Sebastian Vettel led from start to finish at yesterday’s Indian Grand Prix as he secured a fourth straight victory to extend his Formula One championship lead over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso to 13 points.
Vettel, winner of the title the last two seasons, started from pole and controlled the entire race at the Buddh International Circuit near New Delhi. He also won last year’s inaugural Indian race. Alonso finished second to maintain his challenge for the title with three events remaining.
“To come here both years, get the pole and win the race is fantastic,” Red Bull’s Vettel, 25, said at the post-race presentation. “It is a very special Grand Prix and I really like this circuit.”
Vettel and Alonso, who claimed the last of his two championships in 2006, are now the only realistic challengers for the title with third-place Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus 67 points behind the leader with only 75 available for the remaining races. Vettel heads the standings with 240 points, while Alonso has 227.
“We lost points but this is what we expected this weekend as we are not fast enough,” Alonso, 31, said at the presentation. “There will be better races to come.”
Mark Webber, Vettel’s teammate, and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton are the only other drivers within 75 points of the German driver. They were third and fourth yesterday, ahead of Jenson Button in the other McLaren, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Raikkonen.
Vettel had a good start, keeping ahead of Webber as Alonso made an early move to split the McLarens, which had both started on the second row.
Alonso moved into the third spot on lap five, with Button dropping to fifth as Hamilton also found a way past on the following lap.
Michael Schumacher of Mercedes suffered a puncture to his right rear tire on the opening lap after a collision with Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne. He was able to continue, though he was among three drivers who didn’t finish the race after pulling out on lap 56 of 60.
Vettel built a lead, with Alonso moving into second with 12 laps remaining as he swept past Webber, who had a temporary loss of his power-boost system.
Alonso started to slowly chip away at Vettel’s lead without really challenging the superiority of the Red Bull driver, finishing about 9.4 seconds back.
Webber was able to hold onto third, with Hamilton less than a second back.
“I enjoyed the fight today,” Webber said. “It was a difficult race and difficult for me to get into a rhythm.”
Vettel’s winning run in Singapore, Japan, Korea and India has seen him take control of the championship, with the German leading every lap of the last three races. He had the victory in Singapore after Hamilton pulled out with a transmission failure.
He is the first driver since Button in 2009 to secure four wins in a row.
“If you think about the world championship, this is a good step for us,” Vettel said. “But we’ve a long way to go, and we’ve seen how quickly things can change.”
The other points-scorers yesterday were Nico Hulkenberg of Force India, Lotus’s Romain Grosjean and Williams driver Bruno Senna.
In the constructors’ competition, Red Bull has 407 points and Ferrari 316, with McLaren another 10 points back.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the 18th of 20 races, is scheduled for Nov. 4.