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GP Week : Issue 122
Team-By-Team: European Grand Prix, Valencia McLaren were knocked back to earth with a bang in Valencia as they played second fiddle to Ferrari in the battle behind Red Bull. Although Hamilton qualified in third, he was immediately jumped by both Ferraris at the start and the race pace of his McLaren was not up to scratch. Although he was able to stay ahead of Massa from the first round of stops, he finished 36 seconds behind Alonso. Button came home in sixth after a lonely race. He was hampered by a KERS failure from half- distance, costing him up to half a second per lap. Sebastian Vettel put the disappointment of Canada behind him to secure his sixth win in eight races in Valencia after driving another one of his characteristically error-free races from pole. By adding fastest lap and pole position to his achievements, he scored the second hat-trick of his career, and his first of the year. Team-mate Webber had to settle for third after a race-long battle with Alonso. He was ahead, then behind, then ahead and finally behind, before easing off with a gearbox problem in the closing laps. Poor starts for both drivers at lights-out cost Renault dearly in Valencia, as Nick Heidfeld struggled through to 10th place to score one championship point. Having looked the closest challengers to Mercedes during the weekend, Heidfeld was surprised to finish behind a Force India and a Toro Rosso, having lost the place to Sutil at the start and was never able to regain it, while Alguersuari’s two-stop strategy got him ahead. Petrov dropped four places after bogging down at the start, and took the flag in 15th after struggling to keep his tyres alive. A bitter-sweet afternoon in the Mercedes camp as Rosberg returned to the points in seventh but team-mate Schumacher finished down in 17th after losing his front wing in a lap 15 accident with Renault’s Vitaly Petrov. As has been seen in previous races, the W02 lost a lot of time early in the race on high fuel, coping badly with tyre wear, but the damage done was futile at worst as they didn’t have the pace of the front-runners in the closing stages either. Without the collision and subsequent pitstop for repairs, Schumacher could have finished 8th or 9th. Williams were beaten to the points by strategy in Valencia, after putting Rubens Barrichello on the conventional three -stop strategy compared to a one-stop and two- stop strategy of Perez and Alguersuari ahead of him. Barrichello was disappointed not to score points for the third race in a row, but was pleased to finish so close. Maldonado’s race was all but over after a terrible start put him back in 22nd from 15th on the grid, but got even worse when he had to pit early because of low tyre pressures. That forced him onto a three-stop strategy, compromising him even more and leaving him 18th at the finish. One of Ferrari’s best races of the year and well- timed it was to coincide with Alonso’s second home race. Alonso climbed to third at the second corner after overtaking Hamilton and Massa around the outside before battling race- long with Webber. He DRSed the Red Bull on lap 21, but fell behind during the second stops when Webber pitted earlier. He got back in front when Webber went onto the slower tyre too early at the final pitstop, but was unable to challenge Vettel. A poor second stint for Massa cost him the chance for fourth, putting him 5 seconds behind Hamilton at the finish. 32