Sebastian Vettel - Photo credit: Red Bull
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European Grand Prix 2010: Race Report

Sebastian Vettel drove a lights-to-flag victory at Valencia today in a race overshadowed by a massive accident for his teammate Mark Webber.

The Australian driver walked away from the incident despite being flung high into the air after running into the back of Heikki Kovalainen's Lotus.

Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button finished second and third, with Button benefiting from the safety car period forced by Webber's accident.

Rubens Barrichello, Robert Kubica, Adrian Sutil, Kamui Kobayashi, Sebastien Buemi, Fernando Alonso and Pedro de la Rosa finished fourth through to tenth.

Excluding Kobayashi, all of the drivers from Button through to de la Rosa will be under investigation after the race for speeding behind the safety car, and may be given a penalty later today.

Red Bull had never scored points in Valencia before Vettel's win today, but qualifying both cars on the front row left them with an excellent chance of rectifying this. However, off the line, it was clear that a one-two victory was going to be difficult.

Lewis Hamilton used the clean side of the grid to his advantage and easily powered past Webber into the opening corner. He also had a go at leader Vettel in turn two, but to no avail, and at the cost of part of his front wing endplate.

The two Ferraris got past the Red Bull of Webber through turns one and two, and the Australian was challenged by Jenson Button as well in the opening corners. Fernando Alonso was all over the back of Hamilton for the first half of the lap.

At the end of the this opening lap Webber was down in ninth place, while Vettel led from Hamilton, with Alonso in third, Felipe Massa fourth, Robert Kubica fifth and Button sixth. Michael Schumacher, who had started from fifteenth, was up to eleventh as he started lap two.

Webber was first to pit, at the beginning of lap 8. He was only running ninth came in to change to the harder tyre compound. There was a problem with the left-front super-soft tyre coming off, and he fed back into a lowly eighteenth place, with just the Lotus, Virgin and Hispania cars running behind him.

Then, on Lap 10, came one of the biggest accidents of the season so far. Mark Webber, who was trying to pass Heikki Kovalainen for position, went straight over the wear wing of the Lotus. He was thrown sky-high into a somersault, landed upside down on the tarmac, bounced back the right way up, and the momentum he still had caused him to crash heavily into the tyre barriers. Luckily both drivers climbed out of their battered cars and walked away.

This incident brought out the first ever Valencia safety car, and most drivers dived into the pits. Virtually everybody running from Button downwards could go straight in, but Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and the two Ferraris had just passed the pit lane entrance, and had to wait until the next time round to pit.

Vettel and Hamilton regained their positions on exiting, but Ferrari had to stack their two cars in the pit lane, and they both came out in traffic. Hamilton also took advantage of the slowed field to change his front wing, effectively without any time penalty.

Replays showed that Hamilton had hesitated as the safety car came out of the pits. Initially he was ahead of the safety car, but crucially, as he reached the appropriate line, he was fractionally behind the Mercedes road car. Hamilton then went on ahead of the safety car to make his pit stop, while Fernando Alonso was stuck behind it. The Brit was later penalised for this technical breach of the rules.

Schumacher lost out in the pit stops. He was running third when he dived into the pits, but came down to the exit of the pit lane as the train of cars was starting a new lap, forcing the German to wait until the whole field had passed before he could exit the pits in nineteenth.

The order behind the safety car, which came in after five laps, was Vettel, Hamilton, Kobayashi (who had not yet pitted), Button, Barrichello, Kubica. The two Ferraris of Massa and Alonso were down in tenth and seventeenth.

Sebastian Vettel had a moment after the safety car line just as the pace vehicle had pulled into the pits, and Hamilton almost sneaked past the race leader.

Having retained his lead, Vettel was the fastest man on track initially, but by Lap 20 only had a 1.4 second lead over Hamilton. Kobayashi was yet to make his pit stop, and was 7.6 seconds behind the Brit. The Sauber of Kobayashi was holding up Button, and everybody else behind him. This was quickly turning into a two-horse race.

On Lap 21, the announcement came through from race control that Car No. 2, Lewis Hamilton, was under investigation from the stewards. He was then given a drive-through penalty for overtaking the safety car.

Hamilton was kept out for as long as possible before serving his penalty at the end of Lap 27. He emerged still in second position, getting out of the pit lane just ahead of Kamui Kobayashi who was third. Ferrari and an incredulous Alonso continued to moan over the radio that it was unfair.

At the front, Sebastian Vettel now had a 14.5 second lead of the grand prix, but Lewis Hamilton was now the fastest man on the track, and the gap began to narrow.

Michael Schumacher was running around in seventeenth place, having done three pit stops. After pitting for a set of super-soft tyres, the German actually set a fastest lap on Lap 38, and again on Lap 40, and towards the end of the race on Lap 53.

Ten laps from the end of the race, and the gap from leader Vettel to second-place man Hamilton was down to 7.9 seconds. Kamui Kobayashi, who was still yet to complete his mandatory pit stop, was running in third ahead of Jenson Button. However, the Sauber driver was admirably keeping up with the leaders pace.

About five laps from the end, Hamilton gave up the chase of Vettel, who appeared to have the pace to defend his lead if required. Now the only question remained was when Kamui Kobayashi would make his pit stop and relinquish third place.

It was the end of Lap 53 that Kobayashi came in, promoting Jenson Button up to third place. He took on the super-soft tyres, and came out in ninth, just behind Fernando Alonso, and ahead of his teammate.

The Japanese driver then had the audacity to overtake Fernando Alonso on the penultimate lap of the race to get up into eight, and drop the home favourite down to ninth. He then got past Buemi on the last corner of the grand prix.

Quite amusingly, race control announced that Cars 1, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 22 will all be investigated after the race for going to quickly behind the safety car, probably while heading to the pits has the safety car came out.

These numbers correspond to Button, Rubens Barrichello, Nico Hulkenberg, Kubica, Vitaly Petrov, Adrian Sutil, Tonio Liuzzi, Sebastien Buemi and Pedro de la Rosa. If some or all of these drivers are given time penalties, then the provisional race result at the top of this report could be incorrect. Alternatively, they may be given grid penalties in Silverstone and today's result will stand.

If the drivers are all given penalties, Kamui Kobayashi may actually be awarded third.

Whatever happens regarding the penalties, German Sebastian Vettel has the victory, ahead of the Englishman Lewis Hamilton – first blood to the Germans on this important day of sport.