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There was nothing circumstantial about this resounding Mercedes 1-2. Lewis Hamilton beat polesitter Valtteri Bottas off the line and stayed in front throughout. During the course of what may have been the final Spanish Grand Prix for the time being, the Ferraris tripped over themselves three times, costing them third position to the immaculately-driven Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
Other than a bit of strategic uncertainty about one-stop versus two, that was the essence of it. The Mercedes W10 would have delivered the team its fifth consecutive 1-2 regardless of the way the strategies played out. The dominant factor this weekend was the increased performance advantage Mercedes had over the field – either through the car being let loose upon the track that's most demanding of aerodynamics, or through the effectiveness of its upgrades. It was significantly faster than the Ferrarithrough every single corner, a cumulative advantage that the Ferrari’s lower drag couldn’t begin to counter. The Mercedes was particularly devastating through the slow turns of the final sector where that rear-wheel-steer element of the rear suspension seemed particularly valuable.
But regardless of the flawless job of Mercedes, Ferrari is contriving somehow to not fully access its car. There were many corners here where it was slower than the Haas – a car with the same suspension and engine but which the SF90 has habitually had 0.5sec on. Subtract 0.5sec from the Ferrari’s lap time and it would at least be giving the Mercedes a race. Away from the low-drag demands of Baku and back onto a normal downforce track, it was no faster than the Red Bull and further away from the Mercedes than it’s been all season. After the race team boss Mattia Binotto was even allowing that the whole car concept may ultimately be behind the car’s limitations. Which is less than great news for the championship.
So Dr Zetsche, in his last race as Daimler CEO before retirement, got to stand on the Circuit de Catalunya’s podium and be hoisted up onto the shoulders of Hamilton and Bottas.