ONE-HORSE RACE

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Mercedes leads Spanish Grand Prix from pole to podium. AFP PHOTO

Mercedes leads Spanish Grand Prix from pole to podium. AFP PHOTO

REIGNING champion Red Bull appears to be struggling in the first five races of the 2014 Formula One season, although the last grand prix in Spain shows the team may be poised for a resurgence. The team’s star, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, seems mimicking the team’s woes, too, as he is so far outgunned by younger teammate—and F1 rookie—Daniel Ricciardo.

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What is definite is that Mercedes is presently in a class all its own, with drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg scrapping for wins. Here is a rundown of the F1 season so far:

Australian Grand Prix
Rosberg led from start to finish as rivals dropped out with mechanical problems in a race that saw Ricciardo controversially disqualified from second place over new fuel rules. As teams grappled with widespread technical changes, pole-sitter Hamilton and Vettel both retired early, leaving Rosberg victorious by a wide margin, ahead of Ricciardo and McLaren’s debutant, Kevin Magnussen. Ricciardo, newly arrived at Red Bull, was later stripped of the first podium finish of his F1 career for a technical infringement, prompting an appeal from his team.

Standings: Nico Rosberg 25
Kevin Magnussen 18 Jenson Button 15

Malaysian Grand Prix
Hamilton led the first Mercedes one-two in 59 years. He streaked away from pole position and was never pressured as he finished ahead of Rosberg, with Vettel third. It was the first time both Mercedes drivers have led the field since 1955, when the German marque departed the sport before returning in 2010, and now confirming itself as the team to beat in F1’s new era. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was fourth and Nico Hulkenberg placed a creditable fifth for Force India. The win was Hamilton’s first since Hungary in July 2013. Afterwards, Hamilton paid tribute to the victims of the MH370 plane disappearance, which cast a shadow over the race.

Standings: Nico Rosberg 43 Lewis Hamilton 25 Fernando Alonso 24

Bahrain Grand Prix
Hamilton and Rosberg repeated their one-two in Malaysia after a thrilling wheel-to-wheel duel as Hamilton equaled the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio’s record of 24 grand prix victories. Sergio Perez gave Force India its second podium by finishing in third. Ricciardo, 13th on the grid, continued his impressive start with fourth, followed by Hulkenberg in the second Force India and Vettel completing the top six. Hamilton had been cruising with a lead of more than nine seconds when the safety car was called out on lap 42 of the 57-lap floodlit race. Rosberg, on faster tires, quickly closed the gap after the restart but Hamilton held off his teammate’s charge in a frantic finale.

Standings: Nico Rosberg 61
Lewis Hamilton 50 Nico Hulkenberg 28

Chinese Grand Prix
Hamilton sealed his first hat-trick of Formula One wins and led Mercedes to its third straight one-two finish. The former world champion got away smoothly from pole and was rarely troubled as he finished 18 seconds ahead of Rosberg, with Alonso third. Ricciardo outran Vettel for fourth spot, with Hulkenberg coming home in sixth. But there was a bizarre finish when Hamilton was inadvertently shown the checkered flag early, meaning that the race was later declared over after 54 laps instead of the 56 completed.

Standings: Nico Rosberg 79
Lewis Hamilton 75 Fernando Alonso 41

Spanish Grand Prix
Hamilton made it four wins in a row when he secured a heart-stopping victory, finishing just 0.6 seconds ahead of Rosberg. The 29-year-old’s victory lifted him to 100 points for the season and into the leadership of the drivers’ world championship ahead of Rosberg, on 97. Ricciardo came home third ahead of Vettel, who had started from 15th on the grid. The win is Hamilton’s fourth this year, his first in Spain and the 26th of his career while Mercedes’s one-two stamped its complete supremacy on the constructors’ championship, which it now leads by more than 100 points.

Standings: Lewis Hamilton 100
Nico Rosberg 97 Fernando Alonso 49

AFP

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