Circuito de Catalunya hosted the fifth round of the 2013 Formula 1 season and unsurprisingly there were complaints about tires, latin verve, and some solid racing. Hit the jump for our completely biased recap and an opinion or two about the race.
The Spanish GP is the first European race of the Formula 1 season and a number of teams showed up in Barcelona with extensive upgrades. Even with those upgrades, the results after qualifying looked pretty familiar. Mercedes locked out the front row by a large margin followed by Vettel, Raikonnen and the Ferraris of both Alonso and Massa.
While Mercedes might have shown their typical one lap speed, the good money was definitely following Ferrari. Both Alonso and Massa showed great pace over the longer runs in practice and the added boost from the Spanish home crowd made Alonso an obvious favorite to win the race.
That prediction was proved right on Sunday afternoon as Alonso became the first driver to win the Spanish GP from a grid position lower than 3rd. The Spanish GP is normally a race with little passing and typically the driver that starts from the pole wins the race, as Maldonado did last year. The track’s flowing layout and the fact that a large amount of F1 testing is done here contributes to the lack of “action” during the Spanish GP. Truthfully, I really like the track layout and it’s nice to see the cars run on tracks from the pre-Tilke era.
Alonso didn’t just win the race he put on an amazing display of controlled and aggressive driving. With some brilliant moves in the opening corners he put himself in great position and after the first round of pit stops he came out in the lead and simply drove away from the rest of the field.
Red Bull’s Sebastien Vettel struggled all weekend and managed to finish fourth, minimizing the damage to his championship chase. The current Pirelli tire seems to suit the Ferrari and Lotus more than the Red Bull and as a result both Red Bull drivers haven’t been nearly as dominant. It will be interesting to watch the season progress. If Red Bull continues to struggle we might start to see how Vettel hands pressure. He might be the three time consecutive champion but Vettel has had the good fortune to be in the strongest car in the field for the last three years. As we saw last year, Alonso can add pace to a car and make it competitive, is Vettel up to the same challenge?
With all the talk of Ferrari and Red Bull, many people seemed to simply forget about Kimi Raikonnen. The Finn qualified well and during the race he simply did his job and drove to a second place finish. Raikonnen was one of only a hand full of drivers to use a three stop strategy and he once again proved that the Lotus is well suited to the current Pirelli tires. Raikonnen currently sits second in the championship standings and with all the media attention focused on Vettel, Alonso, and Hamilton the Iceman might just sneak under the radar and claim his second Formula 1 championship trophy.
Tires were once again the topic of discussion for most of the race weekend. Aside from the normal degredation issues that the teams have to deal with there continues to be the occational tire delamination. We saw it first in Bahrain and this weekend saw Force India and Torro Rosso both suffer from the tread seperating from the carcass of the tire.
It is a curious issue but I’m not sure it can really be something that is an epidemic. Afterall, one or two failures out of the hundreds of tires that are run over a race weekend isn’t exactly catasrophic.
Undoubtedly, tire delamination looks very impressive on TV and it is something Pirelli will definitely want to fix. Even if teams are running the tires outside of their operating range, Pirelli is the name on the tire and if you’re in the tire building business having your most visible and advanved tire come apart in front of millions of fans is not good marketing strategy. Here’s a short video of Pirelli’s Paul Hembry discussing the race and attempting some damage control regarding the delaminations.
That wraps up our Spanish GP coverage, for the official results check out the super fancy official F1 site. We’ll see you again in a couple of weeks for the Monaco GP from the glamorous streets of Monte Carlo.
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