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Sebastian Vettel beats Fernando Alonso in European GP

Sebastian Vettel wins in Valencia

Highlights - European Grand Prix

By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport in Valencia

Sebastian Vettel ran a controlled race to collect his sixth win of the season for Red Bull at the European Grand Prix and stretch his championship lead.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso won a tight battle with Red Bull's Mark Webber for second which earned the Spaniard his first podium in Valencia.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton fought high tyre wear to hold off Felipe Massa's fast-finishing Ferrari to take fourth.

Jenson Button of McLaren was sixth with Force India's Paul di Resta in 14th.

Vettel's victory gives him a 77-point lead in the championship - an advantage of more than three clear wins after just eight races.

His closest challengers are now Button and Webber, who are tied on points, though the Englishman is classified ahead because he has won a race.

The Formula 1 paddock had buzzed with speculation that Vettel's dominant run of form was perhaps beginning to crack when he lost the lead in the Canadian Grand Prix two weeks ago on the last lap.

But the 23-year-old German answered his doubters in emphatic fashion in Valencia and crossed the line saying: "This is better than you can imagine."

BBC F1 commentator Martin Brundle said: "This has again been a study in dominance by Sebastian Vettel.

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"He was using his head, using his tyres better than anyone else and we haven't seen him put a foot wrong."

Vettel led from lights to flag and always appeared in control, though his advantage over a battling Alonso and Webber was never that great until he stretched his legs as he approached the final pit stops to ensure he retained his lead.

"Maybe from the outside it looked like a boring race, but I enjoyed it so much," Vettel said.

"Of course I had some pressure from Fernando [Alonso] and Mark [Webber] behind and even though I had a gap before the stop, they were still very close.

"I was pushing hard, judging the tyres, trying to imagine what the end of the stint would be like.

"For some reason I enjoy this track. Last year I had a smooth race and again this year, I had a good race.

"This track is not made for us [Red Bull] with no real fast corners, but we still managed to put everything together."

Webber spent much of the race engaged in a see-saw cat-and-mouse battle with Alonso, as well as battling traffic.

Alonso hustled the Australian for second from the first lap but the Spaniard had to wait until after the first round of stops for his patience to be rewarded when he pounced on Webber on the inside of Turn 12 on lap 21.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton

McLaren drivers demand upgrades

Webber got back ahead of Alonso at the second pit stops but gambled on stopping early for the final time to fit the harder of the two tyre options, which all the leaders saved until the end of the race. Alonso stayed out for a few more laps on the softer tyres and regained second.

The Australian's chances of fighting back in the closing laps were dashed by a gearbox problem.

It was a strong performance by Alonso, who is optimistic that Ferrari can close down Red Bull.

"It was an interesting race for the fans to see the fight with Webber all the way through," Alonso said.

"At the beginning I was behind him trying not to be too far behind ahead of the first pit-stop. The opportunity came later when I overtook him, under-braking into Turn 12.

"In the pits, they did a good job to overtake us and then my team did a good strategy to get us back in front.

"In the end, I think second place was the maximum we could hope for. We're definitely moving in the right direction but need to keep working."

Alonso remains fifth in the championship, but has closed to within 10 points of fourth-placed Hamilton, who is 12 behind Button and Webber.

The McLaren drivers had complained all weekend that they could not 'switch on' their tyres at Valencia's stop-start street circuit and the problem went on to define their race.

Hamilton was warned several times on the pit-to-car radio to look after his tyres and suggested in his responses that, at times, dictating the pace was out of his control.

European Grand Prix - Top three drivers

European Grand Prix - Top three drivers

A hesitant start from Hamilton saw him drop to fifth on the first lap as both Ferraris surged past him in the first two corners of the race.

The McLaren driver tried to put pressure on the Red Bulls and Ferraris ahead of him by making his first stop with 12 laps gone.

The car responded to a set of new soft tyres and immediately found enough pace to help Hamilton pass Massa for fourth.

However, Hamilton was unable to move any further forwards in the race.

"We just got a bad start and lost out to the Ferraris but in all honesty we weren't as quick as them," Hamilton said.

"The team was asking me to stay out longer but I was saying 'I'm trying to look after my tyres as much as I can'.

"I was struggling with over-steer the whole time."

In the other McLaren, Button also found himself struggling for balance before reporting problems with his Kers power-boost system halfway into the grand prix.

The 2009 world champion lost a place off the line, sliding to seventh as Nico Rosberg jumped to sixth for Mercedes.

However, Button breezed past Rosberg with a stylish move on the inside of Turn Two to regain sixth place and he crossed the line in the same position.

Rosberg finished seventh with his Mercedes team-mate Michael Schumacher, who fell back when he lost his front wing in a clash with Vitaly Petrov's Renault, in 17th.

The European Grand Prix saw all 24 cars take the chequered flag for the first time in history.

Those fighting at the front are waiting to find out whether a new directive by F1's governing body, the FIA, will do anything to change the pecking order.

At the next race at Silverstone on 10 July, the use of so-called off-throttle blowing of diffusers, which help to increase downforce by blowing hot gasses over the rear of the car's floor while the driver is not pressing the accelerate, will be banned.



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see also
European Grand Prix as it happened
26 Jun 11 |  Formula 1
F1 big picture - Brazilian GP
27 Nov 11 |  Formula One
European Grand Prix photos
26 Jun 11 |  Formula One
Finishing is key, says Hamilton
26 Jun 11 |  Formula One
Vettel storms to Valencia pole
25 Jun 11 |  Formula One
Alonso heads Hamilton in practice
24 Jun 11 |  Formula One
Red Bull play down Hamilton link
25 Jun 11 |  Formula One
Hamilton not feeling the pressure
23 Jun 11 |  Formula One


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FROM OTHER SPORT SITES
Crash.net Who shone brightest in Valencia? - 31 mins ago
AsiaNetIndia.com European victory for Sebastian Vettel - 3 hrs ago
The Sun Lewis: F1 title is all yours, Vettel - 5 hrs ago
MSN.co.in Vettel does it again, wins the European GP! - 9 hrs ago
Sportingo Schumacher takes responsibility for Valencia GP error - 10 hrs ago


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