It was a glorious day for Ferrari as Kimi Raikkonen led a one-two on the final lap of the Spanish Grand Prix, but rivals McLaren and BMW had a poor end to their weekend, McLaren only collecting six points and BMW five. Fernando Alonso eventually retired, his Renault engine letting go at the most inopportune moment. The Circuit de Catalunya also saw a fair few other retirements as well, with only thirteen cars managing to get tot he finish line on lap 66. The most noted of retirements being Heikki Kovalainen, who hit the tyre barrier at T8 at around 140mph. Thankfully, the Finn appears to be fine, just a little concussed and sore.
The start saw a text book get-away from the Scuderia drivers, Lewis Hamilton also doing well and Alonso leaving the line cleanly. Initially it looked as though everyone made it around T1 unscathed but it didn’t take long for the Safety Car to see some action, as Adrian Sutil touched the back of David Coulthard and suffered damage at the front of his Force India. This caused a knock-on effect as everybody behind tried to avoid the ensuing incident, but there was nowhere for Sebastian Vettel to go and the inevitable contact resulted in each Germans retirement.
After the race resumed everybody settled into a consistent pace and nobody really pulled away from anybody else. The unfortunate effect of high levels of downforce combined with a circuit that doesn’t encourage overtaking means little can be done about the car in front.
The second safety car period came on lap 22 has Heikki Kovalainen’s McLaren was buried deep in the tyre barrier. From the replays, it showed the front-left tyre deflate quickly, causing the Finn to spear off the track at T8 and impact the wall at around 140mph. The Finn wasn’t immediately shown to be moving and the McLaren looked to be very deeply penetrated in the tyres. Marshals immediately scrambled over the car to assess Heikki’s condition and the Medical Car was deployed, following the Safety Car around to the scene of the incident. Heikki was stretchered away a few minutes later, giving the crowds the thumbs-up as he was wheeled into the ambulance. According to doctors at the medical centre, Kovalainen was stable and talking, but concussed. It has been reported that he has no broken bones at this moment.
The cause of the accident has still not been verified, but McLaren have suggested a stone got in between the tyre and wheel rim, causing the rubber to let go. As the incident didn’t appear to be any kind of catastrophic failure of any one part due to design, Lewis Hamilton was able to continue.
The safety car was on track for a while, enabling the marshals and doctors plenty of time to assist Heikki at the side of the track, and for his battered McLaren to be lifted away from causing further danger to the remaining drivers.
Renault endured a tough weekend, despite showing improved form on Friday and during Saturday’s qualifying session. Laps six and eight were all about Nelson Piquet Jr, the rookie driver having a couple of detours around parts of the circuit not designed for fast driving. The first incident saw Piquet run wide apparently all of his own doing. Two laps later he made a late move on David Coulthard, who didn’t appear to be expecting it and turned in on the Brazilian. Nelson’s Renault was left stranded on the inside of the corner, his race effectively over.
And poor Fernando Alonso, who was running a decent race considering he was the first to pit, ended up pulling his R28 over to the side of the track at about mid-distance, the Spaniard having lost drive due to an apparent engine failure. All in all, what was looking to be a promising weekend for the squad turned out to be one of achievement in the long term, but a disaster on the day.
BMW similarly have endured a poor showing in Spain, Robert Kubica being the only saving grace with his five points collected for fourth place. Nick Heidfeld, who didn’t qualify particularly well, suffered the pitlane lottery during the second safety car period. The German driver was forced to pit for fuel and thus was handed a drive-thru penalty, which he took on lap 33. Heidfeld eventually finished in ninth, just outside the points.
Aside from Heikki’s accident, McLaren did well to collect six points for Hamilton’s podium. There were times during the race where Lewis appeared to be on strong form, keeping up with the Ferrari’s and refusing to let them run away with the race. However, the Briton was unable to do much about passing and quietly crossed the line to earn himself and the team a few points.
Honda collected their first points of the year as Jenson Button brought his RA108 home in sixth. Rubens Barrichello suffered another poor race though as the Brazilian driver damaged his front wing during his second stop and eventually retired on lap 36. The three points earned by Button puts the Honda squad just ahead of Scuderia Toro Rosso in the overall standings.
The Final Point
Towards the end of the race the hottest battle appeared to be between the pundits who were trying to guess which car would eventually finish in eighth, thus collecting one championship point. For a short while Takuma Sato looked good for it, and had it happened it would have been a monumental achievement for the small team considering what they have been through in the past fortnight. However, it wasn’t to be this time, and Sato finished the race in thirteenth and last place.
After Sato was ruled out, all eyes were on Giancarlo Fisichella, who looked reasonably strong to collect a point for the improving Force India team. Unfortunately, as the chequered flag fell the Italian could only get into tenth place.
Toyota & Williams
In the end, it was Jarno Trulli who picked up the final point, the Toyota driver finishing just behind the Williams of Kazuki Nakajima. The Japanese driver earned his second set of world championship points this year in Spain, and made up for the retirement of Nico Rosberg, the German driver pulling off the track with suspected engine failure.
Red Bull Racing managed to get both cars to the finish line, but a string of incidents meant David Coulthard could only add a twelfth place to his record book. Mark Webber, on the other hand, kept his head down and drove well to collect four points from fifth place. The Australian has now doubled his total points haul up to before this race and sits ahead of similarly powered Alonso in the title tables.
All in all, the Spanish Grand Prix has been another let down in terms of excitement. There were a few great scraps down the field, the thought of either a Super Aguri or Force India pickling up points was enticing. However, because of the nature of the track and the cars, we saw very little overtaking; it wasn’t a classic race. However, it was for Raikkonen who goes away with an extended lead in the drivers title. Lewis Hamilton is clinging on to second but has only a one-point margin to Robert Kubica in third. Ferrari take the lead of the constructors title, thanks to the Italian team earning 18 points to BMW’s 5. McLaren are in third, just one point behind the Hinwil-based team.[poll=8]