Circuit de Catalunya: Race Day

Chasing the Charging Bull

The Race:

Spain holds the first true European race, and this certainly had the relaxed flavour we needed after frenetic pace of the slice of Turkish delight we treated ourselves to a couple of weekends ago. There are 24 seats around the table this year, but some are looking wobbly under the pressure of performing, some are creaking under the weight of expectation and others limp to their place setting. Then there are those who shine brightly with an extra layer of polish and precision, and they are the ones we can’t help but look at. So serve us up some Spanish cuisine will you? It’s influenced by the sea, so a bitter taste of brine arrives by the ice filled bucket load and as knives are drawn to crack the oyster shell. Those who could release the aphrodisiac went toe to toe and gave a deliciously tempting insight into how the rest of the season could unravel…and if weaknesses are exploited it may not be as cut and dry as we have been led to believe.

The air of inevitability hung over the track, same team but different driver, Mark Webber heads up the field today, with his younger team mate just behind him still nipping at his heels like an excitable puppy. He had positioned himself in the best possible position, in the last decade the polesitter won the race and he joined that record last year, but sometimes records were made to be broken and between the Bull they managed that. The polesitter who loves the track and can discover extra tenths in the final sector, was left with the plan B strategy as he was jumped at the start by Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso. Being a Mark Webber fan should come with a health warning, he spent 38 laps behind Alonso and couldn’t quite catch Button in the closing stages.

The battle between Vettel and Hamilton proved to be the biggest draw for the FOM feed, as they drifted further away from the battle for P3 the cameras followed. Alonso’s start put the kibosh on RBR dictating the pace, his phenomenal start saw him power past the battling Red Bulls, but a too early pit damaged his chances and he drifted far enough back to be lapped on front of his home crowd. Lewis Hamilton impressed many today as he stuck to Vettel like glue as they pulled further and further from the P3 battle behind, upon their arrival at the checkered flag they were just over half a second apart, but a huge 35 seconds ahead of Button. As the three discussed before the podium ceremony, Vettel was made to work for the top spot, but the phenomenal amount of downforce possessed by the RB7 in the corners gave him the edge.

As we saw in Istanbul it was strategy that reigned supreme here, the pace was definitely calmer and the volume of overtaking was less, and much better for it. The DRS zone might not have produced the levels of assumed overtaking (see rookie mistake below), but when passes were made they felt more genuine even with the Pirelli tyres causing trouble. Ferrari called the race their ‘worst’, possibly due to Alonso spending 17 laps in front then a poor stint on the primes was followed by a lapping. Massa finished early with a gearbox problem (Liuzzi’s gearbox also gave up the ghost) which just compounded his already forgettable weekend. Mercedes ran their own race, Rosberg had the pace but no team orders (who would be brave enough to make that call to Schumacher?) and a broken rear wing served him a P7.

Nick Heidfeld deserves kudos for his race for sure, he both whipped his team mate and showed Petrov up a treat. Starting in P24, he clawed his way up into the points of P8. It wasn’t quite the exhibition Webber showed us in Shanghai, but he doesn’t drive a Red Bull does he? Sergio Perez also made up for that lost point in Australia, and claimed his first championship points, as Sauber got a double finish inside the top ten. Heikki Kovalainen also had a tough race, his excellent qualifying was overshadowed by braking late, going off line into the marbles and into the tyre wall.


Position Driver Team Time
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:39:03.301
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:39:03.931
3 Jenson Button McLaren 1:39:38.998
Fastest Lap Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:26.727

Best Driver:

I’m going to hand this one to Vettel (just), Hamiltom impressed, but the German kept himself ahead of the pack through dogged determination (and an early pitstop) and spent the majority of the race without KERS, so when he came under attack he was left without the gadgets and gizmos others had. Some think that he is unable to truly fight for position as he usually spends his time up front without a challenger to be seen, here he gave us a glimpse of what he is capable of when under pressure. And for a driver who usually looks fresh as a daisy after removing his helmet, his face was plastered with the exertion of battle.

Best Team:

It’s so easy to pick Red Bull, their strategy for Vettel worked a treat as he undercut Alonso, and his car had the raw pace to hold off a serious challenge from Hamilton. However McLaren walk away with this one, collectively their team delivered a pitch perfect race that allowed their drivers to carve through the field and assert their dominance. Vettel may have walked away with the biggest trophy on the day, but it was Hamilton that impressed, come the closing stages of the race his pushed Vettel at every turn. The old adage goes that if he had a few more laps he would have him, and there is no doubt that he would have, tyres were reaching the cliff and Vettel was without KERS.

Eddie Jordan moment of inappropriateness:

Eddie Jordan could clinch this one, he turned up in Spain without a shirt to burn the pixels off the tv, black and white polka dots on Saturday and blue on Sunday. Although he was saved (marginally) by a pair of shoelaces so bright the first response was wtf! Also the BBC gridwalk was pretty lacklustre with Martin Brundle already tucked away in his commentary box, no clashes with Kai Ebel today.

Rookie mistake:

Truly a rookie mistake here on the part of the FIA (am I looking at a penalty here?) with regards to the DRS placement. When the activation zone was announced the general consensus was that it was going to make overtaking very easy, oh how wrong we all were! The drivers may have had 830m to get the job done in, but the trick is with DRS is that you need to close enough to overtake…if that leading car got a good line off of turn 16 the chaser had no chance. Obviously this is a new system being tested on race day so this is not entirely unexpected, but it just further emphasises that races are going to be more strategy based in the future.

Naughty, naughty:

Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Jaime Alguersuari were all under investigation for not lifting off during the yellow flag for Heikki Kovalainen’s moment in the tyres. With each car having a FIA mandated ‘black box’ installed, they know they have to show an attempt to slow down, whether they did remains unclear. Why? They escaped a penalty, but were ‘reprimanded’. If they had lifted then no penalty, no reprimand.


Fernando Alonso, the man in the scarlet prancing horse took it upon himself to change the face of the race with a stunning start off the line. His early charge from 4th to 1st before the first corner set in motion a stint of dominance that forced others to rethink their strategy, in fact he dented the Red Bull strategy so much that Mark Webber was forced to sacrifice a podium to cover him. With his foot hard on the throttle he bided his time as Webber and Vettel fought for position, a quick thinking manoeuvre after borrowing a tow from Vettel allowed him to pull ahead of Webber down the inside.

The 1000 word picture:

Not again! (image credit: Ker Robertson/ Getty Images)

Say what?:

“It wouldn’t come in my mouth.” – Another classic Martin Brundle ‘Brundleism’

“Woo hoo! Yabba dabbo de! Ringa ding ding ding ding!” Sebastian Vettel’s celebratory radio call, yeah that is the Crazy Frog.

“It’s not straight.” Jenson Button’s analysis on why the Vettel finger point is so annoying.


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