Vettel triumphs in two-act drama at Monaco
Sebastian Vettel had his work cut out before he could revel in victory at Monaco. He came under tremendous pressure from behind as he covered almost 80 percent of the race distance on a single set of hard tyres.
Vettel was forced to adopt the tactic of completing a long stint on the prime compound when Jenson Button leapfrogged him at the first stop.
Things seemed to be going the Englishman's way until Felipe Massa wrecked his Ferrari at the tunnel exit after jousting with Lewis Hamilton, thus triggering a safety car phase. Button had only just pitted for the second time, which allowed Vettel to regain the lead position. Button then stopped yet again while Vettel stuck to his one-stop strategy.
And it was not exclusively a battle between Britain and Germany, as Spain also got involved. Fernando Alonso drove a two-stop strategy, which ultimately slotted him in between Button and Vettel, with both a realistic chance of victory as well as the threat of being pipped by Button for second. The battle between the three was intense, until they caught up with bunched traffic that needed to be lapped. Just as they were about to thread their way through, the pack descended into chaos and there was a mini pile-up.
This led to a second, much more prolonged safety car period. For the two crash victims, Vitaly Petrov and Jaime Alguersuari, the race was over. In Petrov's case, it was necessary to call an ambulance crew. Adrian Sutil and Rubens Barrichello pitted for a quick check-up while Hamilton continued with a crooked rear wing. Attention remained fixed on the three front-runners as speculation mounted about whether the race would even restart.
Then the race was red-flagged, because it had become clear that Petrov was incapable of climbing out of his car. Early reports were that he was conscious and talking to the medics, but he was in some pain and unable to hoist himself out of the cockpit. An initial examination suggested that he had not suffered any fractures.
With just seven laps to go, Vettel took the opportunity of the enforced break to fit fresh tyres on which he then cruised comfortably to the finish. In the battle for second place, Alonso kept a cool head to fend off the challenge from Button. Mark Webber and Kamui Kobayashi finished fourth and fifth.
Lewis Hamilton ended up in P6 after taking a drive-through penalty for colliding with Massa. But having also clipped Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado on the last few laps, he is subject to yet another stewards' enquiry. Claiming the remaining championship points were Adrian Sutil, Nick Heidfeld, Rubens Barrichello and Sebastien Buemi.
2011 Formula One Drivers & Constructors Championship Standings