Kimi Raikkonen showed just what he had been denied at Imola a fortnight ago by blitzing the Spanish Grand Prix field from start to finish at the Circuit de Catalunya, and taking his first win of the season as a reward.
The Finn had eased himself onto pole position in morning qualifying and, with Mark Webber alongside in the Williams-BMW, must have hoped that he would have an early buffer between himself and the chasing Renaults and Toyotas. The start didn't quite work out as Raikkonen had planned but, in the event, it didn't really matter as, having got the drop on the rest of the field, the McLaren pulled away at almost a second a lap in the opening stages.
Webber's getaway was so poor that Ralf Schumacher also got past the BMW-powered Australian, a situation made all the more galling for Webber when the safety car appeared at the end of the lap. At the other end of the grid, both
Minardis remained stranded just yards from where they had lined up on the eighth row of the grid, the victims of identical software programming errors
Having seen his pace controlled for two laps, Raikkonen was in no mood to hang about when the safety car returned to the pits, and darted away at the resumption, opening an immediate gap on his pursuers. By the end of the lap, the Finn enjoyed a 1.6secs advantage over Alonso, with Schumacher, Webber, Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella in close attention. Seventh place was the first to change hands once racing began in earnest, Juan Montoya atoning for having been pushed onto the grass at the start by diving inside Michael Schumacher at turn one.
The Colombian almost undid his good work by spinning through 360 degrees on lap seven, but it was symptomatic of his pace compared to that of the world champion that Schumacher was in no position to re-pass. Indeed, the German has David Coulthard - buoyed by a new Red Bull chassis - sniffing at the gearbox of his Ferrari, with Felipe Massa again keeping tabs on his Imola sparring partner.
With the two Minardis having been fired up in pit-lane in order to rejoin the fray, Vitantonio Liuzzi became the race's first retirement, spinning deep into the gravel at turn eleven to cap an erratic second grand prix, The yellow flags had barely been withdrawn when Patrick Friesacher did likewise with his Minardi a couple of corners further on, and team-mate Christijan Albers completed a disappointing day for the Italian minnow by parking up on lap 22.
By that stage, the first of the pit-stops had begun, and it was no surprise to see Webber beating everyone in for fuel. The Australian's stunning Sunday qualifying performance smacked of a lighter fuel load, making his problems getting off the line all the more disappointing. The length of stop, however, suggested that what had started out as a potential three-stop race had been switched to a two-stopper in an attempt to snag some points for Grove following Nick Heidfeld's demotion to the rear of the grid.
Raikkonen by now enjoyed an 18-second advantage over Alonso, and the Spaniard appeared to be in some trouble as the two Toyotas homed in on the back of the Renault. Of all the races to begin to suffer reliability problems, this was not the one the points leader would have chosen, the stands awash with the blue-and-yellow flags of Asturias, coincidentally mirroring the colours of his car.
For four laps, Alonso kept Schumacher and Trulli at bay, before the German dived for the pits. Trulli followed the leader in a lap later, before Alonso followed suit on lap 27. If observers had caught their breath when blue smoke emerged from Raikkonen's exhaust, the Finn did not appear to concerned, rejoining ahead of the field and beginning to re-establish the gap that had served him so well first time around.