Spanish GP review: Vettel powers on

Posted by topgear at 08:24 am on Sunday August 19, 2012

Sebastian Vettel made it four wins from five yesterday, as flawless driving and a slick strategy saw him deny his rivals once again.

Vettel got the jump on teammate and pole-sitter Mark Webber right at the start, but it was Fernando Alonso who took the early advantage – he skipped past both the Red Bulls and old chum Lewis Hamilton at the first corner, and lead the race in front of his home crowd until the first round of pit-stops.

It was a fairly sedate race by 2011′s standards, with pit-stop strategies going a long way to determining the top three. Jenson Button was put on a three-stopper following a horrendous start that left him languishing in tenth – a move which gave him the grip he needed to claw his way back to the sharp end and take the final step on the podium, just behind Hamilton. Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso finished in a disappointing 4th and 5th.

Further down the field, though, a much more interesting story was being told. Nick Heidfeld finished in 8th position having started right at the back of the grid, while Michael Schumacher, who started 10th, rolled home in a season’s best sixth. Both men started the race with tyres to spare having only been minor players in qualifying (Heidfeld failed to clock a time after his Renault caught fire in practice, Schumacher chose to sit out Q3) and though their feat doesn’t quite equal that of Mark Webber in China last month (when he started 18th and finished 3rd) it begs the question – has qualifying become irrelevant?

Certainly the Spanish GP seems to have marked the arrival of a new weekend-long strategy, one that ranks an extra set soft racing tyres as a bigger advantage than a strong grid position. Now that a disastrous Saturday no longer means a disastrous Sunday, it seems feasible that qualifying could become a more tactical affair, with top teams happy just to scrape into Q3 and battle their way up from mid-field.

It’s unlikely we’ll see the trend develop in Monaco next week where – DRS or not – passing is nigh-on impossible, but once we get to Canada we’d expect to see drivers pushing less on a Saturday in favour of duking it out on a Sunday. Either way, Sebastian Vettel, who goes into the second quarter of the season with a staggering 41 point lead, is looking pretty unstoppable, so maybe we just ought to be grateful for a little bit of action while the world champion shows everyone how it’s done.

So what do you reckon – has qualifying become less important? And is that good or bad for the sport? Would you rather see the fastest men at the front of the grid or does the arrival of the weekend-long strategy stand to spice things up?

Here’s how they finished:

1. Sebastian Vettel
2. Lewis Hamilton
3. Jenson Button
4. Mark Webber
5. Fernando Alonso
6. Michael Schumacher
7. Nico Rosberg
8. Nick Heidfeld
9. Sergio Perez
10. Kamui Kobayashi
11. Vitaly Petrov
12. Paul di Resta
13. Adrian Sutil
14. Sebastien Buemi
15. Pastor Maldonado
16. Jaime Alguersuari
17. Rubens Barrichello
18. Jarno Trulli
19.  Timo Glock
20. Jerome d’Ambrosio
21. Narain Karthikeyan
22. Felipe Massa (DNF)
23. Heikki Kovalainen (DNF)
24. Vitantonio Liuzzi (DNF)


TAGS// f1, formula one, spanish gp

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