Sebastian Vettel cruised to a dominant victory in the Indian Grand Prix to increase his lead in the World Championship ahead of Fernando Alonso, with Mark Webber in third.
The title is now a two horse race between Vettel and Alonso with three races to go.
In a fairly uneventful race, Vettel survived a late scare with a floor stay to take his fourth consecutive race victory and extend his Championship lead to 13 points over Alonso.
Vettel’s car began to produce sparks due to a loose skid block in the final dozen laps, giving Alonso some false hope, but the German managed to cope with the problem and even set his fastest lap on the final lap of the race.
Vettel lead every lap of the race, for the third race in succession – equalling a record of Ayrton Senna’s from the late 1980s. That stat tells you everything you need to know about the momentum Vettel and Red Bull enjoy, but Fernando Alonso limited the damage with a dogged drive to second place and says he is even more confident now of winning the world title. With three races to go the gap is just 13 points.
“I’m very pleased with today’s result,” said Vettel. “I pushed hard early on to open a gap. With hard tyres Ferrari and McLaren were very strong.
“I don’t know about (sparking like Hell), there were a lot of cars throwing sparks, there was nothing I was told was a problem or that I could feel.”
Up until lap 20 it had looked to be another one-two for Red Bull, but a KERS issue for Webber allowed Alonso to close up and pass the Australian, to minimise the points lost to the race winner. The two had been in a tight battle in the second phase of the Grand Prix and a resilient Webber had initially managed to put a gap between the two, but it was to be undone by the Ferrari’s much superior straight line speed in the extended DRS-zone.
“It was a fight all race through, because we could not lose more points, we are still convinced we can win this (win the title),” said Alonso. “Today is a Red Bull day again, but our day has to arrive in Brazil.
“Seb won four consecutively but before long this will finish and so when it does we must take the opportunity. We remain optimistic. Today was a KERS problem for Mark, the same can happen to Seb, so we must be ready. I remain 100 per cent confident that we will fight for this championship, and we will win it.”
Webber subsequently came under pressure from Lewis Hamilton, but the McLaren ran out of laps to make it on to the podium. McLaren’s rapid pit-stops reached new levels today when the crew were able to change all four tyres and the steering wheel for Hamilton in just 3.3 seconds.
Vettel has been unbeatable all weekend and he was never seriously troubled as he took his 26th career victory and provided an impressive stat; no other driver has led a lap in India in its two year history.
Prior to the race Red Bull knew that their start was key, even more so than normal, as the very long back straight could leave them susceptible to the McLaren’s and Ferrari’s when DRS was enabled. However, the Red Bull duo pulled away with ease during the first phase of the race.
Behind, both Jenson Button and Alonso managed to jump Hamilton in the first lap after they drove three abreast down the back straight and through the following two turns. But Alonso quickly took second place with the use of DRS on the fourth lap and Hamilton made the same move just two laps later. Button maintained fifth position for the remainder of the race, losing time to those ahead after being held up by a long running Romain Grosjean. Button went on to set the fastest lap of the race , even though he was the first of the leading cars to pit; seven laps before Vettel.
Vettel was able to make his first stint last very long on the option tyre and spent, giving himself the chance to look after his RB8 and cruise to the flag.
Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen took sixth and seventh place respectively after a race long battle. Massa had shown good pace in the first phase of the race, hassling Button for fifth place but he could not sustain the pressure on the prime tyre. Raikkonen did get past the Ferrari; he pitted one lap earlier and passed him, only to be quickly overtaken again in the DRS-zone.
Nico Hulkenberg, Grosjean and Bruno Senna completed the top ten and each had a strong race. Senna, in particular, scored a much needed point as he showed the kind of pace that we saw in free practice, passing Nico Rosberg late in the race. He spent much of the race in a battle with team mate Pastor Maldonado, only for the Venezuelan to receive a puncture after being tagged by Kamui Kobayashi.
Maldonado was one of three drivers to receive a puncture during the Grand Prix, with Jean-Eric Vergne and Michael Schumacher also having punctures through similar incidents.
[Additional Reporting: Matt Meadows
INDIAN GRAND PRIX, Buddh International Circuit, 60 laps
1. Vettel Red Bull 1h31:10.744
2. Alonso Ferrari + 9.437
3. Webber Red Bull + 13.217
4. Hamilton McLaren + 13.909
5. Button McLaren + 26.266
6. Massa Ferrari + 44.674
7. Raikkonen Lotus + 45.227
8. Hulkenberg Force India + 54.998
9. Grosjean Lotus + 56.103
10. Senna Williams + 1:14.975
11. Rosberg Mercedes + 1:21.694
12. Di Resta Force India + 1:22.815
13. Ricciardo Toro Rosso + 1:26.064
14. Kobayashi Sauber + 1:26.495
15. Vergne Toro Rosso + 1 lap
16. Maldonado Williams + 1 lap
17. Petrov Caterham + 1 lap
18. Kovalainen Caterham + 1 lap
19. Pic Marussia + 1 lap
20. Glock Marussia + 2 laps
21. Karthikeyan HRT + 2 laps
22. Schumacher Mercedes + 5 laps