F1 History In The (Re)Making: Spanish Grand Prix 2013

Brought to you by TJ13 chronicler  Bart De Pauw

– Winning from 5th at the Circuit de Catalunya: Alonso breaks a Schumacher record

The 2013 Spanish Grand Prix was the 23th F1 race at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona. Over the years the track has proven to be a place where it is very hard to overtake, and qualifying on the front row is almost a must to win here.

No less than 16 times the winner qualified on pole position – with a stunning 10-year streak of uninterrupted victories by the pole-holder between 2001 and 2010 – and out of the 7 other previous wins it was 6 times the second best qualifier that managed to take the chequered flag first.


© Ferrari

So far, only Michael Schumacher had the distinction of being able to win the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya having started without a clear track in front of him: in 1996 he qualified third but in a race that was affected by torrential rain he produced one of the greatest wet-weather driving performances in F1 history – reminiscent of Senna’s legendary drives in Estoril 1985 and Donington 1993 – to score the first Ferrari victory of his career.

So the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix will enter the F1 history books as the race in which Fernando Alonso succeeded to win at the Circuit de Catalunya from the lowest starting position as he started from only the fifth place on the grid. And contrary to Schumacher he did it in dry conditions.

Of course Alonso’s performance at the Circuit de Catalunya is still way off the record for the lowest grid position an F1 race has ever been won from. That record is held by British driver John Watson who took a most remarkable victory for McLaren in the 1983 United States West Grand Prix at the Long Beach circuit where he started from 22nd on the grid to overtake the complete field and to win the race ahead of his team mate Niki Lauda who had started from 23rd on the grid.

Denny Hulme 1968

© Hell For Motors

It was McLaren’s longest awaited for double – almost 15 years after Denny Hulme and Bruce McLaren himself took a one-two in the 1968 Canadian Grand Prix – and for those of you that think that it is only since the 2013 Pirelli’s that the tyres have become such an important factor: the reason why both McLarens were so far down the grid was because despite a series of desperate measures they couldn’t get a reasonable temperature into their Michelins during qualifying, only for these tyres to come alive during the race and to outstrip all of the Goodyear and Pirelli drivers.

Here is some footage of the 1983 United States West Grand Prix: the McLarens are not seen at the front until the later stages of the race, but luckily there is reigning WDC Keke Rosberg to entertain us in the meantime with a most aggressive start against Rene Arnoux (0:07), a beautifully executed 360-degree spin (separate video) and a pretty optimistic overtaking attempt on Patrick Tambay’s leading Ferrari that inevitably ended in disaster for both (2:11) and helped to pave the way for the two McLarens.

1983 United States West Grand Prix:

1983 United States West Grand Prix – Rosberg’s impressive 360:

Remains the question: could Alonso have done it from 5th without the whole tyre situation? Probably not. But then the next question is: would Alonso have qualified only in fifth without the whole tyre situation?

The answer to that question is less straightforward, but we should have a good indication after qualifying for the upcoming Monaco Grand Prix: if Rosberg and Hamilton will again be well on top on Saturday they genuinely have the quickest car and then the starting grid for the Spanish Grand Prix was a proper reflection of one-lap-speed-potential, but let’s wait to draw that conclusion until we have seen what Alonso & co can do in qualifying once they have set-up their car for a race where track position will hopefully still be so much more important than tyre management.

– 60th consecutive grand prix without suffering a race-ending mechanical failure: Alonso breaks a Webber record

Mark Webber 2013 Bahrain

© Red Bull Racing

Fernando Alonso was really on fire in front of his Spanish home crowd. Although there wasn’t a lot of reason for joy at the time, he already equaled Mark Webber’s record of 59 consecutive races without a retirement caused by mechanical failure at the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix where he did suffer a major mechanical failure when his DRS system malfunctioned but still finished a distant 8th to add another ‘finish without mechanical failure’ to his tally. Mark Webber’s row of 59 grand prix without an ill-fated mechanical issue started at the 2009 Japanese Grand Prix and lasted until the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as in lap 17 of the following 2012 United States Grand Prix he was forced to retire with an alternator problem.

So the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix will also enter the F1 history books as the race in which Fernando Alonso and his bullet-proof Ferrari F138 completed a record-breaking streak of 60 consecutive grand prix without a fatal mechanical failure that started at the 2010 Chinese Grand Prix as the Spaniard’s most recent race-ending mechanical failure goes back to the preceding 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix where Alonso’s Ferrari F10, after suffering gear selection problems from very early on in the race, ultimately had to pull aside with an engine blow up.

Alonso’s engine blow up in the 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix:

Any predictions on how much further you think that Fernando will be able to stretch this record-breaking reliability display?

19 responses to “F1 History In The (Re)Making: Spanish Grand Prix 2013

  1. Rosberg, how did he do that, how did he do that?!?!?
    Spin and still going in 2nd place!

    • Rosberg did lose one place to team mate Lafitte, but still pretty amazing achievement given that it was so early in the race, wasn’t it?

      I do remember a few stunning 360’s from Mansell in his Ferrari days, but this one from Rosberg beats them all as Mansell most of the time was doing them all by himself…

      Good idea to do an article on amazing 360’s as soon as we see one in a current race! So Rosberg will be back!:-)

  2. Hm; News supply must be bad if the judge starts making up completely weird statistics.

    What is it with people’s obsession about someone winning from 5th on the grid? That hasn’t been anything newsworthy since DRS and comedy tires reduced qualifying everywhere but at Monaco to a mere side note. German RTL bored the raw stuffing out of their viewers by yapping on about it incessantly for no good reason.

    Alonso performed some brilliant moves in the first lap, but as soon as Hamilton and Rosberg had kindly put their Mercs into reverse, the whole race was nothing more than a glorified eco run.
    Credits to Kimi and Fernando. They were the only two people, who managed to make their cars appear like moving in some way without burning off the tires in mere seconds, but mentioning a ridiculous delta-time Bonanza like the last Spanish Grand Prix in the same sentence as one of the most brilliant display of rain mastery never again witnessed since is just this side of blasphemy.

    But the real laugh was the ’60 consecutive GP without mechanical fault.’ According to that logic, Mark Webber has recently surpassed a mark of 200 consecutive GP without being attacked by a rabid bear.

    What about Alonso’s retirement on lap 2 of the Malaysia GP? Doesn’t a wing falling off qualify as a mechanical failure, even if t was self-induced by piling into Vettel’s back? They had the chance to come in at the end of lap 1 to fix the dangling front wing. It mechanically failed, wedged itself below the car and was quite race-ending by the looks of it. How can that qualify as a ‘GP without suffering a race-ending mechanical failure’. And how can there be 60 consecutive GP, if last season alone he had two GP he didn’t really run at all, because he didn’t make it past the first corner before being taken out? How can one have a GP finish without a race-ending mechanical failure if the isn’t a GP finish at all. That’s what the term DNF is supposed to mean, isn’t it?

    Seeing ol’ Keke’s 360 again was a hoot, though 🙂

    • Hi Danilo,

      I think the record covers mechanically related components in terms of the car itself. IE the record is not stating races without a DNF but races without a mechanical component of the car itself failing Alonso.

      Mechanically related retirements such as engine blow ups, suspension failures, gearbox problems etc all come under that term. Whereas a front wing falling off due to a collision, getting rear ended by Grosjean and hitting Kimi don’t. Those retirements were not mechanical failures through the car letting him down but through incidents caused by collisions – which cover DNF’s.

      The wing in Malaysia only failed due to contact with another driver, it did not fail through meanings unknown, Alonso caused that failure not the car.

      DNF’s and mechanical failures are considered seperate entities.

      • That I understand, James. But doesn’t consecutive mean ‘without interruption’? I get the drift that the judge wants to showcase the amazing reliability of the Ferrari, which I agree is quite unprecedented, but this whole statistic still appears weird to me.

    • Got your point Danilo, and you are of course free to think whatever you want about statistical data and ‘records’, but just that you understand: not every DNF is caused by a mechanical failure, Alonso’s 2 2012 DNFs that you are referring to (Spa+Suzuka) as well as his 2013 Malaysia DNF were caused by an accident/collision, not by mechanical failure on his Ferrari. So this one is not about 60 consecutive race finishes, it’s about 60 consecutive races without a retirement resulting from a mechanical failure.

      Here is a question to you: how do you think that people will remember the 2013 Spanish grand prix in 10 years from now (that is assuming that you think it will be remembered of course)? For sure they will have forgotten about the tyre situation, don’t you think so?

      • I don’t think this GP will be remembered for too long. Maybe for the fact that Alonso was finally able to break the miniture curse that was on him in his home race and finally managed to win it again since his Renault days. Or maybe for the fact that Massa showed finally a glimpse of his old self for a long time. But for the race itself it will surely be forgotten rather swiftly. Not to mention that the Pirelli fiasco overshadowed anything anyway.

        • Beer helps a lot, Simon 😉 Or watching some old season reviews. I recently saw a 1982 season review narrated by Clive James. It was on a Youtube or other. Clive’s hilarious comments had me in stitches.

          • Thanks, I’ll crack open a few tonight!

            What are people’s thoughts on whether now is a good time to reintroduce refuelling? I think it would offer more strategy options. I have been watching some if the ‘classic F1’ races on SKY and like the maximum attack racing that it brought, now with more delicate tyres, it might give further options on how to win the race.

          • Refuelling definitely got its merits, but I’d say that this is probably not the best time to bring it back as we have already so much going on during the races and we only watch our live timing app anyway, right?

  3. It always make me smile when people bring up the 1996 Spanish GP. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Ferrari fan before anything else, but people constantly call Schumi the rainmaster and compare his ability to Senna but conveniently forgetting that the race before was Monaco and he skated off into the barrier at Portier


    The Brazilian GP that year, the second round was won by Hill in heavy rain, Schumacher finished 3rd.

    For all his brilliance, he wasn’t definitively the fastest in the wet throughout his career. There were others who on occasion raced better. DC in Brazil, Hill in Suzuka 1994 to name but two.

    • Hi HWS. It’s all about marketing. If enough people say something eventually all will be converted.

      Funny thing though, normally people remember the worst of people rather than their successes. Although Schumacher gave us a lot of both and certainly some controversies to pick from!

  4. I’m a little disappointed you didn’t mage any 100-word sentences here. I could only find one that was 91 words. A little weak!

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