SEBASTIAN VETTEL left his rivals furious as he celebrated his fourth victory in five races this season with a bizarre rendition of the ‘Crazy Frog’ song.
Vettel produced another masterclass performance in a Spanish Grand Prix that served up some long-overdue entertainment. Even Red Bull team principal Christian Horner described what has unfolded at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya in past years as a “drone-a-thon”, with the previous 10 winners coming from pole.
But world champion Vettel ended that statistic as tactics and a breathtaking defensive display over the closing laps allowed him to take his 14th career win and open up a 41-point cushion in the standings.
Credit to Lewis Hamilton for pushing Vettel all the way to the wire after McLaren had been trounced by Red Bull in qualifying as the Briton and team-mate Jenson Button were a second off the pace.
Come the chequered flag, however, Vettel’s margin of victory over Hamilton was a slender 0.6secs, with Button, a further 35 seconds adrift. Unusually, Vettel dispensed with his usual cry of ‘Yes’ over the in-car radio after taking the win, and instead turned back the clock several years as he sang “Ring-ding-ding-ding-a-ling.”
Asked for an explanation, Vettel said: “It’s a long story. The first time we picked it up was in 2009 at Silverstone when we won the grand prix there. It’s a bit of a joke between my race engineer (Guillaume Roquelin) and myself that he comes on the radio and does this crazy impression, and if I feel like it, I do it back.”
It was the battle over the closing stages, though, that captured the imagination, with Hamilton pushing Vettel to the limit, only to fall narrowly short.
“He tried everything he could,” said Vettel. “McLaren and Lewis gave us a very hard time, so it was quite a big relief to see the chequered flag. We made it, and I am very, very happy.”
Hamilton admitted to giving it his all, particularly after losing a place at the start to a flying Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari off the line. Pit-stop strategy elevated Hamilton up to second, and with it the crack at Vettel.
“I was quite impressed with the job we were able to do, myself and Jenson, considering their car is quite a good step faster than ours,” said Hamilton.
“Our race pace really has improved since the last race so that was a positive, but I just wasn’t able to follow Sebastian at times. But the pit stops were much, much better, and to be able to apply the pressure to a Red Bull, considering the circumstances, is quite an achievement.”
Button suffered a disastrous start, dropping from fifth on the grid to 10th by the end of the first lap.
But careful management of his tyres, the deployment of a three-stop strategy — compared to four for those around him – and two superb overtaking moves on Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari gave the 31-year-old a richly-deserved third.
“My first lap was an absolute disaster,” exclaimed Button. “But I was able to pick people off, and with a fantastic strategy, we were able to get a podium.
“Two weeks ago (in Turkey) it wasn’t the right call, but this week it was good to have fought my way through and get some nice points. I really feel like I raced.”
Pole man Webber had to settle for fourth, predominantly due to the fact he spent most of the race stuck behind Alonso, who was down in fifth come the conclusion, and astonishingly a lap behind. Only the top four drivers finished on the same lap such was the dominance of Red Bull and McLaren, leaving those at Ferrari as red faced as their cars. “There is no denying that being lapped hurts,” admitted team principal Stefano Domenicali.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved