May 13th, 2013 (F1plus/R. Baillie).- This year's Spanish Grand Prix wasn’t the most exciting race we’ve seen in a while with a lot of focus being on managing the tyres, which is something a lot of the drivers are still struggling with. Still, tension was palpable and DRS allowed for frequent overtaking which prompted positions being shuffled accordingly.
Round 5 of the championship provided a couple of surprising results, so let’s review the race driver by driver.
1 - Fernando Alonso - Ferrari
Race winner Fernando Alonso had a fantastic start as usual and managed to pass both Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen in the space of a corner during the opening lap of the race.
Come Lap 12, Alonso was desperately looking to pass Nico Rosberg who was holding everyone up. One lap later he sailed past Rosberg and was able to take the lead when Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez pitted for fresh tyres. From that point onwards, Alonso was absolutely unstoppable and seemed to breeze to a win in front of his home crowd, winning the Spanish Grand Prix for the first time since 2006.
2 - Kimi Raikkonen - Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen looked competitive from the moment the lights went out in Spain and began putting the pressure on Lewis Hamilton on the second lap and passed him a few laps later.
Thanks to the Red Bull’s struggling to manage their tyres and the Lotus being kind on its tyres as usual, Raikkonen was able pass Vettel and chase down race leader Fernando Alonso. He couldn’t quite catch him though and finished just over 9 seconds behind Alonso. After the race he commented that there was no point in him chasing down Alonso as the Spaniard would have been able to overtake him again with ease.
3 - Felipe Massa - Ferrari
After picking up a three-place grid penalty in Qualifying for impeding Mark Webber, it wasn’t looking too good for Felipe Massa who started the race in 9th place.
Massa looked seriously competitive throughout the race and made a few passes which he made look very easy as he appeared to sail past the likes of Hamilton and Rosberg. The Brazilian bought the car home in 3rd place, unable to catch Kimi Raikkonen in the later stage of the race as his left rear tyre began to degrade dramatically.
4 - Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull Racing
Heading into the race, many thought the win would be a toss up between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
Unfortunately it was not to be for Vettel who was really struggling with tyre wear throughout the race and was unable to catch the Ferrari’s and Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus.
After the race Vettel commented that he was ‘going at the pace of the tyres, not the car’, showing just how much he was struggling with tyre wear.
5 - Mark Webber - Red Bull Racing
Mark Webber still hasn’t got over his poor starts and had a terrible start, which saw him lose five places on the first lap.
Like his teammate, Webber was also struggling with his tyres and was forced to pit on Lap 7, rejoining the track in 21st place. Despite having a lot of ground to make up, Webber was able to advance through the field quickly, aided by drivers pitting, and finishing in 5th place less than 10 seconds behind Vettel.
6 - Nico Rosberg - Mercedes
Nico Rosberg owned Qualifying on Saturday afternoon, though it was widely presumed he’d be walked all over during the opening laps of the race as the Mercedes was able to go so fast during Qualifying due to running on a low fuel load.
When the lights went out in Spain, Rosberg managed to hold his own for a fair few laps and was finally passed on Lap 13. Though he dropped back a few places, he was able to keep up with the front-runners and finished in 6th place.
Rosberg’s Mercedes was much better than his teammates and he was able to manage his tyres well enough to pull a three-stopper. The three-stop strategy was considered around 6 seconds slower than a four-stopper, so had Rosberg opted to stop four times he may well have been able to challenge Webber and perhaps Vettel.
7 - Paul di Resta - Force India
After finishing the Bahrain Grand Prix in 4th place, di Resta was probably hoping to replicate his success around the Circuit de Catalunya.
While he didn’t finish quite as high as he did at the Bahrain grand Prix, di Resta managed his tyres well and was much more competitive than his teammate. He brought the car home in 8th place, helping Force India pick up important points, which are helping them stay ahead of McLaren in the Constructors Championship.
8 - Jenson Button - McLaren
As the lights went out in Spain many fans were wondering how the McLaren’s would fare with their new upgrades on their car.
Button’s race didn’t get off to a great start at all and found himself in 17th place by the end of the first lap and was seriously struggling to get heat into his tyres. His race got progressively better and the Brit finished in 8th place, avoiding a clash with teammate Perez after Perez heeded his teams warnings about tyre wear.
9 - Sergio Perez - McLaren
Perez enjoyed an exciting race in Bahrain which saw him and his teammate fighting head to head for position, which left fans wondering whether we’d see the same thing again in Spain.
As Perez came up behind his teammate towards the end of the race we heard his engineer telling him to look after the tyres, sparking suggestions that McLaren were in fact using team orders and were asking him to stay behind Button. Following the race the team commented that they were seeing some unusual wear on Checo’s tyres and needed to get him to the end of the race on them.
Checo finished in 9th place, just behind his teammate, picking up some much needed points helping the team close the gap to Force India in the Constructors Championship.
10 - Daniel Ricciardo - Toro Rosso
There’s been a lot of attention on Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo over the past few weeks with some suspecting that he will replace Mark Webber at Red Bull if Webber decides to leave at the end of this year.
Ricciardo pulled off a few fantastic overtakes through the race where he seemed to fly past drivers in faster cars, such as di Resta and Perez.
He finished in 10th place picking up some very much needed points for Toro Rosso who currently have only 8 points and are sitting 7th in the Constructors Championship.
11 - Esteban Gutierrez - Sauber
Gutierrez has been under a lot of pressure recently from both the fans and his team for not quite living up to expectations and after picking up a three place grid penalty for impeding Kimi Raikkonen during Q2 it was looking like a poor race before it had even started.
Gutierrez surprised many with his performance in Spain and even enjoyed a short stint leading the race, which was probably the stuff of the young Mexican’s dreams. He drove a nice clean race and crossed the finish line in 11th place, making it his best finish so far and was only one place of picking up his first point in Formula 1.
12 - Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes
After performing well during Qualifying Lewis Hamilton began the race in 2nd place. Unlike his teammate, Hamilton was walked all over during the first couple of laps and seemed to go backwards for the first few laps of the race and was complaining about brake issues over the team radio.
Things seemed to get worse for Hamilton after pitting on Lap 10 as he spent the rest of the race out of the points and at one point was overtaken by Pastor Maldonado, much to his dismay as he was heard telling his team that he’d ‘just been overtaken by a Williams’ and ‘couldn’t go much slower’. To add insult to injury, he finished a lap down.
13 - Adrian Sutil - Force India
Sutil had a great start to the season, finishing his first race since his return to Formula 1 in 7th place, but has had a fairly disappointing season since then and has failed to pick up any points since the Australian Grand Prix.
On Lap 9 Sutil went into the pits and spent a considerably long time stuck in his pit box with smoke pouring out of his brakes. It took him a long time to recover from this as he spent a large part of the race stuck with the backmarkers, only really beginning to make progress during the last third of the race. Sutil finished in 13th place, failing to pick up any points for Force India, being out performed by di Resta yet again.
14 - Pastor Maldonado - Williams
Pastor Maldonado also had a fairly unimpressive race after a disastrous Qualifying on Saturday, which saw him fail to get through to Q3.
Perhaps in a bid to make up some time, Maldonado was caught speeding in the pitlane and was handed a drive-through penalty on lap 11. The most exciting part of Maldonado’s race was probably when he overtook Lewis Hamilton, prompting him to complain to his team on the radio that he’d been overtaken ‘by a Williams’.
15 - Nico Hulkenberg - Sauber
The first half of Nico Hulkenberg’s race was fairly impressive as he spent most of it within the points, it wasn’t until he was safely released into the path of Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne that things started to sour for the young German driver.
He was forced to pit again immediately for a new front wing and was slapped with a 10 second stop-go penalty for an unsafe release. He then had to make his way back from the back of the field and managed to finish in 15th place.
16 - Valtteri Bottas - Williams
Like his teammate Maldonado, Bottas had a fairly underwhelming race. He started from 16th on the grid and finished in 16th place, which is his worst finish of the season so far.
Williams appear to be going backward at a fair rate of knots this year and it seems like it will only be a matter of time before they’re competing with the Caterham and Marussia drivers.
17 - Charles Pic - Caterham
Charles Pic had a disappointing Qualifying session on Saturday afternoon and began the race in last place but was able to bring his Caterham home in 17th place.
So far this year the Caterhams have come under a lot of pressure from Jules Bianchi and his Marussia, who has been able to push Caterham down into last place in the Constructors Championship. Pic finished above both Marussias in Spain, however he’ll need a couple more results like this to promote Caterham back to 10th place in the Constructors Championship.
18 - Jules Bianchi - Marussia
So far this year Bianchi has been the real star of this year rookie drivers and has helped Marussia get into 10th place in the Constructors Championship.
Bianchi had a fairly quiet outing in Spain, starting the race in 20th and finishing in 18th place, finishing behind the one remaining Caterham and 2 laps behind the race winner Alonso.
19 - Max Chilton - Marussia
Like his teammate British driver Max Chilton had a fairly quiet race, finishing in last place 2 laps down. Perhaps the positives Chilton and Marussia can take from today’s race was that he drove a clean race and Chilton was one of the few drivers who was able to make a three stop strategy work well, though he wasn’t doing much chasing or overtaking.
Retired - Romain Grosjean - Lotus
A few weeks ago in Bahrain Grosjean seemed to have got his mojo back and fans were hoping he could replicate the same thing in Spain.
Unfortunately for the Frenchman his race was over before it had really started as he limped back to the pits on Lap 9 with a suspension failure which ended his race.
Retired - Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso
Jean-Eric Vergne had a poor start to the race, losing two places in the opening lap. His race didn’t improve much and was unable to match the pace of his teammate Ricciardo who spent the majority of the race in the top 10. Things went from bad to worse for Vergne when he pitted and Nico Hulkenberg’s Sauber careered into the side of him.
Vergne was able to continue racing and was forced to pit again a matter of laps later after his right rear tyre delaminated. Again he continued racing, only for the team to decide to retire him on Lap 54 due to damage to the car from the incident with Hulkenberg.
Retired - Giedo van der Garde - Caterham
Since Caterham announced that they were welcoming former driver Heikki Kovalainen back into the team as a test driver, many speculated that Giedo van der Garde’s position was under serious threat. With the news that Bernie Ecclestone is removing the prize money for the team who finish last in the Constructors Championship, the pressure is really on for Caterham and both of their drivers to help beat Marussia.
The Spanish Grand Prix wasn’t the day for van der Garde to prove his worth who was heard complaining on the team radio that he didn’t feel that his left rear tyre was on. Moments later his tyre was seen escaping from the car as he was forced to limp back to the pit lane on three wheels and retire the car.