In the past 20 editions of the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya, the pole sitting driver has failed to win only four times (2011, 2000, 1996, 1994) and the only other win from anything but the front row on the grid had been Schumacher's win from P3 in '96. Nobody had ever been able to win from a third row start on a track notorious for its snooze inducing races.
Enter Pirelli and suddenly even Catalunya becomes exciting. Yes there has been much bellyaching about the tires, mostly from teams who have not been able to figure out how they work and how to set up their car to make the best of what, after all, is the same for everyone. Ferrari and Lotus (or better, "Renault" as Mark Webber referred to them as in a grid interview) seem to have figured out a way to deal with them, Red Bull, Mclaren and especially Mercedes, not so much.
"I don't think I can drive any slower" said a miffed Lewis Hamilton only halfway through the race when his engineer asked him to look after the tires more. Mercedes again went after Saturday headlines setting up for single lap speed vs race pace. Playing this compromise correctly is now the single most important part of a race week end. Ferrari nailed it, Lotus almost had it with different strategy. Given this it's bizarre Mercedes managed a sixth place with Rosberg on a three stopper.
Red Bull was never convincingly in it. While Webber had his usual horrible start, Vettel tried to make a go of it but could not get to the front early and make a run for it. After that he had a fairly anonymous race, much like in China.
Alonso was a hammer, his first lap pass on Raikkonen and Hamilton will be on highlight reels for years and once he dispatched Vettel with a better pit stop and in/out laps, he was untouchable.
Fernando was clever: if you look at onboard replays from his car you can see that, just before turn one at the start Vettel has a burst of speed, KERS no doubt, but Fernando saved his KERS for an attack he planned for turn 3, an idea that came he said from watching the GP2 race.
Alonso race was not problem free, Ferrari had to make the final stop early because of a slow leak in one of the rear tires.
So tires, tires, tires but enough about tires. Yes Pirelli has to get their act together because delamination like have occurred this past week end are simply not acceptable but everyone has the same burden, they are not going to change much and we had a Spanish GP that was not boring.
It's not all bad is it?
Results - 66 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1h39m16.596s 2. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 9.338s 3. Felipe Massa Ferrari + 26.049s 4. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 38.273s 5. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault + 47.963s 6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes + 1m08.020s 7. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 1m08.988s 8. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes + 1m19.506s 9. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes + 1m21.738s 10. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap 11. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap 12. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes + 1 lap 13. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap 14. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault + 1 lap 15. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap 16. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault + 1 lap 17. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault + 1 lap 18. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth + 2 laps 19. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth + 2 laps Retirements: Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 52 laps Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 21 laps Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 8 laps World Championship standings, round 5: Drivers: Constructors: 1. Vettel 89 1. Red Bull-Renault 131 2. Raikkonen 85 2. Ferrari 117 3. Alonso 72 3. Lotus-Renault 111 4. Hamilton 50 4. Mercedes 72 5. Massa 45 5. Force India-Mercedes 32 6. Webber 42 6. McLaren-Mercedes 29 7. Di Resta 26 7. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 8 8. Grosjean 26 8. Sauber-Ferrari 5 9. Rosberg 22 10. Button 17 11. Perez 12 12. Ricciardo 7 13. Sutil 6 14. Hulkenberg 5 15. Vergne 1 All timing unofficial