Vettel wins thrilling Monaco Grand Prix

Vettel wins thrilling Monaco Grand Prix

Published May. 29, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

Defending Formula One champion 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 in which several drivers failed to finish.

Vettel's only loss came when McLaren's Lewis Hamilton beat him in China.

The German gambled by staying out on the same set of soft tires, turning the last 15 laps into a battle of wits as both Alonso and Button were on his tail.

That gamble looked ready to backfire until a crash on lap 72 resulted in a red flag that suspended the session just as he was close to being caught.


When the race resumed, Vettel had changed tires, and the last few laps became 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," Vettel said.

Alonso's second place is the best performance of the season for the two-time former F1 champion. However, Ferrari must be wondering what might have been, while Button will be exasperated at coming so close to winning again in Monaco.

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 failed to finish.

The safety car was out twice even before the late red flag in a chaotic, intense afternoon of motor racing.

Vettel, starting from the pole position for the fifth time, made a flying start under perfect 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 that this would be a comfortable win for Vettel, F1's youngest champion, proved unfounded as the most exciting race of the season featured almost as many twists and turns as Monaco's famed street circuit itself.

Vettel looked to be certain to be caught by Alonso or Button with the German losing time on every lap as the traction of his soft tires started giving way.

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 in the form of a tire change without the need for a pit stop.