Peter Anderson | Oct 29, 2012

Sebastien Vettel stormed to a fourth consecutive grand prix win at the Indian Grand Prix.

Mark Webber, who had been running comfortably in second, suffered a KERS problem and almost ended fourth, having to fend off a hard-charging Lewis Hamilton.

Daniel Ricciardo came home thirteenth while a frustrated Kimi Raikkonen spent the afternoon stuck behind Felipe Massa.

 

Practice and Qualifying

An uneventful set of dry practice sessions - with the political intrigue of Sauber's departing driver, Sergio Perez, benched for the Friday sessions - yielded the expected Red Bull-McLaren-Ferrari dominance.

Red Bull duly locked out the front row with Vettel on pole and Webber just 0.044s away.

The McLarens lined behind and a disconsolate Ferrari team took the third row. Raikkonen lamented a wrong turn on set-up, with just seventh place and he was followed by Perez, Maldonado and Rosberg.

Daniel Ricciardo again outqualified his teammate for fifteenth.

 

Race

The race started under a hazy New Delhi sun, with many optimistic Karthikeyan fans waving flags for the local HRT driver.

Webber got a good start but was shut down by teammate Vettel while Alonso monstered the McLarens with incredible straight-line speed down the back straight.

At turn four, Jenson Button got on the brakes a moment later than the Ferrari driver while way out on the outside and came perilously close to cleaning up Hamilton who took the tight inside line. Alonso watched it all from the middle of the two silver cars, later saying that they seemed to have forgotten he was there.

Maldonado and Grosjean had poor starts, with the Williams driver falling out of the top ten while Grosjean dropped a place.

Michael Schumacher picked up a puncture after a clash with Vergne and had to stagger around the lap to come in for new tyres. Vergne had to pit as a result of the same incident.

The Red Bulls scampered off into the distance, and they needed to in order to stay out of the clutches of their rivals' DRS speed advantage.

Alonso got by Button on lap four, his rear wing wide open and his seventh gear clearly longer than the McLaren's. Button was then passed by Hamilton a few laps later.

The Red Bulls were miles ahead, so it looked like the field were going to have to scrap over the final podium place.

Raikkonen was having a frustrating time behind the Ferrari of Massa - he was faster than the Ferraris and the McLarens when out of the red car's dirty air, but was unable to find a way by.

Perez and Hulkenberg enjoyed an entertaining battle for eighth and ninth which lasted for several laps until Hulkenberg passed Perez who then pitted, signalling a two-stop strategy for Sauber's top points scorer.

The stops were closer than the team might have liked. On race on lap 20, Perez suffered a puncture from cutting across Ricciardo's Toro Rosso at turn one, the Mexican having to do almost the entire length of the track on three tyres. He was back in a lap later, this time for good.

Webber found himself having to fend off an advancing Alonso, the Australian having to fire off fastest sectors to maintain a gap.

The front left of Button's McLaren began to blister, causing steering shudders for the Briton. Button was the first of the one-stoppers to pit, on lap 26, dropping him to ninth.

Rosberg and Senna also entertained the crowd with a several laps-long battle, punching and counter-punching at the end of the long straight. The battle ended as Senna pitted on lap 27 and he threw it off the road at the pit-entry.

Raikkonen, who had been bottled up behind Felipe Massa, pitted on lap 28, clearly hoping to jump the Brazilian who was yet to stop. It worked out for Raikkonen by the slimmest of margins, the Finn muscled past on Massa's way out of the pits.

Two corners later it was over again as the Ferrari romped past with its top-speed advantage.

Maldonado also pitted and nearly collected Kamui Kobayashi on his way out of the pits, also wrong-footing his teammate Senna.

Alonso pitted at half-distance, his team sending him out in 2.8 seconds. This brought out Red Bull for Mark Webber. It didn't work out well, with Alonso right on the gearbox of the RB8 and he had his work cut out keeping the double-world champion behind him.

Such was Webber's speed, he was able slowly eke out a gap, setting a series of fastest laps.

Kobayashi and Maldonado came together on lap 31. The Sauber driver was caught unawares by the Venezualan who came across too early following a successful overtaking manoeuvre, slicing his rear tyre and sending him off the road.

Hamilton finally pitted on lap 33 and not only changed his tyres but swapped steering wheels in less than 3.5 seconds. It was a complicated procedure, made all the more impressive by its seamless execution.

Vettel pitted a lap later, his lead having been shorn of more than two seconds when he tripped over Maldonado's Williams as it rejoined the track.

Grosjean, who had started on the hard tyres, made them last until lap 37, pitting and coming out in ninth place, an impressive strategy move from the Lotus pitwall.

Lotus felt they had a chance to get by Massa, too. The Ferrari driver radioed his pit to wonder how his fuel was going and so Raikkonen was told to attack.

Webber's battle got a whole lot more difficult on lap 45 when his KERS gave up, yet he was assured it would return. He got a brief reprieve as DRS was deactivated due to de la Rosa's HRT spearing off the road with a brake failure.

"I think it was around lap 19-20, maybe a bit earlier [when the trouble started]. It was on and off, and then completely off. It was a moving target," Webber said.

With DRS back, Alonso completely engulfed the Red Bull on lap 49, breezing past the KERS-less RB8, the Red Bull's fabled lack of top whack losing them a swag of points, with Hamilton circling the wounded Webber.

The front-running Red Bull of Vettel appeared to be injured too, with the forward section of the RB8's floor dragging on the road, possibly as a result of a broken stay. The problem would come after the race if the stewards deemed the floor was worn enough to contravene the rules.

Webber's KERS appeared to make a welcome return on lap 54 as he began to stabilise the gap back to Hamilton, but the McLaren driver was not going to give up.

Raikkonen asked for full engine revs and got it from his team, but it was to no avail, the Ferrari driver stubbornly refusing to make a mistake.

With Rosberg in 11th, Mercedes' miserable race was made worse as Schumacher pitted the car for the final time and retired for eighth time this season. Embarrasingly, he was also summoned by the stewards for ignoring blue flags.

Vettel crossed the line with a huge ten second gap back to Fernando Alonso. Webber held off Hamilton by fractions of a second while Jenson Button ended his anonymous race by setting the fastest lap.

"I pushed as strong as possible to get to the end of the race, but I was lucky Lewis made a mistake on lap 57. I am pretty happy with how I drove but not enough – we could have got more points today for sure," Webber said after the race.

Felipe Massa made it across the line in sixth, ending his day stranded on the side of the track with an empty tank, as did Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India.

Raikkonen finished a frustrated seventh, Grosjean ninth and Senna tenth after a strong race in which he managed to stay out of trouble despite some close racing.

Formula 1 returns in one week at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

 

2012 India Formula 1 Grand Prix Results

  1. Vettel - Red Bull-Renault
  2. Alonso - Ferrari
  3. Webber - Red Bull-Renault
  4. Hamilton - McLaren-Mercedes
  5. Button - McLaren-Mercedes
  6. Massa - Ferrari
  7. Raikkonen - Lotus-Renault
  8. Hulkenberg - Force India-Mercedes
  9. Grosjean - Lotus-Renault
  10. Senna - Williams-Renault
  11. Rosberg - Mercedes
  12. Di Resta - Force India-Mercedes
  13. Ricciardo - Toro Rosso-Ferrari
  14. Kobayashi - Sauber-Ferrari
  15. Vergne - Toro Rosso-Ferrari
  16. Maldonado - Williams-Renault
  17. Petrov - Caterham-Renault
  18. Kovalainen - Caterham-Renault
  19. Pic - Marussia-Cosworth
  20. Glock - Marussia-Cosworth
  21. Karthikeyan - HRT-Cosworth
  22. Schumacher - Mercedes

DNF

  • De la Rosa - HRT-Cosworth
  • Perez - Sauber-Ferrari
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