Delhi Delight for Sebastian Vettel

October 30, 2012 1:32 am

Another day, another Red Bull victory. To be precise, another Sebastian Vettel victory, and one that threatens to kill the contest for the 2012 world title stone dead unless Ferrari ace Fernando Alonso can regain some of the ground lost to the reigning Formula One World Champion over the last four races.

With a display of measured dominance, Vettel claimed his fourth straight victory in India and closed a chapter of unparalleled achievement, having won all four races of the Asian ‘flyaway’ season. However, Alonso also turned in a magnificent drive to climb from 5th on the grid to 2ndby the chequered flag.

Vettel leads from the start; he remained unchallenged

Vettel and Webber made a storming getaway when the lights blinked out at the start of the Grand Prix, with Jenson Button sweeping past his teammate Lewis Hamilton and up to 3rd place. Alonso made a steady getaway, while further back Michael Schumacher became an unfortunate victim of an over-zealous Daniel Ricciardo, the Toro Rosso driver puncturing the German driver’s right rear tyre in the run down to turn one.

Along the incredible back straight the field accelerated up to 200mph as they jostled for position, and Hamilton found himself alongside Button on the approach to the tight left hand turn four corkscrew. Jinking to the left, he was surprised to find Alonso seemed to be gaining, pulling alongside the Mclaren as they neared the braking zone. However it was Button that pulled off the overtake of the season as he stamped on the brakes hard and late on the outside and locked the front right wheel in a cloud of screeching tyre smoke. Quickly back on the power, he beat Alonso and Hamilton down to the next corner and reclaimed his 3rd place.

Vettel quickly established a gap at the front, while Alonso and then Hamilton subsequently swallowed up Button who was beginning to struggle with his setup choice. Despite the superior straightline speed of the Mclaren, Alonso managed to drop Hamilton and quickly began his pursuit of Mark Webber in the 2nd place Red Bull. Button was the first of the front runners to pit but a shoddy pitstop by his Mclaren crew cost him valuable time and he became trapped behind Lotus driver Romain Grosjean who bottled the Mclaren up for three vital laps. Vettel and Webber later pitted with no mishap but Webber was being gradually reeled in by the persistent Alonso. Hamilton inherited the lead and eventually pitted some four laps later, and despite having to change his steering wheel during the stop he accelerated back out on to the circuit ten seconds ahead of Button but with an increased gap to Alonso.

Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen indulged in some wheel-to-wheel combat as they fought tooth and nail over 6th place, a battle in which Massa eventually claimed victory. Pastor Maldonado meanwhile was crippled by Kamui Kobayashi when the Sauber driver punctured one of the Williams’ rear tyres with his front wing endplate, causing the Venezuelan to swerve uncontrollably across the circuit. Vettel nearly crashed into the back of the Williams when he came up to lap him, but managed to negotiate around Maldonado who struggled back to the pits. It was an equally disappointing day for Sergio Perez who tried too hard to impress, throwing his Sauber car around to no avail until a subsequent mechanical failure caused his retirement. Similarly Pedro De La Rosa was lucky to avoid injury when the brakes on his car failed at 180mph and sent the Spaniard spinning backwards into a tyre wall. The veteran HRT driver thankfully walked away unscathed after extracting himself from his crumpled cockpit.

At the front, Vettel remained unchallenged but his teammate Webber had his hands full as a KERS power boost failure left him at the mercy of the marauding Alonso, the 2005-2006 World Champion eventually passed the ailing Australian at the end of the fast straight. Hamilton then began to close in but was unable to catch the Red Bull before the end of the race, although Jenson Button gave Mclaren some cheer with fastest lap on the final lap of the Grand Prix.

Vettel though remained imperious as he took the 150th victory for a Renault engine in Formula One and the 34th for his Red Bull team. Impressively, it was also the first time the German had claimed four victories in a row during his short but star-studded career. Alonso extracted the maximum from his Ferrari and achieved damage limitation in 2nd place as he strives to keep the rampant Vettel in his sights. Remarkably, he later boldly claimed that he was even more sure of claiming ultimate victory and ‘100% sure’ the Championship would be his. Vettel extended his thanks to his Red Bull team, and the two front runners both left India happy men. As for the ‘others’, their chances now look little more than fantasy although Raikkonen, Webber, Hamilton and Button all remain in mathematical contention.

It’s now Red Bull vs Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel vs Fernando Alonso.

Only the strongest pairing will claim the ultimate prize.

Anthony French



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