With rain spitting down as before the start the grid opted to start on the intermediate tyre, with the exception of the HRT pair who chose the full wets, meaning that the drivers do not need to use both the medium and hard tyre during the race. This was bad news for double world champion Sebastian Vettel who had gambled on the slower, but more durable hard tyre during qualifying.
The McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button sped away into the first corner, while Romain Grosjean climbed up to third place. His progress was hampered when he tangled with Michael Schumacher in Turn 4. As the rain started to pour down, Bruno Senna spun his Williams, while Perez made an early stop for the full wet tyre.
Meanwhile, Button was telling his team that his intermediate tyres were “Okay for now”, but di Resta, Massa, and Glock had pitted by the end of lap three.
Grosjean, who had dropped down the pack after the clash with Schumacher ended up in the gravel trap at Turn 8. The Frenchman had impressed in qualifying in both rounds so far, but would remain on zero points.
Button, Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg darted into the pits for wet tyres and it would not be long before the McLaren man overtook Schumacher, who was still on the intermediate tyre, easily.
By lap five Hamilton had built up a lead over Webber of 7.991 seconds. He then pitted, but was held up due to traffic in the pitlane as most of the field changed to wets. Red Bull pitted both of their cars, but Webber was far enough in front to not cost Vettel time.
With warmer tyres, Button closed in on leader Hamilton, nearly crashing into the back of his teammate before the rain turned into a thunderstorm and the safety car was deployed. Hamilton lead Button, Perez, Webber and Alonso, with Vettel down in sixth. Jean-Eric Vergne was running an impressive seventh as the only driver not to pit for wet tyres. The HRTs of Karthikeyan (10th) and de la Rosa (17th) had risen up the grid as a result of starting on the full wet tyre.
Two laps later the red flag came out and the race was stopped and out came the gazebos.
The race would eventually restart under the Safety Car, but it did not take long for the stewards to give Pedro de la Rosa a drive-through penalty for having a mechanic on the grid three minutes prior to the restart.
With all cars on full wet tyres the track started to dry out. When the Safety Car came in at the end of Lap 13, so to did Nico Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen and Kamui Kobayashi – all switching to the intermediate tyre.
On lap fourteen, the was a Red Bull-fight as Sebastian Vettel pulled off a successful pass on Mark Webber through Turn 4. The German could not hold on to that position as Webber regained it soon after. Hamilton pitted for intermediates, but overshot his markers and suffered a slow stop as a result. Webber and Alonso also pitted leaving young Mexican Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez in the lead.
Shortly afterwards, Button lost half of his front wing attempting an ambitious lunge to overtake Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT. While Button may have been frustrated, it is also possible that he was expecting the HRT to move out of his way – not realising that he was challenging Karthikeyan for track position. Both cars pitted that lap for intermediates, Button also replacing his damaged front wing. While this was happening down the rear of the pack, Alonso had re-taken the lead from Perez.
With DRS enabled, Ricciardo and Senna made moves past Kobayashi. Fernando Alonso held a lead of 4.4seconds to Perez, but Button was having trouble getting his tyres working. With no grip the Englishman would soon pit for fresh intermediates, while attention turned to the battle for fourth between Rosberg, Vettel and Raikkonen.
Vettel would pass Rosberg into Turn 1 on lap twenty-three, running wide, but holding onto fourth place into Turn 2. A lap later, Raikkonen would push Rosberg further down the grid at the same corner. Alonso would extend his lead over Perez by setting a new fastest lap of 2:00.416, but with the weather improving, anything could happen.
Rosberg’s day continued to go badly on lap twenty-five as Webber passed in Turn 6, while Senna passed Schumacher in Turn 5 for twelfth place.
The under-pressure Ferrari of Felipe Massa would soon lose out to di Resta and Jean-Eric Vergne. Button set a fastest lap of 1:58.284 on lap twenty-seven, showing that the track was drying out and the intermediate tyre was the preferable option. With a gap of 6.6seconds, the question now would be who would blink first, Alonso or Perez?
With rain predicted on the radar, and tyres wearing out the race hung in the balance. Massa was looking for damp patches to cool his tyres, while Perez set a fastest lap of 1:55.772, soon followed by a 1:55.772. The gap to Alonso is down to 4.9seconds.
Alonso then responds with a 1:54.720, but Perez goes even faster, cutting the gap to 3.2 seconds on lap 37. Another fastest lap and the gap is 2.3 seconds.
Massa, Webber, Ricciardo, Hamilton and Button then pitted for the medium slicks, while Perez had closed the gap to Alonso to 1.3 seconds. Alonso pitted the next lap, again for medium slicks, but Perez stayed out – the Sauber team still unsure whether or not the rain would come.
When Perez darted into the pit lane a lap later, he opted for the harder of the dry compounds – a move that seemed strange at the time. Alonso re-took the lead, largely because he had one lap longer to heat his new tyres up. A flurry of fastest laps from Pastor Maldonado and Mark Webber would set the trend as the track dried, and the rain didn’t quite reach the circuit.
World Champion Sebastian Vettel suffered a left rear puncture when he attempted to lap Narain Karthikeyan. In what has become a customary trait of the young German, he did not leave enough room for the HRT man, and would later stoop to the low level of calling him an ‘idiot’.
In the meantime, Perez had closed the gap to 0.354 seconds on lap forty-nine when he was warned by his team not to throw away eighteen much-needed points in the battle for victory. However, the Mexican’s inexperience showed when he put two wheels on the kerb at Turn 14 and ran wide. Alonso would gain a five second gap as a result.
Although Perez would again close the gap to Alonso, that mistake would cost him the chance of a maiden victory.
|Pos||Driver||Nat||Team||Position Change||Fastest Lap||Time||Pts|
|4.||Mark Webber||AUS||Red Bull Racing-Renault||0||1:41.017||+00:17.688||12|
|7.||Paul di Resta||GBR||Force India-Mercedes||+7||1:41.819||+00:44.412||6|
|8.||Jean-Eric Vergne||FRA||Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari||+10||1:41.922||+00:46.985||4|
|9.||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Force India-Mercedes||+7||1:42.173||+00:47.892||2|
|10.||Michael Schumacher||GER||Mercedes AMG||-7||1:41.760||+00:49.996||1|
|11.||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Red Bull Racing-Renault||-6||1:41.342||+01:15.527|
|12.||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari||+3||1:41.756||+01:16.828|
|13.||Nico Rosberg||GER||Mercedes AMG||-6||1:41.863||+01:18.593|
|16.||Vitaly Petrov||RUS||Caterham-Renault||+3||1:43.513||+ 1 lap|
|17.||Timo Glock||GER||Marussia-Cosworth||+3||1:44.757||+ 1 lap|
|18.||Heikki Kovalainen||FIN||Caterham-Renault||+6||1:43.803||+ 1 lap|
|19.||Pastor Maldonado||VEN||Williams-Renault||-8||1:42.237||DNF, lap 54|
|20.||Charles Pic||FRA||Marussia-Cosworth||+1||1:44.813||+ 2 laps|
|21.||Narain Karthikeyan||IND||HRT-Cosworth||+2||1:45.909||+ 2 laps|
|22.||Pedro de la Rosa||ESP||HRT-Cosworth||0||1:46.244||+ 2 laps|
|DNF||Kamui Kobayashi||JAP||Sauber-Ferrari||-6||1:44.202||DNF, lap 46|
|DNF||Romain Grosjean||FRA||Lotus-Renault||-18||2:08.464||DNF, lap 3|
For the latest news, follow The Pitstraight on Twitter (click here) or like us on Facebook (click here). Alternatively, you can subscribe to our RSS feed (click here). Keep an eye out for The Pitstraight Podcast on iTunes and other podcasting software.
Picture Credits: Sauber Motorsport AG