By: Nancy Knapp Schilke
Vettel earns 16th Formula One win on the Valencia Street Circuit
Sebastian Vettel appears to be on his way to his second consecutive Formula One championship after another top performance to again stand on the top of the podium. The German cruised to the European Grand Prix victory on the Valencia Street Circuit in Spain.
I’m obviously very happy with the result.
”From the outside, I’m not sure if it seemed that much was happening in the race, but I enjoy it so much when it’s between you and the car on every single lap,” Vettel said.
The Red Bull driver never really had a challenge as he sailed to his sixth win of the season. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso crossed the line in second followed by the struggling Red Bull of Mark Webber, who appeared to have a gearbox failing near the end of today’s race.
“I enjoy this track a lot, last year I had a very smooth weekend here and again this year too. It’s fantastic, the team has done a phenomenal job preparing the car,” smiled the German, who holds a commanding points lead. “Even though we come here every year and think it may be tricky for us, as there are no real fast corners, we managed to come here and have a faultless weekend. I’m obviously very happy with the result.”
Beyond the amazing runaway drive of Vettel, for the third time in history the entire grid finished a Formula One race, and today on the 5.419km/3.367 mile temporary street circuit, all 24 starters took the finish.
Starting from the pole, Vettel got off the line cleanly and from that point on; he never made an error or was even challenged for the lead, while others behind his Red Bull car were doing their best on the tight twisty circuit.
“Of course, I had pressure from behind, especially as the strategy was a little bit different with Mark and Fernando – sometimes they were pitting earlier and sometimes later. I had a gap before the first pit-stop, but I came out very close to them, so again I had to push hard while judging the tyres and trying to imagine what the end of the stint might be like. You are trying to foresee the strategy, so every single lap it’s between you and the car,” said Vettel.
Alonso and Webber had a good battle but toward the end of the race, Webber started to have an apparent gearbox problem and was unable to swap back the position and had to settle for third. “I think we should have finished second today. It was a good race with Fernando, I think it was my best race of the year to be honest until the last pit stop,” said Webber.
The Australian added, “… it was my fault basically. I was worried about Fernando getting the undercut and it was not really known how the medium tyre would behave on the out lap, but it was a risk I decided to take. I lost out to Fernando, he drove a good race. We had a gearbox problem at the end, so we backed right off, but we had a massive gap to McLaren, so we could cruise to the end and look after the gearbox.”
Alonso’s drive to stay in the hunt which allowed him to take the second top step of the podium brought up a round of cheers from his homeland fans.
"We changed positions between Mark and me and in the end second place is the maximum we can have this day so being here between the Red Bull cars is a great achievement from the team. Monaco was a very good performance all weekend. We finished second. Canada was a very good performance. We didn't score any points there and here again very good weekend in terms of performance Felipe (Massa) and me and now both cars in the top five is a great team result so definitely moving in the right direction. We need to keep working and be even closer to these guys in the next grand prix," said Alonso.
It was an unusually start with all making it cleanly through without any problems once the lights went out, but soon it became a train effect with one driver simply following another. Still there were the usual moments and at times, frustration by a driver when stuck behind a slower car, before being able to overtake for the position. There were two possible areas of the circuit where the DRS was allowed: Turns 12 and 17. Both were at the end of the two long straights.
By the 10th lap, the field started to weed out those who would battle for the top spots while others settled in to just make it to the finish cleanly. The top runners were making their way around the slower cars while staying in contention for a possible win even with Vettel having already sailed away. Pit stops could change the order and perhaps Lewis Hamilton was thinking about that being a possible way to get past the Ferrari of Felipe Massa. Of course, his McLaren crew had to be ready plus fast.
"“It was a good race spent constantly fighting other drivers," Massa said. "I tried to get the most out of the Option tyres because we reckoned that with the Prime, our pace was not at its best. It was a shame about the problem at my second pit stop, when I lost those four or five seconds which cost me the chance of fighting Hamilton for fourth place."
Once Hamilton was in front of the Brazilian, he was able to maintain fourth to the checkered flag. His teammate Jenson Button was not as lucky and was stuck behind the red Ferrari. Massa finished fifth with Button in sixth.
“I got a poor start and lost out to both Ferraris,” admitted Hamilton. “After that, it was a long race – the team asked me to stay out for as long as I could, and I was pushing all the way, but I struggled with oversteer and to be honest didn’t feel totally comfortable with the tyres. To be able to finish fourth is still a good result though – and 12 points is a decent haul after the last two races – so I can’t really complain. However, in terms of performance, we weren’t as quick today as we’ve been in the last three races.
“But I want to say a big thank-you to the team for some amazing pitstops today – we’ve really made some positive improvements in that area and it’s really appreciated. So, thanks again, guys,” added Hamilton.
Nico Rosberg had a see-saw day but in the long run, he placed his Mercedes team car in seventh while his teammate Michael Schumacher slipped further down and out of the points paying positions. "I'm happy with my seventh place today as that is the maximum that we could have achieved and we got everything out of the car. It was great to overtake Jenson at the start, and we made the right strategy choice to go for three stops. The introduction of DRS was a positive for the race here in Valencia, and we saw some nice overtaking moves. Now we need to keep pushing for our two home races to close the gap to the fastest teams," he said.
Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari scored four points, coming home in eighth while Adrian Sutil was ninth for Force India. Taking the final point was Nick Heidfeld for Renault.
“I am very happy with this result, especially after I only qualified in eighteenth place. It definitely paid off to concentrate on race set-up. This was a fantastic race and I want to thank my mechanics who worked so hard after the problems we had with my car on Friday during Free Practice. So this result is a reward I am happy to give them," Alguersuari said.
Sutil offered his take his race and the DRS: “To finish ninth feels great and I’m pleased that we’ve managed to get the maximum from the car through the whole weekend. I made a good start: jumping ahead of Heidfeld and was then able to keep up with Schumacher in the first stint," he said and added, "I tried all I could to overtake him, but the DRS zone did not make overtaking very easy and I had to settle for P9. The car felt really nice to drive today and I’m really happy for the whole team with this result.”
Vettel now has 186 championship points, 77 more than Button and Webber. Hamilton sits fourth followed by Alonso. For the Constructors’ title, Red Bull has amassed 89 more points than McLaren and Ferrari is further back in third.
“Some you win, some you don’t,” stated McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said, adding “Lewis and Jenson both lost positions at the start, while some of their rivals made excellent getaways. That left our drivers in pretty heavy traffic, and it’s always difficult to look after your tyres when you’re following other cars at close quarters. Having said that, Lewis and Jenson both drove well this afternoon – Jenson hampered by a KERS Hybrid failure – and the result was a useful haul of 20 world championships points.”
The street fight is over and the Formula One teams head next to Silverstone in two weeks for the British Grand Prix.
Whitmarsh commented on the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team home race for the July 10th weekend: “We had the fastest race car in Barcelona, Monte-Carlo and Montreal, but we didn’t have the fastest race car here in Valencia today. However, you can take it as read that we’ll be working flat-out over the next 10 days to do our utmost to ensure that we have as fast a race car as we possibly can for Silverstone.”