May 13th, 2013 (F1plus/R. Creed).- Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix saw Fernando Alonso take a dominant home victory as Sebastian Vettel failed to finish on the podium. There was a stand out performance from Esteban Gutierrez whilst Mercedes continue to struggle to get a grip on the Pirelli tyres. We take a look at where each team stands as the European leg of the season begins with round five.
Fernando Alonso took a triumphant victory in front on a home crowd on Sunday. The Spaniard started fifth before impressively overtaking both Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton on the first lap- taking the outside line at Turn 3. He then executed a four-stop strategy to beat Raikkonen and his teammate Felipe Massa to secure his second victory of the season and moved himself into third place in the championship. Massa started ninth but moved up early in the race. He was similarly on a four-stop strategy but could not match the pace of his teammate- however he did enough to hold of Sebastian Vettel in fourth. A good performance by Ferrari to secure a double podium.
Kimi Raikkonen started fourth on the gird but was overtaken by Alonso on lap one. The Finn led the race for some laps in the middle stint before being overtaken once again by Alonso. He managed his three-stop strategy to finish a comfortable second ahead of Massa. The day didn’t finish so well for his teammate Romain Grosjean who retired on lap eight after a suspension failure. Grosjean had struggled at the start falling to ninth having started sixth. Raikkonen is now just four points behind Vettel in the drivers championship but Lotus still trail both Red Bull and Ferrari in the constructors.
Sebastian Vettel may have followed an identical four-stop strategy as Alonso but he could not compete with the Spaniard on Sunday. Suffering from tyre wear the German could only manage fourth after losing out to both Raikkonen and Massa as the race unfolded. He still leads the drivers championship but by only four points to Raikkonen. Mark Webber failed to captialise on his qualifying position at the start going from seventh on the grid to 12th. However a clean race allowed him to make his way through the field to finish fifth behind his teammate and take home 10 points.
Nico Rosberg may have started on pole but it was a similar story to last time out in Bahrain. The German did well to keep the lead for some laps during the first stint before Alonso overtook him. Rosberg went for a three-stop strategy and managed to hold off an attack from Paul di Resta in the closing laps. The team were clearly struggling with the Pirelli tyres and do not look to be any closer to solving the issues. Lewis Hamilton’s race went badly from the start- he lost a number of positions as Vettel and Alonso overtook. He then struggled with tyre wear for the entire race finishing a lowly 12th just ahead of Adrian Sutil who was within half a second of beating the Mercedes.
The day should have been a lot better for Force India who showed good pace in the race. Paul di Resta secured a seventh place finish after a strong finish to his two stop strategy. He caught Rosberg in the final laps but was unable to overtake the German. Teammate Adrian Sutil had the third fastest lap of the race but his chance to score points was ended after a bad first pitstop which left him at the back of the field. Sutil has been unable to show his true pace after a string of bad luck and Sunday was no different- he did well to make his way back up to 13th but was unable to make it passed Hamilton for 12th in the closing laps.
A double points finish for McLaren once again but just six points will not be what the team would have wanted. Jenson Button had a terrible start which saw him fall from 14th to 17th but s clever strategy saw him finish eighth just ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez. The pair did not repeat the wheel to wheel racing which caused tension in Bahrain. The team will be happy to take home the points after the struggles they have had in practice and qualifying.
A mixed day for Toro Rosso. Daniel Ricciardo held on to tenth place for a single point after a late surge from Esteban Gutierrez. The Australian drove a clean race to keep himself in contention for points showing the updates to his Toro Rosso seem to have given the car a bit more speed. Jean-Eric Vergne failed to finish due to accident damage retiring on lap 52. He had been involved in a clash in the pits after Sauber unsafely released Nico Hulkenberg into his path with the pair clashing. Hulkenberg suffered front wing damage and was later given a 10 second stop go penalty.
Another disappointing race for Sauber who failed to score points once again. The team had look set for at least some points after both drivers ran in the top ten. Esteban Gutierrez had his best race for the team coming close to scoring his first point whilst chasing Daniel Ricciardo in the final laps. However his three stop strategy was not enough to claim the final point however he did set the fastest lap of the race of which he led briefly at the first pit stop phase. Hulkenberg had a contrasting day finishing 15th- an unsafe release but his team left him with a broken front wing after hitting Vergne’s Toro Rosso. He had to pit for repairs before being given a 10 second stop-go penalty. The upgrades brought to the race may have been an improvement but it was not enough for the team who must make improvements for qualifying.
Williams continue to struggle with their drivers only finishing 14th and 16th. Pastor Maldonado was lapped by Alonso on lap 43- the man he had beaten last year for the victory. The Venezuelan was given a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane to add to his woes. Teammate Valtteri Bottas may have spent much of the race ahead of Maldonado but he had to settle for 16th position behind Hulkenberg.
A mixed day for Caterham with Charles Pic beating both Marussias after starting from the back of the grid but a retirement from Giedo van der Garde. The Dutchman had looked on course for securing the teams best finish after battling with the Williams early on however a lose left-rear wheel force him to retire. He managed to make it back to the pits after the wheel came lose but had caused damage to the floor of his car. The team could face a fine for unsafe release as a consequence.
Marussia had a fairly quiet day with both drivers being beaten by the Caterham of Pic. Jules Bianchi once again finished ahead of teammate Max Chilton. Both finished two laps down- the only drivers to do so- in 18th and 19th. Caterham appear to be beginning to comprehensively beat Marussia who will want to improve as the European leg of the season continues.