Sebastian Vettel revived his title challenge on Sunday when he cruised to his second win of the season and the seventh of his career in a dramatic and exhilarating European Grand Prix.
The 22-year-old German controlled the race from start to finish on a day when his Red Bull team-mate Australian Mark Webber survived a horrific 300 kph crash in which his car flipped upside down.
It was Vettel’s first win since the Malaysian Grand Prix and his Red Bull team’s first since the Monaco Grand Prix when Webber was victorious.
He came home ahead of championship leader Lewis Hamilton who was second, despite being given a drive-through penalty for overtaking the safety car, with his McLaren team-mate and fellow Briton Jenson Button third.
Button was one of nine drivers who were given a five-second penalty for violation of safety car rules following Webber’s accident but it did not affect his position on the podium.
“It’s about time I won from pole. We’re back on track,” said Vettel.
“It wasn’t easy and we didn’t expect to be that strong but we were able to come through it in the end.
‘I’m pleased for today’
“When I got the message that Lewis had to go to a drive-through I was able to back off.
“It’s good to get a lot of points, good for the championship, so I’m pleased for today.”
The result enabled Vettel to jump back into the title race in which Hamilton stayed on top with a lead of six points ahead of Button and the young German in third place.
Brazilian Rubens Barrichello finished fourth for Williams ahead of Pole Robert Kubica of Renault and German Adrian Sutil of Force India, who was sixth.
A dazzling drive, notably a late surge including two fine passing moves, took Japanese Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber to seventh ahead of Swiss Sebastien Buemi of Toro Rosso and two-times champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari who finished a disappointing ninth in front of his home crowd.
Fellow-Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa finished tenth in the second Sauber.
Buemi, however, was also penalised five seconds and dropped to ninth with Alonso moving up a place. De la Rosa dropped a place as well with Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) moving into tenth.
The two Renaults of Kubica and Vitaly Petrov, Sutil and Force India team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi, Barrichello and the other Williams driver Nico Hulkenberg were also penalised although their placings were not affected.
The safety car was brought out following Webber’s crash from which the Australian emerged unhurt.
Webber, who was down in ninth after losing places on the first lap, was trying to pass the Lotus of Heikki Kovalainen when he hit the back of the Finn’s car. The Red Bull flipped into the air before crashing onto the circuit.
“The most important thing is Mark is fine. I asked on the radio and I am glad he is okay,” said Vettel.
By the end of the opening lap, Vettel led Hamilton, Alonso and Massa with Kubica fifth, Button sixth and Barrichello seventh. Germany’s Michael Schumacher who started 15th had risen to 11th.
Webber clearly had problems and by lap eight he had decided to make an early stop and came in to change to hard compound tyres but a poor pitstop cost him at least three seconds.
Two laps later, as he tried to find a way past Kovalainen’s Lotus, Webber ran into the back of his car in a sickening crash that saw his car bounce again across the circuit before ramming into the barriers with two wheels torn off in a cloud of debris.
Webber unhurt after accident
It was a huge accident, but Webber amazingly stepped out of his wrecked car unhurt.
“I was defending and I think he just ran into me,” said Kovalainen.
The safety car was sent out and, almost immediately, the front running pair Vettel and Hamilton pitted ahead of a pack of cars as the running order was shaken up.
Hamilton was later adjudged to have passed the safety car and given a drive-through penalty, but after such an extended delay that he was able to keep his second place ahead of Kobayahsi, who did not pit until the final laps.
Hamilton’s penalty meant he had to push hard to cut into Vettel’s lead and he soon found a rhythm and cut the German’s lead to 13 seconds, clocking a series of fastest laps that put him within eight seconds of him with ten laps remaining. — AFP