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)