2013 Formula 1 Santander Spanish Grand Prix Race Report

Alonso Pulls Another Rabbit Out Of His Hat

Contributor: James Parker, TJ13 on track correspondent

Constructors' results after Spain

Constructors’ Table after Spain
Chart from TJ13 reader Dobzizzle

Infront of his adoring home crowd, Fernando Alonso made history in Cataluyna by claiming victory from 5th on the grid. Beating Michael Schumacher’s record from 1996, the Spaniard now boasts the honour of winning the Spanish Grand Prix from the lowest grid position in dry conditions. Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen drove a solid 3 stop race to 2nd, whilst the other Ferrari of Felipe Massa eclipsed Alonso’s 4 stop strategy to round off the top 3, to go on and claim his first podium of 2013.

The big questions ahead of the Grand Prix were solely tyre related, with many teams unsure on whether a 3 stop or 4 stop strategy would be fastest. Paul Hembrey of Pirelli before the race was quoted as saying a 3 stop race would suffice, but no-one was to predict the incredible wear rates of the supposed “prototype” harder compound tyre.

The Race

The start of the Grand Prix was dominated once again by the ability of both Ferrari’s to get off the line. Alonso had a tremendous jump off the line, and then managed to pull off a stellar double overtake around Turns 2 and 3. Mugging Raikkonen off the exit of turn 2, he hung it all out around the outside of Hamilton in turn 3 to claim 3rd, who himself had been jumped by Vettel off the start, with the German claiming 2nd behind Rosberg.

Mercedes'  German driver Nico Rosberg leFurther down, Perez made an excellent getaway to get up to 6th, however was quickly passed by the recovering Massa on lap 2 down the long pit straight. The Brazilian quickly cruised up to the back of Raikkonen in 5th to make a 6 car train.

From as early as lap 5, it was clear that the Mercedes cars were going to struggle in race trim. Hamilton quickly dropped off the back of 3rd place man Alonso, which in turn hampered 5th place Raikkonen who simply could not afford to let the first 3 build up a gap.

The key move happened on lap 7, where the Finn made an excellent dive down into the hairpin at T10 to claim 4th place. This set the tone for Hamilton’s race who found himself also passed by Massa into the same place on lap 8, and from there, found himself tumbling down the order at a vast rate of knots.

Lotus, who were looking at trying to close the gap in the WCC this weekend, found themselves out of luck, as on lap 9 Grosjean was forced to retire from the race with a right rear suspension failure.

But it was the rate at which the Pirelli’s were wearing which started to cause concern. Webber made his first stop on just lap 8 for some fresh harder compounds, and many thought it was just to catch some clean air.

However on lap 9, Alonso, Hamilton and Di Resta all came in for a new set of hards too, which painted a picture of a Grand Prix which was to be solely influenced by high tyre degradation with 4 stops considered the normality .

Spanish GP 1Race Leader Rosberg, Vettel and Raikkonen all opted to pit one lap later, it was this decision by the leading 3 which would see Alonso create the framework for his victory.

On fresh rubber the Spaniard produced a magnificent outlap to jump Vettel to send him into 2nd. Massa, who also pitted 2 laps earlier made the most of the fresh rubber to jump Kimi Raikkonen into 4th.

This allowed Alonso to perfectly map out the rest of his Grand Prix, knowing that Rosberg was in trouble with tyre wear. On lap 13, a pass into T1 saw the Ferrari driver jump into the provisional race lead much to the delight of the Spanish crowd. The following 3 sniffed blood, and in the space of a lap all dispatched the Mercedes man, pushing Rosberg down to 5th place by lap 15.

All remained pretty static on track up to the 3rd round of pitstops where strategy was set to play a key part in determining the race winner. Alonso and Massa both pitted on lap 37 together, with the Spaniard emerging just behind the Lotus of Raikkonen who was trying to make a 3 stop strategy work – sticking with the medium compound tyre.

He wasted no time in getting past Raikkonen down into Turn 1 two laps later, with the crucial part of the race now emerging – could Alonso stretch the lead enough to cover a 4th stop ahead of the Finn?

Vettel was the next to pit on lap 40, which subsequently released Felipe Massa into 2nd place behind his team-mate and was set to take crucial points off the Redbull man. Raikkonen managed to stretch his stint out to lap 46, at which point he switched to the fresh set of harder compound tyres he saved from Qualifying.

With 20 laps left, it was all about how the Finn could respond to Alonso. 29 seconds off the race leader, he needed to make 10 seconds up before the Spaniard had to pit for his final stop of the day in order to jump him. However, whilst Raikkonen was quickly making an impression on the gap to 2nd place man Massa, Alonso seemingly had pace to spare in his back pocket – managing the gap beautifully.

Spanish GP 2The Ferrari man’s final stop on lap 50 passed without a problem, and he emerged comfortably ahead of both his team-mate and Raikkonen. Both Massa and Vettel went onto the harder compound tyres on lap 52 in their 4th and final stops, Massa rejoining in a solid 3rd ahead of Vettel.

A late charge by Massa was halted by the rapidly degrading Pirelli’s which left Raikkonen safe for 2nd. But upfront, it was a superlative drive by Fernando Alonso, who by doing all of the hard work in the middle stint of the Grand Prix set up an easy finish – much to the delight of the Spanish crowd.

5th was by Mark Webber who produced a solid if unspectacular recovery drive, finishing 9 seconds off his team-mate Vettel in 4th . 6th was Rosberg who held off a late charge by Force India’s Paul Di Resta who claimed 7th and solid points once again for the FI team. The Mercedes man I am sure must be relieved to have not dropped like a stone during the latter part of the Grand Prix. 8th and 9th were the McLaren duo of Button and Perez, who after such an unflattering weekend were thankful to have received a double point’s finish, with the Torro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the top 10.

drivers' results after Spain (1)

Drivers’ Standings Graph after 5 rounds
Chart from TJ13 reader Dobzizzle

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17 responses to “2013 Formula 1 Santander Spanish Grand Prix Race Report

  1. Just spoke to my bro, who said he can’t understand why Hamilton is complaining about battling with a Williams – he thought that he always wanted to emulate Senna!!

    • I think when they get back to Brackley, Mercedes will find that several of the decals and stickers were poorly applied to the car, they should have paid more attention to Lewis in the off season..

  2. Fantastic drive from Alonso. Also great drives from Raikkonen and Massa. The McLaren result must be heartening to the team. And Mercedes aren’t even worth discussing.

    • Indeed, the race was won in the first corner on the first lap in my opinion. It was key Alonso got in front of not only Raikkonen but also Hamilton in order to stay in touch of Vettel.

      Rosberg was always going to be easy pickings for the front 3, however I am realtively shocked to what degree the RB9 suffered from pace issues thanks to the high deg. Think it came as quite a surprise to Alonso as to how easy he found himself winning the GP.

      Kimi lost the GP by trying to do a 3 stopper, as the medium tyre was going off far too quickly, however that could have been forced down to the fact they used 5 sets of tyres to get into Q3.

      Mercedes, well you do start to worry how a 3 year old design flaw can still remain in the car with all the technical clout they now possess.

  3. This race was an absolute disgrace. The sooner Pirelli are expelled from f1 the better. The thing that takes the cake is hembery’s post-race interview, when he acknowledged that they may have gone a bit too far with the comedy tires, but the thing that got my blood boiling was, when he said that changing the compund could mean to hand the title to Red Bull.
    Do I take that as admitting that Pirelli has designed the tires specifically to hamper Red Bull? If that is the case, what Pirelli does is a criminal offense under European economic laws. It’s not the first time that hembery said that RB would win too much if they didn’t make the tires deliberately crap. I would hate a repeat of 2000-2004 as much as the next guy, but a supplier sabotaging a team deliberately is simply unacceptable. Pirelli deserve to be expelled from F1 immediately. If the ‘love letters’ they get on faceborg are anything to go by, I’m not the only one who thinks that these scheming bastards have no business in F1 anymore.

      • No. In fact In was quite happy about felipe finally visiting the podium again. But hearing such things from a corrupt supplier, who admits to specifically sabotaginbg teams reminds me that F1 isnÄt about racing anymore.

        • I think Pirelli just need to find a medium. I am amazed that the prototype harder compound (which was supposed to be incredibly durable) only last no longer than 15 odd laps before dropping off hugely.

          It is clear that the step in creating “entertainment” has got too far, and I hope this promise by Pirelli to sort out the compounds comes to fruition in Silverstone.

          However for fans of Mercedes to blame the tyres for the lack of pace both Rosberg and Hamilton experienced are seriously misguided – it is the W04 which is the problem.

          • You mean the same mercedes W04 that has claimed 4 of 5 pole positions that you think is to blame? Interesting view??

    • Simon, just because the Mercedes is a quick qualifying car does not mean it will be a quick race car.The main downfall last season for them was the FRICS device, causing the tyres to heat inconsistenly around the car.

      For 2013, Lotus are now running a system which is very similar to Mercedes, and the team have supposed to have fixed the problems. The Lotus is not suffering from the same degradation woes, so it has to be an integral part of the design itself which surely flawed on the Mercedes car.

      The W04 can inject heat into the tyres extremely fast, and over 1 lap on low fuel that is helping their raw lap time hugely – switching on the rubber to produce the performance.

      However, once race fuel has been added, and the balance of the car has shifted, the design flaw which had been so beneficial in Qualifying, now becomes hugely detrimental, as the car simply chews up its rear tyres to an incredible degree – as we saw in Spain.

      The perfect example of a quick race car opposed to average qualifying car is the Lotus – the opposite of the Merc. All teams are suffering with degradation issues to some extent, however the Mercedes problems stem much further than Pirelli’s fragile compounds, otherwise they would have been able to match RedBull, Ferrari and Lotus in the race.

      • Hi James.
        Obviously there is a problem with the Merc in race trim. And you may be right in that it could be down to their FRIC system. However I believe that these tyres are just so so bad that the Merc suffers more like the Red Bulls due to their high downforce characteristics. But that I hope will b solved now Pirelli have been shamed into providing ‘proper racing tyres,’ and we will see the mercs full potential.
        It’s also worth remembering Pirelli used the Lotus as its test vehicle…
        Anyway,enjoy the rest of the season.
        F1 go Racing NOT Pacing!!!!!

        • Hi Simon – as I said in my latest article – tell the analysts to stop being conservative.

          Alonso reckoned he drove 90% plus for the race – and in F1 history driving 100% flat out 100% of the race is most rare.

          What’s wrong with more stops and letting the drivers hit it harder?

          • What’s wrong with more stops and letting the drivers hit it harder?
            thejudge13.

            Nothing! That was more or less the situation pre-2010; a series of mini sprints interrupted with re-fuelling (using Bridgestones). I have no problem with them trying to achieve similar effects but with tyres alone. But (& a big but!) these tyres are car+driver limiting in a way that distorts the racing to the extreme, perverse even. When someone like the ‘Tyre-minder’ Button, complains about them (tyres) then you know you have a problem!
            And all I was stating, and remain convinced, regarding the mercs, is that they will shine through, potential race-day pace fully revealed when this silly comic tyres situation is sorted. And of the today (Weds 15th) I read Pirelli’s are answering the call, not only of RB, but ‘racing’ fans, and more pressing, big players like Sky, Bernie et al, and deliver a new tyre, one that will last, a tyre that allows for near 100% commitment from drivers, near 100% of the time.
            As for you race analysis; in depth and informative, but to have the alternative (better) strategies you surely need all the data put before you. That’s not to say you are wrong of course, it was a good read. taa 🙂
            Anyways up. Carry on the good work.
            F1 go Racing NOT Pacing!!!

          • Thanks Simon – love the slogan

            I did write my piece on the Monday before we had the doc’s lap time analysis and I think I used the word ‘hunch’ re: Vettel and podium chasing..

            I hope you’re not too disappointed with Pirelli’s coming tweaks but my reading of it is the tyres will wear better – but not necessarily allow ‘push, push, push’.

  4. A pretty forgettable weekend in terms of my GP Predictor results. Who would’ve thought Massa would get a podium, Gutierrez would get the fastest lap and that Lewis would not even be in the top 10. 🙁

  5. Barcelona is best defined by the numbers. The pole time was a 1:20.7 and the ‘fastest’ race lap was a 1:26.2 by Gutierrez. That’s a mammoth SIX seconds slower. This wasn’t a race. It was a bleeding penioneers bus ride to Devon.

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