Sebastian Vettel secured a pole to flag victory in Istanbul to take his third win of 2011 and extend his lead in the drivers’ championship to 34 points after just four races.
Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber had a busier race in Turkey today, but got the better of a battle with Fernando Alonso in the closing stages to take second place.
In a race where most of the front-runners used a four-stop strategy, Alonso scored Ferrari‘s first podium of the season with third place whilst Lewis Hamilton had to settle for fourth place ahead of Nico Rosberg and McLaren team-mate Jenson Button.
Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov took seventh and eighth place respectively for Renault, whilst Sebastien Buemi and Kamui Kobayashi – who started the race from the back of the grid – took the remaining points.
Apparently the Turkish track has the greatest difference in cleanliness between the two sides of the starting grid of any circuit on the calendar. Those on the right hand side – that of the pole-sitter – were destined to have a big advantage off the start line. This proved to be the case today as Sebastian Vettel got away cleanly into the lead and Nico Rosberg jumped from third to second as he got past Mark Webber off the line.
Lewis Hamilton momentarily challenged Webber for third in the early stages of the opening lap before a mistake dropped him down to sixth, behind both Fernando Alonso and team-mate Jenson Button, who were running fourth and fifth respectively by the end of the first lap.
On Lap 2, Michael Schumacher tried defending seventh position from Vitaly Petrov after the Russian was virtually past him. This could only end in tears, and sure enough Schumacher was forced to visit his Mercedes pit crew for a new nose at the end of the lap, dropping the seven-time world champion down to the back of the field.
Webber breezed past Rosberg on Lap 5 thanks to the DRS. Meanwhile, Hamilton was getting impatient sitting behind his team-mate, clearly feeling that he was in the faster McLaren. Hamilton made a move on Lap 6 through the DRS zone, but untidy driving in the remaining corners of the lap allowed Button back through down the pit straight. Then, in scenes reminiscent of last years' race, Hamilton re-took the position at the first corner of Lap 7. At the same point on Lap 8, Button performed the same manoeuvre on Hamilton.
Ross Brawn, the Mercedes Team Principal, told the BBC before the race that he was most concerned about the pace of his cars on high fuel. These concerns seemed justified on Lap 7 when Alonso became the third person to pass Rosberg. The German was now down to fourth place and the two McLaren drivers, despite squabbling with one another, were catching him.
Meanwhile, at the front Vettel had built up a 5.6 second lead over his team-mate by the end of Lap 8.
Felipe Massa was the first person to stop at the end of Lap 9. He had just overtaken Hamilton in the DRS zone on his in-lap, and both the Ferrari and the McLaren dived into the pits for a new set of rubber, Massa ahead of Hamilton. However, the McLaren crew were faster, and Hamilton just exited his box ahead of Massa, retaking sixth place.
This triggered the stops of Webber, Alonso and Rosberg on the following lap. They came out in second, third and fourth place, respectively – the order that they entered the pit lane.
Race leader Vettel came in at the end of Lap 11, easily making it out in front of his team-mate. Jenson Button, the only front-runner not to stop, was now leading the race. Kamui Kobayashi, who started on the back of the grid, and was yet to stop, had made it up to fifth place whilst the leaders pitted.
Button came in at the end of his thirteenth lap, having been passed by Sebastian Vettel. The late pit stop dropped him down behind Felipe Massa, although it appeared that Button was now on a three stop strategy, whereas the other front-runners were on four stop strategies.
Hamilton then used the wonders of DRS to get past Rosberg, who was steadily going backwards. The other Mercedes of Michael Schumacher was faring even worse, acting as a mobile chicane and being passed by Force Indias, Williams and Kamui Kobayashi.
Rosberg and Massa had a battle for fifth place on Lap 20 whilst Lewis Hamilton, who was just up the road, made his second stop of the afternoon. Massa did get past in the DRS zone before Rosberg barged his way back past.
While they argued over the position, Button caught them up and, as Massa made his way through on the next lap, Button managed to squeeze past Rosberg in the following corners. Button then got past Massa on Lap 24 as the Brazilian flat-spotted his tyre. Massa then dived into the pits for his scheduled stop.
Mark Webber made his second stop on Lap 22, entering the pits from second place. Alonso made his second stop on Lap 24. Vettel came in from the lead at the end of Lap 26, comfortably emerging in the lead.
Once Button had made his second stop, and all of the front-runners had made two trips into the pits, Vettel led the race by 8.5 seconds from Webber, who was just 0.6 seconds ahead of Alonso. Hamilton was 16.9 seconds further behind in fourth, Vitaly Petrov was fifth, Massa sixth, Button seventh, and Rosberg was just about hanging on in eighth. Alonso got past Webber using the DRS on Lap 30, taking second place.
Hamilton made a stop from fourth on Lap 35, but there was a problem with the front-right wheel thanks to a cross-threaded wheel nut, delaying the Brit significantly. Massa, who had a small off on his in-lap, pitted moments later, and Webber came in the next time round. Alonso was in on Lap 37, making it out of the pits ahead of Webber, thus taking second place.
Button made his third (and final) stop on Lap 40 of 58, exiting the pits in seventh place. Vettel did the same on the following lap, easily retaining the lead of the grand prix – a whole pit straight ahead of second-place man Alonso. He know had to make the hard tyres last for 17 laps to take the race victory.
All the other drivers had used both compound of Pirelli tyre, and theoretical could do just three stops. However, the likes of Webber, Alonso and Hamilton would struggle to make their prime tyres survive for the remainder of the race, so they looked likely to do four stops.
Vettel's lead on Lap 43 was just over seven seconds from Alonso, with Webber just over three seconds behind the Spaniard.
Webber took his fourth stop on Lap 46, comfortably emerging back out in third place. Alonso had no choice but to respond with a fourth stop of his own. Hamilton also pitted from a distant fourth place, as did Massa who was running down in eighth. Button, who was on a three stop strategy, was now ahead of his McLaren team-mate.
Vettel decided that he should be better safe than sorry, and also made a third stop, rather than risking his hard tyres dropping off in the closing stages of the race.
The order, with everyone having stopped four times except Button, who was only stopping thrice, was Vettel leading, 6.2 second ahead of Alonso. Webber was less than two seconds behind the Ferrari in third whilst Button was a distant fourth, with team-mate Hamilton, on fresh tyres, breathing down his neck. Rosberg was sixth.
In reality, Button was a sitting duck, and Hamilton breezed past on Lap 50. Rosberg followed three laps from the end of the race. Once again, more stops were the answer; in this case, four stops better than three.
On Lap 51 Webber made his way past Alonso for second in the DRS zone, but Alonso would not let him rest. He continued to hassle Webber for the rest of the lap, and the opening corners of the next lap. Eventually Webber made it stick, and the Red Bull one-two was secured.
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||58||Winner||25||Report|
|2||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||58||+8.8 secs||18||Report|
|3||5||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||58||+10.0 secs||15|
|4||3||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren||58||+40.2 secs||12|
|5||8||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||58||+47.5 secs||10||Report|
|6||4||Jenson Button||McLaren||58||+59.4 secs||8|
|7||9||Nick Heidfeld||Renault||58||+60.8 secs||6|
|8||10||Vitaly Petrov||Renault||58||+68.1 secs||4|
|9||18||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso||58||+69.3 secs||2||Report|
|10||16||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber||58||+78.0 secs||1||Report|
|11||6||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||58||+79.8 secs|
|12||7||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes||58||+85.4 secs||Report|
|13||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India||57||+1 Lap||Report|
|14||17||Sergio Perez||Sauber||57||+1 Lap||Report|
|15||11||Rubens Barrichello||Williams||57||+1 Lap||Report|
|16||19||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso||57||+1 Lap||Report|
|17||12||Pastor Maldonado||Williams||57||+1 Lap||Report|
|18||21||Jarno Trulli||Lotus||57||+1 Lap||Report|
|19||20||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus||56||+2 Laps||Report|
|20||25||Jerome D'Ambrosio||Virgin Racing||56||+2 Laps|
|21||22||Narain Karthikeyan||Hispania Racing||55||+3 Laps|
|22||23||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Hispania Racing||53||+5 Laps|
|Ret||15||Paul di Resta||Force India||44||+14 Laps||Report|
|Ret||24||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing||0||Gearbox|