Alonso a super second at home

Fernando Alonso drove another superb race to finish his home race, the Spanish Grand Prix in second place, thus thrilling the partisan crowd who cheered him on throughout the 66 lap race all the way to the podium. In the other Scuderia Ferrari F2012, Felipe Massa had a tougher time, which was to be expected given his grid position and he eventually came home in fifteenth place. If the spectators in the grandstands would have preferred to see the man from Oviedo on the top step, no one could deny the win was not totally deserved for Pastor Maldonaldo and the Williams team. The Venezuelan had never before stood on a Formula 1 podium and he went straight to the winner’s slot. He was lifted on the shoulders by Fernando and the third placed man, Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus. This result puts Fernando Alonso second in the championship but equal on points with Sebastian Vettel, the German leading by virtue of having secured his 61 points with higher placings. Felipe Massa is seventeenth and the Scuderia is fourth in the Constructors’ championship.

Having qualified third and seventeenth, Fernando and Felipe found themselves promoted to second and sixteenth, as Lewis Hamilton was relegated to the back of the grid for a rule infringement in qualifying. The main effect of this obviously enough is that the Spanish Ferrari man now had a clear view of the track ahead from the front row of the grid. The weather had changed and rain was apparently falling about 60 kilometres away from Montmelo, as the race got underway with the entire field on the Soft Option tyre. As the lights went out, Fernando and the pole man were neck and neck going down to Turn 1 as the Williams tried to force the Ferrari wide, but as you could tell without looking from the huge roar from the crowd, it was the red car that emerged in front, coming out of the corner. Behind Maldonaldo came Raikkonen, Rosberg, Grosjean, Schumacher in sixth, then Vettel, Button, Kobayashi, and Vergne completing the top ten, with Felipe right behind him in eleventh having moved up five places, running new tyres.

By lap 6, Fernando led by 1.5, while third placed Raikkonen in the Lotus was 2.6 behind the Williams, then came a big 5.2 gap to fourth placed Rosberg. The Red Bulls were the first to pit, Webber on lap 6, Vettel one lap later. Kobayashi came in for tyres from eighth in the Sauber on lap 8. Rosberg, Button, Di Resta pitted next time. Lap 10 was a busy one in pit lane, as Alonso, Grosjean Schumacher, Vergne, Massa, Hulkenberg, Petrov and de lap Rosa came in. Next lap it was Maldonaldo and Raikkonen’s turn as well as Ricciardo. Having started 24th and last, Hamilton, yet to stop had made it all the way to fourth place by lap 12, when Fernando was back in the lead, now 3.4 ahead of Maldonaldo. Lap 11 saw Schumacher and Senna collide putting them both out of the race.

Hamilton was the last to stop on lap 14, so the order on 15 was Alonso and Maldonaldo(Williams) three seconds apart, followed by Raikkonen, (Lotus) Rosberg (Mercedes), Grosjean (Lotus), Vettel (Red Bull,) Button (McLaren,) Kobayashi (Sauber,) Webber (Red Bull,) Di Resta (Force India)10th, Vergne (Toro Rosso,) Massa 12th right on the back of the Frenchman’s gearbox. When Webber pitted for a new nose, Felipe moved up to eleventh, with Hamilton’s McLaren less than half a second behind him. The gap between Fernando and Maldonaldo however had come down to just 1.7 by lap 20, while a bit further back, Grosjean had passed Rosberg for fourth. With Felipe stuck behind Vergne, Hamilton was right on the tail of the Brazilian’s F2012. Felipe moved up as Vergne came in for tyres on lap 23. On the next lap, Maldonaldo pitted from second. Lap 25 saw Button come in from sixth and Ricciardo from 11th. Fernando made his second stop on lap 26,as did Grosjean, Kobayashi. Raikkonen and Vettel came in on 27, as Hamilton was trying everything to pass Felipe, getting alongside the Ferrari a couple of times on lap 28. Unfortunately, the Stewards deemed the Brazilian had failed to slow for yellow flags on the main straight and inflicted a drive-through penalty on him, which he took on lap 28 dropping him down to 16th. Vettel was given the same penalty.

The second run of pit stops had not gone the Scuderia’s way and Fernando now found himself second to Maldonaldo, having been badly delayed by backmarker Pic, in the Marussia and he was 7 seconds off the Williams and 12.3 ahead of Raikkonen. Lap 29 and Felipe came back into the pits to change tyres. On lap 37, Felipe was up to 15th having passed Perez. Then he got Di Resta, but slowed by the Force India, Button was able to get ahead of the Ferrari so that Felipe was just outside the points in 11th place on lap 41. As Maldonaldo made his third pit stop at this time a slow one because of a problem on the left rear wheel - Fernando found himself back in the lead ahead of Raikkonen, with the Williams back in third ahead of Grosjean.

Fernando made his third stop on lap 44, which left Raikkonen, who would have to stop again, leading Maldonaldo by 0.7 while the Venezuelan had 3.1 in hand over the third placed Ferrari and Felipe was now in the points in ninth place, until he made his final stop on lap 45. On new tyres, Fernando was catching the Williams with the gap 1.3 on lap 46, with 20 to go. However, as the Finn’s tyres were going off, Maldonaldo actually passed him on the track and Fernando was delayed slightly as he too had to overtake the Lotus. Lap 48 and the gap was 1.4 at the front as Raikkonen made his last stop. Tyre degradation in the last few laps looked like being the key. Lap 50 and the gap was only 0.8, then Fernando was right on the tail of the Williams. Ahead of these two on the road, Di Resta was being shown the blue flag as Felipe tried to pass him for 14th. As these groups passed one another the gap opened to 1.3 between Maldonaldo and Fernando. But it was back to 0.8 with just 10 laps to go and the crowd was on its feet urging their hero on, as it was 0.6 on 57. All eyes were on the two leaders, but behind them was Raikkonen, the fastest man on track and he was catching the Ferrari at a rate of about one and a half second per lap but he was still over 10 seconds away with 7 laps remaining. In the closing stages, the Ferrari man could no longer challenge the leader and he came home second ahead of Raikkonen. The rest of the points went to the Finn’s team-mate, Grosjean, followed by Kobayashi, Vettel, Rosberg, Hamilton, Button, Hulkenberg.

Fernando Alonso (2nd)“This second place feels like a victory. Having finished the race in Sakhir almost a minute off the winner, today we overtook one of the two Red Bulls and we fought right to the very end for the win. On top of that, we have made up a lot of points on the Red Bull and the McLaren drivers, which makes the outcome of this weekend even more positive. At the end of the second stint of the race came the key moment: maybe Maldonaldo pitted a bit early and we stayed out on track, but we lost time behind a backmarker for a whole lap, partly because there was a yellow flag on the last part of the main straight. Then, with seven laps to go, I suddenly lost grip at the rear: I asked the team if something was broken because the handling of the car changed from one moment to the next, for no apparent reason. However, in the final stages, the Williams was still very quick and, right at the end, we were also lucky to hang onto second place as Kimi was coming back at me. This championship is very hard to interpret with all the different winners and the performance of the top teams going up and down from race to race. We definitely did not do the best job when it came to designing the car – there is still much to do – but we can be proud of how we got the most out of our potential, probably over and above the limits of the car. After two Grands Prix – China and Bahrain – where we suffered a lot, to be back for the podium is very positive and gives us confidence for the rest of the Championship. We must continue to bring updates all the time for the car, because it is all very close and the slightest thing can make the difference.”

Felipe Massa (15th)“Today my race was affected by a penalty that I had to take on lap 28. Honestly, I don’t think I did anything wrong and I believe it is better to look into the detail of what happened, because I was in the middle of a group of cars and I definitely did not try to overtake anyone. It’s a real shame, because up until then, the race was going well for me and a place in the top ten was comfortably within my reach. I was in the group with the Red Bulls and the McLarens and I could match their pace. I had a good opening lap when I managed to make up a lot of places. I am happy that Fernando was able to fight for the win all the way to the end, as it shows our car’s potential has definitely improved: we still don’t have the quickest car but it seems we are going down the right road. I want to congratulate Pastor, who is a great friend: the taste of a first Formula 1 win is something amazing and I can understand how he feels right now.”

Pat Fry, Ferrari chassis director“In the race, we again confirmed that we have made a step forward in terms of the performance of our package, but it is not yet enough. Also today, we managed to make the most of our potential with Fernando, while Felipe was definitely not lucky with the penalty that ruined what, up to that point, had been a pretty good race. We knew tyre degradation would be the key and so it turned out. The fight with Maldonaldo was very close and maybe some incidents played a deciding role, such as at the time of the second stop and in the final moments of the race, when Fernando suddenly felt a drop in performance, the causes of which are not yet clear. Second is an absolutely positive result but, to make an objective evaluation, we have to take into account all the elements over the weekend, even those outside our own operation, which produced this race result. There is still a lot of work to do to have a car that is really capable of fighting for the win at every track and in all conditions. Having said that, I am equally sure that having one of our drivers leading the classification, even if he is equal on points with Vettel, represents a reward for the work everyone has done to raise our performance level and it is also a further motivation to do even better in the near future.”

Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari team principal“We came to Spain with the double objective of making progress in terms of performance and for Fernando to stay in touch with the leaders of the Drivers’ classification: this afternoon we can say we achieved both our goals. It’s a shame for Felipe who has been plagued with bad luck all weekend: yesterday there was traffic in qualifying and today, a penalty probably prevented him from finishing in the points after he had made up a lot of places at the start. Once again, Fernando drove an extraordinary race, fighting for the win from the first to the last lap. There were some unfortunate incidents, getting past Pic for example, but we must always admit that, in the closing stages of the final stint of the race there was no longer a margin to attack Maldonaldo. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Pastor for his first Formula 1 win and Williams for returning to winning ways after a break of several years: yesterday, Sir Frank shared with the world of F1 a celebration for his seventieth birthday and it seems that someone up there was also aware of it and wanted to give him a present! As from tomorrow, we will return to thinking about the development of our car, because we are not yet fast enough to fight consistently for a podium finish, which is the only option if we want to be in the hunt for the title. The championship is incredibly finely balanced, as can be seen from the fact we have had five different winning teams in as many Grands Prix. Despite all the difficulties we have experienced in this first part of the season, Fernando leads the classification along with the reigning champion: this must be a boost for all our people who work at home and at the track. We expect Felipe to react and fight back after this unlucky weekend, starting in Monaco: we absolutely need his points to also fight for the constructors’ title.”

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