Pastor Maldonado put on a faultless drive to win his maiden GP in Spain as he ended William's win drought of 8 years. Apart from Maldonado, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Kobayashi also performed well at the Circuit du Catalunya. So, here we analyse the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton put on a storming lap in qualifying to take pole position by over half a second but was forced to start from the back of the grid following the penalty given to him by the stewards. The McLaren didn't have enough fuel in his car to return to the pits following his pole lap and he was forced to stop on the track, though he did provide the 1 litre sample fuel to FIA. This meant that Pastor Maldonado was on pole position for the first time in his F1 career, and the first time a Williams was on pole since Brazil 2010.
Fernando Alonso was positioned 2nd on the grid followed by the Lotus' of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen, Sauber of Sergio Perez, and Mercedes of Nico Rosberg. Vettel, Schumacher and Kobayashi didn't set any laptime in Q3 were positioned as 7th, 8th and 9th respectively. Jenson Button and Mark Webber failed to make it into Q3 after being unsatisfied with their car. They both gained 1 place following Hamilton's penalty and they started the race from 10th and 11th place respectively. Senna even failed to make the cut into Q2 after spinning out his car on a flying lap on soft tyres.
Fernando Alonso got a great start and went side by side of Maldonado before using the inside line to overtake the Venezuelan. Behind these two, Grosjean lost ground on Raikkonen and Rosberg and made contact with Perez puncturing his tyre. This ruined his race and he was forced to make a pit stop at the end of lap 1. Further back, Jenson Button gained two places at the start while Webber lost two. He then put pressure on Massa who gained 4 places at the start after starting the race from lowly 16th place. Hamilton also made a great start to gain four places on lap 1.
As the ran went ahead, Alonso retained a two second lead over Maldonado as the two moved away from rest of the field. In the meantime, Hamilton's charge continued and he was running in 13th place on lap 9.
First round of pit stops
The first round of pit stops started with Webber pitting on lap 6 followed by his team mate on lap 7. 3 laps later, Alonso made his first scheduled stop switching to hard tyres. Maldonado and Raikkonen followed a lap later. Most pit stops were completed between lap 9-11 but Hamilton pitted on lap 14 hinting a possible two stop strategy. McLaren again got the pitstop wrong, this time Hamilton ran over a wheel nut which his team didn't remove from pit box.
On lap 11, Grosjean made contact with Senna trying to overtake the Brazilian who was yet to make his first stop. The following lap, Schumacher ran into Grosjean's rear forcing both of them to retire. Schumacher came close to him at turn 1 after using his DRS but didn't expect him to brake so early as both collided. Both blamed each other after the race, however Stewards found Schumacher guilty and punished him with a five place grid penalty for the Monaco Grand Prix.
That put a lot of debris on track, however stewards decided to wave double yellow flags instead of deploying the safety car. Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel were later given drive through penalty for failing to slow during the yellow flag period. Mark Webber damaged his front wing due to the debris and had to make an additional stop for a new nose on lap 17.
Second round of stops
Maldonado tried the undercut during the second round of stops, pitting two laps earlier than Alonso. He put on an excellent out lap followed by another quick lap and was running ahead of Alonso once the formed made his pit stop on lap 26. He then increased the lead to 7 seconds in next 5 laps.
In the meantime, Kobayashi put on a great move on Button on turn 10 to move into 6th place at the end the end of lap 34. Lewis Hamilton made his second and final stop on lap 35 hoping to cover 31 laps on a single set of prime tyres.
Third round of pit stops
Jenson Button was the first one of the top 10 to make his 3rd scheduled stop after suffering from heavy tyre degradation. Pastor Maldonado lost two valuable seconds in his third stop and the gap between him and Alonso decreased once the latter pitted three laps later. Kimi Raikkonen pitted late on lap 48 hoping to push hard at the end of the race.
Maldonado vs Alonso at the end of the race
Alonso was not gonna let Maldonado win at home pushing hard and he pushed hard to chase him in final stint. Maldonado overtook Kimi(yet to stop) on lap 47, while Alonso overtook him in the next lap. Maldonado's lead decreased to less than a second by lap 50 and Alonso was trying to find a way past the former. Maldonado had to use KERS on main straight to prevent Alonso from overtaking him using DRS. This continued lap 58 before Alonso's tyres started to degrade and he had to back off. Maldonado went on to win the race by a margin of 3 seconds over Alonso
Raikkonen's late race charge and mid field battles
Kimi Raikkonen pitted late on lap 48 and set a range of fastest laps as he decreased a massive 20 second lead to Alonso to less than a second. His team mate Romain Grosjean also pushed hard setting the fastest time of the race. Apart from the initial lap 1 drama, his race was largely uneventful. Sebastian Vettel overtook the two McLaren drivers in last 6 laps. He then passed Rosberg who was suffering heavily from tyre degradation on turn 9, a turn usually not used for overtaking. He finished the race in 6th place. Kamui Kobayashi finished ahead of him after overtaking Rosberg on turn 10.
Nico Hulkenberg grabbed the final point after keeping Webber at the back in latter part of the race. Vergne came out ahead of the fourway battle between him, Ricciardo, di Resta and Massa. Di Resta had a tough day as Force India's updates couldn't match the updates of other midfielders. Massa, who was once fighting for points after starting from P16 lost time due to the driver through penalty.
Spain proved out to be another unpredictable race where Maldonado broke William's 8 year winning drought. The two Red Bulls failed to shine suffering from 'lack of general pace' throughout the weekend. Button wasn't happy with his car on Saturday and Sunday, while Hamilton's brilliant qualifying performance went void when he was penalised for failing to return to pits. Despite his best effort trying a two stop strategy, he could only finish 8th. While Alonso led a race long battle with Maldonado for victory, Massa had a tough day and his chances of podium got over when he was given a drive through penalty for failing to slow under yellow flags. Kimi was the favourite to win the race however he failed to shine in the qualifying, though put on a fantastic display to close on the gap to leaders at the end of the day. There were strong performances from Kobayashi, Hulkenberg and Kovalainen.