Vettel tightens grip on F1 title heading to Canada

MONACO (AP) - The Red Bull team failed to win the Monaco Grand Prix for the first time since 2009, though it felt like a victory for Sebastian Vettel as the three-time defending champion strengthened his overall lead heading into next month’s Canadian GP.

What a difference one race can make.

After the Spanish GP two weeks ago, Kimi Raikkonen trimmed Vettel’s lead to four points with a second-place finish behind Fernando Alonso, who had clawed back to within 17 points.

But that lead again feels a lot more secure after both challengers finished way out of contention in Monaco. After Vettel placed second behind Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, Alonso lagged behind in seventh and Raikkonen was 10th.

So, instead of looking over his shoulder, Vettel can feel euphoric going to Montreal in two weeks.

“Overall I’m happy and pleased with the result,” said Vettel, who is 21 points ahead of teammate Mark Webber, who was third in Monaco, and 29 clear of Alonso. “It was a good achievement by the team. We seem to like this place: two cars on the podium is very good.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner agreed.

“I think second and third was probably optimum from our grid positions,” he said.

Vettel has won two of the season’s six races, but felt he could have chalked up another win if the pace had been higher _ and if he’d found any room on Monaco’s sinewy, tube-like track.

“Usually you expect two silver arrows in front of you, but they were more like buses going for a cruise,” the German driver said. “They (Mercedes) were going slow and trying to make a one-stop happen. Fair play, they were in the lead, and it is very tricky to pass.”

Nor was there any sign of the much-publicized friction between Vettel and Webber over the weekend, after their fallout at the Malaysian GP, where Vettel avoided punishment despite ignoring team orders and overtaking to snatch victory away from his teammate.

Ferrari, meanwhile, needs a major boost in Montreal.

It was a bad race for the Italian team, with Felipe Massa crashing out of the race and ending up in a hospital, although the Brazilian only had precautionary checkups and was released soon after.

“I believe that in the space of a few days he will back in perfect shape,” Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said.

Massa was third two weeks ago in Barcelona, raising hopes that Ferrari could finally match Red Bull for pure racing speed after beating both of their cars at the Circuit de Catalunya.

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