► Red Bull clear up
► Mercedes shows huge progress
► Ferrari give away points, again
Catalunya is usually known for two things; testing and equally processional races. Not so in 2022. This year’s Spanish GP was a thriller and marked an important turning point in the championship up and down the field: Mercedes has officially got its act together, Ferrari is unravelling, and Red Bull is efficiently reaping the chaotic benefits. At the end of lap 66, it was a Verstappen win, followed by Perez and Russell. Here’s my look at this year’s Spanish GP.
1. Sainz suffering
Carlos Sainz kicked off his Ferrari career strongly in 2021, but he’s been several steps behind his teammate in 2022, and things only continued in front of the Spaniard’s home crowd. Sainz lost the rear end of the car in front a capacity crowd, spinning off and never really recovering. Although it’s possible the mistake was caused by a gust of wind, it’s a mistake his teammate didn’t make.
But the worst thing? He never really recovered and had no pace compared to Charles. Sainz will be relieved his Leclerc didn’t further extend his lead in the championship and that the Mercedes of Hamilton had cooling issues; without that he’d have finished P5 behind both Silver Arrows.
2. Kmag is back
Kevin Magnussen hasn’t lost any of his F1 attributes, for better or worse. A strong start to the year showed us he’s still got the speed, and now an incident with Lewis Hamilton has revealed his uncanny ability to be around collisions remains, too.
Ultimately it made the race at the front ever so slightly more straightforward; looking at the race times, it’s possible Hamilton could’ve fought for the win. Still, it was deemed a racing incident by stewards, though the Haas social media team didn’t seem to agree.
3. Russell proves his worth
George Russell may have had incredible luck with safety cars over the last few races, but in Spain he once again proved why he was chosen over Valtteri Bottas. After finding himself just ahead of Max Verstappen, Russell used precise car replacement (and Max’s temperamental DRS) to keep the Dutchman behind, despite being in a considerably slower car.
Although fast on a Saturday, and on his day on a Sunday, Bottas always seemed weak when defending: in Spain he was one of the few cars taken around the outside in sector 3 – not a club you want to be in.
4. Red Bull shuffle back Perez
Mercedes and Ferrari – rightly or wrongly – still have equal status between their drivers, but the same could not be said for Red Bull. In between suggesting George Russell was moving in the braking zone, and managing Verstappen’s DRS-anxiety, the Red Bull pitwall managed to shuffle Sergio Perez back behind his teammate at every opportunity.
With a faster car Sergio wasn’t allowed to overtake his teammate, and with a slower car and track position he wasn’t able to defend either. There are team orders, and then there are team orders – these felt particularly crushing.
As Perez said, ‘that’s very unfair, but okay.’
5. Mercedes are back?
This was the weekend where Mercedes decided what do with its zero-sidepod car, and its 2022 season in general. The result? All signals point to this year’s championship still being very much up for grabs. Optically the car looked much better with almost no bouncing at all, and with Russell’s third place there was a good haul of points too. But the real story? That was down in fifth place with Lewis Hamilton.
Despite contact and damage with Magnussen at the beginning of Lap 1 severely comprising his race, Hamilton fought back from last to 4th place – before dropping back to 5th after some PU cooling issues. While Russell showed the car can fight, Hamilton was able to show the car already has outright pace – which is more important for the rest of the year, and 2023.
Just what can Mercedes do at this stage? That remains to be seen. Now that the car is working as expected, Brackley can start to add performance – but it’s clear they’ve already got a baseline that can cause issues for the front two teams.
At the end of the first race, Hamilton was 50 seconds down on Verstappen – he ended just 40 seconds behind. Wolff believes that the seven-time world champion could’ve actually won – quite the turnaround.
6. Ferrari disasterclass in action
It always felt like a matter of time before Ferrari and unraveled, but it’s happening at full-swing now. A PU failure for Leclerc means Verstappen now leads the drivers’ championship, and Sainz’s ongoing list of unforced errors mean the Scuderia aren’t banking as many points as they should across the board. That pace advantage Ferrari had against Red Bull has vanished, and now at least one of the red cars seems behind Mercedes on pure pace.
A surging Red Bull and fixed Mercedes mean that without significant updates, the Scuderia could find themselves as the third fastest team on Sundays. Maranello needs to churn out the new parts, and fast.