Vettel in a class of his own to seal majestic return to winning ways
Turkish delight for Red Bull after one-two finish while Hamilton recovers to take fourth
What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, Sebastian Vettel got back to the pits on foot, making "he's crazy" signs after he and his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber had collided while fighting for the lead. This time he took his latest car, that he has nicknamed "Kinky Kylie", into the victory lane with the Australian 8.8 seconds behind as they defeated a stronger than usual challenge from Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.
It was, once again, a race of multiple pit stops – as the notoriously tough Turn Eight left-hander exacted a heavy toll on Pirelli's deliberately fast-wearing tyres – and of multiple overtaking, mainly because of the straight-line advantage conferred on a following driver by the DRS movable rear wing. But Vettel would barely have noticed any of that since he was in a class of his own for the whole afternoon.
Undoubtedly, Nico Rosberg helped to put him in that position. The German thrust his Mercedes into second place ahead of Webber at the start, as Alonso pushed ahead of Jenson Button's McLaren, and then took advantage as Lewis Hamilton slid wide and dropped from fourth to sixth. While Rosberg held back Webber, Alonso and Button – and Hamilton cleaned his tyres and got back in the fight – Vettel quickly built up his lead.
"We had a smooth race," he acknowledged with that schoolboy grin of his. "A very good start, which was crucial, and because of that we could afford to stop a lap longer and react to others' strategy. I always had this three- to four-second cushion to the second guy which made my life easy as we found out which strategy worked best."
The only problem Vettel had as he made four pits stops on his way to his third victory from four races this season came as he went into the 57th and penultimate lap and had to overtake the backmarkers Sergio Perez and Adrian Sutil in the last corner. They were locked in their own fight which would see the Force India and the Sauber cross the finish line a lap later in a dead heat, and for a moment Vettel had to carefully pick his way by them. But otherwise he made it look so easy again after his recent defeat in China three weeks ago.
"I crashed the car badly on Friday but my guys and also Mark's helped to fix it, and that meant extra hours for which I'm sorry, but yesterday's pole position and today makes up for it, I think," Vettel said.
Crucially, his radio link with his pit crew also worked this weekend – it had not in Shanghai – which made it easier to understand just what was going on with his rivals. "It's not easy to know what's going to happen after the start," he said, "but now I had a rough idea how long the tyres were going to last, but even so we waited until the second or maybe even third stints to see how it was going.
"I thought I could have made it to the chequered flag without a fourth stop but there could have been an accident and a safety car and then you're on used tyres, so the best thing was to come in. We were very much in control, and I'm really happy how we communicated and reacted during the race. We learned our lesson since China."
Webber's performance made it another great day for Red Bull, as he caught and passed Alonso's Ferrari on the 51st lap. The red car was more competitive than it had been previously this year and, like Vettel, both of them stopped four times for fresh Pirellis.
Alonso held the advantage in the mid-part of the race but towards the end Webber's new set of soft tyres saved in qualifying proved crucial. He was able to reel in Alonso and used his DRS rear wing to pull the crucial pass going into the bumpy Turn 12. After that, it was just a matter of keeping going to the flag.
"I lost ground at the start, on the dirty side of grid," Webber said. "It's not the end of the world these days, so I spent a few laps trying to clear Nico, and Seb was able to get a gap. Once I'd cleared Nico the other guys stopped earlier than I'd expected, and we made our bed in terms of our strategy from then on.
"The fight with Fernando in the middle of the race was a little bit unexpected," he added, "but I used the DRS to get the moves done and in the end I had a fresher set of tyres from qualifying, but he drove fantastic."
Further back, McLaren switched Hamilton to Plan B – a four-stop strategy – and he salvaged fourth place. Team-mate Button stayed on three and was running fourth by lap 48, but Hamilton overtook him with ease on his fresher rubber on lathe next circuit, and five laps later Rosberg followed him through to claim fifth place for Mercedes.
"Seb has done a great job so far this year, virtually a perfect result with three out of four," Webber said. "But every driver on the grid has their weaknesses, some more than others, so it's up to us to interrogate that and stop him as soon as we can. The team have done a fantastic job...", he paused, almost as if he had run out of steam, considered his points, then added: "Yeah, that's it." There really was nothing more for anyone to say.
Istanbul Park details
F1 Turkish Grand Prix, Istanbul Park, Istanbul, Turkey: Final positions after 58 Laps:
1 S Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1hr 30min 17.558sec;
2 M Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:30:26.365;
3 F Alonso (Sp) Ferrari 1:30:27.633;
4 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren 1:30:57.790;
5 N Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:31:05.097;
6 J Button (GB) McLaren 1:31:16.989;
7 N Heidfeld (Ger) Renault 1:31:18.415;
8 V Petrov (Rus) Renault 1:31:25.726;
9 S Buemi (Swit) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:31:26.952;
10 K Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber-Ferrari 1:31:35.579; 11 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 1:31:37.381; 12 M Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:31:43.002; 13 A Sutil (Ger) Force India at 1 lap; 14 S Perez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari at 1 lap; 15 R Barrichello (Br) Williams at 1 lap; 16 J Alguersuari (Sp) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 lap; 17 P Maldonado (Ven) Williams at 1 lap; 18 J Trulli (It) Lotus F1 at 1 lap; 19 H Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus F1 at 2 laps; 20 J d'Ambrosio (Bel) Virgin Racing at 2 laps; 21 N Karthikeyan (India) HRT-F1 at 3 laps; 22 V Liuzzi (It) HRT-F1 at 5 laps. Not classified: 23 P di Resta (GB) Force India 44 laps completed; 24 T Glock (Ger) Virgin Racing DNS.World Championship Standings: Drivers' Championship: 1 S Vettel 93pts; 2 L Hamilton 59; 3 M Webber 55; 4 J Button 46; 5 F Alonso 41; 6 F Massa 24; 7 N Heidfeld 21; 8 V Petrov 21; 9 N Rosberg 20; 10 K Kobayashi 8; 11 M Schumacher 6; 12 S Buemi 6; 13 A Sutil 2; 14 P di Resta 2; 15 Jaime Alguersuari (Sp) Scuderia Toro Rosso 0, 16 R Barrichello 0; 17 J Trulli 0; 18 S Perez 0; 19 J d'Ambrosio 0; 20 H Kovalainen 0; 21 P Maldonado 0; 22 N Karthikeyan 0; 23 T Glock 0; 24 V Liuzzi 0. Manufacturers' Championship: 1 Red Bull 148pts; 2 McLaren 105; 3 Ferrari 65; 4 Renault 42; 5 Mercedes GP 26; 6 Sauber-Ferrari 8; 7 Scuderia Toro Rosso 6; 8 Force India 4; 9 Lotus F1 0; 10 Williams 0; 11 Virgin Racing 0; 12 HRT-F1 0.
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