Sebastian Vettel broke another F1 record as he dominated the inaugural Indian Grand Prix today.
The Red Bull Racing driver qualified on pole position at the newly constructed Buddh International Circuit near Delhi, led all the way and set the fastest lap.
It was the world champion’s 11th victory of the season and he also broke Nigel Mansell’s 1992 record for the number of laps led in one season. This year, Vettel has now been at the front for 711 laps.
Jenson Button was the only driver to offer any challenge to Vettel. The McLaren-Mercedes racer passed Mark Webber’s Red Bull on the opening lap and was rarely more than a handful of seconds behind the leader.
After Vettel and Button had made their final pitstops for fresh rubber, the Briton was able to slash the gap to under three seconds. Once the leader’s tyres had come up to full operating temperature, however, he stroked clear again and set the fastest lap on his last tour.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso rounded out the podium ahead of Webber, who lined up second on the grid behind his team-mate but once again faded in the race.
An inspired Michael Schumacher eclipsed team-mate Nico Rosberg as the Mercedes twins finished fifth and sixth.
Lewis Hamilton had another incident-packed weekend. The 2008 world champion was handed a three-place grid penalty for not obeying yellow flags during free practice on Friday, so lined up fifth on the grid and slipped behind arch-rival Felipe Massa at the start.
After a lacklustre opening stint, the balance of Hamilton’s McLaren was more settled on his second set of Pirellis and he closed in on the Ferrari driver.
The pair – who have had several run-ins already this year – clashed when Hamilton made a passing move into a left-hander and Massa refused to give his rival any room.
In their past clashes, Hamilton has usually been the driver who has been deemed the guilty party by the race stewards, but on this occasion Massa was handed a drive-through penalty for causing an avoidable collision.
Hamilton had to pit to have a fresh nose and front wing section fitted to his McLaren. He recovered to finish seventh in the race – not the sort of result that will end the out-of-sorts spell he’s currently enduring.
After serving his drive-through, Massa dived back into the pits for a new nose when his front wing started dragging on the ground. He later retired after running over a kerb and breaking the suspension of his Ferrari.
Despite Hamilton’s woes, McLaren scored enough points in India to wrap up second place in the constructors championship. With two races left to run – Abu Dhabi and Brazil – the main interest is the fight for second in the points between Button, Alonso and Webber, who are currently separated by 19 points.
Vettel, meanwhile, has turned his attentions to two more F1 benchmarks. He can equal Mansell’s standard of 14 poles in a single season in Abu Dhabi, and if he wins the final two events, he’ll match Schumachers’ record of 13 victories in a season.
Indian Grand Prix, round 17/19, October 301 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)2 Jenson Button (McLaren)3 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)4 Mark Webber (Red Bull)5 Michael Schumacher (Mercedes)6 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)7 Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)8 Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso)9 Adrian Sutil (Force India)10 Sergio Perez (Sauber)