• Spanish Grand Prix

Vettel holds off Hamilton in Barcelona

Chris Medland
May 22, 2011
Sebastian Vettel takes the chequered flag 0.6s ahead of Lewis Hamilton © Sutton Images

Sebastian Vettel took his fourth win of the season as he held off Lewis Hamilton to win an enthralling Spanish Grand Prix.

Vettel pipped Hamilton by just 0.6s as the McLaren proved to be a match for Red Bull in race trim. Jenson Button recovered from a bad start to take third place, this time making a three-stop strategy work, while pole-sitter Mark Webber lost out badly behind Fernando Alonso and finished fourth ahead of the Ferrari. The race result took a little while to be confirmed, however, as Hamilton, Button, Webber and Jaime Alguersuari were all under investigation for their pace under yellow flags, eventually being reprimanded but not penalised.

Alonso made a brilliant start from fourth to get on the inside of Webber and take the lead in to turn one, while Vettel beat his team-mate around the outside for second place. Button had a poor start and dropped to tenth, while Michael Schumacher got away well up to sixth place ahead of his team-mate Nico Rosberg.

Vettel was the first of the leaders to pit and was released right behind Button and Massa, but dispatched both on his out lap. Alonso responded by pitting immediately, as did Webber, and Alonso maintained the lead. Webber was stuck behind Massa - who had been passed by Button - and when Hamilton pitted he got the jump on the Red Bull.

The front three ran very close together during the second stint, but as both Vettel and Hamilton could use their DRS, neither could make much of an impression. Button pitted later and managed to exit ahead of Petrov and Rosberg. He closed up on Schumacher within a lap and passed him as Schumacher ran wide through turn three.

Vettel pitted early for a second time, and even though Alonso pitted immediately afterwards, Vettel managed to use his fresh tyres to undercut the Ferrari and in clear air was able to show the true Red Bull pace. Lewis Hamilton stayed out for an extra three laps to try and jump ahead of Alonso, and managed to do so by a second. Hamilton then pulled away and started to use his fresher tyres to close the gap at the front.

Alonso and Webber both pitted together on lap 30 for the third time, and matched each other by putting on the hard tyre. As they exited the pits Alonso just got out ahead, and the pair started to battle over position. Webber made a move down the inside in to turn ten but Alonso came back up the inside in to the next corner. As they fought, the three-stopping Button cruised up behind them and took them both on the same lap; first bravely round the outside of Webber in to turn one and then up the inside of Alonso through turn 11.

Alonso pitted very early for his last set of tyres, needing to do 25 laps, and Webber was able to match the leaders' pace as soon as he was in clear air. When Webber did pit for the final time he rejoined comfortably ahead of the Ferrari.

A familiar sight - Vettel celebrates another win © Sutton Images

At the front, Vettel came in on lap 35 for his third stop, and Hamilton followed him on the next lap. Again the positions remained the same, and Hamilton stabilised the gap before slowly drawing Vettel back in. It was the same story for the final stops on lap 49, Vettel in first and rejoining with a 2 second lead after Hamilton stopped a lap later.

Hamilton pumped in the fastest lap of the race to half the gap, and proceeded to hustle Vettel until the end but was unable to find a way past the Red Bull despite using KERS and the DRS to close up time and time again in to turn one.

Away from all the action at the front, Nico Rosberg found Michael Schumacher difficult to get past as the seven-time world champion had a strong race to hold on for sixth, while Nick Heidfeld climbed up the field impressively using his soft tyres having started 24th, taking the also impressive Sergio Perez for eighth on the run down to turn one with five laps left.

Three cars didn't see the finish as Tonio Liuzzi retired early, Heikki Kovalainen went off with 15 laps to go, running wide and in to the tyres on the outside of turn four, while Felipe Massa parked his car on the outside of turn seven after a poor race in which he had also spun on hard tyres.