Sebastian Vettel won the Turkish Grand Prix with something to spare today, leading from pole position and staying “very much in control” as he put it.
It was Vettel’s 13th career victory, his third of the season and his 6th win in the last 8 races. Mark Webber finished second and Fernando Alonso third.
It was another race full of overtaking moves, but the undercurrent from the drivers was a feeling of dissatisfaction that many of the overtakes were too easy, thanks to the adjustable DRS wing. Alonso’s pass on Webber and Webber’s pass on Alonso were a case in point. But there were plenty of others where the driver behind was able to sail past in the DRS zone, even with tyres of relatively similar ages, unlike China.
Many of the overtakes had multiple phases to them, with drivers passing and repassing each other in extended battles. The final sequence of corners at Istanbul contributed to this, with the follow up opportunity to pass again into the first corner.
But regardless of the impact DRS had on the action, there were some fantastic battles between Hamilton and Button, Button and Massa, Kobayashi and Schumacher, who seemed to get hit by several cars. At times it was hard to keep up with the flow of the race.
Sebastien Buemi finished seventh from 16th on the grid and Kamui Kobayashi finished 10th after staring last.
Pre-race expectations had been for three stops, but rear tyre wear in the higher temperatures on the day meant that many drivers had to switch to Plan B, which was four stops.
The start was electric with Rosberg passing Webber for second place behind Sebastian Vettel. Lewis Hamilton lost ground trying to go around the outside of Webber, dropping to sixth.
Webber sailed past Rosberg using the DRS wing on lap five, while Hamilton and Button got into a fierce scrap which lasted a few laps and in which positions changed several times. Button got the edge and Hamilton seemed to be suffering more from wear on the rear tyres. He was passed by Massa on lap 10 and both pitted at the end of the lap. McLaren turned their man around more quickly and Hamilton got back out ahead.
Alonso had a good start, gaining a place to fourth and he passed Rosberg using the DRS wing on lap seven. That put him third.
After the first stops, which came early (laps 10 and 11) Alonso was able to lap at the same pace as the Red Bulls for a while, but just before the second stops Vettel was able to pull away from Webber and Alonso at a second a lap.
Alonso’s pace in the Ferrari was the real surprise of the afternoon, able to lap at the same pace as the Red Bulls in the second stint and to actually pass Webber for second place in the third stint on lap 30. He managed to hold onto the place despite pitting after Webber for the third stop.
Rosberg tried a different tactic from the others, choosing to run the hard tyre in the second and third stints, which cost him some places, but put him on the faster tyre for the final part of the race.
Vettel used his new set of tyres in the third stint to pull away and consolidate his lead on a day when the team’s tactics were perfect as was his driving.
In the closing stages after the drivers had made their fourth stops, the real action was Webber closing on Alonso, while Hamilton on tyres that were seven laps newer than his team mate, closed in on him. They were 30 seconds behind Alonso at this stage, showing how remarkable the turnaround by Ferrari and Alonso was.
“Throughout the race we had a cushion and I was able to react rather than act. But this one is for the guys (mechanics) because I damaged the car on Friday. I’m obviously very happy,” said Vettel. “Of course the tyres are tricky to handle, we saw today different strategies with different people. At times the tyres go away from you and you have to deal with that. But we had the pace to react and we never had anyone close behind.”
TURKISH GRAND PRIX, Istanbul Park, 58 laps
1. Vettel Red Bull 1h30:17.558
2. Webber Red Bull + 8.807
3. Alonso Ferrari + 10.075
4. Hamilton McLaren + 40.232
5. Rosberg Mercedes + 47.539
6. Button McLaren + 59.431
7. Heidfeld Renault + 1:00.857
8. Petrov Renault + 1:08.168
9. Buemi Toro Rosso + 1:09.300
10. Kobayashi Sauber + 1:18.000
11. Massa Ferrari + 1:19.800
12. Schumacher Mercedes + 1:25.400
13. Sutil Force India + 1 lap
14. Perez Sauber + 1 lap
15. Barrichello Williams + 1 lap
16. Alguersuari Toro Rosso + 1 lap
17. Maldonado Williams + 1 lap
18. Trulli Lotus + 1 lap
19. Kovalainen Lotus + 2 laps
20. D’Ambrosio Virgin + 2 laps
21. Karthikeyan HRT + 3 laps
22. Liuzzi HRT + 5 laps