Sebastian Vettel returned to winning ways after missing out in China, claiming a comfortable lights-to-flag victory in the Turkish Grand Prix, round four of the 2011 F1 world championship.
Having blitzed qualifying to take pole position from Red Bull Racing team-mate Mark Webber by almost half a second, the German made the perfect start to lead into the tricky first turn at Istanbul Park, and was never troubled thereafter, only losing the lead briefly during his first pit-stop. By the end, the reigning world champion was eight seconds up the road, having made four flawless stops on a day when four proved more competitive than three.
Not that Vettel or Red Bull were able to relax totally, however, as, first, team-mate Webber, then, more surprisingly, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso kept close enough to be in position to take advantage of the slightest slip on track or in strategy, but the Red Bull's pit-wall, pit crew and young driver again proved inch perfect where others were less so.
As he had predicted in Saturday's post-qualifying press conference, Nico Rosberg initially provided Vettel with his closest opposition, the Mercedes man making the most of the clean side of the grid to vault past Webber off the line. Such was Vettel's prowess out front, however, he was already over a second clear as the pack flashed across the start-finish line at the end of the lap.
Further back, Lewis Hamilton also thought he had a run on Webber, but ran wide at turn three, not only allowing the Australian to escape, but also dropping behind both Alonso and McLaren team-mate Jenson Button. There was also contact deeper in the pack, with Sauber rookie Sergio Perez needing to pit for a new front wing at the end of the lap.
While Vettel, Rosberg, Webber and Alonso moved away at the front, Hamilton was quickly looking for a way past his team-mate, but had to wait until the DRS was activated before making a serious move. Turn eight on lap two was never going to be more than a sighter, and it eventually took until four laps later, at the end of the DRS zone into turn twelve for the two Britons to swap places. Button, however, was not going to take demotion lightly and, having been passed by Hamilton in China last time, decided that swift retribution was required.
Although his move on the start-finish straight was rebuffed in much the same way as it had twelve months earlier, one lap later, and close enough to use the DRS in retaliation, he drew alongside into the final complex and retook fifth place on the run past the pits.
Alonso, too, was on the move, using the Ferrari's adjustable rear wing to zap past Rosberg into turn twelve, before homing in on Webber, while Hamilton found himself falling prey to the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa, as the Brazilian also benefited from DRS on the long back straight. Both men then pitted immediately, their tyres coming to the end of their short life, and McLaren was able to redress the order, getting Hamilton away first. The Briton was all but alongside Massa when the Brazilian was released, but contact was avoided, as the Ferrari ran along the blue dividing line before dropping in behind its rival. Somewhat surprisingly, the Scuderia escaped sanction for an unsafe release.
The next lap saw a flurry of action in pit-lane, with Webber, Alonso, Rosberg, Nick Heidfeld, Rubens Barrichello and Adrian Sutil all stopping from top ten positions, while Vettel waited until lap eleven to take on a new set of Pirelli's softer tyres. With Button the only frontrunner yet to stop, the German briefly dropped into second place, but was able to rejoin just behind the McLaren, and pass it in the DRS zone at the end of the same lap. From that point on, only an error or mechanical problem was going to deny the world champion win number three on the season.