Fernando Alonso had his home fans roaring with delight as he led at the end of the first lap in today’s Spanish Grand Prix.
From second on the grid, the Ferrari star managed to pass Pastor Maldonado in his Williams on the long run down to the first corner at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.
The Venezuelan, starting from pole for the first time in his F1 career after Lewis Hamilton’s qualifying times were excluded yesterday and he was dropped to the back of the grid, made a sharp move to his right, but Alonso had the power.
After five laps Alonso led Maldonado by 1.3secs, with Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen third having edged past team-mate Romain Grosjean who had dropped to fifth, with Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg providing the sandwich.
Sauber’s Sergio Perez was the big loser, having started from fifth he was clipped early on, suffering a puncture that forced him off track and into the pits for an early change of rubber.
Hamilton, starting from the back of the grid for only the second time in his F1 career, was almost hit by Perez when he returned to the track, but still made up four places on the first lap and was running in 16th after four laps.
After just six laps Mark Webber in his Red Bull was the first of the main contenders to switch to the hard Pirelli tyres, followed by team-mate Sebastian Vettel from ninth a lap later.
From eighth Kamui Kobayashi took on a set of hard tyres, the more durable of the two compounds being used this weekend.
After nine laps Rosberg, McLaren’s Jenson Button and Paul di Resta in his Force India all pitted, that shortly after Hamilton had taken Nico Hulkenberg following a mistake from the German.
Leader Alonso then made his first stop after 10 laps, as did Grosjean, Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Hulkenberg.
When Maldonado and Raikkonen pitted a lap later, that elevated Hamilton into fourth on track behind Alonso, albeit yet to make his first stop, similarly with Caterham’s Heikki Kovalainen in fifth.
At the start of lap 13 Schumacher was the first casualty of the race, running into the back of Williams’ Bruno Senna, forcing the latter out also despite an attempt to make it back to the pits.
After 14 laps Hamilton finally pitted, and remarkably there was yet another incident with the left-rear wheel gun.
After issues in Bahrain three weeks ago with his first two stops which forced the left-rear gunman to be replaced, Hamilton seemed to drive over the gun as he pulled away.