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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Image ?? Lotus F1 Team/LAT

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

  1. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 13th May 2012, 7:07

    As far as I can recall, surprise pole sitters have the tendency to fall back fairly quickly. I hope Maldonado bucks this trend, and at least leads at the first corner, so we can see what the Williams can do leading the field. I’m still not a Maldonado fan, but I’d love to see Williams win and he will be the one that has to get the job done.

    My prediction of Grosjean winning the race is still looking good (I even predicted a time of 1m22.4 in qualifying for him, although I thought that would have been him on pole), and Webber in fourth also looks eminently possible. Hamilton in 3, though, is looking a little less likely.

  2. evolutionut (@evolutionut) said on 13th May 2012, 9:35

    alonso lost 12 places in first lap this year? srsly? :)

  3. alexf1man (@alexf1man) said on 13th May 2012, 10:00

    Is there actually going to be some overtaking today? Or just a mainly DRS assisted procession?

  4. Aditya (@) said on 13th May 2012, 10:59

    Keith,, there appears to be a few mistakes in the article. Maldonado, Alonso, Raikkonen and Grosjean certainly have not been among the worst starters and Alonso qualified fourth here last year, not fifth as it is written in the article. I hope you will take note of all that.

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