Mark Webber took a lights-to-flag win at the Circuit de Catalunya for Red Bull Racing, leading home local hero Fernando Alonso and team-mate Sebastian Vettel to the chequered flag.
It was a straightforward drive for the Australian after leading the field from pole position. Despite the problems affecting team-mate Sebastian Vettel including fading brakes in the late stages of the Spanish Grand Prix, there were no technical issues with Webber’s car. This was paid back for Mark Webber after missing out in Sepang and he takes his first victory of this season since Brazil in 2009.
Home crowd favourite Fernando Alonso finished in a popular second place although the Ferrari driver inherited the place due to a late tyre puncture from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. It would have been a well-deserved result from the 2008 world champion after gaining the initiative with a decisive pass on rival Sebastian Vettel after making a single pit-stop. Hamilton just managed to avoid the backmarker of Virgin Racing’s Lucas di Grassi as he exited the pitlane, exactly the same moment when Vettel was approaching the first corner.
Hamilton complained to the race stewards about the backmarker afterwards but that moment into Turn 1, with Vettel forced off the track to avoid making contact was the key moment for McLaren. What a real shame with two laps to the end Hamilton suffered a front-left tyre failure resulting him to crash at Turn 3 and lose second place.
Yet again reliability problems affected Sebastian Vettel despite the performance advantage from the RB6. With fading brakes in the late stages of the Grand Prix, the German still had enough of a time margin to finish in third. But the team really needs to stamp out these problems to prevent Vettel in losing yet more championship points.
With an upgraded car from Mercedes, Michael Schumacher drove his most impressive race this season to finish in fourth. The seven-time world champion did a solid job in defending his track position against the reigning world champion Jenson Button, despite the McLaren being quicker. Jenson might feel frustrated at not be able to get pass Schumacher in the race due to the lack of overtaking opportunities at the Circuit de Catalunya, but he still leads the drivers’ championship with a three-point advantage over Fernando Alonso.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa finished in sixth despite damaging his front-wing after tagging the back of Karun Chandhok’s HRT as the Indian was being lapped.
Force India’s Adrian Sutil took an impressive seventh, ahead of Renault’s Robert Kubica who was unable to make up for a poor opening lap and had to settle for eighth behind the young German.
Rubens Barrichello finished in ninth for Williams while Jamie Alguersuari, taking part in his home race, scored the final point of the day after an eventful race. He made an exceptional start, gaining six positions to run ninth in the early stages. But he picked up a drive-through penalty after clipping Chandhok’s car, knocking the front wing off the HRT.
Outside of the points, it was a disappointing race for Nico Rosberg and the two Sauber drivers in particular.
The Mercedes driver, who came into this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix second in the championship, was forced onto the grass at the start and dropped back, and then suffered a problem at his pitstop which cost him even more time.
Both Saubers had incidents on the opening lap, which dropped Kamui Kobayashi and Pedro de la Rosa out of contention straight away. While the Spaniard retired early on with a damaged car, his Japanese team-mate eventually recovered to 12th.
As for Lotus, Heikki Kovalainen’s race never started, with the Finn’s car being wheeled into the pits before the start of the Grand Prix.
So not the greatest race this season but in terms of the world championship, it sets up another tense battle in particular the drivers’ standings. Jenson Button still leads with 70 points, three ahead of Fernando Alonso and ten over Sebastian Vettel. While in the constructors’ McLaren leads over Ferrari by just three points with Red Bull Racing a further three.
Race results from the Circuit de Catalunya, 66 laps:
1. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1h35:44.101
2. Alonso Ferrari +24.065
3. Vettel Red Bull-Renault +51.338
4. Schumacher Mercedes +1:02.195
5. Button McLaren-Mercedes +1:03.728
6. Massa Ferrari +1:05.767
7. Sutil Force India-Mercedes +1:12.941
8. Kubica Renault +1:13.677
9. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth +1 lap
10. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
11. Petrov Renault +1 lap
12. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari +1 lap
13. Rosberg Mercedes +1 lap
14. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes +2 laps
15. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes +2 laps
16. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth +2 laps
17. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth +3 laps
18. Glock Virgin-Cosworth +3 laps
19. Di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth +4 laps
Fastest lap: Hamilton, 1:24.357
Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 43 laps
Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 28 laps
De la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 19 laps
Senna HRT-Cosworth 1 lap
Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1 lap
World Championship standings, round 5:
1. Button 70
2. Alonso 67
3. Vettel 60
4. Webber 53
5. Rosberg 50
6. Massa 49
7. Hamilton 49
8. Kubica 44
9. Schumacher 22
10. Sutil 16
11. Liuzzi 8
12. Barrichello 7
13. Petrov 6
14. Alguersuari 3
15. Hulkenberg 1
1. McLaren-Mercedes 119
2. Ferrari 116
3. Red Bull-Renault 113
4. Mercedes 72
5. Renault 50
6. Force India-Mercedes 24
7. Williams-Cosworth 8
8. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 3
Next race: Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo. May 13-16.