Date: 14th May 2013 at 9:56am
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Fernando Alonso has stormed to a sensational home victory on home soil in what turned out to be a 66-lap race dominated by Pirelli?s controversial tyres, with the Spaniard eventually finishing ahead of Kimi Raikkonen with team-mate Felipe Massa 3rd. The Mercedes duo greatly struggled during the race, finishing way down the order.

Despite locking-out the front-row of the grid during qualifying, the Mercedes duo struggled to translate such a dominant performance into a successful result, as Lewis Hamilton immediately began to plummet through the order once the lights went out at the start. Nico Rosberg managed to retain the lead, as Sebastian Vettel assumed 2nd position ahead of the charging Ferrari of Fernando Alonso. The McLaren of Jenson Button also struggled during the opening lap of the race, dropping from 14th to 17th amongst the likes of Esteban Gutierrez and Giedo van der Garde.

Lewis Hamilton continued to drop unceremoniously through the order during the opening few laps, as Kimi Raikkonen became the next driver to make his way around the 2008 World Champion. Jules Bianchi was forced to make an early and unscheduled pit stop after the opening two laps, to change his front wing which sustained damage at the start. By Lap 7, Mark Webber became the first driver to make a scheduled pit stop for Red Bull. As Felipe Massa overtook Lewis Hamilton a lap later, many others elected to dive into the pits.

As many drivers throughout the order elected to pit, including the likes Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean became the first retirement of the race after suffering from suspension failure. The Frenchman managed to limp back to the pits, before jumping disconsolately from his Lotus machine. On Lap 10 the leading duo of Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel both pitted, with the Mercedes driver just beating the reigning Champion back out onto the track.

However, the leading duo returned to the Circuit de Catalunya right in the path of Fernando Alonso, who managed to beat Sebastian Vettel and slot neatly behind Nico Rosberg. Whilst these three drivers jostled for position both in the pits and on the track, Sauber rookie Esteban Gutierrez assumed the lead. Further down the order, Pastor Maldonado?s weekend failed to improve as the former Spanish Grand Prix winner was struck with a drive-thru penalty for speeding in the pit-lane.

In his quest for glory on home soil, Fernando Alonso stormed around the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg for 2nd position on Lap 12. The Spaniard then assumed the lead a lap later once Esteban Gutierrez finally pitted for his first of many stops. After Lewis Hamilton?s demise in the early stages of the race, Nico Rosberg began to suffer after his first pit-stop. The German driver was overtaken by both Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa in quick succession, as Fernando Alonso began to open up a considerable lead at the front. Kimi Raikkonen then became the next man to overtake the struggling Mercedes driver, as he rose up to 4th.

After a strong qualifying performance from Toro Rosso, Daniel Ricciardo was enjoying a very competitive race. The Australian driver was up to 8th by Lap 19, after mastering an overtaking maneuver on Paul di Resta?s Force India. Felipe Massa was quick to make his second pit stop on Lap 20, after complaining over the team radio about his tyres. Fernando Alonso pitted a lap later from the lead, gifting the lead of the race to reigning Champion Sebastian Vettel.

Towards the rear of the pack, Giedo van der Garde?s race was brought to a peculiar conclusion when his left-rear wheel fell off of his Caterham. The Dutchman miraculously managed to limp back to the pits on only three wheels, before retiring from the race. Whilst Giedo van der Garde limped back to the pits, Sebastian Vettel made his second pit stop from the lead of the race. This released the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen into the lead, with the Finn looking exceptionally quick before Sebastian Vettel elected to pit.

Lewis Hamilton pitted on Lap 25, in what was becoming a disastrous race for the Briton. Since qualifying 2nd for the race, the Mercedes driver had plummeted down to 10th position. Kimi Raikkonen?s lead was short-lived, as the Finn pitted a lap after Lewis Hamilton. This enabled Fernando Alonso to resume his lead at the front, ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa. Upon returning to the action, Kimi Raikkonen fully utilized his fresh set of tyres, instantly disposing of Sebastian Vettel for 3rd position.

After the second round of pit-stops, Fernando Alonso found himself a commanding +12.598 seconds ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa in 2nd. Whilst the Spaniard continued to assert his authority over proceedings at the front, Sauber unsafely released Nico Hulkenberg into the path of Jean-Eric Vergne in the pits. The resulting incident damaged Hulkenberg?s front wing, and saw him struck with a stop/go penalty.

On Lap 36, both Ferraris completed their third pit-stops, separated by only several seconds in what was a masterful piece of team work by the Ferrari mechanics. Although this initially enabled Kimi Raikkonen to return to the lead, Fernando Alonso wasted no time in hunting down the Finn to retake the lead on Lap 38. Whilst Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen jostled for the lead, Jean-Eric Vergne suffered a tyre failure similar to that of Paul di Resta earlier in the weekend. After returning to the pits for a new set of tyres, the issue continued to plague his Toro Rosso before he was forced to retire on Lap 54.

Despite a yet another round of pit stops in the closing stages of the Spanish Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso?s lead was not challenged as the double-World Champion eventually crossed the line to secure his 32nd race victory of his career, and his 11th for Ferrari. Kimi Raikkonen finished 2nd for Lotus, reenforcing his consistency with his 23rd successive points finish for Lotus since his return. Felipe Massa came home 3rd, after yet another highly competitive drive from the Brazilian.

After finishing in 4th, Sebastian Vettel?s lead at the top of the Championship table has been slashed down to only four points ahead of the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen. Should Sebastian Vettel suffer an uncompetitive Monaco Grand Prix next time out and Kimi Raikkonen once again finish on the podium, then the sport could see a change in the lead for the Drivers? Championship. However, Fernando Alonso will be striving to secure another race victory next time out, in what will surely be yet another fascinating edition to this season.

Author: Andy Young

TWITTER: @AndyYoungF1


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