Vettel emulates Senna

On song… Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull jumps for joy on the podium after winning his fourth successive race — this time the Indian Grand Prix — at the Buddh International Circuit.-RAJEEV BHATT

The Indian Grand Prix was not only about Sebastian Vettel’s dominance or Fernando Alonso’s fighting abilities. It was also a demonstration of Mark Webber’s ability to withstand pressure, writes Y. B. Sarangi.

The Red Bull driver, Sebastian Vettel, has fallen in love with India and the Indian Grand Prix. He loves the warm-hearted and happy people of the country, the flowing Buddh International Circuit (BIC) in Greater Noida and the “nice trophies” he has collected from here.

In the second edition of the Indian Grand Prix, Vettel, facing an intense contest from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, displayed a flawless lights-to-flag performance to record his second successive victory at the BIC. It helped the German extend his lead over Alonso to 13 points and stay on course to claim his third world title in a row.

The win took Vettel to 240 points and helped Red Bull (407 points) to cushion its place further at the top of the Constructors’ Championship table. Ferrari (316 points) and McLaren (306) occupied the second and third slots with three races to go in the season.

Alonso raced out of his skin to give one of his best performances of the season and he succeeded in minimising the damage to his title hopes by claiming the second spot.

The Indian Grand Prix was not only about Vettel’s dominance or Alonso’s fighting abilities. It was also a demonstration of Mark Webber’s ability to withstand pressure. The Red Bull driver, handicapped by a KERS issue, staved off a strong challenge from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton to take the third spot.

However, it was Vettel who grabbed maximum attention with his front running skills and his post-race celebrations after registering his fourth consecutive victory and the fifth of the season. This was the first time in his career that the Red Bull driver had bagged four back-to-back titles.

Incidentally, Vettel is also the first F1 driver since the late Ayrton Senna in 1989 to lead every lap and win in three successive races.

The aggressive strategy to protect his lead at the top of the championship table worked well for Vettel as he completed 60 laps by staying 9.4 seconds clear of his nearest Ferrari rival. He made the most of his pole position to seize the initial advantage and extended his lead further as the race progressed.

Vettel, who made the best of the one-stop strategy, was gracious enough to acknowledge the effort of his team. “I think the whole team is working together fantastically well. I don’t think there is one thing that stands out to make a difference,” he said.

“We didn’t have any problems on Friday…we were able to improve the car from Friday to Saturday with support here on the track and also in the factory. We got the most out of it in qualifying. We had a fantastic race today. I think the pit stops were fantastic — at least the one I had. It takes a lot of discipline, focus at the right moment, to be there, to be sharp and I think we were in the moment,” he added.

Dogged by ill-luck... the seven-time world champion, Michael Schumacher's poor run continued this season as he was forced to retire from the Indian GP due to technical reasons.-RAJEEV BHATT

After taking the chequered flag, waved by the Olympic bronze medal winner in shooting, Gagan Narang, Vettel jumped on the podium to celebrate his superb triumph. “It has been an incredible two years for us, both times to come here and win the race, get the pole on Saturday and win the race on Sunday is fantastic. There is always a very nice trophy, so I am very, very happy to pick up another nice one this year, so a very special Grand Prix,” Vettel said.

Alonso’s courageous effort took him from fifth place on the grid to second on the podium. His DRS-aided spectacular manoeuvres while overtaking the two McLarens — Lewis Hamilton after the first corner of the opening lap and Jenson Button in the fourth lap — and then Webber in the 48th lap matched the thrills one would witness only in a James Bond movie.

The never-say-die Spaniard vowed to keep chasing Vettel in the remaining races as well. “It is not easy to fight with the Red Bull, but we will never give up,” he said.

“We know that we need to improve. We are not fast enough, especially on Saturdays…but hopefully we can improve the situation in Abu Dhabi or in USA…Still many points on the table and I am still very optimistic,” Alonso added. Even though the race for the Constructors’ Championship seems to be over (with Red Bull enjoying a lead of 91 points), the tussle between the Raging Bull and the Prancing Horse for the drivers’ title promises an exciting climax to the season.

Meanwhile, Sahara Force India completed its ‘home’ Grand Prix with a smile as Nico Hulkenberg, starting 12th on the grid, managed to finish eighth. His team-mate Paul di Resta, beginning from the 16th, improved four positions.

The HRT driver, Narain Karthikeyan, the lone Indian in the competition, overcame a few glitches in his car to complete his second race on his home soil.

There was disappointment in store for 65,000 Indian fans who adore Michael Schumacher. The German, all set to retire at the end of the season, first saw his right rear tyre roll out of the rim in the initial laps before retiring in the 57th lap due to technical reasons. He, however, was allotted the 22nd position for coming so close to finishing the race.

The legendary driver will be missed in India when the Formula One race returns in 2013.