Well now we know that the new regulations introduced in F1 2011 are really working, don't we, after Barcelona – for the first time in goodness knows how many years – finally delivered an exciting Spanish Grand Prix...but who was your star of the show?
Yes, it was another victory – his fourth in five races this season – for defending F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel, but Lewis Hamilton made the young German work hard for his glory, as McLaren-Mercedes bit back following a crushingly disappointing time of things in Turkey a fortnight earlier.
There were, in truth, several standout performances throughout the field around the Circuit de Catalunya – as the possibility to overtake there finally brought to an end a plethora of processional Spanish Grands Prix – but what we want to know is who impressed you the most in Barcelona? Below are a few suggestions, but if you don't agree – or even if you do – make sure to have your say in our comments forum by clicking on the link at the bottom of the article.
Here are who we reckon to be the most deserving candidates for 'Driver of the Day' in the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix:
Sebastian Vettel: The Red Bull might be the fastest thing on four wheels in qualifying sessions, but for whatever reason, it has yet to carry that all-conquering pace over into race day, and arguably for the first time this year, Vettel truly had to sing for his supper. His assertion in traffic after his first pit-stop was one of the keys to his Spanish success, and the manner in which he artfully staved Hamilton off for lap-after-lap all the way to the chequered flag hinted that the composure under pressure so markèdly absent in 2010, is there in abundance in 2011.
Lewis Hamilton: A grittier, more dogged fighter in F1 you will not find, and after holding a canny watching-brief during the opening stages of the grand prix, Hamilton truly came alive, leapfrogging Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso in successive pit-stops to snatch second place before going on to determinedly hunt Vettel down. Sadly for the British star, this time there would be no repeat of his late-race Chinese pass, but he nonetheless laid down a marker to his adversary that he is there, and that he will remain a thorn in his side season-long.
Jenson Button: To recover from tenth place on the opening lap to ascend the bottom step of the podium – with no retirements ahead – is impressive enough on its own, and it is to Button's immense credit that he never once let his head drop in Barcelona. Allied to a flawless strategy from his team, the 2009 F1 World Champion made short work of zipping past both Webber and Alonso – in swiftly clearing the Spaniard, doing what Webber had toiled unsuccessfully for lap-after-lap to try to do – and going on to withstand the Australian's fightback all the way to the end. A thoroughly well-deserved rostrum finish.
Fernando Alonso: The home hero merits inclusion in this list almost based upon his start alone, as Alonso boldly kept his foot in and threaded his way past both front row-sitting Red Bulls, bravely pointing his Ferrari to the inside of the track and stubbornly refusing to yield – and this for a driver who has in general made poor getaways in 2011. From there, the Spaniard used all of the speed, guile and experience that has twice seen him crowned world champion to keep three palpably faster cars behind him – and later in the race, he was magnificent in his defence against Webber. A lapped fifth place in the final reckoning was entirely a reflection upon the machinery at his disposal, not the performance of the man behind the wheel.
Michael Schumacher: The first appearance of the season for 'Schumi' in our 'Driver of the Day' feature, as the German legend banished his Turkish troubles to give by some margin his most convincing performance of the campaign to-date. Yes, team-mate Nico Rosberg may have been the faster driver on the day, but it was Michael who made the demon start to gain track position, and thereafter raced well and never seriously looked under threat of losing P6 to his younger compatriot in the closing stages. It will be fascinating to see whether he can maintain his ostensible upward momentum this coming weekend in Monaco, where he has triumphed on no fewer than five previous occasions.
Nick Heidfeld: If Kamui Kobayashi was praised to the rafters for his charge from 24th to tenth in Istanbul, then 'Quick Nick' should be lauded indeed for scything his way through the field from the back of the grid to eighth in Barcelona. Much like Webber in Shanghai, Heidfeld looked to be making scant progress early on, but as the race wore on and he was able to keep bolting on fresh sets of rubber whilst his rivals suffered on older tyres, the experienced German started making inroads – and fast. One more lap, and he would assuredly have had sixth. Superb.
Jarno Trulli: It was a toss-up between Trulli, Sergio Pérez and Paul di Resta for the final spot on this list, but the Italian just swings it after producing what was inarguably his finest performance of the season thus far. Having been bedevilled by bad luck for most of F1 2011, the Team Lotus veteran finally enjoyed a (nearly) trouble-free run in Barcelona, and he looked more like the driver he used to be than he has done for some time. Running comfortably ahead of team-mate Heikki Kovalainen throughout and even getting as high as eighth place at one stage, Jarno only dropped back later on due to an exhaust issue – but not before ably demonstrating that Lotus is now making tangible progress.