Vettel holds off Alonso for Monaco glory

After a thrilling race

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29 May 2011 - 16:26
Vettel holds off Alonso for Monaco (...)

Sebastian Vettel scored his first-ever win round the streets of Monaco on Sunday, winning a closely fought race.

The Red Bull driver crossed the finish line in front of a charging Alonso and McLaren’s Button.

It was not all plain sailing for the German who did most of the race on a single set of soft tyres. His sole pitstop was really messy and put him in the hands of both Alonso and Button.

He did well to hold them off in the last part of the race, despite his worn and much slower tyres and was also helped by a safety car period and the interruption of the race with only seven laps remaining.

He kept his rivals at bay in the final sprint and went on to win the race.

How the race unfolded :

Sebastian Vettel made a good start from pole position and managed to hold off the challenge of fellow front-row sitter Jenson Button. Behind them, Alonso jumped Webber for third place. The rest of the field filtered through Ste Devote with no major drama.

Vettel then started to set a rapid pace at the front and enjoyed a 4.6s lead over Button on lap 5. In the meantime, Hamilton – who started the race on the soft tyre – was chasing Schumacher for ninth place, after the German passed him on the opening lap.

The McLaren driver tried all he could but couldn’t find a way past the Mercedes. His efforts were eventually rewarded on lap 10 when he squeezed past Schumacher at the exit of Ste Devote.

At the front, Alonso was the fastest man on track but was still more than a second behind Button. The top three were quite matched on pace, all lapping in the 1’19 bracket.

Having just lost tenth place to Barrichello, Schumacher pitted on lap 13. He took on new tyres and a new nose. He rejoined in 21st place. Meanwhile, Schumacher’s teammate had his hands full as he was under immense pressure from Massa.

The Ferrari driver passed him at the Swimming Pool complex on lap 14.

Jenson Button pitted from 2nd on lap 16. Rosberg also stopped on that lap. Race leader Vettel came in next time round. His teammate Mark Webber followed suit. Both Red Bull drivers had disastrous stops and lost quite a lot of time.

A slow stop meant Vettel rejoined behind Button. Alonso pitted on lap 17, handing the lead over to Button. On lap 20, the Briton was leading the Red Bull driver by 8.8s… but they were on different strategies as Button had super softs on while Vettel had softs on.

Hamilton was all over the rear wheels of Petrov when he dived in the pitlane for his first stop. He took on super soft tyres. The McLaren mechanics were not quite ready and the British driver lost some time. He rejoined in P15 behind Webber.

Massa found himself right between those two after his stop and had to use all his skill to keep Hamilton at bay.

In the lead, Button had a 14 second gap to Vettel on lap 30. As Vettel was gradually getting faster, the Briton pitted on lap 33 and rejoined in third place. In the meantime, Hamilton attacked Massa at the hairpin and collided with the Ferrari.

Both cars were damaged and Massa crashed in the tunnel minutes later. As his Ferrari came to a halt, the safety car was deployed. Schumacher lost drive coming out of La Rascasse at the same time and retired.

Alonso took advantage of the safety car to stop for a second time.

Halfway through the race, Vettel was leading from Button and Alonso. Sutil was up in 4th place with Kobayashi 5th. The Safety Car released the field on lap 38.

Vettel safely managed the restart and tried to pull away at the front. Button was faster however, courtesy of his softer tyres, and was soon right in the exhausts of the Red Bull. Vettel was told over the radio to do all he could to keep the McLaren driver at bay.

On lap 43, Hamilton was hit by a drive through for causing a collision with Massa at the hairpin. He immediately served it and rejoined in P9. Released from the pressure of Hamilton, Webber could set his sights on the cars in front of him and endeavored to pass Kobayashi.

As Vettel was doing just enough to keep Button behind him, the McLaren driver was told by his team he had to pass the German on track if he was to win the race. Instead of doing so, he pitted on lap 48 and took on the soft tyres. He rejoined in third place.

His teammate Hamilton stopped on lap 50 and took another set of soft tyres. Button immediately set an electrifying pace in the hope of undercutting Vettel – assuming the German would stop again. He was by far the fastest man on track, lapping almost two seconds a lap faster than the leader. Alonso was also faster than the Red Bull driver and gradually closing the gap to Vettel.

Webber pitted from P5 on lap 56 and rejoined in 7th place.

On lap 58, Alonso was right behind Vettel. Button was only six seconds behind them. As the Spaniard was stuck behind Vettel, Button closed the gap and joined the battle for the win. They were covered by 0.7s on lap 63!

Vettel was doing a great job at the front when the safety car was deployed on lap 69. Vitaly Petrov had just crashed at the swimming pool. Alguersuari was also involved and hit the barrier. He retired. Hamilton picked up some damage in the process too.

An ambulance was sent on track to attend to Petrov. The race was subsequently red-flagged.

The cars lined up on the grid with mechanics rushing around them, readying for a possible re-start. Race direction informed the race would restart once the track was clear.

The race resumed at 4.04pm behind the safety car. The leaders had super soft tyres fitted on their cars for a sprint to the finish. The safety car released the field at the end of the lap and the battle resumed.

The race was immediately yellow flagged as Maldonado and Hamilton collided at Ste Devote. The Williams driver retired while his rival was able to continue.

At the front, Alonso tried to put pressure on Vettel but couldn’t get close enough and the Red Bull driver took the win. Button was third. Webber took fourth and set the fastest time of the race. Kobayashi completed the top five.

Hamilton was sixth pending the stewards’ investigation of his collision with Maldonado. Sutil, Heidfeld, Barrichello and Buemi scored point.

Race classification:

Pos.DriverTeamGapPit
01 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault 2h09m38.373 1
02 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +1.138 2
03 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes +2.378 3
04 Mark Webber Red Bull Renault +23.101 2
05 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber Ferrari +26.916 1
06 Lewis Hamilton McLaren Mercedes +27.210 3
07 Adrian Sutil Force India Mercedes +1 lap 2
08 Nick Heidfeld Lotus Renault GP +1 lap 2
09 Rubens Barrichello Williams Cosworth +1 lap 2
10 Sébastien Buemi Toro Rosso Ferrari +1 lap 2
11 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP +2 laps 3
12 Paul di Resta Force India Mercedes +2 laps 3
13 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus Renault +2 laps 2
14 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus Renault +2 laps 2
15 Jérôme d’Ambrosio Virgin Racing Cosworth +3 laps 2
16 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT F1 Cosworth +3 laps 1
17 Narain Karthikeyan HRT F1 Cosworth +4 laps 2
18 Pastor Maldonado Williams Cosworth +5 laps 2
19 Vitaly Petrov Lotus Renault GP DNF 1
20 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso Ferrari DNF 2
21 Felipe Massa Ferrari DNF 1
22 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP DNF 2
23 Timo Glock Virgin Racing Cosworth DNF 1
24 Sergio Perez Sauber Ferrari DNS 0

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