Lotus poised to press Maldonado and Alonso for victory

2012 Spanish Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Barcelona, 2012F1 stands a good chance of seeing another new winner this weekend: four of the top five drivers on the grid are yet to win a race this year.

Can Pastor Maldonado emulate Nico Rosberg by turning his maiden pole position into a maiden win?

Will Lotus go one better than they did last time out and grab a win?

Or could Fernando Alonso deliver a fairytale home victory in Spain? Let’s take a look at the race ahead.

The start

Lewis Hamilton’s penalty has left us with an unusual grid for tomorrow’s race, headed by Pastor Maldonado and Fernando Alonso.

The Circuit de Catalunya has one of the longest runs to turn one of the year, so a good start is crucial. As Alonso showed last year, a good getaway can make a huge different – he took the lead from fifth here 12 months ago.

Hamilton’s relegation to last place has not just moved everyone else up a place – it has also switched them from dirty side to the clean side of the track, and vice-versa. Maldonado, Grosjean, Perez and the other odd-numbered starters all have the benefit of a slightly cleaner, grippier line.

As for Hamilton, he now starts from the back of the grid (or the pits if his team so choose) with no fresh sets of soft tyres and just two fresh sets of hard tyres. This kind of frustration is exactly what produced the worst in his driving last year, and the slog back into the points he faces will be a significant test of his resolve.


After two days of warm, dry running in Spain Sunday could bring some significant changes.

Heavy rain at the circuit overnight will have washed much of the rubber build-up of the last few days away. This seems to affect the current Pirellis less than the previous Bridgestones, which responded to a gradual build-up of rubber by giving greater improvements in lap-time, and lacking grip when the rubber disappeared.

There is only an outside chance of rain falling during the race but track temperatures are expected to be cooler, which may help drivers with their tyre life.

“Tyre performance will be a critical factor,” said Alonso. “We will have to be careful, because the forecast is for different temperatures to today and that could throw up some surprises.”

A fired-up Alonso is well-placed to compete for the win, but his upgraded Ferrari did not have the best pace over a race stint on Friday.

Lotus looked extremely strong in this respect. Curiously, they did not repeat their Bahrain tactics of saving soft tyres: “We used three sets of soft tyres to go through qualifying, but we have two new sets of the hard compound Pirelli tyres” said trackside operations director Alan Permane.

Other teams, such as Red Bull, made saving new soft tyres a priority. At this stage it’s impossible to say who’s got it right – that will unfold when the pit stops begin tomorrow.

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1’23.3801’22.105 (-1.275)1’22.285 (+0.180)
2Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’23.2761’22.862 (-0.414)1’22.302 (-0.560)
3Romain GrosjeanLotus1’23.2481’22.667 (-0.581)1’22.424 (-0.243)
4Kimi RaikkonenLotus1’23.4061’22.856 (-0.550)1’22.487 (-0.369)
5Sergio PerezSauber1’24.2611’22.773 (-1.488)1’22.533 (-0.240)
6Nico RosbergMercedes1’23.3701’22.882 (-0.488)1’23.005 (+0.123)
7Sebastian VettelRed Bull1’23.8501’22.884 (-0.966)
8Michael SchumacherMercedes1’23.7571’22.904 (-0.853)
9Kamui KobayashiSauber1’23.3861’22.897 (-0.489)
10Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’23.5101’22.944 (-0.566)
11Mark WebberRed Bull1’23.5921’22.977 (-0.615)
12Paul di RestaForce India1’23.8521’23.125 (-0.727)
13Nico HulkenbergForce India1’23.7201’23.177 (-0.543)
14Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1’24.3621’23.265 (-1.097)
15Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1’23.9061’23.442 (-0.464)
16Felipe MassaFerrari1’23.8861’23.444 (-0.442)
17Bruno SennaWilliams1’24.981
18Vitaly PetrovCaterham1’25.277
19Heikki KovalainenCaterham1’25.507
20Charles PicMarussia1’26.582
21Timo GlockMarussia1’27.032
22Pedro de la RosaHRT1’27.555
23Narain KarthikeyanHRT1’31.122
24Lewis HamiltonMcLaren1’22.5831’22.465 (-0.118)1’21.707 (-0.758)

Unusually, Maldonado set pole position (after Hamilton’s penalty) with a slower time in Q3 than he had set in Q2.

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Pastor Maldonado22.787 (4)30.947 (4)28.321 (1)
Fernando Alonso22.878 (6)30.994 (6)28.430 (3)
Romain Grosjean22.737 (3)30.952 (5)28.677 (7)
Kimi Raikkonen22.652 (2)31.080 (7)28.718 (11)
Sergio Perez22.921 (9)30.935 (2)28.608 (5)
Nico Rosberg22.994 (11)31.249 (10)28.617 (6)
Sebastian Vettel23.096 (16)31.211 (8)28.577 (4)
Michael Schumacher22.913 (7)31.278 (11)28.713 (9)
Kamui Kobayashi22.866 (5)30.945 (3)28.897 (17)
Jenson Button22.916 (8)31.280 (12)28.680 (8)
Mark Webber22.982 (10)31.281 (13)28.714 (10)
Paul di Resta23.045 (12)31.300 (14)28.780 (12)
Nico Hulkenberg23.139 (17)31.230 (9)28.808 (14)
Jean-Eric Vergne23.052 (13)31.412 (15)28.801 (13)
Daniel Ricciardo23.058 (14)31.533 (17)28.851 (15)
Felipe Massa23.069 (15)31.510 (16)28.865 (16)
Bruno Senna23.150 (18)31.544 (18)29.500 (19)
Vitaly Petrov23.431 (19)32.063 (19)29.783 (20)
Heikki Kovalainen23.815 (20)32.319 (20)29.373 (18)
Charles Pic23.999 (21)32.705 (21)29.878 (21)
Timo Glock24.113 (22)32.815 (22)30.041 (22)
Pedro de la Rosa24.186 (23)33.058 (23)30.268 (23)
Narain Karthikeyan25.161 (24)34.128 (24)31.833 (24)
Lewis Hamilton22.616 (1)30.751 (1)28.340 (2)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Romain GrosjeanLotus323.2 (200.8)
2Kimi RaikkonenLotus323.1 (200.8)-0.1
3Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso319.4 (198.5)-3.8
4Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso318.9 (198.2)-4.3
5Lewis HamiltonMcLaren318.3 (197.8)-4.9
6Jenson ButtonMcLaren318.2 (197.7)-5.0
7Paul di RestaForce India317.8 (197.5)-5.4
8Nico HulkenbergForce India317.4 (197.2)-5.8
9Michael SchumacherMercedes316.7 (196.8)-6.5
10Nico RosbergMercedes316.5 (196.7)-6.7
11Heikki KovalainenCaterham315.6 (196.1)-7.6
12Fernando AlonsoFerrari315.5 (196.0)-7.7
13Felipe MassaFerrari315.5 (196.0)-7.7
14Vitaly PetrovCaterham315.5 (196.0)-7.7
15Kamui KobayashiSauber315.5 (196.0)-7.7
16Bruno SennaWilliams313.8 (195.0)-9.4
17Sergio PerezSauber313.7 (194.9)-9.5
18Pastor MaldonadoWilliams313.7 (194.9)-9.5
19Mark WebberRed Bull311.2 (193.4)-12.0
20Sebastian VettelRed Bull311.1 (193.3)-12.1
21Narain KarthikeyanHRT310.8 (193.1)-12.4
22Charles PicMarussia310.7 (193.1)-12.5
23Pedro de la RosaHRT310.6 (193.0)-12.6
24Timo GlockMarussia310.4 (192.9)-12.8

2012 Spanish Grand Prix

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    Keith Collantine
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  • 47 comments on “Lotus poised to press Maldonado and Alonso for victory”

    1. The only silver lining to today is that we could see any of 3 new teams win the race. Lotus, Williams or even possibly Sauber. Even if that doesn’t happen seeing Alonso win in Spain would be very special. If none of that manages to happen the race would have to be won from behing the first two rows of the grid for the first time and whoever does it will have to put in a storming performance…. ALL these possibilities…. AND we get to see LEWIS HAMILTON start in 24th with the fastest car on the grid by a significant margin!

      I can hardly imagine sleeping tonight! May the best man win!

      1. I just hope that the Pirelli’s tendency to go off as soon as they sense a car in front of them doesn’t put to bed any chance of a Hamilton charge through the field

        1. McLaren need to take this chance to give him a high 7th gear to fully utilise the DRS, after all, its not like they can be demoted any further down the grid due to set up changes made in parc ferme! If he gets stuck behind people due to bouncing off the limiter it will lead to more frustration. I hope he can make it to 10th at least, but at Barcelona… I not hopeful, but more than ready to be proven wrong!

          1. The gear ratios have been locked in since Q1.

            1. Nick.UK (@)
              13th May 2012, 0:22

              Shame. It appears on the speed traps though that the McLaren is in the top few teams anyway (I looked after commenting). The Lotus’ cars for example are one of the few who are faster, but will be beyond reach anyway so no need to worry about overtaking them lol.

            2. Can’t they take him out of parc-ferme, make him start from the pits and then change setup?

      2. @Nick-uk Absolutely mate! However this finished it will be spectacular. I haven’t been this excited for a race since Any Dhabi 2010, easily.

    2. I’m liking this! a fun Spanish GP ahead? looking like it!

    3. As I said on Twitter, I can’t call this. I think the safest bet is one of the Lotuses, but there are so many unknown factors at play that anyone in the top 10 has at least some chance of victory. I would love to see Sauber win — they came so close in Malaysia and they have a really good chance. Equally, I would love to see Williams win, and Raikkonen to crown his comeback. This race, like this season, is so delightfully poised, especially with Hamilton starting at the back.

      Day of racing tomorrow methinks. GP3, GP2 and the Grand Prix. I can hardly wait!

    4. Sorry Keith, but in the table you linked, + means places gained, does it not?

    5. I’m gonna say Kimi’ll win, with Maldonado and Alonso unfortunately eventually being overtaken by faster cars. I expect a charge up to the sharp end by Vettel, Button and Webber.

      1. i hope a new winner wins…so that we five different winners after five races..

        1. Yes,and it’s very possible that if we have a new winner, it’ll be from a new constructor. 5 different winners in 5 different cars? Amazing!

      2. I imagine the tyre team at Red Bull will be very busy.

      3. Ian (@valkyrassassin)
        13th May 2012, 1:37

        A Lotus win does seem likely after looking at those speedtrap values, as it’ll be hard for Alonso and Maldonado to keep them behind on that long main straight. Obviously, tyre life is the main factor, but if those Lotus cars are quick enough in laptime, then they *should* have no problem getting past.

    6. heard rumors on twitter of vettel getting a 5 place grid drop for either impeding hulkenberg or having a gearbox change. typically false rumors then.

      poor old hamilton. stupid, stupid mclaren… i give up on them.
      come on Kimi!

      1. I think Lewis has every right to be ticked off at Mclaren. They’re throwing his championship away..

    7. @keith, alonso started from 4th on the grid in 2011, not 5th place.

    8. I wonder whether Hamilton could have carried on until turn 12, switched off the engine and rolled down the hill in neutral, cutting the last chicane in the process. he would have alot of momentum to get down the pitlane…

      1. where did he stop exactly?

        1. Nick.UK (@)
          13th May 2012, 0:25

          Before turn 4 I think. It would have been too far to make the pit lane that’s for sure.

        2. @spiderman Between turns 8 and 9 me thinks…

        3. just before turn 8.

      2. Not sticking to the track without a good reason has been deemed illegal since Vettel did it on a cooldown lap.

      3. They’d have nabbed him for cutting the chicane – I remembered reading about this rule recently and here it is (under “Corner Cutting”).

        Don’t know if the penalty is as tough as the one he got – could’ve been worth a try…

      4. Coasting in 7th would have been more efficient… Neutral requires fuel to keep the engine ticking over. Shame they didn’t try to limp back to the pits, apparently there is a minimum time to get back to base but Mclaren would have been better testing that rule rather than coming to a stop and giving the stewards a chance to penalise Hamilton

      5. Since he had only 1.3l left in the tank, this would’ve been impossible. If he had driven the lap, he would’ve lacked the fuel for a sample, and then gotten into trouble.

        1. read what I said again. he just had to get to the top of turn 12 then coast.

    9. Sean (@spaceman1861)
      13th May 2012, 0:31

      Went to sleep after qualiy, woke up read for about 2 hours (so many comments). I can’t wait for this race :)

    10. Pretty exciting (for me anyway) to think that Alonso could be leading the championship again after this race. **fingers crossed**

    11. Judging by friday high fuel runs Lotus are looking good for the podium finish,and i wish it was that simple.Even if they are set up perfectly and a shue in for the one two finish,they still need to survive turn one.Maldonado will be a problem though,that guy is a loose cannon.Has no experience starting for the front of the grid,led alone from the pole,in other words he’s trouble.

      1. I agree completely, my prediction is that he will get too excited and make a mistake, cause an unpleasant contact with cars behind him in the first corner.

    12. “In the top five places on the grid are four drivers who’ve all tended to lose places at the start this year: Maldonado (net loss of nine places on lap one so far), Alonso (twelve), Raikkonen (ten) and Perez (eight).”

      I think you have got it backwards. It’s net gain. I for one don’t remember one race this year where Raikkonen has lost places on the first lap.

      1. China.

        1. He didn’t. Raikkonen was passed by Button, but he gained a place from Kobayashi’s slow start. So his net loss/gain was 0.

      2. Also, Alonso has a net gain of +12 positions on lap one this championship, not -12.

      3. alonso has very good starts this year i cant imagine where he could loose this 12 places

    13. In the case of Lotus, I think they thought that their qualifying positions were going to be better than they were. Therefor they risked using all three sets of the softer compound in quali. They may have hoped to only use two but then Maldonando went out in Q1 with the soft tyres, which screwed everything up. If their race pace is good they could be a strong contender. I am not sure if Maldonado will be able to pull anything off, I would be surprised if he is on the podium spraying champagne.

    14. Wow. What a great race at hand. Quite sad I have my A-Levels Physics and Maths paper tomorrow!!

      Anyways, I’d probably take some time out to watch the start, in-between and the end of the race.

      Prediction: 1 = RAI 2 = GRO 3 = MAL …. Vet = 5, Ham = 9, But = 8, Per = 4, Web = 7, Alo = 6

      Really gutted for Hamilton. He did a good job. I’m sure he didn’t know that there was less fuel in the car, and the advantage would have been probably 1 tenth at most. 23 place drop seems harsh, but rules are rules at the end of the day imho.

      PS: I wish Ron Dennis comes back. He was a charismatic leader. Good to see him at races this year. He is still the overall McLaren boss, so if he thinks they’re doing a bad job, he can surely step back in. Considering they’ve probably already lost up to 50 points in 4/5 races just due to team errors.

      1. BTW it’s crazy that in the past 30 races, Williams – a team who’s lost all of it’s pace and lustre – have gotten themselves 2 poles.

        PS: I count this as a pole to Maldonado. Unless if Lewis had a gearbox change, then I think it is still his pole, but since he seemingly didn’t have enough fuel in the tank, it’s right to not count this as his pole.

    15. How amazing would a win be for Williams? But I think it’ll be one of the Lotuses or a Red Bull who have had good race pace this year.

    16. As far as I can recall, surprise pole sitters have the tendency to fall back fairly quickly. I hope Maldonado bucks this trend, and at least leads at the first corner, so we can see what the Williams can do leading the field. I’m still not a Maldonado fan, but I’d love to see Williams win and he will be the one that has to get the job done.

      My prediction of Grosjean winning the race is still looking good (I even predicted a time of 1m22.4 in qualifying for him, although I thought that would have been him on pole), and Webber in fourth also looks eminently possible. Hamilton in 3, though, is looking a little less likely.

    17. alonso lost 12 places in first lap this year? srsly? :)

    18. Is there actually going to be some overtaking today? Or just a mainly DRS assisted procession?

      1. @alexf1man Given how screwed up the grid is I’m sure we’ll get plenty of both types.

    19. Keith,, there appears to be a few mistakes in the article. Maldonado, Alonso, Raikkonen and Grosjean certainly have not been among the worst starters and Alonso qualified fourth here last year, not fifth as it is written in the article. I hope you will take note of all that.

    Comments are closed.