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Winner and Losers: Spanish GP

Sunday 12th May 2013

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Winner and Losers: Spanish GP

Winner and Losers: Spanish GP

Alonso reigned in Spain, while the rest of the grid had to ask their engineers how fast they were allowed to drive

Star of the Race

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1st
Alonso was irresistible in Spain. From the moment he got ahead of the opposition at the first round of pit-stops it looked like only a serious mechanical issue (something that hasn't ended a race for him in the last 60 outings) or a puncture would take the win away. And it almost did. After the race Pirelli's Paul Hembery revealed that Fernando suffered a cut in his rear tyre that, last season, would have brought on a sudden deflation. Because of the steel belt Pirelli have introduced this year he was able to get back to the pits for an earlier-than-expected final stop and cruise to victory. His race was set up from Turn 3 of the opening lap (see below), but even if he hadn't got past Raikkonen and Hamilton when he did, he would have won, such was the strength of the car, the combined willpower of 95,000 and the colossal talent from Asturias.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 1: Fernando Alonso on Raikkonen and Hamilton

With such a disparity in tyre wear and strategy in the grands prix this season, the relative merits of various overtaking moves are hard to judge. Raikkonen made a great pass on Hamilton early on and later in the race Massa passed Ricciardo when he surely couldn't have been expecting it. But on Lap 1 we all know that the cars have similar 'deg', there's no fuel saving going on, everyone has equal KERS and there's no DRS. Alonso looked to have lost out in the rush to Turn 1 even though he was handily placed when the cars entered the braking zone. But accelerating out of Turn 1 through Turn 2 he saw he could get alongside Raikkonen, who'd boxed himself in behind Hamilton and he made the pass on the outside. Once out there, heading to Turn 3, he obviously realised he could keep going and because it was Hamilton wouldn't find himself given the Perez bounce. Thus one of the greatest opening lap moves we are likely to see all season was executed - it was poetry in motion.

Winners

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, 2nd
Although the 'Kimi is disappointed' thread is one which we like to revel in - like a short-haired retriever dog rolling in a cowpat in the meadow - at times it probably gets a bit wearing for the team. Romain Grosjean was probably a lot disappointed that his suspension gave way, but almost certainly entered the Lotus drivers' debriefing with a more cheerful and optimistic outlook than the gloomster. If you recall, even when he won last season Kimi was disappointed because he thought he should have won earlier in the year. Thus his reaction to P2, "It's disappointing to finish second but sometimes we have to take what we can get" was probably going to be the expected level of disappointment for The Scheissman.

Perhaps the state of grumpiness is brought on by the knowledge that his Lotus team will now make Kimi pose for photos to celebrate 2nd places and photos demand smiles.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 3rd
After the race Massa said he was still annoyed by the grid penalty he'd been given for blocking Mark Webber in qualifying. Perhaps he can't remember back to 2006 when he demanded that Alonso get a penalty for impeding him at Monza when Alonso (then driving for Renault) was not actually blocking Massa but producing a little bit of dirty air up the road from him. Alonso got a five-place grid penalty for something the stewards probably wouldn't look at these days.

On Saturday Massa, by contrast, had virtually put cones out, he was so in the way of Mark Webber. Yet Felipe still had a great race. Perhaps the anger was there because he felt he could have made it to P2 today and not received what was by F1 standards a piddling little trophy for his efforts. Maybe he wanted P2 for Felipinho.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 4th
Vettel was aggressive at the start as he hammered past Hamilton into Turn 1 but it was curious to see the Red Bull RB9 so obviously outpaced. Christian Horner will no doubt be keen to know why the Ferrari needed to have two post-race tests on the flexibility of the floor of Alonso's F138 - one in the scrutineering area and another one back in the Ferrari garage. Today Vettel had no answer for the red cars - with the likely change of compounds from Silverstone onwards - he'll be in with more of a shout.

Mark Webber, Red Bull, 5th
Mark Webber's grands prix are falling into a pattern - a poor start, dropping him out of position, followed by an early pit-stop and a grind back up through the field. The tactic of an early pit-stop worked like a charm, but he didn't need to bang on about his dislike of the tyres after the race as the flak was coming in from all sides.

Paul DiResta, Force India, 7th
Di Resta, like Perez, suffered for his Q3 efforts. A nice new set of mediums would have been a lot better off the line than the old set he qualified on, but he hauled his way back into contention despite having no DRS activation electronics (and couldn't challenge Rosberg as a result).

McLaren, 8th and 9th
Jenson Button says that McLaren's form is embarrassing but they have still scored points in 63 successive grands prix. Unlike Ferrari or Red Bull. That's no real consolation when they have effectively ruled themselves out of both championship races, but at least both cars finished ahead of Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes. Perez looked the faster driver in the closing stages and it was a surprise - given that there are 'no team orders at Mclaren' - that Checo's race engineer told him to hold back.Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso, 10th
Ricciardo keeps chipping away at the points, though he inherited the place thanks to Jev's Sauber and tyre problems.

Losers

Adrian Sutil, Force India, 13thSutil got an amazing start and was up to P8 on Lap 1. But yet again it was Force India wheelnuts which delayed a pit-stop and converted his afternoon into a solitary chase at the back. At this rate, by the time the team get the problem resolved, McLaren will have sorted their car and the opportunity for P5 in the constructors' table will have gone.

Pirelli
Pirelli have finally thrown in the towel and admitted they are going to harden up the tyres. After the race a resigned Paul Hembery knew what he had to do and admitted that four-stop races (for over 14 cars) had to stop. The target had been to make the teams choose between a two- and a three-stop strategy, but now it had become too confusing for the fans. Spain 2013 should be the biggest pit-stop total we see in a dry race this season. Tyre wear combined with KERS and a generous DRS has made overtaking a formality not just a possibility and the balance needs refining.

Mercedes
To start from the front row - in a race which favours the front row even more than Monaco - and have the cars finish 6th and 12th is not good. Especially with the boss of Mercedes in attendance. Nico Rosberg improved from his 9th-place-from-pole in Bahrain, but Lewis had a nightmare. We all know he loves his fantastic new team more than life itself, but I don't ever recall a Mclaren race engineer trying to tell Lewis how Jenson Button uses his tyres. The honeymoon had to end at some point and it's taken five races

Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber, 15th
Hulkenberg's woes were brought on by an early release by his pitcrew, but he couldn't have clocked who it was that had just passed him in pitlane. If he'd realised it was a Toro Rosso coming in then presumably he'd have known that their garage was beyond.

Climbing up Bernie's Butt Cheeks Again
Eddie Jordan has made the deification of (Saint) Bernard Ecclestone a personal mission and we had some splendid examples before qualifying on Saturday. The BBC's Suzi Perry and Eddie had tapped Bernie up for an interview and he stood on his own outside his motorhome looking slightly bewildered, like someone who'd just escaped residential care and wasn't sure what to do next. He held a BBC a microphone throughout but didn't use it. After the apology of an interview in which Suzi tried her best to get a single coherent answer from Bernie he pottered off, most likely in the direction of matron and the medicine cabinet. The farcical interchange wasn't going to put EJ off his stride, though. Bernie was still the commercial visionary: "he brought us to Asia, he's brought us to Africa and South America, he is a genius at seeing the future, his vision is magic."

Leaving aside the tiny detail that there is no current grand prix in Africa, that he wasn't responsible for putting Kyalami on the calendar when there was, and that grands prix were run in South America long before Bernie took over the levers of power, it was an accurate reflection of the man's genius. But Eddie, despite his unstinting love, wasn't sure how old Bernie was. "He is very astute in his 82nd and 83rd year, you have to admire every single thing that he does," beamed EJ.
Cheque's in the post.

Andrew Davies

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