It was very topsy turvy and Sebastien Buemi even led a lap. As he fended off Alonso before stopping himself, Hamilton made a move at the final chicane. From then on the race between the top 5 really moved from driver to driver. Every time somebody pitted they lost track position but were able to make use of fresh tyres. It switched back to Mark Webber but he hadn't used the soft tyre yet. He was about 11 seconds ahead when he reported his tyres starting to go. 10 laps later on lap 49 he was caught and passed by Hamilton. He stayed out despite his slow pace to limit his running on the soft and he was still able to come out in 5th where he would have emerged even if he had pitted earlier. Vettel meanwhile dropped off the top 3 as he was nursing a gearbox oil leak. Webber had a new one fitted before the race. The front 3 had a long final stint but the track really improved through the race with few retirements meaning lots of cars on track. This cost Alonso when he lost momentum behind Chandhok and Button moved into second. The Spaniard also missed a chance to jump Hamilton in the stops after being stuck in traffic.
There was action galore in the midfield. Vitantonio Liuzzi pitched Felipe Massa into Jenson Button at turn 1 and the Force India and Ferrari continued to touch around turn 2 meaning both pitted at the end of the lap. Meanwhile Vitaly Petrov jumped the start then spun on the grass and swiped Pedro De La Rosa onto the grass even before the first corner. Michael Schumacher started his eventful afternoon by going in too fast and hitting Robert Kubica from behind. The pair then clashed again as Schumacher emerged from his first stop. The German forced Kubica onto the grass and both men went too deep into turn 3 and slight contact gave the Mercedes driver a puncture. This put him on the backfoot and he ended up doing a very long final stint on the soft tyres. Kubica meanwhile was passed by Sutil but the Pole wanted to pit and ducked past the Force India to make the pitlane. He clipped the rear of the German's car and punctured a tyre. Kubica was repimanded for the pitlane dive which was deemed dangerous.
Image courtesy of www.mercedes-gp.com
The final stages saw Schumacher under attack from former team mate Massa and the Brazilian was caught out by the German braking early for the final chicane on lap 64 and tagged the Mercedes who had drifted back across the track under braking in a move described by Martin Brundle as naughty. Schumacher banged wheels with Liuzzi on the final lap and was passed by the Italian and Sutil to finish pointless in 11th. I felt Schumacher drove very poorly yesterday. He didn't have a competitive car but that doesn't mean you can forget the rules of racing. He escaped any punishment but Jaime Alguersuari got a reprimand for an incident with Rubens Barichello which left the Williams driver needing a new front wing. The Brazilian became the first driver in F1 to complete 15,000 racing laps during the grand prix.The championship looks likely to continue to be a thrilling battle with 3 teams and 5 drivers firmly in contention. I'll be looking at each of their prospects in the coming days before the European Grand Prix in Valencia in 2 weeks. McLaren have momentum and 2 drivers at the top of their game. Ferrari have a big update for Valencia and in Alonso have a man that would be hard to write off. Mark Webber is more consistent and still with the best car. Sebastian Vettel however seems frustrated. A lot of exchanges filled with anger were heard yesterday and his question about what the fastest lap was when he was nursing a gearbox leak displayed the character of the German. A driver who wants to drive on the limit every lap of every race. In this years formula though, that is not the winning formula. Vettel's annoyance is understandable after his early season problems which seen many points slip form his grasp. He now has real competition from Webber and the pack are chasing hard. This brilliant season could yet reach epic proportions.