As both the Mercedes Silver Arrows, the fastest cars on the F1 grid by far, went no further than turn 4 of the very first lap, the fans knew the race would go down to the wire. Newly promoted Max Verstappen of Red Bull, his teammate Daniel Ricciardo and the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen had an equal chance of victory at the 2016 Spanish GP.
Since Ferrari’s pace advantage over Red Bull was negated by the latter’s strong show in the last sector of the Circuit de Catalunya, victory was just a matter of the best strategy, good tyre management and error free driving.
Though Ricciardo assumed the lead after the Mercedes fiasco, Vettel (was third before he pitted) made his undercut (2nd and 3rd pit stop) work, forcing the race leader also to opt for the 3-stop strategy like him.
Red Bull decided to go for 2-stop strategy with Max who was running second and so did Ferrari with Kimi who was running fourth behind his teammate. Though the 2-stopper seemed like a bit of stretch initially (both drivers had to safeguard their medium compound tyres for over 30 laps, all the way to the end) it turned out to be far more superior than their respective teammates’ 3-stopper. This changed the dynamics of the race and put Max, the youngest driver on the grid, in the lead and Kimi, the oldest driver, on a hot pursuit.
Notwithstanding immense pressure from Kimi Raikkonen towards the end, especially in the DRS Zone, Max Verstappen displayed great maturity and composure to stitch together a flawless lap after flawless lap to take the chequered flag in his debut with Red Bull. His teammate, unfortunately, suffered a puncture while being awfully close to snatching the final podium place from Sebastian Vettel with 2 laps to go.
Overall, it was an exciting race from the lights to flag.
Images via – Official Red Bull Racing FB page