Hamilton edged out Vettel for pole to start the race, and just barely. It was a Mercedes and Ferrari row stack with a thrilling start. Vettel got the jump on Hamilton going in to Turn 1 and took the lead… while Bottas and Raikkonen got into each other, which immediately sent Raikkonen into Verstappen. Suddenly, Ferrari and Red Bull had one car left in the race.
Somehow Alonso kept his car in the race after being forced off by Massa, which dragged him out of the points, but numerous other “racing incidents” happened early on to bring out a virtual safety car ultimately thanks to VanDorne’s McLaren crapping out.
Strategy played the biggest factor in the race today, as Vettel pitted early to get on another set of fresh soft tires, while Hamilton didn’t take the bait and stayed out. A few laps later during the VSC he came in and put on the Medium tire. Hamilton chased down Vettel like mad, eventually forcing Vettel to finally pit and on the second go around Vettel was stuck using the Mediums and Hamilton got back on the faster soft tires.
He was certainly aided by Bottas holding Vettel up for a few laps before Bottas pitted, but it was only a matter of laps before Hamilton walked down Vettel and overtook him on the front straight in a brilliant move. Radio conversations showed Vettel feeling quite defeated. His car with the harder tires didn’t have the pace and Hamilton frequently asked his team for guidance on where he needed to pick up the pace to maintain the safe lead.
Outside of the lead, a thrilling race unfolded between Magnussen and Sainz–even down to tense moves exiting the pit lane. Magnussen put up a great fight for a while but Sainz finally got around him. Unfortunately, Sainz started losing power toward the end of the race.
Traffic continued to play a factor–particularly Massa. He certainly gave Vettel some trouble trying to get around to keep the gap to Hamilton close. Again, the radio from Vettel confirmed the frustration.
Really unfortunate for Magnussen to have a puncture with a mere 2 laps to go. Touching with Kvyat’s car led to it, and I couldn’t really tell who was at fault, if anyone.
Hamilton pulled the win off, and it seems to have been a real battle for him mentally and physically. Vettel finished 2nd and Ricciardo finished a very quiet 3rd. Biggest surprise, though, was Alonso finally finished a race. 12th and no points, but he finished the damn race. Finally. This cuts Vettel’s driver’s championship lead down and stretches Mercedes’ lead out a bit more for the constructors.
Bring on Monaco.
And as an aside, the little boy who was in tears as Raikkonen was taken out of the race was pitiful and adorable. I thought it was really cool of Ferrari and Raikkonen to arrange a meeting toward the end of the race and take pictures. That kid’s smile was from ear to ear and he’ll remember that for the rest of his life. I really appreciate when people turn a bad situation into a good one, especially when it involves making a kid’s year.