MONTE CARLO, May 29, 2011 (AFP) - Defending drivers' world champion German Sebastian Vettel rode his considerable share of good luck on Sunday to claim his first victory at the Monaco Grand Prix after an incident-filled and
On an afternoon of Safety Cars, red flags, lengthy stoppages and multiple collisions, the 23-year-old leader of this year's title race emerged ahead of the field to enlarge his commanding lead as he steered his Red Bull car to an unexpected, and narrow, victory.
The race had been stopped temporarily after a mass crash which saw Russian driver Vitaly Petrov taken to hospital.
Vettel's victory, after claiming pole position in Monaco for the first time on Saturday, was the 15th of his career and his eighth in the last 10 races.It stretched his golden run which has seen him finish on the podium at every race since the Singapore Grand Prix last year.
"It's unbelievable. I think the race was pretty entertaining -- from the inside of the car at least," said Vettel.
Two-times champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso, who had won twice at Monaco, finished second for Ferrari - their best result this season - ahead of luckless Briton Jenson Button of McLaren, who might have won but for the various Safety Car stops and other interventions.
Japanese Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber looked set to take fourth but was passed in a final flurry of drama by determined Australian Mark Webber of Red Bull and had to settle for fifth ahead of 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton, who
finished the race sixth for McLaren.
Hamilton, however, faced an investigation for his passing move on Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado of Williams in the final laps and gave vent to his frustration afterwards in an unguarded interview with the BBC during which he joked that he was being victimised by the race stewards 'maybe because I am black.
German Adrian Sutil of Force India came home seventh, compatriot Nick Heidfeld of Renault eighth and Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello ninth for Williams. Swiss Sebastian Buemi was tenth for Toro Rosso.
Vettel won the long, chaotic and extraordinary race in a winning time of two hours, nine minutes and 38.373 seconds and said the mass crash had helped him win.
"Obviously, then, we caught the group -- in fact, they crashed in front of us so another Safety Car came out and then we had a suspended race which allowed us to change tyres.
"The final attempt came then obviously and on a fresher set it was easier to pull away a little bit and to get a gap out of those corners that it really mattered.
"I'm extremely happy. I think the roulette spun a lot last night and it kept on spinning during this race, so it's crazy and I'm really, really happy, a fantastic result. It's an extreme honour to put my name down with the list of previous winners here - so a perfect day, I guess."
Hamilton had already been in trouble with the stewards when he attacked Felipe Massa in his Ferrari at the hairpin on lap 30. The pair touched as they turned in, Hamilton blaming the Brazilian for hitting him.
"I went inside him and he turned back on me," he told his team. "On purpose..." The incident was reported to the race stewards and their swift reaction was to give Hamilton a drive-through penalty that he took at the end of lap 44.
More drama unfolded on lap 35 as Hamilton drove past Massa in the tunnel, the Ferrari driver moving off line on to the 'marbles' and losing control, crashing heavily into the barriers and damaging the left side of his car extensively. He came to a halt at the chicane where he retired and a Safety Car was called out.
Almost simultaneously, Michael Schumacher pulled up and retired at La Rascasse hairpin, his race over which had begun disastrously when he lost several places at the start.
The race was brought to a halt on lap 69 with a multi-car collision at the Swimming Pool complex.
This came when the leaders closed behind a train of cars led by Sutil who went into the barriers triggering further accidents involving Hamilton, Petrov and Jaime Alguersuari.
Hamilton, hit by the Spaniard's car, carried on with a broken rear wing, but the others were damaged beyond immediate use.
The Safety Car was called out and the race was red-flagged to a halt amid utter confusion over the likely outcome - a result counted back from the previous completed lap or a re-start.
Petrov remained trapped in his Renault complaining of leg pains. "He is ok and there are no fractures," said Renault team chief Eric Boullier.
Here are the partial results:
|PARTIAL MONACO GP RESULTS|
|2||4||18||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||78||+1.1 secs|
|3||2||15||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||78||+2.3 secs|
|4||3||12||Mark Webber||RBR-Renault||78||+23.1 secs|
|5||12||10||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber-Ferrari||78||+26.9 secs|
|6||9||8||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren-Mercedes||78||+27.2 secs|
|7||14||6||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||77||+1 Lap|
|8||15||4||Nick Heidfeld||Renault||77||+1 Lap|
|9||11||2||Rubens Barrichello||Williams-Cosworth||77||+1 Lap|
|10||16||1||Sebastien Buemi||STR-Ferrari||77||+1 Lap|
|11||7||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||76||+2 Lap|
|12||13||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||76||+2 Lap|
|13||18||Jarno Trulli||Lotus-Renault||76||+2 Lap|
|14||17||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus-Renault||76||+2 Lap|
|15||21||Jerome d'Ambrosio||Virgin-Cosworth||75||+3 Lap|
|16||23||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT-Cosworth||75||+3 Lap|
|17||22||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT-Cosworth||74||+4 Lap|
|18||8||Pastor Maldonado||Williams-Cosworth||73||+5 Lap|
|Ret||10||Vitaly Petrov||Renault||67||+11 Lap|
|Ret||19||Jaime Alguersuari||STR-Ferrari||66||+12 Lap|
|Ret||6||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||32||+46 Laps|
|Ret||5||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes||32||+46 Laps|
|Ret||20||Timo Glock||Virgin-Cosworth||30||+48 Laps|