Can Mercedes convert front row into victory?

2013 Spanish Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Circuit de Cataunya, Barcelona, 2013So far the Spanish Grand Prix has had the hallmarks of recent race weekends in 2013.

The Mercedes pair are quick over a single lap and have annexed the front row of the grid. But in Bahrain and China they lacked the race pace to rebuff the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus.

Will the same be the case again on Sunday? Or will the harder tyres Pirelli have brought this weekend and Mercedes’ concentration on getting the most out of them pay off?

The start

Fernando Alonso has taken the lead at the start of the last two Spanish Grands Prix. In 2011 that involved propelling himself into first place from fourth on the grid.

It’s going to be tricky for him to pull off the same from fifth on the grid this weekend but the Ferrari is particularly fleet at the start and the straight run to turn one is the longest of the year.

In front of him are several drivers he needs to take some points off. First among which is Sebastian Vettel, who Alonso cannot afford to get separated from as they try to work their way past the Mercedes.

Alonso would have been able to rely on having team mate Felipe Massa alongside him not trying anything risky at the start. But Massa’s penalty means he now has the far less predictable and worryingly quick Romain Grosjean next to him at the start.


“I think this race will be mainly dominated by tyre wear,” said Paul di Resta after qualifying, “and our car is normally very good at that.”

“Certainly when I see the tyres in parc ferme at the end of qualifying ours look quite healthy.”

Pierlli have toughened up their hard tyre compound for this race to extend the life of their product and expect to see the drivers making three pit stops tomorrow. Today’s running passed without a repeat of the tyre failure suffered by Di Resta during practice yesterday, and hopefully that will remain the case during the grand prix.

The harder tyres should help Mercedes in what has previously been their key weakness. But having taken pole position Rosberg wasn’t getting carried away with his prospects for the race:

“I?m not going to sit here and say I?m very confident that I can go for the win tomorrow,” he said in the press conference after qualifying.

“No, the target needs to be a little bit less than that I think ?ǣ maybe a podium ?ǣ but there are so many unknowns for tomorrow because the situation is completely different again, with graining. ”

Here’s the data from qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix:

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Nico RosbergMercedes1’21.9131’21.776 (-0.137)1’20.718 (-1.058)
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’21.7281’21.001 (-0.727)1’20.972 (-0.029)
3Sebastian VettelRed Bull1’22.1581’21.602 (-0.556)1’21.054 (-0.548)
4Kimi RaikkonenLotus1’22.2101’21.676 (-0.534)1’21.177 (-0.499)
5Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’22.2641’21.646 (-0.618)1’21.218 (-0.428)
6Felipe MassaFerrari1’22.4921’21.978 (-0.514)1’21.219 (-0.759)
7Romain GrosjeanLotus1’22.6131’21.998 (-0.615)1’21.308 (-0.690)
8Mark WebberRed Bull1’22.3421’21.718 (-0.624)1’21.570 (-0.148)
9Sergio PerezMcLaren1’23.1161’21.790 (-1.326)1’22.069 (+0.279)
10Paul di RestaForce India1’22.6631’22.019 (-0.644)1’22.233 (+0.214)
11Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1’22.9051’22.127 (-0.778)
12Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1’22.7751’22.166 (-0.609)
13Adrian SutilForce India1’22.9521’22.346 (-0.606)
14Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’23.1661’22.355 (-0.811)
15Nico HulkenbergSauber1’23.0581’22.389 (-0.669)
16Esteban GutierrezSauber1’23.2181’22.793 (-0.425)
17Valtteri BottasWilliams1’23.260
18Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1’23.318
19Giedo van der GardeCaterham1’24.661
20Jules BianchiMarussia1’24.713
21Max ChiltonMarussia1’24.996
22Charles PicCaterham1’25.070

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Nico Rosberg22.625 (5)30.262 (2)27.738 (1)
Lewis Hamilton22.758 (8)30.329 (5)27.795 (2)
Sebastian Vettel22.644 (6)30.313 (3)28.097 (3)
Kimi Raikkonen22.512 (1)30.365 (7)28.283 (7)
Fernando Alonso22.536 (3)30.314 (4)28.249 (6)
Felipe Massa22.556 (4)30.224 (1)28.328 (8)
Romain Grosjean22.530 (2)30.367 (8)28.411 (12)
Mark Webber22.841 (9)30.345 (6)28.216 (5)
Sergio Perez22.756 (7)30.732 (10)28.100 (4)
Paul di Resta22.877 (11)30.692 (9)28.378 (10)
Daniel Ricciardo22.864 (10)30.833 (12)28.430 (13)
Jean-Eric Vergne22.877 (11)30.879 (13)28.410 (11)
Adrian Sutil23.027 (14)30.971 (16)28.348 (9)
Jenson Button22.880 (13)30.931 (15)28.544 (15)
Nico Hulkenberg23.053 (15)30.803 (11)28.533 (14)
Esteban Gutierrez23.185 (17)30.909 (14)28.598 (16)
Valtteri Bottas23.227 (18)31.083 (17)28.812 (17)
Pastor Maldonado23.057 (16)31.329 (18)28.932 (18)
Giedo van der Garde23.314 (19)31.758 (19)29.589 (20)
Jules Bianchi23.446 (21)31.776 (22)29.491 (19)
Max Chilton23.503 (22)31.772 (21)29.721 (21)
Charles Pic23.388 (20)31.765 (20)29.846 (22)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Fernando AlonsoFerrari318.5 (197.9)
2Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso317.3 (197.2)-1.2
3Sergio PerezMcLaren317.0 (197.0)-1.5
4Jenson ButtonMcLaren316.9 (196.9)-1.6
5Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso316.3 (196.5)-2.2
6Paul di RestaForce India315.2 (195.9)-3.3
7Felipe MassaFerrari314.1 (195.2)-4.4
8Romain GrosjeanLotus313.6 (194.9)-4.9
9Jules BianchiMarussia313.6 (194.9)-4.9
10Max ChiltonMarussia313.4 (194.7)-5.1
11Kimi RaikkonenLotus313.1 (194.6)-5.4
12Lewis HamiltonMercedes312.6 (194.2)-5.9
13Adrian SutilForce India312.2 (194.0)-6.3
14Pastor MaldonadoWilliams312.2 (194.0)-6.3
15Nico RosbergMercedes312.1 (193.9)-6.4
16Giedo van der GardeCaterham310.8 (193.1)-7.7
17Valtteri BottasWilliams310.7 (193.1)-7.8
18Charles PicCaterham310.7 (193.1)-7.8
19Esteban GutierrezSauber306.9 (190.7)-11.6
20Sebastian VettelRed Bull306.2 (190.3)-12.3
21Nico HulkenbergSauber306.1 (190.2)-12.4
22Mark WebberRed Bull305.7 (190.0)-12.8

Over to you

Do you think Mercedes will finally score their first win of 2013 this weekend? If not, which of their rivals will take it from them?

Share your views on the Spanish Grand Prix in the comments.

2013 Spanish Grand Prix

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Image ?? Daimler/Hoch Zwei

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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31 comments on “Can Mercedes convert front row into victory?”

  1. I really hope Mercedes has improved their race pace and score their first win, otherwise Nico and Lewis will be happy to be in top 5 after 10 laps.

    1. Looking at how they did in practice I would guess that they have improved their race pace over the three week break. Nevertheless, I’d be surprised to see either of them finish above third.

  2. Vettel is 12km/h down on the straights: that could be key. I did notice he was hitting the limiter very early on the main straight in qualifying!

    1. That explains things. I was thinking “The engine note hasn’t changed for a good 5 seconds…”

      1. @plutoniumhunter I noticed it in FP3 also and I thought it must’ve been costing them laptime even despite the fact they will have consequently been faster through the corners because of the amount of time he was hitting the limiter for. I’m pretty sure a higher 7th gear wouldn’t have gone amiss.

    2. @vettel1

      I did notice he was hitting the limiter very early on the main straight in qualifying!

      You have to take into consideration that he was light on fuel Max!! With a heavy load, he won´t be hitting the limiter for quite a while and yes, it might come back to bite him in the bum at the end when the fuel goes down.
      It´ll be interesting to say the least. Grosjean really makes me uncomfortable alongside ALO.

      1. @karter22 of course, but he was hitting it about 5 seconds before the end of the straight – that is alarmingly soon even with factoring it this is on quali set-up!

        Grosjean had been behaving himself recently so I wouldn’t be too worried but they don’t have the greatest of histories do Alonso and Grosjean when near each other into turn 1!

        1. @vettel1

          but he was hitting it about 5 seconds before the end of the straight

          I wouldn´t worry about it Max. With a full load, he´ll probably hit the limiter as he turns in for turn 1. What I would worry about is at the end of the race when the fuel is almost spent, he might get in trouble then but not at the start.

          1. @karter22 my concern is only if a DRS-equipped Fernando Alonso comes up behind him, as he’s been mightily fast on the straights. I reckon he’ll clear the Merc’s though and give himself some breathing space, but we shall see!

    3. @vettel1, I don’t think too much should be read into Vettel’s low top speeds (or any speed trap figures after qualifying) if the cause is short gear ratios rather than a big rear wing.

      As @karter22 pointed out, with a high fuel load they are not going to reach top speeds. More importantly, the top speeds are reached using DRS, and if an Alonso would come up behind him, he wouldn’t have DRS himself anyway, and he would be better served accelerating quickly out of the final corner. It will be interesting to see any onboards during the race, and I doubt any car will go much quicker than 306 without DRS, during any part of the race.

      The only downside to Vettel’s short gear ratio is that, when he’s trying to pass someone himself (and then especially later in the race), he might not have enough speed surplus to get by easily.

  3. A few days ago I said that if I were Vettel, Alonso or Kimi and I qualified 3rd behind a Mercedes front row; I’d be thinking 3rd was more-o-less pole position. I hope I’m wrong as I would like to see a Mercedes win come sooner rather than later, but their tyre management just isn’t even remotely good enough based on the last few races. Maybe they have improved, we won’t know until tomorrow. Failing a Mercedes win, I hope Ferando or Kimi will win it (basically anyone but Vettel!). The last thing we need is for Vettel to win too many races too quickly.

  4. Still don’t think Mercedes can win this one, but it will be very interesting between the top 5. My bet would be on Raikkonen if he can pull one stop less than the others. The only way I see one of the Mercs having a good shot at the win is if one of them is quite a bit quicker than the other and can capitalise on the lead, whilst the other slows Vettel, Raikkonen and Alonso.

    1. I think Mercedes best bet is early pits stops to keep the lead. Then defend like hell at the end and hope the field is spread out enough that they don’t lose too many places in the last 5 laps when the tyres start dropping off.

    2. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
      11th May 2013, 19:24

      Raikkonen is a good call, and is certainly who I’m putting my pound on.

  5. The fact that they have the front row might give one of them a chance. If they can stay in first and second through the first few laps it could be on but if they are split at the start it’ll be ALO, VET or RAI.

  6. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    11th May 2013, 19:20

    Its much too easy to look at Bahrain and assume that that’s the form-book. Remember Australia? Red Bull were destroying their tyres, and that continued into Malaysian practice. Vettel got pole in Malaysia, but we all snorted thinking that Raikkonen and Ferrari would waltz past in the race, and what happened? A Red Bull 1-2. Now whilst I’m not necessarily saying that’ll happen to Mercedes, I think it is important to remember that nothing is static in F1, just look at the difference in Vettel’s race pace between Australia and Bahrain. From where I’ve been sat, Mercedes have definitely made progress regarding tyre consumption, so whilst I won’t be putting any money on Rosberg or Hamilton, I think it’s wrong to rule them out. Saying that, I certainly will be putting money on Hamilton in a couple of weeks!

    1. I don’t think so. To me it is easier for a team who is fast on race trim like Ferrari to be fast on qualifying (and that hasn’t happened yet to Ferrari yet in quite a few years) and to me it is quite the opposite o harder for a team to be able to find solutions so that their car doesn’t eat the tyres. And yet in the three weeks since the last race Ferrari wasn’t able to fix its speed for qualifying and I don’t think Mercedes have fix their problems with their car and the tyres and it has been that way for quite a few years now. So what does it makes you think that have found the solution in the last three weeks?

  7. The Mercs are fantastic in sector 3… This could be the ace up their sleeve if they can keep themselves out of the DRS range. It won’t be easy to pass them anywhere else.

    1. Traverse (@)
      11th May 2013, 19:40

      Much like Vettel vs Hamilton at the Spanish GP 2011. Hamilton coasted up to Vettel but couldn’t pass him due to the RBR’s better traction out of the last corner.

  8. Before qualifying, Boullier was predicting a three or four stop race. Will be interesting to see which one it is, or if Lotus are once again able to do one stop less than their competitors.

    I think the podium will be Alonso, Vettel and Räikkönen, but not necessarily in that order. If Alonso gets a good start, and manages to get ahead of Vettel or even split the Mercedes duo, I can’t see anyone beating him. Kimi will probably struggle to start from the dirty side of the grid, and P3 might be the best he can eventually manage. Nico should lead the race for the first stint, but then he’ll probably fade. Hamilton might pit earlier, if he is forced to run in the dirty air left by his teammate.

    Also, will be interesting to see how Webber and Massa fare. Webber has been traditionally fast here, and Felipe has been on it for the whole weekend.

    1. Massa, even though he hasnt performed well the past few years, he is also the guy that gets bad luck more then others. fastest in p3, and now will only start 9th! i think he will get a pole position or race win this year, but i doubt his return to form will form into a consistency.

  9. Watch the Mercs fall behind ,like they did in Bahrain, tomorrow. You have to compromise qualifying speed for race pace and that’s something Mercedes haven’t resolved yet.The race will be decided between Vettel, Kimi and Fernando. Vettel wil lose time between the two slow Mercs so Fernando and Kimi can catch up! Should be exciting.

  10. cant wait for the race, think we might have a real battle on our hands, could be any of the top 6 cars, lotus probably will try there conservative approach and come into play during the last part of the race, alonso looking mighty with his race pace from the ferrari, hamilton rosberg big question mark here can they pull it off, Seb will have to fight hard to keep alonso and kimi behind. vettel, alonso battle tmrw I tihnk, and kimi as usual will be in it,

    looking at race pace its got to be the ferraris,

  11. Mercs seem to have made a bigger step than other teams. It is very likely one of them will win.

  12. […] the far less predictable and worryingly quick Romain Grosjean […]

    read: “the quick but worryingly less predictable Romain Grosjean” :P

  13. Hope So….. Hope they can turn this one around and prove the doubters of Ross Brawn wrong …. I hope Lewis can win this one…. Nico is a nice guy too… Just supporting Lewis a tad more. He also has a point to Prove to some old friends :)

  14. Interesting to see that unlike most other races the Mercedes are relatively slow in a straight line. Think they might be taking a line out of the RBR play book and running high downforce? Could explain their pace in sector three. I tipped Lewis for pole (I was half right and a Merc was on pole, just the wrong one) and Kimi ftw but given their pace I think Mercedes are a big chance.

    Now I’ve said that Vettel will probably walk away with the win…

  15. Everybody is writing the MERCs off but to be honest, I think they might pull a big upset! I for one hope that I´m wrong because that would mean SV, RAI and ALO fighting for the win and given ALO´s starts, he might just pull it off but it all depends on the mercs.
    It´s gonna be a cracker of a race!!!

  16. LH did less laps during Q3 and I saw him conserving tyres at Sec 1 n 2. So poor NR will be in trouble from Turn 1.

  17. The lotuses need to improve their starts, have not been good enough these last few races. Any one from the top 5 can win tomorrow should be a cracker, cannot wait for light out

  18. depends on how well they do on their tyres, remember that lotus had almost no degradation in the long runs on friday? hell, they may even be able to pull of a one-stopper! my money’s on lotus!

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