Vettel controls Indian GP and cruises to victory, Alonso second
By Berthold Bouman
Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel cruised to victory today at the Buddh International Circuit and won the Indian Grand Prix, strengthening his leading position in the 2012 Formula One Drivers’ Championship. Alonso was second for Ferrari, after beating Mark Webber who had KERS problems during the closing stages of the race.
Winner Vettel said, “All in all, it was a very good race for us and I’m happy with the result. I had a good start, Mark had a better one and it was close in Turn One, but I had a good exit from Turn Three and got ahead. It was a great day for us and an important step.”
A good start was important, also for pole-sitter Vettel who arrived at the first corner in leading position, but it was Alonso who immediately attacked both McLarens, he passed them at Turn 4 but had to give back one position to Jenson Button at the next turn. Michael Schumacher and Jean-Eric Vergne were the first casualties and had to visit the pits for repairs, meanwhile both Vettel and Webber were already disappearing at the horizon.
When Race Control enabled DRS after the second lap Alonso immediately overtook Button again, and then started to hunt down Webber ahead of him. Behind the Spaniard both McLarens were battling for position, a battle won by Hamilton as he took over Button’s fourth place on the back straight aided by DRS.
Felipe Massa came closer and closer to Button ahead of him, but at the same time Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus was closing in on the Brazilian, and after ten laps both already had lost 12 seconds on leader Vettel. Further down the order Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg were fighting for eighth place, while Nico Rosberg, Pastor Maldonado, Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna were battling for tenth place.
Hulkenberg finally took eighth place from Perez, his Sauber team called the Mexican, who will move to McLaren next season, in for a tyre switch on lap 15. Meanwhile, Grosjean in the Lotus finally wrestled himself free from the Williams sandwich he was in and took tenth place, while Senna made good use of the opportunity and passed his team mate Maldonado to take 11th spot.
Perez was carving his way through the field, but Daniel Ricciardo hit the Mexican’s right rear wheel and destroyed the tyre, Perez had to limp back to the pits, but this time left on a set of hard tyres, obviously trying to finish the race without making another stop. Unfortunately for him there was more damage to his car, and one lap later he parked his car in the Sauber garage, his race was over.
After 23 laps Grosjean made good use of his DRS and overtook Rosberg on the back straight, further ahead Alonso was getting closer to Webber who seemed to suffer from tyre degradation more than Vettel, as the German was a full second per lap faster. By now it had become clear most drivers in the top ten were aiming for a one-stop race, exactly as Pirelli had predicted.
Button was the first to pit and went out on the hard tyres, Senna was next and he also emerged from the pit lane on the hard tyres. Also Raikkonen, Maldonado and Rosberg pitted, all eyes were then on the Red Bull drivers to see how much longer their tyres would last.
Massa also pitted and managed to stay ahead of Raikkonen, and the cat-and-mouse game they had played before commenced again. Alonso also came in and rejoined the race in fourth place, not much later Maldonado was seen in cruise-mode as he also had a flat right rear tyre after a coming together with Kamui Kobayashi in the second Sauber.
Vettel reported on the radio he could stay out a bit longer, it was safe to do so as he had 30 seconds on Webber in second place, who already had made his stop. And indeed, after Vettel made his stop on lap 34, he was still leading the Indian Grand Prix.
Now Alonso was just a few car-lengths behind Webber, but the Australian saw the danger and upped his pace, and even scored the fastest lap at the time. No problems whatsoever for Vettel who had 12 seconds on Webber and was comfortably on his way to yet another race victory.
Massa and Raikkonen were battling for sixth spot, but the Lotus, even with DRS activated, couldn’t match the pace of the Ferrari and the Finn stayed where he was, no matter how hard he tried. Yellow flags were waved at the end of the back straight as Pedro de la Rosa had spun his HRT and had ended up in the gravel, the Spaniard reported he had a brake failure.
His compatriot Alonso was certainly not out of the race, as he had renewed his attack on Webber again, with just 12 laps remaining. Shortly before, Webber had reported he had no KERS, and Alonso overtook the Red Bull without problems on the back straight. Now 12 seconds separated the two leaders in the race, who also happened to be the leaders in the Drivers’ Championship — and both also are fighting to score their third World Championship this season.
Webber’s pace went downhill, and now Hamilton was closing in on the Red Bull driver who still had KERS problems. Perhaps Vettel also had a KERS problem as Alonso was closing in on him, and the Ferrari driver was told by his engineer Andrea Stella to ‘push like hell’, but with a ten-second gap and only five laps to go it was an impossible mission. Not much later Alonso hit the tyre cliff, and even ran wide twice due to a lack of grip, and had to settle for second place.
And thus it was Vettel who scored his 26th career victory, his fourth consecutive win, Alonso took second place, Webber was third, and was followed by Hamilton, Button and Massa, who was sixth in the second Ferrari.
Alonso was happy with his second place, “We can fight the Red Bulls, but at the moment, we still don’t have a car capable of winning. Once again this year we have seen that, in the race, the situation is much better than in qualifying. A great start, a great first lap, a good top speed and the right tyre management produced, along with me driving at 120 percent for each of the sixty race laps, this second place.”
Webber said about his KERS problems, “We had a KERS issue that we had to manage. It’s maybe hard for people watching to know what it affects on the car, its power on the straight obviously, but also managing brake balances and those sort of things. Overall, I was pretty happy with how I drove; we should have finished further up the road, but it’s the way it was today.”
Alonso again showed his strength, but nevertheless lost points to Vettel, who is now leading the Drivers’ Championship with 240 points, Alonso is second with 227 points, Raikkonen is still third with 173 points, Webber is fourth with 167 points and Hamilton and Button are fifth and sixth with 165 and 141 points respectively.