Spanish GP 2011: as it happened

12.55pm Hello and welcome to forumula1.com’s coverage of the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix.

“We can’t give you a guarantee, but we think it will work.” So says Sebastian Vettel, referring to his KERS system, the loss of which effectively ceded pole position to his team mate yesterday.

Webber, then, starts on pole, with the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso sure to be hot on the Bulls’ heels.

It’s hot and sunny in Barcelona, playing host to a race which will surely see a great many pit stops as the Pirelli rubber deteriorates. That was definitely the story in qualifying yesterday at any rate, with the softer compound the faster but the quicker to wear down.

They are lining up now and about to depart on the formation lap. The top ten are all on the soft tyres, but the question is how soon they will have to pit. It could be very.

Lap 1 And they’re off! The charge down to the first corner is led by Fernando Alonso! What a start from the Spaniard and he leads on home turf!

He’s followed by Vettel and Webber and Hamilton, Petrov, Schumacher and Rosberg. Button has tumbled down the field!

Lap 2 And they cross the line. What an absolutely sensational start from the home grand prix hero. He slid up the inside of both the Red Bulls, having left Hamilton dawdling on the line. A bit of a disaster, that start, for Webber, who’s now third, and Button, who fell down to tenth and is now behind a Toro Rosso.

Lap 3 Button is struggling to pass Buemi who is in that Toro Rosso. Kobayashi has had to pit with what looks like a puncture.

Lap 4 We’re now getting replays of the start and it was mighty close between Alonso and the Red Bulls, it could have been a massive accident if the Spaniard hadn’t jinked out of the way at the last millisecond. Supreme ability. Meanwhile, Schumacher also got a good start although it looked as though he might have had a little nudge from Massa, who is now eighth behind Rosberg.

Lap 5 Button has passed Buemi, finally.

Lap 6 There’s now a bit of a gap between the front four, Alonso-Vettel-Webber-Hamilton, and the fifth placed Vitaly Petrov.

Lap 7 Button is now hounding Massa for eighth. Massa locks up twice as he feels the pressure.

Lap 8 Perez has pitted for Sauber.

Lap 9 As does Maldonado, who did not make good on his top ten start at all. He was in 15th before he came in. And now Vettel does too! That’s a surprise, almost certainly meaning four stops for the German. He comes out and it’s oh so close between him and Button!

Lap 10 But he nails Button into Turn four! Uncompromising stuff from the German who must be spitting teeth that he’s in so early. And Vettel does Massa, and over the line…

Lap 11 Vettel takes Rosberg! And Webber and Alonso also pit to cover Vettel…Alonso emerges ahead of the fighting pack, well done to him. Webber is behind the lot of them.

Lap 12 Hamilton, Petrov, Rosberg, Massa all pitted on that lap. Hamilton is up into third on his exit. Button is in fifth but he hasn’t pitted yet.

Lap 13 Vettel is very close to Alonso and looks in determined mood. Hamilton is hanging onto the back of the two manfully.

Lap 14 They cross the line, 1-2-3, just like that. The three best in the business, nose to tail. I think these new regulations are nice. Button may be on three stops, we’re hearing, although he is a bit off the pace at the moment and that doesn’t look like the best strategy at this point.

Lap 15 Button’s in. After his stop the order is Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton, Webber, di Resta (yet to pit), Schumacher, Button, Petrov, Rosberg, Massa, Trulli, Buemi, Kovalainen, Heidfeld, Maldonado, Alguersuari, Perez, Liuzzi, Kobayashi, Glock, Sutil, d’Ambrosio, Barrichello and Karthikeyan.

Lap 16 Button swoops past Schumacher into Turn Two. Devastatingly easy.

Lap 17 “The DRS isn’t really working here, is it?” asks Martin Brundle rhetorically. No, it isn’t. The activation line is too far down the straight and that stupid chicane they put in a few years back prior to the last corner has ruined it.

Lap 18 Hamilton is looking hungry behind Vettel. Closer, methinks, than Vettel is to the leader Alonso.

Lap 19 And Vettel has dived into the pits just as Hamilton looked as though he would have him down the straight. Vettel has clear tarmac in front of him and will hop onto a fast out lap. Fernando Alonso, we hear, is set to follow him into the pits this lap.

Lap 20 And Hamilton was right on the back of the Ferrari as the Spaniard dived into the pits! And Alonso exits the pits….behind Vettel! The Red Bull has leapfrogged the Ferrari in the pits! The question is now whether Hamilton can rock that boat…

Lap 21 Hamilton sets the fastest lap of the race….he is on it now. How quickly can he get into the pits and out of them? It’s a real three-way battle here, Webber has fallen off the back of the battle and Button is not really in contention either.

Lap 22 The gap between Hamilton and Vettel is hovering around fifteen and a half seconds. Not enough to race him, perhaps, but definitely enough to get ahead of Alonso….

Lap 23 Webber is hounding Alonso, who has been lacklustre after his stop. I wouldn’t blame him for being a little miffed….he didn’t do much wrong and lost the lead to Vettel after a tardy pit stop. Hamilton has exhausted his rubber and needs to pit, now, McLaren…he is haemorraghing time to the leaders.

Lap 24 “They waited too long,” agrees Martin Brundle, on the subject of McLaren. But he’s in now….he comes out ahead of Alonso and Webber, but way way behind Vettel. A fight for second place, perhaps, is what the crowd are faced with for their man Alonso and his good mate Hamilton.

Lap 25 It’s now Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso, Webber, Button, Schumacher, Rosberg, Petrov, Buemi, Massa.

Lap 26 Vettel is keeping a fairly constant gap of around four and a bit seconds to Hamilton.

Lap 27 Ted Kravitz, in the pits for the BBC, believes McLaren think Button’s three stopper is a great idea. We will see, it’s a fool who bets on tyres this season.

Lap 28 Rosberg pits and exits quite a way behind Schumacher. The first time, truly, the elder German has had the upper hand.

Lap 29 Hamilton is reducing that gap now to Vettel.

Lap 30 Alonso and Webber pit together…and are released together! An unsafe release from Ferrari there? Only just ok, I reckon. Webber hasn’t given up, though.

Lap 31 Button pits.

Lap 32 The Englishman emerges into fifth.

Lap 33 Not a lot happening now, which is just about the first time this year that there has been a lull. Webber is still determined to take Alonso, though, and the Spaniard looks equally determined to keep him behind. They plunge into the first turn line astern…and is on his gearbox throughout the lap. He’s not close enough, and the DRS has not helped many people here.

Lap 34 “That fight might just put Jenson Button on the podium,” says Brundle insightfully. But Webber’s through! No he’s not! Alonso has taken him back and meanwhile Vettel has pitted again. Alonso was very uncompromising as he hustled his way back past.

Lap 35 Hamilton pits. He’s back out behind Vettel, but not so far…

Lap 36 Button does a banzai move down on Mark Webber into the first turn…There was the most delicate of kisses between them as the Frome man went through. And on the same lap, he’s past Alonso! What a move and what a succession of passes from the McLaren man! I may have to eat my words about this strategy of his. Although he is on the softs whereas the others are on the slower, harder tyre.

Lap 37 Alonso and Webber are still at it, now for fourth. They may yet have the last laugh over Button.

Lap 38 The hard tyre is majorly slow.

Lap 39 Massa spins. It’s a long time since that has happened, of drivers’ own accord. His blushes might be spared in that these tyres are in a class of their own.

Lap 40 Alonso is into the pits now for his fourth stop. Rosberg meanwhile is thrusting down the inside of Schumacher, who is resolutely not letting him past. That battle is for sixth place.

Lap 41 Webber is actually reasonably quick when he’s not got a Ferrari in front of him. He will still have to pit again.

Lap 42 Oddly, Alonso has opted for another set of hards. This is presumably because he thinks the softs would not go the distance. He will be surely surrendering a fair amount of time on track by doing that, won’t he? Elsewhere, Schumacher pits from sixth.

Lap 43 The order is Vettel, Hamilton, Button, Webber, Alonso, Rosberg, Schumacher, Massa, di Resta.

Lap 44 Hamilton can see Vettel ahead of him, by 1.4 seconds to be precise. This race is not over. Just as I was writing that, the Englishman had some difficulties with traffic. Nightmare.

Lap 45 It is now seeming as though Vettel’s KERS is malfunctioning. This is blood Hamilton can smell.

Lap 46 “We think Vettel has no KERS,” McLaren tell Hamilton.

Lap 47 Heidfeld takes 11th from his team mate Petrov. He started last on the grid, David Coulthard reminds BBC viewers, with a full set of all tyres. What exactly is the point of qualifying, then? It serves you better not to go out at all.

Lap 48 The gap between Hamilton and Vettel is now roughly a second. Meanwhile, Webber pits, emerging well ahead of his nemesis for the afternoon Alonso.

Lap 49 Vettel pits, 3.8 seconds stationary. Fast. Button dives in too, and the McLaren team better their counterparts by a tenth. The real test will come will Hamilton.

Lap 50 And it was 4.4 secs stationary for Hamilton, which may have lost him the race. They are a second and a bit apart with 16 laps remaining.

Lap 51 “Use KERS,” say Red Bull to Vettel. It’s working then?! He goes through Turn Seven to see Kovalainen in the gravel and the tyre wall.

Lap 52 The gap between Vettel and Hamilton is 1.8seconds or so. And this last lap, he went and took more than half a second out of him! It’s now back to 1.1seconds.

Lap 53 This gap is hopping around…it’s below a second now, although it got to more than 1.5 earlier on. Riveting stuff.

Lap 54 Vettel doesn’t seem to be using that KERS if it is working.

Lap 55 There’s traffic, which has put Hamilton right on Vettel’s gearbox. This is nailbiting.

Lap 56 It’s so close as they go over the line! But Vettel repels him…

Lap 57 This is fantastic stuff, although Hamilton doesn’t seem to be able to get close enough…McLaren recommend that he save all his KERS for the start-finish straight.

Lap 58 There’s no time to report on anything else, sadly, as this battle is consuming everyone’s attention.

Lap 59 Hamilton is as close as he’s been into turns one and two. Thirty seconds down the road, Button is third, with Webber fourth and Alonso a distant fifth. Ferrari’s woes are compounded as Massa loses successive places to Perez and Heidfeld.

Lap 60 Has Hamilton given up? It’s a great rearguard action from Vettel at the moment.

Lap 61 Massa retires.

Lap 62 Heidfeld gets past Perez for eighth. A fantastic drive from very last from the German, worthy of Kubica, the man he replaced.

Lap 63 There are four laps to go and Hamilton is still chasing Vettel doggedly. You have to wonder how long the pair’s tyres will last with the punishment they have been giving them.

Lap 64 Hamilton still a crucial three or four car lengths behind out of the last corner. Not good enough. Vettel’s KERS seems to be non-existent again.

Lap 65 It looks as though Hamilton won’t be able to do it, though. He locks up into turn three.

Lap 66 It’s the last lap now and what a battle it has been!

SEBASTIAN VETTEL WINS THE SPANISH GRAND PRIX

He is followed home by a hard-charging Lewis Hamilton, and eventually by Jenson Button to make it a McLaren two-three. Fourth was Mark Webber, with the local favourite Fernando Alonso fifth and Michael Schumacher sixth. Nico Rosberg filed in seventh with Heidfeld eighth and Perez and Kobayashi ninth and tenth respectively.

That’s all from me, thanks for following.