Fernando Alonso has given the rest of the field something of a driving lesson with a storming drive to claim victory at his home Grand Prix today.
The Spaniard brilliantly navigated a race that was – to its detriment – all about shocking tyre wear, pitting four times to claim victory in the 66-lap race ahead of the three-stopping Kimi Räikkönen Alonso’s teammate Felipe Massa claimed his first podium finish of the season with third place.
The Mercedes team’s joy would prove short-lived, with the Silver Arrows coming away with a mere handful of points despite dominating Saturday’s qualifying to lock out the front row of the grid.
The previous sixteen Grands Prix here had all been won from the front row, but few expected that the F1W04 would be able to hold onto its tyre wear for any sensible length of time.
Unfortunately this proved to be the case. While pole-sitter Nico Rosberg managed to convert his grid position into the lead, teammate Lewis Hamilton slightly boxed in and flat-spotted his front tyres as he braked for Turn 1. He immediately lost positions to the Räikkönen, Sebastian Vettel and Alonso, with the Spaniard performing a brilliant move around the outside of Turn 3 to get by Räikkönen and Hamilton to move into third place behind Vettel. It would ultimately prove to be a decisive moment in how the race shaped out.
Hamilton’s woes continued and he steadily tumbled down the order to finish a disconsolate twelfth place, but Rosberg held his nerve at the front, keeping Vettel and Alonso at bay until the first round of pit stops. A faster Ferrari pit stop ensured that Alonso leap-frogged Vettel into second, and then the Spaniard swept by Rosberg with a DRS-assisted pass on the start/finish straight on Lap 13.
He went just quick enough to maintain a gap to the chasing field, but slowly enough to try and preserve the Pirelli tyres, which were found completely wanting in the warm conditions.
Massa also managed his tyres well to rise up to second place, ultimately losing the spot by making one more pit stop than Räikkönen, who again showed his mastery at managing the high-wearing rubber.
Behind the top-three came the Red Bulls of Vettel and Mark Webber. The RB9s struggled with their own tyre wear dramas and a lack of straight-line speed, but it was still a decent haul of points to keep Vettel and the team on top of both Championship standings, albeit on a much-reduced margin.
Webber’s drive to fifth place was particularly impressive. The Australian suffered his now-customary poor getaway off the line to fall to eleventh place at the end of the opening lap, but gambled on an early first pit stop and a few neat passing moves to help get him up the order.
Rosberg finished in sixth place, chased hard over the finish line by Paul di Resta, who again had the better luck in the Force India camp. Teammate Adrian Sutil had a major delay in his first pit stop – forcing an engine shutdown and reset – and spent the rest of the race trying to play catch-up, finishing outside the points.
McLaren had showed little, if any, improvement in pace despite the raft of upgrades fitted to their MP4-28, but the car clearly showed much better race-handling with a double-points finish for Jenson Button and Sergio Pérez, who finished in eighth and ninth respectively.
Daniel Ricciardo collected the final points’ finish with tenth place, with the Toro Rosso driver pulling off some neat overtaking moves over the course of the race.
Ricciardo’s teammate Jean-Éric Vergne was one of three drivers who failed to finish. The Frenchman had a rather fraught race, colliding with Nico Hülkenberg in the pit lane after the German was released into his path in the pits. Shortly after, he suffered a right-rear tyre delamination which damaged his rear wing.
Also failing to finish were Romain Grosjean and Giedo van der Garde. The Lotus driver suffered a right rear suspension failure early in the race, while van der Garde’s Caterham shed its right rear wheel on Lap 22 after a pit stop, earning the team a €10,000 fine from the FIA Stewards for an unsafe release from the pits. It was a disappointing end for the Dutchman, who was comfortably heading the Caterham-Marussia battle, even running ahead of the two Williams drivers, Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas.
Once again, Williams and Sauber came away with no points after poor weekends where neither package showed decent pace to warrant a points’ finish. Hülkenberg’s pit-lane collision with Vergne rightly earned him a drive-through penalty, which left rookie Esteban Gutiérrez to fly the flag for the Swiss team. The youngster briefly led during the pit stop sequences, and was unlucky not to earn his first points’ finish of the season, dropping out of the points with a late final pit stop.
Williams’ fall from grace continues, with the team never looking a chance of points at the same venue where they had stormed to victory just a year before. Pastor Maldonado battled with tyre wear and made five visits to the pit lane – one being to serve a drive-through penalty for speeding, which prompted SKY commentator Martin Brundle to joke that “it was the quickest the car has been all weekend”.
2013 Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (66 laps):
|1.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||66||1:39:16.596|
|2.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||66||+ 9.338|
|3.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||66||+ 26.049|
|4.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||66||+ 38.273|
|5.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||66||+ 47.963|
|6.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||66||+ 1:08.020|
|7.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||66||+ 1:08.988|
|8.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||66||+ 1:19.506|
|9.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||66||+ 1:21.738|
|10.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||65||1 lap behind|
|11.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||65||1 lap behind|
|12.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||65||1 lap behind|
|13.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||65||1 lap behind|
|14.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||65||1 lap behind|
|15.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||65||1 lap behind|
|16.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||65||1 lap behind|
|17.||Charles Pic||Caterham Renault CT03||65||1 lap behind|
|18.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Cosworth MR02||64||2 laps behind|
|19.||Max Chilton||Marussia Cosworth MR02||64||2 laps behind|
|DNF.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||52||Damage|
|DNF.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||21||Lost Wheel|
|DNF.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||8||Suspension|