Vettel withstands pressure to win Spanish GP

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Spain, Circuit de Catalunyaes

Sebastian Vettel pulled off a brilliant win at Barcelona after remaining faultless despite inpressive late pressure by Lewis Hamilton. Vettel struggled with KERS but kept his head cool without making a single mistake. Jenson Button made it to third position with a three stop strategy.

The weather is great at Spain right ahead of the start, and with no cloud in sight, the race is undoubtedly a completely dry event.

Technically, the Circuit de Catalunya features the longest run up to the first corner of all circuits this year. KERS will therefore be crucial, and Vettel, despite problems earlier this weekend was confident that work overnight would have resolved the problem.

As the lights went out, the front runners nearly had an equally good start, but Fernando Alonso managed to pick up a nice slipstream behind Vettel and ended up in the lead after the first corner. Alonso was massively spinning his rear wheels ahead of the start, and that crucially appears to have paid off brilliantly.

Sebastian Vettel passed his teammate through the outside of turn 1. Webber took 3rd, Hamilton 4th and Petrov 4th. Michael Schumacher moved up from 10th on the grid to 6th, ahead of his treammate Rosberg. Jenson Button had a difficult start and then got pushed away in turn 2 and eventually ended up behind Sebastian Buemi, only to repass him in lap 4. By that time, he's already 12 seconds behind the lead.

By lap 7 several groups of cars have formed. The first 4 cars are are all close to each other, while Vitaly Petrov is a lonely 5th, with several seconds behind him another 4 drivers, led by Schumacher, then Rosberg, Massa and Button.

Sebastian Vettel is the first to stop for another set of options. He rejoins the track just behind the pack led by Schumacher, but one lap later Vettel already passed three of them. Schumacher meanwhile pitted. Alonso pitted one lap later to cover Vettel's stop and came on track again in the lead. Hamilton ended up in third place after the first stops, with Webber losing a few seconds to the leaders as he had a little bit more trouble passing Massa and Button compared to Vettel.

On lap 18, just 8 laps after his first stop, Vettel already makes another stop. He obviously felt he was losing too much time behind Alonso. Ferrari reacted one lap later but Vettel's new set of options and his release on a clear track allowed him to gain just enough to stay ahead of Alonso after Ferrari's stop. Hamilton meanwhile continues on the older options and sets fastest lap on lap 20, matching Vettel's pace on the fresh set of options.

Back in 6th place, Schumacher has gotten company of his teammate Nico Rosberg who has managed to slowly close the gap to Michael. Both men are on the same strategy, but Schumacher had the better start by quite a big margin.

Hamilton then finally pits on lap 24 and can stay ahead of Alonso and Webber.

By lap 27 Vettel is leading with 3.5 seconds in hand over Hamilton. 2 seconds further down is Alonso, still ahead of Mark Webber who appears to be out of possibilities to attempt a pass on the Ferrari. The problem for Webber is Ferrari's excellent straight line speed which enabled Alonso to cover off Webber, even while the Australian has the DRS wide open.

3 laps later Alonso and Webber make their stops, changing from options to a mandatory stint with primes. Pirellis new hard tyre is much more durable than the option, but reportedly also up to a full second slower than the softer compound.

Jenson Button meanwhile is yet again trying a 3 stopper to work. At the halfway point he's 5th, running 6 seconds behind Alonso and lapping approximately 2 seconds a lap quicker than Alonso and Webber. In lap 34 Webber attempts to make a pass stick on turn 10 but the Spaniard was much earlier on the throttle to retake the position he briefly lost.

Hamilton stops in lap 35 to change onto hard tyres, while Jenson Button passes Webber. Another half lap later Alonso gets passed as well, showing the difference between the hard and soft tyres.

On lap 40 Alonso makes another stop, taking another set of hards with still 26 laps to go. Webber immediately sets a great laptime, faster than the leaders at that moment.

Rosberg at the same time came close to Schumacher again, but the German is the first to pit for his final stint on primes.

On lap 48 Webber stops for another set of hards, and Vettel follows for the same strategy. So, just like Alonso, they're doing soft-soft-hard-hard. One lap later Hamilton does the same. Hamilton was just one second behind Vettel before their stops, but Red Bull's supreme pit stop speed allowed the gap to increase to 2.5 seconds.

On lap 52 Kovalainen crashes out of the high speed turn 4 just in front of Sebastian Vettel. Kovalainen was not hurt and safely got out of the car moments later. The traffic that included Kovalainen however allowed Hamilton to regain some lost time on Vettel as the McLaren appears to be more grippy on the harder tyres. Additionally, Vettel has had intermittent problems with KERS throughout this race.

With just 6 laps to go, Massa finds himself in the gravel trap and ends his GP. Massa was having trouble slowing down his car for quite a while during this race. He was consistently locking front tyres under braking and could be suffering a brake problem.

By that time, Hamilton is all over Vettel and comes out of the slipstream repeatedly. None of the moves stick, even though Vettel lacked KERS at the end of the race. The World Champion was faultless and made it first to the finish, ahead of Hamilton and Button who is a distant third.

Results

Pos.No.DriverTeamLapsTimeGridPts
11Sebastian VettelRBR-Renault66Winner225
23Lewis HamiltonMcLaren-Mercedes66+0.6 secs318
34Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes66+35.6 secs515
42Mark WebberRBR-Renault66+47.9 secs112
55Fernando AlonsoFerrari65+1 Lap410
67Michael SchumacherMercedes AMG65+1 Lap108
78Nico RosbergMercedes AMG65+1 Lap76
89Nick HeidfeldRenault65+1 Lap244
917Sergio PerezSauber-Ferrari65+1 Lap122
1016Kamui KobayashiSauber-Ferrari65+1 Lap141
1110Vitaly PetrovRenault65+1 Lap6
1215Paul di RestaForce India-Mercedes65+1 Lap16
1314Adrian SutilForce India-Mercedes65+1 Lap17
1418Sebastien BuemiSTR-Ferrari65+1 Lap11
1512Pastor MaldonadoWilliams-Cosworth65+1 Lap9
1619Jaime AlguersuariSTR-Ferrari64+2 Laps13
1711Rubens BarrichelloWilliams-Cosworth64+2 Laps19
1821Jarno TrulliLotus-Renault64+2 Laps18
1924Timo GlockVirgin-Cosworth63+3 Laps20
2025Jerome d'AmbrosioVirgin-Cosworth62+4 Laps23
2122Narain KarthikeyanHRT-Cosworth61+5 Laps22
Ret6Felipe MassaFerrari58+8 Laps8
Ret20Heikki KovalainenLotus-Renault48Accident15
Ret23Vitantonio LiuzziHRT-Cosworth28+38 Laps21