Spanish Grand Prix 2012: as it happened

12.30pm Hello and welcome to forumula1.com’s live coverage of the Spanish Grand Prix.

F1 is 62 years old today and the assembled faithful are assured of another classic, as it is literally anyone’s guess who will win this race.

Lewis Hamilton, who ostensibly qualified on pole position, has been demoted to the back of the grid after stopping on his slowing down lap yesterday. He did not have enough fuel in the car to provide the requisite sample to the FIA. As such he cannot really complain, but his team should be under the spotlight, having effectively made another serious error to compound an ignominious start to the season.

Eddie Jordan on the BBC has just called Hamilton’s penalty the ‘wrong, wrong, wrong’ decision, arguing that it should not have been so serious. Well, them’s the rules, EJ.

Pastor Maldonado starts on pole, then, after a fantastic qualifying performance. Fernando Alonso, the fans’ favourite, begins the race from second on the grid and as such is also favourite for the win.

Elsewhere the Lotuses look quick and Raikkonen and Grosjean are both realistically in with a chance of victory today. They start fourth and third respectively. “The car seems to be working very well here…everything is possible, let’s see what we can get from the car,” Grosjean tells the BBC.

The weather is overcast in Barcelona, but it’s 21C and there doesn’t look to be a chance of rain. Sergio Perez in the Sauber is fifth on the grid with Nico Rosberg sixth.

Kamui Kobayashi, who starts ninth, is concerned about the Pirelli rubber. “In the traffic tyre management will be hard, so we try to manage the tyre.”

Red Bull start seventh (Vettel) and 11th (Webber) and Christian Horner maintains that a good result is possible. “The drivers are pretty happy with the car, hopefully we can make the right strategic calls.”

The tension is building now as the start nears. If you’re a betting person, ladle it on a Lotus, I would. Alonso will shine but I don’t think he’s got the long-term pace for the win.

Three minutes to the off and Sebastian Vettel is being informed of a slight headwind. Mercedes tell Schumacher that track temperature is hovering around 30C.

They’re now off on the parade lap. Everyone is on the softer (option) tyres. As they line up the heat haze rises from the exhausts.

Lap 1 They’re off. Alonso has an excellent start and is up the inside of Maldonado! He is through! The crowd are extremely loud! Perez has a puncture and runs wide at turn three!

Vettel and Hamilton – and Massa – have also gained. It’s Alonso, Maldonado, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Grosjean, Schumacher, Vettel, Button, Kobayashi, Vergne.

Lap 2 Perez pits. He must have been clipped at some point to get that puncture. Charles Pic spins spectacularly and is lucky not to be clouted.

Lap 3 Maldonado is sticking with Alonso and keeping him honest. Hamilton is dicing with Senna for 17th and gets him at the hairpin! Beautiful and opportunistic stuff by the Englishman. It looks as though it might have been a Lotus that hit Perez. As he rejoined Hamilton had to swerve to avoid him back on the first lap.

Lap 4 Massa is up to 11th. He’s looking at Vergne in tenth.

Lap 5 Perez, who has gone onto the hard tyre, is very quick. He is at the back of the grid, though. Webber is in 12th and shadowing Massa.

Lap 6 Raikkonen is losing just slightly out to the leading duo as we move into lap 6. Is it tactical? Hamilton is up to 16th now. Alonso is told to tell his team about tyres when he can – and he does, saying that there is some graining already.

Lap 7 Mark Webber is pitting already and going onto the hard tyres. It is a tactic that has paid off for the Australian this season, the early stop. He was being held up slightly by Massa and now, once he gets past the traffic, will be in clear air.

Lap 8 Vettel pits to do the same as his team mate. Webber gets caught out by how early an HRT has to brake..no harm done apart from a flat spot on his front left.

Lap 9 Kobayashi is in. Hamilton is now up to 12th, and is on the back of Hulkenberg in 11th. He is past already as we speak. He has gained 13 places since the start.

Lap 10 Everyone is pitting now. Button, Rosberg, di Resta…They emerge in similar sort of positions as they were, relative to whom they are racing.

Lap 11 Alonso is in to the pits. An amazing stop by Ferrari – sub-three seconds. Schumacher and Grosjean are also pitting.

Lap 12 Maldonado, the leader, is in. Raikkonen also pits from third. Alonso gains his lead back as they return onto the track behind him…Grosjean and Senna are battling and they touch through turn one! Some piece of bodywork flies up into the air and Senna raises a complaining hand!

Lap 13 Schumacher is off and Senna is off! Have they come together? They must have done! Schumacher throws his steering wheel out.

Lap 14 Yes, Schumacher ran into the back of Senna under braking for turn one. Senna is on old tyres, and must have braked unexpectedly early. It does not look good for Schumacher though.

Lap 15 Hamilton pits. And he has drama! He hit his rear wheel, which wasn’t taken out of the way sufficiently. McLaren are hopeless in the pits this year. Get your act together.

Lap 16 It really is difficult to see what Hamilton has done wrong this year, and yet he keeps getting dealt bad hands.

Lap 17 Looking at replays, it certainly looks like Schumacher was at fault there. Maybe he should retire. Mark Webber seems to have a problem; he is letting cars past left right and centre. The front wing is not as it should be. He pits for a replacement.

Lap 18 The order is Alonso, Maldonado, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Rosberg, Vettel, Button, Kobayashi, di Resta and Vergne. Massa and Hamilton, Hulkenberg and Ricciardo follow.

Lap 19 Hamilton must be two-stopping, while the vogue is for three.

Lap 20 Maldonado is reducing the gap to Alonso, by four tenths in the first sector alone this lap. But traffic in the form of Karthikeyan was to blame, and yes, it has the same effect on the Venezuelan and the gap is back to around 1.7 seconds.

Lap 21 The Lotuses are not looking as competitive as one thought they might – nor, as was also expected, Maldonado is not falling down the field. A great job so far.

Lap 22 Perez is still setting fastest laps despite his lowly position (18th). It makes you wonder what he might have achieved.

Lap 23 Rosberg pits for the second time. Webber has plummeted down the field after stopping for a new front wing and, as Ben Edwards on the BBC correctly observes, as the field is so tight, any problem really hurts the driver.

Lap 24 Hamilton takes a long look at Massa down the straight but cannot get past.

Lap 25 Maldonado pits. Schumacher blames Senna for the crash…’you can see from the overhead shots that he moves twice in the braking zone…a backmarker that he was, not really contending,’ he complains. Hmm. I can’t see many people agreeing with him.

Lap 26 Button has a flat spot and pits.

Lap 27 Alonso pits and he is slow! Maldonado is going to lead this race, and he does! What an out lap from the Venezuelan. Paul di Resta rebuffs Jean Eric Vergne at turn one and the Frenchman has to take to the extra tarmac.

Lap 28 Raikkonen, Vettel pit. Hamilton and Massa are still fighting but the Englishman keeps bouncing off the limiter along the straight. Vettel and Massa have been whacked with a drive-through after not backing off under waved yellows earlier. That will make Nico Rosberg, who was just overtaken by Vettel, and Hamilton, very happy.

Lap 29 Can’t really see why Vettel got hit with that penalty.

Lap 30 Maldonado is seven seconds clear in the lead. Never thought I’d write that. Behind him it’s Alonso, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Hamilton. Vettel, who was sixth, takes his drive through.

Lap 31 Rosberg and Button are fighting each other for sixth. Kobayashi is in attendance.

Lap 32 This is intriguing stuff. Can Maldonado hold it? He has excelled himself so far.

Lap 33 Grosjean asks his team if they are still on plan A. They tell him to drive faster.

Lap 34 Kamui Kobayashi pulls a fantastic move on Button for seventh at Turn five, where no-one, literally no-one, passes. What a hero that man is. Button will complain as there was a slight touch, but the best moves are uncompromising.

Lap 35 Hamilton is saying that his tyres are falling off. Not really surprising, as he’s only pitted once, whereas most have stopped twice. Rosberg and Kobayashi are gaining on him.

Lap 36 Alarmingly so – Hamilton’s tyres have fallen off that cliff. He is forced to pit – does it mean he will have to stop again? Probably. A two-stop strategy becomes a three-stopper when you have Pirelli tyres on.

Lap 37 Hamilton is told by his team that he is not stopping again. I don’t believe it for a second.

Lap 38 Vettel does a banzai move on Button round the outside on turn one for seventh. Great stuff. Button does not like these tyres – looks like they are giving him a lot of understeer.

Lap 39 Kobyahasi is still hounding Rosberg, who is giving an excellent example of defensive driving. Button pits for the harder tyres. He is now 15th on track.

Lap 40 Hamilton is having a sterling battle with the Toro Rossos, and he is past both. There is some drama in the pits at Sauber…Perez’s right rear man has taken a tumble. And now we are seeing pictures of the Mexican’s retirement, two events which are presumably connected.

Lap 41 Button and Massa are so close…Massa confounds expectation and nabs a place from di Resta! Button follows him through past the Scot. Button is close down the straight…

Lap 42 And through round the outside of the Brazilian. The leader Maldonado pits and it is slow – is it a disaster? But he’s away! How much time has he lost? Can Alonso do anything when he pits?

Lap 43 All the neutrals here were agonising as Maldonado didn’t get away there. But he may still be ok. Vettel pits and changes his nose, as Webber did earlier. What a strange thing to do mid-race. Obviously they are having some kind of issue.

Lap 44 Maldonado is setting white hot times as he seeks to minimise the threat from Alonso. The Venezuelan is a lot faster. Alonso pits. Here is the crunch. He’s away…and Maldonado is through still with an advantage, although it is reduced from what it was before.

Lap 45 The order is yet-to-pit Raikkonen, Maldonado, Alonso, Grosjean, Rosberg, Kobayashi, Hamilton, Button, Massa, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Webber, Ricciardo, Vergne, di Resta, Petrov, Kovalainen, Glock, de la Rosa.

Lap 46 Maldonado has caught the leader Raikkonen and is pressuring him. Raikkonen is holding him up…and Maldonado is through. But he lost a fair bit of time to Alonso there, who already is up with the Finn.

Lap 47 Raikkonen holds the Ferrari up now. But he is with him down the straight…

Lap 48 And through, easily. Raikkonen looks to consolidate third, methinks. He pits only now.

Lap 49 The gap is down to 1.1 seconds between Maldonado in the lead and Alonso. Very interesting. Both have their own very strong motivation to win this race.

Lap 50 The gap is less than a second now. Fascinating. Maldonado’s tyres are slightly older than Alonso’s, of course, but the Spaniard will be running in the Williams’ dirty air and therefore will be taking more out of his Pirellis than will the leading driver.

Lap 51 Raikkonen is storming along on fresh tyres. If anything happens up front, the Finn is perfectly placed. There is a question on David Coulthard’s lips is whether the front two may have to stop again. You wouldn’t have thought so, but in F1…

Lap 52 Massa is the next traffic for the leaders to pass.

Lap 53 And the two are past him without difficulty.

Lap 54 Maldonado has reasserted some sort of a gap to Alonso. They are no longer running line astern – the gap is around 1.1 seconds. Grosjean, in fourth, is also travelling very quickly. He and Raikkonen are a second a lap at least quicker than the leaders.

Lap 55 Can the two Spanish speaking leaders’ tyres last? They may well fall off the cliff. Lotus could definitely pounce in the final stages as Maldonado and Alonso effectively punch themselves to a standstill.

Lap 56 Alonso is back with Maldonado with a vengeance. It is less than half a second now. The tyres are visibly wearing.

Lap 57 This is enthralling. Having a Ferrari, its driver on home soil, looming in your mirrors, must be unbearable pressure.

Lap 58 Alonso is closer than ever in the braking zone. He is told that he can use everything to pass Maldonado. Raikkonen is catching them at more than a second a lap, still.

Lap 59 With all the excitement at the front, we’ve forgotten about anyone else. Vettel has just passed Button for eighth.

Lap 60 Raikkonen has now got the gap down to ten seconds. He will be there at the end of the race. Kobayashi has had enough of looking at Rosberg’s gearbox and makes a move on Rosberg as he did on Button, but it is not successful. Here he goes again though, and he is through to fifth. A great drive.

Lap 61 Vettel has caught up and is shadowing Hamilton, whose tyres must be shoddy now. Vettel wants seventh from the Englishman.

Lap 62 Raikkonen in third gained 1.4 seconds last lap. Hamilton defends well from Vettel’s assault into turn one.

Lap 63 Maldonado has taken the gap up to beyond two seconds. Vettel passes Hamilton down the straight.

Lap 64 Alonso looks as though he has given up – or, more likely, his tyres have. Never mind the win, Alonso may lose second here.

Lap 65 Vettel gets sixth from Rosberg! He is flying!

Lap 66 It’s the final lap. Pastor Maldonado leads from Alonso who looks as though he may just hold on to second. Raikkonen is third and still flying but he is going to run out of time.


What a truly incredible grand prix. The Venezuelan wins his first grand prix and it is a wonderful story. Sir Frank Williams’ famous team gets a long-awaited win on the occasion of his 70th birthday and his driver excelled himself. Alonso takes a very competent second and Raikkonen follows him over the line to take third. Grosjean is fourth and Kobayashi is fifth. Vettel is sixth, Rosberg seventh and Hamilton eighth from the back of the grid.

That’s it from me, thanks for following.

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