Spanish GPR Race Recap: Alonso wins as Mercs decline, Kimi, Massa podium

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Fernando Alonso won at home, dominating the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix after a pushy start that saw him pass both Kimi Raikkonen (who finished second) and Lewis Hamilton (twelfth) on the outside. Though Nico Rosberg and Hamilton had dominated qualifying, their pace dropped off during the race. Rosberg could manage only sixth at the finish. Felipe Massa rounded out the podium of a race that saw pit strategy and interment thrilling dicing over position. Jean-Eric Vergne suffered a rear tyre delamination that forced his retirement later in the race. Giedo van der Garde lost a tyre on track, limped home to the garage and retired, but Romain Grosjean was the first out with a mysterious rear suspension failure.

Rosberg (1:20.718) won pole over his teammate during Saturday’s qualifying sessions. One of the few drivers to set an early time in Q3, Rosberg went back out with the pack for a final run and bettered his provisional pole to start the race first. Hamilton pushed hard to beat his teammate, but could not match him and started alongside. Vettel and Raikkonen make up the second row of starters, with Alonso and Grosjean comprising the third row, after a 3 place grid penalty for impeding dropped Massa from his sixth fastest qualifying time to start ninth. Gutierrez also dropped down the order for impeding, though he lost position from a far less advantageous sixteenth fastest.

Alonso (1:25.525), Vettel (1:22.808), and Massa (1:21.901) each led a practice session. Vergne, Grosjean, Sutil, Webber, and Raikkonen all joined them in the fastest five in at least one practice. Rain hampered Friday morning’s running a bit, as times dramatically began dropping in the latter stages as the circuit dried. Di Resta suffered what has become something of the routine tyre delamination during Friday’s afternoon practice. He did not crash, and his Force India suffered fairly little damage.

Sunday was delightfully sunny and hot, leaving many to predict a high tyre turnover and three of four pit stops. Only Bianchi, Chilton, and Pic would start on the hard tyre, with the rest of the field having chosen the medium compound. Vettel complained that the Mercedes drivers were too slow on the formation lap, while most of the field remained well spread out on the formation lap.

Race Start:
Rosberg stayed ahead of Hamilton on the start, but again, Alonso dove up into the mix. Vettel took second from Hamilton into Turn 1, and Alonso managed to do the same by T4. The Spaniard drove right by Raikkonen, then did the same on the outside of Hamilton. Raikkonen next attempted to attack Hamilton, who had locked up into T1, but slotted in behind the Briton. Massa also made the lap exciting, attempting to quickly make up place on Perez. At the end of L1, Rosberg led Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Perez, Massa, Sutil, Grosjean, and di Resta. Soon thereafter, Massa took sixth from Perez.

The top six remained fairly tightly bunched through the first two laps, though Bianchi had already pitted for his first stop. He required a new front wing. By the end of L5, Rosberg was still within the DRS zone ahead of Vettel. Alonso was just another half second behind. Hamilton had begun dropping back a bit, complaining of brake issues. A good portion of the field was well under a second behind the man ahead.

Raikkonen slid through on Hamilton, setting off after Alonso, two seconds behind the Spaniard. Webber pitted from thirteenth for the first time on L8. Massa next took position from Hamilton, moving up to fifth.

First Pit Stops Begin (L9):
Meanwhile, Massa pitted on L9, as did Sutil. As he pitted, Maldonado appeared to have gone into the wrong garage. Meanwhile, Grosjean slowly pulled into the garage with a broken rear suspension. As Alonso left, Hamilton looked for his stop at the Mercedes garage. Rosberg and Vettel pitted on L11. With a flying out lap, Alonso managed to split the two leaders, making up a position on the first set of stops. Alonso immediately attempted to take the position from Rosberg, but could not manage it.

Alonso finally attacked Rosberg with success, taking position from the German into T1. He would soon inherit the lead as Gutierrez pitted for his first stop. Vettel, then Massa soon followed through. Rosberg continued to drop, as Raikkonen next passed the pole sitter. Mercedes’ luck continued to decline, as Ricciardo soon passed Hamilton for ninth. A few laps later, he moved up further by passing di Resta out of the DRS zone for eighth. Meanwhile, Webber had been complaining of a left front issue.

End L20, Second Pit Stops Begin:
At the end of L20, Alonso led Vettel, Massa, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Webber, Perez, Ricciardo, Hamilton, and Hulkenberg as the top ten. The order would not long last, as Massa pitted at the end of the lap. Webber also pitted, though Red Bull told Vettel to stay on the track. Alonso, meanwhile, had extended his lead over Vettel to four seconds. The Spaniard pitted on L22, a slightly slow stop. He rejoined fourth, but quickly passed Rosberg again to get back up to third.

Van der Garde radioed frantically back to Caterham that it felt that one of his wheels was about to come off. The team requested that he attempt to make it back. Both came true, with the wheel flying off and van der Garde just able to wiggle back to the garage.

At the front, Raikkonen had hunted down Vettel in the lead. The latter gave up the lead with his pit stop on L25. Vettel rejoined in fourth, ahead of Massa who had just passed Rosberg. His teammate again dropped down the order, losing eighth position to Webber. Di Resta soon passed Hamilton as well.

Closer to the front, Vettel re-passed Rosberg, whose rubber was beginning to fail him. Hamilton pitted on L25, then did Raikkonen on the next lap. Rosberg pitted on L28, soon after Vettel received a message that his left front was critical and that he should look after it. A rather gloomy sounding Hamilton informed Mercedes that “I just been overtaken by a Williams.” Maldonado had passed him for fourteenth, but Hamilton returned the favor. Though Mercedes encouraged Hamilton to look after his tyres, with one reaching critical mass, Hamilton responded that he couldn’t “drive any slower.”

Alonso continued to cruise around in the lead, nearly ten seconds ahead of his teammate. Vettel was under attack from Raikkonen, who had closed him down quite quickly. It looked as though he would pounce when they encountered Bianchi leaving the pit lane, but Raikkonen remained behind.

Things got much more dicey as Raikkonen looked for a way around the outside of Vettel, the two coming very close to touching. Vettel lost track position, the both of them side by side, only for the German to squirt back ahead. Raikkonen attacked again, with Vettel leaving him a bit more room and the Finn took the final podium position. In the midst of the battle, Red Bull had reminded Vettel to race his race, and presumably not Raikkonen so much.

Halfway (End L33):
Alonso still led at halfway, with Massa twelve seconds behind his teammate. Raikkonen had quickly pulled nearly five seconds out on Vettel, with Webber, di Resta, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Perez, and Gutierrez the top ten. Third pit stops were beginning in the mid field, with Hulkenberg and Vergne pitting. They made contact as Vergne dove into his stall as Sauber released Hulkenberg nearly into his path. Both pitted again on the next lap.

Third Pit Stops Begin (L35):
Alonso pitted from the lead on L36, with Massa following. They had time enough for no waiting. Webber also pitted, from fifth, as did Hamilton from twelfth and Sutil from fifteenth. Alonso rejoined in second, between Raikkonen and Vettel. Alonso had around a second and a half gap ahead and behind. He soon made that up, sliding right through on Raikkonen for the lead at the DRS zone.

Meanwhile, di Resta and Perez had pitted. Verge had come back in as his right rear had delaminated. Meanwhile, Hulkenberg and Sauber received a ten-second stop-go penalty for the unsafe release earlier. On the track, Vettel pitted with twenty-six laps remaining. He rejoined in fourth, well behind Massa. Even further back, Button had a go at Gutierrez for seventh, passing the young driver.

20 Laps Remaining:
Alonso continued to pull out a lead on Raikkonen, who pitted as L45 ended, fourteen seconds behind the Spaniard. He rejoined with twenty laps to go, losing just one position to Massa. Alonso and Massa led the Ferrari 1-2, with Raikkonen, Vettel Webber, Rosberg, di Resta, Perez, Ricciardo, and Hamilton the top ten. Button had pitted from ninth, dropping down to twelfth.

Rosberg made his third stop on L48, pitting from sixth and rejoining ninth. Alonso pitted as L49 ended. He had a twenty second gap over teammate Massa in second the lap before. It was a perfectly clean stop that allowed Alonso to rejoin ahead of Massa and still in the lead. Webber pitted two laps later, going from fifth to sixth. Perez also pitted that lap, as did Hamilton, who had just been passed by his former teammate Button. Massa pitted, as did Vettel, on L52. Ricciardo followed. His teammate finally succumbed to the damage from his tyre delamination. Vergne retired on L55.

10 Laps Remaining:
Alonso maintained a healthy lead as the final ten laps began, with Raikkonen safely eleven seconds ahead of Massa. Vettel, Webber, Rosberg, di Resta, Button, Perez, and Ricciardo rounded out the top ten. Perez looked ready to fly by Button, sitting less than a half second behind his teammate. The younger McLaren driver had fresher tyres as well. Perez soon received a message from his race engineer, reminding him that he could not afford to damage his tyres too much in attempting to pass Button. He effectively held station until race end.

Massa began complaining of oversteer as the final five laps began. He had fifteen seconds gap back to Vettel and so seemed safe enough in third. Further back, di Resta continued to have a go at Rosberg. Based upon radio messages, di Resta’s DRS indicator might have begun malfunctioning, but the Scot remained close behind Rosberg and looking for a way to make his seventh turn into a sixth place finish.

Alonso began the final lap as the Spanish crowds cheered and Ferrari team members crossed their fingers. He took the checkered flag with a flourish, with Raikkonen and Massa completing the podium. In the end, Rosberg retained his sixth over di Resta.

Final Positions, 2013 Spanish Grand Prix:

 DriverTeamGapStops
1. Fernando AlonsoFerrari 4
2. Kimi RaikkonenLotus9.33
3. Felipe MassaFerrari26.04
4. Sebastian VettelRed Bull38.24
5. Mark WebberRed Bull47.94
6. Nico RosbergMercedes68.03
7. Paul di RestaForce India68.94
8. Jenson ButtonMcLaren79.53
9. Sergio PerezMcLaren81.74
10. Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1 Lap4
11. Esteban GutierrezSauber1 Lap4
12. Lewis HamiltonMercedes1 Lap4
13. Adrian SutilForce India1 Lap4
14. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1 Lap5
15. Nico HulkenbergSauber1 Lap6
16. Valtteri BottasWilliams1 Lap3
17. Charles PicCaterham1 Lap3
18. Jules BianchiMarussia2 Laps4
19. Max ChiltonMarussia2 Laps3
 Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso14 Laps5
 Giedo van der GardeCaterham45 Laps3
 Romain GrosjeanLotus58 Laps1
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