Mark Webber won the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona today, crushing the opposition in a Red Bull car they had described all weekend as ‘untouchable.”
It is his third Grand Prix win and was one of those weekends where no-one could get near him either in qualifying or the race.
It was the 10th time in a row this race has been won from pole position and Webber is the fourth different winner in five races this season.
But it wasn’t a perfect day for Red Bull as Sebastian Vettel’s race was compromised by losing a place to Lewis Hamilton at the first stop and then late in the race going off track and being forced to make an unscheduled stop for tyres. He also had brake problems, with the team asking him to come in and retire the car at one point, but he kept going to finish third. But the problem reminds the team that although they have an unbeatable car, it is also a fragile one.
The unscheduled tyre stop promoted Fernando Alonso to the podium. The Spaniard was running third behind Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren, but then on the final lap the left front tyre exploded on the McLaren, sending him hard into the barriers. All runners were marginal on tyre wear, asking the hard tyres to do over 50 laps.
“It’s a very special day for me, unfortunately I can’t get too drunk tonight because I’ve got to be back at work on Wednesday,” said Webber. “It was my day today. Is started on the pole and controlled the race. It was nice to throw my helmet into the crowd because they don’t always get the best treatment in F1.”
Webber held on to the lead at the start, despite a serious attempt by Vettel to pass. Meanwhile Hamilton, starting 3rd, resisted Alonso, who had the better initial getaway.
Further back Jaime Alguersuari took advantage of the confusion around Pedro de la Rosa’s Sauber as it punctured a tyre, to leap from 16th to 9th. Rubens Barichello followed him through and went from 18th to 12th. Alguersuari later blotted his copybook when he was given a drive through penalty for chopping the nose cone off the HRT car of Karun Chandhok. He recovered from that to finish 10th.
Rosberg dropped from 8th to 11th at the start and later lost more ground with a messy first pit stop, while Massa gained two places from 9th to 7th. He damaged his front wing in the middle stint on a slow moving Chandhok in the HRT car.
Webber controlled the pace in the first stint, opening up a gap over Vettel while Hamilton shadowed the second Red Bull. Alonso struggled to stay with the McLaren and was 3.4 secs behind after 10 laps.
At the first round of pit stops, where everyone switched to the hard tyre, Schumacher jumped Button for fifth place, largely thanks to the Mercedes mechanics doing his tyre change in 3.8 seconds.
The hard tyres lasted remarkably well with over 50 laps covered on most cars. Rosberg, who started the day in second place in the championship, made a second stop and switched back to soft tyres for the final third of the race. But he lost track position and got into a battle with Hulkenberg, whom he passed for P15 on lap 51.
There was one dramatic moment on lap 18 when Hamilton exited the pits straight into a fight with Vettel. There was a Virgin car on the apex of Turn 1 and as the pair went around it, Vettel was pushed wide and drove off the circuit. He rejoined behind Hamilton in third place. So one McLaren gained a place, one lost a place.
Button attacked Schumacher for lap after lap but the 41 year old fought him off. Button was losing two seconds per lap behind the Mercedes compared to team mate Hamilton’s pace. They finished fourth and fifth.
Webber was able to attack again on the hard tyre in the middle and opened up a 10 second lead over Hamilton, often as much as 7/10ths of a second a lap faster.
Vettel radioed in around two thirds distance to say that his front wing adjuster was stuck, which was hurting his ability to manage the tyres. On lap 54 he went off track across the gravel and was forced to make a stop for new tyres, which promoted Alonso to the podium.
Adrian Sutil gained places at the first stop to take 7th place and more points for a consistent Force India team. He finished ahead of Robert Kubica and Rubens Barrichello.
There were some big gaps showing the relative performance of the cars. Before the run in to the flag, the Red Bull was 22 seconds ahead of the Ferrari and the Mercedes was a minute off, showing that their advantage is not just in qualifying trim.
It wasn’t a classic Grand Prix, with little incident beyond the Vettel/Hamilton confrontation and Alguersuari hitting Chandhok, we had the Button/Schumacher battle to sustain us, but it wasn’t a gripper.
It was a bit like staying in a bar all night with only a half of shandy for company.
SPANISH GRAND PRIX -BARCELONA, 66 Laps
1. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1h35:44.101
2. Alonso Ferrari + 24.065
3. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 51.338
4. Schumacher Mercedes + 1:02.195
5. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 1:03.728
6. Massa Ferrari + 1:05.767
7. Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 1:12.941
8. Kubica Renault + 1:13.677
9. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth + 1 lap
10. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
11. Petrov Renault + 1 lap
12. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap
13. Rosberg Mercedes + 1 lap
14. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 2 laps
15. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes + 2 laps
16. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth + 2 laps
17. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth + 3 laps
18. Glock Virgin-Cosworth + 3 laps
19. Di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth + 4 laps