Fangio, Prost, Schumacher, and now Sebastian Vettel. The Red Bull driver has become only the fourth four-time Formula One World Champion with an untouchable drive to victory in the Indian Grand Prix, ahead of Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean, who put in one of the drives of the season to go from 17th to 3rd in the Lotus.
It was fitting that Vettel should clinch it with a win. It is the 36th victory of the German’s career – his sixth in succession, a new record – taking his tally of wins in 2013 to ten. It is the 36th victory of his 117 race career.
“It is a pleasure to jump in the car and go out and drive for the guys and give it all I have,” he said. “The car was phenomenal today and has been phenomenal all season to be honest.
“I want to say a big thank you to everyone who is behind the team, it has not been an easy season,” added an emotional Vettel on the podium. “From the outside people will think it was easy but it wasn’t.
“It has been hard for me in particular, to be booed when I have not done anything wrong was hard but I think I answered the things on the track which I am very pleased about. I am overwhelmed, I don’t know what to say but it is the best day of my life so far.”
It is also the fourth consecutive Constructors’ Championship for Red Bull. As the current V8 formula comes to an end, with hybrid turbos and new rules wiping the slate clean next year, Red Bull and its technical chief Adrian Newey have been as dominant as their young Champion these past four years.
Meanwhile Mercedes moved ahead of Ferrari into second place thanks to Rosberg’s result.
Several teams, including Lotus and Force India, defied Pirelli’s advice and ran the medium tyre for longer than the stipulated 35 laps. Raikkonen did over 50 laps on a set of mediums, Grosjean 47. The FIA refused to enforce Pirelli’s advice, but there were suggestions that there would be trouble if safety was risked.
Despite his large winning margin – almost 30 seconds over Rosberg – it wasn’t a straight forward win for Vettel, as he had to pit as early as the second lap to get off the unfavoured soft tyre, he then had to pass a lot of cars. He set about charging through the field to second and hunted down long-running Mark Webber, who had inherited the race lead as those ahead pitted.
But Webber’s chance of the win had been compromised by a poor start dropping to seventh from fourth as he tangled with Alonso and Raikkonen. Later in the race his alternator failed and he retired the car.
Webber began the race on the medium compound tyre, established an eight second lead as the cars on softs pitted. He went on to lead the race until his first stop on lap twenty-nine. On the softs he had hoped to chase down Vettel for the race lead, only for the grip levels to drop within three laps and necessitate a switch back to the medium tyre, leaving the Australian out of contention.
From here Vettel established a twenty-seven second lead over second place and was able to cruise home to a historic feat in motor sport.
Behind him there was some exciting battles for the final podium places.
Felipe Massa jumped the Mercedes pair of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap and maintained his lead over them for two thirds of the race. As Rosberg closed in on Massa, the German pitted to under-cut the car ahead.
When Massa followed suit two laps later, Rosberg had taken the position and set about chasing the long-running cars ahead. This included Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez and Adrian Sutil, each running long stints on the medium tyre.
As Perez and Sutil pitted, Raikkonen tried to complete the race on one-stop but quickly fell in to the clutches of the cars behind. First, Rosberg took second place from the Finn, before the sister Lotus of Romain Grosjean claimed third place following a slight touch between the two. Raikkonen had suffered with overheating brakes in the first third of the race.
Grosjean started in 18th place and went deeper in to the race on the soft tyre than others could. A pit-stop to change to the medium tyre proved to be the only stop necessary as he nursed his car through the field on ageing tyres to take a third podium in a row.
After losing out to Massa, Perez and Hamilton, Raikkonen pitted on the penultimate lap with a large gap behind him to end the day in seventh place.
The top ten was completed by the Force India pair and Daniel Ricciardo. Paul Di Resta led Adrian Sutil home at an important Grand Prix for the team, in the process collecting important points for the Championship.
Ricciardo had a strong race to tenth, keeping Fernando Alonso at bay in the closing stages.
Alonso began today as the only driver who could stop Vettel winning a fourth consecutive title, and his chances were ruined after one corner. Contact with Webber saw him sustain damage to his front-wing and pit on the second lap, after hoping to run long in to the race on the medium tyre.
Vettel celebrated his win with a string of doughnuts and burn-outs in front of the pits grandstand. He was reprimanded by the stewards.
INDIAN GRAND PRIX, New Delhi, Race, 60 Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1h31:12.187
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes + 29.823
3. Romain Grosjean Lotus + 39.892
4. Felipe Massa Ferrari + 41.692
5. Sergio Perez McLaren + 43.829
6. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes + 52.4
7. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus + 1:07.900
8. Paul Di Resta Force India + 1:12.800
9. Adrian Sutil Force India + 1:14.700
10. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso + 1:16.200
11. Fernando Alonso Ferrari + 1:18.200
12. Pastor Maldonado Williams + 1:18.900
13. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso + 1 lap
14. Jenson Button McLaren + 1 lap
15. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber + 1 lap
16. Valtteri Bottas Williams + 1 lap
17. Max Chilton Marussia + 2 laps
18. Jules Bianchi Marussia + 2 laps
19. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber + 6 laps