By the time they had all made their first pit stops, Webber was more than nine seconds ahead of Hamilton, who had outfumbled Vettel in the tyre changes. The German got held up waiting for Alonso to come by to his pit, and then Hamilton went one lap longer than Red Bull had expected. As Lewis rejoined, Sebastian was heading for the outside line into Turn One, but as Hamilton had to jink round one of the Virgins which was hugging the inside line to let them go, Vettel had to run wide into the run-off area and that cemented Hamilton’s position.
As Webber controlled things at the front, Hamilton drove like a demon to keep Vettel at bay, while further back Alonso established himself in a comfortable fourth ahead of a three-way scrap for fifth between the rejuvenated Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes, McLaren’s Jenson Button (who had lost out to the German in the stops) and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.
While there was always the threat that something might shake out of these various groups, there wasn’t much action as stalemates set in, and it was not until Vettel ran wide in the Turn Seven esses on the 54th lap that things came to life. The German pitted at the end of the lap for a fresh set of Bridgestone’s soft tyres, but thereafter never set the pace that might have been expected of fresh rubber, suggesting that his RB6’s handling problems were more serious than worn rubber. It transpired that the balance was never good, and that subsequently the brakes had lost their edge.
He was lucky to drop only to fourth behind Alonso, and another slice of fortune awaited him as, 10 laps later, Hamilton’s left front Bridgestone gave up and sent him into the wall in Turn Three. That was a bitter blow for the Englishman, after a fantastic drive in which he had really taken the fight to the Red Bulls.
Now Alonso was second, and as Vettel claimed the final podium position, Schumacher led a beaten Button home with Massa sixth.
Adrian Sutil drove a great race for Force India to claim seventh after resisting huge pressure from Renault’s Robert Kubica, who lost out at the start in a collision which sent BMW Sauber’s Pedro de la Rosa to the pits with a tattered right rear tyre.
Behind them, Rubens Barrichello put in a superb performance for Williams to move from 17th on the grid to ninth place, and Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari claimed a point at home despite a drive-through penalty for clobbering Karun Chandhok’s HRT in an odd accident in which the Spaniard passed the Indian but turned in well before he’d cleared his car. Chandhok subsequently lost his front wing but retired with associated damage after pitting for a replacement. With HRT’s Bruno Senna crashing in Turn Four on the opening lap, it wasn’t a great outing for the Spanish team.
Renault’s Vitaly Petrov and BMW Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi finished 11th and 12th, separated by eight-tenths of a second after a race-long scrap, while Nico Rosberg was a lowly 13th after getting bundled back in the infighting on the first lap and later having a bungled pit stop which required his Mercedes to be pushed back to its pit for a wheel to be retightened.
Hamilton was classified 14th ahead of Vitantonio Liuzzi, who had an oversteering afternoon in a Force India that stopped out on the track on the last lap. Then came Nico Hulkenberg who had several good fights before losing ground in the second Williams. Three laps down, Jarno Trulli took a narrow ‘new teams’ victory for Lotus with Timo Glock challenging him all the way for Virgin and finishing only 1.4s adrift. Team mate Lucas di Grassi was a further lap down, the final finisher in 19th.
Sebastien Buemi had a poor start and was later given a drive-through penalty after Toro Rosso released him into Trulli’s path. He was the final retirement after Chandhok. De la Rosa didn’t make it either, thanks to the damage sustained early on; Senna crashed; and Heikki Kovalainen was denied a start after his Lotus developed mechanical problems on the grid formation lap.
Pos Driver Nationality Team Points
1 Jenson Button British McLaren-Mercedes 70
2 Fernando Alonso Spanish Ferrari 67
3 Sebastian Vettel German RBR-Renault 60
4 Mark Webber Australian RBR-Renault 53
5 Nico Rosberg German Mercedes GP 50
6 Lewis Hamilton British McLaren-Mercedes 49
7 Felipe Massa Brazilian Ferrari 49
8 Robert Kubica Polish Renault 44
9 Michael Schumacher German Mercedes GP 22
10 Adrian Sutil German Force India-Mercedes 16
11 Vitantonio Liuzzi Italian Force India-Mercedes 8
12 Rubens Barrichello Brazilian Williams-Cosworth 7
13 Vitaly Petrov Russian Renault 6
14 Jaime Alguersuari Spanish STR-Ferrari 3
15 Nico Hulkenberg German Williams-Cosworth 1
16 Sebastien Buemi Swiss STR-Ferrari 0
17 Pedro de la Rosa Spanish BMW Sauber-Ferrari 0
18 Kamui Kobayashi Japanese BMW Sauber-Ferrari 0
19 Heikki Kovalainen Finnish Lotus-Cosworth 0
20 Karun Chandhok Indian HRT-Cosworth 0
21 Lucas di Grassi Brazilian Virgin-Cosworth 0
22 Bruno Senna Brazilian HRT-Cosworth 0
23 Jarno Trulli Italian Lotus-Cosworth 0
24 Timo Glock German Virgin-Cosworth 0
Pos Team Points
1 McLaren-Mercedes 119
2 Ferrari 116
3 RBR-Renault 113
4 Mercedes GP 72
5 Renault 50
6 Force India-Mercedes 24
7 Williams-Cosworth 8
8 STR-Ferrari 3
9 BMW Sauber-Ferrari 0
10 Lotus-Cosworth 0
11 HRT-Cosworth 0
12 Virgin-Cosworth 0