Vettel holds off Hamilton for Spanish GP win

Monday, 23 May 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

BARCELONA, May 22 (Reuters) -Red Bull’s Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel took his fourth win in five races on Sunday in a Spanish Grand Prix that shed its reputation for predictable processions.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton finished second, just 0.6 seconds behind, after harrying the 23-year-old German over the closing laps in a far closer finale to a race many had forecast would be a duel between the dominant Red Bulls.

“That was crazy, crazy man, you were coming, coming, coming,” Vettel told Hamilton before the podium Champagne celebrations.

Hamilton’s team mate and fellow-Briton Jenson Button was third, beating Red Bull’s Australian Mark Webber for the final place on the podium and helped by a three-stop strategy to the others’ four.

However the stewards announced some 19 minutes after the end of the race that Hamilton, Button and Webber were all under investigation for failing to slow for yellow flags.

The rest of the field, including Ferrari’s fifth placed local hero Fernando Alonso and sixth placed Michael Schumacher, were lapped.

Vettel stretched his championship lead over Hamilton, the 2008 champion and only man to have beaten him so far this year, to 41 points.

Even if Vettel’s 14th career victory came as no surprise it still marked the first time since 2000, when Finland’s Mika Hakkinen beat Michael Schumacher to the chequered flag, that the race was won by someone other than the driver starting on pole.

At a circuit previously renowed for scant overtaking or excitement, with just 10 moves in last year’s race, the new driver operated rear wings (DRS) and KERS systems transformed the landscape.

“It was pretty tough, obviously,” said Vettel, whose KERS system giving a brief power boost at the push of a button was working only intermittently.

“Going into the last 10 laps it felt a bit like China, with the tyres going away,” he said of a race in which he finished second after Hamilton reeled him in with better strategy.

“McLaren and Lewis especially gave us a very, very hard time.”

Webber had taken his first pole of the season on Saturday, with Vettel alongside on the front row, but paid the price for a poor start with Alonso sending the 78,000 strong Circuit de Catalunya crowd into raptures by seizing the early lead.

The joy did not last however, with Alonso making his fourth pitstop with 26 laps still to go and having to finish the race on the slower, hard tyres. His Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa was one of three retirements.