F1 Spain Race Results & Report: Vettel Wins the Day, Heidfeld Still Gets Points

What Happens When Starting Last Gets You Points

9:52am EST — Sebastian Vettel held off a late challenge from Lewis Hamilton to win the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix, after both he and teammate Mark Webber were smoked by Fernando Alonso at the start. Though the Spaniard would lead the early stages of the race, pit strategy had him completing his home grand prix fifth. Jenson Button, despite starting fifth and drifting as far back as tenth on the start, completed the podium. Webber finished fourth, nearly fifty seconds behind his teammate, the last man on the lead lap.

Webber won his first pole of the season with a single early Q3 run during Saturday’s qualifying session, just beating Vettel’s time after leaving the garage just behind his teammate. Neither driver returned to the track, with the McLaren duo of Hamilton and Button doing the same. Hamilton’s bet paid off and he qualified third, but Button was dropped down to fifth by a single late run from Alonso.

The fastest drivers in qualifying looked rather like those in all three practice sessions, as Webber led both Friday morning and afternoon sessions, though Schumacher looked promising during the Saturday morning practice session. In the end, he qualified tenth after not posting a time in Q3. Kovalainen had perhaps the best qualifiying session, moving his Lotus through to Q2 for the first time in the dry and outqualifying both Force Indias. Conversely, Heidfeld was unable to run at all during qualifying after an exhaust failure poured fire out the rear of his Renault in the morning practice. He would start the race on the grid instead of the pit lane.

The field got away under a sunny sky in Barcelona, with Vettel catching a good start, but sliding in on his teammate. However, the best start came from Alonso in fourth, to sneak underneath the fighting Red Bulls. Vettel went to the left, with Alonso following, until he saw that he could go to the inside. The two split around Webber to drop the polesitter to third. Alonso quickly pulled out a small gap. By the end of the first lap, Alonso had seven tenths on Vettel, who was a full second ahead of Webber. Hamilton, Petrov, Schumacher, Rosberg, Massa, Buemi, and Button completed the top ten. Kobayashi was the first to pit, with a destroyed tire. Vettel did not allow Alonso to get far ahead, gaining back a tenth on the Spaniard in the second lap. Meanwhile, Button, who had lost considerably on the start, was fighting Buemi over ninth and unable to pass for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, Red Bull informed Webber that he should use 45% of KERS after the start/finish. Most drivers seemed to have settled in quickly with the gaps between the top four all less than a second. Button was the tail end of a train that began in sixth with Schumacher. Further back, Heidfeld had moved up to seventeenth, right behind the Lotus drivers of Trulli and Kovalainen. Perez pitted on L7 from eleventh while Alonso continued to attempt to break away from Vettel. He was unable to do so, with the gap remaining less than a second between them.

Maldonado was the next driver to stop. Vettel, unable to gain ground on Alonso, stopped on L9, signalling the beginning of pitstops, and leaving Webber over two second behind the Spaniard and holding off Hamilton. Vettel rejoined just behind Button, quickly disposing of him at Turn 5 after the Briton ran infinitesimally wide. Vettel was on a charge, taking position from Massa soon thereafter. Alonso and Webber both pitted on the next lap, as did Schumacher. Alonso kept his lead over Webber, rejoining behind Hamilton and Petrov in third.

Button, then Webber both passed Massa. At the very front, Hamilton and Petrov stopped on L11, as did Rosberg, Massa, and Alguersuari. Most teams were adding some downforce to the front on their stops. After the first set of stops, Alonso still led Vettel, but Hamilton & McLaren took third from Webber. Button and di Resta, who had not stopped, were fifth and sixth. Button pitted on L14, rejoining in seventh and ahead of Petrov. He soon disposed of both Rosberg and Schumacher. That put him in fifth, but nearly twenty-four seconds behind Webber. Meanwhile, Vettel was a half second behind Alonso, with Hamilton another four tenths back. They were close, but not necessarily close enough to do anything.

Vettel stopped for the second time on L18 to put on new sticker soft tires, rejoining in fourth. Alonso stopped on the next lap, as did Webber. Though Hamilton was in the lead, Vettel gained position on Alonso in the stops. Hamilton stayed out to post the race fast lap. He had nearly seventeen seconds on Vettel, needing around twenty-one seconds to pit and keep the lead. Hamilton had only enough to possibly stay in front of Webber. In fact, Vettel gained on Hamilton on the next lap after the Briton did not pit. Massa pitted from ninth on L21.

Hamilton still did not pit from the lead, losing more time to Vettel, Alonso, and Webber, The latter two, though, were busy fighting over third and losing time. The Briton finally pitted on L24, rejoining on soft tires and in second, ahead of Alonso and just five seconds behind Vettel. The top four had all stopped twice, with Button, Schumacher, Rosberg, Petrov, Buemi, and Massa (who also stopped twice) the top ten. Meanwhile, Heidfeld had pitted for fresh tires (his first stop) and was again moving forward, though still at the back. Hamilton continued to gain ground on Vettel with his fresh tires while Schumacher and Petrov made their second stops. Rosberg did as well a lap later. With that stop, only Button and di Resta in the top ten had not stopped twice.

Alonso and Webber stopped for the third time on L29, with a bit of a slow race out of the pit lane. The Spaniard rejoined ahead of the polesitter, but only barely. Both appeared to be on the harder tire. Button finally stopped for the second time on L30 for more soft tires. His teammate continued to gain on Vettel, then just a second and a half behind Vettel. Both had enough time to stop and rejoin ahead of Alonso and Webber. They were close together, fighting over third.

At the halfwaypoint, Vettel still led Hamilton, Alonso, Webber, and Button as the top five, with Massa, Schumacher, Rosberg, Petrov, and di Resta rounding out the top ten. Vettel pitted on L34 for hard tires, and Hamilton did not. At the same time, Webber passed Alonso easily at Turn 10, only to have Alonso squeeze himself back into third at the next turn. Hamilton pitted on the next lap, also for the harder tire. The top four remained the same, in the same order, and all had used the harder tire, leaving each driver free to use the softer tire in the latter half of the race. Vettel gained another second and a half over the third pitstop.

Meanwhile, Button on the softer tires went very closely around the outside on Webber through Turn 1, then took Alonso a few turns later. That put Button into third, though he still had to stop to switch tires. Alonso went in for hard tires to last the rest of the race on L40 for his fourth stop, rejoining in fifth and ahead of Schumacher. Nearly all the drivers seemed to have simply settled into the Barcelona circuit, with Vettel still lesding Hamilton, Button, Webber, and Alonso. Schumacher pitted after teammate Rosberg passed him, then so did Rosberg on the next lap.

At the front, Hamilton was managing to preserve his tires far better than usual, though he was losing a few tenths to Vettel in traffic. However, both had such a gap on the rest of the field that they were lapping Massa in eighth. For Vettel, though, the news was less promising as KERS was again not working on his Red Bull. With twenty laps to go, Hamilton was down to just over a second behind Vettel, with Button twenty-five seconds behind his teammate. Webber was ten seconds behind Button, with Alonso completing the top five, twenty-four seconds behind the Australian, who pitted on L47 and kept his third position.

Meanwhile, McLaren told Hamilton that he still had nineteen laps to go and just had “to keep going.” Vettel pitted on the next lap for the harder tire, losing the lead to Hamilton. Button was soon in for his third stop as well, with McLaren set up for Hamilton to pit for more hard tires the next lap. Vettel was able to keep the lead with McLaren’s marginally slowest stop of the race. After the stop, Red Bull told Vettel that he could use KERS again.

WIth fifteen laps to go, Kovalainen crashed at Turn 4, bringing out a local yellow, though he was uninjured. Vettel led Hamilton by two and a half seconds, with Button Webber, Alonso, Schumacher, and Rosberg the top seven and only drivers on the lead lap. Hamilton gained time back soon thereafter, down to just over a second behind Vettel as they continued to travel through traffic. Quickly the gap dropped to less than a second and just over ten laps to go. With their speed, they had lapped up through Schumacher in sixth.

Hamilton continued to catch Vettel with a fuller charge on his KERS, with the team telling him to save all his KERS for the start/finish. Hamilton continued to look for a way around Vettel, though he remained just far enough behind to make a move impossible. Into Turn 3, Hamilton continued to be the closest as he generally took a slightly different line than Vettel, but he remained unable to make a move as seven laps remained.

After struggling with lack of grip, getting passed by Perez and Heidfeld, Massa went off at Turn 7. He kept out of the tire barrier, but his race was over. According to Ferrari, “It looks a gearbox problem.” At the front, it did not look like Hamilton would be able to make a move for the lead. The gap between them had been constantly at seven tenths, even as they lapped fifth-place Alonso with two laps to go. In the end, Vettel proved a skilled defensive driver and ended the race the winner, having lapped drivers thr whole way up to fifth position.

Results from the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix:

Driver Team Gap
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren +0.6
3. Jenson Button McLaren +35.6
4. Mark Webber Red Bull +47.9
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari +1 Lap
6. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP +1 Lap
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP +1 Lap
8. Nick Heidfeld Renault +1 Lap
9. Sergio Perez Sauber +1 Lap
10. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber +1 Lap
11. Vitaly Petrov Renault +1 Lap
12. Paul di Resta Force India +1 Lap
13. Adrian Sutil Force India +1 Lap
14. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso +1 Lap
15. Pastor Maldonado Williams +1 Lap
16. Jamie Alguersuari Toro Rosso +2 Laps
17. Rubens Barrichello Williams +2 Laps
18. Jarno Trulli Lotus +2 Laps
19. Timo Glock Virgin Racing +3 Laps
20. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin Racing +4 Laps
21. Narain Karthikeyan HRT +5 Laps
Felipe Massa Ferrari +8 Laps
Heikki Kovalainen Lotus +18 Laps
Tonio Liuzzi HRT +38 Laps

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