With Mercedes on the right and Ferrari on the left, the top four fed into a single line heading into turn one as Riera broke 130 meters before turn one, he held onto his top spot. Unfortunately, the American Corey Mackey didn’t hit the brake pedal until 50 meters later as he dived to the outside and swooped comfortably into the top spot. Georgiev needed to make an impact starting on the soft compound, but Montero held him at bay to make it top three and all on mediums. 17 cars made it through the first chicane unharmed, much to the dismay of Facelli’s Red Bull who started from pit lane.
After 5 laps around the familiar Catalunya circuit, 8th placed Darren Fisher was hanging onto a DRS train that saw 7 cars receiving a massive speed boost that saw the Renault top out at 336kph lap after lap. The other Renault of Carney was moving up and down the timing screen every time he exited the final turn.
Lap 6 Georgiev awakes and starts the attack on the medium running top three. A quick pass of Montero, 32 seconds before the lead finally changed with Riera back up front. Mackey appeared to have a distinct braking advantage throughout as he cruised back around the Mercedes a lap later with some minor contact on the way.
By lap 7, the 8 car train had attached two more cars with all of the points runners sharing the same straight. Magasrevy would earn the unfortunate honor of being the first driver to throw points away this evening with a spin at turn four after interlocking wheels with Hartos Sauber.
Ferrari had put up a strong fight to the silver arrows for the first 9 laps. Lap 10 would change everything. Mackey lost the lead of the race and lost the rear end of his car all on the same lap. A miraculous piece of awareness by his teammate stopped a Scuderia catastrophy at the chicane.
As the first round of stops concluded, Carney was moving quick…far too quick down the pitlane in fact. A drive through severely compromised the Canadiens day.
Sauber were running 6th and 7th until Mackey spun again at the final chicane causing both Sauber's to trade paint and put a halt on Harto and Mackey's charge. Walcott recovered relatively clean and would have a fairly lonely day from there, crossing the line just ahead of Haynie's Williams in 5th.
Acosta chased Georgiev home all night long creating a massive second gap to the cars behind. Almost enough of a gap to run the hard tires for 3 corners!
Up front it was a dominating Mercedes one-two however, Riera nailed the tough strategy to perfection, managing to stop only 3 times and crucially avoid the hard tires.
Higgins came up a lap short of 7th spot, Fisher and Cardozo finished 9th and 10th respectively.
A LAST LAP DUAL KEEPS FERRARI OFF THE TOP STEP
Mercedes vs Ferrari has been the story of 2019 so far and if you thought they couldn’t get any closer after the first four rounds then you'd be wrong!
The race was abruptly started by one of the fastest light sequences so far, some were ready for it and some were miles away. The mixup bunched up the pack heading into turn 1 and not everyone would make it round. Walcott with a self-inflicted error dropped backwards and Dave Carney was facing the wrong way. Cardozo’s SRH car was at fault for the contact.
Up at the front, it was Reira who would lead the race form Mackey, Montero, and Georgiev. Ferrari wouldn’t have any of it however with them flipping the script just one lap later with Mackey taking the lead.
Lap two saw one of the strangest collisions of the season so far with Haynie's Williams leaning too close to Higgins when passing on the straight. No damage was done for Haynie but Higgins’ day was done in a flash.
As the grueling Baku circuit took its first shots at the pack, Cook, Fascelli, Freitas, and Harto all had early moments. The top two were gapping the field but staying just outside DRS range of each other and it looked like a straight dog fight as they both hit the pits on lap 12. Reira took a set of the softs while Mackey looked towards the Mediums. Reira re-took the lead on lap 15 on the fresh reds.
Behind the Ferrari and Mercedes fights, Williams looked strong with both Acosta and Haynie fighting for best-of-the-rest status with a recovering Walcott, Cooper, and Magasrevy. This would prove to be the fight for the podium as both Montero and Georgiev make an unwise decision to put on the hard compound tires. They would fall back through the field like a slinky down a set of stairs.
Reira pulled out a 12-second lead that would evaporate after a slow stop and firmly putting the ball back in Ferraris court who had flipped onto the soft tires. It would come down to whether Reira could catch and pass Mackey on the circuit.
As the drivers entered the penultimate go around the city streets. Mackey was just keeping Reira at bay. As the American made his way through the traffic, he made a small but pivotal mistake. A desperate dive over to block the inside line into turn one would not be enough to hold the Mercedes back. A touch and some tire smoke for extra effect and Reira had stolen this one from the prancing horse.
Walcott would get a podium until it was taken away for a rule violation in qualifying. Haynie would receive a time penalty for his collision with Higgins. Magasrevy stood on the podium for the first time in 2019 just ahead of a pacey Glyn Cooper.