INDIA may not have the Raj anymore, or have Queen Elizabeth II as its Empress, but today, at the Buddh International Circuit, it had the honour of crowning a new Formula One champion, and it was bestowed upon Sebastian Vettel. He has become only the fourth man in the history of the sport to have claimed four titles, joining an élite consisting of Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost and Juan Manuel Fangio. The fact that he is only 26, and that this is the fourth consecutive year in which he has won the title, goes to show that he is capable of much more. Some criticise the young German for not being able to race, but Abu Dhabi last year disproved this, and some criticise him because he is merely the person steering a successful four wheeled machine around a race track. This is also not true. He is a key figure of the triad of motor sporting brilliance, consisting of himself, the driver, Adrian Newey- master engineer and technical officer- and Christian Horner- the Team Principal. Together, they dominate the Red Bull Racing team, and this combination has now managed to win both Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships for the past four years, and today’s Grand Prix was a testing one in which to accomplish these feats.
It was predicted that the race would be dominated by tyres, since Pirelli had chosen the speedy soft compound, which degrades after about 10 laps, and the slower medium compound, which was more durable. Teams debated strategy over Qualifying, and it was decided that Mark Webber would begin on the medium tyres and Vettel on the softs. It was looking as if Mark Webber could take the chequered flag- he looked after his tyres, and was building a good lead, until his alternator broke down and the Australian was forced to retire from the race, leaving his team-mate the opportunity to take the lead and the chequered flag, meaning he would secure the Championship. Indeed, Vettel himself drove carefully, especially when manoeuvring his way through traffic following an early pit-stop.
The Mercedes team were also strong- Nico Rosberg managed to negotiate around the New Delhi circuit and finished second, with eighteen points, and team-mate Lewis Hamilton finished in an average sixth place, earning himself eight points. Lotus’ Romain Grosjean suffered badly in Qualifying (he had to start seventeenth), but managed to look after his medium tyres to make his way through the field, and despite nearly colliding with his team-mate Kimi Raikkönen, he finished on the podium, earning himself another fifteen points.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso suffered contact and never featured heavily in the race, so it was up to Felipe Massa to earn vital points in order to aim for second place in the Constructors’ Championships. He finished fourth, earning twelve points. McLaren’s Sergio Perez proved that he was a capable driver when it comes to tyre strategy, and he finished a respectable fifth, and earned ten points. Raikkönen eventually finished seventh and earned six points; Force India were eighth and ninth, with Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil picking up four and two points respectively; Daniel Ricciardo finished tenth, securing one point for Toro Rosso.
OFFICIAL STANDINGS UPDATE Doughnuts on the track were Vettel’s way of celebrating his historic accomplishment, followed by a moving podium interview. He has dominated the 2013 season, and wrapped up both titles with three more races still to go, but it is still all to play for, since the higher positions will bring more revenue for teams and drivers.
Sebastian Vettel is first with 322 points in the Drivers’ Championships, and Fernando Alonso is currently second, with 207 points to his name. However, Kimi Raikkönen is close behind with 183 points, as is Lewis Hamilton, with 169 points. All three will be vying for second place in the coming Grands Prix. Mark Webber is fifth with 148 points, but Nico Rosberg is only 4 points behind in sixth.
Romain Grosjean and Felipe Massa both own 102 points, with Grosjean in seventh place due to his better race results. Jenson Button is ninth with 60 points, and fellow Brit Paul Di Resta is tenth with 40 points, with Nico Hulkenberg breathing down his neck with 39 points in eleventh. Twelfth place sees Sergio Perez with 33 points; Adrian Sutil is thirteenth with 28 points. Daniel Ricciardo is fourteenth with 19 points and Jean-Eric Vergne is fifteenth with 13 points. Esteban Gutierrez is sixteenth with 6 points, with Pastor Maldonado seventeenth with 1 point to his name.
In the Constructors’ Championships, Red Bull is the winner with an impressive haul of 470 points. But, the competition for second place is a very tight contest indeed. Currently, Mercedes are in the silver position with 313 points, but Ferrari has 309 points, and Lotus isn’t that far behind, with 285 points to their name. McLaren have all but secured fifth place with 93 points; Force India is sixth with 68. Sauber, with 45 points, are battling eighth place Toro Rosso who have 32 points. Williams are ninth with 1 point, and Marussia are still in tenth, ahead of Caterham, despite not scoring any points.
The next Grand Prix will be held in a week’s time at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, where the day turns into night during the race. The sun may be setting on the 2013 Formula One season, but don’t write off the sport yet, for the final three races of the year may yet surprise us as the teams and drivers battle it out for position and funding.