World champion Sebastian Vettel made history by winning India’s first Formula One as McLaren’s Jenson Button tightened his grip on the championship’s second place.
Red Bull’s Vettel led wire-to-wire for his 11th victory in 17 races, finishing some 8.4 seconds ahead of Button with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso third and Australian Mark Webber fourth.
Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher battled to fifth but McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton came in seventh after yet another collision with his Ferrari nemesis Felipe Massa.
But Vettel was in a class of his own at the all-new Buddh International Circuit near New Delhi as he closed on Michael Schumacher’s 2004 record of 13 wins in one year, with two races left this season.
Vettel on a record-breaking spree
The 24-year-old German, who became Formula One’s youngest back-to-back world champion when he reclaimed his title in Japan, also set a new record for laps led in a season as he surpassed Nigel Mansell’s 1992 mark of 692.
“The car is fantastic, the team is enjoying itself and we are on a run basically since the beginning of the season,” said Vettel. “It’s really enjoyable to know that we have already achieved a lot this year but we’re still hungry so we’re not lacking motivation.
“All the people come back with their questions but we seem to give them the right answers.”
India’s debut grand prix got off to a sombre start when the teams and 95,000 spectators held a minute’s silence for IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon and MotoGP’s Marco Simoncelli, who died this month.
But the race began furiously when Rubens Barrichello was hit on the first turn and three cars ended up off-track, before Jarno Trulli found himself on grass.
Vettel made no mistake from pole position but Button nipped past Webber and Alonso to go from fourth on the grid to second, cueing up an early dogfight with the Australian Red Bull driver.
As they duelled, Vettel opened up a lead and after the first set of stops, the young German emerged from the pit lane still at the head of the field.
And there were fireworks on lap 24 when Hamilton, trapped on the inside by Massa as they hared towards a left-hand turn, shunted the Ferrari driver across the track in the latest of a series of collisions between the two.
Massa was given a drive-through penalty and Hamilton pitted for a new front wing, but the Brazilian’s race soon ended in farce as a kerb shattered his front suspension – a replay of the mishap he suffered in qualifying.
“There is not much to say. It’s a disappointing day and my team deserve better,” Hamilton said afterwards. “I’ll fly back (to Britain) and try to get my head back in the game.”
The race’s build-up had been overshadowed by the two motorsports deaths and the controversial spectacle of glamorous Formula One appearing in one of India’s poorest regions.
Racing deaths overshadow Vettel’s win
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel admitted he had ‘mixed emotions’ about his emphatic victory after two tragic deaths left motorsports in mourning.
Several drivers wore tributes to IndyCar’s Dan Wheldon and MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli, who both died in races this month. “For everyone who is a fan of motorsports it’s been a hard time we had to go through,” said Vettel. “On one hand I’m happy and proud... but on the other hand you have to pay respect to those two guys who lost their lives and our thoughts are with them, especially their families.
We should never forget those two very young, committed race drivers.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2011.
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