Hello European season. Kimi is sitting pretty in 2nd place in the championship. But have Lotus kept up with the bigger teams in developing the car? Have some made a giant leap forward? The questions are always many once we get to Spain and the bigger updates gets fitted to the cars.
And qualifying usually tells all. But maybe not this year.. So much have been said about the tires and it’s not going to go away either. And when Nico Rosberg stuck the Mercedes on the pole and Hamilton 2nd as a Mercedes front row lockout, the questions were still not really answered. Have Mercedes got on top of their race pace problems? If not, then this will be the first Barcelona GP in a long long time that doesn’t have a front row winner.
Vettel on 3rd having used only mediums and Kimi lines up fourth having used most of the hard tires with only one fresh set remaining. So a different strategy is certainly shaping up. Alonso qualifies a surprising 5th after having shown tremendous speed in the practice sessions.
Lights out and the cars scramble and joust down towards turn 1. Kimi gets an ok start and amazingly seems to keep Alonso behind him. But instead of trying the outside line around Hamilton he has to slightly lift which enables Alonso to make up 2 places from Kimi and Hamilton. He is a slippery weasel. Both off and on the track.
At this time it is all about getting past the Mercedes roadblocks. It baffles the mind the speed they have in qualifying – only to drop like proverbial stones once the race commences. You hear Christian Horner speak a lot of trash about the Pirellis but I think Ross Brawn is possibly even more unhappy with the nature of this years rubber.
Kimi makes a boudacious move on Hamilton into turn 10. That’s right. I said boudacious. Cause that’s what it was. He can then take up the hunt on the top 3, having lost some time at this point. He slowly catches the leaders but it does take a little more life out of the tires than if he had been further up ahead.
Surprisingly, Vettel is not making progress in getting past Rosberg for the lead. It emerged later that Red Bull were trying for a 3-stopper. This really hurt their pace more than needed. Especially considering they had a lot of fresh hards available. So Alonso pits early and gets the jump on Vettel after his stop. Ferrari clearly got their stop exactly right. Because Massa also got the jump on Kimi, having stopped 2 laps earlier.
Alonso gets past the race-pace struggling Mercedes. And effectively takes the lead of the race. Vettel, who is wrongly holding on to the 3 stop strategy, quickly loses ground to the Ferrari – even after passing Rosberg. Kimi also passes Rosberg on the main straight. Being the only man putting on the mediums again tells a story of a different strategy to the others.
Felipe baby is having a great race in 3rd place, but is no match for the tire whisperer who catches him rather quickly as his stint progresses. Massa has to pit for new rubber while Kimi flies by. Next target up ahead is the championship leader. He catches him and follows Vettel for one lap before the Red Bull concedes to another stop. Kimi loses a couple of seconds more while Alonso catches up on fresh rubber.
I spare a thought for Lewis Hamilton who is now battling with Toro Rossos and Williams. He is even passed by Maldonado in the Williams which promts a disgruntled radio message to his team. One of several this afternoon.
Kimi get a another set of medium tires slapped on. Which seems to hint of a 3-stopper. He is almost a full pitstop behind Alonso so he has to make some serious ground up. He is rapidly catching Vettel. Again. He loses a lot of time and a lot of life from his tires trying to get past his badminton-buddy. Kimi finally goes for a pass but Vettel gives him way too hard a time into turn 10-11. All the while, Alonso is unchallenged up in front. I cannot count the times where Kimis pace have been compromised by a so-so grid position.
Anyway, after Vettels rather stern defending he seems to make it a little bit easy for Kimi into turn 1 and Kimi takes 3rd place. I wonder if that came from the pit wall. Because Vettel really left the inside open for a looong time. Whatever reason, I am not complaining. Time to catch the number 2 Ferrari. Again. Fortunately, the Ferrari pits before Kimi completely catches up and prevents losing him even more time.
Alonso has just pitted however and easily catches up to Kimi on his fresh rubber. Kimi, ever the gentleman, doesn’t make it hard for Alonso and lets him pass without defending at all. I guess due to running on a completely different strategy. But I would still have liked to have seen a much bigger effort in keeping Alonso behind. It could have taken some life out of the Ferraris tires – just like his own struggles getting past people.
After this the race was pretty much settled. One stop left to do for the front runners. But with Alonso making a gap ahead, the positions were decided at this time. So after another stop for Kimi to the obligatory other compound, Alonso rolls across the line to the cheers of the bankrupt Spaniards. Kimi takes second while Massa completes the podium. Vettel keeps his championship lead with 4 th position but the fight is on.
Race rating? A 6 out of 10 for me.
Could Kimi have won the race? Only with a lot of ifs and buts. IF he had qualified better and/or made a better start, then yes. Possibly. Had he been in 2nd after the first corner and disposed of Rosberg quickly, then maybe. Or if he had made the start that Alonso did 2 years ago and shot to first place, then yes. I think he could have won by controlling his pace a lot better without losing time and tirelife behind others. But he didn’t and that is the reality we have. He got second place which is more than good enough for me. Especially since it seems that Lotus did not lose any ground after the major Europe updates.
In 2 weeks we have the Monaco GP coming up. A race where qualifying is more crucial than anywhere else. The good news is that Boullier has promised updates that will help the qualifying pace of the Lotus. Hungarian link:
Kimi always has something special around the principality. I remember him qualifying 2nd in 2009 with an absolute pile of shit. So lets hope he can take the fight for pole to those Mercs. Just 4 points off the championship lead. The hope is alive and well. This is Mr. consistency we are talking about here. Another win would really light things up. He has another one due. And it cannot come soon enough. Brace yourselves. The Ice age is coming.
Keepin’ it real,
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