Bullfighters are undeniably brave, but frequently foolhardy, and similar sentiments could be levelled at Fernando Alonso after an ambitious, if flawed, effort to seize control of the Spanish Grand Prix cost him a shot at victory on the opening lap.
The local favourite attempted to pass polesitter Felipe Massa around the outside of turn one after slipstreaming the Brazilian down the straight, but cut the Ferrari off at the apex, with the expected result that the pair made contact. Alonso came off worst, Massa riding the kerb straight into the side of the Mclaren after being left with nowhere else to go. Alonso duly speared across the gravel trap, narrowly avoiding Kimi Raikkonen as he rejoined on the far side, now fourth.
As had been the case in Bahrain last time out, the two expected team leaders were again playing second fiddle to their junior partners, as Lewis Hamilton took advantage of Alonso's error, having already passed Raikkonen on the drag from the lights. The BMWs also came close to making the most from the melee, with Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld just being out-gunned as Alonso floored then throttle after getting the McLaren straight.
The lack of obvious passing places at the Circuit de Catalunya prompted more than one feint and move, with Giancarlo Fisichella finding himself touching the dirt as he attempted to make up places, rejoining just in time to get embroiled in the midfield scrap enveloping the Hondas, Takuma Sato, Ralf Schumacher and Alex Wurz. Although the Renault survived jinking between rivals, Schumacher and Wurz were not, the former forced to jump on the brakes when Sato checked up and Wurz being left with nowhere to go but into the back of the Toyota.
The Austrian's front suspension was a victim of the clash, which saw Wurz rear up in the air, but Schumacher's nose also needed attention, capping a bad opening for Toyota, which had had to wheel Jarno Trulli off the sixth grid spot when his fuel pressure dropped, stalling the engine.
When the order settled down, Massa enjoyed a healthy gap over Hamilton, with Raikkonen and Alonso already battling over third. Kubica and Heidfeld were next up, with David Coulthard into seventh, having passed Heikki Kovalainen at the start - something the Scot had claimed was important as he figure the Finn was running a heavy fuel load. Nico Rosberg had broken into the top ten, while Honda was enjoying the rarefied atmosphere of tenth and eleventh as Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button made the most of the chaos. Fisichella and Sato followed, with Scott Speed up from plumb last to run ahead of Toro Rosso team-mate Tonio Liuzzi.
Despite swarming over the back of Raikkonen, Alonso found an opening hard to come by, despite the suspicion that he was fuelled more lightly than his rival, and, out front, Massa was gradually extending his advantage by around half a second a lap over Hamilton, and a second a lap over the world champion.
The retirement rate continued to rise when Mark Webber was advised to park the second Red Bull after a recurrence of the hydraulic problems that wrecked his qualifying, and Trulli pulled into retire a TF107 that clearly wasn't running right after its startline drama.
A lap later, however, there was bigger news, as Raikkonen twitched and slowed on the back section. Although initial speculation pointed to suspension, the official line was electrics, but, whatever the diagnosis, the Finn was left to crawl back to the pits, barely reaching his garage without assistance. Scott Speed also joined those on the sidelines, adding a little more on-track drama as the Toro Rosso suffered its second blow-out of the season, this time, Mansell-style, to its left rear.