Vettel fends off Hamilton for Spain win
|By Matt Beer||Sunday, May 22nd 2011, 13:45 GMT|
Sebastian Vettel resisted huge pressure from Lewis Hamilton to take his fourth victory of the year in the Spanish Grand Prix.
Jenson Button bucked the four-stop trend and made a three-stop strategy work to take third, while polesitter Mark Webber ended up back in fourth and Fernando Alonso slumped to a lapped fifth after gloriously leading the first two stints of the race.
Webber's pole advantage only lasted a few yards as Vettel was immediately all over him off the line. As the two Red Bulls battled, the fast-starting Alonso (Ferrari) picked up sliced down the inside of both of them and sent the crowd ecstatic by taking the lead of his home grand prix.
That was where he would stay for the first two stints of the race, as though Vettel, Webber and Hamilton were right behind him, with the DRS not proving as dramatically effective in Spain as it had in Turkey, and with Ferrari enjoying good performance out of the final corner and on the straight, Alonso was able to keep his pursuers at bay.
Vettel tried to jump ahead by pitting one lap sooner for his first tyre change - but he emerged into traffic. Despite diving past Button (who had fallen to 10th with a slow start), Massa and Rosberg in the space of one dynamic out-lap, Vettel still found himself back behind Alonso when the Ferrari rejoined.
But at the second stops on laps 17 and 18, Red Bull's tactics worked out perfectly, and an extra lap on new tyres was sufficient to give Vettel a clear lead.
While Webber pitted at the same time as Alonso and stayed behind the Ferrari, McLaren tried something different and kept Hamilton out until lap 22, which jumped him past Alonso and Webber from fourth to second.
Vettel and Hamilton then pulled away in unison, as Alonso dropped ever further behind and kept Webber tucked up behind him. Both were then passed by Button in quick succession mid-race as the McLaren's three-stop strategy meant it was on soft tyres while Alonso and Webber were grappling with the hards.
Webber finally got past Alonso at the final stops, when the Red Bull stayed out a full eight laps longer and had no trouble getting ahead of the fading Ferrari, which began to lap 3s off the pace late on as it struggled badly with the hard tyres and was eventually lapped.
While Webber proved unable to catch Button for third, Hamilton got ever closer to Vettel in the closing laps, with the Red Bull radio traffic suggesting that again the car's KERS was only working intermittently.
There were some very tense and close moments, but there would be no repeats of China's late position change, as Vettel hung on to win by just 0.6s.
Among the lapped multitudes, Mercedes team-mates Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg had a tough race-long battle for sixth, with the elder German staying ahead.
Nick Heidfeld was all over the back of them at the end, making excellent use of a clever strategy and abundant fresh tyres to fly through from the back of the grid in the Renault.
The two Saubers completed the scorers, Sergio Perez taking his first Formula 1 points in ninth and Kamui Kobayashi doing well to recover from a first-lap puncture to take 10th.
Felipe Massa struggled all afternoon, and after a mid-race spin and a slide towards the foot of the top 10, he finally dumped his Ferrari in the gravel with six laps to go.
Paul di Resta got as high as fifth with a very strong opening stint on hard tyres, but did not have the pace later on to turn that into points, ending up 12th, behind Vitaly Petrov - another man to lose speed and places as the race progressed after leading the Mercedes at first.
Lotus showed its best race pace yet and had both cars in the top 10 for a while thanks to long first stints on soft tyres, but later faded, with Jarno Trulli only 18th and Heikki Kovalainen crashing out at Turn 4.
There would be no joy for Williams - Pastor Maldonado lacked race pace and slumped to 15th and Rubens Barrichello's charge from the back never materialised, not helped by a slow first pitstop he finished only 17th.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS The Spanish Grand Prix Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain; 66 laps; 307.104km; Weather: Sunny. Classified: Pos Driver Team Time 1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1h39:03.301 2. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 0.630 3. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 35.697 4. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 47.966 5. Alonso Ferrari + 1 lap 6. Schumacher Mercedes + 1 lap 7. Rosberg Mercedes + 1 lap 8. Heidfeld Renault + 1 lap 9. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap 10. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap 11. Petrov Renault + 1 lap 12. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap 13. Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap 14. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap 15. Maldonado Williams-Cosworth + 1 lap 16. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 2 laps 17. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth + 2 laps 18. Trulli Lotus-Renault + 2 laps 19. Glock Virgin-Cosworth + 3 laps 20. D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth + 3 laps 21. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth + 4 laps Fastest lap: Alonso, 1:26.727 Not classified/retirements: Driver Team On lap Massa Ferrari 60 Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 49 Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 29 World Championship standings, round 5: Drivers: Constructors: 1. Vettel 118 1. Red Bull-Renault 185 2. Hamilton 77 2. McLaren-Mercedes 138 3. Webber 67 3. Ferrari 75 4. Button 61 4. Renault 46 5. Alonso 51 5. Mercedes 40 6. Rosberg 26 6. Sauber-Ferrari 11 7. Heidfeld 25 7. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 6 8. Massa 24 8. Force India-Mercedes 4 9. Petrov 21 10. Schumacher 14 11. Kobayashi 9 12. Buemi 6 13. Sutil 2 14. Di Resta 2 15. Perez 2 All timing unofficial