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Midfield seizes its chance in Spanish GP from fourth on back

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The retirements of Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen from Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix opened the door for nearly all of Formula 1’s midfield to break into the points. Most teams seriously nailed their opportunity.

At the front of the field, Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) had their own scrap, and were ultimately separate by just 3.4 seconds at the checkered flag. In third, Daniel Ricciardo picked up the final podium position for Red Bull, albeit more than one minute behind.

But from fourth on back, the midfield teams starred as five of the seven remaining teams made the top 10 and scored points, in Force India, Renault, Toro Rosso, Sauber and Haas.  Force India and Toro Rosso were the only teams today that got both cars in the points.

McLaren didn’t get either of its cars in the points, although Fernando Alonso had what was, from his standpoint, his best race of the season and finishing in 12th. Williams’ Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, meanwhile, had a miserable day, ending 13th and 16th.

The enthusiasm for Force India might be stunted as the team was called to the stewards post-race for a possible compliance issue with the new regulations regarding the new bigger numbers that were implemented this weekend.

Alas, it’ll be easier to have nearly each driver from fourth on back on the road recap their days, as most spoke to NBCSN’s Will Buxton post-race.

4th, Sergio Perez, Force India (15th straight points finish)

“It has been a fantastic weekend for me. It hasn’t been easy. We brought some parts at the beginning of the weekend. (With) the setup of our car under those conditions, you never know what’s working and what’s not. We made sure we got safely through Turn 1, did an incredible couple of stints. Scoring 15 straight is incredible for the team.”

5th, Esteban Ocon, Force India (fifth straight points finish, best of career)

“This is what you work so hard for. I’m so happy with the result of the day. A fantastic weekend overall. We maximized the results all the time. The team is not doing anything wrong. It’s all great, and I’m so pleased with that.

“We are not the richest team on the grid but we keep up the progression. We’re always there, and we’re always going to be there.

“I think from last year, I was not expecting to be this fast at the beginning .We weren’t there in testing but we are improving all the time. We can be a real P4 in the championship easily.”

6th, Nico Hulkenberg, Renault (third straight points finish, best of season)

No quotes, but this tweet will work.

7th, Carlos Sainz Jr., Toro Rosso (equal best finish of season)

“It was good. It was a bit chaotic at the start as you saw. We gained a couple of positions. We were P9 and from there it was full on attack to try to recover. We got to P7 from P12 (on the grid), so it was good.

“As you saw, I was pushing the whole time. Pit lane, Turn 1, Turn 5 it was a great battle (with Kevin Magnussen). It was a very complete weekend; it was a lot of positives and a good P7 in the end.

“I think we saw today a race in Barcelona that people are not used to seeing in Barcelona. Usually you start and people disappear into the distance. We put on a good show. I looked at the crowd and they were pumped up. We had a good race.”

8th, Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber (best career finish; seventh on road with 5-second time penalty)

“I thought that’s the perfect strategy for today. We couldn’t two-stop. We committed to a one-stop, that was the only thing we could do… or it was no points we could get from this race. That was the risk, and it paid off.

“The first stint was really difficult. I did one stint on the soft tire. Same amount of laps. That was the most difficult part. Sainz put a lot of pressure, but I managed to put him behind me. With the five second penalty I lost that one, but I was ahead of the rest of them.

“I think I showed in Bahrain, I’m back. This race was better than any race this year. It’s nice to see my back is fine. I’m performing at a very high level. The health and fitness is back.

“It’s nice to me. It was hard to watch the other guy (Antonio Giovinazzi) driving and not be able to drive. The team suffered a lot, but I suffered even more.”

9th, Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso (went from last row of grid to ninth)

“This feels great. I’m proud of myself and my team. We pushed hard. We got it right today. I want to bring the qualifying from first three races back to me; that was my strong point. I did every lap like a qualifying one today. It was completely OK. I wasn’t struggling. I gave my all.”

10th, Romain Grosjean, Haas (inherited point after puncture cost teammate)

“All the guys spun in front of me and I lost a number of positions. We got straight into traffic. I was planning to go much longer, but we got the (virtual) safety car (virtual). The car wasn’t as good as I wanted on the medium. Hopefully we can get better.

“This is two races in a row I’m struggling with the car. I didn’t do any long run with the updates on Friday. We need to make it better for Monaco.”

OUTSIDE THE POINTS

12th, Fernando Alonso, McLaren (started seventh, first finish of the year)

“It has been a good weekend in general. A positive. At the moment we finished the race. Hopefully this is a first step forward on reliability. There was not the pace to be in the points

“At end of the day we had too much tire difference. For passing, I was with new softs, and Williams on old mediums.”

14th, Kevin Magnussen, Haas (spirited battle with Sainz; tire puncture after Kvyat contact)

“That one is annoying. We could have had points on both cars. There was some contact. I had a puncture from the contact. I gave it everything I had. If we had finished in the points it would have been a good finish, but we couldn’t do it.”

Dutch Grand Prix becomes fourth Formula 1 race canceled this season

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ZANDVOORT, Netherlands — The Dutch Grand Prix became the fourth Formula One race canceled this season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, after organizers decided Thursday they didn’t want to play host to an event without spectators.

It was to be the first Dutch GP since 1985, but F1 wants to start the season with no spectators at races.

“We would like to celebrate this moment, the return of Formula 1 in Zandvoort, together with our racing fans in the Netherlands,” race director Jan Lammers said in a statement. “We ask everyone to be patient. I had to look forward to it for 35 years, so I can wait another year.”

The race in Zandvoort was set for May 3 and initially postponed. Fans who bought tickets can use them next year.

The coastal circuit has been redesigned, with some corners banked to facilitate faster racing.

The other races canceled this year were the season-opening Australian GP on March 15; the Monaco GP on May 24; and the French GP on June 28.

Another six have been postponed.

F1 organizers still hope to reschedule those and hold 15 to 18 races this season, starting in July with back-to-back races at the Austrian GP.