Sebastian Vettel extends his lead in the Formula One world championship to 13 points with a fourth consecutive victory in the Indian Grand Prix.
By winning the Buddh International Circuit, his 26th career in the sport, the German has set new records by becoming the first driver to lead three races from start-to-finish since Ayrton Senna in 1989. In addition, he has led for 206 consecutive laps when compared to Senna’s 264.
As for his championship rival Fernando Alonso, the Ferrari driver drove a fantastic race to minimise the damage to his title bid by battling through to second position.
Red Bull’s rivals may have claimed pre-race that they were determined to prevent Vettel making a clean break, but the champion team actually looked more dominant than ever on lap one, as Vettel and Mark Webber disappeared into the distance while the McLarens and Ferraris battle with each other.
Alonso managed to draft past both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button on the long straight thanks to the Ferrari’s superior straight-line speed, then saw them go back around him – one either side – at Turn 4.
Button came out best and took third, with Alonso managing to get back past Hamilton into fourth position.
Alonso then overtook Button for third place as soon as DRS became available. Hamilton did likewise soon afterwards.
Third seemed to be Alonso’s limit until the second half of the race, when Webber began drifting off Vettel’s superior pace and into the sight of the Spaniard’s Ferrari.
As Webber reported a lack of KERS, Alonso stepped up his chase despite the issue in trying to conserve fuel.
With ten laps to go, Alonso was able to use his superior straight-line speed advantage to breeze past Webber.
As for Vettel, there were some unusual sparks appearing under Vettel’s car and it will be interesting to see if his RB8 will pass post-race scrutineering. The plank must be at a minimum width and any wear could result in disqualification.
The most impressive action was in the pits, in particular Lewis Hamilton pit stop that required a rapidly fitted new steering wheel as well a new set of Pirellis. All five wheels were changed in just 3.1 seconds.
Lewis Hamilton gave chase after Mark Webber in the final moments but could not separate the Red Bull from the podium.
Button finished in a lonely fifth, losing valuable time behind a yet-to-stop Romain Grosjean.
Felipe Massa resisted Kimi Raikkonen for sixth. The Lotus jumped the Ferrari by pitting one lap later, only for Massa to use DRS to immediately re-pass his rival.
Grosjean fell into the midfield at the start, then recovered with some successful overtaking and by running until lap 36 before pitting for a fresh set of soft compounds from Pirelli.
The Lotus got back up to ninth position, chasing Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India.
Hulkenberg had initially sparred with Sergio Perez, but the Sauber made an early pitstop then retired after picking up a puncture while fighting with Daniel Ricciardo’s.
Perez was one of three drivers who sustained tyre damage in combat. Jean-Eric Vergne tagged Michael Schumacher at the first corner of the race, breaking the Toro Rosso’s wing and slicing into the rear tyre on the Mercedes.
Pastor Maldonado also got a puncture in a tussle with Kamui Kobayashi. But Bruno Senna saved the Williams team day with an assertive drive to tenth that included a late pass on Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes.
So not the most dramatic Indian Grand Prix and yet in terms of the championship, only 13 points separate race winner Sebastian Vettel and runner-up Fernando Alonso with only three races left.
As for the battle in the constructors’ championship, Red Bull Racing extends their lead and could win the title unless Ferrari outscores them by five points or McLaren by 15.
Indian Grand Prix race results after 60 laps:
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1h31:10.744
2. Alonso Ferrari +9.437
3. Webber Red Bull-Renault +13.217
4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes +13.909
5. Button McLaren-Mercedes +26.266
6. Massa Ferrari +44.600
7. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault +45.200
8. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes +54.900
9. Grosjean Lotus-Renault +56.100
10. Senna Williams-Renault +1:14.900
11. Rosberg Mercedes +1:21.600
12. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes +1:22.800
13. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1:26.000
14. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari +1:26.400
15. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
16. Maldonado Williams-Renault +1 lap
17. Petrov Caterham-Renault +1 lap
18. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault +1 lap
19. Pic Marussia-Cosworth +1 lap
20. Glock Marussia-Cosworth +2 laps
21. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth +2 laps
22. Schumacher Mercedes +5 laps
Fastest lap: Button, 1:28.203
De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 41 laps
Perez Sauber-Ferrari 21 laps
World Championship standings, round 17:
1. Vettel 240
2. Alonso 227
3. Raikkonen 173
4. Webber 167
5. Hamilton 165
6. Button 141
7. Rosberg 93
8. Grosjean 90
9. Massa 89
10. Perez 66
11. Kobayashi 50
12. Hulkenberg 49
13. Di Resta 44
14. Schumacher 43
15. Maldonado 33
16. Senna 26
17. Vergne 12
18. Ricciardo 9
1. Red Bull-Renault 407
2. Ferrari 316
3. McLaren-Mercedes 306
4. Lotus-Renault 263
5. Mercedes 136
6. Sauber-Ferrari 116
7. Force India-Mercedes 93
8. Williams-Renault 59
9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 21
Next race: Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina. November 2-4.