Vettel drives Red Bull to solid win
Sebastian Vettel has secured the win of the European GP at Valencia. It had been a while, but the German ran a great race, leading from start to finish. McLaren drivers Hamilton and Button join him on the podium, while teammate Webber crashed out of the race.
Valencia is again a great setting for Formula One, a modern circuit and high temperatures making tyre performance again an interesting factor. Air temperature at the start is 26°C while the track is 46°C.
The top 10 are starting with the soft tyres, but behind them the tyre strategies are fairly mixed up. Nico Rosberg for instance is on the soft while Schumacher starts on the harder tyre.
Sebastian Vettel starts from the right and retains his lead after the first corner, after fighting off Lewis Hamilton. Both men touched, but there was nowhere to go for Vettel. Mark Webber on the other hand made a terrible start and dropped to 3rd after the first corner. He finds himself only in 9th place after the first lap after rumbling for position with Button.
Fernando Alonso is third after one lap, ahead of Massa, Kubica, Button and Barrichello. Vettel has a fairly comfortable lead of a few seconds early on in the race only by staying out of the fights in the first lap.
Replays of the start show that Webber was just very unfortunate in the start. First he was trying to fend off Hamilton, but as he hen was on the outside of turn 1, Alonso and Massa were able to pass by, while on turn 3 more of the same allowed 2 more cars to pass.
On lap 7 Trulli is back on track after having stopped in the pitlane for 2 laps. He had an early rumble but then had to stop with a seemingly temporary problem.
That same lap Mark Webber dives in for his first stop and change the soft tyres for the primes. Weber was basically stuck behind Hulkenberg so they had to try at least something to moe up the order. One lap later Rosberg is also in the pis, he too changes options for primes.
At that time, Vettel is leading 3.7s over Hamilton after a few fastest laps. Alonso sets the fastest lap on lap 9 to close into Hamilton, reducing the gap to 1.4s.
On lap 10 Webber tries to slipstream Kovalainen in the Lotus and brakes a litle too late. The Australian bumps into the Lotus, flies off the track, flips over and fortunately ends up on its wheels again before violently hiting the tryre barriers. Fortunately Mark steps out from the car without apparent fysical damage.
Nearly everyone then decides to make a pitstop. Vettel is still first, ahead of Hamilton. Kobayashi ends up in third as he chose not to stop. Jenson Button is fourth, followed by Barrichello, Kubica, Buemi, Hulkenberg and Alonso. Michael Schumacer is completely at the back of the field after his first stop as he had to wait at the pit exit to let the pack pass. 2 laps later, still with the safety car on track, he decides to stop again and switch the 2-lap old soft tyres for anoher set of primes.
It goes without saying that Kovalainen is also out of the race. He made it to the pitlane but the rear wing was gone and more damage was made to the Lotus as he slightly hit the wall sideways due to Webber's impact.
By lap 18, 3 laps after the SC left the track, Vettel is one second ahead of Hamilton. Kobayashi is 5 seconds down on Hamilton, followed by a huge train of cars.
On lap 21 it is announced that Lewis Hamilton's action will be investigated during the race. Alonso mentioned that Hamilton held up the pack before his pitstop, whereas each driver has to maintain a pace to target a laptime specified by the FIA. The incident apparently cost both Ferraris badly as they both came out of their stops in the middle of a pack of cars, giving them a red light at the pitlane exit.
When a drive through is announced for Hamilton, replays show that Hamilton was side by side of the safety car when it came on track. The McLaren driver hesitated for a moment what to do but eventually decided to pass the safety car, whereas the Ferraris decided to stay behind it. This obviously earned him quite a bit of time and therefore was still second after the stops.
Hamilton completed his stop on lap 27 after setting the fastest lap of the race. This performance allowed him to rejoin the track just ahead of Kobayashi, still in second place. Ferrari are obviously not pleased to see that it took the stewards this long to decide what to do about it. The Italians and Alonso are wondering what could have been if Hamilton had just throttled ahead of the SC, rather than hesitate and force the Ferraris to stay behind the SC.
After lap 30, Vettel is 14s ahead of Hamilton who is now the fastest man on tack. Kobayashi is third, Button fourth and Barrichello still a solid 5th.
In lap 37 Hamilton has reduced the gap to Vettel to 11.6 seconds before coming up to Senna and Di Grassi who are closely fighting for position. After letting Hamilton past, they hit each other slightly, causing a puncture and a broker front wing for them.
On lap 45 the FIA announce that many more cars are under investigation for faster than the FIA indicated laptime when the safety car came out on track.
By lap 49 Hamilton is on a thrilling pace and reduced the gap to Vettel to 7.6 seconds after 2 dismal laps by Vettel. The two laps after that Hamilton was still 0.7s a lap faster than the leading Red Bull.
On lap 51 Hulkenberg pulls off the track in turn 12 and steps out of the car. His car has visible damage on the right sidepod bodywork, as well as a delaminated right rear tyre.
2 laps later Vettel puts in the fastest lap of the race and Hamilton appears to slow down a bit, apparently giving up hopes on winning this race by catching Vettel.
In that same lap, number 53, Kobayashi makes his first and final stop, taking on the mandatory option tyres. He rejoins the track behind Alonso and ahead of his teammate, Pedro De La Rosa. 2 laps later Kobayashi passes Alonso on much fresher tyres and is also threatening Buemi in the final lap.
Vettel meanwhile coasts to the European GP win ahead of Hamilton and Button.
Kobayashi in the end pulled off another bold move by passing Buemi in the last corner. It was a stunning race for the Japanese, at times being more than a full second a lap quicker than his teammate.
|2||2||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren-Mercedes||+5.0 secs||3||18|
|3||1||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||+7.6 secs||7||15|
|4||9||Rubens Barrichello||Williams-Cosworth||+20.6 secs||9||12|
|5||11||Robert Kubica||Renault||+22.1 secs||6||10|
|6||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||+25.1 secs||13||8|
|7||23||Kamui Kobayashi||BMW Sauber-Ferrari||+30.9 secs||18||6|
|8||16||Sebastien Buemi||STR-Ferrari||+31.2 secs||11||4|
|9||8||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||+32.8 secs||4||2|
|10||22||Pedro de la Rosa||BMW Sauber-Ferrari||+42.4 secs||16||1|
|11||12||Vitaly Petrov||Renault||+43.2 secs||10|
|12||4||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP||+44.3 secs||12|
|13||15||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Force India-Mercedes||+45.8 secs||14|
|14||7||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||+46.6 secs||5|
|15||17||Jaime Alguersuari||STR-Ferrari||+48.2 secs||17|
|16||3||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP||+48.8 secs||15|
|17||25||Lucas di Grassi||Virgin-Cosworth||+1 Lap||21|
|18||24||Timo Glock||Virgin-Cosworth||+2 Lap||22|
|19||20||Karun Chandhok||HRT-Cosworth||+2 Lap||23|
|20||21||Bruno Senna||HRT-Cosworth||+2 Lap||24|
|21||18||Jarno Trulli||Lotus-Cosworth||+4 Lap||19|
|Ret||10||Nico Hulkenberg||Williams-Cosworth||+8 Lap||8|
|Ret||19||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus-Cosworth||+49 Laps||20|
|Ret||6||Mark Webber||RBR-Renault||+49 Laps||2|