This year's Formula One season might qualify as being just as crazy as last year's, only it's a different kind of crazy. Instead of a new winner every Sunday, how the winner actually manages to take the victory is the mystery, and just when we thought the season might have settled into a groove regarding team performance, here comes the Spanish Grand Prix to remind us that we don't know anything until the race has been run.
There were many similarities to past weekends to being this one: Mercedes-AMG Petronas showed awesome one-lap pace, Fernando Alonso did well enough in qualifying to get fifth on the grid but talked up the race pace of the Ferrari, Kimi Räikkönen was the equivalent of a racing photobomber, never saying much but always showing up in the picture, Felipe Massa wasn't really big on the tires and McLaren might want to consider starting a blues band they spend so much time singing them.
Then the lights went green and things went nuts...
Related Gallery2013 Spanish Formula One Grand Prix
Both pole-sitter Nico Rosberg and teammate Lewis Hamilton cautioned about the race pace of their Mercedes' versus their qualifying pace, but we're sure neither had any idea how bad things would get once the lights turned green. Rosberg managed to hold onto the lead for the first 13 laps of the race, even after the first round of pit stops that began on Lap 9. However, on Lap 4, Rosberg got his first warning to look after one of his tires, and when he came out after his first pit stop, his tires didn't seem to have any race in them - he was passed by Alonso and Sebastian Vettel in the Infiniti Red Bull on his out lap, Räikkönen in the Lotus two laps later, and would spend the rest of the race on a four-stop strategy fighting his losses, dropping back to sixth place at the finish.
Hamilton wishes the day had gone so well. After flat-spotting into the first corner on the first lap, he was fourth by the start of the second lap and struggled with his tires and his car. By Lap 15, he was down to ninth, passed by Daniel Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso. By Lap 25 he was out of the top ten and by Lap 28 he was down to 15th and radioed his engineer, "I've just been overtaken by a Williams." On Lap 55 he was lapped. He managed to reclaim three places to finish in 12th, and although he was at a loss for answers when trying to explain where the problem is with the car he wasn't morose, saying, "We don't know where it is at the moment, otherwise we would fix it immediately, but I'm sure the guys will find it."
Championship leader Vettel - who's been the man to beat when Pirelli brings the hard compound to a race - gained a place on the first lap to claim second position and stayed right behind Rosberg all the way into the pits on Lap 11. While Rosberg came out in the lead, though, Vettel came out in third behind Alonso. Vettel would use Alonso as the rabbit for this stint, following him past Rosberg on Lap 13 but then slowly losing time to Alonso and, on Lap 15, being told to look after his tires. Vettel stayed in the top four with Alonso, Massa and Räikkönen, but his Infiniti Red Bull looked earthly this race, and after a battle with Räikkönen that went on for nearly ten laps, Vettel was again told not to fight Raikkonen so hard that he killed his own race. Räikkönen finally got by on Lap 33 and from there Vettel settled into a quiet race to fourth, finishing almost ten seconds ahead of his teammate Mark Webber. The No. 2 Infiniti Red Bull got another horrific start, dropping from eighth at the start to 11th, but was one of the few racers on the grid who managed to make a big jump from the green flag to the checkered, ending the race in fifth.
It was Alonso and Raikkonen that would keep everyone guessing until the end – well, if not guessing, at least Raikkonen kept it game for most of the race. Alonso, in third position by the third turn of the first lap, passed Rosberg on Lap 13 and then his Ferrari owned the track – whenever Alonso wasn't in the pits he was putting more distance between himself and the rest of the field. He was so quick that at one point that after emerging from the pits he began lapping three seconds quicker than the cars in the lead. Even though Raikkonen only did a three-stopper to Alonso's four, Alonso had so much time in hand that when he did his final stop on Lap 37, he came out less than two seconds behind Raikkonen, then got by him two laps later in the DRS zone on the main straight. There was nothing the Lotus could do – Raikkonen has been saying ever since his win in Australia that the E20 needs more pace – and Alonso finished in first roughly a dozen seconds ahead of the Finn.
Joining them on the podium was Massa, who was demoted to ninth place on the grid for impeding Webber during qualifying, but was sixth by Lap 2 and got up to second for much of the race, not troubling his teammate but sparring with Raikkonen and Vettel on track and during pit stops. On Lap 37 the Ferrari team machine ran so well that Alonso and Massa pitted together. Alonso was able to breeze past Raikkonen after that stop, but Massa – who said he didn't have the tires, again – had to be happy with third.
The final order was Alonso, Raikkonen, Massa, Vettel, Webber, Rosberg, di Resta, Jenson Button, Sergio Perez and Ricciardo. Button described the performance of his McLaren as "a little embarrassing" but still mananged to come from 14th on the grid to 8th at the finish. A clash with teammate Perez this time was avoided, both cars apparently told not to fight, Perez finishing in the same ninth place in which he began. Romain Grosjean in the second Lotus would retire on Lap 10 after contact with Adrian Sutil in the Force India. Both di Resta and Ricciardo continue to do good things with their chassis', the Scotsman taking his Force India from tenth on the grid to seventh, Ricciardo adding another point to his standings in the Driver's Championship. He's now one point ahead of teammate Jean-Eric Vergne, who had to retire with damage after a collision with Nico Hülkenberg and a tire delamination, and just five points behind Perez and ten behind Button.
Alonso's win gives him 72 points, good for third position behind Vettel with 89 and Mr. Consistent Kimi Räikkönen with 85. From there it's a plunge back to Hamilton (50), Massa (45) and Webber (42). It looks better for the Scuderia in the Constructor's race, Infiniti Red Bull leading on 131 points, Ferrari at 117 and Lotus with 111. Pirelli has said it will be working on new compounds, believing the number of four-stopping cars might have been a bit much, but they won't be ready in time for the Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks. The race in the harbor, always good for a surprise pole position and a winner out of nowhere, should continue the season's unpredictability.