Istanbul, 8 May – At the fourth attempt, Fernando Alonso secured his and Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro’s first podium of the year, after the Spaniard finished third in the Turkish Grand Prix behind the Red Bull Racing one-two of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. Felipe Massa had a more complicated day and after looking as though he might have challenged the fourth placed McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, problems with pit stops and traffic saw him end up just outside the points in eleventh place.
After another difficult Saturday qualifying, Fernando found himself as usual in fifth place on the clean side of the grid on row 3, while Felipe was two rows further back in tenth spot. When the lights went out, Vettel shot into the lead from pole, while Rosberg got the jump on Webber to go second and Fernando had moved up to fourth. Then came Button, Hamilton, Schumacher and Petrov and on lap 2, Felipe got past Heidfeld to go ninth. Schumacher pitted after a collision with Petrov and so the Brazilian was now running seventh having also passed Petrov.
On lap 5, Webber got by Rosberg to go second, 4.4 behind his team-mate Vetel and Fernando was right on the Mercedes’ gearbox, occasionally running alongside him and getting past to take third place on lap 7, two seconds behind Webber. Meanwhile as the two McLarens fought among themselves, it allowed Felipe to close right up to Button who had been passed by Hamilton.
Petrov pitted for tyres on lap 8 in what was clearly going to be a busy day for everyone in pit lane. Lap 9 saw the Brazilian’s Ferrari get ahead of Hamilton and then both men followed one another down pit lane for a tyre change, with the Englishman just managing to get away from his garage ahead of the Ferrari.
Lap 11 saw Fernando move up to third, but he, Rosberg, Webber, Heidfeld, Barrichello and Sutil all pitted at the same time. Next time round the race leader pitted, as did Di Resta and Maldonaldo. Button was the last of the leaders to pit on lap 13, so that the two Red Bulls led again from Fernando, while Felipe was sixth, behind Hamilton and Rosberg. Fernando seemed unable to close the gap to second placed Webber, but Felipe was getting closer and closer to Rosberg in the Mercedes.
On lap 20, Felipe got past but the German got past him again later in the lap in what was the most intriguing duel at this point. Hamilton made his second tyre change, as did Webber and Felipe again passed Rosberg, this time making it stick so he was now fourth behind Webber, while Fernando had moved to second. Rosberg and Heidfeld then pitted together on lap 22. On lap 23 Felipe could not hold off Button’s McLaren, dropping a place and pitting for new tyres almost behind his team-mate. While Fernando maintained third, Felipe now dropped back to seventh, as Vettel came in for his second stop from the lead on lap 25.
When Button changed tyres on lap 26, the stop did not go smoothly, dropping him to seventh, promoting Felipe to sixth, as the Brazilian set about chasing Petrov in the Renault. Then, on lap 30, Webber’s lap times slowed and Fernando was able to get past to go second, while Felipe was having a tough time fighting off seventh placed Button. The Spaniard was now 8.8 seconds behind Vettel and 1.6 ahead of Webber. Felipe was the meat in a sandwich behind Petrov and ahead of Button.
Hamilton in fourth was the first of the leaders to make his third stop but it did not go well as there was a problem with a front wheel. Petrov and Felipe also came in on this lap, with Webber changing tyres on lap 35. One lap later, Fernando took on another set of tyres, while his team-mate had dropped to 13th in the run of pit stops. Heidfeld pitted from fifth on lap 37, promoting Felipe to twelfth.
Button made his third stop from fourth on lap 39 with the race leader coming in on lap 40, as did Buemi in the Toro Rosso from sixth place. Vettel’s stop meant that Fernando was just 7.1 seconds behind the Red Bull, with a 3 second advantage over Webber, while Felipe was now back up to ninth, 1.4 behind Heidfeld in the Renault. Rosberg was the first driver to make a fourth stop, coming in from fifth place on lap 45, followed in by Webber who was another driver to suffer a slow tyre change. Petrov and Schumacher also pitted and obviously covering Webber, Ferrari brought Fernando in for fresh tyres on lap 46 followed in by Hamilton and Felipe and this time the Brazilian’s right rear wheel would not go on properly costing him precious seconds.
One lap later and the race leader made his fourth stop and although he kept the lead, it was only 6.2 seconds ahead of Fernando. The Turkish GP had effectively now come down to a ten lap sprint to the flag on fresh tyres. On lap 49, the Red Bull to Ferrari gap was just 5.9. Hamilton was flying and passed team-mate Button to go fourth at this point and Webber was 1.1 behind the Spanish Ferrari driver and lapping faster so that with eight laps to go the gap was now 0.8. Felipe’s pit stop problem meant he was back down in thirteenth spot.
At the end of lap 51, Webber caught and passed Fernando, with Alonso fighting back so that the two men were running side by side for a while. On lap 53, Felipe moved up to 12th when he passed Schumacher in the Mercedes, but the German fought back to retake the position and then both men got past Alguersuari. Then the Toro Rosso man fought back and retook the German who then passed him again. Overtaking is definitely easier this year!
From then to the flag at the end of lap 58, the order among the front runners did not change much. Behind the podium trio, Hamilton was fourth for McLaren ahead of Rosberg in the Mercedes, Button sixth in the other McLaren and the Renault duo of Heidfeld and Petrov seventh and eighth having both relegated Buemi in the Toro Rosso to ninth. In tenth, ahead of Felipe, Kobayashi took the final point for Sauber. Fernando and Felipe are fifth and sixth respectively in the Drivers’ classification, while the Scuderia is still third in the Constructors’ Championship.