Sebastian Vettel’s (Red Bull) dominance coming into India was clear: 5 straight 2013 victories, and having won each pole, led every lap, and won each race in the 3-year history of the Indian Grand Prix. A Top 5 finish for Vettel would give him his fourth straight championship. In order for Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) to remain alive he needed to finish either first or second.
Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) started next to Vettel, with Rosberg’s teammate Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber in the second Red Bull making up Row 2. Alonso lined up for the start in P8. Webber was the highest qualifying driver on the prime, medium-compound tires. Both Alonso and his Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa got off to strong starts. Alonso, however, bumped Webber from behind, damaging his front wing, after initial contact between Webber and Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus). Massa passed not just Webber, but both Mercedes to take P2 in the opening lap.
With all this happening behind him, Vettel built a 2.4-sec lead during the opening lap, using the gap to come into the pits and get off the soft tires after Lap 2. Rosberg pitted on Lap 8 to take off his softs, with Massa and Hamilton following one lap later. Vettel, meanwhile, had already moved from the back of the field to P8, reaching P5 by Lap 10 (of 60). The leaders during Lap 10 were Webber, Sergio Perez (McLaren), and Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso), but all had yet to pit.
Vettel took third during Lap 13. Vettel took P2 from Perez during Lap 21, leaving only teammate Webber 11.8-sec in front of him. Webber pitted onto the softs during Lap 29, ceding the lead to Vettel. Perez also pitted. Webber returned to the fray in second, with Ricciardo running P3.
Vettel pitted during Lap 32, slotting between Webber and Ricciardo on return. Webber needed to make at least one more stop to get off the softs, and did so one lap later, coming out behind Ricciardo, who had yet to make even his first stop. Ricciardo pitted on Lap 34; leaving it Vettel-Webber at the front, with a 12.8-sec gap between them. Adrian Sutil (Force India) ran third, but had yet to pit.
Webber retired during Lap 40 with alternator/gearbox problems. Both Raikkonen and Rosberg passed Sutil, to take second and third respectively. Vettel, Raikkonen, and Rosberg remained the Top 3 with 10 laps to go. Rosberg passed Raikkonen for second during Lap 52. Vettel, meanwhile, got instructed to stop using his drinks bottle, indicating team concern for his alternator as well. Vettel responded by setting the fastest lap of the race.
Romain Grosjean, who started P17, passed teammate Raikkonen for third as the latter’s tires faded. The Red Bull victory gave Vettel his fourth straight drivers’ title and Red Bull their fourth consecutive manufacturers’ championship. Rosberg finished second.
Driver standings - Top 10
322 - Sebastian Vettel (Germany) - RBR-Renault
207 - Fernando Alonso (Spain) – Ferrari
183 – Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) – Lotus-Renault
169 - Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain) – Mercedes
148 - Mark Webber (Australia) - RBR-Renault
144 - Nico Rosberg (Germany) – Mercedes
102 – Felipe Massa (Brazil) - Ferrari
87 – Romain Grosjean (France) – Lotus-Renault
60 - Jenson Button (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
40 – Paul di Resta (Scotland) – Force India-Mercedes
Constructor standings - Teams scoring points
470 - RBR-Renault - Vettel, Webber
313 – Ferrari – Massa, Alonso
309 – Mercedes – Hamilton, Rosberg
285 - Lotus-Renault – Raikkonen, Grosjean
93 – McLaren-Mercedes – Button, Sergio Perez
68 – Force India-Mercedes – Adrian Sutil, di Resta
45 - Sauber-Ferrari – Nico Hulkenberg, Esteban Gutierrez
32 – STR-Ferrari – Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne
1 – Williams-Renault – Pastor Maldonado, Vallteri Bottas
Next event: Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina – Nov. 1-3, 2013