Imperious Vettel rules in India
Sebastian Vettel has written his name in the Formula One history books once again, winning the first ever Indian Grand Prix at Greater Noida.
Vettel led from pole to flag, never at any point under pressure from his racing peers, eventually building a gap of over six seconds between himself and the rest of the field.
The German also set a new record for number of laps led in a Grand Prix, taking the title from previous record holder Nigel Mansell from the 1992 season.
And, as if his dominance was being at all questioned, he set the race’s fastest lap on his final circulation of the circuit: at 1 minute, 27.249 seconds.
‘Obviously it was a very good race for us,’ said Vettel, stating the obvious. ‘I enjoyed the time in the lead very much.’
‘Overall obviously a fantastic performance. Thanks to the whole team.
‘All in all it was fantastic. I’m very proud to be the first winner in India.’
Jenson Button finished best of the rest, and subsequently strengthened his claim for the same title in the year’s Drivers’ Championship.
McLaren looked to put Vettel under as much pressure at possible during the pit stops, but Red Bull’s flawless pit team, and their German driver’s expert racing meant Button’s lunges for first place were to no avail.
‘In the last race I really struggle don the first lap, so I wanted to redeem myself here,’ said Button.
‘After every pit stop we gained a little bit, [but] as soon as Seb [Vettel] got into a rhythm, I couldn’t do anything about it, really.
‘Yesterday was s disaster for me in qualifying, but I think we put it right here.’
Fernando Alonso filled the final place on India’s first podium with a consistent drive for Ferrari, aftter spending most of the weekend testing parts for the team’s 2012 car.
‘Happy to win the podium in this first race in India,’ said Alonso. ‘To taste the champagne is always nice.’
The three podium finishers went on to reflect on motorsport’s dark previous fortnight, with the tragic losses of IndyCar’s Dan Wheldon, and MotoGP’s Marco Simoncelli.
‘To be honest with you, it’s mixed emotions,’ said the race winner. ‘Last weekend we lost two of our mates. I didn’t know Dan Wheldon, but I got to know, this year, Marco Simoncelli.’
‘Yes, we are ready to take certain risks when we jump into the car, but we pray that nothing happens.
‘Our thoughts are with them at this moment.’
Button continued: ‘It’s a tough weekend for everyone in motorsport.’
It’s very difficult, especially with Dan. I knew Dan from an early age.
‘I think we should dedicate this first India race to Dan and Marco.’
Finally, Alonso added: ‘We all pray for them today, and try to go ahead but always remember these two fantastic people.’
Mark Webber finished a disappointing fourth after starting on the front row. He got away cleanly off the line – and even attempted to challenge Vettel’s lead – but couldn’t maintain his momentum.
Webber then had to defend hard from an attacking Button, who took only half a lap to take second place from the Australian by slipstreaming down the back straight.
He pushed towards the end of the race, extracting the most from the out of favour hard tyres. He got to within around a second of Alonso, but ran out of laps to make his move.
Michael Schumacher kept well away from Vitaly Petrov this weekend and finished fifth as a result.
He led home his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, who now sits only four points ahead of the seven-times World Champion in this year’s standings.
After his pole and second place finish in Korea two weeks ago, Hamilton could only manage P7 this weekend after reigniting his on-track rivalry with Massa.
On lap 24, while battling with the Brazilian, Hamilton took a dive for the apex of turn five and came into contact with the Ferrari’s left sidepod. He was forced to pit for a new front wing, while Massa continued.
Despite many believing the accident to be Hamilton’s fault, the stewards handed Massa the drive through penalty six laps later.
Jaime Alguersuari capped off one of Toro Rosso’s strongest weekends of the year. After qualifying inside the top ten with teammate Buemi on Saturday, the Spaniard came home with a solid eighth place.
A rare engine failure, however, prevented Buemi from a similarly strong finish, his Ferrari powerplant surrendering on lap 26.
Adrian Sutil’s ninth place finish ensured Force India scored some points on in its home Grand Prix, fending off a strong finishing Sergio Perez, the two rounding out the points paying places.
Felipe Massa was the highest profile retirement of the round, with the Ferrari driver again falling victim to the circuit’s high secondary kerbs.
The Brazilian, attempting to recover from his drive through penalty, ran wide on lap 34 to destroy his front left suspension, ending his already compromised race.
Along with Buemi, Maldonado also chalked up a DNF in India, with his gearbox failing after only 14 laps.
The penultimate and largely redundant round of the 2011 Formula One season kicks off in two weeks, 13 November, in Abu Dhabi.