Sebastian Vettel won the European Grand Prix at Valencia today ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
But the stewards had a busy afternoon, investigating ten drivers in total.
It was Vettel’s second win of the season, the seventh of his career and it put him “back on track” as he said, after some races blighted with problems.
Rubens Barrichello capitalised on Williams’ improved performance and the safety car to pick up a well deserved fourth place, Robert Kubica was fifth and Adrian Sutil sixth. Kamui Kobayashi was a candidate for driver of the day with a barnstorming ride to seventh place.
Sebastien Buemi had a strong run helped by the safety car.
Sauber got both cars to the points for the first time this season, the first shoots of a recovery for the team.
It was another brilliant but controversial performance from Hamilton, who incurred a penalty which didn’t cost him any positions.
The majority of the race saw Vettel out on his own, as first Kobayashi got himself into third place during an early safety car period, which turned the race in the early stages and allowed Vettel and Hamilton to make a break.
Then Hamilton got a drive through penalty, which dropped him 15 seconds behind Vettel, but because of the Kobayashi factor he was able to serve the penalty without losing any positions, much to the fury of Ferrari and Fernando Alonso in particular.
The safety car was triggered by a monumental accident for Mark Webber, who flipped his Red Bull in a high speed collision with Heikki Kovalainen on lap 9.
Webber walked away from the accident, which is sure to raise all kinds of questions about the wisdom of rules to encourage overtaking by increasing speed differentials between cars.
At the start Hamilton passed Webber for second place into turn one, and as Webber got off line, the two Ferraris went through as well. As he struggled to recover and battled Button, Webber lost further ground, dropping to 9th place.
Hamilton had a run at Vettel into Turn 2 and the pair touched lightly, Hamilton reporting a vibration as a result.
Schumacher got a good start, jumping up to 11th from 15th on the grid. He started the race on the harder tyre, which gave him a strong tactical position. But that was squandered later when Mercedes mistimed his first stop and he had to wait at the pit lane exit as the cars behind the safety car went by.
In the opening stint Vettel pulled away from Hamilton at around half a second per lap, the Red Bull’s advantage was mainly in the faster corners of the final sector.
Webber made an early stop on lap 8 to try to jump ahead of the Williams cars, which were holding him up. But once again problems with the wheel nut delayed him by around four seconds.
On lap 9 Mark Webber suffered a huge accident when he closed quickly on the Lotus of Heikki Kovalainen and took off as he hit him. The Red Bull flew up into the air and flipped over, landing on its roll over hoop. With Webber having just pitted and dropped behind him, Kovalainen was trying to defend the position.
This brought out the safety car and a flurry of pit stops. Button was the first car to get to the pits and he jumped up to fourth as a result. He was followed by Barrichello and Kubica and Buemi.
Vettel and Hamilton pitted together, Hamilton taking the opportunity to change his front wing as he changed his tyres. They rejoined in first and second places.
The Ferraris lost out badly as the safety car came out just in front of them, Alonso dropping down to 9th place and Massa, who had to stack behind Alonso, dropped to P15.
At the restart Vettel made a mistake and Hamilton almost passed him, but Vettel held the position. With the safety car, Kobayashi did not pit and got himself up to third place. This held the field up and allowed the front two to get away at a second and a half per lap.
Alonso protested against Hamilton for overtaking the safety car as it was deployed and the stewards took a look at it during the race, giving him a drive though penalty.
Nine other drivers were investigated by the stewards for going too fast behind the safety car.
In the train behind Kobayashi, Button quickly fell to 10 seconds behind the leaders, with 13 cars nose to tail behind him.
Hamilton served the drive through penalty and stayed in second place, thanks to the train behind Kobayashi. Because it took the stewards quite a while to decide the penalty, this allowed a big enough gap to open up to Kobayashi for Hamilton to get a penalty-free penalty.
Kobayashi pitted with just four laps to go, rejoining ninth. This promoted Button to third place. On fresh tyres Kobayashi passed Alonso for eighth on the penultimate lap and Buemi on the last corner. It was the Kobayashi of old.
Hamilton retained his championhip lead to take to Silverstone in two weeks time.