Result: Vettel wins again, leading a Red Bull 1-2 with Webber behind followed by Lotus’ Roman Grosjean
Sebastian Vettel won his 9th Grand Prix race of the 2013 season, taking a 97 point lead over Fernando Alonso in the standings. It was his 3rd Japanese GP win in the last 4 years, and this was his 5th win in the last 6 races. This is domination of the Ferrari-Schumacher sort, unparalleled because of his age and statistics.
At one stage at Suzuka on Sunday, Grosjean had led impressively for more than half the race, capitalizing on his storming start. Vettel fell back in the beginning, but managed to remain in the top 3, with the Red Bulls in pursuit of the lone Lotus for a long period.
It was Webber who looked primed to win the race though, the Australian shooting off fastest laps by the dozen. Eventually, Vettel’s engineers managed to pull of a coup, forced to change strategies to put him on a 2-stop. This worked wonders for the German, as if he wasn’t winning enough already. He managed to shoot past Grosjean with ease, in stark contrast to his Australian veteran partner who took a very long time to overtake Grosjean- a struggle that eventually cost him the race. If Webber had managed to overtake Grosjean 4 laps before he eventually did (penultimate lap), he would have had an opportunity to challenge Vettel for the lead. Towards the middle of the race, Vettel had even received team orders that he was racing Grosjean and not Webber. But the race fell into his lap because of Red Bull’s superior straightline speed, combined with Grosjean’s stubbornness and superior defensive skills when he kept out Webber for a frustrating six laps.
Behind these three, it was a different story. Alonso managed to finish above 8th place, which kept him in the championship if only mathematically. Only formalities remain now, of course, with Vettel looking as unbeatable as Schumacher in his pomp. Alonso’s impressive 4th place finish, considering the standard of his car, took him clearer of Raikkonen and Hamilton– the Brit having to retire early in the race.
The Indian crowd in two weeks time could be lucky enough to witness history in the making. Vettel only has to finish 4th place or higher to WIN the world championship for a 4th consecutive time. The Buddh circuit in Noida hasn’t been witness to any close races, but this slice of history could be something to remember. Years down the line, the crowd can tell their grandchildren that they were there- they were there to watch the greatest F1 driver of a generation- maybe of all time- lift one of his many World Champion trophies in front of their eyes.
Vettel has won in India twice already, and he is favorite to win its 3rd edition too. There are already whispers about the German probably challenging for the GOAT (Greatest of all time)- only at age 27- and you’d be hard pressed to find a compelling argument to prove otherwise…especially now that he has a good decade left.
What is interesting is his peers’ reactions about the GOAT whispers- most of them, including Alonso and Hamilton, are careful to mention that a good machine combined with a good driver makes all the difference.
With Alonso and Raikkonen teaming up at Ferrari next year, these snarky comments could stand to be tested very soon.