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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.

World Champs get back on form - Return to Europe sees the order shake up - behind Mercedes


It may have been a slow burner but there was plenty of intrigue buried within this year's Spanish GP. There always is when the benefit of one strategy is razor thin over another. In this case, it was the debate between a two stop and a three stop and it all hinged on whether you could run in clear air. If you could, a three stop seemed to have the edge.

The perfect illustration of this was the battle between the Ferraris, as Kimi Räikkönen finally showed up to the party and had a race-long scrap with Fernando Alonso (though they were not together on the track for much of it). In the end the fresh rubber in Fernando's final stint told and he took sixth place, though it was good to see Räikkönen back to some kind of form.

Vettel puts troubles behind him

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing: Started: 15th, Finished 4th

Given the context of his weekend, Vettel's drive to 4th will surely go down as one of his best
Given the context of his weekend, Vettel's drive to 4th will surely go down as one of his bestCredit: Hone/Getty Images

Unsurprisingly, F1 arrives in Spain and Red Bull announces itself as the clear best of the rest behind Mercedes. With their aerodynamic excellence over the last few years, it’s no shock that they've recovered so quickly. What was a surprise was Sebastian Vettel's luck. He had an absolute shocker of a weekend. He managed four laps on Friday morning before losing drive, an issue that forced him to miss second practice too.

It didn't get any better on Saturday either. Vettel did at least manage some running in the morning and then progressed into third qualifying before his gearbox broke. A five place penalty ensued. But then, like a phoenix from the ashes, Vettel started progressing through the field during the race. One by one he picked off competitors, disproving the theory of him not being able to overtake with solid moves on Esteban Gutiérrez and Jenson Button, passing others by using an alternate three-stop strategy.

Vettel must have had the Rocky soundtrack playing on a loop in his helmet because by the time drivers were completing their final stops, he was up to sixth, ahead of Alonso. His inspiring recovery was completed with impressive moves on Räikkönen and Valtteri Bottas to finish just a place behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo, albeit 27 seconds behind the Aussie. Vettel has been put in the shade by Ricciardo in a few races this season but given the context of his weekend, Vettel's drive to fourth will surely go down as one of his best.

Bottas shows his class

Valtteri Bottas, Williams Martini Racing: Started 4th, Finished 5th

Williams still haven't come through on the promise that they showed in pre-season. That said it shows how well they are doing in 2014 that a fifth place finish was seen as slightly disappointing. Once again Felipe Massa had a weekend to forget, leaving Valtteri Bottas to equal his best ever finish of fifth place. The Finn may have been frustrated to finish half a minute behind Daniel Ricciardo, having both started on the second row, and Bottas definitely won't be happy that he was beaten to the flag by the charging Vettel.

When Ricciardo pitted early, the writing was on the wall
When Ricciardo pitted early, the writing was on the wallCredit: Dunbar/Williams F1

Bottas made a dream start, leapfrogging Daniel Ricciardo and taking third into turn one. He held his own versus the Aussie in the first stint too, but when Ricciardo pitted early, the writing was on the wall.

Williams were smart, they didn't get sucked into Red Bull's strategy. They stayed out and stuck to a two stop strategy. Alright, they lost third to Ricciardo, but equally they didn't want to compromise their own race by chasing Ricciardo in a battle that they were always likely to lose. Coming out from his first stop in fourth, it left Bottas in a bit of no man's land between the podium and the chasing pack. His only challenge came from Vettel in the closing laps and Bottas had to yield to the faster Red Bull on fresher tyres. Still a top five finish should not be sniffed at in what is basically a rebuilding year for Williams.

Hampered Grosjean battles to eighth

Romain Grosjean, Lotus F1 Team: Started 5th, Finished 8th

It has been a nightmare start to the season for Lotus but they do appear to have one consistent asset this year, despite so many leaving in the last 12 months. Thank goodness for Lotus that Romain Grosjean didn't join the exodus as he secured his best result of the season for the Enstone outfit, securing their first points of 2014.

Lotus will likely leave Spain with a sense of what could have been. Updates had made them far more competitive, and while Pastor Maldonado was testing their structural rigidity, Grosjean was putting them to far better use. He qualified a spectacular fifth, ahead of the Ferraris (who appeared to be using too much KERS in qualifying, as the FIA made them change their power output).

Grosjean held off the Force India's to finish a stunning eighth
Grosjean held off the Force India's to finish a stunning eighthCredit: Tee/Lotus F1

Nevertheless Grosjean put the Lotus on the third row and challenged Ricciardo for fourth into turn one. A measured race followed which unfortunately saw the Frenchman going backwards through no fault of his own. Romain's Lotus was losing power, leaving him hamstrung on the long front straight of the Circuit de Catalunya. Both Ferraris and Sebastian Vettel breezed past but Grosjean held off the Force India's to finish a stunning eighth. He may have finished a lap down like all except the top six but this drive cemented Grosjean as one of the best drivers in the field.

Pérez hands Hulk knockout punch

Sergio Pérez, Sahara Force India F1 Team: Started 11th, Finished 10th

An underrated battle during the Spanish GP was the race-long fight between the Force India drivers. It was as if they were attached by a length of string throughout the race. It was a fight that underlined why the pair are touted to be stars of the future but once again it was Pérez who came out on top against his much-fancied teammate.

The Force India rivalry is certainly one that needs careful attention throughout the season

Pérez and Hülkenberg had been evenly matched throughout the weekend, though the German was a few tenths faster in Q1 and Q2 as both just missed out on Q3. And Hülkenberg held a slender edge throughout the race as Force India put them on identical strategies. But Pérez used his fresher rubber to pounce on lap 51 just after their second stops.

The Force India rivalry is certainly one that needs careful attention throughout the season; it’s packed with more spice than a vindaloo.