Sebastian Vettel scored his fifth win of 2011 in the Monaco Grand Prix.
The Red Bull driver came under fierce pressure in the closing stages of the race from Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.
But a red flag with six laps to go changed the complexion of the final laps as it allowed Vettel to discard his old tyres for fresh ones.
Vettel held the lead from pole position at the start while Button fended off Mark Webber for second. Alonso took advantage of the slow-starting Red Bull to grab third place.
Button was the first of the three to pit, taking on a second set of super-soft tyres. Vettel came in on the following lap but his stop was delayed as the team didn’t have his tyres prepared.
He eventually got away – on softs, instead of the planned super-softs – having fallen to second behind Button. Alonso came in on the next lap and also switched to softs.
Button opened up a gap over Vettel before pitting again on lap 32, falling behind them. Alonso came in shortly afterwards but Vettel stuck with his soft tyres.
At this point the safety car was deployed following a collision between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa.
Hamilton had been delayed after Michael Schumacher had hit his car on the first lap, and passed him at the hairpin. Hamilton later squeezed past at Sainte Devote.
He arrived on the tail of the Ferrari and made a move at the hairpin. Massa braked deep and tagged Webber’s Red Bull with his front wing, and Hamilton and Massa made contact.
Massa stayed ahead, but Hamilton came back at him as they went into the tunnel. The Ferrari ran wide, got onto the treacherous marables and made heavy contact with the barrier.
After the restart Button put Vettel under pressure until lap 47, when he made his mandatory switch to the harder tyres. Vettel stayed out, his tyres now 32 laps old.
Button reeled in Vettel and Alonso, whose tyres were slightly less old, and the pair ran nose-to tail for several laps, covered by just half a second. But he couldn’t find a way past Alonso, who was able to use his DRS while attacking Vettel.
Vettel’s lap times began to slow as he passed the 50-lap mark on his tyres and the battle for the lead seemed to be building to an exciting conclusion. But it all went wrong as they approached a clutch of cars to lap them.
Among them was Hamilton, who was mounting a recovery having been delayed at his first pit stop and being handed a penalty for the collision with Massa. He went down the inside of Vitaly Petrov at Tabac.
The three leaders picked their way through the mess and the safety car was deployed, but within a few laps the race was red-flagged as there was concern over Petrov’s condition. He was later confirmed to be conscious and talking.
But the red flag brought an end to the battle for the lead, as Vettel and Alonso were able to change tyres on the grid while waiting for the restart.
Fortunately for McLaren, they were able to use the time to repair Hamilton’s rear wing in time for the restart.
This proved to be unlucky for Pastor Maldonado, who Hamilton tied to pass at the restart. The pair clashed and the Williams, which had been running sixth, ended the race in the barrier.
At the sharp end of the field the battle for the lead was over and Vettel duly collected his fifth win out of six. Alonso and Button completed the podium.
Mark Webber passed Kamui Kobayashi for fourth place two laps from home and Hamilton finished sixth, albeit under investigation for the clash with Maldonado. The stewards were also looking into a collision between Kobayashi and Sutil, who finished seventh.
Nick Heidfeld was eighth for Renault ahead of Rubens Barrichello, who gave Williams their first points of the year.
Sebastien Buemi claimed the last point for Toro Rosso in front of Nico Rosberg, Mercedes having struggled for pace during the race.
Paul di Resta was 12th, after a drive-through penalty for a collision at the hairpin, followed by the Lotuses of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen.
Jerome d’Ambrosio finished 15th, Timo Glock retiring earlier with suspension failure, ahead of the two HRTs.
Vettel’s fifth win from six starts extends his dominant start to the season. But F1 will reflect on an incident-packed weekend in Monaco which ends with two drivers, Petrov and the non-starting Sergio Perez, recovering from injuries.
2011 Monaco Grand Prix
- New video of Maldonado and Hamilton’s Monaco crash
- Vettel would have gone the distance in Monaco – Pirelli
- Williams: first points of 2011 “bittersweet”
- 2011 Monaco Grand Prix: complete race weekend review
- Vettel made call to stay out, says Horner
- Hamilton apologises to Massa and Maldonado
- Vote for your Monaco Grand Prix Driver of the Weekend
- McLaren: Hamilton loses cool after weekend of frustration
- Red Bull: Vettel takes another win under pressure
- Ferrari: Red flag decided the race
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