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GP Week : Issue 81
Team-By-Team: Spanish GP -- As the first team to use an F duct, McLaren concentrated on its wings in the development race, and arrived in Spain hoping to have caught up the gap to Red Bull. That it did not completely do this will frustrate the team, as qualifying showed the out and out pace differential between McLaren and the Bulls. The race saw contrasting fortunes for the team's drivers. Hamilton was in inspired form to take the battle to Vettel, pass him, and go on to hold a steady lead over the German. His retirement came as a crushing blow after his left front tyre let go due to an as yet unspecified issue. Button meanwhile could not repeat his recent form and despite a good scrap could not find a way past the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher. New wings and a new floor were the order of the day at Red Bull, with the floor pointed to by Adrian Newey as the one upgrade in which he held the highest hopes. A new vent at the rear was designed to aid airflow to the diffuser, and the change made an instant impression. The team looked ominously fast all weekend, and Webber's pole lap was a second quicker then third placed Lewis Hamilton. In the race itself, Webber was untouchable and recorded his first win of the season in some style. Vettel meanwhile struggled in comparison. Passed at the first stops by Hamilton, his front wing lost its manual adjustment capability and then his brakes started to fail. He was lucky to make the finish, and a podium was more than he'd expected. Renault brought a new front wing and a newly redesigned floor, which it had taken to China but not used. The changes made some difference, but not a great deal. Petrov once again had a biggie in third practice, and the team was left with a big job on their hands to get his car ready for qualifying. Gaining his confidence back immediately, he was unlucky to miss out on Q3, eventually lining up 14th. Kubica meanwhile was seventh. As such he'll be disappointed with eighth, as will Petrov to have narrowly missed out on the points in 11th. With Ferrari apparently close to penning a deal with Kubica, Renault must move forward if it wishes to retain the services of a man who is currently helping to take them back to where they want to be. The most radical development in the pitlane was on display at Mercedes with the team's debut of its new engine cover and F-duct. The design itself caused some controversy from the safety conscious, with the roll structure left very exposed. The car also benefited from a longer wheelbase to try and dial out the understeer issues which had negatively affected Schumacher's comeback. The new car suited the multiple champ immediately and for the first time this season he finished all sessions ahead of his younger team-mate Rosberg. Nico would be forgiven if he was left feeling hard done by at the end of the weekend. He came here in second in the championship, and left knowing that he is now second in his team's priorities ... The Williams team came to Spain with a few tweaks on Hulkenberg's car, and a raft of differences to Barrichello's, including an F duct and a new front wing. It was the German however who outperformed his more experienced team-mate in qualifying, making it into Q2 while the Brazilian went out in Q1. Despite that, it was Rubens who shone in the race, pulling the Williams up into the points in ninth after a typically excellent drive. Hulkenberg ended up having a good scrap with Rosberg but would ultimately finish 16th, two laps off the pace. The team needs to get its direction sorted and move forward or it is going to find points increasingly hard to come by. Ferrari's major upgrade in Spain was its "blown rear wing" -- the team doesn't want to call it an "F duct'. Pettiness aside, this time the F duct on the car was driver operated by the driver's left hand. Some presumed a button, others a magnet inside his glove, but either way the device seemed to work well, despite alarmist calls from some areas that drivers should have both hands on the wheel at all times. The team also benefited from an engine modification for increased reliability. It paid dividends for Fernando Alonso who benefited from the problems suffered by Vettel and Hamilton to finish a surprised second from fourth on the grid. Massa did not seem as happy with his car and looks to be struggling in comparison to the Spaniard. 32