Monaco Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel makes it five out of six
Red Bull's German driver stretches his championship lead after sealing his fifth win of the season in Monaco
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel won his fifth race of the season after a dramatic Monaco Grand Prix.
The race was heading for a rare thrilling finish, with Vettel on worn tyres being chased down by Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Jenson Button.
With 15 laps to go around the streets of Monte Carlo the trio were separated by just half a second, but a heavy collision at La Piscine started by Adrian Sutil appeared to end the race as the red flag fell.
Despite a lengthy delay, the race restarted under the safety car and on fresh tyres the defending world champion was able to stay ahead of Alonso and Button.
“It is fantastic,” Vettel said. “It was a very long race and a long way to the chequered flag and at some stage the victory seemed quite far away.
“The safety car came out and we got back in the lead but it was quite difficult to stay ahead. It is difficult to pass here but they had such better grip. I called to box and I said I wanted to stay out as it was the only chance to win the race.
“It was getting close and with six laps to go before we had a suspended race. Obviously I was struggling with my tyres but I think we could have made it to the end.
“Then I saw the red flag and it was good to hear Vitaly was fine, and we were able to change tyres as I could get rid of these old tyres and then had another short sprint race to the chequered flag.
“We took the risk. We wanted to win and we got the reward. I am happy and it is an extreme honour. It is one of the best grands prix all year and surely a nice one to win.”
Last year’s winner Mark Webber had a relatively uneventful day to take fourth for Red Bull ahead of Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, who was twice under investigation by race stewards.
Vettel got away cleanly at the start, Button cut across Webber from second on the grid and Alonso managed to get alongside and past the Australian into third place.
Behind them Michael Schumacher dropped from fifth to tenth before passing Hamilton for ninth at the hairpin.
Stuck behind the slower Mercedes, Hamilton lost two seconds a lap behind the seven-times world champion in the opening stages, but forced his way past on lap 10 as Schumacher’s tyres started to drop off.
Vettel got away well at the start, opening up a four-second lead after eight laps.
Button, who had pitted a lap earlier for the prime super-soft tyres, took advantage of the rare Red Bull slip-up to take the lead from Vettel, with Alonso in third.
Button used his quicker tyres to build up a 13 second lead to Vettel by lap 28, but it would soon fall apart as McLaren opted for a second set of super-soft tyres just five laps later.
Hamilton and Felipe Massa collided at the hairpin on lap 35, and a lap later Massa crashed heavily as Hamilton got a run on Massa into the tunnel.
The Brazilian went off the racing line, and suffered a heavy collision, resulting in the first appearance of the season for the safety car.
Alonso took advantage to pit, as did Force India’s Adrian Sutil and Kobayashi who both made their only stop of the race, moving the midfield drivers up to fourth and fifth.
The race resumed on lap 39 with Vettel leading from Button and Alonso.
Strangely, McLaren brought Button in on lap 49 in an attempt to use fresher tyres to jump Vettel, who would have to make his tyres last for 42 laps or pit again, and drop to third.
On lap 69, Button’s hopes of winning ended when a crash started by Sutil getting out of shape in La Piscine caught out Jaime Alguersuari, who ploughed into the back of Hamilton, while Vitaly Petrov went into the barrier as the leaders came up to lap them.
The safety car was deployed again as stewards and medics attended to the stricken Petrov. The race was stopped two laps later as an ambulance was also sent to the scene.
Despite only six laps remaining stewards opted to allow the race to finish rather than declaring a result, and the teams stopped on the start-finish straight, allowing McLaren an opportunity to repair damage to the rear of Hamilton’s car.
Petrov was the second F1 driver to be taken to hospital after Sauber’s Sergio Perez suffered concussion after a collision with the barrier in the third session of qualifying on Saturday.
However, initial reports from Renault team boss Eric Boullier suggested Petrov had suffered no major injuries.
With newer super-soft tyres, Vettel was able to get away comfortably once the race restarted as Alonso put pressure on, while Button appeared to be caught out and was unable to get close to the front two.
Hamilton was again involved in an incident as he tried to go up the inside of Williams’ Pastor Maldonado but the Venezuelan turned in, ending his race and leaving Hamilton to finish sixth, pending another investigation from the stewards.
Vettel’s win moves him on to 143 points, 58 ahead of Hamilton on 85, while Webber closes up on 79.
Red Bull also extended their lead in the drivers’ standings with 222 to McLaren’s 161, with Ferrari further back on 93.