Sebastian Vettel wins Spanish GP

McLaren Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (L) sprays champagne at Red Bull Formula One...

McLaren Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (L) sprays champagne at Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany after the Spanish F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo, outside Barcelona May 22, 2011. (REUTERS/Albert Gea)

SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 4:11 AM ET

 

BARCELONA, Spain - Defending Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel overcame issues with his KERS and then held off a furious challenge from Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps to win Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix.

Vettel, who started second, used pit strategy early in the race, which put him into the lead. The Red Bull Racing driver dealt with a faulty KERS, as his team instructed him not to discharge the system during the final 20 laps. That allowed Hamilton to gain ground on Vettel.

But Vettel's KERS reactivated shortly after, helping him cross the finish line just 0.6 seconds ahead of Hamilton from McLaren at Barcelona's 2.892-mile (4.655-kilometer) Circuit de Catalunya.

"I knew it was going to be close," Vettel said. "Going into the last 10 laps, it was feeling a lot like China, where I felt my tires going away from me. I was just praying that the same thing would happen to Lewis. He was catching up."

Vettel has now won four of the first five grand prix this year. He concluded his 2010 title season by winning the last two events.

The young German also became the first driver who didn't win the Spanish GP from the pole position in the previous 11 races.

His Red Bull teammate, Mark Webber, started on pole, but home town favorite Fernando Alonso from Ferrari charged from fourth to first to the crowd's delight on the opening lap of the 66-lap event.

"I think I had a good start at the beginning of the race, but I don't understand where Fernando came from," Vettel said. "He was already side-by- side halfway down the straight. He went on the inside of Mark, and I went on the outside. Fernando was leading after the first lap. I couldn't get really close enough to use the DRS, so I could get an advantage and pass him. But we got him with the [second] pit stop."

With the win, Vettel padded his world championship lead to 41 over Hamilton.

"The team did a fantastic job throughout the pits stops and throughout the weekend to get us up there and put us into a fighting position," Hamilton said. "As the race went on, we clearly had some serious pace. It was very tough to get past Sebastian at the end. He was massively quick."

Hamilton's teammate, Jenson Button, started fifth but quickly fell off pace to 10th in the first couple of laps. Button, who won this race in 2009, capitalized on pit strategy to finish third. He made just three pit stops compared to four for the other front runners.

"With a fantastic strategy in this race, we were able to get podium," Button said.

Webber took the fourth spot. The top-four drivers were the only ones who finished on the lead lap.

Alonso also fell off the pace after he made his first pit stop on lap 19. The Spaniard wound up finishing one lap behind in fifth.

"We were not competitive at raw pace; we were too slow with the hard tire," Alonso said.

Michael Schumacher finished sixth, one spot ahead of his Mercedes GP teammate Nico Rosberg. Nick Heidfeld from Renault was eighth, while the Sauber duo of Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi completed the top-10.

Heidfeld had to start from the rear of the 24-car field after missing out on Saturday's qualifying session. His car suffered exhaust failure and then caught fire on track during the final practice. Stewards allowed Heidfeld to race due to his suitable lap time during free practice.

F1 returns to action next Sunday with the Monaco Grand Prix, which is the most prestigious event of the season.

 


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