Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor James Parker
Sebastian Vettel claimed his 3rd straight victory in India in dominant fashion and with that, has now gone on to be only the 3rd man in the history of the sport to achieve four straight World Drivers Championships behind only Schumacher and Fangio before him. Red Bull with that result, also went on to the claim the World Constructors Championship to top off what has been a fantastic 2013 season. 2nd was a solid Nico Rosberg who took a struggling Kimi Raikkonen late on, whilst the Lotus of Romain Grosjean, the man on form went on to claim his third consecutive 3rd place in three races to complete the podium.
Off the start, Lewis Hamilton made a great jump from 3rd place to overtake team-mate Rosberg round the outside into turn 1. Vettel covered both Mercedes cars off and retained his 1st place going into turns 2 and 3.
It was further back where the action started to kick off however. After being forced slightly wide off the turn 1 sausage kerb, a slow starting Webber first bounced into the side of Raikkonen before coming back across the road and directly colliding with the front wing of the following Ferrari of Fernando Alonso – something that would force the Spaniard into an early pit stop.
There was yet more action into turn 4, as the fast starting Massa jumped both Mercedes drivers down the long back straight with Rosberg also taking Hamilton into the tight hairpin – two places lost in the space of one corner for Hamilton.
The big story ahead of the race was how long the soft tyres would last on heavy fuel. Red Bull were obviously cautious, and by lap 3, Red Bull called in race leader Vettel to bolt on a set of medium compounds and get the soft tyre phase out of the way. He was followed in by Alonso on the same lap who pitted to replace his damaged front wing.
The initial laps allowed for some great overtaking. A recovering Webber, who dropped down to 6th after his first lap adventures, was up to 4th after passing the Lotus of Raikkonen into turn 4 on lap 6. Perez too pounced on a struggling Kimi on the soft tyres, as he took 5th place into the same corner.
After Vettel’s earlier stop on lap 3, Massa led from Rosberg, Hamilton and Webber. Rosberg was the first man to blink from this leading train on lap 8 with the Lotus of Raikkonen, and was soon followed by both Massa and Hamilton a lap later. Fortunately for Vettel, being clinical in traffic allowed him to rejoin back in the provisional lead ahead of both Massa and Rosberg, whilst Webber who started on the medium compound tyres was released up front to lap in clean air.
By lap 15, this strategy for Webber to run longer was not working, his team-mate was running 8 tenths faster and the Australian had only a 14 second lead, with a 21 second gap sufficient to jump Vettel.
The race settled down for several laps at this point, with Vettel on much fresher tyres closing in on the longer running Perez in 2nd place. By lap 21, the German had cruised up to the back of the McLaren and pulled a bold move into turn 4 at the end of the long back straight. This released the German to chase after his team-mate ahead.
After his earlier problems on lap 1, Alonso’s chances of claiming a 2nd place finish to keep the championship alive looked to be rapidly evaporating, as he was stuck fighting 13th place man Guttierez – taking the Sauber driver up the inside near the grass into the fast turn 5.
By lap 27, provisional 3rd place man Massa was starting to come under attack from the Mercedes of Rosberg behind. This scrap was allowing Hamilton behind to close up fast, and Rosberg was looking increasingly agitated after a couple of failed attempts to pass Massa into turn 4 and 5, meant he was starting to lose time hand over fist.
This meant Mercedes had to try something different, and Rosberg came in for his 2nd pitstop on lap 28 to undercut the Ferrari driver on a second medium tyre stint. The following lap, both Webber and Perez pitted for the first time, both drivers opting to bolt on the soft compound tyres to get that phase out the way – Webbber rejoining behind Vettel whilst Perez joined the Massa, Hamilton Hulkenberg scrap.
Rosberg’s earlier pitstop meant both Ferrari and Hamilton had to react. However on fresh medium tyres the German was able to jump Massa during the second pitstop phase, whilst Hamilton was unable to achieve the same thing and rejoined back behind him.
Upfront, all was calm in the world of Vettel, and a leisurely second stop for the medium compound tyres on lap 32, meant he was free to run to the end in a provisional 1st place. After running a short 3 lap stint, Webber was now fed up with the soft tyres, and made his final stop on lap 33 to rejoin in 2nd place behind Vettel. With the first two now quite comfortable, it became a race for 3rd place and a fight for the final podium position behind the Red Bull pair.
But if the Red Bull team thought that the afternoon was going to be smooth from there, they were completely wrong. On lap 40, Webber’s race came crashing down as he was told to immediately retire the car from 2nd with an alternator failure -Red Bull’s KERS TC system putting yet more unnatural strain on the alternator? (Couldn’t resist).
This released the extremely long running Lotus of Raikkonen into 2nd place as he was surprising everyone by running a 32 lap stint on the medium tyres and still going strong. The question was, how long could Kimi go? After pitting just once on lap 7, it would be a 53 lap stint to the end and he was losing 1 second per lap to 3rd place man Rosberg – the Mercedes man only 4.3 seconds behind now.
By lap 52, Rosberg had latched himself on to the back of the Lotus, and made mincemeat of Raikkonen for 2nd into turn 4 as the Finn was really starting to struggle with tyre life.
The closing laps were getting very nervous for the leader and champion in waiting Sebastian Vettel. Regularly getting told by Rocky over the radio to short shift and to bring the car home – he too was told not to use the drinks bottle in the closing laps. Could this be down to possible alternator issues as well?
3 laps to go and Raikkonen was coming under huge attack from his team-mate in 4th. Getting a great run on Kimi into turn 4, he ran right round the outside, only for the Finn to go deep and force Grosjean off the road – holding both drivers up. Lotus were quick to jump on the radio and tell Raikkonen to jump straight out of the way, in a less than polite fashion in order to secure the final podium place.
In the process of the move, Kimi was mugged too by Massa off the exit of the final corner and from there the Lotus man just went backwards, losing places to both Hamilton and Perez down the backstraight into turn 4, whist Perez also took advantage of a double slipstream to take Hamilton for 5th in the process.
This slide down the field was Lotus’s sign to bring Kimi into the pits from 7th on the penultimate lap. With Di Resta over 27 seconds further down the road, there was no pressure from behind, but it appeared to be a second strategy blunder in two days for the Lotus guys when it came to tyres.
But up front it was all about Vettel and Red Bull. With no pressure behind from Rosberg, the German cruised to victory and take his 4th consecutive world title, with the team also taking the constructors championship in the process. But for me the driver of the day had to be Grosjean, who showed a measured, mature drive to come from 17th on the grid to finish in 3rd place. The Frenchman’s confidence just continues to grow.
Can Sebastian be stopped from now until the end of the season? Schumacher’s record of 13 wins in one season from 2004 is definitely up for grabs.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “With a notable lap time difference between the two compounds, strategy was at the forefront of this action-packed Indian Grand Prix.
We saw some very different approaches being taken all the way down the grid, which was roughly split between drivers starting on the soft and the medium tyre. We also saw many teams split their strategies between both cars, in order to cover every possibility. Sebastian Vettel’s early pit stop meant that he was able to undercut his direct rivals on the same strategy, but Webber was able to gain track position by staying out longer: which basically summed up how the different tactics worked. However, we are disappointed to see that some teams went against our recommendations and used the compounds for longer than we advised them to do.
Most of all though, congratulations to Sebastian and Red Bull for their fourth consecutive double championship: a testament to their astounding capabilities in every area all year, including their skills at using the tyres and strategy to gain an advantage.”
|Position||Driver||Team||Grid||Fastest Lap||Race Time|
|1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1||01:28.1||1:31:12.2|
|8||Paul Di Resta||Force India||12||01:29.3||+01:12.868|
|9||Adrian Sutil||Force India||13||01:28.4||+01:14.734|
|10||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso||11||01:28.8||+01:16.237|
|13||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||14||01:29.3||lapped|
|19||Nico Hulkenberg||Sauber||7||01:28.9||retired, 54 laps|
|20||Mark Webber||Red Bull||4||01:29.5||retired, 39 laps|
|21||Charles Pic||Caterham||21||01:32.9||retired, 35 laps|
|22||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham||20||No time||retired, 1 laps|
World Drivers Championship
World Constructors Championship