Greater Noida: Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel capped a flawless weekend to bag his second Indian Grand Prix title at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC), which has so far been a happy hunting ground for him.
With Sunday’s triumph — his fourth consecutive win (1:31:10.744) — the German now has a 13-point lead in this season’s championship race.
The breathtaking race, in which Vettel cruised to the chequered flag in front of an enthusiastic 75,000-strong crowd, was followed by spontaneous celebration.
Vettel, after finishing the race with the fastest time in the final lap, stood on his car to wave at the spectators.
For the record, it was the first time since Ayrton Senna in 1989 that a driver has led every lap for three races in a row.
“It has been a great show, a great moment,” Vettel said. “To come here, get the pole and win the race is fantastic… It is a very special Grand Prix and I really like this circuit.”
Such was the champion’s domination at the Indian Grand Prix that it prompted someone to ask whether he actually designed the track.
Face lit up with a smile, Vettel said: “Yes, a very special GP... I don’t know what it is about this circuit, but I really like the flow of it… This win was another good step for us, but there’s still a long way to go.”
The 25-year-old German led from pole to the chequered flag to come home ahead of nearest championship rival Fernando Alonso of Ferrari (1:31:20.181). Vettel’s Red Bull teammate Mark Webber finished third (1:31:23.961), after he fended off a strong late challenge from Lewis Hamilton of McLaren, who finished fourth ahead of his teammate and fellow Briton Jenson Button.
Vettel was not even remotely challenged on Sunday, winning it even more easily than he did a year ago, on the same track. Once he shrugged off a ‘half’ challenge from Webber in the first corner, he controlled the race and was a runaway winner.
His only moments of concern were when, towards the end, his car generated a few sparks while braking and then when Alonso pushed ahead of Webber in the second place and began to bridge the gap. But otherwise, it would be apt to say that he won at a canter, 9.4s clear of Alonso.
The Spaniard, however, hasn’t given up on the season. With three races to go, 13 points separate him and Vettel and the Ferrari driver promised that he would not make things easy for the German.
“It is not easy to fight Red Bull but we will never give up… Well done Red Bull and Sebastian, but we want to be happy in Brazil, not only here. I am sure we will do it,” Alonso said, adding he was still optimistic about winning the drivers’ championship this season.
But despite the interesting contest between the top three drivers, it was a disappointing day for the great Micahel Schumacher.
The seven-time world champion, competing at the BIC for the last time before retiring at the end of the season, suffered a right rear puncture early in the race.
To make matters worse, as Schumacher struggled among the tailenders, he was reprimanded by the stewards for failing to obey blue flags which were waved to indicate that a driver is about to be passed by the leaders.
The German finally retired with five laps still to go.
Force India, the Indian team in fray, however had a field day when German driver Nico Hulkenberg delivered again by holding off a challenge from Lotus’ Romain Grosjean to finish eighth and log four points. Hulkenberg’s teammate Paul di Resta did not do too well and ended at the 12th sot.
And the sole Indian on the ‘driving’ seat, Narain Karthikeyan, finished 21st in his HRT. While Karthikeyan successfully nursed his brakes to get his car home as the final finisher in 21st, his teammate Pedro de la Rosa joined Schumacher and Sergio Perez in retirement after crashing because of a brake failure.
The Spaniard was unharmed. The Mexican, meanwhile, was fighting Hulkenberg for eighth early on when he sustained a cut rear tyre, and retired after two further stops.
The Airtel Indian Grand Prix Trophy was given away by Rakesh Bahadur, chairman, Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway Authority after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav expressed his inability on Sunday morning to attend the race.