F1 Spanish GP: Send Them Home Happy

When putting on live events, most promoters and performers have a simple philosophy: “Send the fans home happy.” Well, Fernando Alonso and Scuderia Ferrari certainly did that at yesterday’s Spanish Grand Prix as the Spanish driver and local hero took his second career win in the Spanish Grand Prix.

The race started with the two Mercedes locking out the front row of the grid with Rosberg ahead of Hamilton. As we’ve come to expect, the Silver Arrows have fantastic single-lap pace in qualifying. Also as we’ve come to expect, they have terrible pace when we get to the race.

However, Rosberg was able to hold onto the lead early. Teammate Hamilton wasn’t as lucky as he quickly started dropping down the order from 2nd to 5th. Vettel assumed 2nd off the start. Fernando Alonso was the big winner off the start as he climbed from 5th to 3rd with an outside move around Raikkonen and Hamilton in the long right-hander at Turn 3.

Nico led through the first round of pitstops but couldn’t hold off Alonso’s Ferrari which was powered by some 100,000 screaming Spaniard in attendance at the Circuit de Catalunya. Alonso split the leading pair through the pit stop cycle and pounced on Rosberg with a DRS-aided pass to a massive roar from the hometown faithful.

Up front, Vettel was able to get by Rosberg after the second round of pitstops as the Silver Arrow started to fade. Not as badly as his teammate though. Very quietly, but very spectacularly, Lewis Hamilton went from 2nd at the start to 12th by race’s end.

Climbing up the order were Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen. Speed and pit strategy allowed the two to get up front. Massa climbed from 9th up to 2nd but couldn’t hold it as Raikkonen made his tyres work better than almost anyone else as he was able to get by Massa for 2nd and might have even been able to make a run for win if he had a few more laps. However, the race was all Alonso’s on this day.

The win was Alonso’s second of the season and second at the Circuit de Catalunya. Interestingly, he also climbed the most spots to win an F1 race at the track after starting 5th. Kimi Raikkonen’s finished 2nd for the third straight race and his four podiums from five races is tops for the series this season. Felipe Massa rounded out the top three with his first podium of the year.

Sebastian Vettel finished fourth to hold onto the Championship lead but saw his advantage cut to four points over Raikkonen. Mark Webber rounded out the top five for Red Bull. Nico Rosberg fell from the pole to 6th as his Mercedes once again couldn’t maximize the performance of the tyres during the race. Paul di Resta had a steady day as he climbed to 7th. Jenson Button nursed those tyres home to finish 8th. Sergio Perez was threatening to finish close to the top five but couldn’t find the overall pace as he finished 9th. Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the points but if the race was one more lap, 10th would have likely belonged to Esteban Gutierrez.

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Good news! After four rounds of failure, the race marshals to car communication and telemetry system finally worked this weekend. Telemetry link provider Riedel Communications has been on the back foot with the system since the start of the season as taking over the telemetry communications supplier this season.

As such, the drivers received flag notifications via the warning lights in the cockpit (which can either be on the dashboard or on the steering wheel). This also allowed the FIA to disable DRS is needed.

For what us supposed to be the most technologically advanced motorsports series in the world, it’s massively embarrassing for such a critical electronic system to not work. It’s a bit more embarrassing that they allowed this to be a story for the first eight weeks of the season.

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f1-2013-spain-bernie-ecclestone-paul-hemberyPirelli is under fire for its tyres again but not because of the life of the tyres or the so-called “artificial racing” that it causes. They’re under fire because of massive failures that a couple of their tyres have had in the last couple of races.

While you’re likely to have missed Lewis Hamilton’s tyre failure in practice in Bahrain or Paul di Resta’s in Spain, you probably Jean-Eric Vergne’s tyre fly apart in dramatic fashion yesterday. While it’s possible that Vergne’s problems were a result of earlier contact in the pit lane with Nico Hulkenberg, it was a dramatic demonstration of Pirelli’s reliability problem.

The incidents are fairly minimal at the moment but Pirelli is still concerned. That’s understandable as a tyre failure at 200 MPH would have a dramatic result.

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f1-2013-spain-nico-rosberg-mercedesNico Rosberg’s days at Mercedes AMG GP appear to be numbered. The team has been reported to be talking to a couple of drivers about running for the team next season and the recent addition of Lewis Hamilton means that it would be Rosberg who would be the odd man out.

Red Bull boss Helmut Marko opened the week of F1 news by saying that Mercedes’ Niki Lauda had been courting Sebastian Vettel in the hopes of getting the three-time World Champion to sign with the Silver Arrows squad. It’s not news that Vettel has offers from other teams as Ferrari has long been interested in Seb.

Meanwhile, Robert Kubica confirmed last week that he had a test in the Mercedes simulator. He was a target of Mercedes for a DTM seat this season but he just missed out on the final spot. It looks like Merc hasn’t given up on him. He’s a world-class driver but the question is if his surgically repaired right hand and arm can handle driving in an F1 car again. Presumably, that simulator test will go some way to answer that question but we won’t really know until he gets in a car.

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The next round of the 2013 Formula One World Championship is in two weeks’ time. It’s again time the most prestigious event in all of motorsports, the Monaco Grand Prix. The tight, twisty and unforgiving track through the street of Monte Carlo present the ultimate test for driver and car. While the racing isn’t the most exciting on the calendar, that doesn’t make this event any less special.

The outcome of this race is more than likely to come down to single-lap pace. Looking at qualifying results, you have to like Mercedes chances to win. They’re the fastest team over a single-lap and starting up-front is most of the battle in Monaco. Red Bull is also pretty fast in qualifying and have had a good run in Monaco of late. Don’t be surprised if Mark Webber wins yet another Monaco GP. It would be awesome if he won and mike dropped the podium ceremony by announcing his retirement. Oh, and that Raikkonen fellow is pretty quick.

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