Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya had a reputation for serving up less-than-exciting Spanish Grands Prix. All that changed on Sunday, in a race that proved just how effective the 2011 regulation changes have been in spicing up the F1 spectacle. Red Bull were expected to walk it, but in the end were forced to fight all the way. Over 66 laps we saw constant strategy changes as teams reacted to the competition, compelling drivers throughout the field to make aggressive passing manoeuvres in order to make those strategies work. We take a team-by-team look back at a fascinating afternoon of motorsport.
Sebastian Vettel, P1
Mark Webber, P4
Red Bull got a major surprise at the start when Webber was so busy keeping an eye on a challenging Vettel to his left that Alonso was able to dive down the inside to snatch the lead into the first corner. Vettel also got Webber there, and that sealed the Australian’s fate. Vettel took the lead from Alonso after the second pit stop, but then came under massive pressure from Hamilton which he withstood superbly despite an intermittent problem with his KERS. His fourth win from five 2011 races was the closest yet, by only six-tenths of a second. Webber got stuck behind Alonso for a very long time, which enabled a delayed Button to catch and pass the Red Bull, and subsequently Webber’s counter-attack soon faded.
Lewis Hamilton, P2
Jenson Button, P3
Hamilton drove a storming race and set fastest lap as he took the fight to Vettel all the way through to the finish, when he ended up only six-tenths adrift but quite unable to launch an overtaking attempt. He thought his McLaren was faster than the Red Bull in some places, but that ultimately the RB7 simply had too much downforce in the first, third and 16th turns. Button made an appalling start and spent much of the early going fighting back from 10th to fifth. McLaren did the right thing by switching him to a three-stop strategy as opposed to Hamilton’s four, and when Alonso and Webber were running hard tyres he was able to use his softs to pass both in a single lap. That deservedly won him the final podium slot, giving McLaren another healthy points score.
Fernando Alonso, P5
Felipe Massa, Retired lap 59, gearbox
Ferrari began the race sensationally as Alonso burst through from fourth on the grid to the lead, and he held it through until the 19th lap when he made his second pit stop. He dropped behind Vettel and Hamilton then, but contained Webber through the next stop, until his pace blistered a set of hard Pirellis. That slowed him down as his next set, fitted on lap 39, had to get him through to the finish. His major problem in the tyre wear was relative lack of downforce, something about which the troubled Massa also complained. He never got his tyres working properly all weekend, and dropped out of possible points contention after 59 laps with gearbox problems. Altogether, it was a tough and disappointing race for Ferrari, all the more so after Alonso’s superb qualifying lap and opening burst of speed.
Michael Schumacher, P6
Nico Rosberg, P7
Mercedes once again lacked race pace, and Schumacher’s run just ahead of Rosberg for much of the race was helped when the younger German lost his radio and also had to cope with a problem on his car’s DRS.
Nick Heidfeld, P8
Vitaly Petrov, P11
Good strategy and a great drive by Heidfeld earned Renault eighth place, but he was so close to the Mercedes duellists that another lap could have seen him sixth - from the back of the grid. After all his tribulations over the weekend, eighth could still be considered an excellent result that again underlined the R31’s potential. Petrov faded in the closing stages and fell away from a points-scoring position.
Sergio Perez, P9
Kamui Kobayashi, P10
Yet another helping of points for Sauber after Perez drove the way he did in Melbourne, but Kobayashi was delayed by a puncture after somebody pushed him into the gravel on the opening lap. That also cost him a very good set of soft tyres. But for that incident he might have done even better than Perez’s result.
Paul di Resta, P12
Adrian Sutil, P13
Di Resta said he was satisfied with what he achieved with the car at his disposal, and that compromising qualifying by saving tyres was definitely the right approach. The car lacked pace, however. He started on the Pirelli options, whereas Sutil did so on the primes, which proved so costly in the opening stages that he never made up lost ground once he finally switched to options.
Sebastien Buemi, P14
Jaime Alguersuari, P16
Buemi drove another feisty race but bemoaned loss of time as he was frequently lapped. He also thought his car was not quite perfect but in any case said that the STR6 wasn’t quick enough and that Force India and Sauber beat them fair and square. Alguersuari’s tyres were rooted after 12 laps, prompting a four-stop race which rarely works down in the lower midfield.
Pastor Maldonado, P15
Rubens Barrichello, P17
Maldonado was unable to live up to his promising ninth place on the grid, while Barrichello had a tough race with a delay in the first pit stop and then problems with his KERS again. The team have yet to score a point in five 2011 races.
Jarno Trulli, P18
Heikki Kovalainen, Retired lap 49, accident
Both Lotuses ran strongly in the midfield bunch on their soft tyres, but later Trulli was slowed by an exhaust problem, while Kovalainen, who shadowed him early on, admitted to an error after crashing at Turn Four. This team made a chunk of progress this weekend with their latest upgrade.
Timo Glock, P19
Jerome D’Ambrosio, P20
Glock chased Liuzzi initially before overtaking, and finished 19th after an uneventful run. D’Ambrosio followed him home, hampered at one stage by a minor brake problem.
Narain Karthikeyan, P21
Tonio Liuzzi, Retired lap 29, gearbox
There was excitement when Liuzzi comfortably outran Glock to begin with, but he then lost rear-end grip on his second set of tyres and was progressively delayed by an upshift problem that led to retirement. Karthikeyan made it home but also suffered the same rear-end problem, and also an uncomfortable seat which burnt his back and at times led to “unbearable pain”.