Sebastian Vettel takes European GP

Updated: June 26, 2011, 11:53 AM ET
Associated Press

VALENCIA, Spain -- Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel won his sixth race of the season at the European Grand Prix on Sunday, building on his already commanding Formula One series lead.

Vettel beat Fernando Alonso of Ferrari by 10.891 seconds for his second straight victory along Valencia's street circuit. It was the German's fifth win this season starting in pole and came in stifling 115-degree weather.

[+] EnlargeVettel
AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de OlzaSebastian Vettel extended his F1 series lead to 77 points with his win Sunday at Valencia.

Red Bull teammate Mark Webber was third after starting on the front row, and Lewis Hamilton was fourth. Felipe Massa of Ferrari split the McLarens after Jenson Button finished sixth.

Vettel, the defending F1 champion, extended his championship lead to 77 points with his 16th career victory. He leads with 186 points, while Button and Webber are tied for second.

"Fantastic race -- better than anything I could have imagined," Vettel screamed over his car radio before being handed the trophy from Spanish tenor Placido Domingo.

The F1 season has previously been marked by exhilarating overtaking, thanks to new technology and tires. However, those additions failed to spice up Sunday's race for the 85,127 fans at the America's Cup harbor course, where passing is notoriously difficult.

Instead, Vettel continued his dominating title defense with his sixth victory in eight races; he was second in the other two.

"It's incredible this achievement and the steps the team has made in the past 2 years," the young German driver said before brushing off fears he could sit on his lead now.

"I don't look at the (points) gap, it's a long season. We've had a phenomenal season and we have to continue that way, that's our target. The target is still to win races."

Hamilton surrendered his third-place start with a terrible beginning, and Button surrendered sixth to Nico Rosberg at the first corner, but a sly pass later recouped his position.

After the first round of stops, Hamilton had managed to pass Massa but still trailed Alonso, who was right on the back of Webber before passing at the end of the long straight on lap 21.

Webber recovered his place by the second round of pits while a poor stop by Massa dropped the Brazilian out of Hamilton's reach.

"Damage control -- we did as much as we could. We're not fast enough, really," Hamilton said. "It's finished really, in the sense of the championship it's almost over already."

Alonso recovered second after the final round of stops, but his hopes of catching Vettel were hampered as he was slowed by traffic after coming out of the pits.

"I think second place is the maximum we can have in these days, so to be here between the Red Bull cars is a great achievement," Alonso said after earning his first podium in Valencia. "We are definitely moving in the right direction, working to get closer to these guys."

Rosberg finished seventh for Mercedes ahead of Jaime Alguersuari, whose seat at Toro Rosso is in question. Adrian Sutil of Force India was ninth and Renault's Nick Heidfeld was 10th.

Sergio Perez's first race since crashing at Monaco yielded an 11th-place finish as Sauber opted for a one-stop strategy.

"It was not an easy Grand Prix for a comeback and I'm happy I was able to race again," the Mexican rookie said after finishing six places ahead of Michael Schumacher. The German was knocked all the way back to 22nd after a collision with Vitaly Petrov of Renault.

It was the first time the entire field completed a race since the 2005 Italian GP.

The season continues July 10 with the British GP.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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