India GPR Race Recap: Vettel wins race, clinches 4th championship

Sebastian Vettel won the 2013 Indian Grand Prix from pole and with it his fourth straight driver’s championship. He celebrated with donuts on the front straight and a bow to his car and the fans, climbing the fence and flinging his gloves into the stands.

Vettel took a pit stop on the second lap, driving through the field to third in just ten laps. Massa flew ahead on the start, getting into second by the end of the first lap. Webber had a terrible start, coming into contact with Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso. The latter had gone for a sneaky strategy, but contact and a necessary front wing change dropped him down the order and ruined his medium first tyre strategy. Webber looked set for a second place finish on the same tyre strategy, but had to retire with twenty laps remaining with a alternator issue. Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean completed the podium, the latter needing his team to tell the slowing Kimi Raikkonen to get out of the way of his charging teammate. Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez completed the top five.

Vettel (1:24.119) took pole during Saturday’s qualifying sessions as easily as he had remained on top of the timesheets for the practice sessions. The German, who won his fourth straight world championship today, never lost control of the weekend through Saturday, leading every session but Q1. Webber remained close to his teammate, but qualified fourth on medium tyres. He, eighth fastest Alonso, ninth fastest Perez, and tenth fastest Button would start the race on the harder medium compound after qualifying on that set of tyres. Mercedes duo Rosberg and Hamilton were close but not quite close enough all weekend, qualifying second and third, respectively, and Hamilton posting times in the top five on Friday. Massa, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Perez, and Button completed the top ten at the end of qualifying.

In a more shocking development than Red Bull’s qualifying pace, Grosjean dropped out in Q1 after Lotus made the call to end his session too early. As the track evolved and times tumbled, Grosjean slipped down the order and qualified only seventeenth. He had been quick during the practice sessions. There were no major incidents during the practices, though Maldonado and Williams lost a tyre from a loose wheel nut for the second race weekend in a row. The Venezuelan nearly made it back to the pits on the loose wheel, but had to stop as it wriggled free. The team received a sixty thousand Euro fine.

As has become common at the Buddh Circuit, drivers regularly put all four wheels outside the white lines of the track while lapping. Though it appeared clear to observers that they would not do so if they did not thereby gain an advantage, Race Director Charlie Whiting took great pains to explain that drivers could leave the track in such a manner without incurring a penalty.

Race Start:
Vettel got away cleanly when the lights went out, with the visibility hampered as always. Hamilton streaked over and away, going for position on his teammate. Massa, though made a fantastic start, gaining on both Mercedes as he passed first Webber, then Rosberg, then Hamilton through the first lap. Webber and Massa had a bit of a tap, then Raikkonen and Webber. Life was even more difficult for Alonso, who had some minor contact with Raikkonen. At the end of L1, Vettel led Massa, Rosberg, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Webber, Perez, Ricciardo, and Alonso the top ten.

Vettel Pits/First Pit Stops Begin (L2):
Di Resta, Pic, Vergne, and van der Garde all pitted, with the last complaining of contact with Chilton that damaged his suspension. Vettel pitted as he began lap two, as did Alonso, who had dropped to fifteenth. After that terrible start, all his strategy from the medium tyres went away with a front wing change.

At the end of L5, Massa led Rosberg by just over one second, with Hamilton, Raikkonen, Webber, Hulkenberg, Perez, Ricciardo, Button, and Sutil as the top ten. Vettel was fifteenth. Hulkenberg and Bianchi pitted as L6 began. On the radio, Alonso worried that he’d damaged the car as the steering was quite heavy. He learned that there had been some touching on the wheel so it would feel odd, but the car was fine to continue. Meanwhile, Webber moved up to fourth around Raikkonen. Button pitted from tenth, dropping to seventeenth and rejoining on the soft tyres. His stop was unplanned due to some damage.

Rosberg and Raikkonen pitted on L8, with the latter just having been passed by Perez. Raikkonen had not faired well on the quick-blistering softs. Massa, Hamilton, and Maldonado all pitted for their first laps as L9 began. Massa slotted in ahead of Rosberg, with Hamilton behind his teammate. Webber gained the lead in the shuffling on early stops. His teammate sat sixth behind Sutil, only to pass and move up to fifth.

End L10 of 60:
At the end of L10, Webber had a five second lead on Perez, with Ricciardo, Grosjean, Vettel, Sutil, Gutierrez, Massa, Rosberg, and Bottas as the top ten. The top four had not yet stopped for fresh tyres. Hamilton, Hulkenberg, di Resta, Raikkonen, Button, Vergne, Alonso, Chilton, Maldonado, Bianchi, and Pic rounded out the rest of the running order. Van der Garde had retired fairly soon after his stop.

Vettel next made his way around Grosjean, moving up to fourth on a new race fast lap. Soon thereafter, Gutierrez came under investigation for a jumped start. He was then seventh and had not yet pitted. Button made his second stop on L13, getting rid of the soft tyres and gong back on the mediums. He had pitted for the first time due to a puncture sustained in early contact.

Grosjean made his first stop on L14. Quietly making his way through the field, possibly having chosen the correct race strategy, Vettel passed Ricciardo and put himself in a podium position. Alonso, Vettel’s only title rival, languished in fifteenth after contact marred his medium tyre strategy.

End L15 of 60:
At the end of L15, Webber led Perez by eight seconds. Neither had yet pitted. Vettel, Ricciardo, Sutil, Gutierrez, Massa, Rosberg, Hamilton, and Bottas completed the top ten runners, though Gutierrez would drop the order as soon as he served his drive-through penalty for jumping the start. He moved slightly ahead out of his starting box, only to stop and go again once the lights went out on the start. Vettel was less than five seconds behind Perez. He had moved from the rear end of the field to the sharp end in just ten laps.

Pic pitted for his second stop on L18. Meanwhile, Perez learned that Vettel was the man behind him, but he should not lose time in fighting him as his race was not really against the man likely about to become champion. His only mathematical rival had passed Gutierrez for thirteenth, only to have the young Mexican come back at Alonso and retake the position.

End L20 of 60:
With twenty laps gone, Webber led Perez by nearly twelve seconds. They, Ricciardo and Sutil in fourth and fifth, Bottas in ninth, and Chilton in nineteenth all had not yet stopped. Vettel had gained to be within the DRS detection of Perez. Vettel took second easily with DRS at Turn 4. Alonso also moved up, taking Gutierrez on the straight out of T4, into T5 after going well wide behind him through the turn.

Massa had come under fire from Rosberg, the latter pushing hard to force the Brazilian wide. Massa would stay ahead as Rosberg dove up the inside. A bit further back, Raikkonen had been told to change the brake bias as his rears were overheating. He had gained on Hulkenberg, who had gone off the track in an attempt to pass Maldonado, and begun looking for a way around and into ninth.

Second Pit Stops Begin (L27 of 60):
Gutierrez and Vergne pitted on L27 for their second tyre change. Rosberg pitted on the next lap. Webber and Perez made their first stops as they ended L28, leaving Vettel back in the lead of the Indian Grand Prix. Webber slotted in behind his teammate, with Ricciardo and Sutil third and fourth, having not yet stopped. Massa, Hamilton, Perez, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, and Bottas completed the top ten then. Meanwhile, Gutierrez and Grosjean were locked in a battle of weaving and doging. Gutierrez was ahead, while the two came under investigation for too many changes of direction.

Halfway (End L30 of 60)/Pit Stops Continue:
Chilton made his first stop at halfway. Massa, Hamilton, di Resta, and Alonso all pitted on L31. Vettel left the lead to his teammate as L32 began. Bottas came in on the next lap, with Webber doing so as L33 began. The Australian rejoined behind his countryman and replacement at Red Bull next season. Ricciardo had not yet stopped. Button had stopped a bit earlier, stepping away from a battle he had lost over thirteenth with Alonso.

Ricciardo, Perez, and Hulkenberg all pitted on L34, as did Bianchi. Their stops left only Sutil in third to have not yet changed tyres. On the radio, Red Bull had to admonish Vettel, “Sebastian, you’ll need your tyres for the whole stint, not now.” Webber received a similar message to “not go crazy.” Alonso made his second stop from thirteenth on L37. Raikkonen moved into third, taking Sutil through the DRS. Pic pitted on L39, only to have the team push him into the garage. On the radio, he only learned that there was “a serious issue on the car.”

20 Laps Remaining:
Ricciardo and Maldonado pitted on L39. Meanwhile, Webber learned that his car was “losing gearboxing.” He pulled to the side of the track at a marshal’s stand and retired from second with just twenty laps to go, the team having told him to pull to the side, citing the alternator. Webber fought the call, but stopped and hopped on a scooter back to the garage. The team then informed Vettel, who responded, “I’m aware. I’m aware.”

Sutil made his first pit stop on L42. Webber’s retirement put Raikkonen second, with Rosberg third. Grosjean, Massa, Hamilton, Perez, Hulkenberg, Sutil, and di Resta completed the top ten with seventeen laps to go. Hamilton was closing on Massa, less than a second behind his former nemesis. Sutil led a train of cars quite close together, with his teammate behind, Bottas, Gutierrez, and Ricciardo all separated by less than a second between them. Alonso was three seconds behind Ricciardo, down in fourteenth. That train would not last long, as di Resta soon passed his teammate for ninth.

From the stewards came news that there would be no further action on the weaving of Gutierrez. Alonso caught up to the train ahead of him, but none of them could quite pass the other. Back at the front, Raikkonen learned that he needed to save a bit of fuel as well as manage the overheating issues. His teammate would soon come under attack from Massa, with Rob Smedley telling the Brazilian to wait five laps and attack. Hamilton remained just under a second behind Massa.Gutierrez pitted on L48, nipping out of the way as the train shifted behind him. Maldonado lost position to both his teammate and Alonso, who looked racy behind Ricciardo.

10 Laps Remaining:
Rosberg seemed released with eleven laps to go, posting a new race fast lap three seconds behind Raikkonen. Vettel led the Finn by twenty-six seconds. Grosjean, Massa, Hamilton, Perez, Hulkenberg, di Resta, and Sutil were in points paying positions with ten laps to go. Bottas pitted on L51.

Rosberg gained dramatically on Raikkonen, nipping by on the straight to take second. Meanwhile, Red Bull asked Vettel to “stop using the drinks bottle, please.” His teammate for next season remained under attack from Alonso, but held on to the position. Hulkenberg made his final stop from eighth. He went back to the garage, reporting an issue with the brakes.” He would retire on L56.

Back at the front, Vettel was again cautioned as Red Bull worried over the alternator on his car. He set a race fast lap, only to have his race engineer remind him, “we’ve got enough problems as it is.” Fighting over the final podium position, Raikkonen forced his teammate wide and off the track. After a conversation with Lotus (“Get out of the f**king way!” “don’t shout.”), Raikkonen allowed Grosjean through, with Massa following as Raikkonen’s grip dropped away.

Hamilton in sixth had also begun complaining about his tyres as he came under attack from Perez. They were both directly behind Raikkonen. As Hamilton attempted to go around Raikkonen, Perez went to the other side and passed both of them. Hamilton continued through, looking for a fifth. Raikkonen pitted on L59 for fresh tyres, even as Lotus told Grosjean to short shift as much as he could.

Vettel began the final lap with twenty-seven seconds ahead of Rosberg, taking his fourth world championship at twenty-six years old. Grosjean, Massa, and Perez completed the top five. Button pitted on the final lap and stayed there. After his late stop, Raikkonen posted the race fast lap and stopped at the end of the pit late. Grosjean and Sutil did so as well, the former running to  the podium.

Final Positions, 2013 Indian Grand Prix:

1. Sebastian VettelRed Bull2
2. Nico RosbergMercedes29.82
3. Romain GrosjeanLotus39.81
4. Felipe MassaFerrari41.62
5. Sergio PerezMcLaren43.82
6. Lewis HamiltonMercedes52.42
7. Kimi RaikkonenLotus67.92
8. Paul di RestaForce India72.82
9. Adrian SutilForce India74.71
10. Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso76.22
11. Fernando AlonsoFerrari78.23
12. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams78.92
13. Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1 Lap2
14. Jenson ButtonMcLaren1 Lap4
15. Esteban GutierrezSauber1 Lap3
16. Valtteri BottasWilliams1 Lap2
17. Max ChiltonMarussia2 Laps2
18. Jules BianchiMarussia2 Laps2
 Nico HulkenbergSauber6 Laps4
 Mark WebberRed Bull21 Laps2
 Charles PicCaterham25 Laps3
 Giedo van der GardeCaterham59 Laps1
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