Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Spanish Dancer: Ferrari's Alonso Takes Home Grand Prix

Photo source: Ferrari North America

The first European race of the 2013 Formula 1 season, the Spanish Grand Prix takes place three weeks after Sebastian Vettel commandingly captured the last event in Bahrain. With the lead Red Bull Racing driver holding onto a tight early lead in the driver's standings following four grand prix races, Formula 1 could still be regarded as a wide-open fight between the drivers with four teams. Kimi Raikkonen with the Lotus F1 Team, Fernando Alonso driving for Scuderia Ferrari as well as the Mercedes AMG team cars of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg demonstrated podium-quality pace in the season.

In qualifying for the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg registered the best lap allowing him to start from pole in his Mercedes AMG F1 W04 race car around the 4.655-mile race course in Barcelona. Lewis Hamilton joined his teammate for a front row dominated by the Mercedes-Benz factory Formula 1 team. When Sunday's 66-lap main event at the Circuit de Catalunya started, Rosberg showed the way early. Hamilton's start was troublesome as Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso both skated around the Mercedes AMG car by turn three on the opening lap. Vettel climbed from third on the starting grid to second but was unable challenge Nico Rosberg for the lead.

Photo source: Mercedes AMG
The Barcelona race track proved abrasive on the Pirelli medium and hard compound rubber competitors rode on for the afternoon. The race's first pit stops came between lap 7 and lap 10 for the leaders. Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber pitted on lap 7 following by the Ferrari cars of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso on later laps. Last of the leaders into the pit for new tires were Nico Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. Coming into their stalls on lap 10, the pit stop proved momentous for Alonso and disappointing for Rosberg. Riding on warm Pirelli racing slick tires, Fernando Alonso was able to zoom by the Mercedes AMG car to assume the Spanish Grand Prix's lead.

Retirements from the Spanish Grand Prix was limited to three drivers. Thanks to a largely clean standing start on the Circuit de Catalunya, attrition in the event resulted through unfortunate component failures on race cars. Lotus-Renault driver Romain Grosjean incurred rear suspension failure early leading to the Frenchman finishing last. Giedo van der Garde was out of the race after 21 laps due to a rear wheel spinning off his Caterham-Renault. Also a recipient of issues with the rear portion of his Formula 1 car, Scuderia Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne would retire from the Spanish Grand Prix short 14 laps to the checkered flag.   

Photo source: Pirelli Photo Service

Catching many people off-guard was the tire strategy for the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix. While Pirelli predicted a three-stop plan would be the course of the front-runners, a majority of competitors chose to make an extra stop. Red Bull Racing, Ferrari, Force India and the lone remaining Lotus-Renault fielding Kimi Raikkonen elected to make the Spanish Grand Prix a busy time for pit crews.

Since taking the lead, Fernando Alonso outran the entire field in his Ferrari to win the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix. Finishing 9.3 seconds ahead of Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus-Renault, Alonso stated in post-race, “Even if this is the third time I’ve won a home race, the emotion is still very strong, as if it had never happened before. It’s nice to be able to give the whole of Spain this win, especially at a time when the country is in crisis and for many people, it’s not possible to come here to bring their support." As a Spaniard, Alonso savoured winning his home grand prix for the first time since he accomplished the feat in 2006 with Renault. Fernando Alonso had also won the European Grand Prix in 2012 held on the Valencia street course.

Photo source: Pirelli Photo Service

Finishing in second place, the Lotus-Renault vehicle of Kimi Raikkonen was uncontested at the end owned a 16.7-second gap over the third place car. This runner-up position is the fourth podium for the Finnish driver in five 2013 Formula 1 events. In the third spot and the final podium position, Alonso's Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa drove a race almost as masterful as the Spanish Grand Prix winner. Alonso climbed from fifth place on the start to win while Massa earned a third-place spot after a ninth place position on the starting grid.   

Following the impressive qualifying performance for the Mercedes AMG team, the 66-lap distance was a different experience for Rosberg and Hamilton. Both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton struggled to maintain the speed of Ferrari, Red Rull-Renault and Lotus-Renault race cars. Using the less common three-stop strategy, Nico Rosberg crossed the finish line in sixth place. Encountering a lack of tire grip throughout the Spanish Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton adopted a four-stop plan that concluded with the #10 Mercedes AMG finishing 12th. The Spanish Grand Prix was the first race in 2013 where Hamilton failed to collect championship points.   

Taking fourth place in a mediocre outcome in his Red Bull-Renault, Sebastian Vettel continues to hold the lead in the Formula 1 driver's standings. However, Kimi Raikkonen draws within 4 points of Vettel. Scoring maximum points with the grand prix victory, Fernando Alonso gained on Sebastian Vettel but stands 17 points behind heading into the Monaco Grand Prix.

A historic race set for the streets of Monte Carlo, the Monaco Grand Prix will be the next event on the 2013 Formula 1 calendar for May 26th.

2013 Formula 1
Spanish Grand Prix
Race Results

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari
2 7 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus Renault
3 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari Ferrari
4 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault
5 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Renault
6 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
7 14 Paul di Resta Force India Mercedes-Benz
8 5 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes-Benz
9 6 Sergio Perez McLaren Mercedes-Benz
10 19 Daniel Ricciardo Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
11 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber Ferrari
12 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
13 15 Adrian Sutil Force India Mercedes-Benz
14 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams F1 Renault
15 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber Ferrari
16 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Renault
17 20 Charles Pic Caterham Renault
18 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia Cosworth
19 23 Max Chilton Marussia Cosworth
20 18 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
21 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham Renault
22 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault

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