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THE 55th European Grand Prix was held on 26 June 2011 at the Valencia Street Circuit in Spain.

This was the fourth time that this particular track has hosted the event. The race was run over 57-laps.

The entire field were looking to stop the Red Bulls (who had locked-out the front row of the grid in Qualifying) and in particular, world championship leader and reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, who started from pole.

But Vettel made a good get-away when the lights went green, as did his team-mate Mark Webber. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa made a terrific start
from fifth on the grid and by Turn 2 was challenging Webber for second. However he had to slow down too much, allowing his team-mate Fernando Alonso up into third ahead of him. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton lost out badly, dropping from third to fifth, just ahead of Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) and his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button.

“You can’t catch me, I’m Sebastian Ve!~”

Button chased Rosberg hard as the leading five drivers pulled away from the two Mercedes-powered cars. On lap six Button out braked
Rosberg into Turn 2 to take his sixth place from him.

Button (L) passed Rosberg on lap 6.

By lap 13 Vettel’s lead over Webber was 3.5-seconds. Meanwhile Hamilton and Rosberg pitted for new tyres, allowing Button up to fifth. Webber
also took the opportunity to stop for fresh rubber at the end of the lap.

On his newer tyres, Hamilton breezed past Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) at Turn 12 on the next lap to take sixth place from the seven-time world champion. Both Vettel and now second placed Alonso pitted, thus allowing Felipe Massa to inherit the lead of the Grand Prix.

After Massa pitted the front runners were back in the right order, and by lap 20 Vettel led the Webber-Alonso battle for second by
2.3-seconds, with Hamilton fourth, Massa fifth and Button sixth 20-seconds behind Vettel.

On the next lap (21) Alonso sold Webber a dummy on the run down to Turn 12 after gaining a massive slipstream from the Red Bull. The double world champion had no trouble with getting his Ferrari up to second.

At the end of lap 24 Hamilton pitted for the second time. But his pit-stop almost ended in disaster when he almost drove away too early. This cost him precious seconds and rejoined the race in sixth place.

Five laps latter Alonso pitted. He almost spun his Ferrari at the pit-lane entrance because he had no rear grip left. The Spaniard rejoined the race in fourth place behind Massa (second) and crucially, Webber who had pitted a lap earlier and passed him on the undercut. Vettel and Button pitted to have their tyres changed one lap later.

This led to Vettel being closely followed by: Massa, Webber and Alonso on lap 31. But Massa was on old tyres and this allowed Vettel to get away whilst holding up Webber and pushing him back into the clutches of Alonso. Webber used his DRS to get around the outside of Massa at Turn 17.
Alonso had to wait for his moment to pass his team-mate because they both had to lap the Lotus of Jarno Trulli. Trulli saw Massa but must have missed Alonso, because he came back across the track after Massa passed him and nearly put Alonso into the wall at well over 160-mph!

As you can well imagine this didn’t go down well with Alonso who waved his hand at Trulli in anger before inheriting Massa’s third place as the Brazilian went into the pits.

The top three of Vettel, Webber and Alonso continued to drive within close proximity of each other, and on lap 35 there were only 3.6-seconds covering them.

The last round of pit-stops took place with around 12/13 laps to go. Alonso pitted at the end of lap 45, just one lap after Webber pitted for new tyres. But Webber was being held up by a train of lapped cars, negating any advantage he could gain over Alonso who exited the pits in second place.

But out at the front was (still) Sebastian Vettel, who drove to his 16th career win in a time of 1:39:36.169, an average speed of
115.618-mph. He has now won as many races as Sir Stirling Moss, and is now one ahead of Hamilton on the all time list. Not bad for a man who has only started 70 Grand Prix.

After all these wins, surly Champagne must taste a bit boring?

Vettel has now won six out of the eight races this season, eight of the last ten and nine of the last 12 Grand Prixs! He also completed a Hat-Trick by setting the Fastest Lap of the race on lap 53 with a 1:41.852 (119.008-mph) tour. In fact the only thing that stopped him from completing a Grand Slam was the fact that Massa led lap 14.

He has also become the first driver in F1 history to finish in the top two at the first eight races of a season. Can anybody stop this guy?!

2011 European Grand Prix @ Valencia Top 10

  1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault), 1h:39m:36.169s – 25 Points.
  2. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), + 10.891s – 18 Points. The home fans loved this I bet.
  3. Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault), +27.255s – 15 Points. He backed off near the end in order to save his gearbox.
  4. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes), +46.190s – 12 Points.
  5. Felipe Massa (Ferrari), +51.705s – 10 Points.
  6. Jenson Button (McLaren-Mercedes), +1:00.065 – 8 Points.
  7. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), +1:38.090 – 6 Points.
  8. Jamie Alguersuari (Toro Rosso-Ferrari), +1 Lap –4 Points. This drive from 18th on the grid in front of his home crowd may just have saved his race seat.
  9. Adrian Sutil (Force India-Mercedes), +1 Lap – 2 Points.
  10. Nick Heidfeld (Renault), +1 Lap – 1 Point.

 

This race – despite how boring it was compared to most of the races this season – has gone down in the record books. For only the fourth time in F1 history, there was not a single retirement. The other races when all of the starters finished are: the 1961 Dutch Grand Prix (15 starters)*, the
2005 American Grand Prix (6 starters)† and the 2005 Italian Grand Prix (20 starters).

*As well as every driver finishing the race, not a single pit-stop was made either!

†Only the Bridgestone runners started.

The fact that we have 24 drivers in the grid now means that this race has set the record for the most classified finishers in a Grand Prix. This also means that HRT’s Narain Karthikeyan has become the first man ever to finish 24th in a F1 Grand Prix. The fact that his team-mate, Vitantonio Liuzzi, finished 23rd and almost lapped him is probably the reason why he has lost his seat for the rest of the season to Toro Rosso’s
test driver, Australian Daniel Ricciardo.

The F1 circus now heads to Silverstone for my home race, the British Grand Prix.

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP – After 8/19 Races.

Pos

Driver

Constructor

Points

Gap From 1st

1

Sebastian VETTEL (GER)

Red Bull

186

2

Jenson BUTTON (ENG)

McLaren

109

77

3

Mark WEBBER (AUS)

Red Bull

109

77

4

Lewis HAMILTON (ENG)

McLaren

97

89

5

Fernando ALONSO (ESP)

Ferrari

87

99

6

Felipe MASSA (BRA)

Ferrari

42

144

7

Nico ROSBERG (GER)

Mercedes

32

154

8

Vitaly PETROV (RUS)

Renault

31

155

9

Nick HEIDFELD (GER)

Renault

30

156

10

Michael SCHUMACHER (GER)

Mercedes

26

160

11

Kamui KOBAYASHI (JAP)

Sauber

25

161

12

Adrian SUTIL (GER)

Force India

10

176

13

Jamie ALGUERSUARI (ESP)

Toro Rosso

8

178

14

Sébastien BUEMI (SWI)

Toro Rosso

8

178

15

Rubens BARRICHELLO (BRA)

Williams

4

182

16

Sergio PÉREZ (MEX)

Sauber

2

184

17

Paul DI RESTA (SCO)

Force India

2

184

 

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP – After 8/19 Races.

Pos

Constructor

Engine

Points

Gap From 1st

1

RED BULL (AUT)

Renault

295

2

MCLAREN (ENG)

Mercedes

206

89

3

FERRARI (ITA)

Ferrari

129

166

4

RENAULT (ENG)

Renault

61

234

5

MERCEDES (GER)

Mercedes

58

237

6

SAUBER (SWI)

Ferrari

27

268

7

TORO ROSSO (ITA)

Ferrari

16

279

8

FORCE INDIA (IND)

Mercedes

12

283

9

WILLIAMS (ENG)

Cosworth

4

291

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