue with his ERS and was forced to retire lap 21. Jenson Button suffered a similar fate with turbo issues causing his retirement on lap 41. Jenson was not happy with Roberto Merhi after the race when he said:
“Merhi obviously hasn’t read the rule book, because he didn’t try to catch the safety car. I know they are not fast, but they are at least quicker than that.”
However, both Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso were happy with McLaren’s pace. Both of them stating that it was good to be able to race the other cars.
Roberto Merhi did finish the race in his Manor F1, 3 laps down.