Sebastian Vettel remains on track to equal Michael Schumacher’s 2004 record of thirteen wins in a single season, after the German cruised to his eleventh win of 2011 at the inaugural Indian Grand Prix.
The win was one of the German’s most straightforward: he led every lap from pole and set the fastest lap to boot, becoming the first driver since Fernando Alonso at last year’s Singapore Grand Prix – and just the twenty-second in the sport’s history – to claim a grand chelem (pole, win, fastest lap, leading every lap).
At the start, Vettel led into the first corner and quick set about building himself an early lead. He enjoyed a margin of up to five seconds for much of the race – the gap only coming down during the pit stop sequences – while the battles behind were the focal point of the race.
The opening sequence of corners saw plenty of carnage. Fernando Alonso outbraked himself at Turn 1 and ran wide, dropping a place to fourth. Behind them, Rubens Barrichello locked up and hit the back of Williams team-mate Pastor Maldonado, triggering a chain reaction that forced Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi wide.
Evidently without looking into his mirrors, the Japanese driver attempted to rejoin the circuit and sideswiped Timo Glock’s Virgin Racing car; Kobayashi ground to a halt a few laps later, while Glock – after a precautionary pit stop – found the damage was too great and parked his car after two laps.
But the action was not over, for at Turn 3, Jarno Trulli hit the back of Daniel Ricciardo and spun onto the infield. Ricciardo continued undamaged, while Trulli limped to the pits with a puncture. He finished the race in last place, five laps adrift.
The early-lap dramas saw Trulli, Barrichello and Sergio Pérez all pit, although the Mexican’s stop was purely to ditch the hard-compound Pirellis he had started on in order to switch to the more-favoured soft tyres. Given the Mexican’s known gentle driving, he could effectively run the race with just one further pit stop – a tactic that saw him snatch tenth place and an all-important point for Sauber.
Williams’ horror season continued, with Barrichello’s stablemate Maldonado parking his FW33 before quarter-distance with his gearbox packed it in.
Another retiree was a frustrated Sébastien Buemi, who parked his Toro Rosso with an engine failure. The Swiss driver had shown excellent pace in the early stages, running in team-mate Jaime Alguersuari’s wheel tracks, and was a certainty to continue the Italian team’s run of points. As it was, Alguersuari took his giant-killing STR6 to eighth place and four more points, bringing the team level with Sauber in the Constructors’ Championship and within ten points of claiming sixth place from Force India, who claimed two points with Adrian Sutil’s run to ninth place.
Up at the front, Vettel was never challenged, and the German set himself the task of claiming more records. Much to the alacrity of his team, he continued to clock up fastest laps, posting a staggering 1:27.457 on the final tour.
His leading margin was only trimmed during the pit stops, and an early final stop helped the chasing Jenson Button close down the gap to just two seconds. But Vettel always had the pace in hand and quickly built the lead back up, crossing the line with 8.4 seconds over the Briton.
Button’s second place came off the back of his opening-lap pass on Webber down the circuit’s undulating back straight. From there on, he quickly built himself a buffer over the Australian, but he simply didn’t have enough in hand to mount a challenge on Vettel.
Webber, meanwhile, was struggling with rear tyre wear and did well to keep the chasing Alonso at bay for much of the race. But making his switch to the slower and harder Pirellis a few laps before Alonso was all the Spaniard needed to undercut the Australian and claim the final podium spot. Although Webber was able to close back up onto the back of the Ferrari, he never had an opportunity to pass.
The trying seasons for Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa continued, and to the incredulity of everyone, the pair conspired to have their fourth on-track incident of the season.
This time it was the quicker Hamilton to tried a move on Massa into the Turn 5 left-hander; having stuck his McLaren up the inside, Massa turned towards the apex and pinched Hamilton. Massa spun and rejoined, while Hamilton limped to the pits with a broken front wing.
To the surprise of many commentators, it was Massa who was served a drive-through penalty for failing to cede the corner to Hamilton, and we’ll go on Hamilton’s side in this argument. No doubt this will spark yet another chapter in the Hamilton-Massa ‘handbags at dawn’ battle, which will be more than happily fuelled by the hacks in the British tabloids…
While Hamilton would limp to seventh place, Massa compounded his misery when he also showed he still hadn’t learned from his crash in qualifying, caused by hopping the kerbs.
The Brazilian did it again in near-identical fashion, snapping his front suspension and retiring. Incredibly, he’d laid the blame after his qualifying crash on the circuit and gone so far as suggesting that the kerbs be reprofiled. But the high inside kerbing exists to stop drivers shortcutting the corners, and with no one else having this problem, Massa will be the lone voice of irrational argument here.
The disasters for Hamilton and Massa meant a nice present for the Mercedes GP drivers to pick up another haul of points. Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher ran in tandem for the entire race, but Schumacher made his final pit stop for the hard tyres a few laps later than Rosberg, which was enough to see him jump his countryman and claim fifth place at the chequered flag.
2011 Indian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (60 laps):
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7||60||1:30:35.002|
|2.||Jenson Button||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||60||+ 8.433|
|3.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F150° Italia||60||+ 24.301|
|4.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7||60||+ 25.529|
|5.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team W02||60||+ 1:05.421|
|6.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team W02||60||+ 1:06.581|
|7.||Lewis Hamilton||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||60||+ 1:24.183|
|8.||Jaime Alguersuari||Scuderia Toro Rosso – Ferrari STR6||59||1 lap behind|
|9.||Adrian Sutil||Force India F1 Team – Mercedes VJM04||59||1 lap behind|
|10.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber F1 Team – Ferrari C30||59||1 lap behind|
|11.||Vitaly Petrov||Lotus Renault GP R31||59||1 lap behind|
|12.||Bruno Senna||Lotus Renault GP R31||59||1 lap behind|
|13.||Paul di Resta||Force India F1 Team – Mercedes VJM04||59||1 lap behind|
|14.||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus – Renault T128||58||2 laps behind|
|15.||Rubens Barrichello||AT&T Williams – Cosworth FW33||58||2 laps behind|
|16.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Marussia Virgin Racing – Cosworth||57||3 laps behind|
|17.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT F1 Team – Cosworth F111||57||3 laps behind|
|18.||Daniel Ricciardo||HRT F1 Team – Cosworth F111||57||3 laps behind|
|19.||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus – Renault T128||56||4 laps behind|
|DNF.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F150° Italia||32||Suspension|
|DNF.||Sébastien Buemi||Scuderia Toro Rosso – Ferrari STR6||24||Engine|
|DNF.||Pastor Maldonado||AT&T Williams – Cosworth FW33||12||Gearbox|
|DNF.||Timo Glock||Marussia Virgin Racing – Cosworth||2||Damage|
|DNF.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber F1 Team – Ferrari C30||0||Collision|
|Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7||60||1:27.457|
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