Fernando Alonso brushed aside the Mercedes threat to take a commanding win at home in a race dominated by tyre strategy. Kimi Raikkonen continued his strong season with a second place and Felipe Massa improved his with an excellent third.
Most teams kept their crews busy with four stop strategies, the Barcelona track destroying the Pirelli tyres in short order. Alonso even survived a cut tyre on his way to victory.
Red Bull's Sebastien Vettel faded to fourth while Webber picked up three places to fifth after a poor qualifying. Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo had another great race, taking the final point in tenth.
Practice and Qualifying
The first Friday session was affected by rain, with the Toro Rosso of Jean Eric Vergne popping up in the top three. The Ferraris were fast in both sessions, but Red Bull were strong too, as was the Lotus of Raikkonen.
Qualifying was all about Mercedes, the silver cars taking the front row with a Rosberg-Hamilton one-two. Vettel made it to third, with a disappointed Mark Webber managing only eighth.
Massa was demoted from fourth to ninth for blocking, a similar penalty handed to Sauber's Gutierrez for the same offence. Raikkonen grabbed fourth, with Alonso fifth.
McLaren had mixed fortunes, with Perez snaring ninth while Button could only manage 14th. Australia's Daniel Ricciardo beat teammate Vergne to 11th. Williams' woes continued, last year's winners not even getting out of Q1.
Both Mercedes got a good start but after a big lock-up into turn one, Hamilton was mugged first by Vettel and then Alonso who took Raikkonen in the same move.
Webber had his customary bad start, dropping behind the Force India of di Resta who picked up several places.
Raikkonen maintained position but Massa shot through the pack to wipe out his grid penalty, only briefly held up by a fighty Perez, ending up behind the Lotus of Raikkonen.
By lap 3 Rosberg was under attack from the Red Bull of Vettel as his team reminded him to protect his tyres.
Rosberg settled into a controlling rhythm, holding the Red Bull behind him. The second Mercedes was unable to hold his attacker, Raikkonen, who took a half-chance and turned it into a solid pass.
Webber pitted from eleventh on lap 8 for his first planned stop and put on hard tyres to clear him out of the traffic behind Hamilton.
Massa followed him in next lap, despite the Brazilian getting by Hamilton's Mercedes. Grosjean limped in on the same lap, his right rear askew from a suspension collapse.
The next time around saw Alonso and Hamilton pit while Vettel pitted with Rosberg at the end of lap 11. They battled in the pit lane, with the Mercedes holding the lead. As they exited the pits, Fernando Alonso positioned himself between the two Germans into turn one and took second from Vettel.
Webber's early stop vaulted him to seventh behind Raikkonen, but his strategy had a long way to go. Daniel Ricciardo worked his way into ninth, well ahead of teammate Vergne.
Alonso out-foxed Rosberg into turn one on lap 13, driving around the outside of the Mercedes. This left the door open for Vettel to attack two turns later, which he did with a brave move.
Rosberg started the lap second, but ended it in fifth after a Massa dive-bomb. Raikkonen passed shortly after, the glorious pole position now a distant memory.
Sergio Perez's McLaren bore down on Webber, the silver car seemingly reborn overnight after indifferent qualifying pace. Perez had a go on lap 18 and Webber responded, pulling away as best he could. The Australian, however, was in trouble with a rapidly degrading front left hard compound tyre.
Directly behind that battle, Ricciardo mirrored Alonso's move at turn one to go around di Resta.
Massa pitted again on lap 21 to allow Raikkonen through. The Ferrari was punishing its rubber, as were the Red Bulls, with Webber in on the same lap.
Up front, Alonso pulled out a four second lead from a struggling Vettel and then pitted on lap 22.
Poor Giedo van der Garde had to return to the pits with just three wheels, his right rear pinging off the car at the back of the circuit. His team earnt a €10,000 fine for an unsafe release and asking him to return to the pits on three wheels.
Through all of this excitement, Alonso tore into the lap times in an effort to stay head. This was the decisive phase of the race, the damage done by the Ferrari driver leaving Raikkonen with no chance for the victory.
Raikkonen pitted on lap 27 but was unable to stay ahead of Vettel, somehow dropping three seconds. The German, however, was told by his pits to nurse his front left.
Raikkonen attacked Vettel over a series of laps, knowing he could either pass the Red Bull or force him to destroy his tyres. He managed the former at turn one, while Vettel's engineer warned him to stay on line and not fight too hard.
Nico Hulkenberg was released from his stop almost into the path of Toro Rosso's Vergne. The German, however, seemed unable to gauge the distance to the Frenchman, colliding with him as he came into his own pit box. The Sauber driver copped a ten second stop-go for the indiscretion.
Alonso and Massa pitted on lap 37, with Alonso needing a good stop to stay in touch with Raikkonen. Webber pitted behind them for the third time.
After the stops, Raikkonen was left in the lead and setting personal best lap times. Notwithstanding, Spaniard drove straight past the Lotus at the beginning of lap 39.
Raikkonen made his third stop on lap 46, knowing Alonso had another stop to do but with a gap of twenty-seven seconds to bridge - Alonso's stop would only give him eighteen. The stop was good and he returned to the track on hard tyres.
Alonso pitted on lap 50 for a lighting-fast stop, coming out in the lead on hard tyres. This left the gap between the Ferrari and the Lotus at an ambitious ten seconds for Raikkonen to take the win.
The McLarens had clawed their way into the top ten, with Perez's four-stopper giving him the edge on his teammate who was mothering his tyres on a three-stop strategy. This was all the more remarkable given that the pair of cars that had started on the front row were just two places ahead. They finished together, extending McLaren's unbroken run of points finishes to 63 races.
Massa was given permission to burn his tyres in pursuit of Raikkonen as the Brazilian had a pit stop in hand over the Red Bull of Vettel. With four laps to go, and a podium position in the balance, discretion was chosen over valour and the second Ferrari slowed to a more sane speed.
Webber eventually finished fifth, one place behind his teammate.
"I think we got the most out of what we had, particularly as by the first corner I was probably 14th or 15th, so to come back with that result was pretty good. If you don't have the pace, then you can't have the magic strategy," Webber said after the race.
Ricciardo was disappointed with tenth.
"I had a really poor start off the line, with a lot of wheelspin. At the first stop, we made quite a few changes in terms of wing settings and tyre pressures and that helped, so the next two stints were quite good and I made a few passing moves, so it was certainly not a boring race," Ricciardo said.
Alonso took the flag in an emotional victory at home, in a week where Ferrari marked themselves six out of ten for their season start. The whole grid was left pondering how the Pirelli tyres could so quickly wear meaning a total of 82 stops.
Mercedes, McLaren and Williams were left with a lot of soul-searching to do after a raft of upgrades failed to improve their parlous positions.
Formula 1 returns in two weeks for the Monaco Grand Prix.
- Fernando Alonso - Ferrari 1h39m16.596s
- Kimi Raikkonen - Lotus-Renault + 9.338s
- Felipe Massa - Ferrari + 26.049s
- Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull-Renault + 38.273s
- Mark Webber - Red Bull-Renault + 47.963s
- Nico Rosberg - Mercedes + 1m08.020s
- Paul di Resta - Force India-Mercedes + 1m08.988s
- Jenson Button - McLaren-Mercedes + 1m19.506s
- Sergio Perez - McLaren-Mercedes + 1m21.738s
- Daniel Ricciardo - Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
- Esteban Gutierrez - Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap
- Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes + 1 lap
- Adrian Sutil - Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
- Pastor Maldonado - Williams-Renault + 1 lap
- Nico Hulkenberg - Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap
- Valtteri Bottas - Williams-Renault + 1 lap
- Charles Pic - Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
- Jules Bianchi - Marussia-Cosworth + 2 laps
- Max Chilton - Marussia-Cosworth + 2 laps
- Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso-Ferrari 52 laps
- Giedo van der Garde - Caterham-Renault 21 laps
- Romain Grosjean - Lotus-Renault 8 laps
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