F1 Valencia Unofficial Results & Full Race Report: Vettel Leads From the Start With a SC and Penalties to be Assessed

What Happens When the Results Aren’t Official, Yet

9:52am EST — Sebastian Vettel won the European Grand Prix at Valencia with Lewis Hamilton second, despite an early safety car that disrupted the race order dramatically.  Caused by a huge and high-flying shunt when Mark Webber ran into Heikki Kovalainen and flipped over, the safety car had drivers diving for the garage and the running order turned on it’s head.  Making things more confusing are the nine divers under investigation by the stewards after the race for speeding behind the safety car, many of whom finished int he top ten.  Jenson Button (being investigated) was third, with a strong fourth for Rubens Barrichello.  Kamui Kobayashi finished seventh with a clever pit strategy by Sauber that kept him from stopping until the final few laps.  Ferrari was shuffled back during the safety car, with Fernando Alonso finishing ninth and Felipe Massa fourteenth, though they hold hope for post-race penalties.  Michael Schumacher finished sixteenth. [to see the updated results after the FIA assessed five second penalties to all those drivers labeled as under investigation, click here]

Sebastian Vettel brought Red Bull back to pole position during Saturday’s qualifying session for the European Grand Prix, with teammate Mark Webber to start next to him on the grid.  Just behind will be Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, with Felipe Massa rounding out the top five starters.  As Rubens Barrichello predicted, both Williams drivers made it to Q3 and will start eighth and ninth, with Barrichello out-qualifying Nico Hulkenberg.  Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov had great qualifying effort, starting sixth and tenth, respectively, with the Pole just taking sixth from Jenson Button, who will start seventh.  Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg had a bad Saturday, neither making Q3.  Schumacher had a power steering issues that caused him to qualify fifteenth with Rosberg starting twelfth.

The drivers got away with Vettel leading Hamilton and then Webber into the first turn, though both Alonso and Massa attempt to overtake the second Red Bull, and do so.  Webber has dropped to fifth from his second starting position, then dropping to ninth as a fighting Kubica and Button overtake him.  The Pole had gotten around Button for sixth, only to move to fifth with Webber’s distress.  While Hamilton noted on the radio that he was hit by Vettel (Hamilton’s front wing damage was noted by Ferrari on Twitter, as well), at the end of the second lap, Vettel led Hamilton, Alonso, Massa, Kubica, Buttton, Barrichello, Hulkenberg, and Buemi as the top ten.  Schumacher had moved up to eleventh from his fifteenth place start.

With unexplained issues or a very, very poor start, Webber was left to fight his way back to the front, which he attempted to do, but passing Hulkenberg proved difficult as a move ahead ended with Hulkenberg re-taking ninth after Webber locked up.  Further ahead, the Red Bull speed and possibly Hamilton’s damaged wing had Vettel pulling away, nearly three seconds by lap four.  Alonso was another two plus seconds behind Hamilton with Massa less than a second behind his teammate and Kubica, somewhat comfortably ahead of Button, close behind the Brazilian.  While Trulli’s race appeared to be over at Lotus, Mercedes is tellling Schumacher his brake temperatures are very high.  This was the sort of issue Schumacher said hurt him in qualifying on Saturday.  With the likely processional nature of the race in Valencia, the only drama likely to be found will be with mechanical issues and Webber’s desire to charge back to the front.

While it had looked as though Trulli wasn’t going to continue, he returned to the circuit on L7, as Webber pitted the next lap.  He switched to the harder tires in a slow stop because of a left front changing issue.  The early stop might have helped his race, but for the slow stop and the nearly forty seconds he stood behind Vettel after returning to the circuit.  Rosberg also pitted just after Webber.  At the front, Vettel was still pulling away from Hamilton, with a four second margin by L9, but Alonso was closing on the Briton.

There was a mad dash to the pit lane after a huge crash for Webber on L10, who hit Kovalainen in the Lotus.  Webber was out and walking about, but appeared as angry as one would expect.  After running into the back of Kovalainen and flipping upside down and somersaulting through the air, Webber heavily hit a tire wall.  Button was the first car to get into the pit lane, as Vettel, Hamilton, and Alonso also make it in for a stop.  Schumacher led Kobayashi, as neither had stopped, but Button appeared to have leapfrogged a host of other drivers during his stop.  Still under the safety car and Schumacher relinquished the lead to Kobayashi who was, except for the Virgin Racing drivers, the only man yet to stop.  Schumacher’s timing was a bit off, as he had to wait at pit out for the safety car to go by, stopped by the red light.

The order as the safety car returned was Vettel, Hamilton, Kobayashi, Button, Barrichello, Kubica, Buemi, Sutil, Hulkenberg, and Alonso as the top ten.  Both Ferrari’s came out terribly from the shuffle, drooping from third and fourth to tenth and seventeenth, respectively.  As Ferrari called it, “Obviously our race has been spoiled by the safety car now it is a matter of damage limitation.”  Kovalainen also retired after the Webber collision, with Mike Gasconye saying, “Heikki defended his line and braked at his normal point, looks like webber missed his braking point…Heiiki fine and on the pitwall with us, pissed off with webber though”  Schumacher came back in to change to the harder tire, after running a lap on the soft ones, returning in 21st.  As the SC came back in on L15, Vettel got away even after locking up and Hamilton got around Kobayashi before it was another instance where Button could not take the young Japanese driver.  Barrichello was behind his former teammate in fifth, with Kubica even closer, looking for a way around.  Alonso managed to get around Hulkenberg for ninth, Alguersuari passed di Grassi for sixteenth, and de la Rosa was very close behind the Hulk in eleventh, making it a bad showing so far for the Spanish drivers at home.

Schumacher also passed both Virgin Racing drivers to move up to seventeenth as Vettel and Hamilton gained over Button, still behind Kobayashi, who had yet to stop.  With forty laps left, and only a second between Vettel and Hamilton, the race could become deathly boring or quite exciting after a little too much excitement from Webber’s crash.  Kobayashi was five seconds behind Hamilton and had a second gap of his own back to Button.  On the radio, McLaren told Hamilton to save fuel now so he could attack later.  That would result in acquiescence or the race fastest lap from the oft-impetuous driver.  Instead, a personal best lap, since Vettel took the then race fast lap honor.  In the train behind Kobayashi’s Sauber, Button had a tiny gap to Barrichello, who was holding off Kubica.

Rosberg was also being told to conserve his brakes, so the Mercedes must be having some sort of across-the-board brake issue.  On L21, race control announced that Hamilton was under investigation by the stewards, possibly for too much speed behind the safety car or holding up the pack excessively.  He had an eleven second gap to Kobayashi by L23, with Vettel pulling away at the front and Button, Barrichello, Kubica, Buemi, Sutil, Alonso, and Hulkenberg the top ten, stuck behind Kobayashi.  Meanwhile, Hamilton has radioed McLaren that there is a glass bottle on the circuit.  Glock pitted on L24, leaving only Kobayashi and di Grassi not having stopped.  Hamilton was assessed a drive-through penalty for overtaking the safety car, which will make the race more interesting, with Button 13.8s and Barrichello 15s behind Hamilton.  Another look showed Hamilton just ahead of the safety car at the second SC line when he rejoined the track.  He is required to stop within a three-lap window, but McLaren radioed that he should stay out and attack Vettel for now, an instruction to which he listens.  Virgin Racing confirmed the bottle on track as noted by Hamilton, since “Timo has seen a beer bottle on track!”

L28 saw Hamilton serve his driver-through and return to the circuit still in second and 14.5s behind Vettel, in a masterful bit of strategy from McLaren.  An obviously fuming Ferrari on Twitter explained, “Hamilton had the penalty which did not cost him anything….”  Though Kobayashi was stacking up the drivers behind him, he was a second off Hamilton’s pace and running similar or better lap times to those drivers the whole way back to teammate de la Rosa in eleventh.  Surprisingly good pace from the as-yet under-performing Sauber.  Meanwhile, a marshal removed the bottle that had so distracted various drivers with a quick run out onto the circuit, finding it only to be plastic.

Well over the halfway point of the fifty-seven lap race and Vettel still led Hamilton, then Kobayshi (who still had not pitted), Button, Barrichello, Kubica, Buemi, Sutil, Alonso, and Hulkenberg as the top ten.  While some drivers were less than a second apart on L33 (Kubica behind Barrichello; Sutil and Alonso behind Buemi; Schumacher behind Alguersuari), the Valencian parade curse had struck and overtaking was minimal and possibly near impossible.  Kubica was also informed by Renault to stay out of Barrichello’s tow on the straights to keep the car cool, as Kobayashi went only a tenth faster than Hamilton’s race fastest lap, with twenty-seven laps left.  Vettel, with an 11+s lead was lapping a half second slower than second-place Hamilton.

Schumacher came in for another stop, his third, for the softer tire compound.  Hamilton and then Koabayshi had to make their way around and through the new team race-within-a-race between Glock and Senna.  The HRT and Virgin cars made contact in front of Kobayashi and Button, with Glock forced to pit for a punctured tire and Senna to carry a newly asymmetrical front wing and then pit himself for a slow nose replacement.  Schumacher managed to set a race fast lap back in seventeenth as Sutil managed to pass Buemi for seventh.  They touch, but both appear to be undamaged.  Even though Buemi locked up in the final turn at the end of L40, Alonso was not close enough to grab the position and they remain eighth and ninth.  di Grassi came in for his first and presumably only stop on L44, with Kobayashi sure to pit sometime, if only to fulfill the rules obligations.

As it was announced that nine cars (nine cars! Button, Barrichello, Kulkenberg, de la Rosa, Petrov, Sutil, Liuzzi, Buemi, and Kubica) were under investigation after the race for driving too quickly under the safety car, Ferrari was quick to damage control their poor SC showing, “A lot of cars in front of us are under investigations after the race for what happened when the safety car went out,” presumably and obviously hoping such infringements would improve their points position.  While the rules require the investigation after the race, it does seem a poor showing that the outcome could so heavily be changed after the race is over.

With ten laps left, Hamilton was less than eight seconds behind Vettel.  Both were lapping in the 1:39s range, but Hamilton had gained another half second in the next lap.  Still, with the Valencia layout, he could close the gap, but would he have enough time to overtake as well?  With seven laps left, it was 6.4s between them.  Hulkenberg was forced to retire, kicking the tire wall after getting out of the car.  The right rear had come apart and caused damage to the bodywork on the rear of his Williams.  Meanwhile, Vettel had brought the gap back up with his own race fastest lap and only five laps to go.  Kobayashi still hadn’t stopped with four laps to go, finally coming in at the end of the fifty-third lap.  He rejoined the field in ninth, for his first points as a Sauber driver.  That also moved Alonso up to eighth, though still less than a second behind Buemi, after that disastrous SC shuffle for the Ferrari drivers; Kobayshi was a second behind him with two to go.

The final two laps had a number of drivers less than one second or a half second apart.  Buemi continued to lock up, with Alonso and Kobayashi pressuring him and hoping for the increased points.  With the fresh and soft tires, Kobayashi does his own pressuring on Alonso, who makes a mistake under braking and the young driver takes back a position.  On the last lap, the gap between Vettel and Hamilton was down to less than four seconds, but it wasn’t nearly close enough for Hamilton to even look at passing Vettel for the win.  At the final turn, Kobayashi makes good on his new tires with a pass on Buemi for seventh.  It’s Vettel, Hamilton, and Button on the podium, but quite a lot of changes that could be made with the stewards’ decision announcement after the race.  Look for updates here at F1B when they are released.

Final Positions for the 2010 European Grand Prix:
1. Vettel
2. Hamilton +5.0
3. Button +7.6
4. Barrichello +20.6
5. Kubica +22.1
6. Sutil +25.1
7. Kobayashi +30.9
8. Buemi +31.2
9. Alonso +32.8
10. de la Rosa +42.4
11.Petrov +43.2
12. Rosberg +44.3
13. Liuzzi +45.8
14. Massa +46.6
15. Alguersuari +48.2
16. Schumacher +48.8
17. di Grassi +1 Lap
18. Glock +2 Laps
19. Chandhok +2 Laps
20. Senna +2 Laps
21. Trulli +4 Laps


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