Jenson Button, who put up a strong fight, finishes second ahead of Alonso

From pole to finish, interspersed with a fastest lap time (1:27.49s), it was masterful driving by Sebastian Vettel — who is already being revered as a legend in Formula One — at the Grand Prix of India here on Sunday. The Red Bull driver's 11th victory of the season (21st of his career) meant that he is still on course to equalling the legendary Michael Schumacher's record of 13 Grands Prix wins in a season.

Once again, at the core of Vettel's victory was his impeccable tyre management. He started off with soft tyres and drove on majestically without even the slightest hint of discomfort on a track rendered dirty at a few places by cars often straying off line and churning up dust from the run-off area. It was only during his second and final pit stop, with 13 laps to go, did the German switch over to hard tyres.

Early in the race, Jenson Button of McLaren put up a strong fight in an attempt to take the lead, but was thwarted by the RB7 — Kinky Kylie as Vettel fondly calls it — which packed tremendous power, especially on the straights. The difference of 8.433 seconds that Vettel had over Button in the end meant that the McLaren driver simply didn't have the speed in his car to pull off a miracle.

“It was a very good race for us and I enjoyed it. I had a bit of a fight with Jenson in the distance who was always around four seconds away, but strangely he kept closing in around the pit stops,” Vettel said.

“The car was very well balanced and it was a fantastic race today. Thanks to the whole team who have done an exceptional job so far this season,” he added.

Fantastic manoeuvre

Nevertheless, it was a satisfying weekend for Button who finished second after having started fourth from the grid. He outstripped Vettel's teammate Mark Webber from the outside in a fantastic manoeuvre on Turn One in the first lap to get into second position.

Webber briefly challenged Button, employing the DRS (Drag Reduction System) and working up speeds of over 312kmph. He tried to take the Briton on, on the inside but found no room to spear his car through. Thereafter the Red Bull driver's challenge petered out and Button drove on unhindered to take the second place.

Webber who pitted for a tyre change in the 39th lap saw Alonso, who had made his first stop as early as the 17th lap, move ahead of him to third place, a position the Ferrari driver would never relinquish. With that ended Red Bull's hope of finishing 1-2 in the race.

“We lost the podium in the middle of the race really. It's pretty much the general story of this year: I just don't have the pace at the end of the stints, so I run out of tyres and then lose strategy. It means I have to pit earlier and it makes life harder. In the end, I wasn't quick enough,” Webber explained.

Meanwhile Felipe Massa of Ferrari, who appeared to be working up good pace, went wheel-to-wheel with Lewis Hamilton (on Turn 5, Lap 24) for the sixth time this season which threatened to put both drivers out of the race. Fortunately for them the two drivers survived to carry on. Massa was handed a drive-through penalty, while Hamilton had to pit to replace a broken wing that cost him plenty of time.

“I can only say I do not share the opinion of the stewards who inflicted the punishment. I simply stayed on line, braking on the limit and staying on the part of the track that was rubbered in. What else could I do?” he said.

Things only got worse for the Brazilian as he had to retire following a broken left front suspension in the 33rd lap.

Hamilton, on the other hand, soldiered on to finish seventh, behind Michael Schumacher (Mercedes, fifth) and Nico Rosberg (also Mercedes, sixth).

The results:

1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1 hour, 30:35.002 seconds; 2. Jenson Button (McLaren) +00:08.443; 3. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 00:24.301; 4. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 00:25.529; 5. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) 01:05.421; 6. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 01:06.851; 7. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 01:24.183; 8. Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso) 1 lap; 9. Adrian Sutil (Force India) 1 lap; 10. Sergio Perez (Sauber) 1 lap; 11. Vitaly Petrov (Renault) 1 lap; 12. Bruno Senna (Renault) 1 lap; 13. Paul Di Resta (Force India) 1 lap; 14. Heikki Kovalainen (Team Lotus) 2 laps; 15. Rubens Barrichello (Williams) 2 laps; 16. Jerome d'Ambrosio (Virgin) 3 laps; 17. Narain Karthikeyan (HRT) 3 laps; 18. Daniel Ricciardo (HRT) 3 laps; 19. Jarno Trulli (Team Lotus) 5 laps. Retired: Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 28 laps; Sebastien Buemi (Toro Rosso) 36 laps; Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 48 laps; Timo Glock (Virgin) 58 laps; Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) 60 laps.

Drivers' championship:

1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 374; 2. Jenson Button (McLaren) 240; 3. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 227; 4. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 221; 5. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 202; 6. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 98; 7. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP) 75; 8. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes GP) 70; 9. Vitaly Petrov (Renault) 36; 10. Nick Heidfeld (Renault) 34; 11. Adrian Sutil (Force India) 30; 12. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) 27; 13. Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso) 26; 14. Paul Di Resta (Force India) 21; 15. Sebastien Buemi (Toro Rosso) 15; 16. Sergio Perez (Sauber) 14; 17. Rubens Barrichello (Williams) 4; 18. Bruno Senna (Renault) 2; 19. Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 1; 20. Pedro de la Rosa (Sauber) 0; 21. Jarno Trulli (Team Lotus) 0; 22. Heikki Kovalainen (Team Lotus) 0; 23. Vitantonio Liuzzi (HRT) 0; 24. Jerome d'Ambrosio (Virgin) 0; 25. Timo Glock (Virgin) 0; 26. Narain Karthikeyan (HRT) 0; 27. Daniel Ricciardo (HRT) 0; 28. Karun Chandhok (Team Lotus) 0.

Constructors' championship:

1. Red Bull (595); 2. McLaren-Mercedes (442); 3. Ferrari (325); 4. Mercedes (145); 5. Renault (72); 6. Force India (51); 7. Sauber (41); 8. Toro Rosso (41); 9. Williams (5); 10. Lotus (0); 11. HRT (0); 12. Virgin (0).


Vettel scorches his way to victory October 30, 2011

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