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Spanish Grand Prix – Who was your Driver of the Day?
Spanish Grand Prix – Who was your Driver of the Day?
Posted By: James Allen  |  22 May 2011   |  7:04 pm GMT  |  144 comments

An action packed race in Spain means there are plenty of contenders for Driver of the Day, but who do you think deserves the accolade?

Sebastian Vettel
Saw his run of five consecutive pole positions come to an end when teammate Webber pipped him by 2/10ths in qualifying. Jumped the Australian at the start but lost the lead to a fast starting Alonso. But a superior strategy got him ahead of race leader Alonso at the second stops. Despite no KERS he held off a late charge from Hamilton to secure his fourth victory in five races this season.

Lewis Hamilton
Started third but lost out to Alonso at the start. Couldn’t get past Webber so McLaren decided to try a different strategy which saw Hamilton stay out until lap 22 while Alonso and Webber pitted. It proved inspired as the Brit got past them both to run second. Pulled away with Vettel in front and got very close to the German in the closing laps but Vettel was able to hold on.

Fernando Alonso
Delighted the home crowd when he accelerated from fourth to first at the start. Led the first two stints of the race as the Ferrari had a great exit out of the final corner and into the straight, preventing the chasing pack from utilising their DRS. Lost out on strategy and then struggled badly with lack of grip on the hard tyres and faded in the final part of the race, eventually finishing one lap down in fifth.

Jenson Button
Had a terrible start, dropping from fifth to 10th on the first lap. But while his rivals went for a four-stop strategy, Button gambled on just three-stops and this time he was able to build enough of a cushion so it paid off. He was able to utilise the soft tyres for longer and managed to pass both Webber and Alonso who were struggling for pace on the hards. That lifted him up into third place – his second podium of the season.

Michael Schumacher
Didn’t use a set of soft tyres in Q3 and started 10th. Made a lightening start, leapfrogging Button, Rosberg, Massa and Maldonado to run sixth. Mercedes race pace was well short of McLaren and Red Bull. Struggled to keep up with the leaders and was passed by Button. However, he leapt ahead of Petrov and managed to hold off teammate Rosberg to finish sixth and score his best result of the season.

Nick Heidfeld
Didn’t set a time in qualifying because of a car fire earlier in the day and started the race dead last. A reverse strategy, starting on hard tyres and then running softs plus the advantage of all new sets of tyres he saved from qualifying allowed him to cut through the field. He caught the two Mercedes drivers in the closing stages before settling for eighth place – three places higher than teammate Petrov who started sixth.

Sergio Perez
Had a strong qualifying session to finish 12th fastest, two spots ahead of his more experienced teammate Kobayashi. Made a clean getaway and showed good race pace to finish ninth, one place ahead of his teammate, and score his first points finish in Formula 1.

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

I can’t believe people are really giving proper credit for Vettel’s overtake on brand new tyres against cars with trashed tyres!

And attacking is easier than defending? Sheesh some people have never raced before.

It’s very easy to block and make your car as wide as possible. Attacking/overtaking is far more difficult hence the special auroa that surrounds it.

And as DC said the only reason Hamilton could not overtake is because McLaren set his 7th gear ratio too short and was hitting the limiter.


Alonso – because it extracted the best from the poor package, and from the lack of soft tires. The hard compound was very bad.



Apologies for writing again, but a new question came to my mind:

Do Renault and Red Bull run the same engine maps? Is their throttle working the same way?

I understand that the way it works is by timing the fuel injection too late (after the spark), so it is not burned in the cylinder, but in the exhaust, due to heat contact. Could the more “extreme” system (assuming its Renault and Red Bull) mean that far too much fuel is now being burnt in the exhaust?

Could this have led to the fire in Nick Hiedfeld’s car on Saturday? Obviously, not being on the throttle, he was on the “overrun” at the time.


There really is no choice other than Vettel.

Button really doesn’t deserve a mention. He had what was undoubtedly a much fastest car than Vettel’s, but finished way behind.


Faster on hard tyres on similar strategies. He’s getting a mention for his recovery drive and being able to make a 3-stopper work, just as Alonso gets one for his start despite getting lapped.


When you consider that only four cars finished on the same lap as the leaders, it is clear that there is nothing particularly remarkable about his “recovery drive”.


What was maximum distance for used softs on the last stint? Hamilton’s pace on his first set of hards seemed decent I was wondering whether he could of stretched it out a few more laps and gone onto softs for 15-laps or so.


He had already used all his softs. Remember, 4 stops means 5 stints. He might have been able to stretch it a little so that his second set of hards would have been fresher in the closing laps of the race, though.


What happened to Webber? He was way off the mark!

I voted for Vettel because of his determined overtakes and drive. He did keep his cool to a great Hamilton (who also drove a stellar race).

Good to see Michael and Alonso up there. Unfortunately they were not in a wheel to wheel battle.


That picture of Seb looks like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

I voted for him, so I’m safe. I think…

Douglas Jefferson

James, how is it that Red Bull is so superior to McLaren (and everyone else) in qualifying, but in the last few laps of the race, which most simulates qualifying, McLaren is able to hold their own? With the cars being in parc ferme after qualifying the teams should not be able to adjust them for the race.


RedBull are able to use the DRS throughout the qualifying lap. They have tuned their car for maximum speed during qualifying and it has worked very well for them thus far.

McLaren aren’t able to use DRS as much during qualifying, but come race day they are closing the gap to RBR.

I would say that in 1 or 2 races the RBR will continue to sit on pole, but McLaren will probably be faster during the race. Only time will tell if they will be fast enough to get more wins.

David Hamilton

BTW, James: I think you’re incorrect to say that Heidfeld ‘settled’ for eighth place.

Nick started their last lap about 2.5 seconds behind Rosberg and had been closing at just under 3 seconds per lap for the previous 5 laps. At the line he was only 0.4 of a second behind Nico and 1.3 behind Michael.

Had they not all been lapped (and so didn’t have to do the full 66 laps), it is certain that Nick would have overtaken Nico at least, and been all over Michael before the end of the lap.

The only ‘settling’ involved was down to the lack of a straight between Nick catching Nico and the chequered flag!

Steven Pritchard

Would I be right in thinking the Redbull can leave their DRS wing open in places (i.e. corners) other teams dare not in qualify, because of their incredible downforce?

But of course in the race, DRS is not available to use all of the time, so this levels the playing field.

Star of the race? Vettel. Made some authoritative passes when he needed to, placed his car perfectly at the end of the start finish stright (not all about red bull being better in faster corners you know). Winning a bad race is a sign of quality (and this coming from me who is not Vettel’s biggest fan).


I imagine that as McLaren and (hopefully) Ferrari close the gap to RedBull that this difference in strategy will begin to pay MacLaren and Ferrari dividends.

RBR seem to have gone for a higher overall downforce package. Once MacLaren and Ferrari get their top speed back, the new DRS and KERS combination may swing things away from RBR come race day. Of course, they only need to tweak their setup a bit to increase their overall speed, at the cost of high speed cornering and in turn their ability to secure pole position.

As the development war continues I think we are going to see some interesting races!


In quali Seb had the wing open before and during the final turn – I didn’t see anyone else doing this; not even Webber in the other Bull. [Although if someone else saw something different, I’m happy to be wrong]


Yes that is correct


Question: would anyone would be happy for Hamilton to have won this race on account of the DRS?

The DRS had very little bearing on the outcome of yesterday’s race and, yet, we saw some pretty good racing with plenty of overtakes. Even Mr Brundle has now started questioning the benefit of anything other than the rapidly-degrading tyres, on air.

However, had it been working better, it would have most likely allowed Hamilton to pass Vettel for the win.

P.S. I voted for Vettel – he had to overtake several cars and he did so quickly and in supreme style.

P.P.S. Why did Schumacher choose to not run in Q3 in order to preserve tyres, if he had no intention of using new options late in the race (where they would have offered the greatest potential)?

P.P.P.S I can’t wait for James’ strategy review later in the week.


James what is it with you and praising alonso all the time?! There was a driver who in the 90’s started 7th was up to 2nd at the 1st lap and struggled with grip too! that does not deserve a “driver of the day”

just calm down!


I praise any driver who does well, whether it be Alonso, Vettel Kobayashi or Di Resta.


I voted for Alonso out of prejudice in the pole.

But out of fairness it has to be V E T T E L.

Who says he cant overtake when he’s not at the front. And he held Hamilton at bay with his damaged KERS.


Would love to say that Driver Of The Day was Webber as he overcame an apparent “Just Follow Him And We’ll See What Happens” strategy on a track where overtaking was difficult to finish not far from the podium but that would be silly….

James : Do journalists get any access to the “Strategy Men” to ask “Why did you do that to him?” (or similar)? Similarly, do you know how much “input” drivers have into such strategies during the race itself ?


Certainly. I have a lot of access for the UBS Strategy Report I do post race. Drivers have input, but with these tyres it’s as much about reacting as anything else.


I still can’t my head around a lot of the front-runners going soft-soft-hard-hard; I was convinced they’d go back to the softs for their final stints!?!?


Because of durability. To go with softs would mean an extra stop, a fifth!


I wonder whether going Soft-Soft-Hard-Hard and then Soft for the last few laps, would of been better, for say Hamilton?


Hi James,

Teams didn’t have enough sets for a fifth stop to go back to softs: soft (at start), soft (pit 1), soft (pit 2), hard (pit 3), hard (pit 4) was the only real option.

To have a further pitstop would have meant another set of hards and the benefit in laptime would have been far too low to get away with the 19 seconds or so for the tyre change.

Teams have 3 sets of option (soft) and primes (hard) so they could only have run softs if they’d stayed out longer on the hard tyres between stops 3 and 4.


If I’m not mistaken, all the frontrunners who did 4 stops did use all 3 sets of softs, and 2 sets of hards. Likewise, Jenson on a 3 stopper also used all 3 softs, but only one set of hards. I don’t think anybody did 2 sets of each.


Sure James, sure… I’ve been banging on about the durability\degredation of the tyres and this being more important than KERS and DRS etc (although of course these do contribute) to the entertaining Sundays we are seeing, since the start of the season.

To answer my own question, from thinking about it more… 4-stopping means using all 3 three sets of the softs and then 2 lots of the hards… which I had made an oversight on (whoops!).


I voted for Nick Heidfeld after his superb drive through the pack from last place on the grid.

What I find odd is that Mark Webber was voted driver of the race, and had praise heaped on him, for his race from 18th through to 3rd in China. But Nick doesn’t get this appreciation even though his performance in Spain was “better”. By better I mean that the improvement between his starting and finishing positions was one better than Webber’s.

F1 commentators (by this I really mean Marti Brundle) and fans seen to have a weird myopia when it comes to Nick Heidfeld. Is this because he is a nice, self-effacing guy? Is it because he is another German driver? I really don’t understand it. I just hope he delivers a good performance this year and silences more critics.

David Hamilton

Agreed. I did laugh-out-loud at Martin Bundle’s comment on lap 23 that he’d have expected Heidfeld to have been “doing better by now”.

Heidfeld had only just finished a 21 lap stint on the hard tyres, when most around him were on the softs, and had got up to 17th despite that handicap. I can’t see how he could possibly have done better under the circumstances.

I realise that the commentators are trying to look every direction – track, TV and timing screens – but shouldn’t someone in the production team be keeping an eye on the big picture and making sure our ‘dynamic duo’ are properly informed?


Good to see the +ve comments on Koby’s race (basically he did a 2 stopper from his 1st lap puncture) but I wonder if Sauber actually underperformed this GP. The Saubers’ put in pretty decent fastest lap times. If they had qualified into Q3 I think they could have mixed it with Alonso, Schumi and Rosberg for 5th or sixth. So I think Koby should have had the race that Alonso had.

Alonso was mega in quali and off the line but he has to be seriously worried about the hard tyre pace of the Ferrari.

Vettel probably just takes driver honors; Schumi should be happy with his performance too.

David Hamilton

For the life of me I cannot understand why Schumacher is in your list, especially when excluding Kobayashi.

What did he actually do? He got a good start and then trundled round for 65 laps making sure he wasn’t overtaken. Which was helped by the fact that Rosberg was handicapped by a defective DRS and broken radio.

I suppose the big news was that it wasn’t a catastrophically bad race for him, unlike some that he’s had since his return.

I’ve been following F1 for long enough to remember how exciting Michael was when he burst onto the scene. That now seems a very long time ago…


It’s a shame that the McLaren/Brit bias needs to come up again!


Anybody else felt like the tv race director had a bad day at the office yesterday?

Great drives from Kobayashi and Nick heidfeld (who I voted for as driver of the day).

Lewis is absolutely on form at the moment, and looks like the only one who can stop seb (pending a big improvement).

I am looking forward to Monaco immensely. Especially as Pastor Maldonado is a bit of a specialist round there too. Will be interesting to see what happens on the retardation issue, as Williams are one of the quicker cars without that technology.


It definitely should be Vettel. The passes on Button and Massa were key to the race win. Managed Hamilton at the end as well. Lewis drove a great race too and kept Vettel on his toes. I’m beginning to think it’s a two horse race already.

Great start from Alonso probably one of the best starts in the last few years. Schumacher also had another amazing start gaining 4 places. He must have gained the most this year from his starts.

Webber is gone I’m afraid. Finally pipped Vettel to pole and blew it. He’s just not fast enough this season and it looks like he’s now a solid number 2. Hopefully he can turn it around but I dont see it.


I think it’s 50/50 between Hamilton and Vettel, both drove superbly and i didn’t notice any mistakes from either of them. Both managed the undercut really well to get them out in front albeit slightly differently, Vettel in clearing the traffic fast and aggressively and Hamilton for driving consistently fast whilst looking after his tyres well enough to pump out faster lap times at the end of his stints then the guys on fresh tyres. In the end though i feel the only way Hamilton was getting past Vettel on this circuit is if Vettel had made a mistake on the final corner, whilst there seemed to be plenty of overtaking for a change here it appeared to be down to the difference’s in tyre phases and i cant remember many overtakes by cars on comparable strategy’s and most of the position changes at the front occurred during the pit stops, but Vettel kept his cool under intense pressure and never made that mistake. he also gets a plus for managing the balance issues he must have got from his KERS cutting in and out, but so does Hamilton for pushing the downforce beast at the most downforce dependent track.

To tough to call this one!!


There is a lot of argument about who had the fastest car between Seb and Lewis. The answer is simple. They both did!

Lewis was faster in the low speed and that allowed him to catch Seb. But Seb was faster where it matteted, in the high speed. The only real place to overtake when there isn’t a tyre differential is turn one off the start finish straight. But the high speed corner onto the straight was Red Bull territory. Lewis didn’t have the downnforce to stay close enough.

On another circuit I’m sure Lewis would have had a better chance at a pass.

They both drove very well, no mistakes and pushing to the last corner. But it’s the circuit that played it’s part here. Let’s not forget that.


You could easily imagine a scenario where Vettel wins 12 or 14 races this year and never gets Driver of the Day. Sports fans love underdogs, and hate people who make it look easy. The good news is Vettel’s success is attenuating all the Hamilton hatred which was around in 08/09. Furthermore, people don’t actually hate Vettel, they just try to ignore him or minimize his results, so it’s a win win. Hopefully Vettel won’t mind if he never gets driver of the day and has to settle for measly old World Champion instead.

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