MONACO (AP) — Sebastian Vettel won the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday for his fifth victory in six races this season, beating Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button in a thriller that several drivers failed to finish.
The most exciting race of the season featured almost as many twists and turns as Monaco's famed street circuit.
"It was unbelievable. The race today was pretty entertaining," said Vettel, the defending Formula One champion. "The roulette button must have stopped last night and kept on spinning."
The German is strengthening his grip on the title with each race. He leads Lewis Hamilton by 58 points, Red Bull teammate Mark Webber by 64, Button by 67 and Alonso by 74.
"We need to win three races and (Vettel) not to score," Alonso said. "At the moment I don't think it's possible."
Vettel celebrated with team members by throwing himself into a swimming pool on top of Red Bull's "Energy Station" — a meeting place for guests at the race. Other Red Bull staff did back flips into the pool as Vettel smiled.
Vettel gambled by staying on the same set of soft tires, turning the last 15 laps into a battle of wits, with Alonso and Button on his tail. It appeared the move was going to backfire before a crash on lap 72 resulted in a red flag that brought a suspension just as he was about to be caught.
Vettel was able to change tires before the race resumed, making the last few laps a procession.
"I saw the only chance to win this race was to try and stay out. I was nearly 20 laps under pressure with Fernando and Jenson behind, it was getting closer and closer," said Vettel, whose only loss this year came when Hamilton beat him in China.
Alonso's second place is the best performance of the season for the two-time former F1 champion. For Button, it was another case of coming so close to winning again in Monaco.
"Third in Turkey and now second here, definitely a good weekend for us," Alonso said. "I think the first safety car played a big part. If not, Jenson was on his way to the victory."
Webber finished fourth, ahead of Japan's Kamui Kobayashi and Hamilton.
Seven-time former champion Michael Schumacher, Ferrari's Felipe Massa, and Vitaly Petrov — whose Renault was involved in the late crash that halted the race — were among those who didn't finish. The safety car was out twice even before the late red flag in a chaotic afternoon.
Vettel, starting from the pole position for the fifth time, made a flying start under blue skies. Button was not quite close enough to pass him, and when he tried to go outside Vettel saw the McLaren coming and shifted across smoothly to close the gap.
After one lap, Vettel was ahead by 2.4 seconds and stretched his lead to nearly four seconds by the third.
Any thoughts this would lead to a comfortable win for Vettel, F1's youngest champion, proved short-lived. Vettel appeared certain to be caught by Alonso or Button, who gained on the German each lap as his soft tires started losing traction.
Alonso, who had pitted twice, and Button, three times, looked set to pass him until a crash involving Petrov and Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari swung the balance back in Vettel's favor.
The red flag came up, a dazed Petrov was taken out of his car and drivers took the opportunity for much-needed repairs. This gave Vettel a priceless gift: a tire change without the need for a pit stop.
Renault said Petrov hurt his left ankle and was taken to hospital where checks showed there was no break.
"It was good to hear that Vitaly is fine," Vettel said.
- Mark Webber
- Sebastian Vettel
- Jenson Button
- Vitaly Petrov
- Toro Rosso s Jaime Alguersuari
- Japan s Kamui Kobayashi
- Fernando Alonso
- champion Michael Schumacher
- Lewis Hamilton
- Formula One champion
- Monaco Grand Prix
- Red Bull teammate