Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Next race: Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City
Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Wehrlein continues his return to form // Chaos upfront puts the spotlight on the midfield pack

Published

Wehrlein was always likely to need some help to score points
Credit: Sauber AG

We may have been starved of action in Russia but the true return to Europe more than made up for it, as the Spanish GP, traditionally a procession, turned into a near classic. Most drivers were involved in one battle or other throughout the race, various strategies were used and the win wasn’t ensured until the final few laps. There may have been a lack of overtakes but it was still intriguing and exciting, oh and a boy met his hero too – well done FOM and Ferrari!

Wehrlein stuns the doubters

Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber F1 Team: Started 15th, Finished 8th

Having taken dog's abuse for missing two races at the start of the season, Pascal Wehrlein is quietly putting together an impressive season. He came close to a point on his return and in Spain a cerebral drive to score Sauber’s first points of the season could take the Swiss minnows a long way to securing ninth in the world championship.

While it made fewer headlines, his drive in qualifying was very impressive, pipping his teammate into Q2 by just five thousandths of a second as both of them beat a Renault, Williams, McLaren and Toro Rosso in what was expected to be the ninth fastest or even slowest car.

In the race though, Wehrlein was always likely to need some help to score points, but the result took a clever strategy and an impressive, controlled drive to pull off. Wehrlein made a solid start, moving up to twelfth through the melee. Then came the master stroke, as strategist Ruth Buscombe kept the German out on track, extending the first stint, lap by lap as Wehrlein’s controlled driving style allowed him to make his soft tyres last 32 laps. By then, he was seventh. The frustration was that he stopped the same lap as Hülkenberg, who was able to jump the Sauber with a slick Renault pitstop.

Regardless, with the virtual safety car called, Wehrlein was able to stay in seventh after Valtteri Bottas’ retirement, with most behind pitting too, leaving Pascal on a similar strategy for the rest of the race. There was a queue behind Wehrlein as the VSC ended with Sainz, Grosjean, Kvyat and Magnussen all looking to make an easy overtake. They were sorely mistaken, as the German easily made his medium tyres last and didn’t cede position to any of them in a masterful controlled, defensive drive.

The result took a clever strategy and an impressive, controlled drive to pull off

While Wehrlein did a great job holding off Sainz, make no mistake, he didn’t have a train behind him; he couldn’t afford to. The Sauber driver was penalised for entering the pits the wrong side of the pit entry bollard, earning a five second penalty which looked set to rob him of points. Wehrlein showed strong pace on the medium tyres though and was able to open up a gap to the cars behind Sainz, and bit by bit he opened up the five second gap he needed to Magnussen and co. He couldn’t shake Sainz but he could consolidate eighth, eventually finishing 14 seconds ahead of Kvyat and Grosjean on the road to score six vital points for Sauber.

Kvyat recovers with clever strategy

Daniil Kvyat, Scuderia Toro Rosso: Started 19th, Finished 9th

Toro Rosso gambled on an early Safety Car
Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull

When Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat was interviewed before the race, he sounded despondent and expecting a tough race ahead. He had had one of his more disappointing Saturdays, as one of several drivers to struggle unexpectedly. Kvyat qualified dead last, beaten by Saubers, McLarens and Jolyon Palmer but his performance on Sunday more than made up for it. Unlike some comeback drives, Kvyat’s progress didn’t come in the opening laps.

Toro Rosso gambled on an early Safety Car as they started on the mediums, and they very nearly got it because of the first corner carnage. Regardless, the Scuderia pitted him on the opening lap, ditching the mediums and thus able to run a completely free strategy for the rest of the race. By the time he made his second stop to swap to another set of soft tyres, he was up to 12th and able to maintain position after his stop under the virtual safety car.

Then came the chase. Kvyat passed Grosjean on lap 43 for 10th, using his softer tyres to his advantage. A point looked like the best result possible, until Kevin Magnussen’s bad luck continued, as he crawled back to the pits with a puncture on lap 63. Kvyat didn’t have time to cut into the gap to Sainz and Wehrlein, leaving him to settle for two points, doubling his tally for the season.

Force India boys cash in

Sergio Pérez & Esteban Ocon, Sahara Force India F1 Team: Started 8th & 10th, Finished 4th & 5th

The people in pink showed that they made the right call with their driver lineup
Credit: Sahara Force India

The people in pink showed that they made the right call with their driver lineup as they took complete control of fourth place in the constructors’ championship with 22 points and easily best of the rest behind the big three teams. While Williams have appeared to be a one-man team so far, as evidenced by their struggles as soon as Felipe Massa hits trouble, Force India have two drivers who can score points on a regular basis, and they became the only team to have a 100% point-scoring record.

Force India will have been disappointed that they were beaten by Fernando Alonso in qualifying but they still had two drivers in Q3 by a tenth of a second. Their Saturday disappointment was soon forgotten though as both drivers expertly avoided the chaos, unlike Alonso and Massa, to run fifth and sixth by midway through the first lap. From there, the Silverstone squad could manage the race, as they gradually built up a gap to Nico Hülkenberg and the pack behind.

Force India have two drivers who can score points on a regular basis

The closest Sergio Pérez, as the lead driver, came to Ricciardo was just after the second stops, with Pérez a couple of seconds behind the Red Bull but unable to maintain the pace of a top car, as the pair fell into a large chasm, Pérez finishing 40 seconds behind Ricciardo and 35 ahead of former teammate Hülkenberg.

Credit really should go to Ocon though, who has shown great development in his first full season and stayed on Pérez’s pace once again throughout the race.

Alonso gives home crowd something to shout about

Fernando Alonso, McLaren Honda: Started 7th, Finished 12th

Despite some great driving, Fernando Alonso may only have three minutes of happiness from his F1 season. On home turf, Alonso channelled his inner-Mansell in qualifying. Having seen his teammate out in Q1, Alonso looked set to struggle in Q2 but put in a stunning lap to make Q3 by nearly a tenth, frustrating Haas and Toro Rosso. The Spaniard then went several better in front of his compatriots with an incredible lap in Q3, improving on his Q2 time by two tenths to qualify seventh, ahead of both Force Indias and Felipe Massa as best of the rest.

Alonso looked set to struggle in the race but it wasn’t helped by being forced off the road by Massa into turn two. The incident dropped him to eleventh. Despite his struggles in the race, Alonso beat the Williams to twelfth place, using a three-stop strategy but he had proved his point in qualifying. Who knows, he may have even cracked a smile as he crossed the line.

The Spaniard went several better in front of his compatriots with an incredible lap in Q3
Credit: McLaren Honda