ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 8 – World champion Sebastian Vettel claimed his third win in four races this season with a near-flawless drive to victory for Red Bull in Sunday's Turkish Grand Prix.
The 23-year-old German led from his 19th career pole position to the chequered flag unchallenged, conceding the lead only once during his pit-stops and now has a 34-point lead in the championship.
It was the 13th win of his career and another day of celebration for the Red Bull team as Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber brilliantly overtook two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari to finish second.
It was the England-based team’s first one-two of the season and came at the conclusion of an action-packed contest.
Alonso finished third, in Ferrari’s first podium of the season, ahead of Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 champion, who came home fourth for McLaren after a typically roller-coaster afternoon including one pit stop wrecked by a sticky wheel nut.
Nico Rosberg was fifth for Mercedes ahead of Jenson Button in the second McLaren, the 2009 champion losing ground after planning a three-stop race while most of his rivals went for four.
Another German Nick Heidfeld finished seventh for Renault ahead of Vitaly Petrov in the second Renault, Sebastien Buemi of Toro Rosso, and the dazzling Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber, who finished 10th after starting at the back of the grid.
Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher finished a disappointing 12th for Mercedes, one place behind Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, his former team-mate.
"It’s good to get as many points as you can at every single race," said Vettel. "But we see how quickly it can change.
"A good start to the season always helps, but there is a long way to go. Four races out of 19. So, you can work out how many more points there are to get so we have to keep focused."
The race featured a total of 73 pit stops – the most since the 1993 British Grand Prix at Donington, run in torrential rain and won by the legendary late Brazilian Ayrton Senna for McLaren.
Vettel’s winning time was one hour 30 minutes and 17.558 seconds.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was delighted, thanking his drivers for their pace and discipline 12 months on from their acrimonious clash in last year’s race.
He said: "It is a sweet victory today; excellent from the drivers, fantastic pit stops, great strategy and a great race."
Webber admitted Vettel had been in imperious form.
"He’s on top of his game," the 34-year-old Australian said. "He’s had a great start to the season and he is near to his maximum. It’s up to us to bring that to the end sooner rather than later."
Alonso was happy to have secured Ferrari’s first podium finish of the campaign.
"That was good, much better than before. I think we did a good weekend overall," said the Spaniard.
"The car performed a bit better than what we did in the first three races of the championship — so finally we enjoyed racing again."
The race was run in perfect conditions, dry and warm under a clear blue sky with most of the decisive action coming in the opening laps.
At the start, Vettel swept clear of the field to establish his supremacy while behind him Rosberg also enjoyed a faultless getaway that took him up to second ahead of Webber.
The Australian, like most of the drivers starting from the ‘dirty’ outside of the grid, was unable to resist Rosberg’s surge while Hamilton, after an initial bold assault to gain places, over-played his efforts and dropped back to sixth behind Alonso and Button.
All of this frantic action left Vettel in control after the opening laps ahead of the pack while Massa fought his way up to seventh for Ferrari.
Schumacher was involved in a collision with Petrov’s Renault, the German turning in and touching the Russian’s rear wheels.
This resulted in a pit-stop for a new front wing for Schumacher who fell to the back of the field while Hamilton and Button fought for fifth place.
Their battle saw the 2008 champion surge past the 2009 winner on lap seven only to see their positions reversed a lap later, Hamilton having worn his tyres severely.
Kobayashi, who had started at the back in his Sauber, also made rapid progress and had climbed to fifth by lap 12 on one set of tyres as everyone else fought wildly – the two Renault men were even seen shaking their fists at each other.