Fernando Alonso claimed victory in a Spanish Grand Prix
dominated by worse-than-feared tyre degradation at a hotter-than-expected Barcelona, which left teams reeling trying to cope with the emerging situation.
Kimi Raikkonen proved the toughest competition to the local hero in Spain but the Finn still fell short of being able to make it a close race after a bewildering number of pit stops for the entire field during the afternoon that made the Circuit de Catalunya
pit lane feel like it should be fitted with a rapidly-revolving door thanks to the sheer number of ins and outs during the race.
Felipe Massa had a good first half of the race before he spent the latter stages acting as a doorstop to keep Sebastian Vettel
and Mark Webber
down in fourth and fifth place, while the air went out of the Mercedes balloon early in the race leaving Nico Rosberg
and Lewis Hamilton
with something close to a nightmare meltdown on their hands.
The mind games had started well before the cars even completed the formation lap. The all-Mercedes front row had led the way to the starting grid doing everything they could to protect their tyres for the battle to come. Third place Sebastian Vettel
complained over the Red Bull
team radio that they were going too slowly, despite the fact that the field was atypically spread out and took almost a minute to form up on the front straight. But finally everyone was in position and the lights went on one by one - and then out.
Rosberg got a great start from the lead and Hamilton initially tucked in behind him into the first corner, only to have first Sebastian Vettel
into turn 1 and then a flying Fernando Alonso
out of turn 2 sweep around him and bump him down to fourth place in the first corners of the race. Having locked up and flat-spotted his tyres in that opening lap defence, Hamilton quickly fell off the pace of the lead trio and had to be content with protecting his reduced fourth position until the first round of pit stops.
Kimi Raikkonen held station behind Hamilton in fifth place while McLaren's Sergio Perez got a great start of his own squirting down the middle to into six ahead of Felipe Massa, who had already recovered two of those positions that he's lost as a penalty for blocking Mark Webber
in qualifying. Adrian Sutil
was another big gainer having jumped up to eighth place ahead of Romain Grosjean
and his own Force India
team mate Paul di Resta, who rounded out the top ten.
Even with DRS enabled, there was surprisingly little opportunity for the drivers to apply it for overtaking moves - not least because the field was so closely packed that virtually every car had DRS enabled from the car ahead of them which they could use to protect from attack from behind. Lewis Hamilton
was the exception to the general rule once he lost touch with the leaders, and sure enough Kimi Raikkonen
made an easy DRS-assisted pass on the Mercedes for fourth place on lap 7.
Mark Webber was the first of the leaders to pit, coming in on lap 7 which presaged more cars coming in next time around. Adrian Sutil's stop was nightmarishly long - well over a minute - and was clearly dealing with more serious matters than a routine tyre refresh. A few moments later Romain Grosjean
crawled onto pit road with a desperately broken Lotus crabbing its way to retirement with a comprehensively failed right rear suspension.