Sebastian Vettel claimed a dominant victory in the Indian Grand Prix to extend his championship lead by another six points over title rival Fernando Alonso. The reigning World Champion now heads into the final three races of the season thirteen points ahead of the Spaniard, with 75 available. Following victories in Singapore, Japan and Korea, Vettel has for the first time won four Grands Prix in succession.
“It has been an incredible two years for us here to get pole on Saturday and win the race on Sunday,” said Vettel.
“I don’t know what it is about this circuit but I really like the flow of it. Big thanks to the team, as I said on the radio, every single one is pushing very hard and I think there’s not one thing that stands out.
“I’m glad to be part of that and just enjoying the moment.”
Behind him, Alonso drove impressively to finish second, after starting fifth. Webber completed the podium, with the McLaren’s of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button fourth and fifth.
Vettel led off the line from pole position and never looked back. The German led from lights to flag, building a 28 second lead before his one and only pit stop on lap 33, emerging a full 12 seconds in front of his team-mate Mark Webber. In doing so, Vettel became the first man since Ayrton Senna to pick up a hat trick of wins and lead every single lap in the process.
It was a race generally lacking in wheel-to-wheel action, with the notable exception of the opening lap. Hamilton, Button and Alonso enjoyed a tremendous tussle behind the Red Bulls, from which Button emerged the winner and Hamilton the loser in fifth, two places behind his starting grid position.
On lap five, Alonso used his DRS to sweep passed Button into turn four, to take third place. Two laps later, it was Hamilton’s turn to make a move on the 2009 World Champion, who slipped back to fifth.
The McLaren mechanics changed five wheels on Hamilton’s car at his pit stop, after the 2008 World Champion complained of down-shift problems with his steering wheel. Button meanwhile finished almost half a minute behind the winner. Setting the fastest lap on his final tour was scant consolation.
Further back, Kimi Raikkonen endured a frustrating afternoon in the Lotus stuck behind the Ferrari of Felipe Massa. The Brazilian switched to the hard compound tyre a lap later than his former team-mate. When he emerged from the pit lane marginally in front of the Finn, the 2007 World Champion pounced, making an incisive pass into turn three. One corner later though, Massa used his DRS to opportunistically cruise back past Raikkonen, who remained there until the chequered flag.
There was more misery for Michael Schumacher, who retired for the eighth time this season. The seven times World Champion – who will hang up his helmet for good at the end of the season – had a difficult afternoon. After slamming into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne in Singapore, the Frenchman repaid him the favour, causing the German a right-rear puncture. Schumacher was later under investigation by the stewards for ignoring blue flags, before finally retiring five laps from the end.
Elswhere, Nico Hulkenberg will have pleased his team and sponsors will a well-earned eighth place finish in the Force India, while Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna finished in the last of the points-paying positions.
Fernando Alonso was undoubtedly the driver of the day though – yet another heroic performance from the Spanaird, passing both McLaren’s early on, before breezing past Webber, who was without KERS, on lap 48.
As for the championship, it would take a brave man to bet against Vettel becoming only the third man in Formula One history – after Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher – to win three World Championships on the bounce. The momentum may be with Vettel, but there is time yet for the kind of bad luck that beset Alonso in Belgium and Japan to hinder the German’s march towards championship glory.