Imperious Vettel wins in Istanbul
By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport at Istanbul Park
Sebastian Vettel dominated the Turkish Grand Prix to seal a third win of 2011 as a fierce fight unfolded behind him.
Mark Webber passed Fernando Alonso with five laps to go to secure a Red Bull one-two but Alonso hung on to the last podium spot for improving Ferrari.
The McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button engaged in a fascinating battle but Hamilton’s decision to make one more stop paid off with fourth.
Nico Rosberg relegated Button, whose tyres faded late on, to sixth.
While the battles down the field lit up the track behind him, Vettel made smooth progress, building a lead of almost six seconds before his first stop on lap 10.
The world champion made sure he was not caught out during a final flurry of stops and came in for a fresh set of hard tyres to ensure there would be no repeat of China, when he was denied victory by Hamilton with four laps to go.
This time Vettel crossed the line eight seconds clear of his team-mate Webber and just 10 seconds beyond Alonso’s Ferrari.
“He is flawless at the moment,” said BBC F1 analyst David Coulthard. “He is setting the standards in qualifying and how to win a grand prix.”
After a difficult start to the season, Ferrari leave Turkey as Red Bull’s closest rivals.
Formula 1’s leading teams had arrived for the first European race intent on closing the gap on their rivals with a raft of technical updates.
Ferrari were no exceptions and added several new components – including new front and rear wings – in an attempt to close down Red Bull and McLaren.
Alonso had spoken confidently before the race about seeing “the light at the end of the tunnel” and his faith was restored by his first podium place of the season.
The Spaniard got away cleanly to pass Hamilton off the line and
was able to match the pace of his rivals throughout the race.
The proof of Ferrari’s step forward came when Alonso, with the help the moveable rear wing, flew past Webber for second place before his third pit stop.
“Alonso is relentless. He just won’t give up and I admire him for that,” said BBC F1 commentator Martin Brundle.
“It’s a comeback from Ferrari and standing on the podium will be Alonso’s reward.”
Alonso remains fifth in the championship, and 52 points off Vettel’s lead.
“The podium is a nice surprise and we had nothing really to say. We just need to be extremely happy,” said the Spaniard.
“Sebastian was 99% favourite, but this 1% that we had we lost in the first five laps.
“The seven seconds distance to Sebastian was consistent all through the race without those five seconds we lost early on maybe we could have raced in the pit stop and forced something.
“We were not able to push the Red Bull car to the limit.”
Vettel’s team-mate Webber agreed that his rivals stood little chance unseating the young German from his position at the front of the field.
“We couldn’t do much more than that. It was difficult to beat Sebastian today,” he added.
Hamilton retained second spot in the title hunt after a fourth place at Istanbul Park that the Englishman had to work hard for.
A sticky start saw Hamilton lose ground off the line to Alonso’s looming Ferrari and Button, who had started sixth.
The two McLarens then staged a fascinating battle which saw the English team-mates swap positions on track several times.
“I don’t remember drivers in the same team getting past each other so often without mistakes being made,” commented Coulthard.