Sebastian Vettel ensured it was business as usual in Barcelona after the defending F1 champion returned to the top step of the podium with victory in the Spanish Grand Prix.
The Red Bull driver started the race from second on the grid but having taken the lead following the second round of the pitstops, the German was able to clinch his fourth win in five races this season – despite the best efforts of McLaren's Lewis Hamilton to find a way through in the closing laps.
The start of the race had seen Fernando Alonso give the crowd reason to cheer as he blasted into the lead on the run to turn one, diving down the inside of both Mark Webber and Vettel into the first corner as the Red Bull pair diced for position.
Leading by 0.7secs at the end of the opening lap, Alonso was able to keep his lead ahead of the Red Bull pair to the second round of pitstops. However, Vettel – who had made a series of crucial moves in traffic on his out-lap after the first stop to stay close to Alonso – dived in to make his second stop one lap sooner than Alonso and was able to get ahead into the lead.
The second round of stops would also prove to be the crucial moment of the race for Hamilton, who had got ahead of Webber in the first round of stops to lie third. Staying out on track a number of laps longer before making his second stop, the Briton got ahead of Alonso and then set about chasing down Vettel for the remainder of the race.
Hamilton closed onto the rear of the Red Bull as the race wore on but despite the fact that Vettel was only able to use his KERS intermittently, the McLaren was unable to find a way through.
On more than one occasion, Hamilton found himself close enough to utilise his DRS on the start-finish straight, but despite the fact he was able to surge up the rear of Vettel's car, the German wasn't to be beaten as he clinched victory by six-tenths of a second.
Hamilton's McLaren team-mate Jenson Button took third place but only after a disastrous start to the race, where he was hung out to dry at the first corner and slipped down to tenth at the end of the opening lap. A decision to run a three-stop strategy compared to the four stops favoured by the cars around him, proved to be key to the Briton making up places as he found himself on the quicker soft tyres mid-way through the race while others had swapped to harder rubber.
Battling ahead of Alonso and Webber on one lap, Button then enjoyed a fine run to third place as Webber was unable to respond – leaving the pole-sitter nearly 50 seconds behind the winner in fourth.
Such was the pace of the race that the top four were the only drivers to finish on the lead lap with Alonso dropping back dramatically when he swapped over the harder compound tyre. By the finish, the Spaniard was lapping more than three seconds off the pace of the leaders and ended up being lapped en-route to fifth place.
Michael Schumacher enjoyed a more successful race than a fortnight ago in Turkey as he took sixth place for Mercedes after a heated battle with team-mate Nico Rosberg, who settled for seventh – less than half a second further back. Such was the fight between the pair that Nick Heidfeld was able to close in during the final laps as the Renault driver made the most of the fresh tyres available after he missed qualifying to come through the field to finish eighth.
A strong drive from Sergio Perez saw him take the chequered flag in ninth place for Sauber, scoring his first points in the process, while team-mate Kamui Kobayashi bounced back from a puncture on the opening lap to round out the scorers in tenth.
While Heidfeld's charge up the field was a plus for Renault, the performance of team-mate Vitaly Petrov was less impressive as he lost speed and places as the race wore on. Having run fifth through the opening stages, the Russian would end up outside the points in eleventh, ahead of the Force India pairing Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil.
Although the tyre gamble taken by the team in qualifying did allow the pair to make up places in the race, the pair failed to have the ultimate pace to break into the points.
Sebastien Buemi took 14th for Toro Rosso ahead of Pastor Maldonado, who lacked the pace to keep his Williams anywhere near the points, while Jaime Alguersuari and Rubens Barrichello were lapped twice en-route to 16th and 17th.
Jarno Trulli was best of the new teams in 18th place, with team-mate Heikki Kovalainen unable to build on his qualifying performance as he crashed out at turn four on lap 49. Timo Glock, Jerome D'Ambrosio and Narain Karthikeyan rounded out the finishers.
Aside from Kovalainen, Tonio Liuzzi stopped on track early in the race while Felipe Massa endured a wretched race in his Ferrari which included a spin at turn ten before he eventually pulled off the track with six laps to go.
To see the full result, CLICK HERE
while updated championship standings can be found HERE