Fernando Alonso won his home race, the Spanish Grand Prix, in style. photo: digitalicon

Spanish Grand Prix: a review

In many ways, the Spanish Grand Prix was simply an exercise in tyre management for the front runners.

But how long will this continue? Tyre suppliers Pirelli have announced that they will change the tyres it supplies from next month’s Canadian Grand Prix, an alteration aimed to prevent drivers having to stop more than three times during races.

Few teams know the constraints of the current tyres than Mercedes. Ross Brawn’s team ended up languishing back in sixth and 12th, having locked out the front row in qualifying. This disappointment represented a continuation of problems they have been experiencing since 2010.

At one point, Lewis Hamilton exclaimed his horror over radio at being overtaken by the talented but erratic Williams driver Pastor Maldonado. He did eventually beat him to the flag, but this is presumably of little consolation after starting second on the grid.

This paved the way for the usual suspects to pick up the spoils in the form of winner Fernando Alonso, Raikkonen and, of course, Sebastian Vettel.

However, the previously castigated Felipe Massa also raced well to third place for his first podium of the season: coupled with Alonso’s victory on his home circuit, it was an excellent weekend for Ferrari.

Quite simply, Lotus and Ferrari are currently the teams to beat on the treatment of this season’s super high-wear Pirelli tyres: even champions Red Bull complained after the race that they “didn’t have the tyres to fight Fernando (Alonso) and Kimi (Raikkonen).”

This was partly due to the smaller than expected difference in the life of the medium and hard tyre compounds during the race. Red Bull opted to save three brand new sets of the hard tyre from qualifying, only to be outraced by Raikkonen.

The Finn used three sets of mediums during the race and only fitted the hard once, as necessitated by the regulations. But the new regulations could well prove the boost that Red Bull need to wrap up yet another championship.

Further down the field, the skies darken at McLaren. Jenson Button was a woeful 17th at the end of the first lap, before a three-stop strategy propelled him to an eventual eighth place. However, he still described Mclaren’s form as “embarrassing” after the race.

There are similar tales of woe at Williams who, like McLaren, currently have a fundamentally flawed aerodynamic package.

They brought a whole host of upgrades to Barcelona, but it seems to have done little to move them up the field with Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas finishing 14th and 16th.

“The new regulations could well prove the boost that Red Bull need to wrap up yet another championship”

Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo put in a stellar performance to take the final points scoring position in tenth place, with teammate Jean Eric Vergne forced to retire after clashing with Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg in a bizarre pit lane incident.

It was a happier race for Force India, though, with the increasingly respected Di Resta finishing seventh.

Meanwhile, Marussia and Caterham occupied their usual positions at the back of the field. Both are still at least two seconds off the pace, and have some serious work to do if they are to elevate themselves to higher finishes.

Whilst the world of F1 adjusts to Pirelli’s announcement of new tyres, the immediate question remains: can Mercedes finally convert qualifying pace into a race win on the streets of Monte Carlo in two weeks’ time?

Certainly, one wouldn’t bet against a fourth straight pole position for them, and with Monaco the toughest circuit of the year for overtaking, they cannot be ruled out.


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