Vettel and Red Bull Take the 2013 Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship With Win in India
Although three races remain in the 2013 Formula 1 season, both Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull team have taken their respective championships with a stunning (if predictable) victory in India. Last week, Vettel’s closest competitor in points, Fernando Alonso, admitted that while it was technically possible to pull off a Championship victory, claiming first from Vettel was virtually impossible. Now, with Vettel’s commanding 30-second win in India, the German cemented his fourth consecutive Formula 1 title. And while Mark Webber’s retirement in Lap 40 added no points to Red Bull’s standings, the team has enough to claim the Constructors’ title as well.
Vettel earned pole position this weekend to share the front row with Nico Rosberg, who has enjoyed stellar qualifying times all season. When the lights went out, the sharp Turn 1 turned out to be quite a challenge for the bunched-up pack. A chain reaction initiated by Mark Webber colliding with Kimi Räikkönen led to Webber striking Alonso (ripping off Alonso’s left front wing), who then tapped Jenson Button. The debacle would hamper Alonso’s performance throughout the entire race, and Button had to pit almost immediately due to a tire puncture. Although Alonso replaced the front wing at the beginning of Lap 2, the contact altered the way his Ferrari drove for the entirety of the race. A tussle with Max Chilton caused Giedo van der Garde to retire after only two laps.
With Alonso in the pits and Vettel switching to mediums after just one lap, Felipe Massa found himself happily leading at Buddh. He stayed in front for a half dozen laps before boxing to switch to the longer-lasting medium tires, which Webber capitalized on to head into first. Massa reemerged from pit lane just behind Vettel, but both drivers had to deal with Sergio Pérez, who was bringing the fight to Webber. In Lap 21, Vettel overtook the McLaren and set Webber square in his crosshair. Tire changes for both Red Bulls set up Vettel in first place and placed Webber behind his 2014 replacement, Daniel Ricciardo. Further back down the line, a pit stop relegated Alonso to #16.
Lap 38 saw the retirement of Charles Pic, leaving Caterham without a driver on the track. Just two laps later, Webber got the call from pit row that he’s been receiving all year: something was wrong with his car. This time, it was the alternator, and the Aussie immediately exited the track in order to preserve his engine. It was Webber’s third retirement of the season (he was given a 15th place finish in Singapore despite the fact his car caught on fire on the last lap, as he finished 90% of the race). With Webber out, Räikkönen moved up to a distant second, with 25 seconds separating himself and Vettel.
Adrian Sutil should be commended for making his starting medium tires last for an incredible 41 laps. He finally pitted on Lap 42 to change to the optional soft tires as required by Formula 1 regulations. Although Räikkönen was setting quick laps with his softs, by Lap 53 it was clear that earning a podium finish on the degrading rubber would be nearly impossible. His times began to slip, and was passed by Rosberg. By Lap 57, his Lotus teammate, Romain Grosjean, passed him despite a strong Finnish defense.
Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg, who had such a stellar performance in Korea and a strong finish in Japan, was forced to retire after 54 laps due to technical problems. Lap 58 saw one of the best battles of the race, as Räikkönen attempted to fend off both Sergio Pérez and Lewis Hamilton. Unfortunately for the veteran racers, both were fighting with lame Pirellis, and the rookie handily defeated both.
Sebastian Vettel again saw the checkered flag waving for him with nobody in the rearview mirror. This time it was different, as this victory in India officially made him the 2013 Formula 1 World Champion. It also made Red Bull the leader in the Constructors’, so the highest award goes to both driver and team. The podium yesterday was the surprising combination of Vettel-Rosberg-Grosjean, with Massa and Pérez just outside. The non-points-earning pack was unexpectedly occupied by Alonso and Button, both of whom suffered from the collisions in the first lap.
While the Drivers’ Champion was decided in India, second place is still up for grabs. Räikkönen is breathing on Alonso’s neck with only a 24 point deficit, while Hamilton is 14 points behind the cool Finn. The Constructors’ race is even closer, with Mercedes leading Ferrari by only 4 points. Lotus, too, is within spitting distance of the other factory teams.
The next race is the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on next Sunday, November 3.
Photo courtesy of Red Bull