Vettel wins 2011 Spanish F1 Grand Prix, Webber fourth
Sebastian Vettel won the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix after a gripping battle with second-placed Lewis Hamilton as the race was thrown open off the start line, as pole-sitter Mark Webber lost out to finish fourth behind third-placed Jenson Button.
Fernando Alonso stormed off the start line and diced brilliantly into turn one after slipping past the squabbling Red Bulls off the start to surprise Webber and Vettel.
Vettel managed to steal second place from Webber, relegating the Australian back to third.
Alonso’s stunning move had the Spanish crowd into raptures on the opening lap and set the scene for a long, tactical chess match between five drivers: Alonso, Vettel, Webber, Hamilton and Button, who elected for a contrarian strategy.
The Catalunya track is notoriously difficult to overtake on, and despite the Drag Reduction System (DRS), no driver was able to overtake in the opening laps, despite close running between the top four of Alonso, Vettel, Webber and Hamilton.
Sebastian Vettel pitted first, stopping at the end of lap eight to put on fresh soft tyres in an attempt to undercut Alonso.
Vettel struck traffic exiting the pits, but bravely overtook Button and Alonso within three corners to ensure he could stay ahead of Webber and just behind Alonso in a crucial moment for the race.
Webber emerged from the pits stuck in midfield traffic, and Hamilton was able to jump Webber in the pit-stops as the Red Bull driver continued to lose out.
A flurry of pitstops from the midfield drivers saw battles emerging all over the track, with Michael Schumacher able to keep ahead of younger team-mate Nico Rosberg for the first time since Turkey in 2010.
The top four was Alonso, Vettel Hamilton, and Webber, and the top three were all running within a second, with Hamilton looking racey behind Vettel.
Jenson Button took a contrarian strategy, opting to go long on his first stint, setting him up for three stops as the leaders looked to choose four stops.
Vettel pitted behind Alonso on lap 19, looking to pit early and find clean air to try and jump Alonso. As Vettel flew around the track, setting fastest sector times, clearing Alonso.
Yet Lewis Hamilton, released at the front of the race, continued to set fastest laps, giving Vettel something to chase.
The top four was re-arranged with Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso and Webber the top four. The Australian stuck close behind Alonso, unable to pass, slowing the pair. This scrap allowed Hamilton to pit from the lead and rejoin in second, ahead of Alonso and Webber.
Webber was consistently within half a second of Ferrari, yet unable to find a way past his good friend Alonso, despite DRS and KERS. Webber was also in danger of the three-stopping Button as Alonso backed up the pair.
Alonso and Webber pitted after lap 29, with Webber’s stop slightly quicker, as Ferrari released Alonso into the path of Webber and almost colliding.
Yet, Alonso was able to stay ahead as both drivers switched onto the slower, less grippy hard tyres.
The lack of overtaking demonstrated that DRS, KERS and tyres are all sticking plasters on an issue that revolves around track design.
Alonso and Webber continued to scrap, with Webber diving late on lap 34 to briefly overtake the Ferrari but was repassed immediate as he struggled with drive out of the corner.
The battle allowed Button to close on the pair on the faster soft tyres, overtaking Webber and Alonso on the same lap and pushing on to catch team-mate Hamilton.
Alonso pitted at the end of lap 40, finally giving Mark Webber clean air. Alonso put on another set of hard tyres in a move which looked to doom his race, forcing him to race 25 laps on the slower tyres which Ferrari handle particularly poorly.
Vettel’s KERS system failed intermittently from around lap 45, with his engineer radioing in to report faults at throughout the final laps.
The front runners all pitted onto hard tyres to finish the race on a long run to the checkered flag.
The permutations looked to play out such that Button would leap onto the podum, with Webber some six seconds behind the McLaren driver with seventeen laps remaining in a straight shoot to the finish line.
Hamilton emerged just two seconds behind Vettel in another straight shoot, with the pair thirty seconds ahead of Button, and lapping every driver up to Mark Webber.
Felipe Massa pulled off the track on lap 59, forced to stop with a gearbox problem at turn seven in a miserable day for the Brazilian, who continues to struggle in 2011.
A battle royale commenced between Hamilton and Vettel, with traffic allowing Hamilton to make up a small gap to Vettel. Hamilton’s team radioed in to give him full engine power and instructing him to use his KERS on the straight-line.
For the first time in the 2011 season, Sebastian Vettel was placed under serious pressure. Yet, the young World Champion failed to crack, fighting off the charging Hamilton until the line, leaving him 41 points ahead in the World Championship.
Complications emerged after the race, with stewards reporting Hamilton, Button, Webber and Alguersuari were under-investigation for not slowing under yellow flags.
The drivers were reprimanded only after teams were able to prove their drivers did not speed up in a section of track which is heavy on braking.
Pos. # Driver Team
1 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
2 3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren
3 4 Jenson Button McLaren
4 2 Mark Webber Red Bull
5 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
6 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes
7 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
8 9 Nick Heidfeld Renault
9 17 Sergio Perez Sauber
10 16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber
11 10 Vitaly Petrov Renault
12 15 Paul di Resta Force India
13 14 Adrian Sutil Force India
14 18 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso
15 12 Pastor Maldonado Williams
16 19 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso
17 11 Rubens Barrichello Williams
18 21 Jarno Trulli Lotus
19 24 Timo Glock Virgin
20 25 Jerome d’Ambrosio Virgin
21 22 Narain Karthikeyan HRT
The Roar is giving you the chance to win 1 of 19 prize packs to Australian Open 2014! Each lucky winner will receive four evening tickets to Rod Laver Arena, plus access to 3 hours in the Heineken VIP Bar. Enter here.