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Spain 2012 - Williams waltz to Spanish win // Maldonado offers up a double surprise, as the order is turned on its head

Published by Christine

Winners in Spain
Credit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT

The Spanish Grand Prix was really good, mostly because there were so many drivers out of place. Whilst Hamilton's penalty was a harsh one, it meant there was bound to be action in the race. Our suspicions that Maldonado would fall rapidly down the order did not come to pass, whilst the fight for points was incredible.

The season so far has been lauded as a great one, and that statistic of five different winners from five different teams continues to sound incredible, no matter how many times it is said. I've been one to complain about the tyres, but if this is the kind of racing they can deliver, then the arguments are muted somewhat. A brilliant Grand Prix, and that's saying a lot considering it was at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Williams

We expected the mid-season testing to shake up the order of things a little, but no one could have predicted that the next post-Mugello winner would be Williams. Pastor Maldonado may have been aided by circumstances to secure pole position, but there was nothing lucky about the victory - it was hard fought and the Venezuelan did an incredible job under immense pressure from a double world champion. Frank Williams was open about the team really needing this victory to bring morale up after a desperate couple of seasons. I find it hard to see the team winning again in the short term, but if this is a turning point for their results to improve - so much the better.

For Bruno Senna, the story was the complete opposite. He qualified 18th, dropping out of the first session on Saturday after some bad timing saw him stuck in traffic on his preferred tyre. With one position gained thanks to Hamilton’s penalty, Senna was involved in two incidents during the Grand Prix, one of which was race ending. Some brief wheel-to-wheel combat with Romain Grosjean was followed by a collision with Michael Schumacher. The Mercedes smashed into the back of the Williams, sending Senna into a spin and off track into the gravel. The Brazilian tried to keep the car going to return to the pitlane, but the damage was too extensive and he didn’t make it back.

Both parties blamed the other, and although the stewards sided with Senna and gave Schumacher the penalty, this could be the beginning of yet another paddock grudge. Nevertheless, Williams have more important things to turn their attention too - not least recovering from the post-race fire, and then looking to repeat their surprise victory.

9/10

Ferrari

With Felipe Massa’s performance dropping off rapidly this season, the fate of Ferrari’s resurgence has been left to Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard qualified third - helped out by the added enthusiasm of the home crowd, half his rivals not making it to Q3 and the other half deciding to sit out that final session. His promotion to the front row meant it was an easy conquest to take the lead into the first corner of the race, but that wasn’t the end of the story.

Whilst Fernando might have been hoping to pull out a gap from second place Maldonado and secure a relatively easy victory, he couldn’t shake the Williams off his tale. Tyre strategy and pit stop performance meant that Maldonado soon retook his rightful lead, leaving Alonso scrabbling for second. The closing stages of the race were enthralling as the Ferrari chased the Williams down, but soon Alonso’s tyres were shot and it was all he could do to hold of Kimi Räikkönen for second.

In the post-race press conference, Alonso confided that it was a fantastic feeling to finish second and he felt the team had taken a significant step forward. Good news for the team who were starting to let their frustrations show.

Felipe Massa started the race 16th and finished 15th, with what turned out to be an anonymous race. It’s a shame, but not a surprise, that the team have had to urge him to improve yet again. The rumours of a mid-season driver change grow ever stronger.

8/10

Lotus

In a very mixed weekend, Lotus seemed to show the most consistency between both their drivers. Whilst we saw several teams have one driver near the top of the grid and the other somewhere further back, Lotus qualified third and fourth, with Romain Grosjean beating his teammate for the third Saturday of five.

However, Räikkönen took the advantage early in the race, and jumped ahead of his teammate. Perhaps to try and make up some of the ground he had lost, Grosjean attempted a couple of reckless overtaking moves, one of which saw him bash into Senna with carbon fibre flying from the Lotus.

After that, Grosjean seemed to settle a little, and the attention turned back to Kimi. The Finn made his way to third place, and for a moment it looked as though his strategy could have pushed him into the lead. Unfortunately for him, the two drivers ahead did not need to stop again and he was left chasing down Alonso for second place. With the Ferrari’s tyres worn out, it would only have been a couple more laps for the positions to change, but the chequered flag fell with Räikkönen third. Grosjean crossed the line fourth to add tot he healthy dose of points Lotus received this weekend.

Significantly, post-race, Räikkönen sounded very disappointed with his third place, convinced that he could have been in the hunt for the victory if the car had been faster at the start of the race. The hunger is beginning to show for Kimi, a win can’t be too far away.

8/10

Sauber

Sauber’s qualifying performance saw Sergio Pérez line up on the grid fifth, with Kamui Kobayashi up to ninth. It was a reasonable position for Kobayashi, who had been unable to complete a lap in Q3 after crashing the car in the previous session. Pérez was in a good position to fight for a podium, but on the first lap he came into contact with Romain Grosjean and gained only a puncture for his trouble. The early pit stop allowed him to ditch the soft tyres almost immediately, but it also put him at the back of the grid. From there, it was a fight to try and recover any form of performance, until Pérez was put out of his misery by a transmission failure.

Kobayashi, however, was storming his way forward. His own risky overtaking moves paid off this weekend, and there were at least a couple of passes done with style. He felt he could have got further forward but did too much damage to his tyres in the final stint - however, a fifth place finish is nothing to be ashamed of.

Interestingly, in the press release on Sunday, Kobayashi both bemoans being stuck in traffic but also says he couldn’t make use of the DRS as he wasn’t close enough to other cars. It’s difficult to see how both can be true, but if the result is some fun overtaking at other points of the track, then it’s okay by me.

6/10

Red Bull

Red Bull had a surprisingly difficult Saturday in qualifying, with Mark Webber falling foul of a strategy decision, and Sebastian Vettel opting to wait it out. Webber’s team kept him in the garage in Q2, assuming his time was good enough to get through to the final session. It was one of those situations where the times just keep on getting better, and the Australian dropped down the order until it was too late to do anything about it. Vettel, meanwhile, did get through to the top ten shootout, but after a quick sprint out the garage on the harder tyres, he returned to the pitlane without setting a time.

Thus, the Red Bull duo lined up on the grid 7th and 11th. Webber was the first driver to come in for a scheduled pit stop, diving in for new tyres on the seventh lap. That dropped him down the order, and the odd strategy saw him finish the race in 11th - the same position that he started. Vettel managed to move up one position, ending the day sixth place, picking up the team’s only points from Spain.

During the race, Webber was called in for a pit stop that involved a nose change, although he hadn’t sustained any accident damage. Later in the afternoon, Vettel was also given a new front wing. Both drivers have admitted they don’t know what the problem with the front wing was, but it looks as though Adrian Newey may need to have a look at their newer designs.

5/10

Mercedes

The Mercedes drivers both got into the top ten in qualifying, although Schumacher was one of three drivers who did not set a time. Rosberg lined up on the grid 6th, with his teammate 8th. Nico made a great start, moving up to fourth with Schumacher also improving. The pair were sandwiched between the Lotus drivers, jostling for position.

However, on lap 13, Schumacher crashed into the back of Bruno Senna’s Williams, spinning both off into the gravel. His race was over, immediately, and Michael was visibly frustrated as he climbed out of the car. His first post-race interviews put the blame squarely on Senna’s shoulder, with complaints that he had moved twice in attempting to defend the position.

The stewards thought differently, investigating the incident one the action was over and handing Schumacher a five place grid penalty for Monaco.

With Michael out of the race, Rosberg was left to do the best he could for Mercedes, and he held on to 7th place despite struggling with his tyres throughout the afternoon. Nico resolutely states that the team can still fight for the championship, and he’s hoping that Monaco will suit them a little better.

5/10

McLaren

Regardless of what happened in the race, the big lesson for McLaren this weekend in Spain has been about qualifying. Martin Whitmarsh has explained that the team realised there wasn’t enough fuel in the car and opted to continue, almost gambling on the fact that it would either be pole position or a little demotion. No one was expecting a fall from pole position to the very back of the grid, and it seemed a very harsh penalty.

Although Hamilton was understandably angry on the Saturday, the emotions turned to determination by Sunday, and we got to see some smooth overtaking as Lewis began to make his way through the field. He was put on a different strategy to the rest of the field - attempting, and making best use of a two-stop option. Lewis crossed the finish line in eighth place, a great drive from last on the grid, and exceptional when compared to his teammate.

Button finished the race ninth, after starting tenth. Throughout the entire weekend, Button was complaining about the balance on his car, but it was all understeer until Sunday, when suddenly it was oversteer. After the race, he said he spent lots of time in traffic, but just couldn’t find the pace to do anything about it. Frustration over the state of the car would have been compounded by being beaten by Hamilton, with Lewis positively glowing about his performance on Sunday.

4/10

Force India

Force India’s disappearance into the depths of the mid-field continued in Spain, with the drivers both qualifying outside the top ten. WIth just five thousandths of a second between them, it was easy to see that the car wasn’t up to the challenge of Barcelona, and it was Di Resta lining up 12th on Sunday, with Hülkenberg 13th.

Despite being stuck in the middle of traffic that left them almost invisible throughout the day, both drivers worked hard in the race. Di Resta was fighting the Toro Rosso drivers, finding himself on different tyres to them and struggling on the harder compound. Hülkenberg was chased by Webber for most of the second half of the race, keeping the Red Bull driver behind him to finish tenth. After a tough afternoon, the team have come away with just one point and now sit firmly in eighth place in the standings.

Their eighteen points are far enough ahead of Toro Rosso to begin pulling out a gap to them, but are also significantly far behind Sauber who have 41 points. It’s a niche spot and if they don’t make forward progress soon, it’s going to be hard for them to dig themselves out of it.

6/10

Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso were another team qualifying their drivers next to each other - Jean-Éric Vergne finally managed to outdo his teammate for the first time this season. Two tenths of a second separated Vergne in 14th and Ricciardo in 15th.

Vergne got off to a great start in the race, and by staying out longer than those around him, he was up to eighth by the time he came in for his first stop. However, a mixture of slower stops and being stuck behind Paul di Resta for a significant portion of the afternoon meant he finished 12th - missing out on points and ending up disappointed.

Ricciardo had the opposite race to his teammate - starting with a poor getaway, and gradually improving to the point where he was comfortable in the last stint. By then it was too late to make much progress, and he crossed the line in 13th. Whilst Ricciardo still has the record for qualifying better than Vergne, it is the Frenchman who is outdoing his teammate during the races.

4/10

Caterham

Another driver managing to outperform his teammate in qualifying was Vitaly Petrov, who finally finished ahead of Kovalainen on Saturday. With Vitaly lining up 18th and Heikki 19th, it wasn’t long before the Finn was ahead again. Waiting late for a pitstop saw Kovalainen up to tenth, but that wasn’t reflective of the pace of the Caterham at all.

The drivers finished 16th and 17th, with Heikki ahead. Petrov put his lack of pace down to KERS, which had been working well on Saturday but was not having the same effect come race day. Both drivers believe they got the most out of the car that they could and are looking forward to Monaco - although Petrov seems to think the lack of overtaking at the principality will be a help more than a hindrance.

3/10

Marussia

In a weekend where the underdogs did well, Charles Pic outqualified his teammate Timo Glock by about half a second. It wasn’t all good news, as Pic completed a 360 degree spin, and was handed a drive through penalty for ignoring blue flags. Footage shows Alonso trying to pass the Marussia, getting increasingly frustrated, and gesticulating wildly at Pic as he makes his way through. The bad times didn’t end there, as Pic retired from the race on lap 26 as the car lost drive.

On the other side of the garage, Glock had a good start to the race but found the car lacking balance and pace - a difficult combination. Team Principal John Booth readily admits they have a lot of work still to do on Glock’s car to even start making the progress they want.

2/10

HRT

Narain Karthikeyan took a backwards step this weekend by failing to qualify for the race. He completed a slow lap, but flat-spotted the tyres and had to head back to the garage for new rubber. They then kept him in due to a problem discovered during that first session. The FIA allowed Narain to participate in the race, but he suffered a pit stop problem that saw him not able to finish the race.

Pedro de la Rosa had a better weekend, completing an unusual four-stop strategy after finding the soft tyres unmanageable. He ended the race 19th, celebrating a good finish in front of his home crowd.

2/10

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