Just when the Formula One fans though that team Red Bull would pick up another 1-2 victory Sunday at the Grand Prix of Turkey at the Istanbul Otodrom, along came Sebastian Vettel's desperate pass on race leader Mark Webber on lap ...
Just when the Formula One fans though that team Red Bull would pick up another 1-2 victory Sunday at the Grand Prix of Turkey at the Istanbul Otodrom, along came Sebastian Vettel's desperate pass on race leader Mark Webber on lap 41.
That passing attempt ended in tears, with the German spinning out of the race, and giving McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button the opportunity to collect their 1-2 triumph instead. Webber, although disappointed afterwards, collected some valuable points by taking third, and now leads the World Championship after seven rounds.
"Red Bull made it tough for us and we put up a good fight," said Hamilton, "You can see how close it is between the four of us. It's down to momentum, and we'll do the best we can to win both championships."
The race at the halfway point had no retirements, until both Lotuses of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen were the first to leave the race. Following the lead of the Norfolk-based team, HRT lost both cars as well.
However, Webber began well, and leading up to the first pit stops of the race had a very intense battle with Hamilton, who was no further than five tenths of a second behind. Hamilton had initially lost second place to Vettel, but regained it still on the very first lap.
By lap 20, the two Red Bulls of Webber and Vettel were in the lead, the latter having jumped past Hamilton during the pit stops, followed by the McLarens of Hamilton and Button. The fifth- and sixth-placed Mercedes of Michael Schumacher and Nico ROsberg were by now over 30 seconds adrift of Webber.
But only 11 laps later, Vettel took on his Australian teammate on the final straight, just before the start-finish line, and in an attempt to pass, struck Webber, spinning the German around and out of the race.
Vettel afterwards was mobbed by reporters who wanted to know what happened.
"Obviously, I think if you look at the pictures it was clear I had the inside," said Vettel. "I went on the inside, I was ahead and just going down to focus on the braking point and honestly, you can see we touched and he touched my right rear wheel and I went off."
Webber, on the other hand, had a different version, one that was closer to the view of most of the observers.
"Seb had a good top speed advantage and he went down the inside," Webber recalled. "We were side by side and then looks like he turned pretty quickly to the right and we made contact. It definitely happened fast. It's a shame for the team, but not an ideal day. Neither want to make contact but it can happen sometimes when both are in front. It is never ideal but it happened."
What neither one mentioned at the time was that the reason Vettel was faster than his teammate, and able to even attempt a pass, was that Webber had had to turn down the power on his engine earlier, in order to ensure sufficient fuel to the finish. Vettel had been able to conserve fuel in following Hamilton early in the race, and thus had a few laps with more power than Webber -- and thus only a small window to attempt a pass for the lead.
As the Red Bulls headed for the runoff. Hamilton took over the moments later and despite a friendly but intense battle with Button laps from the finish, took his first win of the year that was so desperately needed.
Webber was able to continue, but had to make an unplanned pit stop to replace a damaged front wing. However, Schumacher was now nearly 40 seconds behind and was not even close to being able to threaten the Red Bull driver.
The veteran German finished his best of the season so far in fourth, though, while his teammate Rosberg was fifth. Renault's Robert Kubica took sixth, while the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso were seventh and eighth, respectively, unable to make an impression on the Renaults of Kubica and Vitaly Petrov. Alonso was only able to claim eighth after a desperate late-race lunge that saw him touch wheels with Petrov; the latter ended up having to limp back to the pits with a puncture.
Adrian Sutil was next in ninth, and Kamui Kobyashi gave Sauber their first point by finishing in tenth.
Hamilton, keeping out of the incident between the two Red Bulls, knew that there is still a lot of work to be done, but realized that his team is getting closer to their rivals.
"We have been ragging their tails for some time. It's such an achievement for us, to really be able to take the battle to them. They had one strength that was particularly good here, we had a strength here, and we didn't know how it would pan out. We were able to compete with them and push our hardest to be on their tails. To get our second 1-2 is fantastic."
Webber, despite his incident, now leads the championship with 93 points, folllowed by Button five points behind with 88. Hamilton is in third, four points behind his teammate with the only North American race coming up in Montreal, Canada on June 13th.