We may only be five races into the F1 season but defending champion Sebastian Vettel already has a healthy lead at the top of the drivers’ championship.
Victory at the Circuit de Catalunya was his fourth of the season and leaves him 41 points ahead of Hamilton, the Red Bull driver finishing only 0.6 seconds behind the unstoppable German.
Those who tuned in for the ferocious opening to the Grand Prix would have been terrified to blink. Before you could say ‘Red Bull’, polesitting Webber made a mess of his excellent work in qualifying and found himself trailing Alonso and Vettel. The Australian would eventually come home fourth, two places ahead of Mercedes GP’s much improved Michael Schumacher.
For the majority of the start it looked like it could be a fairy tale drive for Fernando Alonso. The lead in front of his home crowd lasted nearly 20 laps before he lost ground near the end and finished a disappointing fifth. Button on the other hand had a conflicting race and came back well after a poor opening. A controversial tyre strategy proved dividends for the McLaren driver, overtaking Webber and Alonso to secure third.
At the half way point Vettel led Hamilton by a couple of seconds. While the Englishman began to eat away at the Red Bull, he pitted on lap 50 to rejoin more than 2 seconds adrift. However, the KERS power boost failed to provide more breathing space for Vettel and Hamilton again began to close.
Vettel was ahead but by less than a second at the 55 lap mark. The McLaren looked for a way up the inside at the start of lap 59 but the Red Bull maintained good acceleration and Vettel held on to take the chequered flag by 0.6 seconds. This was win number four of the campaign; remarkable considering the Catalan Grand Prix was only race five.
A special mention must also go to fellow German Nick Heidfeld, who produced a brilliant display to finish among the points. An exhaust fire in qualifying meant he started the day in 24th at the very back of the grid. Heidfeld made his full allocation of fresh tyres count by flying up the standings and he overtook Perez in lap 61 to finish 8th.