Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015

Dominant win puts Rosberg in title hunt

2015 Spanish Grand Prix review

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Lewis Hamilton handled the threat from his team mate so comfortably in the first four races of 2015 that it came as a surprise to see the balance of power reversed so suddenly at the Circuit de Catalunya.

After taking the chequered flag in first place for the ninth time in his career, Nico Rosberg said there had been “nothing different” about how he had tackled the Spanish Grand Prix. “Just the same approach, keep on going, and this weekend it all came good,” he insisted. “That’s all.”

This was as plain a warning Hamilton can expect to receive that Rosberg is not about to let him walk to this year’s championship.

Hamilton struggles at the start

Start, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015The Circuit de Catalunya has always been more about the chassis beneath the drivers than what they do with it. Saturday’s qualifying session gave ample proof of that fact: but for a faulty tyre blanket on Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari and a slip-up at turn three on Felipe Massa’s sole lying lap in Q3, the cars would have lined up in neat pairs from Mercedes to Manor.

The world champion had been out of sorts for most of the weekend, pirouetting at turn three during final practice, fiddling with his set-up, unable to get into the same groove as his team mate. Pole position went to Rosberg by two-tenths of a second, and that’s half the battle at this track.

Much of the other half is how good a start you make, and Rosberg nailed that too. Having reverted to the same clutch he used last year he fired his Mercedes W05 into a lead he never looked like losing.

Hamilton, however, had wheelspin on his final practice start and again when the lights went out. Not only did Vettel pass him easily but he looked like he might be swallowed up by Valtteri Bottas as well. Desperately late braking at turn one kept him ahead, but in that moment his priority for the afternoon ceased to me how to beat his team mate and became a question of how to get ahead of Vettel.

Despite running the full quota of Ferrari’s new parts, Vettel’s Ferrari was if anything further away from the Mercedes pace than usual. By lap ten Rosberg was seven seconds to the good, but Hamilton was unable to get within striking distance of the Ferrari even when he had the assistance of DRS.

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Strategy succeeds for Hamilton

A pit stop pass was always going to be Hamilton’s best chance of getting ahead. He duly arrived at the Mercedes pit box as early as lap 13 for his second set of medium compound tyres.

The left-rear was slow to attach, however, and despite quickly passing Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus on his out-lap, Hamilton arrived on the pit straight just in time to see Vettel’s Ferrari completing his first pit stop still in front of his pursuer.

Fortunately for Hamilton the Safety Car did not make an appearance all day and behind the front runners the rest of the field was dropping back quickly. This all meant Mercedes could afford to switch him to a three-stop strategy – a theoretically faster plan providing the time spent in traffic was minimal.

At half race distance Hamilton came back in for his second pit stop and although he rejoined the track behind the other Ferrari of Raikkonen, the combination of fresh tyres plus DRS meant he was instantly past. That plus a hold-up for Vettel in traffic meant Hamilton was on course for second place.

Mercedes eased his passage by delaying Rosberg’s second and final pit stop so Hamilton’s charge would not be interrupted by his team mate leaving the pits ahead of him. But did the thought crossed Hamilton’s mind to not make his third pit stop and try to stay ahead of Rosberg and steal the win? “It wouldn’t have been good to stay out,” was all he said about it afterwards.

Lotus team mates tangle

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015The Spanish Grand Prix was a depressing experience for fans of wheel-to-wheel racing. Drivers either found it impossible to get within range to launch an attack – as with Hamilton on Vettel – or received such a powerful boost from DRS that overtaking became inevitable, even routine.

Both Toro Rosso drivers lacked speed on the straight and were easily passed by their rivals. By the time the chequered flag fell the STR10 drivers had fallen far below their impressive third row starting positions.

Meanwhile the Lotus pair went on the attack from row six. Aided by the advantage of being the first cars allowed to start the race on fresh tyres, Mercedes power meant they had the Renault-propelled Toro Rossos and Red Bulls largely outgunned in the DRS zone.

Both E22 pilots had spotty races, however. Romain Grosjean went off at turn one early on and regained the track just as his team mate was passing by. Pastor Maldonado, showing his usual standard of spatial awareness, squeezed his team mate to the inside of turn three, making passing contact.

Grosjean’s car was unscathed but the jolt weakened Maldonado’s right-hand rear wing end plate, which subsequently failed. It was removed on his first visit to the pits, but the loss of time and performance eventually led the team to withdraw him from the race. It was something of a surprise the stewards did not show the car the black and orange flag to order to the team address the fault sooner, as a failure at speed could have caused a huge crash.

Following the brush with his team mate Grosjean recovered one place from Carlos Sainz Jnr, and despite losing fourth gear in the latter stages he managed to bring the car home in eighth place.

Sainz and Kvyat trade paint

Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015Rumours have linked Bottas to a move to Ferrari in the near future and on the strength of the last two races it’s not hard to see why. In Bahrain he held Vettel back to take fourth, and in Spain he beat the other Ferrari despite Raikkonen spending the last ten laps all over the back of the Williams.

Massa came in some 20 seconds further back in fifth, while Daniel Ricciardo’s run to sixth was even lonelier.

The Red Bull driver at least made it to the end of the race, as did all of the other Renault-powered runners. The engine manufacturer used more conservative settings for this race in a bid to get a handle on its reliability problems.

However two of its drivers nearly eliminated themselves on the final tour, as Daniil Kvyat and Sainz made contact on the run to turn one. Sainz ran wide and rejoined the track ahead of his Red Bull stablemate in ninth place, and the stewards cleared both drivers of any transgression.

Max Verstappen missed out on a point by little more than a second. The next car home was Felipe Nasr, who had irritated his Sauber team mate Marcus Ericsson by briefly holding him up in the middle of the race.

Having got both cars into Q2 for the first time this year, McLaren’s hope of collecting their first points were dashed as Jenson Button struggled with dire handling problems and Fernando Alonso suffered a brake failure which gave his team a fright when he entered the pits unable to stop. This wasn’t the only pit lane drama during the race – Grosjean sent his front jack man flying when he skidded on a slippery pit box.

Rosberg fires a warning shot

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015The 2015 Spanish Grand Prix was not one for the ages. But it may have added a shot of life to the drivers’ championship as Rosberg has now moved within striking distance of his team mate in the points standings.

Outwardly, Hamilton appeared unruffled by his disappointing weekend. “I’m just going to do what I did in the previous times,” he said. “This is just a hiccup, I guess, this weekend.”

The combination of a sub-par qualifying performance and a poor start had put paid to his hopes of racing Rosberg and left him stuck behind Vettel. “Unfortunately, this track isn’t very good for overtaking,” he summed up.

“Actually it’s the worst for overtaking,” he added, perhaps forgetting that the world championship heads to the tight confines of Monaco next. Another Rosberg pole and win there – as we’ve seen in the last two years – would really give Hamilton something to think about.

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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53 comments on “Dominant win puts Rosberg in title hunt”

  1. Lewis is a much better driver and this should not worry him one bit. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hamilton goes on a three or four race win streak again.

    1. Yes he’s a good driver, but you get the sense he’s far too fragile mentally sometimes. I feel that this win for Rosberg may shift the balance of momentum to Rosberg for his favourite race. We all saw how distraught Lewis was after Monaco last year and it took him a long time to recover from that.

      1. Fragile? Is this the same fragile individual who fought reliability and his team mate last season to win the championship? You don’t achieve what Lewis achieved last seas9n by being ‘fragile’. Rosberg on the other hand…..

        1. Michael Brown
          11th May 2015, 20:00

          I suppose you’ve forgotten Spa 2014

      2. Who would not be distraught when someone cheats and gets away with it? Hamilton is fine mentally, you cannot expect to win all races and he knows that.

      3. Ironic, of the two main moments Nico Rosberg cheated Hamilton you chose Monaco to demonstrate how Hamilton’s “fragility” was shown rather than that of his Mercedes combined with a healthy dose of bad luck.

        What happened after Rosberg hit Hamilton at Spa? Mr. Handle With Care has scored 304 of 325 points including 9 wins and a championship.

      4. @williamstuart I thought this rumor was dead… it’s one race man

      5. @williamstuart Hamilton was distraught after Monaco but it’s worth noting that after the incident in Spa, Hamilton played the world against Rosberg

  2. Sorry I should have said go beyond the limit of what the car is capable of.

  3. One of three wins for Rosberg, this year, I predict.

  4. I think that the extra pit stop strategy, would work from now on in order to allow Mercedes to secure an 1-2, especially in circuits that passing is easier. Seeing how slow everyone but Ferrari and Williams are, it has become very easy to use that strategy correctly, unless of course a safety car comes out. Unless Ferrari makes some big improvement at Montreal, I think their chances for another victory would lie in an eventful race or reliability issues at Mercedes.

    Hamilton lost the race the moment he turned at the first corner after Vettel. Since I have no hard feelings for either Mercedes drivers, I hope that for the sake of the sport and our enjoyment, Rosberg will manage to win a couple of races, and present a real title challenge.

    1. @afonic, I pretty much agree with all you said there.

      I kind of wish the sport was in better shape. A lot of the teams have serious issues going on, and there is a lack of feel-good if you’d ask me. Redbull and Mclaren should be at the front, but are both under performing quite massively, while also being unreliable. Manor is hopelessly at the back, having almost no money to compete. Force India are way down, waiting for their delayed B-spec car, and Toro Rosso and Lotus being let down by reliability in the first couple of races. Not saying it’s all bad, but it isn’t a healthy grid at the moment. Mercedes increased advantage kind of ruined hope for a Ferrari challenge.

      1. @me4me yes I agree at everything you said about the grid. The situation is not good, and I hope that we can have more teams fighting for the podium soon. I believe McLaren is a lost cause this year, but certainly, both them and Honda, has the means and knowledge to get back to winning.

        About the Ferrari challenge, I might have been a bit too pessimistic in my comment. As Keith has pointed out in an article earlier last week, Spain was the track that Mercedes had the biggest advantage last year, so it would fair to assume that this is the case this year as well. They also need to reassess their strategy, as they obviously struggle with the harder compound. If Ferrari manage to improve their PU a bit more, and I would bet that they can, based on the progress they made so far, we just might get a couple of fights for the middle podium step. However pretty much everything should be perfect for them to achieve that, from a track that suits them, to the tyre choice.

        To be honest, I haven’t lost interest at all this year, I still hope that the racing will improve. Lets see!

    2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      11th May 2015, 0:50

      This was a bad race for Lewis and incidentally Vettel who would have been better off letting Lewis by on Turn 1. As it stands, he just let Nico get away in the championship and now he’ll have a harder time reeling him in for P2 in the championship which is really Seb’s personal championship of trying to split the 2 Mercedes cars if he can manage that.

      As for Lewis, this race could not have been scripted worse. If Vettel had yielded earlier or had he not had the long pit stop that put him behind Vettel, Lewis might have had a shot by staying on the Hard Tyre in the last final laps or switching and catching Nico with a 5-6 second deficit.

      Anyway, good for Nico!

      1. That’s some over thinking heh.
        OR Vettel could let Hamilton by waiting for another incident that could handle him the victory, who knows…

      2. I don’t think any F1 driver thinks like that, especially a 4 times world champion.

    3. pxcmerc (@)
      11th May 2015, 6:08

      Lewis lost any real chance after the first pit. Mercedes pitting him just in time to collect Kimi was interesting too I thought. I also think Bonnington is one of the worse race engineers on the grid, on top of being annoying he always seems to give Lewis the worst advice when Lewis is on his back foot. Just thankful Lewis didn’t get stuck behind Vettel for a third stint after Merc pitted him slow for the second time.

  5. Let's go DUTCH 🔨
    10th May 2015, 22:36

    Hello 😛 first of all many greetings from Amsterdam, i just have 1 question: who decided to send MAX out in the last stint on the hard tires?????? The team?

    1. I think they split their strategy to try and get at least one car into points.

    2. I think Max and his engineers decided this, as Max was a lot more comfortable and confident on the harder compound and not so much on the medium tyre.

  6. I think there’s a huge chance of a result with plenty of benefits for Rosberg in 2 weeks. He did well to get the upper hand right at the best possible moment. He won Monaco the last 2 times we’ve been there, and Seb can be the one sneeking past Hamilton at the start and that’s it, Nico’s on the game again.

    Somehow that bad start made things far more difficult than they’d otherwise be at any other track for Lewis.

    It was a very straight forward race today. But, heck, now F1 is on twitter and youtube (after years of begging them to do it) and now the drivers, apparently, will try harder to connect with fans. What if they just stop using DRS for a little while? maybe just 1 race…

    Because, really, without DRS, there was a great chance of those 4 Renault engined cars to finish on the points. But no, they were going down life flies lap after lap…

    I think that’s a lot more unfair than whichever engine regulation they come up with. Horner should complain about that, they don’t even let them defend themselves with those easy overtakes!

    1. It’s not the DRS’s fault that 4 Renault cars fail to finish in the points, it’s Renault’s fault for building a mediocre engine.

      1. @scepter I know, but it’s double harmful if they are not even able to defend after qualifying so well. That’s what I mean.

    2. On your DRS point, it’s depressing to watch the GP2 races now, with DRS ruining several promising battles in today’s race. The commentators were completely unimpressed with DRS and I can’t blame them, cars were being passed halfway down the main straight. I’d love for the FiA to say ok, DRS was a failed experiment, let’s try something new to promote closer racing.

    3. Next, people will blame DRS for the legal issues Sauber got themselves into.

      I was unaware that DRS apparently stands for “Default Racing Scapegoat”. Apparently, we can blame all sorts of things on it… Hamilton’s slow pit stop, Kimi’s tires catching fire, Maldonado’s wing breaking loose– No, wait, the DRS system was holding up half the rear wing. Better use that excuse elsewhere.

      So explain, if DRS makes passing so easy, how one of the best passing drivers out there (Hamilton) was unable to pass Vettel (who Hamilton has habitually driven around in the past) when the Ferrari was apparently 1.6 seconds a lap slower, according to this site?

      Even with DRS, with the new nose regulations, it’s obvious we’re going backwards in terms of passability, and I don’t think removing downforce from the cars is the right answer. F1 needs a massive re-think of what they want F1 racing to be, and get out of the increasingly dead-end that the regulations are creating.

  7. Seems Rosberg is really quick at the traditional European circuits. He was in really good form from around this part of last season. Hamilton will probably crush him on most of the Tilke tracks though.

    1. Uhmm, traditional Europeans tracks are Spa,Monza,Silverstone,Monaco,Hungary and to some extent Austria… Well how many of them was Nico faster last year, two? Three?

      1. Austria and Brazil. Both short, winding circuits at high altitude, and Hamilton doesn’t seem to do well at either one.

        Monaco is such an outlier that it’s not worth considering as a racing track. Think of it as a really long, 100 mph parade.

  8. I think the tree pit stop strategy for Massa was a shame. He ended 21.3 s after Raikkonen. Pit stops in Barcelona are 22 s long. If Williams have not called him for 3 stop strategy, he would be fighting Bottas and Raikkonen. Williams have made another strategy mistake for Massa. Remember Australia 2015 as he missed podium to Vetterl.

    1. He had an free stop chance thanks to the gap to Redbull, why not try something different?(Safety car)

    2. Pit stops in Barcelona are 22 s long. If Williams have not called him for 3 stop strategy, he would be fighting Bottas and Raikkonen.

      This logic is not sound. He would not have been able to keep the same pace with a two-stop stategy compared to his actual three-stop strategy.

      1. Why not? Even Rob Smedley said weeks ago Massa was doing a great job with his tyres this season. And even though Massa made a three-stop strategy, he ran many laps with old tyres as he only ran 15 laps with the harder compound.

    3. Sir Frank and the media have a hard ** for Bottas, I don’t think it’s surprising Massa get’s the short end of the stick on that team.

  9. Pastor Maldonado, showing his usual standard of spatial awareness, squeezed his team mate to the inside of turn three, making passing contact.

    xD love that! it’s so funny to then hear him say “when Pastor crashes, it’s all news, when others crash, not so much”. How can that be any different with the guy constantly pushing his luck and even risking his team mate’s race like this? how is it possible that a guy with a reasonably good car sits behind the Marussias in the championship?

    1. In my view it’s the following: He’s not intelligent enough by not realising the fundamental goals of motor racing.

      It’s not the target to have the “biggest balls”, it’s about achieving the best results you can with the car underneath you and giving a bit more space than too little can be helpful with that (i.e. Vettel to Magnussen in Brazil 2014). He’s skillful but simply isn’t complete enough to be a good racing driver.

  10. While I agree Rosberg is moving in the right direction he still needs to win at Monaco and Canada to really pile the pressure on Hamilton.

    1. If Mercedes hasn’t fixed their overheating ERS system by Canada, expect Vettel to win.

  11. Rosberg would win sooner or later. Even Hamilton cannot defeat him every single time.
    For Monaco he is my bet for pole and win, but after that, probably another Hamilton streak of wins.

    Hamilton simply win races much more easily.

  12. This win will also alter the dynamics of the Hamilton Mercedes contract talks. As long as Hamilton was winning and Ferrari close, he had the upper hand. If Rosberg were to repeat this performance again in Monaco, the advantage in these negotiations will go back firmly in Mercedes’ hands.

  13. Good on Nico not making it easier for Hamilton as fans prefer a fight. But Ferrari’s 45 secs deficit to Merc is not a good sign. Sure hope it’s a one off.

  14. Remember when Alonso won the British GP in 2011, and a lot said ‘Ferrari is back, Alonso is back’. Suddenly he was going to win many races that season.

    That’s how this win feels to me. A solid performance but Rosberg will have a hard time winning a race again if Hamilton just has regular weekends.

    1. Its good for him to get a positive vibe, and Hamilton to feel a bit down due to losing out by his own mistakes ahead of Monaco where Rosberg is very strong too @xtwl.

      But yeah, if 4 wins in a row don’t make Hamilton a shoe in for the championship, surely 1 win by Rosberg doesn’t suddenly make him the favourite to beat Lewis too it. But it does mean that it might not be a complete walkover.

  15. Rosberg’s performance at Monaco will show if he’s genuinely a contender. Rosberg needs to stay as close as possible to Lewis, as one mechanical failure for Lewis could easily get Rosberg back in the game. But if Seb starts finishing in front of Rosberg on a more regular basis, then it’s game over for Nico.

    Honestly, with the pace advantage Mercedes has over Ferrari, they shouldn’t be getting anything less than 1-2s in normal race and reliability conditions

  16. Rosberg has never won two races in a row, but I think he will win the Monaco Grand Prix.

  17. Much of the other half is how good a start you make, and Rosberg nailed that too. Having reverted to the same clutch he used last year he fired his Mercedes W05 into a lead he never looked like losing.

    Hamilton, however, had wheelspin on his final practice start and again when the lights went out.

    I read in the comments on the BBC that both cars have reverted back to the old clutch, which if true, would appear to be detrimental to LH. After all, how stellar have his starts been up until this point?

  18. “Dominant win puts Rosberg in title hunt”

    On paper, yes. Realistically, not really. 5 races, 1 pole, 1 win. vs 5 races, 4 poles, 3 wins. It’s pretty much going the way of last year at this stage.

    Form is tempory, class is permanent.

    1. Realistically, after five races NR is back within less than one race win of the WDC lead in spite of only one pole and one win. Hence he is in the hunt and the gap just closed a bit to LH and did not open wider.

      1. yeah, I guess Lewis could have a break down, or his car could catch on fire/break down during qualifying about 4 or 5 times.

  19. Lewis hamilton is generally not quick on Spanish track as well as Brazil .may be rosberg win couple of races more maximum is 4 according to my prediction.Rosberg’ s win won’t be a concern for Hamilton unless some mechanical problem affect any mechanical issues Hamilton will be a world champion before Austin Texas.

    1. I just wonder if, now that LH has experienced the dirty air effect handcuffing him for a change, the pressure will now be on for both drivers to get pole, not that it wasn’t already, as it will be more crucial than ever now that we see how bad the tires are this year. Ie. we now see that Nico complaining of this a few races back was not just him not being as good as LH…not just him deciding or being unable to push. It is a reality now in F1, that you take a big risk with your tires and strategy by getting within 2 seconds of the car ahead, and now LH knows where NR was coming from, as he was just as handcuffed. As was SV. These tires are awful and are causing processions and virtually DRS-only passes.

      1. I don’t think it matters, you can drive really slow at the front of the field and still not get passed. Ferrari have nothing for Merc right now, except the hope of break down or Lewis not getting a chance to setup his car and share his data.

  20. Very happy for Nico and for F1. Nico showed he is not the only one that can do a ‘Lewis’. And of course that does not mean Nico will now think Lewis is a pushover. Far from it, Nico knows this is just the start of what he must do to fight for the WDC, and he has shown indeed he can do it.

    What I liked too was that Lewis got a taste of what NR and SV had complained about before…once you get too close to someone, you start ruining your tires. So…turns out it isn’t just as simply as cranking it up, right? When Nico couldn’t do it he was slagged for just not being good enough and not pushing like LH would. When it happens to LH, it’s no problem he’ll just win the next 4 but he is not questioned for not pushing and ‘simply’ reeling NR in.

    But overall, I really am dismayed that it has come to the point now where a bloke ruins his tires when within 2 seconds of the guy in front. Something has changed since last year and it continues to be the wrong direction for F1.

  21. We all know that Lewis is winning because he has the best car.

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