Although the winning margin wasn’t as big as in Australia two weekends ago, the reigning world champion did not look in trouble at any time while in the lead, crossing the finish line a little over 3 seconds ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button. And just as it happened at Albert Park, the last step of the podium was taken by a Lotus Renault driver, only this time it was Nick Heidfeld who got to enjoy that position.
Vettel kept 1st place from pole position early on and built a comfortable time margin ahead, while Heidfeld started off great and jumped from 6th to 2nd by the first corner, ahead of McLaren duo Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. Renault enjoyed a great race start, as Vitaly Petrov also jumped a few positions to 5th place, ahead of Ferrari duo Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.
Mark Webber’s nightmare was again the race start, as he lost no more than 5 positions and dropped to 8th overall.
While Vettel did his race undisturbed in the front, positions in the back changed after the first round of pit stops, where Heidfeld and Massa lost a huge amount of time and returned to the track in 6th and 7th respectively. The two McLarens and Fernando Alonso were easily the beneficiaries going into their 2nd stint, as the trio started putting in fast lap times and threaten Vettel’s leading position.
Alonso moved quickly to pass Jenson Button for 3rd place, before the second round of pit stops messed with the leading pack once more. The Spaniard lost plenty of time in the pits – while staying more on the track and pitting last – and returned to the track behind Hamilton and Button.
Again, while finally closing down on the two McLarens, the field began their 3rd pit stop entries, causing Alonso to further lose some positions to Petrov and Webber, while Button and Hamilton switched positions behind Vettel.
Once Petrov and Red Bull’s Webber pitted (the latter for the 4th time on Sunday), Alonso began closing down on Hamilton and, with some 10 laps to go, set up the stage for the most exciting duel of the afternoon. It didn’t last for too long however, as the Spaniard – whose rear wing stopped working after his 3rd pit stop – clipped the rear of Hamilton’s car when trying to overtake him and damaged his front wing.
As he was forced to pit for the 4th time, he returned to the track in 7th place, behind teammate Felipe Massa. Hamilton, however, also hit trouble late in the race and, after losing two positions to Heidfeld and Webber, decided to pit and take on a new set of tires.
While Vettel and Button ran undisturbed for 1st and 2nd, Heidfeld had to really struggle to keep his position ahead of Webber, despite having the advantage of using KERS (which neither of the two RBR drivers used on Sunday).
Felipe Massa finished in 5th place, ahead of his teammate Alonso, while Hamilton returned to the track in 7th place after his 4th stop. Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi scored a great 8th place, at the end of a race that say him overtake Michael Schumacher a handful of times, while the German had to settle for 9th place.
Rookie Paul di Resta (Force India) managed his second point-scoring performance in F1 in 2 races and finished in 10th place, ahead of his much more experienced teammate Adrian Sutil.