Both Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen expect Lewis Hamilton to be a leading contender for victory at Monaco in a fortnight’s time – but yesterday in Barcelona the Mercedes driver was lapped by them both in the most disappointing race of his grand prix career. As they sprayed the victory champagne, he confessed to being “absolutely lost.”
As the Spaniard drove a perfect race to give his adoring countrymen the result they dreamed of at a Circuit de Catalunya that was notable for a meagre crowd, Hamilton looked like an also-ran for most of the afternoon.
He had started on the front row of the grid alongside pole-sitting team-mate Nico Rosberg, but as the German got away quickly on the clean side of the road, Hamilton was on the dirtier side of the racing line and struggled immediately. He made one attempt to get alongside Rosberg as they sped down to the first corner, but when Sebastian Vettel moved up alongside him on the left, Hamilton’s car lacked grip and he was powerless to prevent the Red Bull sweeping across to push him down to third. Worse followed immediately as Alonso, who like Vettel had been on the clean side, came barrelling round the outside of the McLaren in the third turn.
Fourth at the end of that opening lap, Hamilton was clearly in trouble and soon began a bitter struggle to finish a humbled 12th, inches ahead of Adrian Sutil’s Force India.
“I’m absolutely lost,” Hamilton admitted. “I just don’t know what went wrong. It was an experience I don’t want to go through again. I did absolutely everything I did in Bahrain but the tyres just didn’t come in and give me any grip. If I pushed, they went off immediately. It seems like others have made a bigger step forwards than we did. If anything, it seems like we didn’t make any step forward even though we brought upgrades, because we didn’t fix the problems of tyre degradation.”
Alonso, meanwhile, lost little time in breaking through to the lead. Together with team-mate Felipe Massa, he was one of the first to pit for fresh tyres, on the ninth lap, and that brought him up to second place, behind Rosberg but crucially ahead of Alonso, by the 13th lap. Then, as Mercedes once more flattered in qualifying only to deceive in the race, he was quickly able to demote Rosberg, who soon plummeted to fifth place, out of contention. Like Hamilton, the German was struggling badly with tyre wear, and it was evident by the 15th lap that the race was between Alonso, Vettel and Raikkonen.
Out in the clean air he had been seeking from the start, Alonso managed his race brilliantly, taking a set of medium compound Pirelli tyres on his second stop on lap 21, mediums again on lap 36, then the harder compounds on lap 49. Vettel had no answer to this and slipped back as his similar four-stop strategy failed to pay off. So Raikkonen became Alonso’s only serious challenger.
The Finn made the most of his Lotus’s kindness to its tyres to make only three stops. By the time Alonso made his last stop, with 17 laps left, the gap between them was eight seconds. On his fresher rubber Alonso initially pulled away until they reached stalemate on the 59th lap. But thereafter the gap remained stable and Alonso won by just under 10 seconds. Massa made it a good day for Ferrari with third place.
“It’s always very special winning at home, no matter how many times you repeat it,” Alonso said. “They were very emotional last laps, but very long – you want to finish them as fast as possible! Having both cars on the podium is great for the team. We knew we had the pace and we wanted some clean air to exploit this potential. We got it, and everything worked well.”
Vettel and Red Bull, well beaten for the first time in a long time, had to be content with fourth and fifth, as Mark Webber fought back from a poor start to follow his team-mate home.
Further back, Jenson Button made up for his qualifying woes with a strong three-stop run to eighth for McLaren, narrowly ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez.
Final Position after Race:
1. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1:39:16.596
2. Kimi Raikk onen (Finland) Lotus - Renault +00:09.338
3. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 00:26.049
4. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) RedBull - Renault 00:38.273
5. Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull - Renault 00:47.963
6. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 01:08.020
7. Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India - Mercedes 01:08.988
8. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 01:19.506
9. Sergio Perez (Mexico) McLaren 01:21.738
10. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1 lap
11. Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber - Ferrari 1 lap
12. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1 lap
13. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 1 lap
14. Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams - Renault 1 lap
15. Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Sauber - Ferrari 1 lap
16. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams - Renault 1 lap
17. Charles Pic (France) Caterham - Renault 1 lap
18. Jules Bianchi (France) Marussia - Cosworth 2 laps
19. Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia - Cosworth 2 laps
Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 14 laps
Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham - Renault 45 laps
Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Renault 58 laps
- More about:
- Jenson Button
- Lewis Hamilton
- Mclaren Automotive
- Mclaren F1
- Mercedes Benz
- Racing Drivers
- Renault (car)