A three week break and a move to a different continent doesn’t seem to have changed much in Formula 1 – Mercedes still the dominant force, with a tight group chasing them. A return to Europe did not bring the performance level we had hoped for in the Toro Rosso camp and once again, Jean-Eric Vergne sucked up the bad luck, hit by an exhaust problem which sidelined him after 24 laps. And of course he had started from the back because of the grid penalty imposed as a result of his STR9 losing a wheel during free practice. He bought himself a cat for good luck in China – not a real one you understand – but it doesn’t seem to be working at the moment. Maybe it came from the “fake market!”
Even this morning, things didn’t go well for him: instead of putting the 22 drivers on the back of a truck for their Parade around the track to greet the fans, each driver was taken round the Catalunya circuit in a vintage car. Of course, Jev’s had a technical problem and he had to abandon it, sharing a ride with Max Chilton from the Marussia team.
As for Daniil Kvyat, an encouraging start, which saw him run as high as eighth in the early stages, was followed by a difficult middle stint on the Hard tyre. In the final part of the race, having gone for the more aggressive three stop strategy, running the faster Medium tyre again, he picked up pace, but the difficulty of overtaking here meant that 14th was the best he could do.
The Mercedes duo livened up the final part of the race when Nico Rosberg looked as though he might catch his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, but the Englishman held on to record his fourth straight win from five starts. Former Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo made it to the podium for the second time this year in third place and unlike Australia, it looks as though he gets to keep his trophy, his first in Formula 1, as well as the points.
The teams are all staying on here in Spain for the second in-season test. It runs on Tuesday and Wednesday of this coming week. In the STR9, Jev is on duty for the first day, working for Pirelli evaluating new tyres, while Daniil takes over for the final day. After that, the F1 circus heads for its most glamorous event, the Monaco Grand Prix: Daniil has never even been there as a tourist, while for Jev it’s the nearest thing to a home race. The Frenchman has gone well on the streets of the Principality, scoring points with a fine eighth place last year, so plenty of reasons for optimism.