Monday, May 13, 2013

Alonso thrashes the competition to take victory at home

Fernando Alonso took a commanding victory at the Spanish Grand Prix with a four stop strategy to close the gap to championship leader Sebastian Vettel. The Spaniard was the first person in twenty three years to win at Barcelona from outside the top three positions. 

Starting from P5 and with his usual blistering start Alonso had no trouble getting alongside Kimi into the first corner, but Kimi was following Hamilton who touched wheels with Vettel into the first corner and did not get the best drive into the second and all important third corner. This gave Alonso the chance to make up two places in one corner but was made to work for it and had to overtake Hamilton on the outside at turn three. 

In the first round of pit stops Ferrari undercut Vettel by pitting a lap earlier and then it was just about getting past Nico Rosberg in the handicapped Mercedes. The lead Ferrari suffered a scare that was underplayed by the team after the race. Alonso had picked up a slow puncture just before his final pitsop but he made it to the pits before the tyre gave way. He was also summoned to the stewards room to explain why he should not be penalised for 'picking up an object after the end of the race'. Ridiculous really!

Kimi stuck with the Lotus plan of pitting once lesser than the competition and come through to finish in second place. The Iceman was the only driver who seemed like he had what it takes to beat the Spaniard, but getting stuck behind Vettel after his second stop meant that he lost too much time to Fernando. Had he come out ahead of Vettel and keeping in mind his pace on the medium tyres with Alonso on the hards he could have easily made Alonso work harder for this victory. A mechanical failure of the rear suspension meant that his teammate Grosjean couldn't complete the Spanish Grand Prix.

Massa drove a brilliant and very strong race to finish on the podium after a three place penalty meant he had to start from P9. His drive underlined the pace of the F138 and the resurgent Brazilian proved that he has what it takes to fight at the front. Massa was absolutely brilliant off the line and was upto P6 by the end of the first lap, after which he stuck to the plan of undercutting the opposition before each pit stop and made his way up the order. 

Sebastian Vettel tried to make a three stop strategy work, but it became obvious with each passing pitstop that he had to switch to a four stop strategy to try and get the best out of his car on the day. Although he still leads the championship his lead has reduced to only four points over Raikkonen. Vettel finished in fourth ahead of his teammate Mark Webber whose disastrous start meant he had to work his way back up. An early switch to a four stop strategy meant that he could recover from outside P10 to finish a fighting fifth.

Nico Rosberg and Mercedes had another disappointing race starting from pole to finish in P6 with his teammate Lewis Hamilton finishing outside the points after starting second. The issues with their tyres that help them during qualifying are the same issues that give them no chance in the races. The tyres come upto temperature early which helps them on a single lap, but on race distance they don't stand a chance because the tyres heat up too much and fall off the cliff faster if the drivers continue to push them. 

Paul di Resta had another strong drive to get into the points and finish in seventh. Without a problem with his DRS indicator he could have stolen sixth form Rosberg. He again finished ahead of Adrian Sutil who lost a chunk of time in the pits when a rear wheel nut cross-threaded. He had to turn his engine off and then restart it again. He fought his way back upto thirteenth, but it was another weekend lost to bad luck for the returning German.

Finishing in their strongest two car finish of the year were McLaren with Jenson Button leading Sergio Perez to eighth and ninth. The highlight for McLaren was their move from their policy to not issue team orders, by instructing Perez to stay behind Button and not challenge him for position. The hypocrisy of the team was evident after Martin Whitmarsh's claim in the aftermath of the Malaysian Grand Prix where he said, "McLaren prides itself on not issuing the kinds of team orders that Red Bull and Mercedes controversially imposed in Malaysia recently". 

Finishing off the top ten was Daniel Ricciardo who might have had the most improved car in terms of relative performance. His team mate Jean Eric Vergne was also running strong before being tagged in the pit lane by Nico Hulkenberg.

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