Spanish Grand Prix 2011 review - By Matt Upton

I couldn’t believe what had just happened on Sunday afternoon, because I had just witnessed an exciting Spanish Grand Prix! Not long ago, I would have rather watched a man watching paint dry.

It’s not that I don’t think that Catalunya is a great circuit, because I really do. It has lots of elevation changes and some fantastic corners (apart from that awful Mickey Mouse chicane they added recently). But the problem was that overtaking opportunities were limited.

Not any more it seems; there was plenty of racing action. This was more down to the Pirelli tyres than the DRS, which was nowhere near as effective in Spain as it was in Turkey.

Fernando Alonso’s start was very much a key moment in the race, and what a start it was! He used all of his KERS with great effect to sneak passed the two Red Bulls, who were too busy concentrating on each other, to take the lead of his home race.

If Alonso hadn’t had this great start, the Red Bulls could well have just scampered into the distance. But as Christian Horner said in an interview, Vettel and Webber were quicker than Alonso; they just found it difficult to pass him. Alonso basically slowed the Red Bulls down.

The race was essentially a game of tyre strategy, with most people stopping four times. Vettel took the lead from Alonso on lap 20, by using his superior pace to undercut him in the pit stops. Hamilton also bypassed Alonso, doing an extra four laps on his tyres, and pitting that bit later.

Alonso would eventually suffer because he took the earlier stop. He struggled with his tyres and ended up behind Webber in fifth.

Jenson Button had a woeful start, dropping from fifth to tenth. Button clearly has the pace to match Hamilton, and challenge for race wins. But poor starts and driving into the wrong pit garage really isn’t going to help his cause; he needs a mistake free race.

Still, Button bravely battled his way up to third, cleverly switching to a three stop strategy. He made it work perfectly, and showed that he really can be aggressive. A brilliant move around the outside of Mark Webber on Lap 35 is testimony to this, and he breezed passed Alonso a lap later. Impressively, he managed to fend off Alonso and Webber in the closing stages on the hard tyre!

I was intrigued by the battle between Hamilton and Vettel. Hamilton was in with a sniff of a win, and duly hunted the young German down. But he couldn’t pass him, despite having KERS. The Red Bull was so quick off the final corner, that even the DRS didn’t make that much of a difference. It was a very calm, mature and measured drive from Vettel. If the young German had been in this position last year, he may well have made a mistake.

A special mention has to go to Nick Heidfeld though, who started at the back of the grid and finished eighth.

A deserved victory for Vettel then who finished just +0.630s ahead of Hamilton.

The next race is Monaco. Will McLaren take the top step? I’m not so sure, if Red Bull still have their immensely superior qualifying pace, then it could be a tall order; qualifying is all important at Monaco.

Matt Upton - May 2011