Yesterday’s Spanish Grand Prix marked the first quarter of the 19 race 2013 F1™ championship season and all three championship protagonists came away from Barcelona having done exactly what they had to do, if no more, to stay in the game over the remaining three quarters of the season.
After mishaps in Malaysia and Bahrain, Ferrari were in a must win situation to stay in championship contention and they had to turn everything – engine management, differential and brake bias settings, up on their steering wheels a little louder than everyone else. Strategically Ferrari went for an aggressive four stop pit strategy, which meant they could run much faster than the Lotus and Red Bull teams that had the luxury of opting for conservative three stop strategies afforded by the considerable margin over the Italian team in the championship points standings.
As to be expected from a two time World Champion and contender for a third championship, Fernando delivered all that was required from his 5th place start on the grid and ended up taking a comfortable and largely unchallenged win on home ground.
2007 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen needed to finish better than series leader Sebastian Vettel, which his second place finish in the Genii financed Lotus ensured. Kimi was also fortunate that Ferrari Engineer Rob Smedley managed to guide Ferrari’s de facto number two Felipe Massa to a third place finish ahead of Vettel. In so doing the Maranello team, effectively gifted former Ferrari driver Kimi three additional championship points.
Of the three emergent 2013 World Drivers championship contenders Vettel was able to take it easy in Spain his mission was to conserve his equipment and come out of the Spanish Grand Prix with the championship points lead. With each driver only allowed to use eight motors a season preserving equipment at every opportunity affords the best possibility of running faster in the final run to the championship at the end of the season.
If justification was needed for Vettel to steal seven championship points from his team mate Mark Webber in Malaysia, coming out of Barcelona with a two point championship lead, from a forth place finish, was it. Webber finished 5th behind his team mate in yesterdays race ensuring that Red Bull still has a 14 point lead in the manufacturers championship. Sebastian however must be disappointed to have finished behind Massa, who is unlikely to be in contention for championship honours at the seasons end.
For the third time in succession Mercedes Benz stole the qualifying headlines locking out the front row of the grid in Barcelona with Nico Rosberg on pole ahead of team mate 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton. As in China and Bahrain Saturday’s success was not translated into any meaningful result on Sunday, Nico came home a lucky 6th, while Hamilton finished outside the points in 12th wryly commenting over the pit radio that he was racing a “Williams” as if to ask ‘Why’ ?
The championship will be a slog for the Mercedes Benz team this summer which is difficult to fathom given they are acknowledged to have the strongest motors on the F1™ grid. It will be interesting to see if the forth placed team elect to sort out their cars handling or simply throw all of their resources into preparing for next year which sees the introduction of new V6 turbo charged motors.
Paul di Resta did well to finish 7th from a tenth place start, but he really should have snatched 6th from struggling Rosberg in the closing laps, his Force India team were willing him on over the radio, but Paul could not make the pass with the half a chance, going down the long start finish straight, that was available two laps from home.
McLaren blew a chance to finish 6th by issuing thinly disguised team orders to Sergio Perez, who was advised to look after his tyres rather and settle for a 9th place finish, rather than to pass his team mate Jenson Button who finished 8th. The latter was the slower of the two on older tyres and in no position to defend himself while the Perez appeared quick enough to have caught and passed the battle between Rosberg and di Resta.
After 2009 World Champion Jenson’s vocal public spat Perez in Bahrain the McLaren team management are going to have to be more firm with Jenson if he cannot keep the pace with his Mexican team mate. That bad advice to Perez means that McLaren are 3 points adrift of 5th place Force India when they might have been a couple of points ahead in the constructors championship.
Australian Danielle Ricardo scored a valuable final point for the second string Ferrari powered Torro Rosso team which is now three points ahead of 8th placed Sauber and 20 behind the struggling McLaren Team.
It’s hard to fathom, but a year ago Pastor Maldonado won this race for Williams, this year the Williams team has failed to score a single point and has not remotely looked like it might. Before the race Pastor claimed that Williams has a “plan B” for the Renault powered FW35, to which one wag on a forum quipped ” Sounds like an appointment with the crusher”, joking aside Williams need some drastic action simply to get some points on the table.
Pirelli received harsh criticism for not providing more durable tyres in Spain and have promised that 2 and 3 stop strategies will be the order of the day by the British Grand Prix.
Ferrari were brave and grabbed this race by the scruff of the neck and reaped the rewards, Alonso’s haul of 25 points still leaves him 17 points adrift of the top of the table with a doable if slightly against the odds chance of winning the title, while also giving him and the Ferrari team some much needed momentum for the European season.
I hope you will join me next week for a preview of the forthcoming casino that is the Grand Prix de Monaco held on the famous streets of Monte Carlo.