Vettel hits new heights with four-in-a-row

Vettel hits new heights with four-in-a-row

Another weekend, another race, another venue - but the headline and the story remained the same: a lights-to-flag victory for Sebastian Vettel in the 2012 F1 Grand Prix of India, and another step closer to his dream of holding on to the F1 world championship in 2012. 

Events meant that Mark Webber was denied the opportunity to make it a second consecutive Red Bull 1-2, afterFernando Alonso managed a stand-out performance to battle his way up from fifth on the grid to take second place ahead of Webber, who suffered late-race KERS issues that put him off his stride for a crucial period. 

Despite coming home in fourth and fifth places, it had been a frustratingly average day for the McLaren drivers. For them, the pattern for the afternoon was set within seconds of the start as they were involved in the most thrilling battle of the day on track only for them both to get eclipsed by Alonso moments later. 

It was a very short hold on the lights before the race was on: and as feared, the Red Bulls almost immediately disappeared into the thick haze hanging over the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida. Sebastian Vettelcomfortably maintained his pole position into the first corner ahead of team mate Mark Webber, and that was that as far as the battle for the race win went. 

Behind them, things were a lot less serene as a fierce battle broke out over third place. Lewis Hamilton lost out to a flying start from his team mate Jenson Button, and the two McLarens exited turn 3 onto the long straight side-by-side with the position still in dispute. Then Fernando Alonso got a huge run on both of them, benefiting from drafting in the slipstream of the two McLarens and by a perfect seventh gear setting to blast past them both, although Button was able to take the next corner ahead of the Ferrari and leave Alonso sandwiched between the McLarens. 

Even so, Alonso's superiority down that straight was so emphatic that it only took a few minutes before he was able to line up Button down the straight and pass the McLaren with ease on lap 4; within a couple of laps he was already a second ahead and out of DRS activation danger. Button couldn't manage the same trick over Hamilton and soon succumbed to his team mate on lap 6. 

The net result was that the McLaren running order was reset to starting grid default positions, but Alonso had succeeded in passing them both. But the Ferrari was still six seconds back from the lead Red Bull duo and not able to reel them back in by more than the occasional tenth of a second here and there. Further back, his team mate Felipa Massa had held on to sixth place behind the McLarens and was running ahead of Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen, Sauber's Sergio Perez, Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and Mercedes' Nico Rosberg as the race settled down into a relatively processional stint after the first-lap thrills at the front. Rosberg was having to work hard to keep tenth ahead of Pastor Maldonado, Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna, who were a comfortable four seconds ahead of the still-struggling Paul di Resta. 

It was proving to be another deeply disappointing day for Michael Schumacher, who suffered a right rear puncture through the crowded first corners of the race. He had to limp the Mercedes back to pit lane for a change of tyres, which put him well out of the running and the team would eventually opt to retire him in the pits before the end of the race; Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne was also involved and lost his front wing in the collision, forcing him into pit lane as well for running repairs. The two of them were running at the back of the field for the early part of the race, with Vergne taking until lap 13 to catch HRT's Narain Karthikeyan who was already struggling with brake temperatures. 

Sauber surprised everyone when they were the first team to bring a car into pit lane for fresh tyres, with Perez coming in from the top ten on lap 15 complaining of a lack of race pace, having just lost a position to the DRS-boosted Hulkenberg down the long straight. Also struggling for pace was Maldonado, who was seemingly a sitting duck for Grosjean to pass in the run into turn 3 on lap 17: Maldonado lost momentum on the exit and was promptly passed by his team mate Senna as well.