Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida
Result: Vettel creates history
At the beginning of the race, just before the lights went off, the commentators spoke about how impossible it would be to lead this race from beginning to end. This was in reference to Vettel’s previous efforts in India- he was the only driver to lead in every single lap in the last two years. That on its own was a miracle, but Sunday was going to be a different story- they said. Strategy would be key, and Red Bull had Webber amped up on a more effective two stop tyre strategy according to them. They were right, just about.
Webber was on a better strategy. And Vettel did not lead for every lap of the race.
After the second lap, Christian Horner- Red Bull Chief Engineer- made the call to get Vettel into the pits to change his tyres. Better earlier than later, he decided. This also put into perspective his confidence in the World Champion- that he would easily be able to make up for lost time with plenty of laps to go. For any lesser driver, going through the field all over again would be quite a pain in the backside, and for some it would be impossible. Vettel, right at the end of the pack after the second lap, began to effortlessly dance his way through the ‘traffic’. Within 10 laps, he was in the top 3. By any standards, however strong your car is, this can only be a result of highly skilful and confident driving. We have seen Webber at the back so many times, but he struggled to get past more than 4-5 drivers during the entire race. We have seen Alonso struggle at the back too, and overtaking has never been easy for these guys. But Sebastian Vettel, all of 26, zipped through the field in 10 laps to join Webber at the front. He didn’t need to win this race, and he wasn’t going to, but Webber’s luck continued to sign the divorce papers. A gearbox problem once again took the Australian in his last season out of the race- a race he was destined to win. It was then down to the brave Rosberg and the resourceful Grosjean to hold Vettel off as much as they could. Of course, this lasted not more than a few laps- when Vettel gained the lead once again. In the end, the scrap behind him was another race on another planet, because the German won by half a minute. He eased to victory despite an iffy strategy, thus putting to rest all rumors of his ability to win races starting from behind. The Delhi crowd got their money’s worth, because Vettel performed some spectacular screeching donuts at the start-finish straight after becoming only the third driver ever to win 4 consecutive World titles. Safe to say, he ended his challenge in Delhi style. The kids at the front would be proud. Alonso failed to finish in the points after a dreadful race- and it was the rare time where Massa was the only points scoring Ferrari driver. So Delhi did indeed witness history in a way.
Grosjean enjoyed his second consecutive podium finish and Raikkonen managed a few points to close down the gap on Alonso for second place. Webber must feel hard done by, only a few points ahead of Grosjean in 5th place. But Vettel went 115 points clear, winning his 6th consecutive race of the 2013 season. He is now 3 wins away from equaling Schumacher’s 13-race wins in 2004, a season record, as well as matching the 9-consecutive race wins record. With 10 race wins for the season already, Vettel wants more. He wants the perfect season. He admitted to feeling hurt at fans booing him for his dominance, but he also rightly pointed out to the fact that it could be because he did not belong to the traditional teams like Ferrari and McLaren. With great power, comes the responsibility to put your head down and do your job.
With 4 world titles at age 26, Vettel is fulfilling this responsibility better than anyone has ever done at such a young age. After all, he will be the youngest 4-time World Champion for decades, and he is already 4th on the list of titles- after Schumacher, Fangio and Prost. He is already ahead of Senna, if only statistically.
The icing on the cake: Red Bull won their 4th consecutive Constructor’s Championship title without much of a challenge. Mercedes overtook Ferrari for second place, with 3 races to go- and Lotus Renault are right behind in fourth place.