Monaco F1 Grand Prix: Rosberg all the Way!

May 23, 25, 26, 2013

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, dominated the entire Grand Prix weekend to start at pole and then lead for 78 laps of the race. At the back of the field though, it was Russian Roulette with as many as six accidents – some mechanical and some avoidable!

Nico Rosberg dominated the Monaco Grand Prix weekend by leading in every lap that he ran.

Nico Rosberg dominated the Monaco Grand Prix weekend by leading in every lap that he ran.

How does one describe a Grand Prix race that stayed in a state of limbo until the 29th lap, barring the odd damage through an unfortunate crash or “racing incidents”? Three Safety Car periods and then a red flag that grinded the entire Grand Prix to a halt for over 40 minutes? Seven car casualties and crashes that changed the course of the championship?

Pretty damn boring and pointless I’d say!

On the narrow, twisty and highly dangerous street circuit of Monaco, overtaking is practically impossible. As a result teams are more dependant on working pit strategies to gain a minuscule advantage hoping to undercut the competition and gain track position.

A view of Pator Maldonado's Williams after he was hit by Max Chilton, Marussia.

A view of Pastor Maldonado’s Williams after he was hit by Max Chilton, Marussia.

The first pit-stop was made by Paul Di Resta of Force India in Lap 9, and yes that had more to do with team strategy rather than any racing exigency starting as he did at P17. The next stops were all after Lap 24 with Mark Webber, Red Bull, Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus (Lap 26) and Jensen Button, McLaren (also Lap 26).

However, following the horrific crash that Felipe Massa, Ferrari suffered at the Ste Devote corner in Lap 28, practically the entire field decided to pit and change tyres as was natural. But this also put paid to a lot of team strategies for the remainder of the race.

Sebastian Vettel summed up the remainder of the Grand Prix quite succinctly when he said in his syndicated interview to PMG: “When you’ve got two Silver Arrows at the front, you expect them to sail off into the distance, but it was more like following two coaches on a sight-seeing tour.”

There was also the small incident of both Red Bull Racing and Ferrari Teams driving the race “under protest”.  It started with leaks of Pirelli conducting a secret 1,000 km testing schedule with Mercedes – ostensibly on Pirelli’s new compound tyres for 2014 – having reached the paddock.

Analysts and of course, competing team principals suspect that the tests might have been conducted on the new construction hard tyres for the current season which were to be commissioned from the Canadian Grand Prix onwards.

The FIA has now got involved and will be investigating the matter thereby forcing Pirelli to postpone the release of the new construction tyres until the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Back to Monaco and it wasn’t for nothing that most analysts and fans were wondering whether such a fortuitous pre-race test after a disastrous Grand Prix in Spain would change the flagging fortunes of the Mercedes team. Everyone, however, knew they had great qualifying pace but had been dogged by excessive rear tyre wear and consequently very high degradation in tyre performance.

Not just did the Mercedes duo put in the maximum laps on their starting tyres before the Massa crash, but also ended up leading comfortably for the first 31 laps of the race. And had it not been for a simple, yet bizarrely amateurish mistake in pitting Hamilton late enough to make him lose two positions in the Safety Car period, Mercedes could have easily made it a one-two!

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, crashes into the barriers for the second time in the weekend.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, crashes into the barriers for the second time in the weekend.

But at the end, at least the die-hard fans of Merc, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were not disappointed.

Given the nature of the race, I too have modified the construction of the blog to stick with what was considered the “most exciting and fascinating” part of the race, that is, from the start of Lap 54 to the end of the race. So here goes:

Lap 54 to Lap 78

Lap 54 Perez ran Raikkonen off the track at the Nouvelle chicane but the Iceman managed to get back on the racing line and maintain track position. By Lap 55, the Force India of Sutil had started to swarm all over Alonso’s back and finally in Lap 57 in what is the slowest corner of the circuit – the Portier hairpin – went to the inside of the track and passed the Spanish driver.

However, it must be said that Alonso who was having a frustrating evening driving around with debris stuck in his front wing, lost concentration and provided Sutil ample room by moving wide to the right. This moved the Force India driver up one place to 7th.

At the 58th Lap the line-up was: Rosberg, Mercedes, Vettel, Red Bull, Webber, Red Bull, Hamilton, Mercedes, Raikkonen, Lotus, Perez, McLaren, Sutil, Force India, Alonso, Ferrari, Button, McLaren and Vergne, Torro Rosso.

Jules Bianchi, Marussia crashed out in the 60th lap but he was lucky to avoid the barrier and slid away into the slip road to crash sideways into the tyre barriers. Double yellow flags were out and DRS disabled. Vettel had by now stepped off the gas preferring to follow quietly behind Rosberg who in terms of championship points is a whopping 67 points behind. It was smart thinking.

Webber too cut out the histrionics and maintained a respectful distance behind his championship-leading team-mate. If there was anyone trying to race at this stage, it was Lewis Hamilton although he too was provided with the routine team warning to take care of his tyres!

Romain Grosjean, Lotus climbs into the Torro Rosso of Daniel Di Ricciardo.

Romain Grosjean, Lotus climbs into the Torro Rosso of Daniel Di Ricciardo.

In Lap 62 Romain Grosjean decided in a fraction of a second of madness that he had to get past Daniel Ricciardo, Torro Rosso, but instead launched his Lotus right into the back-end of the impressive Australian. It was a totally careless accident from the Frenchman who, much like Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez was fast developing a reputation of being a reckless “kamikaze kid”.

Debris scattered all over the area meant that the yellow flags were out and the race temporarily suspended with the Safety Car out. Grosjean though, managed to get back into the pits, get a new nose assembly and a set of front wings! He rejoined the field in Lap 63 only to limp around at the back-end of the grid until Lap 65 and then get back into the pits with a broken floor, to retire from the race.

Normal racing was resumed at the end of Lap 66. All the leads had by now been wiped out thanks to the Safety Car but the leaders led by Rosberg made perfect starts to pull away from the pack. Status quo in terms of the Top 10 cars was maintained at this stage.

However, in Lap 69, the usual suspect, Perez, McLaren made contact with Raikkonen, Lotus even as they made their way into the Nouvelle chicane. Raikkonen was always going left, cutting off any space for the McLaren driver to pass but instead of slowing down and letting the Lotus take the racing line, ploughed into latter’s rear right tyre. The jury is still out on whether Raikkonen could have provided a bit more room to Perez or whether the latter should have backed off when he saw the daylight in front of him close.

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus and Sergio Perez, McLaren bang wheels at Monaco.

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus and Sergio Perez, McLaren bang wheels at Monaco.

The result was a smashed front wing for Perez and a rear tyre puncture for Raikkonen. With no choice left, the Finn was forced to pit in Lap 70! Kimi meanwhile, returned to the track in Lap 71 in 16th place. It was going to be the first time in 23 consecutive races that he was going to be out of the points table.

The blown front wing on Perez’s McLaren meant that he was beginning to lose downforce and consequently grip and very soon, Sutil made his move and passed him comfortably to take P5. However, the Mexican reclaimed the place in Lap 73 when he went off the road and came back on track in front of the German! This was getting ridiculous now.

More action from the Perez corner when in the very next lap, Sutil banged wheels with him at the Rascasse corner to push the McLaren into the left side barriers. Perez somehow stayed on course but was now aligned with team-mate Jensen Button who was not going to do him any favours given their recent history, cut off any room Perez had, to slide past him.

That was the end for Perez’s race as he struggled with brake problems and was forced to park at the side of the road, unable to get back into the pits. Poetic justice or what?

The mêlée pushed Arian Sutil into 5th place, maintaining Force India’s impressive performance this year and probably showing the German’s credentials as a superb F1 driver who had lost none of his skills in the two years that he was out of the sport.

With just under 3 laps remaining, Rosberg pulled away from the pack and a victory was well in sight and that too 30 years after his father Keke Rosberg had achieved the feat at Monaco – the first father-son duo to do so.

The real surprise though? Kimi Raikkonen still managed to finish 10th to complete 23 consecutive races in the points!

MONACO STATS AND FACTS

MONACO DRIVER STANDINGS
POS. DRIVER TEAM PTS.
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 25
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 18
3 Mark Webber Red Bull 15
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 12
5 Adrian Sutil Force India 10
6 Jensen Button McLaren  8
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari  6
8 Jean Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari  4
9 Paul Di Resta Force India  2
10 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus  1
OVERALL DRIVER STANDINGS
POS. DRIVER TEAM PTS.
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 107
2 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 86
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 78
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 62
5 Mark Webber Red Bull 57
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 47
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 45
8 Paul Di Resta Force India 28
9 Romain Grosjean Lotus 26
10 Jensen Button McLaren 25
11 Adrian Sutil Force India 16
12 Sergio Perez McLaren 12
13 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari  7
14 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber  5
15 Jean Eric Vergne Torro Rosso  5
CONSTRUCTORS STANDINGS
POS. TEAM PTS.
1 Red Bull-Renault 164
2 Ferrari 123
3 Lotus-Renault 112
4 Mercedes 109
5 Force India-Mercedes 44
6 McLaren-Mercedes 37
7 STR-Ferrari* 12
8 Sauber-Ferrari 5
*Torro Rosso
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Barcelona F1 Grand Prix: Stats and Fun Facts

Despite being all about tyres, the Spanish Grand Prix provided its share of thrills and spills. Here is an overview of the key stats and facts.

Casa Milà at dusk in Barcelona, Spain. The bui...

Casa Milà at dusk in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Winner’s Time

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari: 1:39:16:596 (h:mm:ss:000)

Alonso was back at his best to win his home race.

Alonso was back at his best to win his home race.

Fastest Lap of the Race

Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber-Ferrari: 1:26:217 (m:ss:000)

Longest Tyre Stint:

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus-Renault: 21 Laps (3rd Stint – Hard Tyres)

Best Total Pit-Stop Time (3 Stops)

Jensen Button, McLaren-Mercedes: 57.296s

Best Race Pit-Stops (4 Stops)

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing-Ranault: 1:15:559s

AWARDS

Barcelona’s Best

  1. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari for an excellently paced and tactically perfect race.
Felipe Massa drive a great race to stay in the top 3.

Felipe Massa drive a great race to stay in the top 3.

2. Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus-Renault for taking P2 after qualifying at P5.

  1. Felipe Massa, Ferrari for maintaining steady pace and showing tactical nous to finish 3rd.

Barcelona Surprises

  1. Paul Di Resta, Force India for  driving yet another superb race to finish at P7.
  2. The STR-Ferrari of Daniel Ricciardo which seems to be a vastly improved car this season.

Bahrain Flops

  1. The Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg who started at the front of the grid and then went steadily down the field with high levels of tyre degradation and wear.
  2. Pastor Maldonado, Williams, for continuing to be practically invisible!

Team Radio Communication of the Race

Two nuggets from Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes make this a no-contest!

  1. “I can’t go any slower!” (When asked by his team to take care of his tyres and conserve fuel.)
  2. “I got overtaken by a Williams!”
PIT-STOP AND TYRE STRATEGIES: TOP 10 DRIVERS
POS. DRIVER TEAM START LAP STOP 1 LAP STOP 2 LAP STOP 3 LAP STOP 4
1 Fernando Alonso Ferrari M 9 H 21 H 36 M 49 H
2 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus M 10 M 26 M 45 H NA NA
3 Felipe Massa Ferrari M 8 H 20 H 36 M 51 H
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull M 10 H 24 H 39 M 51 H
5 Mark Webber Red Bull M 7 H 20 H 36 M 50 H
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes M 10 H 27 H 47 H NA NA
7 Paul Di Resta Force India M 9 H 19 M 38 M 53 H
8 Jensen Button McLaren M 11 H 28 H 46 H NA NA
9 Sergio Perez McLaren M 10 H 23 H 38 M 50 H
10 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari M 10 H 24 M 39 H 51 H
M Medium H Hard
PIT-STOP TIME: TOP 10 DRIVERS
POS. DRIVER TEAM STOP 1 STOP 2 STOP 3 STOP 4 TOTAL
1 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 18.909 19.952 19.519 18.471 1:16:851
2 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 19.978 19.743 20.184 0 59.905
3 Felipe Massa Ferrari 19.490 19.373 19.326 19.001 1:17:190
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 18.606 18.708 19.551 18.694 1:15:559
5 Mark Webber Red Bull 19.668 19.151 19.170 18.931 1:16:920
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 19.414 20.032 19.352 0 58.978
7 Paul Di Resta Force India 20.615 19.792 19.822 19.481 1:19:710
8 Jensen Button McLaren 18.810 19.196 19.290 0 57.296
9 Sergio Perez McLaren 19.250 20.578 19.866 19.993 1:19.687
10 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 19.795 20.100 19.498 19.857 1:19:250
BARCELONA DRIVER STANDINGS
POS. DRIVER TEAM PTS.
1 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 25
2 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 18
3 Felipe Massa Ferrari 15
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 12
5 Mark Webber Red Bull 10
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes  8
7 Paul Di Resta Force India  6
8 Jensen Button McLaren  4
9 Sergio Perez McLaren  2
10 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari  1
OVERALL DRIVER STANDINGS (5 RACES)
POS. DRIVER TEAM PTS.
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 89
2 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 85
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 70
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 52
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 48
6 Mark Webber Red Bull 42
7 Paul Di Resta Force India 32
8 Romain Grosjean Lotus 26
9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 22
10 Jensen Button McLaren 17
11 Sergio Perez McLaren 12
12 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari  7
13 Adrian Sutil Force India  6
14 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber  5
15 Jean Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari  1
CONSTRUCTORS STANDINGS
POS. TEAM       PTS.
1 Red Bull-Renault 131
2 Ferrari 118
3 Lotus-Renault 111
4 Mercedes 74
5 Force India-Mercedes 38
6 McLaren-Mercedes 29
7 STR-Ferrari* 8
8 Sauber-Ferrari 5
*Torro Rosso

The Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix: Alonso Reigns Supreme at Home!

Although the Spanish GP was more about tyre management and pit stop strategies, it still provided an intriguing spectacle for die-hard F1 fans.

May 10, 11, 12, 2013

After the Bahrain disaster, Fernando Alonso was back at his best to win his home race.

Qualifying

Pirelli yet again brought the medium and hard tyre compounds for the Spanish Grand Prix. It was early Christmas for the teams even as the tyre maker offered an extra set of tyres for free practice as well. As in Bahrain, the compounds were expected to favour the likes of Red Bull Racing, Lotus and Ferrari although pundits were quick to dismiss the chances of Mercedes who have struggled with tyre degradation and unusually heavy wear in the season so far.

Q1 saw the exit of last year’s winner, Pastor Maldonado of Williams-Renault and his team-mate Valtterri Bottas, Guido Van Der Garde and Charles Pic, Caterham, and Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton, Marussia.

The Mercedes team topped the time-sheets with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg clocking 1:21:728s and 1:21.913s respectively. Interestingly, Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus put in a time of 1:22:210s on the hard compound tyres and that too after being held up by the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez.

Q2 continued in the same vein with Hamilton waiting it out until the last minute of the session to top the time-sheets with a run of 1:20:001s followed by Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Fernando Alonso, Ferrari and Raikkonen, Lotus. Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing, Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Sergio Perez, McLaren, Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Romain Grosjean, Lotus and Paul Di Resta, Force India, made the cut while Jensen Button, McLaren was the one upset among the top drivers not to make the Top 10 for Q3.

With less than two minutes to go in Q3, a string of cars hit the circuit including Alonso, Raikkonen, Vettel, Rosberg and Hamilton. Rosberg set the fastest time of 1:20:728s, followed by team-mate Hamilton who was a mere 2/10ths of a second behind.

Final Line-up: 1. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 3. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), 4. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus), 5. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), 6. Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 7. Romain Grosjean (Lotus), 8. Mark Webber (Red Bull), 9. Sergio Perez (McLaren), 10. Paul Di Resta (Force India).

Race Laps 1 – 20

Rosberg got off to a decent start to maintain his pole position at the start of the race but team-mate Hamilton locked a wheel into Turn 1 and had to concede track position to Vettel who stormed his way from the outside to slot in just behind the leader.

Meanwhile, Alonso in the Ferrari blazed his way from the left side of the track to first lock wheels with Hamilton and then sweep past him and Raikkonen into third place. It was brilliant, fully committed racing from the Spaniard on a circuit where overtaking is difficult, if not impossible.

Raikkonen was down into 5th place, continuing his terrible streak with race starts. Down the grid, Perez and Massa battled it out for track position with the former pushing the Brazilian wide only to lose the place by the start of Lap 2. At this stage both the Ferraris were showing terrific race pace and seemed to be flying past the competition even without DRS enabled!

That duly happened in the middle of Lap 3 and immediately, Vettel began to close in on Rosberg while Raikkonen set about pressurizing Hamilton. But status quo was maintained well into the 6th Lap with the magnificent string of cars all within half a second of each other. At this point, 19 cars were separated by a mere 15 seconds!

It wasn’t until the middle of Lap 7 that Raikkonen finally made his move on Hamilton; zipping to the inside of the Mercedes and making an opportunistic pass stick. Meanwhile, Mark Webber who had been languishing in P13 was called in to the pits in Lap 8 and loaded with a fresh set of hard compound tyres. The Red Bull strategy was to change things around and push hard from here on given that Webber still had a couple of hard sets of rubber available for the remainder of the race.

Lap 8 saw Hamilton struggle with brake and tyre issues and that made it easy for Massa to pass him and claim track position at P5. As was the case in Bahrain, the Mercedes was losing ground alarmingly. However, Ferrari chose to give up the position by pitting Massa at the end of the lap and getting him on to the hard compound tyres. Massa rejoined the field at P14.

More pit action was in store at the top of Lap 9 with Adrian Sutil, Force India and Romain Grosjean, Lotus limping back into the garage with mechanical failures. The race had ended for the French driver but the Force India crew were able to douse the smoke emanating from Sutil’s rear brakes and send him back out, albeit after what seemed like eons in the pits.

Alonso made his first stop at the start of Lap 10 and changed his tyre to the hard compound as did Mercedes’ Hamilton. They were followed in quick succession by all three leaders – Rosberg, Vettel and Raikkonen. Of these, only the Finn went back in on medium compound tyres.

Ferrari’s strategy of pitting Alonso earlier than the leaders bore rich dividends when he managed to get ahead of Sebastian Vettel at the pit lane apex in order to move himself in to P3 just behind Rosberg. The home boy was now storming down the tail of the German.

In the middle of the field, Jensen Button, McLaren had sneaked his way into P6 after a very early pit-stop at the start of the race. But Raikkonen on fresher tyres had started to gain on him and very soon passed him comfortably at Turn 10 to claim the position. At this point in the race, Esteban Gutierrez of Sauber led the race for the very first time in his fledgling F1 career followed by Rosberg who had somehow managed to ward off the marauding Alonso.

Meanwhile, Mark Webber who went down the field to P17 was back in P7 driving beautifully on his set of fresh hard tyres. It was clear that the Red Bull strategy of pitting him earlier than planned, was working perfectly and a podium finish seemed on the cards.

Alonso’s frustration at being stuck behind a persevering Rosberg finally came to an end at the start of Lap 13 as he swept past the German at Turn 1 driving the home fans to frenzy. With Gutierrez yet to pit, the legion of Alonso fans sensed that it was going to be his day!

That move was also the cue for Vettel and Massa to start attacking Rosberg and at Turn 6 blew past him to take P3. Massa too was now on the rear wing waiting to make his move from P5 which he duly accomplished in the next couple of turns.

Felipe Massa drive a great race to stay in the top 3.

Felipe Massa drive a great race to stay in the top 5 throughout the race.

Rosberg’s misery was not over because now Raikkonen started to gain on him. By Lap 15, the Finn made his pass on Rosberg to snatch P4. As in Bahrain, the Mercedes was now being gobbled up by the cars behind!

Within a span of a few seconds, the leader board had changed drastically with Alonso leading followed by Vettel, Massa, Raikkonen and Rosberg. But the race was now becoming increasingly about tyre management rather than flat out racing. All the drivers were now intent on saving their rubber rather than battling for track position.

However, Vettel and Webber in the Red Bulls were now flagging with Massa rapidly gaining on the German and Perez in the McLaren and Paul Di Resta, Force India starting to threaten Webber. Before that could happen, Daniel Ricciardo who until now had been driving a superb race, slotted past Di Resta to put himself in P8. Di Resta however, pitted in the same lap.

End of Lap 20: 1. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 2. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 3. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 4. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 5. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 6. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 7. Sergio Perez (McLaren) 8. Daniel Ricciardo (STR-Ferrari) 9. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 10. Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber).

Race Laps 21 – 40

Felipe Massa came into the pits at the top of Lap 21 for his second stop allowing Kimi Raikkonen to move into 3rd place. He was fitted with another set of brand new hard tyres and rejoined the field at P11. Race leader Alonso followed in the very next lap released. With a rash of pit stops at the middle of the field, Massa too managed to work his way up to P5.

The Ferraris were yet again back in contention for the podium spots considering that the current leaders, Vettel, Raikkonen and Rosberg (P4) had only made one pit-stop each and were due for tyre change. However, with Massa having opened up the slot for Raikkonen, the Finn was now flying in clean air and had come within 7/10ths of a second behind the current race leader, Vettel.

The German world champion made his second stop in Lap 24 and finally released Raikkonen to lead the race for the first time in the Spanish Grand Prix. Alonso meanwhile, was lapping some three seconds faster and had now come within 5.8 seconds of the leading Lotus.

Towards the back of the field, Webber started to make steady progress after easily passing an increasingly dejected Hamilton. To make matters even worse for him, Di Resta in the Force India breezed past with effortless ease. In yet another Mercedes-Red Bull shoot-out, Vettel blasted away from Rosberg in Lap 26. The Mercedes campaign after a great qualifying was now in tatters!

Raikkonen finally relinquished his hard-fought leadership position in the same lap to free up Alonso at the top of the field. Interestingly though, the Iceman was put back on medium compound tyres and rejoined the race at P4.

By Lap 30 Kimi was hot on the heels of P3 Vettel. The intriguing, edge-of-the-seat dogfight continued well into Lap 33 when the Finn finally made a stupendous pass on Turn 14 to wrest the position. Raikkonen was well and truly flying on his medium tyres but still 18 seconds behind the Ferrari of Alonso.

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, yet again proved that he was the master of tyre management.

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, yet again proved that he was the master of tyre management.

Alonso duly made his third stop at the start of Lap 37 yet again yielding the first place to Raikkonen but with the advantage of being on a fresher set of hard tyres overtook him on the main straight at the start of Lap 39. Raikkonen was now into 13 laps on the same set of medium compounds yet again proving that he was the master at tyre management.

End of Lap 40: 1. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 2. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 3. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 4. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 5. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 6. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 7. Daniel Ricciardo (STR-Ferrari) 8. Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) 9. Jensen Button (McLaren) 10. Paul Di Resta (Force India).

Race Laps 41 – 60

Lap 41 witnessed a battle royal between Gutierrez, Sauber and Button in the McLaren. The rookie driver managed to hold off Button but had to finally concede the place towards the end of the lap when the 2009 World Champion slipped past him to put himself in 7th place.

The remainder of the field remained pretty much the same by Lap 44 with Alonso leading the race followed by Raikkonen (+7.656s), Massa (+9.252s), Vettel (+14.033s) and Webber (+8.937s). But Alonso was pulling away quickly from Raikkonen and widening the gap in every sector and Massa too was putting in some truly fast lap times to close in on Kimi.

Given the pressure applied by the Brazilian driver, Raikkonen was called in on Lap 46 for his third and possibly his last pit stop of the race. He was fitted with a brand new set of hard compound tyres and rejoined the field at P4 – the first time in the race that he was on the harder prime rubber.

By the start of Lap 47, Alonso was ahead of Raikkonen in P3 by 29.498 seconds and Massa by nearly 19 seconds, thereby making it a foregone conclusion that he could make his 4th pit-stop and still continue to lead the field quite comfortably. Massa and Vettel – both their cars on medium compound tyres – were due for their last stops with 19 laps still to go.

Alonso made his final pit-stop in Lap 49 and came back out on hard compound tyres and stayed ahead of Raikkonen and team-mate Massa at the pit exit.

The Ferrari team finally got Massa in for his last stop at the head of Lap 52 as did the Red Bull team with Vettel. Both went back on hard tyres and rejoined the race at P3 and P4 respectively.

Enjoying the traction and grip that the fresh rubber was affording Alonso, the two-time World Champion had opened up a 10 second lead at the top of the field ahead of the second placed Raikkonen. He increased that to over 12.6 seconds by the start of the 56th lap.

Paul Di Resta, Force India drove another brilliant race to threaten the likes of Mercedes' Nico Rosberg.

Paul Di Resta, Force India drove another brilliant race to threaten the likes of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.

At the centre of the field, there were a couple of mini battles taking place between the Mercedes and Force India teams. Rosberg was defending 6th place from Di Resta while Lewis Hamilton and Adrian Sutil were scrapping it out for 12th.

The other interesting contest was between the old suspects and team-mates Button and Perez for P9. As was witnessed in Bahrain, Perez was not going to let the more illustrious partner to dictate terms being as he was on hard compound tyres which were 4 laps fresher than Buttn’s. However, team orders were sent out to the Mexican driver requesting him to hold station

End of Lap 60: 1. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 2. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 3. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 4. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 5. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 6. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 7. Paul Di Resta (Force India) 8. Jensen Button (McLaren) 9. Sergio Perez (McLaren) 10. Daniel Ricciardo (STR-Ferrari).

Race Laps 61 – 66

The top 10 maintained their positions in Lap 61 as the time gaps between cars remained constant with Alonso taking full advantage of the clean air in front of him as did Massa who was driving wonderfully at this stage. The Ferrari strategy was to allow Massa to go as fast as he could in order to catch Raikkonen in 2nd place thereby making it a one-two for the Italian automotive giant.

The strategy was fraught with risk considering that Massa could blow his tyres in the bargain leaving him little leeway in the race in terms of pit-stops. The fight was all but given up with his left rear tyres showing heavy graining that resulted in him lapping almost three seconds slower.

In a race where ttres mattered, Guido Van Der Garde of Caterham lost one!

In a race where tyres mattered, Guido Van Der Garde of Caterham lost one!

Meanwhile, the joust between Rosberg and Di Resta continued through to Lap 64 when the Scot narrowly missed a passing chance on the main straight. At this point, Di Resta was a mere .339 seconds behind the Mercedes driver.

There were no last-minute spills or thrills in the final lap as all the cars held their positions leaving Alonso a clear winner followed by Raikkonen and Massa.

Although not a great race by any standards, considering that it was more about tyre management and pit stop strategies rather than pure racing, the championship had been spiced up just enough to keep all the front-runners – read Vettel, Raikkonen and Alonso – within sniffing distance of the 2013 World Championship.

Final Standings: 1. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 2. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 3. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 4. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 5. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 6. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 7. Paul Di Resta (Force India) 8. Jensen Button (McLaren) 9. Sergio Perez (McLaren) 10. Daniel Ricciardo (STR-Ferrari).

Next edition: The Spanish GP Stats Sheet