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Spain 2013 - Ferrari on form in front of Fernando's fans // The Scuderia double up on the podium, as Mercedes fight for race pace

Published by Christine

Ferrari mechanics manhandle Alonso
Credit: Pirelli S.p.A.

The Formula One paddock was swirling with discussions about the shape the Spanish Grand Prix took, with its average of four pit stops per driver, tyre de-laminations aplenty, and the occasional focus on conservation. The ongoing debate over F1 2013-style could drag on for weeks or months, but here and now, we know that all the teams had the same fair playing field, and some of them did better than others.

Ferrari secured a strong double podium in Spain, with a spare Lotus driver joining them on the podium. We saw three retirements, a couple of storming drives, and a mixture of grumpy and ecstatic faces at the end. Here's the highs and lows of the racing in Spain for our eleven teams.

Ferrari

Driver positions - Ferrari
DriverQualifyingRace
F Alonso5th1st
F Massa6th3rd

After qualifying on Saturday, Ferrari were looking and feeling a bit disappointed. They were mildly distracted by the sudden disappearance of Pat Fry from the pit wall to the hospital, and then found themselves looking at a three place grid drop for Felipe Massa for impeding another driver. Alonso would be starting in fifth position, however, and had the advantage of that home crowd boost.

It certainly spurred him on around the outside of that first corner - a move from fifth to second that was crucial for his race-winning chances. The pit stops were all timed to perfection, and Alonso pushed his way through to the lead of the race. A little bit of luck was on the Spaniard's side as his car developed a puncture just before the final pit stop. The team learned their lesson from previous disasters and opted to call Alonso in, rather than leave him out for one more lap. It didn't hinder the performance, and a victory was secured.

Felipe Massa also found pace on his side, as he pushed forward from eighth on the grid to finish on the podium alongside his teammate. The Brazilian described the race as being more "complicated" starting further back, but everything came together and he fought hard to win that trophy.

It was a very tense race, in which the slightest little detail could make a big difference. On this front, we read the race very well, when one considers how tyre management and calling the pit stops today made the difference and I can say without being presumptuous, that the team of engineers didn't put a foot wrong.

- Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal, Ferrari

Lotus

Driver positions - Lotus
DriverQualifyingRace
K Räikkönen4th2nd
R Grosjean7thDNF

Both Lotus drivers seemed to have an improved performance during qualifying at Barcelona. Räikkönen was immediately on the pace and easily found himself in fourth position. Grosjean admitted to a small mistake on his final lap, so that he abandoned the attempt and settled for seventh (which became sixth on the grid). The team have long been saying that a better Saturday could spell greater results on race day, and this may be the start of that trend. Or they may have just suited this circuit, only time will tell.

It was hard to see whether Romain could have made anything of his top ten grid slot on Sunday, as the Lotus suspension just gave up on him, and he was forced to return to the pit lane with one of his wheels hanging off. It's not an unusual sight for us, but this time there was no contact to speak of. Regardless, it was still an early exit for the Frenchman.

That left the pressure on Räikkönen's shoulders, not that he feels anything of that sort. He drove a quietly stubborn race, keeping up with Alonso, but not really troubling him too much for the lead. He managed to stay about 15 seconds ahead of third place Massa, and was the only driver of the top five to complete the race with a three-stop strategy. A strong weekend for Lotus again, despite losing out on their second place constructor's position. They remain very much in the fight though.

Red Bull

Driver positions - Red Bull
DriverQualifyingRace
S Vettel3rd4th
M Webber8th5th

The most vocal in terms of post-race dissatisfaction, Red Bull were not at all happy with how the tyres held up during the weekend. On paper, their performance doesn't look too bad at all. Sebastian Vettel qualified third on the grid, and although he couldn't keep up with the front runners or put in any sort of fight for the lead, he only lost one position overall from the start.

Webber, king of poor starts, was 7th on the grid and dropped back to 11th almost immediately. To come back from that to finish just behind his teammate and well into the points was an impressive performance, and doesn't really seem to back up the complaints from the team. With eight pit stops being the norm for any team in Spain, Red Bull were able to show off just how good they are at those super-quick turnarounds. Smooth, beautiful teamwork, there's rarely an error from the RBR pit crew.

The subsequent quotes from the team indicate frustration at the fact they were going the pace of the tyres rather than the pace the car is capable of. Adrian Newey has always designed a quick car, but has sometimes struggled with making the package work as a whole. Pirelli have capitulated to some degree, but the team will still need to make their tyres work better to stand a chance of keeping their grip on the championship all season.

Mercedes

Driver positions - Mercedes
DriverQualifyingRace
N Rosberg1st6th
L Hamilton2nd12th

A team that truly do have the right to be frustrated with the way Sunday worked out for them is Mercedes. Nico Rosberg managed to snatch his second pole position in a row, and despite the fact that it is now two fast Saturday performances for the German, it still seems to be a surprise to everyone - pundit and paddock - that they have the pace to keep doing that during qualifying.

Unfortunately, as anticipated, the pace evaporated on Sunday, and both Mercedes drivers fell backwards. Able to extract pace from the car over a short stint, Rosberg was forced to drag out his best defensive driving again, to no avail. It's a credit to his performance that he managed to retain sixth place by the end of the race.

Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, dropped out of the points and was doing battle with the slower halves of the Sauber and Force India teams. His radio messages gave plenty of insight into the troubles he was having, including a tetchy "I can't drive any slower" when warned about those troublesome tyres.

Many are looking to Monaco and predicting good things for the team if they can lock out the front row in qualifying and capitalise on the twisting circuit's lack of overtaking opportunities. If they can only find the pace they showed this weekend, however, I don't believe even the streets of Monaco can save them.

Nico did an excellent job managing the tyres to make just three stops and his level of performance showed what our car is currently capable of on tracks like this. Lewis didn't have a good balance at any point and that simply made a critical situation worse, which forced him to convert to a four-stop strategy midway through the race. We must find the key to why we are losing performance on Sunday afternoon and find the right solutions to improve.

- Ross Brawn, Team Principal, Mercedes

Force India

Driver positions - Force India
DriverQualifyingRace
P Di Resta10th7th
A Sutil13th13th

Paul di Resta's weekend got off to a tricky start when he suffered a debris-related tyre failure in practice on Friday. He still managed to pull out tenth place in qualifying, scraping through to the final ten minute session and, more importantly, attempting to set a lap time in it as well! Sutil felt that he could have had the pace to get into the top ten but found himself stuck in traffic in the final moments of Q2 - something the engineers may need to look at closer, sending their drivers out into clean air.

Paul managed to make some progress in the race, moving forward a couple of places and picking up some points. He seemed reasonably happy with his day's work, and the team made note of the fact they could have got even further if it wasn't for a DRS problem. As Di Resta was trying to catch Nico Rosberg in the closing stages of the race, he was having to be manually told when he could use DRS as FOM's signalling system had failed. The gap between the two as they crossed the finish line was less than a second.

Meanwhile, Sutil suffered from a Webber-esque poor start and gave himself a lot of work to do. His bad luck was compounded by another terrible pit stop problem for Force India. A cross-threaded wheel nut saw the car sat, smoking, as it waited to get going again. Sutil managed to regain the positions lost, and ended the race in 13th place. A tough race for the German, and he left feeling very disappointed.

McLaren

Driver positions - McLaren
DriverQualifyingRace
J Button14th8th
S Pérez9th9th

The surprise of qualifying came from the McLaren team, when Jenson Button dropped out during the second session, as Sergio Pérez made it through to the top ten. This was the first time Pérez had out-qualified his more experienced teammate and it was by a good five places as well. A split strategy in the race would mean things changed round completely, and Button was one of those who completed his race with just three visits to the pit lane.

McLaren had brought new parts to the Circuit de Catalunya, with particular interest in their new-spec front wing. However, there was little time for testing during a wet Friday practice, and they opted not to run it after worrying that it would fail FIA structural tests. That meant things were the same-old, same-old for McLaren as they struggled for pace and tried to make the best of a difficult situation.

In positive news, it was their second double points finish in a row, with Button 8th and Pérez 9th. The difference in strategy allowed Button to get ahead of his teammate (there were some hints of team orders over the radio, but that has not been McLaren's style of late). The lack of results have forced Whitmarsh's position into the spotlight, but I think it would be a shame if he were forced out quite so soon.

We scored six world championship points today, and of course we aren't satisfied with that. Nonetheless, to score points with both cars in what was a decidedly technical race is a very creditable achievement, and constitutes a solid platform from which to move forwards from here on in.

- Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal, McLaren

Toro Rosso

Driver positions - Toro Rosso
DriverQualifyingRace
JE Vergne12thDNF
D Ricciardo11th10th

Unlike their sister team, Toro Rosso seemed to be having a far better weekend than they were expecting. Qualifying saw both drivers through to the second session, and, indeed, both of them just missing out on the top ten shoot-out, settling for best of the rest. Jean-Éric Vergne's luck ran out about that time, however, as he was forced to retire from the race after a collision in the pit lane.

Sauber's unsafe release of Nico Hülkenberg into the path of an oncoming Vergne saw damage to the Toro Rosso. They tried to send him back out to keep circling but it soon became clear there wasn't much more racing to be done, and they called him back in. Daniel Ricciardo had the full attention of the STR pit wall, and pushed his way up to tenth place.

Although discontent with the tyres at the start and the end of the race, Ricciardo says he had two good stints in the middle, and as viewers we were rewarded with some great overtaking moves from the young Australian. Every now and again we catch a glimpse of the skills that paint him as the next Mark Webber. A point for Toro Rosso keeps them ahead of Sauber, and sitting seventh in the constructor's championship. If they could start doing that with both drivers, they may start to increase the gap to the struggling Swiss team.

Sauber

Driver positions - Sauber
DriverQualifyingRace
N Hülkenberg15th15th
E Gutiérrez16th11th

Two things spring to mind when remembering Sauber's race weekend - their unusually negligent pit crew, and a sparkling performance from Esteban. Nico Hülkenberg was not happy with the team's qualifying performance, although admitted it went exactly as they expected it too. Gutiérrez joined Massa in receiving a three place grid drop for impeding other drivers, which meant he started the race way down in 19th place.

When the Sauber crew released Hülkenberg into the path of a Toro Rosso, it compounded Nico's miserable weekend. Not only did the German have to return for a new nose, he was then handed a stop/go penalty which meant visiting the pit lane for a sixth time. To finish one lap down and still ahead of other drivers is an achievement in itself, but ultimately a weekend to forget.

On the other side of the garage, Gutiérrez was storming his way through the field. The rookie acknowledged that the tyres were playing ball for his race, and he could get more out of them than he anticipated, but he also put in a very together performance that saw him finish just outside the points, behind Ricciardo. At several points during the race, I braced for impact watching him hustle for position, but lessons have been learned and Esteban (and all those around him) finished the race unscathed.

The analysis of this weekend will help to make bigger steps in the future. Nico was in a strong position, but then the incident in the pitlane, which resulted from an early release, ruined his race. Esteban delivered a very strong performance, we are happy about it and we hope this will give him confidence.

- Monisha Kaltenborn, Team Principal, Sauber

Williams

Driver positions - Williams
DriverQualifyingRace
P Maldonado18th14th
V Bottas17th16th

It feels like all I saw from Williams this weekend where tweets and interviews in which they promised they were working on it, that there was nothing to panic about, and they were improving the performance as best they could. It felt like overkill, but considering the qualifying results, it is hardly surprising. Both the Williams drivers were knocked out in Q1, and it was easy to forget that Pastor Maldonado won the race from pole position this time last year.

There was a little bit of progress to be made during the race, but most of that came from other drivers retiring and allowing them to move up a position. Valtteri Bottas tried a three stop strategy, whilst Pastor Maldonado opted for a four stop. It eventually turned out to be a five-stop race, as the Venezuelan was handed a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. He still managed to finish ahead of his teammate though, even with two extra stops under his belt. A tricky weekend for the Williams crew, but as they were keen on reminding us at every stage, they are working on it. They are not panicking. Yet.

Caterham

Driver positions - Caterham
DriverQualifyingRace
C Pic22nd17th
G Van der Garde19thDNF

Caterham brought plenty of new updates to the Spanish circuit, including a noticeably different front nose without a step in it. They're planning to look ahead to 2014 next, so these upgrades needed to make the difference, else they'd be stuck where they were for the next six months.

In qualifying, Giedo van der Garde put in a great performance to finish best of the backmarkers, and almost half a second quicker than his teammate. Unfortunately, a mistake in the pit lane meant Giedo's race came to an abrupt end when his wheel fell off. The team were fined for not calling him back in when he was clearly running a dangerous car, but thankfully no one was hurt. Post-race, Giedo was disappointed but buoyed up by the better performance they had shown this weekend.

It was evident from Charles Pic's race, as the Frenchman managed to sneak past both Marussia cars from last on the grid. Last of the runners to finish a lap down, Pic was battling with Williams for position.

I'm really happy with today's performance. Finishing 17th doesn't really tell the whole story as we ended the race right behind one of the Williams cars which shows that we've made some good progress this weekend. The blue flags didn't help as without them I'd have had a much better chance of overtaking him, but it was still good that I could attack him in the last few laps.

- Charles Pic, F1 driver, Caterham

Marussia

Driver positions - Marussia
DriverQualifyingRace
J Bianchi20th18th
M Chilton21st19th

With the battle between Marussia and Caterham ongoing, if one of the teams has a good weekend, it invariably means the other one did not. Both Marussia drivers were sandwiched by the Caterham duo in qualifying, with Chilton only two tenths of a second off Bianchi's quickest lap time.

Bianchi was forced to pit almost as soon as the race had begun, needing a new nose on the car. That put him on the back foot straight away, and meant his four stop strategy was out of sync with everyone else. The team had Chilton on a three-stopper, and the Brit suffered a few problems here and there, but was happy with his pace in the clear air. As he says, "If we can get on top of some of these problems we can really start to come into our own a bit more." I suspect the entire field are thinking something similar, as they get their heads down and prepare for the unique challenge that is Monaco.

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