F1: Sebastian Vettel holds off Hamilton in Valencia

By Gareth Llewellyn
sebastian vettel

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel (Photo: Red Bull)

Sebastian Vettel led from pole to win the European Grand Prix in Valencia for Red Bull as teammate Mark Webber suffered a spectacular collision.

Webber survived a horror smash after colliding with the Lotus of Heikki Kovalainen and flipping through the air before crashing head on into a tyre barrier. The Aussie was able to throw his steering wheel out of the car, before getting out without injury.

The way Webber’s car left the track was reminiscent of his accident in a 1999 Mercedes at Le Mans when he twice went airbourne.

Lewis Hamilton took Webber off the line to take second, but was handed a drive-through penalty for an infringement under the safety car after Webber’s accident following a complaint from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

Much to the chagrin of Alonso, Hamilton’s penalty meant nothing as he rejoined in second, while Alonso languished in eighth. The Brit made a late charge to challenge Vettel, reducing the lead to just over six seconds before deciding to stick with second place.

Jenson Button spent much of the race stuck behind the inferior Sauber following the safety car, but with the nature of the circuit—and design of the F1 cars—was unable to get past until Kobayashi pitted.

Williams had their best result of the season as Rubens Barrichello finished fourth at the circuit he won at last year, ahead of Renault’s Robert Kubica and Force India’s Adrian Sutil.

Kamui Kobayashi went 53 laps on the option tyres to hold third place for much of the race ahead of Button, before rejoining in ninth.

He then took advantage of low fuel levels and fresh tyres to take Fernando Alonso on the penultimate lap to move up to eighth place before an audacious move on Sébastien Buemi in the last corner of the race to finish seventh.

Ferrari’s weekend was ruined under the safety car as they were forced to stack their drivers.

Alonso was impeded by Hamilton on entry to the pit—the incident for which the Brit received his penalty—while Massa was hampered by queuing behind his teammate, eventually rejoining at the back of the pack before finishing 14th.

Mercedes turned the race into a test session for Michael Schumacher after a dismal weekend as the former world champion lost out under the safety car.

Mercedes strategists got their timing wrong and Schumacher was left waiting at the end of the pit lane as the entire pack passed him. His teammate Nico Rosberg finished 12th after another largely anonymous weekend.

The best of the rest was Virgin’s Lucas Di Grassi, who adopted a similar strategy to Kobayashi by staying on the prime tyres for much of the race to take 17th ahead of Hispania’s Karun Chandhok. His teammate Timo Glock finished 19th ahead of Bruno Senna.

Glock, however, was reported to stewards by race director Charlie Whiting for ignoring blue flags during the race, and was handed a post-race drive through penalty of 20 seconds.

Other reports were received regarding pit lane incidents between Vitaly Petrov and Vitantonio Liuzzi, and Nico Hülkenberg and Sébastien Buemi, but no action was taken against any driver.

McLaren’s Jenson Button, Williams’ Rubens Barrichello and Hülkenberg, Renault’s Petrov, Force India’s Adrian Sutil and Liuzzi, Toro Rosso’s Sébastien Buemi and Sauber’s Pedro De La Rosa were all handed five-second penalties for speeding under the safety car.

In terms of points, Alonso now scores four points instead of two meaning he finishes eighth, while Rosberg picks up one. De La Rosa is therefore still yet to score this season.

The drivers’ championship now sees the top five as Hamilton 127, Button 121, Vettel 115, Webber 103, and Alonso 98, while the constructors’ championship sees McLaren 248, Red Bull 218, Ferrari 165, Mercedes 109, and Renault 89.

Driver of the day is undoubtedly Kamui Kobayashi. To hold off Button the way he did for so long, and then to take Alonso and Buemi once again showed he is more than capable and not afraid of reputations.

Kobayashi’s success comes in a weekend when Sauber had both cars finish in the points as Pedro De La Rosa finished tenth to win his first point of the season.

Credit must also go to Adrian Newey and the team of designers, mechanics and engineers at Red Bull for building a car that was able to withstand the impacts Mark Webber experienced today.

And finally, congratulations to Lotus for their 500th race, despite not getting a dream result. Kovalainen was taken out in the Webber crash, and Jarno Trulli suffered mechanical problems to finish 21st and last.

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