By Nikki Grubb-Clarke
We go into the Spanish Grand Prix being told about the tradition of the race. A race almost always won from poll. In its 20+-year history, you can count on one hand the number of times when, in good weather, the race has not been won from the front row. But this is F1 2013. It laughs in the face of tradition and turns up a snotty nose to statistics. F1 2013 has DRS, KERS, and Pirelli. Literally ANYTHING is possible!
Pre-race Fernando Alonso, enjoying the weekend of his home race thus far, brought the Drivers Parade to a standstill when, half way round, he decided to show the crowd some love, ran up onto a grassy back and ‘high-fived’ some super excited ‘Nando Fans. A wonderful show of affection for a crowd that were going CRAZY for their boy. Meanwhile, Tom Chilton’s brother allegedly spent the Drivers Parade looking at his phone. Couldn’t that text have waited, Max?
Predictions were still suggesting a home win for Alonso, although personally, I was praying to an Ice Cream Stick for a Raikkonen win. Dream scenario would have been Lew-Lew winning – its way too long since I’ve seen that wonderful smile on the top step of the podium, but given the race pace Mercedes have recently shown, it was the whimsical wish of a career-long fan. As long as Finger Boy was denied the victory, I didn’t really mind, to be honest!
Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I had always thought that the pace of the parade lap should be dictated by the pace car, and the car that earned pole. Not according to Finger boy. ‘Tell them to hurry up!’ he declared. Didn’t think it through though, did you Finger Boy. They hurry up, you get to go a bit faster and sit for darned near an eternity on the grid, over-heating your engine while you wait for everyone else to catch up. Up here for thinking, down there for dancing, Seb!
Rosberg started brilliantly to hold the lead heading into the first corner, while Vettel pushed Hamilton wide to overtake him for 2nd. What none of them saw coming was an absolute BEAUTY of a move from Alonso, whose Prancing Horse mastered a delightful dressage double to take first Raikkenon, and then Hamilton, to position himself 3rd, just behind Vettel.
Button had a shocker, putting him way down the grid, as did Mark Webber, and everyone got through the first corner safely and without incident. My favourite sentence to be able to write about ANY grand prix.
Rosberg held the lead admirably, through a synchronised first pit stop, pulling out just ahead of Vettel. An already-stopped Alonso split the pair as they exited the pits, and on lap 13, with a little help from his DRS, took the lead. Being able to hear the crowd over the roar of the engines is an unusual occurrence, but their sound was deafening! Their hero was in the lead. And he wasn’t going give it up any time soon!
Having been relieved of the lead, Rosberg, like Hamilton began to drop back. Over the course of the race, both Mercedes were WOEFUL. They have a car that, race after race dominates Qualifying and tops the practice time sheets, but someone steals all their speed overnight on Saturday because they just can’t keep up on a Sunday. The car simply cannot get to grips with running the tyres on a long stint and indeed, their positions from Qualifying comparative to race were described as ‘Absurd’ by BBC Technical Expert Gary Anderson. Far more polite than the word I was thinking, so we’ll go with that. The team’s problems were made public when, upon being reminded about tyre preservation, Lewis Hamilton replied, ‘I can’t drive any slower!’, going on to say, ‘I’ve just been overtaken by a Williams!’. As sad as Lew-Lew’s situation made me, I couldn’t help but smile at the level of pure disdain in his voice when he said it.
That’s not to suggest that Mercedes were the only team to experience tyre issues. We didn’t see some of the more obvious tyre degradation issues that have so marred the previous races, but that was probably because the majority of the teams took 4 pit stops. No, that wasn’t a typo, they took 4. Some of the cars almost spent more time in the pits than they did on the track. Pirelli are turning the sport of ‘racing’ into a sport of ‘stopping’.
As if he knew that the tyres were starting to affect my blood pressure, Maldonado forgot that there’s a speed limit in the pit lane, and earned himself a penalty. Thank you Crashtor. Every race so far this year, you’ve done something to put a smile on my face, and this was no exception. A drive through and a finish outside the points were MORE than enough to put the skip back into this girl’s step!
The woes of Qualifying were put behind McLaren in the race and Jenson drove well, using his strategy and wringing as much as he could out of the car to go from 14th up to 8th. A fantastic result in a car that really isn’t performing well at the moment. Sadly, he didn’t manage to see it in the same positive light as I did. Speaking afterwards he said that the start wasn’t very strong, turn 1 was a mess, finishing 8th isn’t too bad, but a lot of work is still needed. He did manage to say ‘Both cars in the points is positive I suppose!’ Careful there, JB. That was almost upbeat. You’ll pull something. I am genuinely beginning to believe that JB is turning into the Formula 1 Grinch.
Toward the end of the race, it appeared as though we had 2 separate position battles to look forward to. Rosberg, now 6th after his ongoing tyre maintaining was just under 1 second ahead of the Force India of Paul Di Resta, while Jenson had gotten the jump on Perez in strategy, but was now under 1 second ahead of the feisty Mexican. I was licking my lips at the prospect of 2 great fights unfolding before me. Oh I should have let my lips stay dry.
Di Resta, to give him his dues, had the odd little look here and there, but seemed petrified of putting a move on that might take anything out of his tyres. Rosberg wouldn’t have been able to drive massively defensively had the move been made, so maybe he should have just gone for it. As for the McLarens? They held station. It’s unclear whether a team order was issued, but it seems more likely that they were both being similarly mindful of their tyres and didn’t want to risk a scrap on track.
After taking the lead on lap 13, Fernando Alonso brought his Ferrari home to an amazing victory, undoubtedly putting in the drive of the day! The sound of the crowd would have rivaled the arrival of a boy band when he took the chequered flag at his home grand prix, and when a Spanish flag was made available to him, he duly stopped and took it. A beautiful nod to the tradition that this race had so defied. A nod that would also lead to the single most ludicrous FIA decision of the weekend, when post race, they called Alonso to the stewards for taking the flag. I know. Ferrari International Assistance has really not been on the ball this weekend. Jean Todt will flip!
Kimi Raikkenon took an excellent 2nd after a marvellous overtake on Vettel that led to claps of congratulations from the McLaren Mechanics. See – it’s not just me!
Massa also passed Vettel and took an excellent 3rd, having started 9th on the grid, on a track where being low down on the grid is often unkind. Are we getting the old Massa back? According to Rob Smedly (swoon), he’s getting there. He said that he’s not quite the ’08 spec, but he’s definitely getting close. I LOVE how Rob talks about everything as though it were a car!
Overall then, we saw early action with people pushing a bit for position but not pushing at all after the last stop because they actually wanted to finish and not fall off the cliff. What has the sport come to?
These are the most technically advanced motor vehicles on the planet, being driven by the best in the world. But they are being SERIOUSLY let down by their tyres: the running shoes, trainers, sneakers of their sport. However you refer to this piece of equipment, it’s something of an elephant in the room that in any other sport, the athlete would change their shoes asap for ones that they didn’t have to think about for the rest of the game. Ones that would allow them to push to their physical limit to gain the best possible result.
On the plus side, Pirelli have announced they are going to make changes before Monaco. Well things can’t get any worse…can they?
1. Alonso (Ferrari)
2. Raikkenon (Lotus)
3. Massa (Ferrari)
4. Vettel (Fingerless RBR)
5. Webber (RBR)
6. Rosberg (Mercedes)
7. Di Resta (Force India)
8. Button (McLaren)
9. Perez (McLaren)
10. Ricciardo (Torro Rosso)
11. Guttierez (Sauber) (from 19th!!)
12. Hamilton (Mercedes)
13. Sutil (Force India)
14. Maldonado (Williams Null Point)
15. Hulkenberg (Sauber)
16. Bottas (Williams Null Point)
17. Pic (Caterham)
18. Bianchi (Marussia)
19. Chilton (Marussia)
Vergne (Torro Rosso); Van Der Garde (Caterham); Grosjean (Lotus) – DNF
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