Scuderia Ferrari swapped positions.
Montmelo – Fernando Alonso finished his home Grand Prix in sixth place, with Kimi Raikkonen seventh. After qualifying respectively seventh and sixth, the only chance of moving up the order would depend on the start and then a clever strategy. In the case of the former, both F14 Ts were unable to make any headway when the lights went out. And as for the latter, Fernando’s three stops and Kimi’s two stops were matched by those around them. Lewis Hamilton took his fourth straight win to lead the Championship, with his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third for Red Bull.
As the lights went out, the two Mercedes took off cleanly from the front row, with Bottas in the Williams jumping Ricciardo in the Red Bull to go third. Both Ferraris got slightly boxed in as they jostled for position and were sixth (Kimi) and seventh (Fernando) behind Grosjean in the Lotus. Fernando had left the line a fraction slowly and used all his tenacity to prevent Massa in the Williams passing him into Turn 1.
After 11 laps, although he was within DRS distance of Kimi, Fernando was not yet looking to pass his team-mate. The two Prancing Horse pilots were in any case on different strategies; the Spaniard going for three tyre changes and the Finn for two. Vettel was the first to pit, switching to the Hard Pirellis on lap 12, having started from 15th because of a gearbox penalty.
Lap 23 and having closed on Grosjean, Kimi almost managed to squeeze past the Lotus but couldn’t complete the move. He did it next time round into Turn 1 and now the Spanish Ferrari man was all over the Frenchman’s gearbox, getting past in a copy of Kimi’s move, on lap 25. Alonso came in on lap 36 fitting the Hards. He rejoined and with the run of stops, found himself again behind fifth placed Kimi, 17 seconds adrift.
Kimi came in on lap 43 but he lost out to Vettel dropping to seventh, with Fernando up to fifth. At the front, Hamilton had 4.6 in hand over Rosberg with 18 laps to go, the Englishman on Hards, the German on faster Mediums. A dull race was really coming to life as the two Mercedes team-mates were separated by 0.9 with 7 laps to go, but try as he might, there were not enough laps for the quicker Rosberg to pass Hamilton.
Vettel in fifth was beginning to pose a threat to Alonso as he had got the gap to the Ferrari man down to 1.9 before changing tyres on lap 52, one lap earlier than Fernando and it was enough for both Vettel and Bottas to get ahead of the local hero.
Kimi was fifth but he now had his mirrors full of Vettel with ten laps remaining and the German, on fresher tyres easily swept past the Finn, so that the two F14 Ts were sixth and seventh. The three stopping Spaniard was considerably quicker and the two Prancing Horses were nose to tail, then side by side for a few corners until Fernando snatched sixth in an exciting little inter-team battle.
Fernando Alonso: “Of course I’d have liked to have done better here in my home race, but I knew right from the start that it would be difficult. Our pace was too slow compared to the leaders and on top of that, not making up any places at the start didn’t help. The gap to the best is nothing new and today’s result confirms the fact our rivals are strong on both the performance and the reliability fronts, but until it is mathematically impossible to catch them we will continue to believe and do all we can to catch up. The decision to go for a three stop strategy was taken in an attempt to cover Vettel, but unfortunately I lost the place at the pit stop and I only managed to make up one on Kimi, who was impossible to pass when we were on the same tyres. In the two weeks to go to the Monaco Grand Prix, we will continue to work day and night: we definitely can’t expect to have a new car, because you can’t achieve a revolution in such a short space of time, but we will do our very best to improve in all areas.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “That was a complicated race for me, with the main problem being a lack of grip and in general, it was very difficult to find the right balance on the car. Going for a two stop strategy proved to be the wrong choice because tyre degradation meant I couldn’t push all the way to the end. Overall here, we went better than in the last race, maybe because the characteristics of this track are very different to those we have raced on so far, but we cannot be happy with sixth and seventh places, because we are a long way off where we want to be. It will take time, but we will do our utmost, because we know where we must keep pushing if we want to improve.”
Pat Fry: “This weekend, which was difficult for the team and the drivers ended with a less than spectacular race in which we unfortunately lacked the pace to make up places from our grid positions. Considering how difficult it is to overtake at this track, the start could have made the difference, but the positions remained more or less the same throughout the order. If fuel consumption wasn’t much of a problem, tyre degradation affected the race from start to finish. Apart from the two Mercedes, the lap times of the various teams were very similar, which meant the chances of being able to carry out or be subjected to an undercut, along with managing the traffic, took priority over the strategy choices. The gap to the leaders is certainly not a surprise and will not discourage us as we tackle the work we must do to improve our car. Now we will try and make the most of the two test days this coming week here in Montmelò to move forward on the development of the F14 T. The aim is to give our drivers a more competitive package.”