Sebastian Vettel wins in Bahrain, Kimi Raikkonen with a stunning drive to second place and Romain Grosjean claims the final place on the podium after a good drive. McLaren yet again have made small improvements to their car in order to gain their way back to the front and picked up some much needed points for the team. And people are still wishing that Paul Di Resta had his first podium in Formula One in Bahrain.
I have previously that I was a bit surpised that Lotus and especially Kimi Raikkonen was not able to challenge for the win in Bahrain, but consistency and points scoring keeps you in the hunt for the title, as Alonso proved last season and will Kimi be able to keep himself in the hunt after this weekend?
Also, Hamilton in his Mercedes could be able to challenge this weekend and put a stop to Alonso’s, Raikkonen’s and even Vettel’s championship fights. But have Mercedes learnt their lessons and corrected their mistakes from last year? Meanwhile, Vettel despite all the media scruinity around him regarding his actions from the Malaysian Grand Prix still is still leading the fight for the championship and is the man to beat at the moment. Can anyone stop him?
Before heading to Spain, Lotus’s ex Technical Director James Allison has left the team and speculation is rife in the paddock of where James is going to end up. Rumours are (if you believe them) that Allison is heading to his ‘second’ home Ferrari or maybe even Red Bull (speculation is rife that Kimi Raikkonen is taking up Mark Webber’s race seat in 2014, even though this has not been announced by any side as of yet!). But never the less, Allison will be missed by Lotus massively and will Allison’s departure affect the team throughout the season? We shall only see.
Also, many of the teams have brought upgrades to their cars (especially McLaren, Williams and Red Bull) to see if they can gain better performance on their cars in terms of track performance and performance on the car [For example, aerodynamics]. I am hoping that especially Williams and definitely McLaren with their ‘3 step’ programme [3 step programme is what McLaren have termed it as] of development and their programme for this weekend is a better step forward for them to achieve the winning success that they, the fans and the team would like.
In terms of the circuit, The Spanish Grand Prix is one of the most high speed circuits on the Formula One calendar. But the circuit does get used very much throughout the year (for the winter testing before the start of the Grand Prix season) and both drivers and engineers know each bump and every corner centimetre by centimetre. It is also a ‘lateral’ circuit which is opposite to the previous round of the championship, with the high speed corners more dominant to the corners that need the driver to have braking and traction.
This Grand Prix will be one full of questions of who again can go longer on their tyres, who can save the most tyres for the race on Sunday, which car has got their car set up the most competitive and race ready? Have McLaren and Williams made a significant step forward with their upgrades in their fight to get back to the front?
Alongside these questions, questions if Red Bull, Lotus or Mercedes will be able this weekend to help their own fight in the championships, can McLaren small improvements on their cars help them this weekend before Monaco where step 2 of their 3 step upgrade programme is planned to take place on the car, who will be competitive from the off, who has the quickest car and who will win this race on Sunday?
The race weekend begins now….
Strap yourselves in. The new season begins now…
Practices 1, 2 and 3
The main headline from the Practice sessions is that both the Ferrari’s, the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen and the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel look like the people to beat this weekend as weather conditions test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.
Practice 1 saw Fernando Alonso top the timesheets with a time of 1.25.252 followed closely by Massa with a gap of 0.203 seconds, Vergne in a fantastic third for Toro Rosso with a gap of 0.415 seconds, Grosjean in fourth with a gap of 0.790 seconds and Sutil with an impressive fifth with a gap of 0.960 seconds. Paul Di Resta impressed the paddock again by topping the timesheets in 10th place with a gap of 1.503 seconds behind Alonso. The McLarens of Perez and Button could only manage 13th for Perez and Jenson did not set a time. And the Red Bull’s of Vettel and Webber could only manage 19th and 20th places.
Within Practice 1, Felipe Massa and Jean-Eric Vergne both ran off the circuit while trying to find the grip throughout the session.
Practice 2 saw Sebastian Vettel top the timesheets with a time of 1.22.808 followed by Alonso with a gap of 0.017 seconds, Webber in third with a gap of 0.083 seconds, Raikkonen in fourth with a gap of 0.222 seconds and Massa in fifth with a gap of 0.302 seconds. Adrian Sutil and Paul Di Resta again managed to achieve a top 10 finishes with a 8th place for Adrian with a gap of 1.032 seconds behind Vettel and a 10th place for Paul with a gap of 1.296 seconds behind Vettel showing that Force India may have the pace to get some good championship points this weekend. Button and Perez could only manage 11th and 13th places indicating that both maybe do not have the pace needed to have a strong weekend but very much hoping they can work on that during the weekend and work through their upgrade programme.
Practice 2 sees more incidents and spinning throughout the session. Lewis Hamilton goes off at the Turn 11 trying to find the grip on the track and dealing with a bad tailwind. But the main talking point of the session was the puncture incident that happened to Paul Di Resta at the end of the main straight. Yet again, Pirelli tyres are under scruinity after experiencing yet another high speed failure in a race weekend.
Practice 3 saw Felipe Massa top the timesheet with a time of 1.21.901 followed by Raikkonen with a gap of 0.006 seconds, Webber in third with a gap of 0.143 seconds, Grosjean in fourth with a gap of 0.168 seconds and Vettel in a fifth with a gap of 0.328 seconds. Adrian Sutil also impressed the paddock with 8th place with a gap of 0.828 seconds behind Alonso. Again, the surprise of the session is Paul Di Resta managing to grab 7th place with a gap of 0.673 seconds behind Alonso showing that he does have good pace within the Force India car. The McLarens of Button and Perez could only make 12th and 14th places, which show that McLaren may have a fight on their hands to get into Q3 and to gain some championship points today. The biggest surprises of the session was that Jean-Eric Vergne did make the top 10 after showing very good speed and promise in the early sessions.
You would be stupid not to bet against the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg to gain pole position again this weekend. As both drivers seem to be excelling in qualifying at the moment and the momentum is with them from claiming Pole Positions in two rounds of the championship so far and being in the top 10 in all three sessions this weekend. Alonso, Massa, Vettel, Webber and Raikkonen also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top five places at the moment.
Button and Perez even with the start of their 3 step upgrade programme and making making good and solid progress with points finishes in previous races, seem to be struggling. It seems from looking at their performances that the pace is coming slowly and steadily and both drivers I will admit will struggle to even make Qualifying 2 or maybe even the points in the race and it will take a lot of skill and talent to do that in a car that is not capable, unless a bit of unexpected rain happens (which is very unlikely). However, I think that Force India and Toro Rosso have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here to be in the hunt for some decent points this weekend. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…
Before heading into qualifying, McLaren have throughout the night requested to their factory back in the UK for a new front wing to be flown out to Barcelona. However, because the front wing has not been ‘flex tested’ by the FIA and scrutinised, they will not be able to use it for the remainder of the race weekend. For me as a McLaren fan, that is gutting as it could help the drivers and the team get better results this weekend. But I am happy that McLaren are showing signs that they are fighting better than ever to try and get back to the front.
It looks like Ferrari, Mercedes, Lotus or Red Bull are looking like the teams to beat heading into the session who look set to challenge each other for pole position today. But Force India or Toro Rosso may spring a surprise and throw a spanner into the works based on their early pace and promise within the Practice sessions. And it is looking likely that it will be a challenge for the Williams drivers of Bottas and Maldonado to clear Q1 and also the McLaren drivers of Button and Perez to clear Q2 as both teams do not have the pace within their cars to challenge the top teams this weekend. Let the battle for Pole Position begin…
In Q1, Hamilton tops the timesheet with a time of 1.21.728, Rosberg is second with a gap of 0.185 seconds, Vettel is third with a gap of 0.430 seconds, Raikkonen is fourth with a gap of 0.482 seconds and Alonso is fifth with a gap of 0.536 seconds. The big surprise of the sessions was Di Resta who finished the session in 8th place, Vergne who finished the session in 9th place and also Riccardo who was in 10th place. At the end of Q1, we lose Bottas, Maldonado, Van Der Garde, Bianchi, Chilton and Pic.
Within the session, Kimi Raikkonen on his flying lap was held up by the Sauber of Esteban Guiterrez and this incident is being investigated by the stewards.
In Q2, Hamilton tops the timesheets with a time of 1.21.001, Vettel was second with a gap of 0.601 seconds, Alonso was third with a gap of 0.645 seconds, Raikkonen was fourth with a gap of 0.674 seconds and Webber was fifth with a gap of 0.717 seconds.
Perez managed to get 7th place for McLaren. Jenson struggled with the car throughout the session. Di Resta set a brilliant time to gain 10th place. At the end of Q2, we lose Riccardo, Vergne, Sutil, Button, Hulkenberg and Guiterrez. The battle for pole position is on…
In Q3, Rosberg tops the timesheet and claims a brilliant pole position with a stonker of a lap with a time of 1.20.718 , Hamilton was second fastest with a gap of 0.254 seconds, Vettel was third fastest with a gap of 0.336 seconds, Raikkonen was fourth fastest with a gap of 0.459, Alonso was fifth fastest with a gap of 0.5 seconds, Massa was sixth fastest with a gap of 0.501 seconds, Grosjean did a brilliant lap to claim seventh fastest with a gap of 0.590 seconds, Webber was eighth fastest with a gap of 0.852 seconds, Perez was ninth fastest with a gap of 1.351 seconds and Di Resta was tenth fastest.
It would seem that Mercedes and Ferrari genuinely has the pace to challenge for the race win again this weekend which I am absolutely not thrilled about. However, both sets of drivers seem to have the cars underneath them to do this. You cannot discount Raikkonen or Vettel to be challenging also for the race win in order to keep their seasons off to a flying start. Webber could also be the dark horse to take the win away from Mercedes and Ferrari to gain some points on his rivals for the championship.
Di Resta, Grosjean and Perez could also have a decent race tomorrow and pick up some much needed points for Force India, Lotus and McLaren before heading to the next race in Monaco. Will it rain tomorrow? Nope. Who will win the Grand Prix tomorrow? I really don’t know (hoping for a Button win!). Who will lead the championship after this race? Will it be Vettel, Hamilton, Massa, Hamilton or Alonso? I don’t know. The Grand Prix has been set up nicely, just like the last race. Let’s see what happens…
Prior to the race, Esteban Guiterrez has a grid penalty for his part in holding up Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen during Q1 on his flying lap and now starts at the back of the grid. Also, Felipe Massa now starts from ninth place on the grid due to the three grid place penalty. This is one driver I will be watching as Massa could spring a surprise and could fight his way back into contention for some good points today.
The F1 world is watching and waiting to see if the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix will live up to expectations and who will be the winner? Here we go…
During the formation lap, Sebastian Vettel on Team Radio claims that the Pole Sitter Nico Rosberg on the Formation Lap is setting the pace ‘too slow’. As far as the regulations are concerned the Pole Sitter dictates the pace and is effectively the ‘Safety Car’ leading the drivers to the start of the race.
All 22 drivers are lined up on their grid positions, five red lights and its GO!!!!!!!!
Rosberg gets off the line and covers Hamilton and Vettel to keep his position and leads into the first corner. While this is going on, Alonso, Perez and Vergne have made cracking starts off the line. A battle between Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel is ongoing on the track. Vettel has had a brilliant start and is now in 2nd place after passing Lewis. Alonso then manages to make a move on Hamilton himself and is now in third place. Webber is making up places and is trying to get past Di Resta for position. There is also a battle between Massa and Perez for position and Massa cannot pass him.
Meanwhile, further down the field, Button has had a poor start and is currently in 17th place. But Sutil also has had a fast start and has made up five places before the end of the current lap. Marussia’s Jules Bianchi has had to pit for a new front wing. Lap 2 sees Rosberg leading the race by 1 second ahead of Vettel. On track, Massa is finally able to pass Perez. The next lap sees Hamilton under pressure by Kimi for position.
Lap 6 and the gap to Vettel is 0.6 seconds now. Is the Mercedes like last weekend struggling for grip and pace with the Pirelli tyres? It seems so. Lewis seems to be suffering with a brake issue as his pace has gone slower than the pace he showed previous laps before. Meanwhile, Massa is battling his way through the field and is eyeing up to pass Raikkonen on track. The next lap sees Raikkonen pass Hamilton for 4th place, indicating that Lewis maybe is experiencing some problems in his car today. At the end of the lap, Webber is the first man to make a pitstop for new tyres with a time of 3.4 seconds and rejoins in 21st place.
Lap 8, there is a 0.7 gap to Vettel. Massa then manages to pass Hamilton for fifth place. At the end of the lap, Massa pits for new tyres with a time of 3.2 second and rejoins in 14th place. Hulkenberg and Sutil also pit for new tyres. However, it seems that the Force India of Sutil is experiencing problems with his brakes in the pitlane. Also, Romain Grosjean retires from the race with broken suspension.
The next two laps sees Alonso, Hamilton, Rosberg, Raikkonen and Vettel all pit for new tyres, handing the race lead to Guiterrez at Lap 11. Meanwhile, while pitting for new tyres Maldonado maybe have been speeding into the pitlane. On Lap 11, Alonso passes Vettel for track position and then tries to pass Rosberg for position also. On track, Raikkonen tries to pass Button for position and cannot until Button pits at the end of the lap for new tyres. Pastor Maldonado receives a drive through penalty for speeding in the pitlane while pitting for new tyres.
Lap 12 sees Guiterrez leading by 2.4 seconds ahead of Rosberg. Alonso again is trying to pass Rosberg but cannot. Lap 13 sees Alonso finally able to pass Rosberg for position. Vettel needs himself to pass Rosberg for position before Alonso powers off into the distance, but cannot make the move stick and is able to do so a few corners later. Also, Massa is then also able to pass Rosberg for position. It would seem that yet again Mercedes are experiencing problems with tyres and grip. At the end of the lap, Guiterrez pits from the lead.
Lap 14 sees Alonso leading the race from Vettel by 1.333 seconds. Raikkonen is now the next driver itching to get past Rosberg who is struggling massively. Raikkonen on the next lap is able to pass Rosberg. Riccardo also passes Hamilton on track.
Lap 19, the lead is 3.8 seconds to Vettel. Riccardo in his Toro Rosso passes Di Resta for 8th place. Guiterrez is able to pass Vergne at Turn 10 for 12th place. At the end of the lap, Di Resta pits for new tyres. Lap 20 sees Riccardo trying to pass Perez on track. At the end of the lap, Massa pits again with a time of 3.1 seconds and rejoins in 7th and also Webber pits again with a time of 2.9 seconds and rejoins in 12th.
At the end of Lap 21, Alonso pits for new tyres with a time of 3.8 seconds and rejoins the race in 4th place handing over the lead to Vettel. Lap 22 sees Caterham’s Van Der Garde suffering with wheel problems on the track and before he can make it back to the pits, the wheel comes free from the car and onto the track. On track, Massa is able to pass Vergne.
Lap 23 sees Alonso passing Rosberg for 3rd place. Jenson is also looking at trying to pass Webber for track position. At the end of the lap, Perez pits for new tyres. The next lap sees Vettel leading Raikkonen by 0.613 seconds. Massa passes Rosberg for fourth place. Caterham are going to be investigated by the FIA regarding an unsafe release with Van Der Garde. At the end of the lap, Vettel pits for new tyres with a time of 2.6 seconds and rejoins in 5th place.
Lap 25 sees Raikkonen leading the race from Alonso. Webber passes Guiterrez on track. Hamilton is now behind Di Resta on track, proving that in the race Mercedes are struggling with their car and its performance. Lap 26, Vettel passes Rosberg. At the end of the lap, Raikkonen pits for new tyres with a time of 3.3 seconds and rejoins in 4th.
Lap 27 sees Alonso leading the race by 6.9 seconds. At the end of the lap Rosberg pits for new tyres with a time of 3.6 seconds and rejoins in 11th. The next lap sees a battle between both of Toro Rosso drivers and Riccardo seems to be winning the fight. At the end of the lap, Button, Guiterrez and Chilton pit for new tyres.
Lap 30 and Alonso has built a lead of 9.6 seconds. Raikkonen at this stage of the race is gaining quickly on Vettel. 18 seconds now covers the top 4 positions at this stage of the race. Lap 32 sees Raikkonen trying hard to pass Vettel but cannot make the move on him stick. Lap 33 sees Raikkonen successfully pass Vettel and also Riccardo passing Rosberg.
By lap 35, Alonso leads by 13.8 seconds. At the end of the lap, Hulkenberg and Vergne pit for new tyres, but was Hulkenberg’s release from his pitbox unsafe? We shall see. The next lap sees Alonso pit for new tyres with a time of 3.2 seconds and tries to regain his lead. Also Massa and Webber pit for new rubber.
Lap 37 sees Raikkonen leading Alonso by 2.4 seconds. The next lap sees Hulkenberg received a penalty from the FIA regarding the unsafe release from his pitbox. Meanwhile, Vergne suffers with the tyres delaminating and has no choice but to retire from the race.
Lap 39 sees Alonso retake the lead of the Grand Prix. Webber passes Rosberg on track. At the end of the lap, Vettel pits for fresh rubber with a time of 3.5 seconds and rejoins in 4th place. The next lap sees Button trying to pass Guiterrez for position but cant but manages to pass him by Lap 41.
Lap 45 and Alonso leads the race by 9.8 seconds. On track Di Resta passes Button for 7th place. Raikkonen at the end of the lap pits for fresh rubber with a time of 3.5 seconds and rejoins in third place. Lap 49 and Alonso leads by 20 seconds. At the end of the lap, Alonso pits for new rubber with a time of 2.6 seconds and regains his lead.
Lap 50 sees Alonso leading by 3.2 seconds. Button with a brilliant move down the main straight passes Hamilton for track position. By the end of Lap 51, Webber, Vettel and Massa have all pitted for new rubber. Lap 55 sees Alonso leading comfortably by 12.3 seconds. At the end of the lap, Guiterrez pits for new tyres.
Lap 57 and Alonso leads Raikkonen by 13.2 seconds. A battle for 6th place between Rosberg and Di Resta is still continuing. By Lap 59, another battle on track between Button and Perez for 8th place is ongoing. By Lap 63, Alonso leads by 12.5 seconds. Di Resta and Rosberg are still battling on track.
And Fernando Alonso wins his home race the Spanish Grand Prix for the first time in a Ferrari since his Renault days ahead of second place Kimi Raikkonen 9 seconds behind him, Felipe Massa claims third and the final spot on the podium 26 seconds behind Alonso, Vettel with a fourth place 38 seconds behind Alonso, Webber drove a brilliant race to claim fifth place 47 seconds behind Alonso, Rosberg drove well to claim sixth place 1.08.020 seconds behind Alonso, Di Resta claims seventh place 1.08.998 seconds behind Alonso, Button after all the problems with setting up his car this weekend gets eighth place 1.19.506 seconds behind Alonso, Perez claims ninth place1.21.738 seconds behind Alonso and Daniel Riccardo claims the final point with tenth place one lap seconds behind Alonso.
Sebastian Vettel leads the Driver’s championship with 89 points, Raikkonen is second with 85 points, Alonso is third with 72 points, Hamilton is fourth with 50 points, Massa is fifth with 45 points, Webber is sixth with 42 points, Grosjean is seventh with 26 points, Di Resta is eighth with 26 points, Rosberg is ninth with 22 points, Button is tenth with 17, Perez is eleventh with 12 points, Riccardo is twelfth with 7 points, Sutil is thirteenth with 6 points, Hulkenberg is fourteenth with 5 points and Vergne is fifteenth with a point.
Red Bull lead the Constructor’s championship with 131 points, Ferrari is second with 117 points, Lotus is third with 111 points, Mercedes is fourth with 72 points, Force India is fifth with 32 points, McLaren in sixth with 29 points, Toro Rosso in seventh with 8 points and Sauber are eighth with 5 points.
The Grand Prix tested the drivers throughout the race with the high level of tyre degradation, just like the last race in Bahrain. And now it is leaving the fans questioning the Pirelli tyres. In the last few races, tyres in the practice sessions seem to be experiencing failures and delamination. Then into the race, more and more drivers cannot get to grips with the demands of the new compounds and are having to pit more. Which in turn does not let the drivers race each other with 100% confidence and trust into the tyre compounds, at best its 80% at the moment.
At the end of the race, Sky Sports F1 managed to talk to Pirelli boss Paul Henry about the current tyre situation. Paul Henry admits that they are looking into the situation and will meet in the week to discuss the situation further (which will be covered in my F1 News blog post at the end of next week). Personally, I think that Pirelli have spiced up the racing and has managed to make some great races happen since they have been into the sport. But Pirelli should be able to trust that their tyre compounds should not experience failure at high speeds that endanger the drivers. And I believe that Pirelli need to fix this situation and quickly. Pirelli need to make a tyre that is durable, consistent, can perform and keep the great racing we have had recently, but not through tyre management, but by the drivers racing 100% for himself and also 100% with their competitors while battling on track.
I was happy that Jenson did have some pace to challenge today and gained some points for his efforts. I am also glad for the team that Perez managed to gain some much needed points for the team. However, the ongoing battle between the two of them was very good for the fans to watch but I believe that Perez has shown that he can fight for position, despite being told not to challenge Jenson. But I do agree that McLaren do let their drivers race, which is good for us to see. However, due to speculation surrounding Martin Whitmarsh at the moment, I’m sure that Martin just wanted both drivers to bring the cars home and get the much needed points for the team.
But it shows that McLaren are taking slow and steady progress to try and get to the front of the field once again. But I am happy that Jenson managed to points for the team that should encourage the team further to look into why Jenson and also Sergio are struggling with pace and grip with this year’s car. The team this weekend I believe have made small steps into looking at solutions to help and cure this problem before the championships, race wins, podiums and even point finishes are no longer within their reach. As I said last race, I know McLaren will bounce back to the performance they and their fans crave and when that happens, it will make it all the more special. Bring on Monaco where the team are bringing step 2 of their 3 step upgrade programme for the car!
Lotus this weekend may not have gained another victory this weekend but they have scored some brilliant points from their two drivers this weekend that will help their fight in the Constructors Championship. I was a bit surprised that Lotus, especially Raikkonen was not able to challenge for the win this weekend, but consistency and points scoring keeps you in the hunt for the title, as Alonso proved last season. Despite the talk surrounding the team regarding Allison’s departure, the Lotus team have managed to get again score some points, even though they are now third in the Constructor’s Championship.
Webber and Riccardo again have both had a solid weekend. First both of them showing top 10 form in the Practice sessions and then battling throughout the field to gain some solid points. I think Webber and Riccardo are driving solidly this year and are improving their form from last year. Who knows where Webber would have been if an ‘event’ would have gone his way.
The biggest surprises this weekend for me was the 7th place of Force India’s Paul Di Resta and the third place of Massa. Firstly, Paul has had a brilliant weekend and start to the season and impressed me a lot this weekend yet again. He drove a fantastic lap in qualifying and drove a cracking race to bring home some much needed points for the team. I believe that Paul this year has learnt his lessons from his first two years and is working harder than ever to impress with his performances in the sport this year.
And surely, people will have noticed his performance this weekend. He deserved to get into the points today, he really did. He is a great driver with a lot of potential and Force India has shown this weekend that their performance since Australia is no fluke, they have a car that is able to be competitive and fight for good points in the race and I think they have the potential to improve throughout the season. And I think they could be the dark horse of the midfield teams this team and could surprise us all throughout the season.
Massa so far in the season has impressed me. Not only has he been able to out-qualify his team mate but he has been able to also consistently gain some good points for the Ferrari team. I believe that Massa is carrying on the form he has shown from the latter half of the 2012 season and is driving solidly at the moment. And I think that Massa drove solidly despite his penalty deserved to be on the podium today in front of his wife and his young son.
All that is left to say about this race is that Alonso was a best driver on the field today. Ferrari unfortunately seem to have a car that is undoubtedly better than their car last year. They seem to be able to make sure that their race performance is also consistent and reliable. And if Alonso keeps this up, he may find himself able to claim the championship and take away the fourth consecutive title away from Vettel. Can Alonso do it? We shall see…
My next post will be the latest F1 News of the week which will be on the blog by the end of next weekend.