The first race of F1's 2013 European swing produced a mix of intrigue and frustration as tyres once again came to the fore but, amongst the confusion, several drivers stood out as the stars of the piece.
Fernando Alonso defied history and the stat man to claim victory from the third row - a feat almost unheard of at a circuit where 20 of the 22 races before this one had been won from the front row. The Spaniard, carried by the emotion of racing in front of his home crowd, might have stopped four times for tyres, but made the ploy work to take his second win of the year.
The only real threat came from Lotus and Kimi Raikkonen who, true to form, made one fewer stop than the majority of the field. The Finn, who started on the second row, was among those surprised by Alonso's flying start, but emerged ahead of Red Bull and Mercedes to lead the fight.
Felipe Massa made it two Ferraris in the top three, overcoming a blocking penalty that dropped him to row five despite having lapped within a hundredth of his team-mate in qualifying. Making his tyres work for him, the Brazilian was a comfortable third at the chequered flag.
Red Bull started the race as favourite for victory, despite Sebastian Vettel starting on row two and Mark Webber from seventh, but the RB9 could not make its apparent superiority work to its advantage and the pair had to settle for fourth and fifth.
Polewinner Nico Rosberg suffered in a similar way as he had after claiming top spot in qualifying in Bahrain, the Mercedes seemingly harder on its tyres than its rivals. Bizarrely, however, the German made only three stops, being rewarded with sixth spot while team-mate - and fellow front row starter - Lewis Hamilton sank like a stone.
Rosberg came under late-race pressure from Paul di Resta, as the Scot once again threatened to make Force India the best Mercedes-powered team on the day. In the end, little over a tenth split the Scot from his prey, but seventh was another good effort considering that he started from tenth.
Equally impressive, but still disappointing given where his team should be, was Jenson Button's run to eighth. The Briton had missed the cut for Q3 and had to start 14th overall, but nursed his tyres to ensure that he added a few more points to his tally - even though there was the suggestion that McLaren had called off another potential scrap with team-mate Sergio Perez.
The Mexican came home ninth, ahead of a feisty Daniel Ricciardo, who made repeated passing moves despite only improving one place over his grid slot. A point, however, was welcome reward for Toro Rosso's development efforts ahead of the European swing.
Another driver to stand out on an afternoon where the second half of the grid largely went through the motions was Esteban Gutierrez, the Mexican enjoying his strongest performance of the season. Having led early on thanks to running longer than anyone on his first set of tyres, the rookie produced a mistake-free afternoon to eventually come home eleventh, narrowly missing his maiden point.
The final consideration should perhaps fall to Adrian Sutil who made progress through the field to claim 13th despite another opening lap assault that left him requiring attention in the pit-lane.
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F1 Driver of the Day: Spanish Grand Prix
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