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.
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
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.