It was inevitable, but the manner in which Sebastian Vettel achieved his 4th Formula One World Championship was most certainly extraordinary.
The German overcame a strategy deficit to team-mate Mark Webber to hit the front halfway through the Grand Prix, before the Australian was forced to retire with an alternator failure. Despite this, Red Bull Racing won their 4th consecutive Constructor’s World Championship by a hefty margin.
Vettel’s closest rival pre-race, Fernando Alonso, finished a lowly 11th after an early race tangle with McLaren’s Jenson Button and the rear end of Webber’s Red Bull.
Webber led the race after Vettel pitted to get rid of his soft Pirelli tyres, but the German failed to be held up in traffic as expected and quickly scythed his way through backmarkers to bring himself back into contention. By the time Webber made his own stop on lap 28 Vettel was a mere 10.4 seconds behind and swept into the lead once more. He stopped again on lap 31, with Webber switching back to medium compound tyres the very next lap.
The battle for 3rd was just as engrossing, with Sergio Perez, Felipe Massa, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg all vying for supremacy – Perez initially held the advantage after mirroring Webber’s long first stint, but he fell behind the Mercedes duo and Massa after his first stop. Massa had run 2nd early on after a superb start, well ahead of Alonso whose disastrous opening lap ruined both his own race and that of Button, who he collided with at turn four; the Briton was forced onto a 4-stop strategy that destroyed his bid for points. Damage to his wheel rim, a puncture and an eventual gearbox problem were all insurmountable.
Perez meanwhile was putting in a stellar performance, and kept his cool during the closing laps to dispatch a struggling Raikkonen and Mercedes’ Hamilton and net 5th place – equalling the season’s best finish for McLaren.
Romain Grosjean had started the race 17th after a terrible qualifying session, but his superb handling of his Pirelli tyres enabled him to climb his way through the field to an eventual 3rd place, albeit after a fracas with both Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez and fading team-mate Raikkonen, whose decline in the last 10 laps was due to his own efforts to preserve rubber.
Gutierrez escaped punishment for his incident with Grosjean, but collected a drive-through penalty for jump-starting. It was a bad day for Sauber for, after running 4th early on, Nico Hulkenberg was forced to retire within sight of the finish line with mechanical maladies.
If it was a disappointing day at the office for Sauber, it was a welcome improvement for rivals Force India; they scored points with both cars after Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil finished the race in 8th and 9th place. Daniel Ricciardo drove a measured race to finish 10th and score a single point for Toro Rosso.
Vettel’s 4th World Championship crown merited special treatment, and the German duly delivered with a series of donuts on the start/finish straight to the rapturous applause of the crowd; no booing this time.
Only the plaudits due to an extremely worthy World Champion.
“It is not easy to sort all the feelings and to find the right words. It was a big honor to cross the finish line and there are so many words that you want to say at the same time. There are only three other men that had been able to achieve this, and it is very hard to realize all of this, and at the same time you are very glad that no one can take this away from you again. It feels so very good also: I am very happy! It’s one of these moments where you want to say so many things but you can’t. It’s been such a phenomenal season. I think the team and the spirit inside the team is so strong; I said it on the radio already – it gives me so much power. It’s a pleasure to jump in the car and go out for the guys and girls and try to give it all I have. To join people like Prost, Fangio and Michael is unbelievable. I think this is one of the best days in my life so far.” Sebastian Vettel, DEU, 2013 Formula One World Champion
What They Say
“Obviously I’m pretty disappointed with today’s race, but there is not much I can do, the alternator went wrong with very short notice so we had to stop straight away. It’s tough because we did a lot of things right this weekend, but I’ve got a smile on my face as I could not have done any more. Well done to Seb on his Championship and also to all the Team; to get a fourth title is amazing. It’s been a great job by the whole team to achieve the title four years on the trot and it has once again set itself as the benchmark for the others.” Mark Webber, AUS, Red Bull
“To achieve four double World Championships is the culmination of an enormous amount of dedication and commitment from the whole team. For Sebastian to have joined the illustrious names of Fangio, Prost and Schumacher is an incredible achievement, especially at such a young age and it’s a privilege to work with him. It’s an enormous day for the team to have won its fourth consecutive Constructors’ World Championship. Without the dedication and determination of all the staff from all of the departments throughout the company and from all of our Partners and the backing of Dietrich Mateschitz and support of Red Bull, none of this would be possible. There’s going to be an awfully lot of happy people in Milton Keynes and Salzburg this evening. We’ve got three races to go and we’re just going to go for it. The most disappointing thing today was obviously the failure on Mark’s car when we were set for a 1-2 finish; we had a sudden alternator failure, but sometimes that’s racing. It was just desperately disappointing to happen while we were on course to achieve a 1-2 finish. I think it’s going to take quite a few days for this success to sink in and it’s important for the team to enjoy the moment – we will be pushing all the way to the chequered flag in Brazil.” Christian Horner, GBR, Red Bull Team Principal
“We scored a lot of points and climbed back up to second place in the Constructors’ Championship. I’m quite confident that we can keep that position until the end of the season as the team is doing a great job and our car looks good but it will be a fight. I had good pace today and we really nailed the set-up here. The team did a fantastic job on the strategy and thanks to the boys for that. The only thing which didn’t work out perfectly was when I dropped behind Felipe at the start as it was not easy to overtake him on the track, but then we managed to clear him in the pits. Our target was to be the best of the rest this weekend and it worked out perfectly.” Nico Rosberg, DEU, Mercedes AMG
“Looking at my race today, it’s great that we got some good points, particularly with Nico’s podium, and that the team are back to second place. The car has been pretty good this weekend but the race was frustrating for me. I tried so hard to get past Felipe but it just wasn’t possible and unfortunately I destroyed my tyres in doing so. Finishing in sixth place is never satisfying but we’ve got three more races and we’ll keep pushing. I’m confident that we can get some more good results to keep the team in second place and we’ll keep fighting to achieve just that.” Lewis Hamilton, GBR, Mercedes AMG
“If you had told me yesterday that I’d be on the podium here I would have said you were crazy! Straight from the beginning of the race I felt very comfortable on the option tyres and we looked in pretty good shape, then we fitted the mediums and the car was really quick. I lost quite a lot of time behind Gutierrez which maybe cost us the fight for second, but we managed to come back from that well. When I saw that I was fourth in front of Massa with 27 laps to go I knew it was going to be close with him as we had to take care of the tyres, plus we had an engine issue at the end of the race which made things quite tricky. In the final laps Kimi was really struggling with his tyres so I managed to pass him and luckily had enough pace to keep Felipe behind. Before the race our best prediction was fourth if we had a strong start and a perfect race, so it was an amazing result and a great performance from the team.” Romain Grosjean, FRA, Lotus
“Today was just one of those days… Exiting turn four on the first lap, I got hit quite hard on the right-hand-side by Fernando. I don’t quite know why he couldn’t make the apex, as I’d given him loads of room, but he hit me in the side pretty hard. The contact damaged the car and damaged the wheel rim, which also gave me a puncture, although it didn’t cause me an issue until about three laps later. It was an extra shame that I was running on the medium compound tyre when I had the puncture, as that was the one you wanted to run long around here! So that incident destroyed my strategy for the rest of the afternoon. Without that contact, and the resultant puncture, I think we could have had some fun out there. It’s just a shame, because our car was quick around here – Checo showed just what was possible by driving an extremely good race. Congratulations to Seb for winning his fourth world championship. That’s very impressive – especially to win four in a row. His team did a great job, Adrian Newey demonstrated how good he is, and Seb finished it off nicely with a win.” Jenson Button, GBR, McLaren Mercedes
“It’s great to score points here in India – the team’s home Grand Prix and a really important race for us. We took an aggressive strategy by pitting at the end of the first lap to change from softs to medium tyres – which was always the plan. After that we effectively split the race in two and I pitted again for my second set of medium tyres on lap 30. The other positive is that we’ve steadily improved the car over the last few weeks and I’m feeling more comfortable, so I think we can be optimistic of performing at a similar level in Abu Dhabi next week.” Paul Di Resta, GBR, Force India
“I’m so happy with my performance in that race. The start was great and with the help of my engineers we did a good job of driving around a problem that at one stage had looked like it might end in retirement. Thankfully it eased and we could set about recovering our strategy, which in the end played out very nicely for me. From the video, the circumstances of the first corner seem pretty clear – I was ahead of Van der Garde and he hit both Pic and myself with his front wing. When I looked in my mirrors I could see he had damaged his wing. Overall, it hasn’t been an entirely straightforward weekend but we have been there or thereabouts with the Caterhams’ on pace and we had it in the car today to do a good job. I’m obviously very happy to maintain my record of finishing every race but it will be an even nicer feeling if I can still be saying that in Brazil! My thanks to the team for all the hard work, which is clearly paying off. Finally, congratulations to Sebastian on a well-deserved fourth title.” Max Chilton, GBR, Marussia
CLASSIFICATION – RACE – INDIAN GRAND PRIX
|8||Di Resta||GBR||Force India||4|
|22||Van Der Garde||NED||Caterham||Damage|