Sebastian Vettel wins Spanish GP
BARCELONA, Spain -- Formula One leader Sebastian Vettel held off Lewis Hamilton to win the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday, edging his closest championship contender to capture his fourth victory in five races this season.
The Red Bull driver took the lead for good after the second round of pit stops to beat Hamilton by 0.6 seconds and widen his lead in the standings to 41 points over his McLaren rival.
The German lost use of his KERS power boost and Hamilton tucked in behind him, but Vettel clung to the lead over the final dozen laps, becoming only the fifth winner in 21 races at the Catalunya Circuit who didn't start on the pole and the first in the last 11 events.
"A lot of people said today wouldn't be a race -- that's why I'm even more happy we made it," Vettel said. "The last 10 laps I felt tires going away and I was praying. On top of that sometimes KERS on, sometimes KERS off. It wasn't an easy race.
"But it was a great result and confirmation we are very strong."
Red Bull teammate Mark Webber started on the pole, but finished fourth behind Jenson Button of McLaren, while Fernando Alonso of Ferrari led for the first 18 laps before settling for fifth in the hot conditions.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner called Vettel's performance "fearless."
"That was a world championship performance today," Horner said.
Vettel's first Spanish win gave him 118 points after five races, while Hamilton remains his closest challenger with 77 and Webber is third with 67. Alonso remained fifth in the standings with 51 points -- 10 behind fourth-place Button -- despite a gutsy start in front of his home crowd.
Alonso steamed up the inside past the top three to lead into the first corner, with Webber's concern over the Spaniard allowing Vettel to go around on the outside to remain second.
Alonso held his lead until the second round of stops, when the Ferrari driver re-emerged behind Vettel and Hamilton and ahead of Webber, who engaged Alonso in a number of overtaking swaps but couldn't get ahead until after the final round of stops.
"Fernando was holding the two Red Bulls up so I was able to keep with them," said Hamilton, the only other race winner this season. "We can't be disappointed with today."
Button stayed out as the leaders went in for a third tire change and the McLaren driver's better grip allowed him to get past Webber and Alonso into third by the halfway point. Button, the 2009 winner here, built enough of an advantage and was the only car among the top-five not to go on a three-stop strategy.
"My first lap was an absolute disaster," said Button, who dropped from fifth to 11th out of the start. "But I was able to pick them off with a fantastic strategy."
Hamilton started making gains when Vettel lost his KERS, but he couldn't get past despite the extra overtaking boost and the adjustable rear wing also offering an extra push.
Button and Webber finished within 50 seconds of Vettel, while Alonso and the rest of the field were lapped by the top two.
Alonso said Ferrari's inability to use a rear wing that could have been deemed illegal hurt the Italian team's chances, but the two-time world champion was still satisfied despite a growing gap with Red Bull as teammate Felipe Massa didn't even finish after sliding out.
"We suffered from a real lack of downforce, but the gap to Red Bull is more or less the same as it was last year going into Monaco and we were competitive there so maybe we can be again," Alonso said. "Let's see what happens because there is still time -- the championship can change in a matter of races, just as we saw last year."
Michael Schumacher secured sixth for his best finish of the season in front of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, while Nick Heidfeld finished eighth after starting last in the Renault garage. Rookie driver Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi rounded out the top-10 for Sauber.
Perez's ninth-place finish made him the first Mexican driver to finish in the points in 30 years.
The next race is the Monaco Grand Prix on next Sunday.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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