The start is always key in any race, but at Catalunya it meant everything for everyone watching. So many questions had to be answered; would Vettel get the jump on team-mate Webber? How would the McLaren’s fare in the chase to the first corner? The intrigue was high, and didn’t disappoint.
The engine notes rose as the lights came on in time – the famous five as Martin Brundle put them – and when they fell, they were off. Webber managed to fight Vettel off the line, and moved right to defend from home hero Fernando Alonso, who managed to make the start of the season to not only pass Lewis Hamilton from fourth on the grid, but also shoot in front of the reigning champ to take a provisional second.
The best was yet to come. Webber, some say cautiously, went into turn one looking to hold off his German team-mate on his right, only too leave too much room on his left. Enough room, in fact, for Fernando to squeeze past into the first corner and be ahead. Ferrari and Alonso now led a Grand Prix. Spain roared for their hero.
Alonso getting the jump on the Red Bulls not only gave the crowd what they wanted to see, but it also changed the dynamic of the race. Without the clear air, both Seb and Mark now had to work hard to stay at the front end when the first round of stops came about. Without the clear air that Vettel has become so accustomed to, it was back to the drawing board for the strategists sat around Christian Horner on the pit wall. The front cars were bunched in a group of four, instead of two Red Bulls followed by whoever could keep up.
There was also drama further down, with Jenson Button getting all kinds of wheelspin off the line to drop from fifth to a heart-sinking tenth. He was passed by both Mercedes, Felipe Massa’s Ferrari and Vitaly Petrov. Micheal Schumacher defied some critics by getting yet another fast start to leap to sixth place.
As in previous rounds, the start didn’t define that race, merely give everyone their starting positions to either defend or fight back from. We still had the joys of strategies and tense, close racing to come, but for excitement at the beginning of a 2-hour race, it doesn’t get much better than that.