Turkish delight for Seb's IstanBull

By on Sunday, May 8, 2011

Vettel extends his lead to 34 points with a third win of 2011

After just four races, the rest of the field must be scratching their heads as they work out just how they can stop Sebastian Vettel from storming to his second world title. He took pole position with ease on Saturday and simply cruised away from his competitors on Sunday, stopping a fourth time when he didn’t really need to, and won by 8.8s, a margin that flattered his opponents. For the first time since Brazil last year, Red Bull took home 43 points from the weekend as Mark Webber joined his team mate on the podium to leave the Red Bull garage in a party atmosphere, a stark contrast to twelve months ago when bitter infighting and claims of favouritism emerged after that infamous collision.

At the start, Vettel simply converted his superior grid position into a Turn 1 lead, although Mark Webber lost out to Nico Rosberg as the Australian struggled on the dirty side of the grid. Lewis Hamilton sought to take advantage of Webber, but he ran too deep into Turn 3 and was fortunate not to slide off the circuit. He paid the price for his aggression though, as he slipped behind Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. The only casualty of the opening lap was Sergio Perez, who was forced to pit after breaking his front wing in a collision with Pastor Maldonado. One man with less luck though was Timo Glock. Virgin discovered a problem with his gearbox prior to the race and despite their best efforts; they were unable to repair the problem in time, meaning that Glock did not make the start.

As soon as DRS was enabled on the third lap, it was evident that it was going to be of huge benefit to a driver wanting to overtake. When Webber was close enough to Rosberg on Lap 5, he cruised by and Alonso followed him through a few laps later. Webber and Alonso ran close throughout the race, with Alonso taking the Red Bull just after half distance. With seven laps remaining and four stops completed by both, Webber returned the favour, outbraking Alonso into Turn 12, with the Ferrari fighting back but eventually accepting defeat at Turn 3 on the next lap. It was, nevertheless, a good result for Ferrari who took their first podium of 2011 courtesy of Fernando Alonso. Vettel was always in control of his tyres and when Alonso and Webber pitted for their fourth stop, the reigning champion stopped a lap later to play it safe, although he had enough in reserve to ensure that he was never under threat.

None of the other drivers could live with the pace of Red Bull or Alonso. The battle for fourth was between McLaren, Mercedes and Felipe Massa. Button tried a three stop strategy compared to his rivals’ four stops. It looked to be working as he briefly led the race, although on fresher tyres, Hamilton and Rosberg were able to overtake the 2009 champion and he slipped to 6th.

It wasn’t the finest day for McLaren as the MP4-26 simply didn’t have enough speed to challenge for the podium. A slow stop for Hamilton cost him around twelve seconds but this was irrelevant in his final placing. The McLaren'sjoyed a battle with each other early on in the race as Hamilton sought to pass Button, only for his tyres to degrade and for Button to get back through again. It was almost a repeat of the closing stages of the 2010, no doubt increasing Martin Whitmarsh's heart rate. Rosberg’s race pace simply wasn’t as strong as his qualifying pace, but he could nevertheless be satisfied with 5th place for the second successive event, which included a tooth and nail battle with Massa.

Further back the action was just as frantic as up front. Michael Schumacher defended aggressively from Vitaly Petrov early on and made contact, breaking his front wing and putting him out of contention. The race was one of the worst showings for the Mercedes driver as he also collided with Barrichello and finished down in 12th place. Felipe Massa fared little better as he ran wide at Turn 8 and slipped into the midfield. He wasn’t helped by a slow stop and he finished in 11th.

Renault showed good progress and despite minor contact between Heidfeld and Petrov, they crossed the line in 7th and 8th respectively. Sebastien Buemi was quiet but effective as he made his way into the top 5, before slipping back with a vibration. Nonetheless, he still took two points for 9th and outperformed his team mate, Jaime Alguersuari, as it becomes apparent that Daniel Ricciardo will replace one of them from next year, or sooner. Kamui Kobayashi was one of the stars of the race as he took the final point for 10th, despite starting from the back of the grid. Kobayashi was often involved in the scraps, including getting a puncture when hit by Buemi and overtaking Michael Schumacher on the grass!

Force India was fairly anonymous as Paul di Resta was the only one of the starters to retire with a mechanical failure and Adrian Sutil took 13th, narrowly beating Perez. It was another abject day for Williams. Barrichello squandered a promising start to finish 15th, with Maldonado showing pace only in the pits – receiving a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane – eventually finishing down in 17th place. Trulli beat Kovalainen to 18th whilst d’Ambrosio, Karthikeyan and Liuzzi rounded out the field.

So after some Turkish delight, the field heads to Europe for the start of the traditional summer races, with the Spanish Grand Prix on May 22nd. And at a point between now and then,  some bright spark has to come up with a way to stop Vettel.

The Turkish Grand Prix
Istanbul, Turkey;
58 laps; 309.396km;
Weather: Sunny.


Pos  Driver        Team                       Time
 1.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           1h30:17.558
 2.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +     8.807
 3.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +    10.075
 4.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +    40.232
 5.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +    47.539
 6.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +    59.431
 7.  Heidfeld      Renault                    +  1:00.857
 8.  Petrov        Renault                    +  1:08.168
 9.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +  1:09.300
10.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +  1:18.000
11.  Massa         Ferrari                    +  1:19.800
12.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +  1:25.400
13.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +     1 lap
14.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +     1 lap
15.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +     1 lap
16.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +     1 lap
17.  Maldonado     Williams-Cosworth          +     1 lap
18.  Trulli        Lotus-Renault              +     1 lap
19.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Renault              +    2 laps
20.  D'Ambrosio    Virgin-Cosworth            +    2 laps
21.  Karthikeyan   HRT-Cosworth               +    3 laps
22.  Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth               +    5 laps

Fastest lap: Webber, 1:29.703

Not classified/retirements:

Driver        Team                         On lap
Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes         45
Glock         Virgin-Cosworth              1

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