Sebastian Vettel became the youngest four-time Formula 1 world champion after taking the chequered flag in style at the Indian Grand Prix.
The Red Bull Racing driver converted his pole position into the lead at the first corner at the Buddh International Circuit and despite the differences in tyre strategy, the defending world champion was on fine form to race against his rivals.
Vettel started on Pirelli’s soft tyres and was the first driver into the pits for the medium compound at the end of the second lap.
Once Felipe Massa’s Ferrari and the Mercedes pair of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton had got rid of their softs, Mark Webber was left in front while the German battled through the pack.
A combination of passing moves and pitstops for others quickly moved Vettel up from P18 to fifth. Despite being in traffic, he cut an 18-second deficit to his Red Bull team-mate to 11-second by the time the Australian made his first stop on lap 28.
By that point Vettel had passed Romain Grosjean’s Lotus, his future team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren’s Sergio Perez, meaning he retook the lead at this point.
Both Red Bull drivers made their final stops by lap 33, with the team adopting a similar, short-stint strategy on softs for Webber.
Webber’s 11-second deficit to Vettel before those final stops became one of more than 13-second after them, leading to the team instructing the German to ease his pace and protect his tyres.
It became irrelevant after ten laps when Webber was forced to retired from second position after suffering an alternator problem.
Webber’s misfortune promoted Kimi Raikkonen to second place, the Lotus driver attempting to make it to the finish with a 52-lap stint on medium Pirellis.
But The Iceman could not hold off the two-stopping Rosberg, who used his DRS to ease into second with eight laps to the flag. He finished 29-second behind Vettel as Red Bull clinched the constructors’ title.
Raikkonen’s pace during the final few laps was over a second slower than those chasing him, including his team-mate Grosjean, whose rubber was 46 laps old by the end.
The Frenchman, who started in P17, pulled onto Raikkonen’s tail with four laps to go and passed the Finn for third at the exit of Turn 4, only to cede back the place immediately to avoid a penalty.
Raikkonen let Grosjean by further around the lap to allow him to finish on the podium for a third consecutive race. He was then passed by Massa for fourth as they crossed the start/finish line seconds later.
The battling Hamilton and Perez were with Raikkonen a lap-and-a-half later, Perez using his DRS and KERS to pass both down the back straight and take fifth – his best result since joining McLaren last winter.
Raikkonen, who lost sixth to Hamilton during the same move, pitted for fresh rubber with just two laps to the end, but was able to remain ahead of Paul di Resta and set the race’s fastest lap.
Di Resta and Adrian Sutil made it two Force Indias in the points with Ricciardo completing the top ten.
Fernando Alonso, the only driver who arrived in India with a chance of denying Vettel the title, had a race fraught with incidents.
He stopped early for tyres and a new front wing after clipping Webber’s rear wing and damaging his nosecone at the exit of the Turn 1, and then banged wheels with Jenson Button two corners later.
The Ferrari driver spent his entire race in the midfield and finished P11 after stopping three times. And battling with Ricciardo, Pastor Maldonado and Button late on.
Nico Hulkenberg drove strongly all weekend and was on course for eighth when he pitted near the end with a problem with the floor of his Sauber. He retired with three laps left.
So, a remarkable victory for the 26-year-old German. Sebastian Vettel is now the sport’s youngest four-time world champion and joins the list of greats of achieving the ultimate prize.
Red Bull Racing also won the constructors’ title for the fourth consecutive season. With both championships done, the driver and team can now enjoy themselves in the remaining three races of the 2013 season.
Indian Grand Prix race results after 60 laps:
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1h31:12.187
2. Rosberg Mercedes +29.823
3. Grosjean Lotus-Renault +39.892
4. Massa Ferrari +41.692
5. Perez McLaren-Mercedes +43.829
6. Hamilton Mercedes +52.475
7. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault +1:07.988
8. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes +1:12.868
9. Sutil Force India-Mercedes +1:14.734
10. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1:16.237
11. Alonso Ferrari +1:18.297
12. Maldonado Williams-Renault +1:18.951
13. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
14. Button McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
15. Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari +1 lap
16. Bottas Williams-Renault +1 lap
17. Chilton Marussia-Cosworth +2 laps
18. Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth +2 laps
19. Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari +6 laps
Fastest lap: Raikkonen, 1:27.679
Webber Red Bull-Renault 40 laps
Pic Caterham-Renault 36 laps
van der Garde Caterham-Renault 2 laps
World Championship standings, round 16:
1. Vettel 322
2. Alonso 207
3. Raikkonen 183
4. Hamilton 159
5. Webber 148
6. Rosberg 144
7. Massa 102
8. Grosjean 102
9. Button 60
10. Hulkenberg 49
11. Di Resta 40
12. Perez 33
13. Sutil 28
14. Ricciardo 19
15. Vergne 13
16. Gutierrez 6
17. Maldonado 1
1. Red Bull-Renault 470
2. Ferrari 309
3. Mercedes 303
4. Lotus-Renault 285
5. McLaren-Mercedes 93
6. Force India-Mercedes 68
7. Sauber-Ferrari 55
8. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 32
9. Williams-Renault 1
Next race: Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina. November 1-3.