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.
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.
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
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?