Race - Vettel holds off Hamilton for tense Spanish win 22 May 2011
There may not have been as much overtaking as we saw in Turkey, but Lewis Hamilton made it a gripping Barcelona race on Sunday as he hounded Sebastian Vettel from the 20th to the 66th and final lap. The reigning world champion had to work every inch of the way as he took his fourth victory of the season for Red Bull, and the two drivers were separated by a mere 0.6s after more than 300 kilometres of flat-out racing.
There was drama that the crowd loved at the start when Ferrari's Fernando Alonso burst through from fourth place to slam down the inside of poleman Mark Webber going into the first corner. It was the prelude to a disappointing afternoon for the Australian, who had been focusing on keeping Vettel at bay and didn't spot the Ferrari in time.
Alonso kept it in the lead until his first of four pit stops on the 10th lap, and his second on the 19th, but thereafter the race was between Vettel and Hamilton, who stopped initially on Laps Nine and 11 and then 18 and 23 respectively, and also stopped four times in total.
As they raced ahead, Alonso kept a frustrated Webber at bay, and McLaren's Jenson Button worked his way back from a terrible start that dropped him initially from fifth on the grid to 10th at the end of the opening lap.
Alonso was third when he pitted for the third time on the 29th lap, and again he held off Webber, but the Spaniard soon blistered a set of hard tyres and gradually dropped away as he had to make his final set of hard Pirellis last from the 39th lap to the end.
Not so Vettel and Hamilton, who went at it hammer and tongs. The gap fluctuated between two seconds and half a second, but in a race in which DRS failed to generate as much overtaking action as had been expected, a 0.6s to 0.7s stalemate set in over the final 15 laps and Vettel worked the traffic well to maintain this small but crucial advantage after a super-cool drive.
Hamilton was a valiant second, and McLaren picked up the third podium place after three-stopping Button made the most of his final set of soft tyres to jump the slowing Alonso and Webber. Webber fought back at first after his final stop, but was 12.2s behind the 2009 champion by the flag, and Button in turn was 35s adrift of his team mate.
Alonso clung on to a lapped fifth place, ahead of the duelling Mercedes. Michael Schumacher kept team mate Nico Rosberg at bay to take his best result of the season with sixth, but by the end Nick Heidfeld's heady race from the back of the grid in his Renault saw him only four-tenths away from Rosberg.
It was a good day for Sauber, with Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi driving hard races for ninth and 10th, the Japanese driver clawing back after being delayed by a puncture picked up on the opening lap.
Renault's Vitaly Petrov faded from the points in the closing laps, but was too far ahead for Paul di Resta to challenge after another race in which the Scottish rookie comfortably beat Force India team mate Adrian Sutil as they both stopped only three times.
Sebastien Buemi fought hard all the way through but couldnt better 14th for Toro Rosso, just two-tenths ahead of Pastor Maldonado in the lead Williams. The Venezuelan finished well ahead of Toro Rossos Jaime Alguersuari and team mate Rubens Barrichello, while Jarno Trulli was the first Lotus home with 18th place after a strong midfield run in which he led team mate Heikki Kovalainen until the Finn crashed due to driver error.
Virgin had to play second fiddle initially to Tonio Liuzzi's HRT, but Timo Glock eventually caught and passed the Italian, who later retired. The German led home his Belgian team mate Jerome DAmbrosio, with Narain Karthikeyan 21st and last for HRT. Besides Liuzzi and Kovalainen, the other retiree was Felipe Massa, who had a very tough race in his Ferrari and dropped from a low points-scoring position thanks to a gearbox problem.
Vettel now has 118 points to Hamilton's 77, Webber's 67, Button's 61 and Alonso's 51, while Red Bull Racing extend their score to 185 from McLaren's 138 and Ferrari's 75.
Webber, Hamilton, Button and Alguersuari were all investigated after the race regarding yellow flag infringements, and all were subsequently reprimanded.
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