A brilliant drive sees Alonso finish second ahead of Webber
The sense of déjà vu was unmistakable. Just as he had done last year at the Buddh International Circuit, Sebastian Vettel subverted the field in the Indian Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon to hammer out his fourth successive victory and the fifth of the season.
The win put Vettel (240 points) 13 points clear of his hustling Ferrari rival Fernando Alonso, who finished second.
It was a near perfect weekend for the Red Bull driver — near perfect in the sense that he dominated the three free practice sessions, won pole position and led every lap of the race before crossing the finish line nearly 10 seconds ahead of Alonso.
If only Vettel had set the fastest time — that belonged to Jenson Button of McLaren: 1:28.203s — he could have achieved another ‘Grand Chelem’ here.
“I think it’s been an incredible two years for us, both times to come here and win the race...There’s always a very nice trophy, so I am very happy to pick up another nice one this year. So, it’s a very special Grand Prix,” said Vettel after the race.
Vettel’s victory was never in doubt after he revved off to a magnificent start. Backed by a motor that packed a wallop and thundered down the straights as if charged by heavy-duty turbines, Vettel settled down comfortably in front with a lead of nearly 12 seconds over his team-mate Mark Webber. And half way into the race, it was clear that the Indian Grand Prix was Vettel’s to lose.
Alonso, without doubt, was the second best driver on view — not because he finished No. 2 in the race, but the manner in which he limited the damage to his world championship hopes.
It was a breath-taking drive from one of the finest and most skilful drivers of the modern era. Starting from fifth position on the grid, the Spaniard cleverly slip-streamed Hamilton after leaving the first corner in the first lap when DRS couldn’t be deployed. He next flipped open his DRS to breeze past Jenson Button in the fourth lap. Thereafter, Alonso bided his time in third place before attacking Webber in the 48th lap.
Webber, struggling for pace in the absence of KERS which switched on and off before dying out, put up a brave fight in a bid to keep Alonso at bay, but in vain. The Ferrari driver closed in on Webber (at one stage it looked as if Alonso would spear into the Red Bull driver) before moving on the outside and nudging past him with a crisp manoeuvre.
Alonso then tried to hunt down Vettel in the next couple of laps before giving up the chase, and wisely so, as the Prancing Horse simply lacked the speed to take the Red Bull out.
Meanwhile, Webber’s third place seemed to be under threat in the final stages as Lewis Hamilton opened his DRS and came close to upstaging the Australian. Webber, however, held his nerve and, as if on a wing and a prayer, just about managed to put his wheels beyond the line.
Hamilton finished fourth while his team-mate Button came in fifth.
The F1 convoy now moves on to the Yas Marina circuit for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 4.
The results: 1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:31:10.744, 2. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) +00:09.437; 3. Mark Webber (Red Bull) +00:13.217, 4. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) +00:13.909, 5. Jenson Button (McLaren) +00:26.266, 6. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) +00:44.674, 7. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) +00:45.227 8. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) +00:54.998, 9. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) +00:56.103, 10. Bruno Senna (Williams) +01:14.975, 11. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) +01:21.694, 12. Paul di Resta (Force India) +01:22.815, 13. Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) +01:26.064, 14. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) +01:26.495, 15. Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) +1 lap, 16. Pastor Maldonado (Williams) +1 lap, 17. Vitaly Petrov (Caterham) +1 lap, 18. Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham) +1 lap, 19. Charles Pic (Marussia) +1 lap, 20. Timo Glock (Marussia) +2 laps, 21. Narain Karthikeyan (HRT) +2 laps.
Retired: Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) +5 laps, Pedro de la Rosa (HRT) +18 laps, Sergio Perez (Sauber) +40 laps.
Fastest Lap: Jenson Button 1:28.203 on lap 60.
Standings: Drivers: 1. Sebastian Vettel 240, 2. Fernando Alonso 227, 3. Kimi Raikkonen 173, 4. Mark Webber 167, 5. Lewis Hamilton 165, 6. Jenson Button 141, 7. Nico Rosberg 93, 8. Romain Grosjean 90, 9. Felipe Massa 89, 10. Sergio Perez 66, 11. Kamui Kobayashi 50, 12. Nico Hulkenberg 49, 13. Paul di Resta 44, 14. Michael Schumacher 43, 15. Pastor Maldonado 33, 16. Bruno Senna 26, 17. Jean-Eric Vergne 12, 18. Daniel Ricciardo 9, 19. Timo Glock, Heikki Kovalainen, Vitaly Petrov, Jerome d’Ambrosio, Charles Pic, Narain Karthikeyan, Pedro de la Rosa 0.
Constructors: 1. Red Bull 407, 2. Ferrari 316, 3. McLaren 306, 4. Lotus 263, 5. Mercedes 136, 6. Sauber 116, 7. Force India 93, 8. Williams 59, 9. Toro Rosso 21, 10. Marussia, Caterham, HRT 0.