Sebastian Vettel moved 13 points clear of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in the Formula One drivers' championship with a commanding win at the Indian Grand Prix, his second in a row at Buddh International Circuit.
Alonso could only manage second place behind the defending champion, a result which leaves him on 227 points compared with Vettel's 240. Mark Webber would have given Red Bull Racing a second one-two in succession but for a KERS problem that allowed Alonso to sneak past 12 laps from home. Webber then held off a late charge from Lewis Hamilton to hold on to his fifth podium finish of the year.
“I think it's been an incredible two years for us, both times to come here and win the race. To get the pole on Saturday and win the race on Sunday is fantastic,” said Vettel of his fifth win of the season.
“There's always a very nice trophy so I'm very, very happy to pick up another nice one this year, so a very special grand prix. I don&'t know what is it about this circuit but I really like the flow of it.”
Vettel's fifth win of the season was largely sealed at the start. When the lights went out both he and Webber made good starts and the Australian was able to momentarily draw alongside the championship leader but he had to give way though as the arced towards turn one.
With that battle won, and in clean air at the front of the pack, Vettel was able to build a solid lead over the first half of the long opening stint. After a dozen laps the German had forged a lead of almost eight seconds over third-placed Alonso. Webber, meanwhile, was also settling into a good rhythm in second, running almost four seconds clear of the Spaniard.
I think we felt after a couple of laps that the tires were holding up reasonably well.
Vettel made his one and only stop on lap 33, taking on the harder of the two compounds and from there began to pace himself as he arrowed towards his fourth victory in a row.
“I think we felt after a couple of laps that the tires were holding up reasonably well and then when you cross around 15-16 to 20 laps with still something in the tires left, you obviously know it goes more to the direction of one stop,” he said of his long first stint.
“I think we were very competitive on the soft tires; on the hard tires I think McLaren and Ferrari were pretty competitive. I think we were probably not as competitive on the primes as on the soft tires but all in all a fantastic race.”
Behind the leader, Webber was having a tougher time. After his single stop he came under brief pressure from Alonso, but the Red Bull driver responded to break out of the one-second gap Alonso needed to activate his DRS. It looked like Webber had done enough to secure second but then the Australian reported that his KERS was no longer working.
That difficulty saw him once again fall into Alonso’s orbit and the Ferrari driver, seeing a gilt-edged opportunity, stepped up the pressure. Webber defended bravely but with no boost the gap to Alonso soon fell below the one second mark again and on lap 48 Alonso slipped past.
“It [the KERS] was on and off, and then completely off. I was a moving target,” Webber said. “We needed to screw around with brake balance and just manage as best we could [to not] lose rhythm and tempo. We needed to keep the focus, but it is so demoralzing on that straight with no KERS -- it is not really a battle. Fernando came past -- they have good top gear -- and that was it.”
It was a tough break for Webber but he'll take consolation from the battling performance he delivered to hold off Hamilton in the final laps of the race.
“I pushed as strong as possible to get to the end of the race, but I was lucky Lewis made a mistake on lap 57,” Webber said of his battle with the McLaren driver. “That was important because he was starting to get a bit of momentum. I was keen to keep him out of DRS as much as possible."
For Alonso, Webber’s KERS issue was a gift. Despite seeing Vettel extend his championship lead, the 18 points earned by Alono at the Buddh circuit limited the damage and keep him in touch with the title fight with three rounds to go.
“Nothing [has] changed in one race,” Alonso said of his championship hopes. “There are 75 points [left] and we are 13 behind and we know we need to improve. We are not fast enough, especially on Saturday, but we can improve the situation in Abu Dhabi or in the USA. As we saw with Mark’s KERS problem, it can happen to Seb or it can happen to us, so I am optimistic.”
He conceded, however, that Ferrari must improved quickly if he is to stand a chance of taking his third championship win.
“I think we need to bring some new parts to Abu Dhabi and hopefully improve a little bit the competitiveness of the car and get closer to Red Bulls on Saturday and hopefully Sunday as well,” he said.
With Hamilton fourth, fifth place was taken by McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, with Felipe Massa sixth. The final points positsion where then taken by Kimi Raikonen, Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna.