Alonso hits back with home win

2013 Spanish Grand Prix review

Start, 2013 Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona,Fernando Alonso has made some excellent starts in his Ferrari. Lining up fifth on the grid for his home race, with title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen already in front of him, he needed another good one today.

When the red lights went out his F138 found the instant purchase he needed. But on the long, narrow run to turn one there simply wasn’t room for him to capitalise. If this had been Sepang he might have had the pace to sweep by the lot of them into the lead.

Instead he cancelled his KERS and focused on getting an ideal run out of turn two. Poised behind Raikkonen and Hamilton, he jabbed the KERS button again and swept around the outside of the Lotus and the Mercedes, completing a crucial first-lap jump from fifth to third.

With that he was halfway towards a valuable victory on home ground.

Mercedes fall back

The two Mercedes drivers occupied the front row of the grid, as they had in China. But the performance of the W04 over a race stint remained a cause for concern. Lewis Hamilton had covered the equivalent of one-and-a-half race distances in pre-race practice – despite rain affecting the first day’s running – as the team tried to coax the fragile Pirelli rubber into giving more grip for longer.

Over a single flying lap, the silver cars were untouchable. But the instant the lights went out on race day both drivers were tentative, defensive. Vettel and Alonso demoted Hamilton on the first lap. Raikkonen and Felipe Massa followed before the first stint was over.

Rosberg hung on until the end of the first stint and even began to wonder if he could keep it up until the end of the race. But he was thoroughly disabused of that notion on lap 13 when Alonso, Vettel and Massa passed him in turn.

Alonso takes control

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, 2013Ferrari committed early to running a four-stop strategy: Massa was the first of their drivers to put, diving in on lap eight immediately after passing Hamilton. Alonso came in the lap after.

This gave him the advantage of the undercut over Vettel. Despite Red Bull producing what turned out to be the second-fastest pit stop of the race, Vettel emerged from the pits just in time to see Alonso beat him to the first corner.

Soon after Alonso zapped past Rosberg on the main straight using DRS. Vettel scrabbled past a few corners later on the run towards turn seven – an unlikely spot for passing on the Circuit de Catalunya.

At this point it looked as though we might be treated to a battle for victory between the two multiple champions. But it wasn’t to be.

Red Bull were planning to run Vettel on a three-stop strategy. As Alonso went by Vettel’s race engineer Guillaume Rocquelin reminded him the final laps would be decisive. But as the second stint unfolded the team realised they were over-stressing their front tyres. As Alonso disappeared up the road, Red Bull consigned themselves to running an identical strategy, and Vettel’s RB9 was soon under attack from Massa and Raikkonen.

Behind the lead quartet Mark Webber bounced back from a poor first lap to hold fifth place. There was no question of what strategy he was on: a four-lap strategy had been an inevitablity once he made his first pit stop on lap seven.

Sutil out of luck again

Adrian Sutil, Force India, Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, 2013Meanwhile Hamilton was reversing his way down the running order. At one point he was passed by Pastor Maldonado, who had only out-qualified the Caterhams and Marussias, leading Hamilton to ask his team just how dire his situation was.

They reassured him that points were still possible. But having qualifyied on the front row Hamilton was doomed to finish outside the top ten, mystified by his car’s inability to prolong the life of its tyres.

The seriousness of his plight had become clear after his first pit stop, after which he seldom ran inside the top ten. Among those to jump him at the first stop was Paul di Resta, who by this point was the only Force India still in contention.

Adrian Sutil had made a cracking start, diving around the outside and picking up five places to take eighth. But a cross-threaded wheel nut at his first pit stop held him up so long he had to switch his engine off. The time lost ruined his race.

On the same lap that Sutil’s drama unfolded, Romain Grosjean arrived in the Lotus pit with a right-rear suspension element broken. That brought his participation to an end and with it Lotus’s streak of finishing every race with both cars in the points.

Raikkonen splits the Ferraris

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, 2013The other Lotus eventually emerged as Alonso’s closest threat for the lead. While the Ferrari drivers switched to hard tyres for their second and third stints Raikkonen persisted with the mediums. Despite losing some time behind Vettel he stayed close enough to Massa to regain second place when the Ferrari driver made his final pit stop on lap 51.

Alonso had made his last visit to the pits two laps earlier. His stop had to be brought forward due to a slow puncture, but aside from that he never looked at risk of losing his lead. Nor could Massa make enough of an impression to challenge Raikkonen for second. And the Ferrari driver had a comfortable margin over the two Red Bulls, meaning the final laps passed with little contest for the first five places.

Surprisingly, Rosberg was the first driver home after Raikkonen to complete the race with just three stops. His pace in the last stint was good enough to keep Di Resta at arm’s length.

The two McLaren drivers were behind them. Sergio Perez had jumped up to sixth at the start before being passed by Massa. In the closing stages his race engineer urged him to go after Button and Rosberg, expecting their tyres to wilt. When that didn’t happen he cautioned Perez to treat his own tyres with care.

Daniel Ricciardo spent the final laps under severe pressure from Esteban Gutierrez, but stayed ahead to add another point to his tally. Gutierrez bounced back from his qualifying penalty to lead the race for two laps after the front-runners made their first pit stops – the Sauber driver enjoying what was surely his best race of the year so far.

His team mate Nico Hulkenberg was given a stop-go penalty after Sauber released him from his pit box as Jean-Eric Vergne was coming in. The pair collided and Hulkenberg had to pit for a new front wing, costing him further time.

Vergne suffered a tyre de-lamination that may have been related to the contact. Shortly after it was replaced Toro Rosso called him back into the pits to retire due to the extent of the damage. Making matters worse for the team, Ricciardo had to stay out an extra lap at one point while Vergne was still stuck in the pits.

Caterham also fumbled a pit stop for Giedo van der Garde, sending him out with a wheel not properly attached. Once the error was discovered they urged him to try to get back to the pits – a course of action which other teams have discovered can attract a severe penalty. Sure enough Van der Garde’s wheel came off, forcing him to retire, and Caterham were fined for the incident.

However Charles Pic came home ahead of Jules Bianchi, who had to change his wing on the first lap, and Max Chilton, who had a slow pit stop.

Alonso stops the rot

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, 2013With his third victory on home ground Alonso will be hoping he’s drawn a line under Ferrari’s early-season jitters and can refocus his efforts on securing that longed-for third world championship.

After a series of races dominated by tyre degradation the next race at the low-grip Monaco circuit may bring a welcome change.

Pirelli were quick to point out the spectacle of most drivers making four pit stops each was not what they were intended to create. They are already planning further changes to the tyres to address it.

2013 Spanish Grand Prix

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Images ?? Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Lotus/LAT, Force India

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45 comments on Alonso hits back with home win

  1. Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 12th May 2013, 22:08

    What actually caused Grosjean’s suspension failure? I didn’t see any replays of a collision (although that said, I was bored to the extent I wasn’t really paying attention)!

  2. Stormbreak (@stormbreak) said on 12th May 2013, 22:33

    I feel quite sorry for Sutil. He’s had bad luck at every race bar Australia.

    He should have so many more points by now and Force India should be well clear of McLaren.

    • cg22me (@cg22me) said on 12th May 2013, 23:14

      Indeed.
      Di Resta has been a bit better than Sutil in Quali, but Sutil’s racecraft has been expert for the most part. He should have similar points-levels to Di Resta, quite easily, if it weren’t for all the bad luck.

  3. colinf (@colinf) said on 12th May 2013, 22:41

    Again, an INCREDIBLE first few corners from Fernando. He has demonstrated time and time again that he is probably the best raw racer on the track right now and easily one of the all time greats. I kind of like that Ferrari don’t qualify well because it allows us to see Fernando make these brilliant starts race after race!

    • anon said on 12th May 2013, 23:15

      Except in Bahrain where Vettel put him to the sword (in the slower Red Bull).

      It wasn’t so much a pass by Alonso but simply the Ferrari having superior traction. Hamilton struggled for purchase, Kimi was boxed in between Lewis and Alonso and Alonso just kept the foot down as you do on that corner.

      Easy.

      The Ferrari would qualify better if Fernando was a noted qualifier, but he isn’t.

      • Diego (@r3mxd) said on 13th May 2013, 5:24

        Slower Red Bull? lol. excuse me, but in Bahrain, Vettel simply overtook due to an error…then the DRS failures came, and he managed 8 with and extra pit stop and no drs…yeah..

        • anon said on 13th May 2013, 9:43

          DRS only assists in overtaking. If you have the fastest car on the circuit you’re gonna pass mid-field cars easily by just getting in their slipstream.

          Vettel pressured Alonso into a mistake in Bahrain and then pounced. The extra pitstop was Alonso’s fault since if he had actual race craft he would have spend 3 seconds testing the DRS in the pits rather than on the racetrack, costing him another 30 seconds.

          The Ferrari has been the quickest car every race except Australia where it was Lotus. Vettel has done an incredible job with the third best car to be leading the championship.

      • puneeth Bharath (@puneethvb) said on 13th May 2013, 5:49

        the way Vettel won in Bahrain didnt give any indication that Redbull were slower than Ferrari…

        • anon said on 13th May 2013, 9:44

          The Ferrari had better pace. So did the Lotus, but Kimi qualified very poorly which compromised his race. Have you been following the races?

          • puneeth Bharath (@puneethvb) said on 13th May 2013, 12:43

            @anon

            Exactly the same question I would like to ask you… have you been following the races? Anybody who watched the races in Baharin and Malaysia would know Redbulls were the quickest cars… In Austarlia, China and Spain Redbull were nt quick enough and considering that Vettel has indeed done a great job so far… But I dont think Ferrari had the quickest car in all races.. just look at Massa…

          • anon said on 14th May 2013, 10:51

            Nah, Ferrari was quicker in Malaysia and Bahrain but a combination of Alonso errors and a DRS failure meant Alonso couldn’t compete for the win.

            Lotus quickest in Australia, Ferrari the quickest at the other tracks.

            Massa isn’t a barometer for Ferrari. He’s basically lost out there and had never recovered from his crash. The car is 100% developed around Alonso and Massa isn’t allowed to challenge Alonso. If he is challenging him they’ll put him on a sub-optimal strategy to ruin his race. Alonso doesn’t play well with competitive teammates as we found when Trulli beat him in 2004 (Alonso had Briatore fire him before the season’s end) and when his teammate in his first ever season matched him in 2007 (Alonso tried to blackmail McLaren in order to have preferential treatment).

      • Nomore (@nomore) said on 13th May 2013, 8:38

        @anon
        You live in a parallel Universe…:)

        • anon said on 13th May 2013, 9:47

          Are you guy gonna perpetuate this myth of Red Bull being dominant (it wasn’t even the fastest car last year)?

          Alonso won because he had by far the best car. Same as Shanghai. The Ferrari is easily the best car on the grid.

      • DC (@dujedcv) said on 13th May 2013, 9:19

        Are you a Red Bull PR agent?

    • Gabriel (@naylamp) said on 13th May 2013, 4:00

      +1, ALO is probably the best racer in the grid. I also have to give VET some credit for his overtakes this season. I always thought he was winning just because he started from pole but this year (and 2012) is proving me wrong. I think none other driver tops his aggressiveness for overtaking. Having said that, I think their skills go like this:
      QUALY | RACE | OVERTAKING | TYRE MANAGEMENT
      ALO: 7 | 9 | 8 | 9
      HAM: 9 | 7 | 9 | 7
      VET: 9 | 7 | 9 | 8
      KIMI: 8 | 8 | 7 | 9

      • Sri Harsha (@harsha) said on 13th May 2013, 4:33

        Agreed but Only change is Vet is on par with Kimi and Fernando in terms of race craft. SO i give him 8 out of 10.

        • Diego (@r3mxd) said on 13th May 2013, 5:26

          Vettel in par with Kimi and Fernando?… no, no, no. Vettel couldn’t keep up, couldn’t even manage to make pass Rosberg in the beginning with a fundamentally better aero car….take that number keep it 7.

          • Sri Harsha (@harsha) said on 13th May 2013, 8:30

            Vettel Couldn’t keep up?? He was the One who was On par with those guys. These 3 are very close. to each other.

          • anon said on 13th May 2013, 9:50

            Alonso passed Rosberg on the straight. Vettel passed Rosberg less than half a lap later going into turn 7. One pass was much more impressive than the other. I bet you can’t figure it out….

      • anon said on 13th May 2013, 7:49

        Awesome race craft when he hit Vettel, then refused to pit. Awesome race craft when he used the broken DRS for a second time rather than testing it in the pits before rejoining the circuit.

        Oh and Abu Dhabi 2010, awesome race craft being unable to pass Petrov.

        How can Vettel get a 7? What was the last mistake he made in a race?

        • puneeth Bharath (@puneethvb) said on 13th May 2013, 8:54

          @anon
          I might be wrong here and stand to be corrected… But I understand the DRS is supposed to be used in the DRS zones when you are less than 1 sec behind another car… How can DRS be opened and tested in the pit lane ???

          Agreed, Alonso has made plenty of mistakes in his career then who has nt?… you take any driver who had a sufficiently long career and you will find plenty of occasions where they made mistakes… Just to refresh your memory, brazil 2012, abu dhabi 2012 and Monza 2012 are some examples were vettel made mistakes in the race ( He got away with that in brazil and Abu Dhabi with a combination of good fortune and brilliant driving)…

          Most of the people who have read your comments would know your dislike for Alonso but that does not make him a bad driver… Similarly there are many people who always seem to downplay vettel’s acheivements and that does not make vettel a bad driver either…

          • anon said on 13th May 2013, 9:59

            You activate it and have one of the mechanics manually open it. The mechanic releases his hand, then Alonso deactives the DRS. If it stays open, you have a problem. Not rocket science.

            Alonso is a veteran driver who got his first full time drive in 2001. Vettel got his in 2008. The timing of the safety cars at Abu Dhabi were no less fortunate the timing of Alonso’s safety car in Valencia, not to mention the luck of Vettel going out with a mechanical problem while in the lead and Hamilton also being taken out therefore getting 25 points on his closest rivals. Then you have the luck win in Malaysia. Got really lucky with timing the tyres then really lucky that Perez who was catching at over a second a lap made an error.

            Vettel fought back from last two times with all the pressure on him, the championship on the line. Alonso bottled it with all the pressure in Abu Dhabi 2010, bottled qualifying in Abu Dhabi last year which killed his championship. Just doesn’t respond well to pressure.

          • Tayyib (@m0nzaman) said on 13th May 2013, 11:20

            What are you twittering on about? If your talking about mistakes done by Alonso, fair enough, But you come across as if Vettel has been infallible. No he has made mistakes before, spearing into Button at Spa, slow start at Hockenheim in 2010 getting jumped by both Ferrari’s, Sliding wide in Montreal 2011, and a slow start in Brazil last year. Alonso can respond under the pressure, look at Valencia 2012, thought his weekend was all over after Saturday, won on Sunday from 11th. Monza 2010, he scored no points at Spa the round before needed a win in Italy and he won. What are you banging on about?

          • anon said on 13th May 2013, 12:43

            Alonso first got a full time drive in 2001 whereas Vettel got his in 2008. Why are you comparing the mistake that a young driver made in his third full season with that of a “wily veteran”?

            Valencia 2012 Alonso had a car with very strong race pace, he got incredibly lucky with the timing of the safety car (just like in Singapore 2008), and relied on Vettel having a mechanical breakdown while driving the race of his life.

            Okay, Monza 2010 (he had the best car for the last third or so of the year), but what about Monza 2012. He got beaten by Perez LOL when the championship is on the line. Could have really made Vettel pay (cost him the championship in the end didn’t it) for having yet another unlucky mechanical breakdown, but alas the young guy in the Sauber had better race craft!

  4. brny666 said on 12th May 2013, 22:52

    I understand that the Lotus is better at tire management than other cars and therefore it makes sense for the team to try and exploit that, except it hasn’t worked for them but once this year and since they seem to be on par with the Ferraris when on similar tires I really hope that they will in the future just try and bolt on the tires and let it rip. As much fun as it is to see Kimi on the podium I would like him to push a harder during the races and get wins. If he was on a four stopper today he might have been able to push Alonso a bit more.

  5. Eddie (@wackyracer) said on 12th May 2013, 23:01

    Do we need Qualifying anymore? We can just mess up the grid and the guys with the tyres will still come up best…

    • Nick (@npf1) said on 12th May 2013, 23:15

      Let me take you back to any race on this track prior to this year:

      “Do we really need to race here? Just do qualifying and the first lap, the guy with the best start might gain a spot.”

      • Eddie (@wackyracer) said on 12th May 2013, 23:26

        I would rather see that then this, seeing drivers that are trying to go as slow as possible isnt fun at all neither entertaining

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 14th May 2013, 8:03

          The trick was, that Ferrari won by going for a 4 stopper full out, to be able to use the speed of the tyres. Red Bull could have done the same and had a better race for Vettel too. Possibly the same for Rosberg, with a 4 stopper he might have achieved more.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 14th May 2013, 8:02

        Thanks @npf1, I too prefer seeing a race on sunday instead of just the confirmation of the qualifying results.

  6. Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 12th May 2013, 23:38

    Just for those who like statistics Alonso has the lower starts position ever of a winner in Barcelona :
    2013 Fernando Alonso 5
    2012 Pastor Maldonado 1
    2011 Sebastian Vettel 2
    2010 Mark Webber 1
    2009 Jenson Button 1
    2008 Kimi Räikkönen 1
    2007 Felipe Massa 1
    2006 Fernando Alonso 1
    2005 Kimi Räikkönen 1
    2004 Michael Schumacher 1
    2003 Michael Schumacher 1
    2002 Michael Schumacher 1
    2001 Michael Schumacher 1
    2000 Mikka Hakkinen 2
    1999 Mikka Hakkinen 1
    1998 Mikka Hakkinen 1
    1997 Jacques Villeneuve 1
    1996 Michael Schumacher 3
    1995 Michael Schumacher 1
    1994 Damon Hill 2
    1993 Alain Prost 1
    1992 Nigel Mansell 1
    1991 Nigel Mansell 2

    • Palle (@palle) said on 13th May 2013, 0:29

      Yes, but if You count out the 2 Mercedes on front row (which I did before the race – I didn’t think any of them would get home within top 5), then Alonso was only starting third. But I really enjoyed his start of the race, less so, when Vettel couldn’t keep up and RB seemed to try an impossible 3 stop strategy in a car not able to do so. Ferrari had the edge today, impressive, but the race got boring after 2 round of pit stops.

    • TheodoreEadman said on 13th May 2013, 7:12

      People will find a reason to complain no matter what!

  7. Diego (@r3mxd) said on 13th May 2013, 5:33

    You know Pirelli is not to blame, when a driver like Felipe goes all the way to 3rd from 9th, ahead of Vettel.

    It is time for Red Bull to stop playing the ‘ “win” good job team / “lose/no podium” blame tyre ‘, they have the best aero package out there, however, they also have talents besides Newey, they need to do the homework, sort themselves out, take a lesson from James Allison, and perhaps turn their rubber wear around.

    I’m impressed at how Kimi managed to split the Ferraris, might not have a RB downforce level, but they knew Pirelli were going to go softer…I mean come on.

    Several analyst and commentators, etc all walking asked Ferrari and Lotus about their lap times, they said they were going almost as fast as Quali (with race fuel of course) conserving the wear on the obvious turns (3,9), so this “blame Pirelli” campaign is a simple joke.

  8. evered7 (@evered7) said on 13th May 2013, 7:07

    One team (Ferrari) is able to go faster and another team (Lotus) do one pitstop less than the competition to cover the same distance faster than everyone else with the same tires provided to everybody.

    What is the problem now, the tires or the team who designed the cars that chew up the tires. Sensible ones would say the latter :-)

  9. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 13th May 2013, 8:24

    Great review Keith, so please excuse my nitpicking:

    Sergio Perez had jumped up to second at the start before being passed by Massa.

    I suppose he jumped to seventh?

    On Alonso’s overtakes on the first lap:

    Instead he cancelled his KERS and focused on getting an ideal run out of turn two. Poised behind Raikkonen and Hamilton, he jabbed the KERS button again and swept around the outside of the Lotus and the Mercedes, completing a crucial first-lap jump from fifth to third.

    I think he didn’t go onto the KERS until the exit of turn 3, to complete the pass, or is that what you meant?

  10. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 13th May 2013, 8:34

    On Mercedes race pace, I was unpleasantly surprised by how slow they were. I know Mercedes have had this “quick in qualy, hard on tyres” image for the better part of three years now, but I think they were actually doing Ok so far this year.

    Australia was not great, where they struggled for balance on the mediums; Malaysia was actually very good, and had they put enough fuel in their cars, they could have challenged the Red Bulls for victory I feel. In China Hamilton had decent race pace, especially once his mysterious mid-race understeer had resolved itself. Bahrain was poor, but even there Hamilton’s final two stints were decent, and enough to fight back into fifth, ahead of one Red Bull.

    I had thought Bahrain would be the low point for Mercedes, with the rear-limited nature of the track and the extreme temperatures highlighting their weaknesses. So for Barcelona I had imagined an improvement over Bahrain, especially since they had been working on their race pace both in the run-up to the race and in the practice sessions, but I think yesterday in terms of race pace they were the slowest cars, only ahead of Marussia, Caterham, and Williams. Astonishing given their supremacy over a single lap!

    I hope that Brawn’s “drastic measures” to improve things will actually lead to an improvement, and not, in a repeat of 2012 (and similar to Button’s 2012 slump), lead them completely astray.

  11. luis o said on 13th May 2013, 11:51

    That was a brilliant strategy job by Felipe and Rob, specially the 2nd stop, in order to overtake Vettel. I don’t remember them doing the undercut that wisely before.

  12. Cab said on 13th May 2013, 14:02

    Lotus should change their strategy to an aggressive one like Ferrari. Allow Kimi to race at maximum speed. It will be an epic battle between Kimi and Alonso. Kimi, Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel are the most exciting drivers to watch in F1 today..

  13. James Holmes (@james-holmes) said on 13th May 2013, 23:18

    Hey Keith -

    Nice recap and photos. I am very pleased for Alonzo and recognize how big this is for fans from his home country. Fernando is an amazing talent and my hope is that Ferrari can continue to evolve both cars and make this a title fight to the end!

    James Holmes

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