• Indian Grand Prix

Vettel eases to victory ahead of Alonso

ESPN Staff
October 28, 2012
Sebastian Vettel extended his championship lead to 13 points with victory © Press Association
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Sebastian Vettel eased to victory at the Indian Grand Prix as Fernando Alonso limited the damage to his championship challenge with second place.

It was a simple victory for Vettel, but Alonso's drive ensured that he only lost seven points in the championship standings, extending the Red Bull driver's lead to 13 points. Mark Webber held off a late challenge from Lewis Hamilton to take third place, but suffered with KERS issues during the race and lost a position to Alonso as a result.

Jenson Button came home a distant fifth ahead of Felipe Massa, who sustained race-long pressure from Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus, which was lacking straight-line speed and unable to find a way past.

Vettel made another strong start and built a comfortable lead over the opening laps that he never looked like losing. Behind the two Red Bulls, Alonso made a very strong start and used impressive straight-line speed to split the two McLarens heading into turn four. Button was running third but became a sitting duck when the DRS was enabled and Alonso breezed past to take the position. Hamilton also took advantage of the DRS zone between turns three and four to pass Button and the order was then set until the pit stops.

Alonso started to close on Webber at the end of the first stint while Vettel built up a 10s lead over his team-mate. Of the top three, Alonso pitted first, forcing Red Bull's hand with Webber so as not to lose position to the Ferrari on fresh tyres. Vettel was still lapping at a comfortable pace at the front and was able to stay out for another three laps before coming in for his one and only stop.

Once all the cars had returned to the track, Alonso was even closer to Webber but the Red Bull soaked up the pressure and kept Alonso at bay despite being on cooler tyres. The gap the ebbed and flowed, but on lap 45 Webber received an all-too-familiar radio message telling him his KERS had failed. It didn't take long for the news to be relayed to Alonso's cockpit and the Ferrari picked up the pace, putting himself in a position to attack and pass the No. 2 Red Bull.

A couple of laps later, Alonso got a faint whiff of victory as sparks started to spray from the undertray of Vettel's car. Worried faces appeared on the Red Bull pit wall but the problem appeared to correct itself a couple of laps later, with team boss Christian Horner speculating that it may have been a loose bolt or some debris after the race. From that point onwards it was clear sailing for Vettel and he set his fastest lap of the race on his final lap to underline his dominant 9.4s victory.

After being passed by Alonso, Webber's attention immediately switched to Hamilton's McLaren, which had been making strong progress since the second pit stop race and was now showing a strong enough pace to catch the KERS-less Red Bull. However, Webber's power boost returned in the closing stages and he was able to hold off Hamilton in the final two laps as the McLaren got close but ultimately fell short.

Button took some of the fizz out of Vettel's celebrations by snatching the fastest lap as he crossed the line for fifth, but it was scant conciliation for McLaren which dropped more points to both Ferrari and Red Bull in the constructors' championship.

Raikkonen spent the whole race within a second of Massa's Ferrari, but due to a short seventh gear, only had a 5km/h speed advantage over Massa with his DRS open and couldn't find a way past.

Nico Hulkenberg scored a strong result for Force India on home soil with eighth place, ahead of Romain Grosjean who gained two positions from his grid spot by running an alternative strategy, starting on the hard tyres and finishing on the softs. Bruno Senna took a well-deserved point in tenth after tough battles with Nico Rosberg and team-mate Pastor Maldonado during the race.

Michael Schumacher's end to the season continued on its downward trajectory when he suffered a puncture after contact with Jean-Eric Vergne on the first lap. He then suffered the embarrassment of being investigated by the stewards for holding cars up under blue flags and eventually retired from the race before the chequered flag.

Jean-Eric Vergne loses part of his front wing against Michael Schumacher's Mercedes © Press Association
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