Fernando Alonso scored his second victory of the 2013 Formula 1 season with a win at his native Spanish Grand Prix.
Alonso led the charge en route to a double podium for Scuderia Ferrari with his teammate Felipe Massa finishing the day in P3. Alonso worked his way past Kimi Raikkonen and then Lewis Hamilton prior to his first pit stop on lap nine. The Ferraris were the first of the leaders to switch over to the hard compound from the medium due to their early pits. Those early stops also allowed Alonso to slide in front of current driver’s points leader Sebastian Vettel.
Once Alonso was in front of Vettel he made his way past pole qualifier Nico Rosberg and then took the lead when Esteban Gutierrez pitted. It was smooth sailing from then on out for the Spaniard as he cruised to victory.
Raikkonen would finish in second, giving him three P2 finishes on the year and narrowing the point gap between him and Vettel to just 4 points. Alonso moved up into third in the points with the win.
The Spanish Grand Prix was more of the same for Lotus F1 Team as Kimi’s successful day was paired with a disappointing result for his teammate Romain Grosjean who retired early on due to a rear suspension issue.
Ferrari looks to be back on track with the P1 and P3 pairing in Barcelona. Massa was able to battle up from a P9 start, which was a result of a three-place grid penalty for impeding Mark Webber during qualification. You can’t ignore the fact, however, that had Alonso not had a DNF in Malaysia he would likely be ahead of Raikkonen in the championship points. Ferrari will need to keep providing him with good cars if they want to surpass the Iceman and his speedy E21.
Raikkonen was the only legitimate threat to Alonso once he gained the lead. The two former champions had near dead-even lap times for several circuits and at one point Kimi was faster. In the end though Alonso rode a 9.3 second gap to victory and Raikkonen enjoyed a 16.7 second lead over Massa.
Red Bull Racing settled for a P4 and P5 finishes from Vettel and Webber respectively. This is the first race of the season where RBR didn’t have an answer for their competitor’s speed. With a weekend off to work before the Monaco Grand Prix Red Bull has time to find a response.
Mercedes AMG failed to deliver yet again after a very promising qualifying performance that had them occupying the front row. Rosberg would finish P6 on the strength of a three-stop strategy. Hamilton faired nowhere near as well as he plummeted down the running order from the start. He was down to fourth after the first lap and his four-stop plan didn’t pan out. The Brit was lucky to hold on for a P12 finish.
Paul di Resta once again had a strong showing for Force India as he ended the race in seventh ahead of the McLaren cars. Jenson Button and Sergio Perez finished P8 and P9 respectively and were the final two drivers on the lead lap when it was all said and done.
Ferrari looks like the most solid team after five races and Alonso is certainly making a strong case for being the driver to beat. That said, Raikkonen is on fire and if Lotus has solved their qualifying pace problem and can keep giving Kimi cars that can churn out podium finishes then the Iceman is still my choice for championship favorite at this point. Converting podiums into wins and maintaining good qual pace should be Lotus’ focus. Vettel can never be ruled out either, especially since RBR has a habit of getting better and better as the season progresses. Hamilton is in danger of falling too far back to challenge if Mercedes doesn’t find solutions in a hurry.
The season is still young, but right now it looks like the top three drivers of 2012 are still the top three in 2013.
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