Vettel Takes Easy Victory in Inaugural Indian Grand Prix


Sebastian Vettel leads the field off the line at the Indian Grand Prix  - Photo Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Sebastian Vettel leads the field off the line at the Indian Grand Prix - Photo Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

 

Sebastian Vettel led every lap of the first-ever Indian Grand Prix to take his eleventh victory of the 2011 season.

Jenson Button came home 8.4 seconds behind the world champion to further cement his second place in drivers' standings and Fernando Alonso was third.

Mark Webber came home fourth, some way ahead of Michael Schumacher, who put in a good drive to beat team-mate Nico Rosberg, who was sixth.

Lewis Hamilton had yet another collision with Felipe Massa but recovered to finish seventh. Jaime Alguersuari, Adrian Sutil and Sergio Perez picked up the rest of the points.

Vettel got away well at the start of the race, and it was fairly straightforward for the German from that point onwards. Fernando Alonso lost third place to a fast-starting Jenson Button in the first corner of the grand prix and Button then got past Mark Webber a couple of turns later to get up into second.

There was contact at the back of the field as a few cars ran wide into Turn 1. Kamui Kobayashi, who had a puncture, came back onto the track a little over-enthusiastically and hit Timo Glock. Rubens Barrichello managed to break his front wing coming into the first corner; Jarno Trulli was spun out at Turn 3 after being tagged by an HRT. Glock, Barrichello and Trulli all pitted at the end of the first lap for repairs whilst Kobayashi stopped out on track after his collision. Glock drove into the pits for a second time to retire on Lap 4.

Sergio Perez, Vitaly Petrov and Paul di Resta, who started on the much slower Pirelli hard tyre, all made early stops to take on a set of soft tyres.

At the end of Lap 5, Vettel had a lead of 4.2 seconds over Button, but the 2009 champion had Webber close behind him and ready to challenge for that second place. Alonso was third, just ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa, with Lewis Hamilton in sixth.

As the lap count moved into double figures, Button started to pick up the pace, and began to set a series of fastest laps. He started to pull away from Webber, and gradually close the gap to Vettel.

Pastor Maldonado had to park his car at the side of track on Lap 14 after he lost all drive. The Venezuelan became the third retirement of the race.

At the end of Lap 16, the frontrunners began their pit stops. Webber, Alonso and Hamilton all came in from third, fourth and sixth. Webber came out in front of Michael Schumacher, but Alonso came out right behind the seven-time world champion.

Felipe Massa came in on the following lap and emerged just behind Alonso, who was still stuck behind Schumacher. However, DRS helped the Spaniard past his former nemesis soon afterwards.

Button came in at the end of Lap 18, McLaren responding to Webber, who was looking fast on his new set of tyres. Vettel pitted from the lead one lap later and comfortably retained the race lead.

After his pit stop, Hamilton seemed to find some new speed. He was quickly catching Felipe Massa, a driver with whom he has had quite a few tussles in recent races.

On Lap 24, Hamilton tried to pass Massa on the inside of Turn 5. The Ferrari moved over to cover the McLaren, and the two collided. Massa took to the run-off area but continued, Hamilton's front wing was taken off and he required another pit stop for a replacement. Massa stayed fifth, but Hamilton dropped to ninth. Hamilton claimed that Massa had moved across him and the stewards agreed, giving the Brazilian a drive-through penalty.

The penalty dropped Massa down to seventh, just ahead of Hamilton, who had got past Jaime Alguersuari. Massa, whose front wing had started resonating just as it did in FP3 yesterday, pitted soon afterwards for his second stop. He took on a set of the slower hard tyre and a new front wing.

Things then went from bad to worse on Lap 34 as Massa broke his suspension on a kerb, just as he did in qualifying yesterday. This time it was on the front-left side of the car, and Massa's eventful afternoon came to an end.

Webber came in from third place for his second stop at the end of Lap 38. He took on a set of the hard tyres. Alonso came in one lap later to do the same, and emerged in front of the Red Bull driver.

Button pitted from second at the end of Lap 46 to make his mandatory switch the harder Pirelli tyre. Race leader Vettel pitted one lap later. The new world champion re-emerged in the lead without any problems.

At the end of Lap 48, with just 12 laps to go, Button was just 2.8 seconds behind leader Vettel, with Alonso a further 16.6 seconds behind the leading pair. However, Vettel started to set some new fastest laps, the gap began to increase, and victory looked inevitable for the German.

Michael Schumacher became the last of the front runners to pit at the end of Lap 50 to take on the hard tyres. He comfortable came out of the pits in fifth place, ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg, marking another impressive performance from the seven-time world champion following a poor qualifying result.

Webber began to catch Alonso for third place in the closing stages of the grand prix but Australian left it too late and Alonso scored another podium finish.