Lotus poised to press Maldonado and Alonso for victory

2012 Spanish Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Barcelona, 2012F1 stands a good chance of seeing another new winner this weekend: four of the top five drivers on the grid are yet to win a race this year.

Can Pastor Maldonado emulate Nico Rosberg by turning his maiden pole position into a maiden win?

Will Lotus go one better than they did last time out and grab a win?

Or could Fernando Alonso deliver a fairytale home victory in Spain? Let’s take a look at the race ahead.

The start

Lewis Hamilton’s penalty has left us with an unusual grid for tomorrow’s race, headed by Pastor Maldonado and Fernando Alonso.

The Circuit de Catalunya has one of the longest runs to turn one of the year, so a good start is crucial. As Alonso showed last year, a good getaway can make a huge different – he took the lead from fifth here 12 months ago.

Hamilton’s relegation to last place has not just moved everyone else up a place – it has also switched them from dirty side to the clean side of the track, and vice-versa. Maldonado, Grosjean, Perez and the other odd-numbered starters all have the benefit of a slightly cleaner, grippier line.

As for Hamilton, he now starts from the back of the grid (or the pits if his team so choose) with no fresh sets of soft tyres and just two fresh sets of hard tyres. This kind of frustration is exactly what produced the worst in his driving last year, and the slog back into the points he faces will be a significant test of his resolve.

Strategy

After two days of warm, dry running in Spain Sunday could bring some significant changes.

Heavy rain at the circuit overnight will have washed much of the rubber build-up of the last few days away. This seems to affect the current Pirellis less than the previous Bridgestones, which responded to a gradual build-up of rubber by giving greater improvements in lap-time, and lacking grip when the rubber disappeared.

There is only an outside chance of rain falling during the race but track temperatures are expected to be cooler, which may help drivers with their tyre life.

“Tyre performance will be a critical factor,” said Alonso. “We will have to be careful, because the forecast is for different temperatures to today and that could throw up some surprises.”

A fired-up Alonso is well-placed to compete for the win, but his upgraded Ferrari did not have the best pace over a race stint on Friday.

Lotus looked extremely strong in this respect. Curiously, they did not repeat their Bahrain tactics of saving soft tyres: “We used three sets of soft tyres to go through qualifying, but we have two new sets of the hard compound Pirelli tyres” said trackside operations director Alan Permane.

Other teams, such as Red Bull, made saving new soft tyres a priority. At this stage it’s impossible to say who’s got it right – that will unfold when the pit stops begin tomorrow.

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’23.380 1’22.105 (-1.275) 1’22.285 (+0.180)
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’23.276 1’22.862 (-0.414) 1’22.302 (-0.560)
3 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’23.248 1’22.667 (-0.581) 1’22.424 (-0.243)
4 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’23.406 1’22.856 (-0.550) 1’22.487 (-0.369)
5 Sergio Perez Sauber 1’24.261 1’22.773 (-1.488) 1’22.533 (-0.240)
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’23.370 1’22.882 (-0.488) 1’23.005 (+0.123)
7 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’23.850 1’22.884 (-0.966)
8 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’23.757 1’22.904 (-0.853)
9 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1’23.386 1’22.897 (-0.489)
10 Jenson Button McLaren 1’23.510 1’22.944 (-0.566)
11 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’23.592 1’22.977 (-0.615)
12 Paul di Resta Force India 1’23.852 1’23.125 (-0.727)
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’23.720 1’23.177 (-0.543)
14 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’24.362 1’23.265 (-1.097)
15 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’23.906 1’23.442 (-0.464)
16 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’23.886 1’23.444 (-0.442)
17 Bruno Senna Williams 1’24.981
18 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1’25.277
19 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1’25.507
20 Charles Pic Marussia 1’26.582
21 Timo Glock Marussia 1’27.032
22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1’27.555
23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1’31.122
24 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1’22.583 1’22.465 (-0.118) 1’21.707 (-0.758)

Unusually, Maldonado set pole position (after Hamilton’s penalty) with a slower time in Q3 than he had set in Q2.

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Pastor Maldonado 22.787 (4) 30.947 (4) 28.321 (1)
Fernando Alonso 22.878 (6) 30.994 (6) 28.430 (3)
Romain Grosjean 22.737 (3) 30.952 (5) 28.677 (7)
Kimi Raikkonen 22.652 (2) 31.080 (7) 28.718 (11)
Sergio Perez 22.921 (9) 30.935 (2) 28.608 (5)
Nico Rosberg 22.994 (11) 31.249 (10) 28.617 (6)
Sebastian Vettel 23.096 (16) 31.211 (8) 28.577 (4)
Michael Schumacher 22.913 (7) 31.278 (11) 28.713 (9)
Kamui Kobayashi 22.866 (5) 30.945 (3) 28.897 (17)
Jenson Button 22.916 (8) 31.280 (12) 28.680 (8)
Mark Webber 22.982 (10) 31.281 (13) 28.714 (10)
Paul di Resta 23.045 (12) 31.300 (14) 28.780 (12)
Nico Hulkenberg 23.139 (17) 31.230 (9) 28.808 (14)
Jean-Eric Vergne 23.052 (13) 31.412 (15) 28.801 (13)
Daniel Ricciardo 23.058 (14) 31.533 (17) 28.851 (15)
Felipe Massa 23.069 (15) 31.510 (16) 28.865 (16)
Bruno Senna 23.150 (18) 31.544 (18) 29.500 (19)
Vitaly Petrov 23.431 (19) 32.063 (19) 29.783 (20)
Heikki Kovalainen 23.815 (20) 32.319 (20) 29.373 (18)
Charles Pic 23.999 (21) 32.705 (21) 29.878 (21)
Timo Glock 24.113 (22) 32.815 (22) 30.041 (22)
Pedro de la Rosa 24.186 (23) 33.058 (23) 30.268 (23)
Narain Karthikeyan 25.161 (24) 34.128 (24) 31.833 (24)
Lewis Hamilton 22.616 (1) 30.751 (1) 28.340 (2)

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Romain Grosjean Lotus 323.2 (200.8)
2 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 323.1 (200.8) -0.1
3 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 319.4 (198.5) -3.8
4 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 318.9 (198.2) -4.3
5 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 318.3 (197.8) -4.9
6 Jenson Button McLaren 318.2 (197.7) -5.0
7 Paul di Resta Force India 317.8 (197.5) -5.4
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 317.4 (197.2) -5.8
9 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 316.7 (196.8) -6.5
10 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 316.5 (196.7) -6.7
11 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 315.6 (196.1) -7.6
12 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 315.5 (196.0) -7.7
13 Felipe Massa Ferrari 315.5 (196.0) -7.7
14 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 315.5 (196.0) -7.7
15 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 315.5 (196.0) -7.7
16 Bruno Senna Williams 313.8 (195.0) -9.4
17 Sergio Perez Sauber 313.7 (194.9) -9.5
18 Pastor Maldonado Williams 313.7 (194.9) -9.5
19 Mark Webber Red Bull 311.2 (193.4) -12.0
20 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 311.1 (193.3) -12.1
21 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 310.8 (193.1) -12.4
22 Charles Pic Marussia 310.7 (193.1) -12.5
23 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 310.6 (193.0) -12.6
24 Timo Glock Marussia 310.4 (192.9) -12.8

2012 Spanish Grand Prix

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47 comments on Lotus poised to press Maldonado and Alonso for victory

  1. Nick.UK (@) said on 12th May 2012, 23:29

    The only silver lining to today is that we could see any of 3 new teams win the race. Lotus, Williams or even possibly Sauber. Even if that doesn’t happen seeing Alonso win in Spain would be very special. If none of that manages to happen the race would have to be won from behing the first two rows of the grid for the first time and whoever does it will have to put in a storming performance…. ALL these possibilities…. AND we get to see LEWIS HAMILTON start in 24th with the fastest car on the grid by a significant margin!

    I can hardly imagine sleeping tonight! May the best man win!

    • Jake (@jleigh) said on 12th May 2012, 23:37

      I just hope that the Pirelli’s tendency to go off as soon as they sense a car in front of them doesn’t put to bed any chance of a Hamilton charge through the field

      • Nick.UK (@) said on 12th May 2012, 23:45

        McLaren need to take this chance to give him a high 7th gear to fully utilise the DRS, after all, its not like they can be demoted any further down the grid due to set up changes made in parc ferme! If he gets stuck behind people due to bouncing off the limiter it will lead to more frustration. I hope he can make it to 10th at least, but at Barcelona… I not hopeful, but more than ready to be proven wrong!

        • timi (@timi) said on 13th May 2012, 0:14

          The gear ratios have been locked in since Q1.

          • Nick.UK (@) said on 13th May 2012, 0:22

            Shame. It appears on the speed traps though that the McLaren is in the top few teams anyway (I looked after commenting). The Lotus’ cars for example are one of the few who are faster, but will be beyond reach anyway so no need to worry about overtaking them lol.

          • craig-o (@craig-o) said on 13th May 2012, 1:05

            Can’t they take him out of parc-ferme, make him start from the pits and then change setup?

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 13th May 2012, 11:08

      @Nick-uk Absolutely mate! However this finished it will be spectacular. I haven’t been this excited for a race since Any Dhabi 2010, easily.

  2. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 12th May 2012, 23:31

    I’m liking this! a fun Spanish GP ahead? looking like it!

  3. Lin1876 (@lin1876) said on 12th May 2012, 23:39

    As I said on Twitter, I can’t call this. I think the safest bet is one of the Lotuses, but there are so many unknown factors at play that anyone in the top 10 has at least some chance of victory. I would love to see Sauber win — they came so close in Malaysia and they have a really good chance. Equally, I would love to see Williams win, and Raikkonen to crown his comeback. This race, like this season, is so delightfully poised, especially with Hamilton starting at the back.

    Day of racing tomorrow methinks. GP3, GP2 and the Grand Prix. I can hardly wait!

  4. Ral (@ral) said on 12th May 2012, 23:55

    Sorry Keith, but in the table you linked, + means places gained, does it not?

  5. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 12th May 2012, 23:56

    I’m gonna say Kimi’ll win, with Maldonado and Alonso unfortunately eventually being overtaken by faster cars. I expect a charge up to the sharp end by Vettel, Button and Webber.

  6. sato113 (@sato113) said on 13th May 2012, 0:07

    heard rumors on twitter of vettel getting a 5 place grid drop for either impeding hulkenberg or having a gearbox change. typically false rumors then.

    poor old hamilton. stupid, stupid mclaren… i give up on them.
    come on Kimi!

  7. andrewf1 (@andrewf1) said on 13th May 2012, 0:08

    @keith, alonso started from 4th on the grid in 2011, not 5th place.

  8. sato113 (@sato113) said on 13th May 2012, 0:14

    I wonder whether Hamilton could have carried on until turn 12, switched off the engine and rolled down the hill in neutral, cutting the last chicane in the process. he would have alot of momentum to get down the pitlane…

  9. Sean (@spaceman1861) said on 13th May 2012, 0:31

    Went to sleep after qualiy, woke up read for about 2 hours (so many comments). I can’t wait for this race :)

  10. Cacarella (@cacarella) said on 13th May 2012, 0:54

    Pretty exciting (for me anyway) to think that Alonso could be leading the championship again after this race. **fingers crossed**

  11. Judging by friday high fuel runs Lotus are looking good for the podium finish,and i wish it was that simple.Even if they are set up perfectly and a shue in for the one two finish,they still need to survive turn one.Maldonado will be a problem though,that guy is a loose cannon.Has no experience starting for the front of the grid,led alone from the pole,in other words he’s trouble.

    • juergen (@juergen) said on 13th May 2012, 2:57

      I agree completely, my prediction is that he will get too excited and make a mistake, cause an unpleasant contact with cars behind him in the first corner.

  12. Lord Stig (@lord-stig) said on 13th May 2012, 3:05

    “In the top five places on the grid are four drivers who’ve all tended to lose places at the start this year: Maldonado (net loss of nine places on lap one so far), Alonso (twelve), Raikkonen (ten) and Perez (eight).”

    I think you have got it backwards. It’s net gain. I for one don’t remember one race this year where Raikkonen has lost places on the first lap.

  13. Lord Stig (@lord-stig) said on 13th May 2012, 3:11

    In the case of Lotus, I think they thought that their qualifying positions were going to be better than they were. Therefor they risked using all three sets of the softer compound in quali. They may have hoped to only use two but then Maldonando went out in Q1 with the soft tyres, which screwed everything up. If their race pace is good they could be a strong contender. I am not sure if Maldonado will be able to pull anything off, I would be surprised if he is on the podium spraying champagne.

  14. Himmat said on 13th May 2012, 5:19

    Wow. What a great race at hand. Quite sad I have my A-Levels Physics and Maths paper tomorrow!!

    Anyways, I’d probably take some time out to watch the start, in-between and the end of the race.

    Prediction: 1 = RAI 2 = GRO 3 = MAL …. Vet = 5, Ham = 9, But = 8, Per = 4, Web = 7, Alo = 6

    Really gutted for Hamilton. He did a good job. I’m sure he didn’t know that there was less fuel in the car, and the advantage would have been probably 1 tenth at most. 23 place drop seems harsh, but rules are rules at the end of the day imho.

    PS: I wish Ron Dennis comes back. He was a charismatic leader. Good to see him at races this year. He is still the overall McLaren boss, so if he thinks they’re doing a bad job, he can surely step back in. Considering they’ve probably already lost up to 50 points in 4/5 races just due to team errors.

    • Himmat said on 13th May 2012, 5:27

      BTW it’s crazy that in the past 30 races, Williams – a team who’s lost all of it’s pace and lustre – have gotten themselves 2 poles.

      PS: I count this as a pole to Maldonado. Unless if Lewis had a gearbox change, then I think it is still his pole, but since he seemingly didn’t have enough fuel in the tank, it’s right to not count this as his pole.

    • nee bochu le

  15. Mike (@mike) said on 13th May 2012, 5:21

    How amazing would a win be for Williams? But I think it’ll be one of the Lotuses or a Red Bull who have had good race pace this year.

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