McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen was on a mission at Barcelona and he crowned his weekend with a storming drive to victory in the Spanish Grand Prix. The home fans had something to cheer about when local hero Fernando Alonso took second for Renault and ...
McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen was on a mission at Barcelona and he crowned his weekend with a storming drive to victory in the Spanish Grand Prix. The home fans had something to cheer about when local hero Fernando Alonso took second for Renault and Toyota held its good performance with Jarno Trulli in third and Ralf Schumacher fourth.
As expected, Alonso shot off the line at the start to beat Mark Webber's Williams to the first corner and move up to second behind Raikkonen. Webber dropped back to fourth as Ralf quickly took third. At the back both Minardis stalled with electronic problems and the safety car came out as one was stuck on the grid.
They eventually started from the pit lane and when the safety car went in Raikkonen caught Alonso off guard and shot away. Juan Pablo Montoya, who had been wide into the dust at the start and lost a place to Michael Schumacher's Ferrari, dispatched the German at the restart to put his McLaren back into seventh place.
Nick Heidfeld's Williams had sprinted up the field to 12th from 17th and Rubens Barrichello, who had also started at the back, moved up to 14th. The race settled down into a fairly static state of affairs after the first few laps and there was little action, with the running order mostly being changed by the pit stops.
Raikkonen led from Alonso and Ralf, with Webber, Trulli and the second Renault of Giancarlo Fisichella following on. Then came Montoya and Michael, with the Red Bull of David Coulthard and Sauber's Felipe Massa making up the top ten. Montoya spun a full 360 but recovered and amazingly managed to keep Michael behind him.
Raikkonen was flying at the front, belting out fastest laps and quickly pulling away from Alonso. Tonio Liuzzi was the first retiree when his Red Bull spun into the gravel at turn 11. Friesacher's Minardi followed suit at turn four a couple of laps later and his teammate Christijan Albers retired another eight laps into the race with a suspected gearbox problem.
Webber was the first to pit and Alonso was falling away from his initial pace. Raikkonen was lapping two seconds faster than the Renault, 20 seconds in the lead. Ralf was closing in on Alonso and started putting pressure on the Spaniard, who was struggling with his tyres. Ralf then dived in for his first pit stop, followed by Raikkonen on the next lap.
Kimi was far enough ahead by then to retain the lead and when Trulli made his stop he managed to jump Ralf for third. Raikkonen had rejoined right in front of Alonso and Fernando had a little look or two at the McLaren but then went in for his first stop. Fisichella did likewise the next lap and rejoined in front of Alonso.
Not what Fernando had wanted but it worked out well for Giancarlo. Montoya's race was further disrupted by a fuel hose problem that meant he had to come back into the pits again a lap after his stop as no fuel went in the car the first time. It dropped him to 10th. Michael put the hammer down on the run up to his stop and rejoined in fourth.
Raikkonen was now 25 seconds ahead of Fisichella but then the Renault started to have problems. Alonso caught right up to his teammate and Fisichella ducked into the pits for a front wing change, suffering from a lack of downforce. He rejoined in 13th and his unscheduled stop promoted Michael to third and Massa into the points in eighth.
Michael, however, was next to make an unscheduled stop, his problem a left rear tyre deflation. To his and Ferrari's dismay, he was only just back out on track when the front left deflated, leaving him to crawl back to the pits to retire. A strange turn of events for a few laps, although still not much track action.
"I don't know what happened," Michael said. "I may have picked up some debris, but I didn't see anything. For something to happen to that front left tyre is unusual."
The running order in the points was then Raikkonen and Alonso from Trulli and Ralf, followed by Coulthard, Massa, Montoya and Webber. The two at the front took their second stops and held position, then Ralf went in, followed by Trulli on the next lap. Jacques Villeneuve, who was outside the top ten, was the next retiree, skulking into the garage with a water leak that had led to the Sauber's eninge failing.
Massa lost out in the second round of pit stops and dropped back outside the points, which was a shame as he'd been running a solid sixth in the middle stint of the race. He later suffered a rear left tyre deflation near the end, caused by a cracked wheel rim, although he was classified 11th. An unlucky race for the Brazilian and Sauber in general.
After the second round of pit stops Fisichella had got himself back up to sixth and started harassing Webber. He dispatched the Williams at turn one and made it look easy, to take fifth. Just to make his point Giancarlo broke the lap record on the very last lap. Raikkonen took a well deserved win nearly half a minute clear of Alonso.
"I'm very happy for myself and for all the people who have been putting lots of effort into the car," said Raikkonen. "This team has done very well. Everyone has been working perfectly so hopefully we can start winning more."
Alonso was equally pleased with his second place: "Second place here at home is like a victory for me. Eight points in the pocket again is a fantastic result for me and the team," said the Spaniard. "I was thinking it was not possible to follow Kimi, he was too quick."
Trulli followed 15 seconds further down, with Ralf just behind. "This was one of the best races of my career because I really had to fight for the whole of the race to keep ahead of Ralf," Trulli commented. "Ralf was very quick and probably today he deserved a podium as well as me."
If not for Fisichella's problems he would probably have been on the podium but had to settle for fifth. Webber never really recovered from his poor start and was sixth and Montoya, despite his troubles, ended where he began in seventh. Coulthard picked up the last point in eighth.
Barrichello tried a one-stop strategy but it didn't work out very well and he finished ninth. Heidfeld didn't have much of a chance starting at the back and was 10th and the Jordans showed their usual reliability to cross the line in 12th and 13th, Tiago Monteiro leading Narain Karthikeyan.
After the tension of Imola, Barcelona was lacking in excitement but it was still a fairly good race. Raikkonen's drive was superb -- he was so wickedly fast in the first stint that Alonso never stood a chance of getting near him. But Fernando was happy to be on the podium at his home race and drove well to cope with the blistering on the rear tyres early on.
Raikkonen has jumped up the drivers' standings to third behind Alonso and Trulli -- Alonso now has an 18 point lead over Trulli, while Kimi is nine points down on Jarno. Renault consolidated its lead in the constructors', 17 points ahead of Toyota, and McLaren has closed the gap drastically to Toyota to just three points.
Michael has been saying that the gap between himself and Alonso is not insurmountable -- but now it's 34 points. Still not insurmountable but the reigning champion's task is getting harder with every race. Final top eight classification: Raikkonen, Alonso, Trulli, R. Schumacher, Fisichella, Webber, Montoya, Coulthard.