Spanish Grand Prix: Vettel holds off Hamilton to seal win
World champion makes it four wins out of five this season to extend his championship lead
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel held off championship rival Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages to win his fourth race of 2011 at the Spanish Grand Prix, with Jenson Button well back in third.
The world champion extended his lead at the top of the world drivers’ championship, but was pushed all the way by his McLaren rival who finished just six tenths behind.
“It was pretty tough, obviously,” said Vettel, who was again hampered by a KERS problem. “Going into the last 10 laps it felt a bit like China, with the tyres going away. McLaren and Lewis [Hamilton] especially gave us a very, very hard time.”
Vettel and Hamilton swapped leads during the race as they pitted but the McLaren driver was unable to take advantage of DRS and KERS to get past the RB7.
“I don’t think we can be disappointed with today,” Hamilton said. “The team did a fantastic job throughout the pitstops and throughout the weekend, they put us in a fighting position.
“As the race went on we had some serious pace, but it was very tough to get past Seb at the end, they were massively quick in high speed corners and in the last corner his downforce was incredibly clear.
“Nonetheless, I gave my all and to move forward and score some good points and retain second place is great.”
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso produced a fantastic start off the line to lead into Turn One, much to the joy of his home crowd. But he could only finish fifth behind pole sitter Webber after running out of fresh prime tyres.
A resurgent Michael Schumacher finished sixth for Mercedes GP after storming through from tenth on the grid at the start of the race.
The seven-times world champion enjoyed what was arguably his best race of the season to finish ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Nick Heidfeld was the fourth German in the top 10 after a sensational drive to finish eighth for Renault despite starting 24th after a fire to his car on Saturday prevented him from taking part in qualifying.
Sauber also continued a good run as Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi took the final two places inside the top 10.
While Alonso battled it out at the front, Felipe Massa struggled for Ferrari and his race ended six laps early after he beached in the gravel.
Force India’s Paul di Resta was running in fifth after an impressive stint on the option tyres early in the race.
But his pace fell off and he was unlucky to miss out on points as he finished 12th behind Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, who went backwards in the latter stages of the race despite starting sixth on the grid.
Team Lotus built on their 15th place in qualifying with Heikki Kovalainen to show their best race pace since they joined F1 in 2010.
Both cars reached the top 10 after a long early stint on soft tyres, but the Finn crashed out at Turn Four, while Jarno Trulli eventually slipped to 18th.
Williams will reflect on another weekend to forget as Pastor Maldonado struggled with pace and could only take 15th, while Rubens Barrichello never managed to move forward from a disappointing qualifying run to finish 17th.
Vettel’s 13th career win takes him to 118 points, with Hamilton back on 77 and in third Webber on 67.
Red Bull increased their lead in the constructors’ championship with 185 points, ahead of McLaren on 138 in second and with Ferrari languishing in third with 75.
After the race, the stewards announced that Hamilton, Button and Webber, as well as Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari, were all under investigation for failing to slow for yellow flags.
However, the drivers were handed a reprimand and no further action is expected to be taken.