The only problem Sebastian Vettel had, on his four-stopping way to victory number three of 2011 in Turkey on Sunday afternoon, came as he went into the 57th and penultimate lap and had to lap the dueling Sergio Perez and Adrian Sutil in the last corner. Otherwise, he made it look easy, leading virtually throughout after making a great start.
Making it another great day for Red Bull – and a very different result to 2010’s here – Mark Webber brought his RB7 home second after passing Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari on the 51st lap. Both also stopped four times for fresh Pirellis.
Lewis Hamilton made a strong start but got hung out to dry after running wide and dropping from fourth to sixth, and thereafter McLaren switched him from a three-stop strategy to ‘Plan B’, four stops. Team mate Jenson Button stayed on three, and was running fourth by lap 48, but Hamilton overtook him with ease on his fresher rubber on lap 49, and five laps later Nico Rosberg followed suit to claim fifth for Mercedes.
Behind Button, Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov dragged their Renaults past Sebastien Buemi’s enthusiastically driven Toro Rosso in the closing stages to take distant seventh and eighth places, but the three-stopping Swiss clung on to take two points for ninth ahead of Kamui Kobayashi, who was the other runner of significant note to get home on three stops. He climbed from last place on the grid to claim the final point for Sauber.
Felipe Massa had a race filled with battles, most notably with Michael Schumacher, but the former three-time winner here could not better 11th for Ferrari ahead of the Mercedes driver, whose race was compromised by a first-lap collision with Petrov in Turn 12 which necessitated a new front wing.
Behind them, the Sutil/Perez battle resolved itself in the Force India driver’s favour, though officially they crossed the finish line a lap down, separated by 0.0s. And behind them, Rubens Barrichello’s three-stop race took him to the line in 15th place for Williams, 0.1s ahead of four-stopping Jaime Alguersuari in the Toro Rosso. Pastor Maldonado took 17th for Williams, in a race which included a drive-through penalty for pit-lane speeding, from Jarno Trulli who had a great intra-team scrap with Heikki Kovalainen until the Finn’s Lotus developed technical problems in the closing stages and dropped back in 19th place. Virgin’s Jerome D’Ambrosio took 20th in a race that team mate Timo Glock did not even start after suffering gearbox problems on the way to the grid, and Narain Karthikeyan led home HRT partner Tonio Liuzzi after the fleet Italian’s race was spoiled by a long stop to investigate mechanical problems.
Paul di Resta didn’t make it to the finish after his Force India faded after his fourth stop, but apart from Glock was the only non-finisher.
While the race for the lead never developed, there was yet more fantastic racing all the way down the field with some gripping battles, notably between Webber and Alonso, Rosberg and the two McLaren drivers, and Schumacher with virtually anyone around him on the track.
Vettel now has 93 points in the world championship from Hamilton on 59, as Webber jumps ahead of Button with 55 to 46. Alonso is fifth with 41. In the constructors’ stakes, Red Bull have 148 to McLaren’s 105 and Ferrari’s 65, with Renault on 42 and Mercedes 26.