Vettel charges to victory
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel won the European Grand Prix on Sunday while McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton doubled his championship lead by finishing runner-up for the third year in a row.
Formula One world champion Jenson Button finished third for McLaren after an afternoon full of incident, controversy and uncertainty at a street circuit that has offered few thrills in the past.
Hamilton, who had started the day three points clear of his team mate, now has 127 points to Button’s 121 after nine races with Vettel on 115 after chalking up his second win of the season.
While Vettel thrust himself back into the thick of the title chase by leading from pole to chequered flag, team mate Mark Webber provided the day’s big drama when he walked away unscathed from a massive crash. The Australian’s car was launched vertically into the air after slamming into the back of Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus, the Red Bull twisting in the air and landing upside down on the nose and roll bar.
“Motor racing has just seen one of its luckiest days. That could have been a very, very bad incident,” said David Coulthard, the former Red Bull driver turned BBC television pundit.
The safety car was deployed for four laps after Webber’s accident, triggering a drive-through penalty for Hamilton, who was judged to have illegally overtaken as it exited the pit lane.
To the fury of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who was immediately behind and found himself held up by the safety car, Hamilton had built up a sufficient margin that he was able to take his penalty and still retain position.
The drive-through, on the 27th of 57 laps, still took the sting out of what might have been an enthralling battle at the front as Hamilton chased his third win in a row.
Alonso, who finished ninth in front of his home crowd, could still end up having the last laugh, with nine drivers -- including Button -- taking the chequered flag under investigation by stewards for driving too quickly when the safety car was on track.
Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, last year’s winner for champions Brawn GP, finished fourth for Williams with Poland’s Robert Kubica fifth in a Renault.
Germany’s Adrian Sutil was sixth for Force India ahead of Sauber rookie Kamui Kobayashi who completed all but the last four laps on one set of tyres and was running as high as third. The Japanese passed Alonso on the last lap and then Sebastien Buemi’s Toro Rosso into the final corner.
Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa made it a double points finish for Sauber in 10th place.
Germany’s seven-times champion Michael Schumacher finished 16th for Mercedes.