Photo: Sky Sports
Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) came into the race weekend with momentum, having won two of the three previous races. But in order to take the top step on the podium again he was going to have to overcome recent history at Circuit de Catalunya, where the last 12 race winners have come from the front row of the field. Mercedes locked down positions 1 and 2 (Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton respectively), the second time the manufacturer has done so since its return in 2010. Vettel started in P3, with Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) next to him.
A Vettel victory was also going to require beating Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), winner of the race between the German's two victories, in his home race. Vettel took Hamilton for P2 on the start, with Alonso moving from P5 to pass the Mercedes on Turn 3 for P3 in his home Grand Prix. Mark Webber (Red Bull) pitted from P10 on Lap 8 (of 66), the first car to make a stop. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) followed suit one lap later, switching to the softer tire.
Alonso pitted from P3 on Lap 10. Both Rosberg and Vettel pitted one lap later, with Alonso passing the Red Bull at pit exit. Alonso passed Rosberg on track to take the lead on Lap 13, with Vettel taking P2 from the German later on the same lap and Raikkonen P3 on Lap 15. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) ran fourth.
Alonso pitted from the lead on Lap 22 and took another set of hard tires, Massa having pitted the lap previous after complaining of tire wear. Vettel, who assumed the lead on Alonso’s stop, pitted on Lap 25. The Top 3 following Vettel’s stop stood as Raikkonen, Alonso, and Massa, with Vettel having returned to fourth and Rosberg running fifth.
When Raikkonen pitted, the two Ferraris were left 1-2; Alonso leading Massa by 8.1 sec and Vettel by 16. Raikkonen tried taking P3 from Vettel on Lap 33, the two cars joining tires briefly before Raikkonen made it stick on the main straight. Raikkonen took the lead on Lap 37 when the two Ferraris pitted, with Vettel splitting them to take P3.
Alonso passed Riakkonen on track for the lead on Lap 39. Vettel pitted one lap later, falling to P4 behind Massa. Raikkonen pitted from P2 on Lap 46, putting on his first set of hard compound tires and returning to track ahead of Vettel and behind Massa. Alonso pitted from a 20 sec lead on Lap 50, his last scheduled stop of the race. He returned to the course ahead of Massa, who himself was getting reeled in by Raikkonen.
Massa pitted from P2 and Vettel from P4 on Lap 52, both putting on the harder compound tires. It was both driver’s fourth stop, versus three for Raikkonen. They returned to track in the same order. At the finish it remained Alonso for the home win (his second), Raikkonen, Massa, Vettel, and Webber, with Raikkonen cutting Vettel’s lead in the championship to 4 points in the process. The win moved Alonso into third, 13 points behind Kimi, with that and Massa’s P3 leap-frogging Ferrari over Lotus for second in the manufacturer’s standings.
Driver standings - Top 10
89- Sebastian Vettel (Germany) - RBR-Renault
85 – Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) – Lotus-Renault
72 - Fernando Alonso (Spain) – Ferrari
50 - Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain) – Mercedes
45 – Felipe Massa (Brazil) - Ferrari
42 - Mark Webber (Australia) - RBR-Renault
26 – Romain Grosjean (France) – Lotus-Renault
26 – Paul di Resta (Scotland) – Force India-Mercedes
22 - Nico Rosberg (Germany) – Mercedes
17 - Jenson Button (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
Constructor standings - Teams scoring points
131 - RBR-Renault - Vettel, Webber
117 – Ferrari – Massa, Alonso
111 - Lotus-Renault – Raikkonen, Grosjean
72 – Mercedes – Hamilton, Rosberg
32 – Force India-Mercedes – Adrian Sutil, di Resta
29 – McLaren-Mercedes – Button, Sergio Perez
8 – STR-Ferrari – Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne
5 – Sauber-Ferrari – Nico Hulkenberg, Estaban Gutierrez
Next event: Grand Prix de Monaco – May 24-26, 2013