Mark Webber won the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix from the pole position for Red Bull on Sunday while the drama took place behind him.
Webber held off teammate Sebastian Vettel at the start to claim his first victory of the season and third overall ahead of former world champion Fernando Alonso in a Ferrari and Vettel, who limped to third with brakes problems.
Lewis Hamilton was riding towards what seemed an assured second place but the McLaren driver’s chances were ruined by a puncture in the penultimate lap, which sent him crashing out.
Reigning champion Jenson Button came fifth to retain the lead in dramatic championship with 68 points from five of 19 races. Alonso has 67, Vettel 60 and Webber 53. Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg had a race to forget with a bad start and a pit stop problem to finish outside the points and remain on 50 overall.
All cars were upgraded ahead of the first race in Europe on the Circuit de Catalunya, but Red Bull were tipped to rule the race after an emphatic qualifying session from Webber and Vettel on Saturday.
Vettel tried to pass Webber at the start but the Australian would not bow as the top six men on the grid kept their place until the first pit stops after 15 laps.
Two Anglo-German duels then took centre stage.
Michael Schumacher stole fifth place from Button in the 16th lap in a great manoeuvre of the record seven-time champion who then successfully fended off Button’s attacks to finally finish fourth after Hamilton’s mishap, the best finish in his comeback season.
Two laps later Hamilton edged past Vettel for second as the German had to ride out into the gravel to avoid a collision. Vettel’s agony appeared complete when he also lost third place on the podium to Alonso and limped to fourth amid major brakes concerns, but he was back on the podium when Hamilton met disaster in the 65th lap.
Webber, meanwhile, led by 11.6 seconds at the halfway mark and crossed the finish line in 1 hour 35 minutes 44.101 for an undisputed victory, 24 seconds ahead of Alonso and 51 ahead of Vettel.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa was sixth despite front wing problems, Adrian Sutil seventh in a Force India, Robert Kubica eighth in a Renault, Williams veteran Rubens Barrichello ninth and Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari salvaged one championship point in 10th place despite a drive-through penalty.
The F1 season continues next week with the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo.