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GP Week : Issue 159
T he best moments from Fernando’s famous, astounding and ground-changing win? Actually, there were three. The first was on Saturday afternoon, when it was hot and sticky and the noise of GP3 wasps hung in the background. Gutted to be nowhere in qualifying – at this of all circuits, in the race after the one he could have won – Fernando spoke softly but still with his native charm: “Obviously this is a big disappointment for us. A podium tomorrow will be difficult but at least I have two sets of soft tyres. I’m on the clean side of the grid. I can make a good start and maybe pick up some places into the first corner...” Over the years, I can’t remember an occasion when Fernando has made this a prediction without following it through. Usually he goes to the outside at the first corner; it’s almost as if his rivals expect him to do so. And he gets away with it. He muscles in there, asserting himself, and gaps magically appear. He is Fernando Alonso. No-one chops Fernando Alonso. And so you went to bed on Saturday night thinking that, yes, this would inevitably be another Sebastian Vettel/ Red Bull day but that somehow we’d see a Fernando in there too. Fernando was positive and clear-headed – just as he always is these days – even when things are skewed. Ferrari could have run two sets of options in Q2; they chose not to. The Pirelli option, though, was a reasonable race tyre. And it would be a quick tyre, certainly, for a launch from the clean side of the grid. The second moment was indeed the opening lap. Fernando was lightning- fast off the line. He zapped quickly to the outside, pulling alongside a slower- moving Jenson Button, flicked it up onto the outside kerb a little bit – but then could make little progress, so jammed was the road into One. He came out of the throttle under acceleration out of the corner, only just avoiding the Button McLaren. He lost a metre or two. Then he flicked to the outside, to the dirt, through Two and Three. He swallowed a Merc (Rosberg) and a Force India (di Resta). By the end of lap one he had moved from 11th to eighth. He had moved upwards and he had survived. And the car, on those new options, felt good. This was the early thumbnail: Seb Vettel, indulging perhaps 80 per cent of the RB7-Renault’s precocious grip, pulled away at over a second a lap. It was Seb and then the rest. It was another of those golden, Adrian Newey, days. The race behind him, though, was close and tense. Lewis Hamilton led the pack – but, with Jenson Button again struggling down in the mid-field, you knew that this was again another example of the package being more driver than car. Romain Grosjean, who had qualified fourth for Lotus F1, sliced beautifully into third place at the first corner and was now sitting on Lewis’s tale, telling him with every mirror-glimpse that the James Allison car had plenty of grip with which to play, thank you very much – and that passing Lewis would only be a matter of time (or perhaps of Lewis making a small mistake). Then came Kamui Kobayashi, looked as clean and as neat as he’s seemed since Barcelona; then Pastor Maldonado, staying out of trouble after another brilliant (P3) qualifying lap in the Williams FW34-Renault; then Kimi, who had qualified fifth and had had a sniff of third place at Turn One before being edged out first by Pastor (who almost hit Kimi as they ran side-by-side through the fast, first kink) and then also by his quick- thinking team-mate. Kimi was quick in the early phase of the race but, locked in traffic, would inevitably lose ground to Lewis and Co. Then came Niko Hulkenberg (Force India); then came Fernando. So: what to do? Fernando had a slight tyre advantage but the wall of traffic was prodigious. Should he sit and wait and perhaps gain ground with a longer first stint? Or should he push? It was a bit like wondering if a lion would wait a little before chomping into the bone... It was 'on' from Turn 1 (left); Michael Schumacher (below) charged late for a podium ... 20 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> EUROPE