2021 Spanish Grand Prix: The F1 debrief

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2021 Spanish Grand Prix
Image: AMG Mercedes F1 / Wolfgang Wilhelm

F1 concluded its Iberian Peninsula double-header adventures with a wholly engaging Spanish Grand Prix. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya ranks low on many fans’ favourite tracks list but 2021 might change the minds of some. Did any of the GP Grandstand team look at Barcelona in a new light?

Jacob Phillips – “We’re in for a good season”

When the Spanish Grand Prix is watchable, you know we’re in for a good season. I had my doubts prior to lights out given the borefests here of years past, but this year provided us with something worthy of the Grand Prix title.

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Once again the Lewis vs Max show dominated the card, with the Brit showing why many consider him to be amongst the best of all time. Red Bull tried something different with Max, but shades of Hungary 2019 came back to haunt the Dutchman. I feel Merc may now have the better car, but the majority of the success the seven-time champion is enjoying is through sheer talent alone. Here’s to an equally entertaining Monaco.

Jim Kimberley – “Great viewing as a fan”

After napping through the Portuguese Grand Prix I was expecting Spain to be a full 90-minute sleep. How delighted I was by the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix exceeding expectations. Lewis Hamilton pulled out all the stops to take the win to pair with his 100th pole after not leading for nearly the entire race. Max Verstappen’s razor-sharp elbows shown at the first corner are everything we’ve hoped to see in a Hamilton adversary.

Unfortunately for Max, Red Bull didn’t learn their Hungary 2019 lesson and made the wrong gamble. But this made for great viewing as a fan in what felt like a classic F1 strategy game. One wonders if a Verstappen win could’ve come off if Sergio Perez wasn’t left for dust as both number 2 drivers of the championship antagonists continue their lacklustre start.

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It was good to see Daniel Ricciardo tame his McLaren somewhat, too. With Leclerc looking serene in P4 and Sainz racing steadily, Ricciardo joining the “Formula 1.5” fight could really give us a McLaren vs Ferrari battle of old. It’s a shame it’s for 3rd in the Constructors’ standings, but an evenly matched Ferrari and McLaren fight can never be a bad thing.

Gareth Winslade – “Blocks, stops and chops!”

An F1 strategy duel is in my opinion almost as exciting as a couple of passes for the win.  Mercedes really knew how to inject spice and get Hamilton past Verstappen here.  The opening stint showed us that with equal tyre life the cars were too evenly matched to make a race of it.  So turning the race into a two stopper versus a one stopper was the only way a change would be made.  You could hear the resignation in Gianpiero Lambiase’s voice as he realised what that second Hamilton pitstop meant.

Almost throwing a spanner in the works was Valterri Bottas who decided he couldn’t hear the pitwall and chose to close the door on Hamilton in Turns 3 and 4.  It was an agonising moment followed by a genuine pass into Turn 10.  The only one of the race as it went.

Meanwhile, there will be glum and puzzled faces at Enstone this morning.  Unpicking just what went wrong for Alpine is tricky.  From looking quick in Portugal to looking slow in Spain despite the visual similarities of the two tracks will not be easy.

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I wonder if Gene Haas and Gunther Steiner are beginning to get a bit bored of Mazepin’s antics.  A second penalty point on his Super Licence is absolutely ridiculous for a driver who has only driven four Grands Prix.  He has caused an incident in every qualifying session this season and blocked Hamilton in the race.  I can see him reaching a race ban before Abu Dhabi.

We saw some alarming late chop braking moves along with weaving all over the place down the main straight from plenty of drivers.  It was almost like the drivers have already forgotten Grosjean’s fiery accident in Bahrain last season.  Or the tragedy of Hubert in 2019.  Michael Masi needs to read them the riot act before we get to Monaco or someone is going to hurt.

Thiemo Albers-Daly – “Red Bull have not been tamed yet”

Barcelona is never the most exciting race on the F1 calendar. But 2021’s offering provided us with some juicy moments despite this. Round four of Hamilton Vs Verstappen was great to watch and mirrored Bahrain for me in some ways as it went down to the last few laps. Mercedes’ superior strategy once again proved why they’ve claimed every Championship of the past seven years. But Red Bull have not been tamed yet by any means.

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Driver of the day for me, though, was Charles Leclerc, who drove beautifully to finish fourth. There were a few times where I thought third might have been an option for him due to Bottas’ lacklustre performance. Ricciardo had a great day, too, which is exactly what the Aussie needed after last weekend.

Monaco is next up race wise, and after two years away, I can’t wait.

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