Sebastian Vettel has taken this third win of the 2011 championship season in untroubled fashion, crossing the finish line to take the Turkish Grand Prix chequered flag ahead of Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
It was Vettel’s 13th F1 career win and the team’s 18th, with the team notching up its ninth 1-2. The result also sees Vettel’s championship lead extended to a mammoth 34 points after just four races. When you consider that the biggest championship across the entire 2010 season was just 14 points, this is beginning to look rather ominous for rivals of the Vettel juggernaut…
While a largely quiet race for Vettel en route to the win, it was a more action-packed 58-lap race behind him, with plenty of overtaking up and down the field and well over 70 pit stops during the race as drivers struggled to make their Pirelli tyres last more than a dozen laps at a stretch.
Almost the entire field opted for a four-stop strategy – most ran four stints on the softer Pirelli ‘option’ tyre and one stint on the harder ‘prime’ compound – which proved the be the quicker way overall, and those who pitted earlier typically benefited from the added group by gaining more places as their rivals pitted. Jenson Button, Sébastien Buemi and Kamui Kobayashi were the sole points-scoring drivers to attempt a three-stop race, but neither was able to manage their tyres at the end of the race, and each found themselves falling down the order in the final laps.
And while Pirelli did its bit in contributing to the action with its high-wearing tyres, the Drag Reduction System (DRS) once again made itself a talking point. With the DRS zone occurring just before the Turn 11 right-hander that feeds onto the track’s long back straight, it was expected that the race wouldn’t feature as much overtaking as at the last round in China. If anything, the number of overtaking moments proved similar to Shanghai’s race, but much of the passing was happening along the back straight rather than in the braking zone, which is where the DRS was designed to assist passing. Clearly the usable zone was far too long on this track, and it won’t be a surprise to hear howls of discontent from some fans who will feel that it made the racing here too artificial.
But back to the front of the field, and there was drama before the race even got underway, with Timo Glock sidelined in his Virgin Racing garage with his MVR-02 suffering a gearbox problem. The German would not join the start of the race, leaving a 23-car field for the 58-lap race.
Vettel made a good getaway from the clear side of the track to convert his pole into an early lead, while third-placed Nico Rosberg managed to out-drag Webber off the line and take second. Lewis Hamilton then lined himself up for a run on Webber’s third place at the outside of Turn 3, but he ran wide and dropped to sixth behind Alonso and Jenson Button.
With Rosberg acting as a buffer to Webber for the opening few laps, Webber was eventually able to nip by the Mercedes GP driver on the fourth lap, and set himself the task of closing down the 4.4-second gap Vettel had already built. If anything, Vettel was actually able to ease away, and he held his race lead – which he would only momentarily relinquish and regain during pit stops – until the chequered flag.
Fourth-placed Alonso had breezed by Rosberg for third place on the sixth lap, and poor Nico continued his inexorable slide down the timing screens as his car’s pace was found wanting in its opening stint.
With Alonso now free to chase down Webber, he duly caught and passed the Australian to take second place. It wouldn’t be until after their final pit stops that Webber would be able to redress the situation, taking advantage of his fresher rubber to pass the Spaniard.
Nonetheless, third place was an excellent result for Alonso given the circumstances, and his first podium finish of 2011 was well-earned when considered against his car’s apparent limitations.
The best racing of the Turkish Grand Prix was between the McLarens, Mercedes GP, Renaults and Felipe Massa. Button and Hamilton enjoyed a lively scrap in the opening laps before the race pattern settled down, while the two Renaults of Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld banged wheels more than once as they tried to thread their way up the timesheets.
Finishing at the head of this bunch was Hamilton, whose fresher rubber helped he a Rosberg pass Button to take fourth and fifth respectively, leaving Button to settle for sixth place.
On pace alone, Michael Schumacher certainly should have featured in or around the top-six, but for a clumsy collision with Vitaly Petrov in the opening laps as he tried to defend his position from the Russian into Turn 12. Having forced Petrov to lunge down the inside of the braking zone, Petrov overshot his reference point and was never likely to make the apex having passed Schumacher. All Schumacher needed to do was to try a switchback move to retake the place, but he tried to turn in a little too soon, snagging his front wing on the right-rear tyre of Petrov, forcing the seven-time World Champion in top the pits for a new wing. A four-stop strategy saw Schumacher run quickly at times – and slowly when his tyres were going off – but he was largely out of sequence with the rest of the pack and finished twelfth.
Heidfeld would get the better of Petrov and finish seventh, while Sébastien Buemi took three more championship points with an excellent drive to finish eighth on a three-stop strategy. The Swiss driver ran as high as fifth during the race, but the pace of his four-stopping rival proved too much at the end of the race, leaving him too vulnerable to stage much of a resistance when they came knocking.
Finishing behind him was Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, who drove an outstanding three-stop race to take the final point and tenth place after starting from 23rd. His team-mate Sergio Pérez finished 14th after damaging his front wing on the opening lap.
Just missing out on a points finish was Felipe Massa, who had a more error-ridden race with an off-track moment shortly after his third pit stop that saw him lose places to yet-to-stop midfielders. On his fourth pit stop, he would struggle when his right-rear wheel nut wouldn’t seat properly.
Adrian Sutil finished in thirteenth place, just inches in front of Pérez in a desperate spring to the line. His Force India seemingly didn’t quite have the pace of the points-scoring cars this weekend, but the German’s driving has been largely anonymous of late. Team-mate Paul di Resta retired with an unspecified technical issue after a pit stop.
After a strong start and having managed to run in the points up until half-distance, Rubens Barrichello fell back to a disappointing 15th place for Williams, while team-mate Maldonado was a lacklustre seventeenth after his adventures in practice this weekend.
2011 Turkish Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (58 laps):
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7||58||1:30:17.558|
|2.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7||58||+ 8.807|
|3.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F150° Italia||58||+ 10.075|
|4.||Lewis Hamilton||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||58||+ 40.232|
|5.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team W02||58||+ 47.539|
|6.||Jenson Button||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||58||+ 59.431|
|7.||Nick Heidfeld||Lotus Renault GP R31||58||+ 1:00.857|
|8.||Vitaly Petrov||Lotus Renault GP R31||58||+ 1:08.168|
|9.||Sébastien Buemi||Scuderia Toro Rosso – Ferrari STR6||58||+ 1:09.394|
|10.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber F1 Team – Ferrari C30||58||+ 1:18.021|
|11.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F150° Italia||58||+ 1:19.823|
|12.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team W02||58||+ 1:25.444|
|13.||Adrian Sutil||Force India F1 Team – Mercedes VJM04||57||1 lap behind|
|14.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber F1 Team – Ferrari C30||57||1 lap behind|
|15.||Rubens Barrichello||AT&T Williams – Cosworth FW33||57||1 lap behind|
|16.||Jaime Alguersuari||Scuderia Toro Rosso – Ferrari STR6||57||1 lap behind|
|17.||Pastor Maldonado||AT&T Williams – Cosworth FW33||57||1 lap behind|
|18.||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus – Renault T128||57||1 lap behind|
|19.||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus – Renault T128||56||2 laps behind|
|20.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Marussia Virgin Racing – Cosworth||56||2 laps behind|
|21.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT F1 Team – Cosworth F111||55||3 laps behind|
|22.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Team – Cosworth F111||53||5 laps behind|
|DNF||Paul di Resta||Force India F1 Team – Mercedes VJM04||44||Loose Wheel|
|DNS||Timo Glock||Marussia Virgin Racing – Cosworth||0||Gearbox|
|Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7||1:29.703|
Click here to view the current Drivers’ and Constructors’ championship standings.
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