Alonso and Renault forced to settle for second
He demonstrated in Imola that McLaren could challenge Renault in a straight fight, but whereas in Italy Kimi Raikkonen was stopped by a broken driveshaft joint, in Spain the Finn stamped his authority on the race and was never seriously challenged.
In his wake he again left Fernando Alonso to chase from a distance, and by the flag they were 27.652s apart. Another 19 seconds behind, Jarno Trulli led home team mate Ralf Schumacher to give Toyota another bumper haul of points that keep them in second place behind Renault.
After a problem with his Renault required a pit stop for a replacement nose, Giancarlo Fisichella scored points again for the first time since Melbourne with a strong recovery drive that netted him the fastest lap, the Italian passing Mark Webbers Williams going into Turn One at the start of the 64th of the 66 laps.
Juan Pablo Montoya was another who had to recover, first from a mysterious spin in Turns 7 and 8, and then following his first pit stop on lap 29 in which his refuelling rig short-changed him, requiring another stop a lap later. David Coulthard had another strong drive for Red Bull, to snatch the final point with eighth place.
It was a bitterly disappointing day for Ferrari, who took both cars to the start line with heavy fuel loads. Like Williams Nick Heidfeld, Rubens Barrichello had a dramatic escape getting off the line when both Minardis stalled with electronic problems (causing the safety car to be deployed for the opening two laps). Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher ran eighth initially before steadily moving up as others pitted for fuel.
While Webber was the first to pit, on lap 18, followed by the Toyotas on laps 24 and 25, Raikkonen on 25, Alonso on 27, Fisichella and Montoya on 29, Schumacher ran as far as 32. By that stage he was second, and he dropped only to fourth, behind Raikkonen, Fisichella (who had moved ahead of Alonso during the stops) and the Spaniard. But it was not to be a repeat of Imola, for it was clear he was in trouble when he pitted again on lap 44. The left rear Bridgestone was damaged and a new one was fitted. Then two laps later his left front deflated at the end of the pit straight, and he crept home to retire. Barrichello soldiered on to the finish, but though he was within a second of Coulthard, Ferrari took home zero points.
After his first-lap scare Heidfeld had an entertaining scrap with Webber, at the stage when Mark had made two stops but Nick had yet to make his second and was thus running lighter, but ultimately could muster nothing better than 10th ahead of Felipe Massa who ran hard but was outgunned and stopped after 63 laps when his left rear Michelin deflated as a result of a cracked wheel rim.
In the Jordan camp, Tiago Monteiro took advantage of a mistake by Narain Karthikeyan on the 13th lap and moved ahead to win their battle for the first time this year. The Minardis joined the race two laps down after their problems on the grid, but Patrick Friesacher spun his off on lap 15, and Albers followed suit on the 20th.
After his great debut in Imola, Vitantonio Liuzzis race here ended after nine laps when the engine on his Red Bull hesitated in Turn 7 and he spun into the sand after running 13th, while Jacques Villeneuves unhappy day for Sauber ended when his engine succumbed to a water leak.
It might not have been the sort of classic we saw at Imola, but the Spanish Grand Prix showed that this is not an easy season to predict, with Ferrari struggling again, Alonso having a curious period before his first stop when his rear tyres lost their efficiency before just as suddenly regaining it, and McLaren finally reaping the reward they have been overdue for several races.
Alonso still sits pretty with 44 points to Trullis 26, but Raikkonen is on 17 and in the mood to take the fight all the way.
I wish this had happened in Imola, Raikkonen said. But now we have noting to lose and its good to get back into it. We just have to keep winning races, but there is still a long season ahead.