15/05/2012

Spanish GP, Catalunya- A firey end to a fairytale weekend


No one was really expecting this kind of end to a fantastic race weekend. It was a fairytale weekend for Williams after starting off well in practice to getting a pole in qualifying after Hamilton’s DQ and then go on to win the race but it became a bit of anti-climax as their garage caught fire post team photo and few team members got injured. Anyways, it was yet another dramatic race in the season and we have a new winner in the name of Maldonado, his first win with Alonso coming in at P2 and Kimi at P3.

The full review of the weekend below:


Practice Sessions, FP1:


Finally, we got some action rolling after another 3 week break. There was Mugello in between but it hardly gave me any thrill. It was the start of European leg with Spanish GP and many would have hoped to see the teams settling in and the order of teams setting in as well but not yet. The weather was sunny and hot and it was all dry condition for the teams to work upon the Mugello updates. FP1 did gave us a surprise as Alonso topped the session with Vettel at P2 & Kobayashi at P3. Bianchi got his second run in the Force India car, he sat in place of Di Resta. Hulkenberg ended at P10 while Bianchi at P18 as the team carried on with their Mugello upgrades which included an updated front wing & exhausts. It was good to see that both cars were in Top 3 in top speeds. Karthikeyan didn’t run as Clos ran in his place.



FP2:


The teams carried on from the first session as they went for long runs. There was some serious runs going on as we could see from the number of laps run. Button brought McLaren to the top as he ended at P1 with Vettel at P2 and Rosberg at P3. Di Resta was back in the SFI car as he finished at P15 while Hulkenberg finished at P10. The team were reasonably OK with their performance after the day. Karthikeyan was back in the car but not for long as his car suffered problems in his time lap and thus his session ended there.



FP3:


Qualifying day as teams prepared themselves for one-lap performance and get into Q3. That’s why we saw that teams ran comparatively less number of laps than what they did in FP2. Vettel topped the time sheets after having a consistent run and then came a surprise entry of Maldonado at P2 & Kobayashi at P3. SFI duo were down in the list as Hulkenberg ended at P12 & Di Resta at P15. It wasn’t looking great for them but few hundred of seconds could change the whole thing. Finally, Karthikeyan got some running and ended P22. He must have been relieved to get those laps.


From the practice times it was hard to suggest as to who exactly was in for a shot at pole. Hamilton was the front runner with Vettel close to him. Anyone & everyone was expecting a Hamilton pole. As for SFI, I was optimistic of a Q3 for at least one driver because the qualifying pace wasn’t looking that good. And for Karthikeyan, qualifying under 107% rule was surely on after he got some run in FP3.



Qualifying, Q1:


At the start of the day or qualifying, no one would have guessed the results really. All were counting on few but as always in this season the result was unexpected. Anyways, I start of with Q1 which saw Hamilton ending at P1 with Grosjean at P2 & Alonso at P3. Both the SFI duo made it comfortably to Q2. Senna with a spin in the end ended his chances of making it to Q2. As always Caterham, Marussia & HRT did not make it ahead. But Karthikeyan did not lap a time under the 107% time and was a doubtful starter until the FIA allowed him to start seeing his FP3 time.



Q2:


This session was very crucial for the top teams as slight slip up will push them down and out of Q3. And that’s what happened with Button, Webber & Massa in Q2 as shockingly they bowed out of Q2 after late charge from the mid field guys pushing them down. Surprisingly, Maldonado ended at P1 with Hamliton at P2 & Gorsjean at P3. Bothe the SFI drivers went out in Q2 as few hundred of seconds pushed them down. Di Resta qualified at P13 (started at P12) & Hulkenberg at P14 (started at P13). Interestingly, they were starting just behind Button & Webber. Both did a good lap but the others got slightly ahead and pushed them.



Q3:


What happened in Q3 was simply out of the box, no one had predicted the results on Saturday morning. Yes, Maldonado got his maiden pole of his career and Williams got their first since Brazil 2010. The pole 

didn’t come directly but via DQ of Hamilton as his car didn’t have enough fuel to come back to pits and thereby was to start from last. Alonso the home hero was to start at P2 while Grosjean at P3. Who could have predicted this line-up, anyone? Also, at the back Vettel & Schumacher both didn’t set any time. Unusual to see big teams going for tyre saving strategy.

Another amazing qualifying we witnessed in a truly unpredictable season. Congrats to Maldonando as he did a great job there, he looked good since morning while Alonso put up another strong effort to start at P2 and Lotus continued their good form. I think SFI were a bit unlucky to miss out but as they said they just didn’t had enough extra seconds to book a Q3 place. Anyways, starting from P12 and P13 was a good sign to get a double point finish. Karthikeyan was allowed to race and perhaps his goal was to finish the race for sure.



Raceday:


Finally, the raceday which we were waiting for since Bahrain race end. All the previews stated that start of European season, a settled line-up but qualifying showed how settled it was. All eyes were on Maldonado starting alongside Alonso, a tough guy to keep up with given any car. We were in for some interesting battles as the field was pretty much spread out. So, it begun and as expected Alonso took the race lead after T1 while Kimi came up behind Maldonado fighting off his team mate Grosjean. Behind them not much changed as only few places inter-changed. Hamilton starting from behind gained few places to be at P17 and attack the STR’s. Force India guys had a good start but then a touch with Webber’s car pushed them behind the RBR car but ahead of the STR’s. Perez was biggest loser in the end as he suffered a puncture.


 Pit stops & tyres were important in the race as teams wanted to maximise their stints on some tyres more so as to have an advantage. Alonso led the race comfortably as Maldonado tried to put up a fight while Kimi was a bit behind. Behind all the top battle, we had Red Bulls & McLaren’s somewhat struggling to match up. Hmailton did make a good positions but his pace just wasn’t enough to push for more. And then there was an accident when Schumacher hit at the back of Senna as both retired and just after that Vettel & Massa received a drive-through penalty for ignoring yellow flags. Meanwhile, Kobabyashi was putting up some amazing laps pushing the Suaber in Top 5 passing Rosberg. At the back Karthikeyan had to retire after his pit stop due to mechanical problems. While Caterham, Marussia & remaining HRT were doing a decent job.


Coming to Sahara Force India, both had a mixed start but were strongly poised to score points. Both the drivers were running in and around points in the middle stint with the hard tyres on. Di Resta had some battles with Vergne and it continued for a while but Vergne having a slightly better pace got better of Di Resta. Hulkenberg was behind at the start but a slightly better strategy on the pit stops got him ahead of his team mate and quite few other of the rivals.  They were hanging in there but among the biggies towards the end as Hulkenberg was fighting with Webber for most part of the race for the final point while Di Resta was keeping Massa behind and catch Ricciardo.


Maldonado won the pit stop battle and got the track position on his final pit stop to get the P1 position and then he kept Alonso at bay for the end stint professionally to win his maiden career win and a win for his team Williams, their first win since 2004 Brazilian GP. Alonso once again drove a fantastic race to end at P2, in that slow Ferrari. But was this a Ferrari resurgence? I am not convinced yet though. Towards the end Kimi just gave a scare to all with some great laps as he came to just 3 seconds of Alonso when he was about 20 seconds off from him. Not having enough laps, he finished at P3. Behind them Kobayashi & Vettel made 2-3 positions to finish at P5 & P6 respectively. For Force India, Hulkenberg managed to keep Webber at bay and finish at P10 to clinch the final championship points, I must say Hulk did an awesome job to keep that Red Bull car behind for so long. Di Resta ended at P13 as he came ahead of Massa after they fought for the position. Once again an impressive pit stops times as they were in the Top 5 of best times.


It was yet another spectacle on the track as Catalunya is not known as a track where lots of overtaking can happen but such is this season that we saw some great moves with & without DRS. Maldanodo & Williams surprised everybody while a disappointing race for favourites Red Bull, McLaren & Mercedes. Force India had a mixed race but they can be happy with their pace, little more luck and some improvements can see them having a podium finish. I have to mention about the incident post race which was terrible. After Williams finished off with their photo session, a fire broke out in the garage and it was a massive one but it was so heartening to see that all the team’s mechanics rushed in to help immediately, some got injured but all are out of danger. Anyways, next race is the Monaco GP, one race which no one wants to miss with the on-track & off-track actions. Till now the 5 races has been absolutely amazing, it will be an interesting in Monaco with such tight field. Adios, catch you guys after Monaco!!


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