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2019 SPANISH GRAND PRIX: THE ROOKIE REPORT

The Spanish Grand Prix launched the European-leg of the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship. The teams and drivers returned to the the venue of the pre-season tests. All the teams brought major updates to the cars for the first time this season. The rookie drivers did not fare very well at the fifth race of the seasons as none of them scored any points .

LANDO NORRIS (MCLAREN F1 TEAM)

QUALIFYING: ELEVENTH (Started TENTH), RACE: DNF

Credit: McLaren Media Center

Lando Norris qualified in eleventh position at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, . He was promoted to tenth position after Daniel Ricciardo was given his three-place grid penalty for the infraction at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Norris had a bad start that saw him fall to sixteenth position in the first lap. He moved forward to tenth position during a long first stint on the soft compound tyres. His first pit stop on lap 27 saw him drop back to seventeenth position.

With 21 laps to go, Norris’s battle with Lance Stroll for fourteenth position ended in grief. Norris tried to overtake Stroll on the outside of Turn 1. As the drivers went into the left-hander at Turn 2, Norris had the inside line. But he was not sufficiently in front of Stroll and made contact that ended both their races.

Neither driver incurred a penalty as it was deemed a racing incident by the stewards. A disappointing end to the race for Norris, even as his team-mate Carlos Sainz finished in eighth position.

“A disappointing race.I had a really good start but struggled around Turn Three, went wide and lost a lot of positions. That put me in a bad position for the whole race. It was unfortunate but I had good pace afterwards,” said Norris.

“Later I tried to get past Stroll. I was on the inside and I don’t know if he just didn’t see me as he turned in but there was contact and it put me out of the race. I didn’t want to just sit there and do nothing.”

It is time to regroup for the young driver who sits in tenth position in the drivers’ championship and  put in a strong display at the Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks time.

ALEXANDER ALBON (SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO)

QUALIFYING: TWELFTH (Started ELEVENTH), RACE: ELEVENTH

Credit: Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

Alexander Albon was the only rookie who came close to scoring a point at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The Anglo-Thai driver was denied in the end by a poor pit stop from the Scuderia Toro Rosso team and a stubborn Romain Grosjean.

Albon qualified in twelfth position and started eleventh after Ricciardo’s penalty. In a good first stint of twenty-five laps on the soft compound tyres, Albon progressed to seventh position. After the first pit stop, Albon was running in the points.

A second pit stop under the Safety Car was a slow one as his team double-stacked Albon and his team-mate Daniil Kvyat. The Toro Rosso pit crew was not ready with the tyres for the two drivers and Albon had to wait for Kvyat to be serviced.

Albon rejoined in eleventh position behind Grosjean. Though he was in DRS-range in the final laps, he could not get past the French driver. Albon finished just outside the points in eleventh position for the second race in a row.

It must have been a frustrating experience as team-mate Kvyat finished in a creditable ninth position with a combative display that showed off his overtaking skills.

“It was disappointing to be so close to points and come away with nothing, but it was good fun racing with Romain,” said Albon. 

“I had to back out of it because I thought I might have had an incident when we both decided to go right at the same time. I had to hit the brakes and lost the momentum into Turn 1, I think if it wasn’t for that I would have got past.

“The race was lost for us in the pit stop, so we need to review what happened because we should have had two cars in the top 10. It’s a frustrating one, but I’m happy with my performance and I’m looking forward to fighting for points again in Monaco.”

Albon is in fifteenth position in the drivers’ championship with the same number of points as his team-mate Kvyat.

ANTONIO GIOVINAZZI (ALFA ROMEO RACING)

QUALIFYING: EIGHTEENTH, RACE: SIXTEENTH

Credit: Alfa Romeo Racing Media

Antonio Giovinazzi was in the wars in the first three races of the season. In the fourth race at the Baku City Circuit, things started looking up for him as he qualified well and finished in twelfth position after a grid penalty.

But the Alfa Romeo Racing team lacked pace and struggled at the Spanish Grand Prix. Even Kimi Räikkönen could not score points for the first time this season.

Giovinazzi qualified in eighteenth position and started in the same position even after a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change because of penalties for the other drivers.

Giovinazzi had an anonymous race which saw him progress only to sixteenth position in the race. The Italian driver is left searching for that elusive first Formula 1 point after five races.

“Not an easy weekend for us,” said Giovinazzi.

“We started the race from P18 and went with a bit of different strategy to try and gain some positions, in the end it didn’t work because the pace just was not there.

“We need to work hard to have a better package in Monaco and achieve a better result. The midfield battle is tight and we have shown in the past we can be in this fight.”

Giovinazzi sits in eighteenth position at the bottom of the drivers’ championship, just ahead of the two Williams drivers.

GEORGE RUSSELL (WILLIAMS RACING)

QUALIFYING: NINETEENTH, RACE: SEVENTEENTH

Credit: Williams Racing

George Russell is another rookie in the wars driving for the Williams team at the very back of the grid. The first point in Formula 1 looks very distant for this 2018 Formula 2 champion.

Russell outqualified his team-mate Robert Kubica again. He crashed out in qualification and his gearbox had to be replaced. After the five-place grid penalty for this he started last in nineteenth position.

In a two pit stop race for him, Russell finished just ahead of Kubica in seventeenth position.  This was another race in which Russell finished ahead of Kubica and did not have much else to write home about.

““It was a standard Grand Prix for us,” said Russell.

“Our race pace was probably slower than the qualifying pace, so that is something for us to look at.

“It has been an intriguing weekend for us. We have brought some test items and got some decent information from those. I think we are going in the right direction.”

Russell sits in nineteenth position at the bottom of the drivers’ championship, just ahead of Kubica.


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