Indian Grand Prix: “IV”ettel

Sebastian Vettel secured his fourth consecutive Driver’s World Championship title at today’s Indian Grand Prix. The Red Bull driver far from cruised to the victory putting in a very competitive race. Rounding out the podium was Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and all the way from P17, Lotus’ Romain Grosjean.

Hamilton had a superb getaway off the grid, immediately moving in front of his team mate and putting pressure on Vettel. The German was having none of Hamilton’s advances and keep the Mercedes at bay. Massa was the only Ferrari to get a clean start of the grid. Making the most of the squabble through turn 1, the Brazilian snuck through on the inside passed the likes of Webber, Hamilton, and soon after Rosberg for P2. Webber had a rocky start, giving a shunt to Raikkonen and then straight into Alonso in the exit of turn 1. Further back on the grid, Van der Garde who was squeezed out of the exit of the first lap by Max Chilton, and subsequently forced to retire at the end of the lap. Gutierrez had a jump start, which he later served a driver through penalty for on lap 17

While Massa was chasing the Red Bull’s tail in P2, Alonso was having a disaster of an opening lap. The Ferrari suffered front wing damage following Webber’s shunt, but wasn’t making things any easier for himself as he touched wheels with the McLaren of Jensen Button. The rest of Alonso’s race proved to be just as scrappy as his start, eventually coming home in P11. Both Webber and Raikkonen came out relatively unscathed from their contact. The Red Bull on the superior medium compound tyres made up several places after some early pit stops. Race leader, Vettel was among the first to pit relinquishing the lead to Massa. Vettel came out in P17, and just to prove that he can still race from the back of the field, the German eased his way back through the field to P3 in just 11 laps.

Grosjean’s tyre management through out today’s race was nothing short of incredible. The Lotus driver found the race pace that the E21 was hiding during qualifying to carefully carve his way back through the field from an unlucky P17 all the way to the podium. It was a truly impressive race from a driver who has come so far in less than half a season. Lotus couldn’t seem to manage both driver’s strategies over the weekend, with Grosjean suffering on Saturday, but Kimi suffering where it counted. The team made an error choosing not to cover Hulkenberg’s final pit (possibly because the Sauber retired shortly after), but the tyre god couldn’t get his Pirelli’s through to the end of the race. The Finn relinquished the final podium position to his team mate on lap 56 after some harsh words from the pit wall. You have to admire Kimi’s style, replying with a cool “Don’t f***ing shout” as he moved to let his team mate through.

Ricciardo put in another impressive drive, nursing his tyres well through his first stint and spending a lot of time in P4. Perhaps he was trying to familiarise himself with the front of the field for next year. The Toro Rosso, running on the medium compound tyres pitted on lap 34 from the front of the field, and did well to finish just inside the points in P10. Vergne was less lucky today, but still putting in a good race, coming home in P13.

McLaren had a bipolar race, with Perez finishing well in P5, but Button well outside of the points in P14. Force India put on a show for their home crowd and finally had a double finish in today’s race with di Resta and Sutil in P8 and P9. Both Williams drivers finished with Maldonado P12 ahead of Bottas in 16. Max Chilton remains the only driver to finish every race this season, though largely because he’s so far behind any of the action. The Marussia finished ahead of team mate Bianchi in P17. It was an unfortunate double retirement for Caterham, with Pic coming into the pits on lap 35.

Webber had more than recovered from his more than shaky start, spending most of the race with a good shot at the podium. The RB9 was consistently putting in fastest lap times throughout the race, but an alternator issue saw Webber retire with just 11 laps until the chequered flag. Mark’s reaction to the radio message from the pit wall from heartbreaking, after a truly superb race. I have to admit it was nice to see Webber handle his retirement with his head held high, even if it was forced by his HANS system.

After falling back in pace initially, Rosberg found pace in the Mercedes during the second half of the race where Hamilton couldn’t seem to. Hamilton appeared to be lacking for grip and couldn’t make the pass by a defensive Massa. Webber’s retirement from the race benefited the Mercedes, as Rosberg rounded his race out nicely, starting and finishing in an impressive P2 on the podium.

The RB9 alternator issues haunted Sebastian during the final leg of the race, even being told to stop drinking from his water bottle*. Nevertheless Vettel nursed his car through to the chequered flag to become the four time consecutive World Championship Driver. The championship clearly meant just as much to Vettel today as his first in 2010. It was exhilarating to see the Red Bull driver truly earn his victory today. From his companions on the podium today, the most impressive drive would have to go to Grosjean. Red Bull were unable to secure both titles today, but I expect as the championship moves across the gulf to Abu Dhabi we’ll see them lock it down. Until then, śubharātri.

– Alex

* Possibly this was the team’s strategy in saving room for all the champagne

Qualifying Pole Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Podium Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
Romain Grosjean (Lotus-Renault)
Fastest Lap 1:27.679 Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus-Renault)
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