Sebastian Vettel unsurprisingly declared himself ‘very happy’ with his hard-worn fourth win of 2011 in Barcelona today.
The reigning world champion now has 118 points after five races, but had to fend off an early challenge from Fernando Alonso and then constant pressure from Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages of this Spanish Grand Prix.
“It was pretty tough today,” he said. “At the beginning of the race I thought I had a good start, I didn't understand where Fernando came from! He started behind me, 16 metres behind, and half way down the straight he was already side-by-side. He went on the inside of Mark and I went on the outside, so he was leading after the first corner. We couldn't get close enough to use the DRS, but we got him with the pit stop.
“Fairly early, everyone was getting the options out of the way, so there was half the race left on the hard tyres. It looked like the McLarens were very strong; they stayed out longer on a different strategy, which bought them up to second behind us. From then on I knew that it would be very, very close; going into the last 10 laps felt the same as in China.
“My tyres were going away from me and I prayed the same was happening to Lewis, as he was catching up and they seemed so much quicker, especially on the last sector. At the end of the straights he would be right in my mirrors, so you don't know if you should defend or not.
“It was very close, but on the last two laps, I could make it stick. KERS was on and off, which meant I was playing around with brake distribution a lot. McLaren and Lewis especially gave us a hard time today. It's quite a release when you cross the line and you know that you made it, so I'm very, very happy.
“It was a great result and after yesterday a good confirmation that we are strong but, as expected, McLaren and Ferrari are giving us a hard time and are pushing hard – I'm very happy today. ”
Mark Webber, who finished fourth, could not explain Alonso’s fast start either, and did not seem too happy with the way that his race panned out.
“I don’t think my start was hideous, but Fernando got a phenomenal one,” he said. “Obviously from then on it wasn't the start we had planned and it was a bit of a chess game. People were covering each other's pit stops and I really didn’t do much racing on track.
“At the end of the race I finished 40 seconds behind Lewis and Seb. It was an interesting day today and shows how fine the margins are; we were frustrated by Fernando who seemed to pit every time I did! At certain stages I was quick and at others I wasn't -that's the way it was today.”
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner explained how it was vital that Vettel passed Jenson Button and Felipe Massa within one lap of exiting the pits for him to make his strategy work, and sympathised with Webber on his difficult race.
“A really exciting race,” he said in summary. “I think we were all surprised tos ee Fernando come through at the first corner in first position and that changed the dynamics of the race. He didn't have great pace at the front and it boxed the rest of them up behind.
“We managed to undercut with Sebastian, but couldn't do it with Mark because Ferrari could see what we were doing. It was acombination of team-work and strategy. Sebastian had to make the passes on Jenson and Massa to make his strategy work, it was a real risk, but he went for it and made it happen, which is what it's all about.
“Unfortunately for Mark, he spent the first half looking at Fernando Alonso's exhaust and to get him ahead in the end we did a dummy which they fell for. Otherwise it was frustrating for Mark and the complete result would be to have him right up there as well.”