Full detailed review of the weekend here:
The first session after 3 weeks started on a very different note, not at all to the liking of the teams surely. With wet conditions, it made difficult for team to test their much needed updates on the car. Plus Pirelli had supplied extra set of prototype tyres for teams to run more. Still the teams did some good amount of running specially towards the end when the track dried out a bit. Alonso started his home GP on a good note taking P1 with Massa at P2 and Vergne in P3. Sutil got P5 for SFI as Di Resta rounded off at P10, team continuing to be there in top 10, positive start in those mix conditions. Both the drivers in the top 3 of speed trap.
A lot better session in terms of weather and also for teams to finally test the new parts in dry conditions. Straightaway they started with those Pirelli prototype dry set of tyres to be used within the first 30 minutes of their running. We did see more laps from teams doing long runs to test their race pace. Vettel took the P1 as Alonso was pretty close to end at P2 while Webber completed the top 3. SFI continued their consistent run with Sutil in P8 & Di Resta in P10. The long run pace of the team was slightly better placed than Mercedes & McLaren which was a good sign with not much tyre wear. Both drivers ended in top 3 of speed trap.
Dry weather for the final session though we could some amount of clouds in the sky. The teams started off with the long run preps as usual, trying to work out the tyre graining which was seemed to be a big issue. Massa took Ferrari to P1 with Kimi finishing P2 and Webber at P3. SFI once again on the money with the pace as Di Resta took P7 and Sutil P8. The team looking good, maybe in a better shape than Mercedes & McLaren at least.
It all seemed a big pole battle as nothing could be made out from the running the team did. I for one felt that pole battle was on very between the top runners with both the Red Bull’s, Ferrari’s & Kimi & Hamilton all in to take pole. Race pace was a different matter all together. As for SFI, I somehow felt that Q3 was in reach for both drivers but there was some fight from McLaren with STR joining in. Till that moment, STR’s upgrades were looking good and it sure seemed that they made some progress.
As we have been seeing in the past few races, lot of teams came out playing a tyre gamble. Most of the lower half teams started straightaway on mediums in order to save new hard tyres for the race as they very much expected to go for maybe 3 stops or more. Hamilton took P1 with Rosberg at P2 with Vettel at P3. Both the SFI made it clearly to Q2 while the McLaren’s struggled to make it through.
I think Q2 is the trickiest of all the 3 sessions in qualifying as here, one can easily slip up and not make it to the top 10. With good midfield teams around, there is every chance that one team could slip behind. Hamilton once again led the way as Mercedes showed their one lap pace. Vettel ended at P2 while Alonso at P3. It proved to be a bit tricky in the end for SFI as a slight slip up pushed Sutil down and out in Q2, ending at P13. Di Resta though made it safely through as did a surprising Perez.
It sure was interesting session as Mercedes stepped up to the task with their strong one lap pace. I was thinking that might be one or two driver will take a gamble and go out in hard tyres but no one took that and went for medium. In the end, other teams had no answers to Mercedes one lap pace as Rosberg took his second pole while Mercedes made it hattrick of pole. Vettel ended P3 as home hero Alonso ended at P5. Di Resta was a touch slow as he completed the top 10, ending at P10.
Qualifying changed the whole scenario specially for SFI. As Mercedes took pole, it made a touch difficult for SFI as from the FP’s pace, it seemed that SFI would challenge Mercedes on race pace. Had they qualified little lower, it would have been some advantage for SFI. From outside it seemed anyone in top 6 could win provided they manage tyres well. SFI were a touch disappointed, I felt they could have got P7 or P8 perhaps. Any ways, the race pace was pretty strong in terms of their position.
Perfect weather for a thrilling race in prospect. But the only question in everyone’s mind, what strategy were the teams on? 3 stops or 4? On the other hand, Mercedes not only had the tyres troubles to fend off but also the big drivers to fight with as Vettel, Alonso & Kimi had the best chance to win the race. In the race for starters, Rosberg held on the lead while his teammate Hamilton went backwards as Vettel, Alonso, Kimi & Massa all overtook him in a space of few laps. I must say, it was a great move from Alonso there taking both Kimi & Hamilton going into T3. Post race he said, he admitted that he did that only after seeing the GP2 race. While on SFI front, Sutil had a super start as he jumped to P8 straight from P13 while Di Resta held on to his P10 place. Sutil was very clever there at the start as he took on the outside to move ahead.
As the first of the 4 pit stop begun, Alonso almost sealed his winning fate as he moved ahead of Vettel and in few laps time he overtook Rosberg to take the lead of his home GP. It was then the time for Rosberg to move backwards as Vettel, Massa, Kimi, Webber took him down quickly. Behind the top pack, McLarens were in fight with SFI, STR to secure the final points on the table. For sometime, it looked Sauber were back in hunt as both drivers were looking strong on pace but they fell behind the pack ahead of the struggling Williams. Hamilton meanwhile was having a terrible race as he was well off the top ten and by midway he was almost out of reckoning to finish on points.
After having a super start, it seemed that fate just didn’t want Sutil to hang on and score good after 3 terrible races. A cross thread problem in the wheel nut delayed his pit stop and he lost a mind bobbling time of 4 pit stops to be more specific. He was dead last and once again had to just race to the finish and perhaps only try to salvage something out of it. Di Resta was steady all through this as he maintained his position and speed in the points. Once again, he was looking in a great touch and perhaps looking to break SFI’s Barcelona jinx of not scoring points.
Towards the end, Alonso was cruising to victory as the gap between him and Kimi was way too long to cover up with graining tyres. Alonso was truly untouchable, his pace was too much for others ashe finished almost 10 seconds ahead of Kimi, he even lapped the last point scorer in the end. Moving to Kimi, he produced yet again a remarkable performance and consistency to finish on podium again. Whereas Massa, showed his class driving a tough race to finish at P3 and get his first podium finish of the season. Championship leader was only P4 and wasn’t at his best at all, the Red Bull’s all through the weekend looked a bit dodgy. Rosberg managed to finish at P6, at least salvaging something from his pole position as Hamilton finished lowly P13. McLaren duo secured 6 points, better than what they might have hoped for after qualifying. Estaben impressed me with his driving, for the first time it looked he belonged here.
Di Resta in the second half of the race looked in good shape after a decent start he got. A funny moment when he radioed to ask as to what strategy was he on as he couldn’t understand what was going on. In the end, he finished P7 bringing in 6 vital points. Perhaps a bit disappointed that he couldn’t get ahead of Rosberg in the end. We were told post race that his car wasn’t getting the telemetry and thus for most of the race he had to be radioed when to use DRS which made his race a bit difficult. Over to Sutil, he finished a t P13 behind Hamilton with whom he was fighting for the most part towards the end of the race. What was remarkable to see, Sutil climbing after losing so much time in his first pit stop. By rough calculations, he lost about 8 pit stops time (he was on 4 stop strategy) which comes to around 2 minutes 40 seconds which in F1 is a lot in a tight race. Also he clocked the third fastest time of the race on lap 38 when the car has a lot of fuel on board. I must add that most of the fastest lap was set in lap 50’s of the race, think you can guess how good he was. It was mighty by Sutil and it also shows how good the VJM06 is. Surely, he would have scored some good chunk of points.
The race wasn’t the best one, I’ll agree on that but it did give us some nice battles in the end. Kimi moves closer to Vettel in the DC. While on CC, Ferrari takes the P2 again from Lotus as RBR stands on top nicely. SFI continuing to stay ahead of McLaren in P5, the gap is only 3 points but it might have been a lot bigger if the team had clean races for both the drivers. VJMO6 is quick and good on tyres and consistent as well, we can surely expect a nice battle with McLaren throughout the season. Untill Monaco, be safe.
Thanks for reading,