Vettel takes victory in dramatic Monaco Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel resisted immense pressure from Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button to take victory in an incident-packed Monaco Grand Prix.

By winning the famous race in the streets of the principality, the reigning world champion extends his lead in the standings with a massive 143 points. This is a remarkable achievement from the Red Bull Racing driver.

Vettel opted against pitting during a mid-race safety car period, and ran an impressive 56-lap stint on the super soft Pirelli against all expectations, gaining track position over previous leader Jenson Button.

That left him ahead when the race was red-flagged, at which point Sebastian Vettel, second placed Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button – who had dropped to third after pitting just before a mid-race safety car – were all allowed to fit new Pirellis on the grid.

By discarding the old tyres for fresh new rubber, it sealed the victory for the Red Bull driver. The eventual winning margin was 1.1 seconds ahead of his Ferrari rival, who was a similar distance clear from the McLaren.

The race went down to a six-lap sprint following a red flag for a crash involving Vitaly Petrov, Jaime Alguersuari and Lewis Hamilton, that was triggered by Pastor Maldonado passing Adrian Sutil for sixth position at Tabac.

The one-stopping Sutil, who had ran fourth for quite a while but was dropping back on old used Pirelli, smacked into the armco exiting Tabac and punctured his right-rear tyre. While trying to avoid the slowing Force India, Petrov ran into the back of Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso, which in turn hit the rear of Hamilton’s McLaren.

Alguersuari and Petrov hit the barriers hard, forcing the race to be stopped with six laps to the flag and necessitating Petrov’s extrication from the Renault by the medical team.

Having lost the lead to Button thanks to a sluggish pit-stop on lap 16, Vettel opted against pitting when Felipe Massa’s mid-race crash brought out the safety car.

Button, who had already stopped twice by this stage, was clearly the faster driver on his fresher Pirelli, but had also lost track position to Alonso during the safety car period.

Button made his third pit-stop on lap 48 after becoming stuck behind Vettel, but reduced an 18-second deficit to less than a second with eight laps to go. His problem, however, was that Alonso’s Ferrari was in between them.

Button’s hopes of race victory rested on his rivals tyres going off before his, as both Vettel and Alonso switched their strategies and opted against making further pit-stops. The red flag and subsequent tyre changes on the grid put paid to that, however.

Mark Webber finished fourth, having dropped as low as P14 early on due to a 15-second stop as Red Bull pitted him on the same lap as his team-mate. Webber’s two-stop strategy left him with fresher rubber than many of the cars around him during the second half of the Grand Prix, allowing the Australian to pass Kobayashi, Sutil, Petrov and Maldonado within the final 15 laps.

Kamui Kobayashi ceded fourth to Webber after missing the chicane with two laps to go, but still collected the best result of his career. As for Maldonado, the Williams driver was on his way to finishing sixth, but he crashed out at Ste Devote with five laps remaining following contact with Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton’s rear wing was damaged in the Petrov/Alguersuari accident, but the mechanics were able to fix it during the red flag period.

His race was very frustrating. Passed by Michael Schumacher’s slow-starting Mercedes at Loews hairpin on the opening lap, he lost a significant amount of time when the German’s rear tyres dropped off at an alarming rate within ten laps.

Even after passing the seven-time world champion at Ste Devote with a great move, his pace was compromised as he became bogged down in a seven-car battle for fourth place behind Sutil.

Hamilton, Webber and Felipe Massa all came together at Loews on lap 34 – an incident that Hamilton was deemed to have caused and received a drive-through penalty for – but by that time Massa was out, the Ferrari driver having hit the wall in the tunnel as Hamilton passed seconds later.

Hamilton eventually finished sixth, ahead of the lapped Sutil, Nick Heidfeld’s Renault, Rubens Barrichello’s Williams and the Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi.

Paul di Resta finished in P12 after receiving a drive-through penalty for the same reason as Hamilton – colliding with a car at Loews – but the Force India driver also damaged his car in the incident with Alguersuari and was force to pit for a new nose/front wing.

Schumacher did not make the finish, his Mercedes grinding to a halt just ahead of Alonso as the safety car came out for the Massa crash. Timo Glock was the only other retiree, the Virgin driver’s right-rear suspension failing just before half distance.

Vettel’s fifth win from six starts extends his dominant start to the season. But Formula One will reflect on an incident-packed weekend in Monte Carlo, which ends with two drivers, Vitaly Petrov and the non-starting Sergio Perez, recovering from injuries.

Race results from Monte Carlo, 78 laps:

1.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           2h09:38.373
2.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +1.138
3.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +2.378
4.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +23.100
5.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +26.900
6.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           + 27.200
7.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +1 lap
8.  Heidfeld      Renault                    +1 lap
9.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +1 lap
10.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
11.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +1 lap
12.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +2 laps
13.  Trulli        Lotus-Renault              +2 laps
14.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Renault              +2 laps
15.  D’Ambrosio    Virgin-Cosworth            +2 laps
16.  Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth               +3 laps
17.  Karthikeyan   HRT-Cosworth               +3 laps
18.  Maldonado     Williams-Cosworth          +5 laps

Fastest lap: Webber, 1:16.234

Not classified/retirements:

Petrov        Renault                      68 laps
Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari           68 laps
Massa         Ferrari                      33 laps
Schumacher    Mercedes                     33 laps
Glock         Virgin-Cosworth              31 laps
Perez         Sauber-Ferrari               1 lap

World Championship standings, round 6:

1.  Vettel       143
2.  Hamilton      85
3.  Webber        79
4.  Button        76
5.  Alonso        69
6.  Heidfeld      29
7.  Rosberg       26
8.  Massa         24
9.  Petrov        21
10.  Kobayashi     19
11.  Schumacher    14
12.  Sutil          8
13.  Buemi          7
14.  Perez          2
15.  Barrichello    2
16.  Di Resta       2

1.  Red Bull-Renault          222
2.  McLaren-Mercedes          161
3.  Ferrari                    93
4.  Renault                    50
5.  Mercedes                   40
6.  Sauber-Ferrari             21
7.  Force India-Mercedes       10
8.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari          7
9.  Williams-Cosworth           2

Next race: Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal. June 10-12.

Vettel secures pole in disrupted Monaco qualifying

Sebastian Vettel will start the Monaco Grand Prix in pole position after setting an impressive lap around the challenging street circuit.

The reigning world champion set a time of one minute, 13.556 seconds to take his twentieth career pole position in a severely interrupted qualifying session.

McLaren’s Jenson Button will join him on the front row while his team-mate Lewis Hamilton will start in a disappointing seventh.

A heavy accident for Sergio Perez at the harbour front chicane with two minutes remaining brought out the red flags. The session was stopped for 40 minutes while the Mexican was stretchered away and the safety barriers were reset.

Once the green flags were waved, there was not enough time left for any of the nine remaining drivers to get their Pirellis warmed up sufficiently to improve on their previous lap times.

Therefore the top six remained unchanged in the final two minutes of Q3, with Button ahead of Mark Webber’s Red Bull and Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari.

Michael Schumacher equalled his best grid position since his return to Formula One with fifth for Mercedes, while Felipe Massa put his Ferrari in sixth.

The biggest loser in qualifying was McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. He had been the quickest in both Q1 and Q2, but as a result of the red flags he had no opportunity to set a competitive lap time to challenge Vettel for the top spot.

The best he could only do was the seventh quickest time when the session resumed, which was only sufficient enough to place him ahead of Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes and Pastor Maldonado’s Williams. As for Sergio Perez – should the Sauber driver be fit to take part in Sunday’s race – he will start in tenth position.

Vitaly Petrov missed out on Q3 for the first time this season. The Renault driver’s final flying lap splitting Maldonado from his Williams team-mate Barrichello, while Nick Heidfeld in the other Renault was a disappointing P16.

The biggest name not to make it into Q2 was Jaime Alguersuari, who was only twentieth quickest – slower than both Team Lotus drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli. It was Alguersuari’s worst qualifying performance since the 2009 Italian Grand Prix.

One of the Spaniard’s late efforts on the super soft ‘Option’ tyre was thwarted when he came across Kamui Kobayashi on an out-lap at Rascasse and made a minor contact with the back end of the Sauber. Both drivers were summoned to the race stewards to explain his actions.

Neither Hispania took part in qualifying with Vitantonio Liuzzi’s final practice crash leaving the team with no time to repair the damaged car. As for his team-mate Narain Karthikeyan, a rear suspension problem was discovered. With no time set – never mind the 107 per cent qualifying limit – both drivers may not be allowed to start the Monaco Grand Prix.

Qualifying times from Monte Carlo:

1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m13.556s
2.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m13.997s
3.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m14.019s
4.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m14.483s
5.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m14.682s
6.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m14.877s
7.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m15.280s
8.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m15.766s
9.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth    1m16.528s
10.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       No time
11.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              1m15.815s
12.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth    1m15.826s
13.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m15.973s
14.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m16.118s
15.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes 1m16.121s
16.  Nick Heidfeld         Renault              1m16.214s
17.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m16.300s
18.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault        1m17.343s
19.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault        1m17.381s
20.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m17.820s
21.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth      1m17.914s
22.  Jerome D’Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth      1m18.736s
23.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth         No time
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth         No time

107% time: 1m20.471s

Vettel resisted Hamilton challenge to win in Spain

Sebastian Vettel fended off the challenge from Lewis Hamilton to take his fourth victory of the season in the Spanish Grand Prix.

The Red Bull Racing driver was under immense pressure from his racing rival following a final pit-stop to the harder ‘Prime’ tyres and it was fascinating to see the world champion battling against the determined McLaren driver.

Jenson Button adopted a three-stop strategy to take third, while Mark Webber – who started the race in pole position – ended up back in fourth. Home crowd favourite Fernando Alonso slumped down to a lapped fifth after gloriously leading the first two stints of the race.

Webber’s pole advantage only lasted a few yards as Vettel was immediately all over him off the grid. As the Red Bulls battled, the fast-starting Alonso picked up the slipstream on both and dive down the inside into Turn 1 and sending the crowd ecstatic by taking the lead of his home race.

Alonso remained in the lead for the first two stints of the race although Vettel, Webber and Hamilton were close behind the Ferrari.

As for the activation zone for the Drag Reduction System at the Circuit de Catalunya – which is situated on the main pit straight – it wasn’t proving as dramatically effective compared to Turkey and that allow Alonso to escape from the chasing pack.

Vettel tried to jump ahead of his rivals by pitting one lap sooner for his first tyre change – but he emerged into traffic. Despite diving past Jenson Button – who had fallen to tenth with a slow start – Massa and Rosberg in the space of one dynamic out-lap, the world championship leader still found himself back behind Alonso when the Ferrari rejoined.

But at the second stops on laps 17 and 18, Red Bull Racing’s strategy worked out perfectly, and an extra lap on new fresh tyres was sufficient to give Vettel a clear lead.

While Webber pitted at the same moment as Alonso and stayed behind the Ferrari, McLaren tried a different tactic and kept Hamilton out until lap 22, which promoted him past Alonso and Webber from fourth to second position.

Vettel and Hamilton then pulled away in unison, as Alonso dropped ever further behind with Webber close behind. Button then passed the Ferrari and Red Bull in quick succession mid-race as Jenson’s three-stop strategy meant it was on softer ‘Option’ tyres while Alonso and Webber were grappling with the harder ‘Prime’.

Webber finally got past Alonso at the final pit-stop, when the Red Bull stayed out a full eight laps longer and had no trouble getting ahead of the fading Ferrari, which began to lap three seconds off the pace late on as it struggled badly with the Prime tyres and was eventually lapped by the leaders.

While Webber proved unable to catch Button for third, Hamilton got ever closer to Vettel in the closing laps. The Red Bull’s radio transmission suggesting that again the Sebastian’s KERS was only working intermittently.

It built-up to a thrilling finale as Hamilton was edging closer to race leader Vettel and with the use of KERS and DRS, the McLaren driver had an opportunity to pass and win the race. But unlike China with the late position change, Vettel resisted the pressure by making sure he made no mistakes and he took the chequered flag by a margin of six tenths of a second.

Among the lapped cars, Mercedes team-mates Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg had a tough race-long duel for sixth position, with the former staying ahead.

Nick Heidfeld was all over the back of the Silver Arrows at the end, making excellent use of a clever strategy and fresh Pirellis to fly through from the back of the grid in the Renault.

The Saubers completed the top ten with Sergio Perez taking his first points finish, while team-mate Kamui Kobayashi doing well to recover from a first-lap puncture.

Felipe Massa struggled throughout the Grand Prix, and after a mid-race spin, the Brazilian finally dumped his Ferrari in the gravel with six laps to go with a loss of gears.

Paul di Resta got as high as fifth with a very strong opening stint on hard tyres, but did not have the pace later on to turn that into points, ending up P12, behind Vitaly Petrov.

Team Lotus showed its best race pace yet and had both cars in the top ten for a while thanks to long opening stints on the ‘Option’ tyres, but later faded, with Jarno Trulli only P18 and Heikki Kovalainen crashing out at Turn 4.

As for Williams, this was a difficult race for both Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello. The former lacked pace and slumped down to P15 while the latter charge from the back never materialised. It certainly didn’t help by a slow pit-stop, which resulted in only P17.

So yet another victory for the reigning world champion with four wins from five Grands Prix. This is an impressive achievement and it will be fascinating to see if anyone can catch Sebastian Vettel. Next stop is the glamorous Monaco Grand Prix in seven days time.

Spanish Grand Prix results, 66 laps:

1.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           1h39:03.301
2.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +0.630
3.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +35.697
4.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +47.966
5.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +1 lap
6.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +1 lap
7.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +1 lap
8.  Heidfeld      Renault                    +1 lap
9.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +1 lap
10.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +1 lap
11.  Petrov        Renault                    +1 lap
12.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +1 lap
13.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +1 lap
14.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
15.  Maldonado     Williams-Cosworth          +1 lap
16.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +2 laps
17.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +2 laps
18.  Trulli        Lotus-Renault              +2 laps
19.  Glock         Virgin-Cosworth            +3 laps
20.  D’Ambrosio    Virgin-Cosworth            +3 laps
21.  Karthikeyan   HRT-Cosworth               +4 laps

Fastest lap: Alonso, 1:26.727

Not classified/retirements:

Massa         Ferrari                      60 laps
Kovalainen    Lotus-Renault                49 laps
Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth                 29 laps

World Championship standings, round 5:

1.  Vettel       118
2.  Hamilton      77
3.  Webber        67
4.  Button        61
5.  Alonso        51
6.  Rosberg       26
7.  Heidfeld      25
8.  Massa         24
9.  Petrov        21
10.  Schumacher    14
11.  Kobayashi      9
12.  Buemi          6
13.  Sutil          2
14.  Di Resta       2
15.  Perez          2

1.  Red Bull-Renault          185
2.  McLaren-Mercedes          138
3.  Ferrari                    75
4.  Renault                    46
5.  Mercedes                   40
6.  Sauber-Ferrari             11
7.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari          6
8.  Force India-Mercedes        4

Next race: Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo. May 24-29.

Webber heads Red Bull Racing front row in Spain

Red Bull Racing maintain their outstanding qualifying performance this season with yet another pole position but this time it was Mark Webber who took the all-important grid slot at the Circuit de Catalunya.

The speed advantage from the Red Bulls reveal how great this Adrian Newey designed RB7 handles around the 2.875-mile race track. The level of grip and downforce seems unreal with Sebastian Vettel even using his Drag Reduction System mid-corner to gain extra straight-line speed.

By taking pole position with just a single flying lap in Q3, Mark Webber has the upper hand in saving a set of fresh soft ‘Option’ tyre for the race.

Both chose to make just one Q3 run, with Vettel – who had been suffering an apparent KERS issue earlier in qualifying – setting a lap time of one minute, 21.181 seconds before Webber beat it with his lap of one minute, 20.981 seconds. Under no threat from the others, the drivers sat out the remaining five minutes of the session.

Lewis Hamilton will start in third for McLaren, but the margin between himself to the pole sitter is 0.980 seconds. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was delighted to qualify in fourth – his best effort this season – in front of his home fans and ahead of Jenson Button. As for Felipe Massa, he will start in eighth position, nearly a second off from his Scuderia team-mate.

Vitaly Petrov was an impressive sixth for Renault, just ahead of Nico Rosberg, whose Mercedes team-mate Michael Schumacher chose not to go for a lap time in Q3.

Pastor Maldonado showed his strongest form in his debut season in Formula One by making it to Q3 for the first time – and only the second time for Williams this season – and was just off Massa’s pace in ninth.

The Toro Rossos and Saubers will share rows six and seven, but the most significant result of Q2 was that Heikki Kovalainen got Team Lotus into the second part of qualifying for only the second time in the team’s history. The Finn then went on to beat the Force Indias to P15, though the latter team had played it conservatively and opted to only use the harder ‘Prime’ tyres in Q2, saving the softer Pirelli compounds for the race.

Kovalainen’s progress was not just due to Team Lotus having made a step forward this weekend, for two big names dropped out in Q1. A gearbox problem stranded Rubens Barrichello’s Williams to P19 while Nick Heidfeld’s fire-damaged Renault – caused by a damaged exhaust – could not be repaired in time for qualifying.

Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix is going to be fascinating. Not only to see the intra-team battle between the Red Bull drivers but also if the new 2011 rules will allow cars to overtake one another on this notorious difficult race track.

Qualifying times from Circuit de Catalunya:

1.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m20.981s
2.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m21.181s
3.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m21.961s
4.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m21.964s
5.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m21.996s
6.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              1m22.471s
7.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m22.599s
8.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m22.888s
9.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth    1m22.952s
10.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes            No time
11.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m23.231s
12.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m23.367s
13.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m23.694s
14.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m23.702s
15.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault        1m25.403s
16.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m26.126s
17.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes 1m26.571s
18.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault        1m26.521s
19.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth    1m26.910s
20.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth      1m27.315s
21.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth         1m27.809s
22.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth         1m27.908s
23.  Jerome D’Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth      1m28.556s
24.  Nick Heidfeld         Renault              No time

107% time: 1m28.767s

Attack The Block review

The directorial debut of BBC 6 Music radio presenter Attack The Block is a pleasant surprise. Written and directed by Joe Cornish, the film begins with a group of hoodies – lead by Moses (John Boyega), Pest (Alex Esmail), Dennis (Franz Drameh), Jerome (Leeon Jones) and Biggz (Simon Howard) – mugging a trainee nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker) on a South London council estate on Bonfire night.

Suddenly, a fiery object falls from the sky, crashing through the roof of a parked car near them. When they investigate, the youths discover a mysterious furry black creature, which they promptly beat to death and take to the 19th floor flat of local drug dealer Ron (Nick Frost) for identification purposes.

Soon afterwards a dozens of furry black creatures with glow-in-the-dark fang teeth are converging on their tower block and the gang will have to join forces with Sam, a stoner Brewis (Luke Treadaway) and local gangster Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter) in order to fight them off.

It may sounds surreal, but Joe Cornish’s debut film is actually quite good. With an unique street lingo – Cornish spent a year in South London researching on urban culture and language to make the dialogue between the hoodies as affective as possible – Attack The Block is a highly independent film intertwining between youth culture of Broken Britain, sci-fi horror and black comedy.

The young cast of newcomers acquit themselves well. Jodie Whittaker is also good and the amusing comic support from Luke Treadaway and Nick Frost provides light relief in moments of tension and fear.

As for the aliens – furry, black with luminous teeth – the design do look basic but were visually effective in some scenes. The only negative point I would like to make is that the script could have been better.

Despite that Attack the Block is lively and entertaining throughout. Well done Dr Sexy on your latest film!

Vettel reigns supreme in Istanbul

Sebastian Vettel scored his thirteenth career Grand Prix victory with a supreme performance at the Istanbul Park circuit, leading home a Red Bull Racing one-two.

Mark Webber gained the advantage over Fernando Alonso to take the runner-up position following a tough battle, although Alonso achieved Ferrari’s best result with a podium following a difficult start this season.

The Mercedes-powered cars featuring Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button were left to fight for the remaining top six positions, producing some spectacular racing as Hamilton came through to fourth ahead of Rosberg and Button.

Vettel got a clean break immediately as the five red lights went out, as Webber was jumped by Rosberg’s Mercedes off the line. Hamilton tried to get around the outside of the Red Bull too at Turn 3, but ran wide and fell to sixth behind Alonso and Button.

It only took Webber five laps to cruise past Rosberg on the back straight using his Drag Reduction System, but by that time Vettel was 4.4 seconds clear and had enough speed to edge slightly further away even after that.

Alonso was past Rosberg as well two laps later, as the Mercedes found itself falling victim to a string of DRS passes in the opening stint. Webber could not shake the Ferrari off, and just after half-distance, Alonso used the moveable rear wing to go around the outside of Webber into the final complex to claim second position.

He then pulled away for a while, but after their fourth and final pit-stops, Webber was able to take a new set of the harder Prime tyres into the closing laps whereas Alonso’s rubber was more used. With seven laps to go, Webber repeated Alonso’s earlier DRS move to reclaim second, and though the Spaniard tried his utmost to re-pass on the outside both at Turn 1 and Turn 3, Red Bull Racing’s first one-two of the year was secure – though so was Scuderia Ferrari’s first podium.

Vettel was able to run much further on his Pirellis than his nearest rivals and looked like he might manage the full race distance on a three-stop strategy rather than more popular four. But in the end the world championship leader played it safe and adopted his peers’ strategy, maintaining an eight seconds cushion over Webber until they backed off on the final lap.

The most spectacular racing involved the McLarens, Mercedes, Felipe Massa and the Renaults. Button was the highest placed three-stopper, a strategy that allowed him to briefly lead and run fourth going into the final laps.

But Hamilton – recovering well after a delay at his second pit-stop with a cross thread front-right – and Rosberg were able to hunt down and pass Button using their fresher Pirellis late on, taking them to fourth and fifth as the 2009 world champion had to settle for sixth.

Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi drove a superb race to come through from P16 on the grid to seventh on the same strategy as Button, but he too found it impossible to fend off the four-stoppers at the end, and fell down to ninth position behind the Renaults of Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov.

Kamui Kobayashi made a three-stop strategy work well to surge from P23 on the grid to tenth, while Massa was unable to score a point for Ferrari. The Brazilian lost crucial ground when he ran very wide at Turn 8 after his third pit-stop and fell deep into a group of yet-to-stop midfielders, and then was further delayed with a right-rear wheel issue at his last pit-stop.

The Ferrari got back up to P11 with an out-braking move on Michael Schumacher, who had earlier damaged his front wing when he turned in on Petrov as the Renault passed him into the final complex.

Paul di Resta was the only driver to drop out during the 58-lap race with an unspecified car problem, while Timo Glock didn’t make the start with a gearbox problem.

So a fantastic result for Sebastian Vettel. That crash in the opening practice session seemed not to unsettle the world champion as he achieved a superb pole position and race victory for Red Bull Racing. A complete contrast to last year’s nightmare scenario at the same venue.

The resurgent Alonso showed the team can still be caught. But they’ll need to do it soon before Vettel runs away with the championship.

Turkish Grand Prix, 58 laps:

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:

Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes         45 laps
Glock         Virgin-Cosworth              1 lap

World Championship standings, round 4:

1.  Vettel        93
2.  Hamilton      59
3.  Webber        55
4.  Button        46
5.  Alonso        41
6.  Massa         24
7.  Petrov        21
8.  Heidfeld      21
9.  Rosberg       20
10.  Kobayashi      8
11.  Buemi          6
12.  Schumacher     6
13.  Sutil          2
14.  Di Resta       2

1.  Red Bull-Renault          148
2.  McLaren-Mercedes          105
3.  Ferrari                    65
4.  Renault                    42
5.  Mercedes                   26
6.  Sauber-Ferrari              8
7.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari          6
8.  Force India-Mercedes        4

Next race: Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona. May 20-22.

Vettel leads Red Bull front row in Turkey

Sebastian Vettel maintains his perfect record in qualifying this season with his fourth successive pole position at the Istanbul Park circuit.

Despite crashing his Red Bull RB7 against the barrier in Friday’s wet practice session after running over a kerb exiting the challenging Turn 8, the world championship leader recovered from a lack of dry running to take a dominant pole position with just a single flying lap.

Vettel’s time of one minute, 25.049 seconds was impressive. Full commitment around the demanding 3.317-mile circuit, with just a small hint of lift off the throttle in Turn 8 and the use of KERS to power through to the top slot.

His team-mate Mark Webber completed an all-Red Bull Racing front row, four tenths of a second slower than Vettel, with the team so confident of its superiority that the pair went for just one early run in Q3 then sat in the pits watching their rivals fail to beat them.

Nico Rosberg underlined Mercedes GP’s improvement by taking an excellent third, but disappointment for team-mate Michael Schumacher, as he could not maintain his practice form and was only eighth.

The McLaren pair of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button will start in fourth and sixth respectively, split by Fernando Alonso. The Ferrari driver continuing to take fifth in every qualifying session this season.

Renault’s Vitaly Petrov lines up seventh on the grid, two positions ahead of team-mate Nick Heidfeld. As for Felipe Massa, a three times winner of the Turkish Grand Prix, he will start in tenth after deciding not to run in Q3 following an engine change in final practice.

Rubens Barrichello gave Williams its best qualifying position in a difficult season so far with P11 – although he had been on course for a Q3 slot until Heidfeld edged ahead by 0.024 seconds in the final moments of Q2. Team-mate Pastor Maldonado was P14, with the Force Indias between them. Adrian Sutil out-qualifying Paul di Resta for the first time this season.

Kamui Kobayashi was the only driver unable to record a lap time, as his Sauber was cutting out on the back straight. He was forced to withdraw from Q1 with a fuel pump problem. His team-mate Sergio Perez took P15 ahead of the Toro Rossos.

Team Lotus was unable to progress into Q2. But despite that setback Heikki Kovalainen was within a respectable half-second of the cut off point and still managed to edge ahead of his team-mate Jarno Trulli by 0.9 seconds.

As for the battle at the rear end of the grid, Tonio Liuzzi impressively qualified his Hispania in-between the pair of Virgin Racing. For Jerome D’Ambrosio, who recorded a time to qualify in P20, he will drop further back serving his five-place grid penalty for a yellow flag infringement in practice.

Qualifying positions from Istanbul:

1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m25.049s
2.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m25.454s
3.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m25.574s
4.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m25.595s
5.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m25.851s
6.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m25.982s
7.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              1m26.296s
8.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m26.646s
9.  Nick Heidfeld         Renault              1m26.659s
10.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              No time
11.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth    1m26.764s
12.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes 1m27.027s
13.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m27.145s
14.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth    1m27.236s
15.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m27.244s
16.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m27.255s
17.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m27.572s
18.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault        1m28.780s
19.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault        1m31.119s
20.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth         1m30.692s
21.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth      1m30.813s
22.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth         1m31.564s
23.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       No time
24.  Jerome D’Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth      1m30.445s*

107% time: 1m33.103s

*Five-place grid penalty for a yellow flag infringement