European Grand Prix 2011

/ Commentary

Race

13.30 Welcome to ESPNF1's live race commentary for the European Grand Prix in Valencia. It's another hot and sunny day and we should see an interesting race from a strategy point of view with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso eager to take on the two Red Bulls starting from the front row.

13.35 The pit lane is now open and the cars are making their way to the grid.

13:40 All of the drivers are trying to keep cool ahead of what will be a tough 57 lap race from a physical point of view, the drivers were visibly sweating after qualifying and they will need to take on plenty of fluids today.

13:42 Adrian Sutil is in good spirits ahead of the race, as the BBC speak to him on the grid he's wearing a pair of comedy sunglasses, which he says are "just fun!"

13:44 So it's Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber who lock out the front row today, after they dashed hopes that the new regulations on engine mapping would reduce their advantage. Recently we've seen that the Red Bull race pace hasn't always been so strong so McLaren and Ferrari will not have ruled out their chances of victory yet.

13:47 If you'd like to get in touch with us here then you can do so via the link above or on Twitter @ESPNF1. Lewis Hamilton, starting third, said he may "think twice" about making certain overtaking attempts. He needs to keep his nose clean today, but does he need to change his driving style?

13:52 Jenson Button followed his sensational win in Canada by qualifying sixth yesterday. He was upbeat after the session but the conditions are a little different here today...

13:55 The five minute warning has sounded on the grid, and the mechanics will begin to remove equipment from around the cars. Strategists will have a busy afternoon as they keep an eye on how the soft tyres react to the high track temperatures on heavy fuel. There's also the added threat of a safety car, with so many walls in close proximity to the track.

13:58 As the grid starts to clear, a quick reminder that Laurence Edmondson tipped Fernando Alonso for victory in the race preview. Alonso's starts have been electric of late, especially last time in Spain when he went from fourth to first in Barcelona. Today he starts fourth once again.

14:00 Sebastian Vettel leads the field away on the formation lap, and thousands of Ferrari fans rise as the field cruises by. The top eight are all starting on soft tyres, and it appears Heidfeld and Sutil are too despite not setting a time in Q3. The difference between the two compounds is somewhere near 2 seconds per lap for some teams, so those starting on mediums further down the grid are taking a bit of a risk. The highest placed man on hards is Petrov in 11th, as the grid forms up and the lights come on...

Lap 1

Vettel leads away comfortably, and another flying start from Ferrari, Massa initially but Alonso comes through turn two in 3rd behind Webber. Hamilton back to fifth ahead of Rosberg and Button.

Di Resta puts a move on Barrichello for 11th.

Vettel already has a 1.3s lead after the first lap.

Lap 2

DRS is not yet activated, and both Vettel and Webber are trying to get enough of a gap to stay out of striking distance.

Replays of the start show Massa got a flier, everyone else was solid enough but made move in to turn two. Massa tried to go up the inside of Webber in to two but got blocked off allowing Alonso back around the outside.

Glock holds off Kovalainen in to turn 12.

Lap 3

Vettel already has a gap of 1.8s, and Webber a further 1.3s as DRS is now activated. Button is all over the back of Rosberg for 6th.

Lap 4

Rosberg is holding Button up, but he's within a second...

But the DRS zone starts a long way towards 12, and he couldn't get close enough in either zone, though he did reduce the gap.

Lap 5

Rosberg defending hard through the first sector, and Button will try with DRS again.

The traction of the Mercedes prevents him from getting close in the first zone, and even though Button saves all of his KER he can't get alongside in the second zone either.

Lap 6

Who needs DRS? Button slipstreams through turn one and out brakes Rosberg down the inside in to turn two.

Vettel has a gap of two seconds, as Webber sets the fastest lap. Alonso is keeping pace with them both.

Lap 7

Another fastest lap from Vettel, but it's just 0.1s quicker than Webber and Alonso. Massa and Hamilton a further 0.1s slower.

Vettel is quick in the middle sector, as lap times are continuously coming down as the fuel load slowly drops.

Lap 8

A much quicker lap from Vettel to pull out another 0.6s on Webber. Alonso has closed to within a second, as Kobayashi has a look up the inside of Barrichello but just about pulls out of the move.

The Red Bulls are still mighty in the final sector, but Massa was quickest of the front five that time around.

Lap 9

Di Resta is told to look after his rear tyres in 11th place as the heat starts to play a part.

The gap between the front five is under seven seconds, and Button is also on their pace but a further eight seconds back.

Lap 10

A scruffy lap from Massa has left Hamilton within a second. Replays show it was that he went wide in to turn 17 but Hamilton couldn't squeeze through.

Lap 11

Alonso is pressuring Webber for 2nd as Maldonado is the first man to pit.

Alguersuari and Buemi squabble over 14th place, with Buemi holding station for now. Replays show Buemi locked up in to turn 17.

Kobayashi, Heidfeld and Barrichello all pit.

Lap 12

Alonso still can't find a way past Webber, and Hamilton pits. Another set of softs for Hamilton and he's looking for the undercut on fresh rubber, Massa may have to respond.

Rosberg pits too and rejoins in 11th.

Lap 13

Vettel's lead is 3.5s over Webber, with Alonso all over the back of Webber. Webber pits, as Alonso takes 0.7s out of Vettel's lead. Ferrari looking after its tyres better than Red Bull at the moment.

Lap 14

Hamilton is 7th, stuck behind Michael Schumacher at the moment, but he's the quickest man on track in sector one.

Schumacher struggling on worn tyres and Hamilton cruises past in the first DRS zone. Hamilton is flying and Vettel pits.

Vettel rejoins just ahead of Webber, Alonso pitted too and is just ahead of Hamilton.

Lap 15

Massa leads but is slow compared to Hamilton. The McLaren appears to have the jump on the Ferrari already.

Schumacher has a broken front wing. Massa pits.

Lap 16

Massa exits the pits, and Hamilton has jumped him for fourth.

Schumacher pits with the front wing folded under the car. Replays show Schumacher exiting the pits a lap ago and tagging the rear of Heidfeld.

Alguersuari is pressuring Rosberg for 7th having yet to pit.

Lap 17

The gap is now 2.4s between Vettel and Webber, but Webber is slower on the last lap. It came because an HRT blocked him in the final sector, but really had nowhere to go.

Sutil has passed Perez and Heidfeld then puts a great move on the Sauber round the outside of turn 17. Perez then loses a further place as Barrichello dives up the inside in to the final corner.

Lap 18

Webber taking 0.1s out of Vettel on the last lap, and Alonso is joining the party too. He's the quickest man on track at the moment and sets the fastest lap.

Lap 19

The crowd can see Alonso closing in on Webber and rise to the Ferrari. Graphics are showing that there's KERS being used on the Red Bull.

Vettel gets held up by an HRT and the gap from first to third is under 3 seconds.

Lap 20

Hamilton is just struggling to match Alonso's pace, he's 2.8s futher back but with a 5.7s gap over Massa.

Webber is told that his rear brake temperatures are getting a bit high, as the relentless pressure from Alonso is beginning to tell/

Lap 21

Alonso is closer than before, and makes the move down in to turn 12. He was so much quicker in the DRS zone.

Now the Ferrari can show it's pace in clear air and set off after Vettel.

Lap 22

Alonso has managed to pull out over a second on Webber immediately so he's out of the DRS zone. He matches Vettel's time, with the race leader no doubt told the Ferrari has been released.

Alguersuari passes a struggling Perez, who is trying to one stop but is painfully slow.

Lap 23

Vettel and Alonoso match each other once again, while Webber is 0.1s quicker than the pair. Hamilton is struggling on his tyres and is 2 seconds slower than Webber on that lap.

Petrov passes Kobayashi for 15th, while Sutil is running strongly in eighth.

Lap 24

Vettel putting the hammer down, and is 0.3s quicker than the rest as he sets the fastest lap of the race.

Hamilton pits from fourth. Another set of softs for the McLaren so he will be three stopping. He rejoins in sixth.

Lap 25

Petrov is all over the back of Perez, but has to back off in turn one as Perez lifts. His tyres are really not working for him and Petrov uses the DRS to cruise past. Kobayashi now on the back of his team-mate, and he drives by in the second DRS zone. Perez down to 16th, and finally pits.

Lap 26

The gap at the front is now 3.5s as Vettel seems to be controlling the pace.

Schumacher passes Maldonado for 16th round the outside of turn 17.

Hamilton sets the fastest lap of the race on his new soft tyres

Lap 27

Alonso takes 0.3s out of Vettel. It's very cat and mouse at the moment. Hamilton sets another fastest lap and is 6.8s behind Button having stopped twice. He's then told to look after the tyres.

Lap 28

Heidfeld and di Resta pit line astern.

Webber then pits too in an attempt to force Ferrari's hand. He was showing good pace.

Having been told to watch his pace, Hamilton sets another fastest lap.

Lap 29

Alonso now looks like he is struggling for grip, and he may well pit this lap. In he comes, while Vettel continues.

Lap 30

Webber retakes second, the undercut has worked for him and he passes Alonso on the pit exit. That should ease any pressure on Vettel.

Maldonado runs wide in to turn two and rejoins.

Hamilton is told he has high rear tyre temperatures, and responds by saying "I can't go any slower.

Vettel and Button pit.

Lap 31

Vettel rejoins just ahead of Massa, who is 1.5s ahead of Webber. Again the gap has closed, but now Massa is holding up Webber as Vettel gets up to speed on these tyres.

Webber gets past round the outside under braking in to turn 17 using DRS.

Alonso is almost blocked by a Lotus during the final sector, but manages to avoid him and gesture with one hand off the wheel.

Massa pits and is delayed, so Button will have closed up on him.

Lap 32

Webber is just 1.4s down on Vettel, but the leader responds with a lap a full half a second quicker.

Button complains that KERS is not working on his car, and the graphic comfims that. That will let Massa pull away.

Lap 33

Vettel, Webber and Alonso are 3.5s apart and all running at the same pace. Vettel does appear to have a bit in hand though.

Lap 34

Alonso is edging back towards Webber, but he's got to be careful not to overuse his tyres again.

Alguersuari is up to seventh ahead of Rosberg having only stopped once.

Lap 35

Vettel is trying to get away from Webber with another fastest lap of the race. We still have all 24 runner as the track temperature stays at 47C.

Lap 36

Massa takes 2 seconds out of Hamilton on that last lap, as again Hamilton struggles with his tyres losing performance.

Lap 37

Vettel sets another fastest lap, the gap now up to 2.3s. The championship leader appears to be controlling his pace and looking after his tyres.

Lap 38

Alguersuari is told he needs to do another 6 laps on his soft tyres. A good performance from him after starting 18th.

Hamilton's lap times have improved again.

Lap 39

Rosberg is close behind Alguersuari now on fresher rubber.

Lap 40

Another fastest lap from Vettel, the gap up to 3.4s.

Rosberg uses DRS to drive around the outside of Alguersuari in to turn 17.

Hamilton is slow again, and is asked to up his pace, but he replies this time with "This is as fast as I can go"

Lap 41

Massa now 5 seconds behind Hamilton, but being held up by Maldonado. Button is told his pace is good without KERS and that he needs to stay on the soft tyre for as long as possible.

Lap 42

Vette's pace is consistently 0.5s quicker than Webber and Alonso. He then sets the fastest first sector, as his tyres seem to be lasting well.

Hamilton in fourth is now almost half a minute behind Alonso in third.

Lap 43

Webber is the first man in to the pits for the final set of hard tyres, can Alonso go much further on the softs?

Hamilton is also in.

Replays show Webber getting very wide entering the pits. His middle sector is 0.4s slower than Alonso as well on this lap.

Lap 44

Webber again slower than the front two in sector one, as Alonso and Vettel set fastest sector two times. If Alonso can stay out for another lap or two he will jump the Red Bull for second once again.

Lap 45

Now Webber is matching sector times, and is 20 seconds behind Alonso. It's time for the Ferrari to pit before he starts to lose time once again.

Alonso does pit, this is a crucial stop...

Lap 46

Alonso rejoins ahead of Webber, but right in the middle of a lot of traffic. Webber's tyres will be up to temperature and he is all over the back of Alonso as they clear the last of the traffic.

Lap 47

Vettel continues, he had over 6 seconds on Alonso and is still running quickly.

Buemi rejoins ahead of Kobayashi and di Resta squabbling over 14th, with Petrov right behind.

Vettel pits with ten laps remaining.

Lap 48

Vettel rejoins with a substantial lead and should be able to just ease his way to the end from there.

Di Resta gets ahead of Kobayashi and sets off after Buemi.

Webber is within a second of Alonso, but Alonso sets the fastest middle sector having got his tyres working.

Lap 49

Vettel's lead is now 8.6s as replays show Webber going wide at turn 17. Button and Massa both pit for the medium compound tyres. The difference between both compounds is somewhere around 1-1.5s looking at the lap times.

Lap 50

There's still a train of four cars in a row, from Buemi in 13th down to Petrov in 16th. Schumacher is 17th but ran out of soft tyres so had to put on the medium compound very early.

Perez's one stop strategy has put him up to 11th, 1.6s behind Heidfeld in the final points scoring position.

Lap 51

Petrov uses DRS on Kobayashi in to turn 17 but outbrakes himself and runs wide to give the place back.

Vettel just easing his way home at the front, the gap up to 9 seconds now. Alonso has pulled out 2.5s on Webber.

Lap 52

Di Resta is told he can have Buemi and Barrichello ahead of him, so that would put him 12th.

Perz is closing on Heidfeld, while Alguersuari has pitted for the second time and is up in eighth place, but a very slow lap puts Sutil right behind him.

Lap 53

Vettel sets another fastest first sector. The gap is over ten seconds. Webber can't make any impression.

Lap 54

Webber has a poblem. He's very slow, five seconds off his team-mates pace but has over half a minute back to Hamilton and will have to nurse the car home in third place.

Hamilton may be looking backwards rather than forwards, as he has Massa taking over a second a lap out of him, and the gap is 5 seconds.

Lap 55

Webber keeping his pace up, so should be fine if his gearbox holds up. Massa is within five seconds but only three laps remain. Hamilton is told of the gap, and manages to keep it at 4.5s

Lap 56

The closest fight is Alguersuari and Sutil for 8th. Sutil is within the DRS zone but he keeps hitting the rev limiter in the first zone.

Lap 57

Vettel begins his final lap, the gap is nearly 13s now. He's had everything under control all day.

He cruises round and takes another victory, his sixth in eight races. It was another faultless drive from the championship leader.

Alonso crosses the line in second, while Webber is a further 16 seconds back in third after his late gearbox issue. Hamilton comes home fourth ahead of Massa and Button. Rosberg is in a race of his own in seventh, while Alguersuari holds off Sutil for eighth, a great drive from 18th on the grid. Heidfeld rounds out the top ten.

Vettel celebrates on the radio, after a dominant race weekend where he took pole position, set the fastest lap and won the race. Schumacher ends up in 17th after his front wing problem.

Vettel climbs out of his car and celebrates. It has become a familiar sight as he raises his finger once again. He looks like he's barely broken sweat today.

Bob asks: "Is the RB7 that good or do we have to start looking at Seb as the next Michael? Webber can't get the same pace and he certainly can't qualify as well. I think the Adrian/Sebastian team is close to the level of Brawn/Schumacher at the same point in careers..."

I think it's a combination that is working supremely right now. The difference between the two Red Bull drivers shows that Vettel has just stepped up a level this year and mastered the Pirelli rubber. Vettel smiles as he lifts his trophy on the podium for the sixth time in 2011, and he is yet to finish outside the top two. Can anyone stop his dominance? There's hope on the horizon as the off-throttle blown diffuser ban kicks in next time out in Silverstone, join us then to find out.