The 2020 Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix was held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in the city of Montmelo, Spain. The F1 Spanish GP moved to this circuit in the year 1991, and F1 has been racing here since then. The race was the 6th round of COVID-19 affected 2020 Formula One season. The home of the winter pre-season testing, the circuit is very familiar to the teams and drivers who have all the data and car setup points ready.
Mercedes has been the team to beat at this circuit since 2014, and it was no different this year as well. The Silver Arrows locked out the first two positions on the grid, and Lewis Hamilton made sure there was no repeat of the 70th-anniversary race at Silverstone. He managed to lead the race from start to finish, won his 4th race of the season and set a new record of 156 podiums.
Thursday Pre-Race Preparations: Perez returns to the 2020 Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix
The race is typically held in the first week of May when the weather is pleasant, but this year the summer season was at its peak and temperatures were very high. The weather outlook for the race week was for dry and hot conditions. Sergio Perez of Racing Point returned to the action after testing negative for the COVID-19 test and took the wheel from Nico Hulkenberg.
FIA and F1 issued a new technical regulation change, which will force all the engine manufacturers to stop using the special qualifying modes or party modes during the Q2 or Q3 sessions. The change will probably take effect from Belgium or Italian GP when the details are finalised. This change will force the teams to start the race on the same engine mode on which they qualified during the Saturday sessions.
Friday Practice: Mercedes in a league of its own
The heat was unbearable for some of the drivers, but everybody managed to complete both the Friday practice sessions without any problem. The only problem for the teams was Mercedes, which was in a different league compared to the rest of them. Short-run or long-run pace, Mercedes had a clear and decisive margin over the closest challengers.
Mercedes’ single lap pace was a full 1-sec faster than the second-fastest team Red Bull. Racing Point, Renault and Ferrari were all evenly matched on short-run pace, falling 1.2 sec/lap slower than the Mercedes.
Race pace simulations and the pecking order saw slight variation but no major change, with Mercedes ahead of the Red Bull followed by the Prancing Horse. Racing Point was fourth quickest on the race pace at 1 sec/lap slower than the benchmark. Renault 5th 1.2sec/lap slower, McLaren 6th and Alpha Tauri 7th both 1.3 sec/lap slower, Haas 7th, Alfa Romeo 9th and Williams 10th.
Saturday Practice: Sainz made it 4th after the Mercedes duo & the Dutchman
Carlos Sainz struggled due to cooling issues during the 70th Anniversary GP, so his team decided to change the chassis before the Friday practice. Unfortunately, that did not solve the problem, so McLaren changed the engine on Saturday morning, which seemed to cure the cooling issue. Sainz went 4th quickest at the end of the Saturday practice session. Mercedes again occupied the top two fastest times ahead of Max Verstappen.
Qualifying: Silver Arrows locked front row again ahead of Red Bull
Hamilton started the Q1 session with the fastest time, but it was returning Sergio Perez who stole the show after going second quickest behind the Mercedes. On the other side of the grid, Kimi Raikkonen finally made it out of the Q1 session in the 2020 Formula 1 season. George Russell, on the other hand, failed to qualify for the Q2 session for the first time this season. Giovinazzi was the fifth driver to be knocked out in Q1, next to the two Haas and two Williams drivers.
Both the Mercedes drivers stretched their legs and comfortably moved to the top ten shootout session. Sebastian Vettel once again failed to progress into the Q3, while Lando Norris qualified 10th and made it to the Q3. The Renaults looked quick on Friday but did not fare any better. Kvyat, Raikkonen, the two Renaults and Vettel were the losers.
Lewis Hamilton seized the chance when it was needed, as he went quickest ahead of his teammate by just 0.059 sec at the end of the first run. Second runs saw top 3 failing to improve on their initial times, and as a result, Hamilton took the pole position and Mercedes locked out the front row ahead of Verstappen.
Racing Point qualified 4th and 5th, Albon 6th, an all-McLarens row 4, Leclerc 9th and Gasly 10th.
Sunday Race: Same trio on the podium but with Hamilton in the lead
The American record breaker made a perfect launch from the P1 grid slot and emerged in the lead out of the first few sequences of corners. Bottas also made a decent start, but Verstappen jumped ahead of him by taking advantage of slipstream, which allowed Lance Stroll also to move ahead of Bottas. Behind, everybody got away cleanly, and there was no wheel-banging going on.
Hamilton was extra slow in the first ten laps, with Verstappen staying within 2 sec. However, when Hamilton started to round quicker around the circuit, the Dutchman had no answer to his pace. Verstappen pitted on lap 22, put on a set of new medium tyres, and came out just ahead of Lance Stroll. Mercedes reacted and did a double pitstop on lap 24. Hamilton stayed in the lead, and Bottas reemerged behind the Red Bull car.
In the midfield battle, Albon pitted on lap 18 and took new hard tyres but dropped way back into the 16th place. By lap 33, Ricciardo who started on medium tyres, was running 4th and leading a train of cars including Stroll, Perez, Sainz, Albon, Ocon, Norris, Leclerc and Kvyat.
Charles Leclerc retired on lap 37 after taking the sector 3 chicane kerb heavily, which resulted in his engine shutting down due to an electrical problem. Albon started the second round of pitstops by coming in on lap 40 and switching to medium tyres. Verstappen came in two laps later and also took a new set of medium tyres.
Sainz pitted on lap 43 and switched from soft tyres to a set of brand new mediums, emerging just ahead of Albon and defending aggressively to stay ahead. Bottas stopped for the second time of lap 49 and went out on soft tyres, while Hamilton pitted on lap 51 and decided to use medium tyres, unlike his teammate.
Sebastian Vettel had a much better Sunday compared to the Saturday rounds and was running in 5th place doing one-stop strategy. He could not hold Sainz and Stroll but eventually finished in the 7th place after running a stint of 40 laps on the red tyres.
At the front of the field, Hamilton lapped everybody up to P4 and went to take his fourth win of the season, extending his championship lead. He set a new record of 156 podiums, the highest number of podium finishes by any driver in the history of the sport. Verstappen finished 2nd, 24 sec behind the race winner, with Bottas completing the podium. Sergio Perez crossed the line in P4 but received a 5-sec penalty for ignoring blue flags and finished 5th. Sainz finished a decent 6th, Vettel 7th, Albon 8th, Gasly 9th, and Norris scored the final championship point.
Following Shortly: the 2020 Formula One Belgian Grand Prix
Following the 2020 Formula One Spanish GP, the show will now run at the heart of the Arden Forest on the iconic Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. It will be the start of the third triple-header of the 2020 F1 season. Return to us next week, same website!