Valencia, Spain, Jun 27 : Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel won his sixth race of the season at the European Grand Prix on Sunday to further strengthen his already commanding Formula One championship lead.
Vettel beat Fernando Alonso of Ferrari by 10.891 seconds for his second straight victory along Valencia's street circuit. It was the German's fifth win this season starting in pole and came in stifling 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) heat.
Red Bull teammate Mark Webber was third after starting on the front row, pushing Lewis Hamilton down to fourth. Felipe Massa of Ferrari split the McLarens after Jenson Button finished sixth.
Vettel, the defending F1 champion, extended his championship lead to 77 points with his 16th career victory. Vettel leads with 186 points, Button and Webber both have 109.
"Fantastic race -- better than anything I could have imagined," Vettel screamed over his car radio, before being handed the trophy in front of Spanish tenor Placido Domingo.
The F1 season has previously been marked by exhilarating overtaking, thanks to new technology and tires. However, those additions failed to spice up Sunday's race for the 85,127 fans at the notoriously hard to overtake America's Cup harbor course, even with a new engine regulation put into place this weekend that did nothing to dampen Red Bull's leading pace.
Instead, Vettel continued his dominating title defense with a sixth victory from eight races -- and second place in the other two.
"It's incredible this achievement and the steps the team has made in the past 2½ years," the young German driver said before brushing off fears he could sit on his lead now.
"I don't look at the (points) gap, it's a long season. We've had a phenomenal season and we have to continue that way, that's our target. The target is still to win races."We have to keep doing what we do and stay hungry."Red Bull has won 18 of the past 30 GPs stretching to 2009, when Button won six of the first seven races on his way to the title for Brawn.
Hamilton, who had finished runner-up here the last three years, stayed fourth with 97 points. Alonso trails Vettel by a huge 99 points on 87 after a second runner-up finish in three races.
"I think second place is the maximum we can have in these days, so to be here between the Red Bull cars is a great achievement," Alonso said after earning his first podium in Valencia. "We are definitely moving in the right direction, working to get closer to these guys."
Hamilton surrendered his third-place start with a terrible beginning as both Ferraris passed the McLaren driver, who has been under pressure to curb his aggressive driving style following incidents at the last two GPs.
"Damage control -- we did as much as we could. We're not fast enough, really," said Hamilton, who was almost ready to write off his hopes of catching Vettel after finishing 46 seconds behind.
"It's finished really, in the sense of the championship it's almost over already."
Button also surrendered sixth to Nico Rosberg at the first corner, but a sly pass later on recouped it to leave the McLarens trailing both the Red Bulls and Ferraris.
"I didn't mind losing out to Nico at the start because it was the only fun part, trying to get past him later," said Button, who failed to build on his dramatic Canadian GP victory two weeks ago. "To finish eight seconds behind a Ferrari after the problems we had is not bad."
After the first round of stops Hamilton had managed to get past Massa but still trailed Alonso, who was right on the back of Webber before passing the Australian at the end of the long straight near the close of lap 21.
Webber recovered his place by the second round of pits but then yielded back to Alonso after the final round of stops, but the Spanish driver's hopes of catching Vettel were hampered as he was slowed by traffic after coming out of the pits.Webber regretted his last pit stop.
"It was probably my best race of the year until the last pit stop," said Webber, who rued his decision to come in early to swap back to the soft tire while Alonso stayed out on the medium to get ahead. "It was my fault for missing second today. The three of us were nick and tuck to the end."
Rosberg finished seventh for Mercedes ahead of Jaime Alguersuari, whose seat at Toro Rosso has been under pressure. Adrian Sutil of Force India was ninth and Renault's Nick Heidfeld was 10th.
Sergio Perez's first race since crashing at Monaco yielded an 11th-place finish as Sauber opted for a one-stop strategy."It was not an easy Grand Prix for a comeback and I'm happy I was able to race again," the Mexican rookie said after finishing six places ahead of Michael Schumacher. The German was knocked all the way back to 22nd after a collision with Vitaly Petrov of Renault on the 15th lap.
It was the first time the entire field completed a race since the 2005 Italian GP, when HRT driver Narain Karthikeyan also finished last but with Jordan.The season continues on July 10 with the British GP. AP