Vettel seals 2013 title with crushing Indian GP victory

2013 Indian Grand Prix review

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Start, Buddh International Circuit, 2013‘And for my final trick I will pit after just two laps, drop to the back of the field and still win the race!’

Sebastian Vettel’s world championship-winning drive in the Indian Grand Prix wasn’t quite as audacious as that. As with all magic acts, this was merely an illusion.

And it wasn’t even Vettel doing the conjuring. It was Pirelli who conjured up a vision of Vettel being out of contention for the lead in the opening half of the race, as he waited for his rivals to get their obligatory run on the soft tyres out of the way and resume their usual positions behind his rear wing.

Without that, Vettel would probably have led every lap of the race just as he had the previous two Indian Grands Prix at the Buddh International Circuit. It was probably out of more than just sentiment that he said after the race “it?s a shame we are not racing here next year”.

Tyre fears

Red Bull’s decision to reduce Vettel’s running on the soft tyres to just two laps was made after the champion-elect was spooked by their behaviour during practice.

“These Pirellis are so sensitive,” team principal Christian Horner told the BBC on Saturday. “And what we see they’re going OK, they’re going fine, then suddenly they drop off.”

“Sebastian thought he had a puncture yesterday, came into the pits and said ‘I’ve got a major problem with the back of the car’. It was just that the tyre had gone off.”

It wasn’t just Red Bull who were wary of the soft tyre’s performance. Paul di Resta and Jean-Eric Vergne got rid of theirs at the end of the very first lap.

Like Red Bull, their teams had split strategies between their drivers, putting the other car on mediums. Ferrari were in the same boat and took the calculated gamble of putting Fernando Alonso on the medium tyres at the start.

Early blow for Alonso

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Buddh International Circuit, 2013It was a bold decision as Alonso’s Q2 time indicated he might have been able to qualify on the front row on soft tyres. Instead he lined up eighth, a vulnerable mid-grid position that isn’t called the ‘carbon fibre zone’ for nothing.

Sure enough as he accelerated around turn two Webber dodged right and smashed Alonso’s front-left endplate into shards. Then at turn four he tangled with Button. Alonso was doomed to pit to replace his front wing, and in that moment the slim chance of Vettel being denied the title was all but extinguished.

It was a blow for Button, too. “I got hit quite hard on the right-hand-side by Fernando. I don?t quite know why he couldn?t make to the apex, as I?d given him loads of room, but he hit me in the side pretty hard.”

“The contact damaged the car and damaged the wheel rim, which also gave me a puncture, although it didn?t cause me an issue until about three laps later.”

The lead changes hands

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Buddh International Circuit, 2013Felipe Massa’s fortunes in the other Ferrari were considerably better: he had started on softs and taken advantage of a mistake by Lewis Hamilton at turn three to pass both Mercedes drivers on the first lap.

Vettel’s lap two pit stop handed Massa the lead. Nico Rosberg tried to pass the Ferrari by making his first stop early, but with the midfield not having spread out yet he was delayed behind Valtteri Bottas and couldn’t make it work. Hamilton came in with Massa on the next lap and they resumed in the same order.

By lap nine the Indian crowd were enjoying their third different race leader – two more than the previous two years put together – as Mark Webber took up the charge.

Webber had started on medium tyres and lost three places, all to drivers on soft tyres who then pitted. The medium tyres proved much more durable, and he remained up front until lap 28, just short of half-distance.

In the meantime Vettel made light work of the cars between him and his team mate. It undoubtedly helped his cause that most of them appreciated they were unlikely to keep him behind for any length of time – particularly as the main DRS zone had been extended by 160 metres this year – and mostly didn’t waste their energy or tyres going off-line to defend their position. By lap 21 he was up to second.

Strategic choices

Adrian Sutil, Force India, Buddh International Circuit, 2013For those who started on the medium tyre the question now was whether to try to stay out until they could make it to the end on soft tyres, or to make two stops, with the soft tyre stint at the middle or the end of the race.

Adrian Sutil was the only driver who started on the medium tyres and one-stopped. “We thought that the soft tyres would only last around five laps,” he said afterwards, “so I made sure I really looked after them, and in the end I managed just under twenty”.

For those who two-stopped, leaving the soft tyres until the end risked leaving them vulnerable in the event of a Safety Car. This mattered less for those nearer the rear of the field so Bottas, Esteban Gutierrez and Max Chilton all took that route.

Webber, however, used his soft tyres for the middle stint: “You?ve got to protect against a Safety Car”, he said. Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo did likewise having been running third and fourth respectively. All were back in the pits within five laps.

Alternator robs Red Bull of one-two

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Buddh International Circuit, 2013Vettel made his final pit stop in between Webber’s two visits, leaving the pair running to the end on medium compound tyres. The stage was set for a formation Red Bull finish followed by a double coronation.

But it wasn’t to be. The RB9 shares the same Achilles’ heel as its predecessors – reliability – and this time it struck down Webber. A gearbox glitch proved the first indication of a terminal electrical fault, and he pulled off at turn two as lap 40 began.

“The most disappointing thing today was obviously the failure on Mark?s car when we were set for a one-two finish,” said Horner afterwards, “We had a sudden alternator failure.”

This recurrence of a problem which caused the team multiple retirements last year occurred despite them having changed suppliers for the part. Vettel was quickly urged to take every possible precautions.

“I wasn?t allowed to use the drinks bottle in the race, we switched the KERS off,” he said. “We did everything to try and save energy at the end”.

Raikkonen frustrates Grosjean

Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen, Buddh International Circuit, 2013As has often been the case this year there was plenty of vying for position some distance behind Vettel. Rosberg made an early second pit stop and jumped Massa but Hamilton came in on the same lap as the Ferrari – Mercedes seemingly not having told him to do the opposite to whatever Massa did.

Massa and Hamilton came out of the pits behind another car – Romain Grosjean’s Lotus. Having started on soft tyres he’d made a late switch to mediums and was gambling on making it to the end of the race.

Kimi Raikkonen was attempting to do the same but lacked the benefit of fresh tyres for his first stint and was getting through his mediums more quickly than Grosjean. On lap 52 Rosberg easily stripped him of second place.

Grosjean has had to make way for Raikkonen more than once this year but if he expected any such co-operation from his team mate he was to be disappointed. Despite instructions from Lotus to move aside and the deteriorating state of his tyres Raikkonen moved to cover the inside of turn four as Grosjean approached, then forced his team mate off the track.

Lotus’s trackside operations Alan Permane gave Raikkonen an earful and his driver responded in kind, which gave FOM’s team radio censor plenty to do. Raikkonen finally waved Grosjean through having held him up so badly Massa was now within DRS range.

Despite warnings from his team to look after his engine, Grosjean clung on to his podium position. Raikkonen had to pit on the penultimate lap for soft tyres to get to the end, crossing the line well behind Hamilton.

Nico Hulkenberg was on course for eighth place when he hit trouble. “When I was braking into the last turn something clicked and all of a sudden my brakes were gone,” he said. “Something must have been broken on the car.”

He retired in the pits, promoting the Force India drivers to eighth and ninth courtesy of their unorthodox strategies.

Daniel Ricciardo held on for the final point, resisting attacks from Alonso grappled with an ill-handling car after his first-lap contact.

Vettel ready to do it all again

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Buddh International Circuit, 2013India was an appropriate place for Vettel to seal his fourth world championship victory in as many years. He remains undefeated at the track in the race and qualifying, a situation which will remain the case for at least another 12 months as the race is absent from the 2014 F1 calendar.

With the title in his hands he let rip, spurned FIA protocol and headed back to the pit straight to perform doughnuts in front of the cheering crowd.

“I would actually love to take the time out and travel India, travel around here, because I think this country has the possibility to teach you so much,” he said after the race.

“The majority of people are very poor, if you compare the living standards to Europe. I think it?s within human nature that you always find something to complain about. Being German, maybe it?s in my roots to find something to complain about but you come here, the majority of people have a very difficult life you would say, but they are very happy.”

But then, for a moment, he came back down to earth. “There?s not enough time in the off-season, to be honest. It?s a very busy schedule.”

“It?s a big, big, big project waiting for us next year. I think teams like Mercedes, Ferrari spend a lot of time thinking of new ideas. It?s a new car, it?s a new engine so it will be an incredibly big challenge. We already start testing in January…”

And just like that, the 2013 world champion was planning how to beat them all again in 2014.

2013 Indian Grand Prix

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    45 comments on “Vettel seals 2013 title with crushing Indian GP victory”

    1. Brilliant drive by Vettel. Him and Red Bull have clearly proven that on the current grid they are a cut above.

    2. A well deserved victory and WDC, and thank you Seb for the celebration.

    3. Vettel won and celebrated it in style.
      Though I’m still wondering what Kimi thought when he pushed Grosjean off track – between 2 drivers from different teams it would have been border-line but puling such a move on your team-mate is just dumb.

      1. He ran out of brakes, he didn’t do it on purpose, that’s what he replied to his team.

    4. Great write up @keithcollantine For me it was a race that I won’t forget for a while. WDC and WCC wrapped up by a victory and the celebrations were absolutely fantastic.

    5. What else can you say about Vettel? As much as it pains me to say this, he has been flawless and thoroughly deserves all the success him and his team have achieved.

    6. The quality of this reports have rocketed high up the sky like a Coke bottle with mentos in it since you started doing them a bit later in the day, @keithcollantine !

      Love them ! Specially when the races are… on the boring side. You learn so much out of it.

    7. I could not believe Adrian Newey’s candor while discussing the failure of Mark’s car in the greenroom prior to the podium celebration. He basically laughed it off like it wasn’t a problem.

      Can you imagine if the roles were reversed; Vettel with a DNF (while still securing the championship) and Webber on the podium? Adrian Newey wouldn’t have been there, and he certainly wouldn’t have been laughing about Vettel’s car failure if he were.

      1. Vettel certainly has had the emotional support form the team since 2010.

      2. @oblong_cheese It’s an interesting question. Has Vettel earned the love of his team more than Webber? Or it’s the evil Red Bull Empire being mean to honest and little Mark?

        Whatever the case, it’s clear the team loves Vettel.

      3. Mark seems relatively affable in interviews, but I bet he is relatively hard to work with. And on the other side of things, it couldn’t be more clear that Horner and Newey (and the rest of RBR) LOVE working with Vettel, so that’s going to affect a whole lot of views.

        Also, they had just clinched the two goals they set for the year, so all the messy details are just war stories at that point.

        1. I remember an interview with sir Jackie Stewart and he came straight out and said that Vettel acted like a spoilt child behindthe pit wall. While Webber is one of the most popular drivers on the tour with the other drivers and teams. And what RBR love is the fact that at the moment Vettel is wining and brings manoy to the team. That neither adds nor detracts from his personality.

          1. Interesting, do you have a link to that interview?

          2. @johnrkh A part of it would also come from the fact that Vettel spends more time with his engineers. Having gone to numerous GPs in the last 5 years when they were teammates, Vettel stays back to work with the engineers, even bothering to make drinks and sandwiches for his mechanics, whereas Webber leaves a lot earlier.

      4. Well, Vettel certainly has the emotional backing of the team. The team obviously prefers Vettel to win than Webber.

        But then, can you blame the team for that? Take for example the Suzuka strategy mistake. Webber (in his own words) never saw the data or worked with the team to find if his strategy was wrong. But instead, he spent that time telling the media that his strategy was wrong.
        If I were a Red Bull team member, I would be pretty miffed with such behavior. Why can’t the driver come talk to us about this rather than going and talking everything to the media.

        And this has been a feature of Webber since 2010. His likable skills – not toeing the PR line, saying things he thinks out loud – which make him a fan favorite are also what stops him from bonding well with the team. Webber, in his endeavour to be a fan favorite, washes the dirty linen in the public. And hence, the team does not support him.

        1. Funny thing about facts they keep popping up at the worst moments.

          “ The Red Bull driver said he queried his team’s decision to switch strategies.
          “After that first stop the guys said we were still on two [stops]. No problem, look after the tyres, get to the target lap, and that was the plan. I was looking to wait, off the back of Romain, and try to squeeze up to the back of him between laps 28 and 31, 32, which was the target lap.
          “And then I think on 25 the guys said ‘we’re going three-stop’, which was five laps shorter than the two-stop anyway. I asked the guys ‘are you sure this is right?’ and they said ‘yes, we’re going to give it a go’. And when you give it a go you’ve got to give it 100%, and that was it.”
          “I don’t have the whole chess match in front of me, that’s the thing,” Webber added, “I have what’s in front of me here.”
          “I thought Romain was strong on the [medium tyre], not as strong on the [hard]. When I decided to pull the pin and go straight on the back of him I could do that quite straightforward.
          “But then I went there and I thought ‘OK let’s wait again, we can still sit on the two-stop and wait for him to maybe have a bit of tyre problems at the end’. But they said no, we need to pit now, go for the three.
          “They had more information, they always generally do in front of them and that was it.”

          1. You are referring to Webber’s quotes just after Japanese GP. I am referring to the comments he made in India ( a whole two weeks after the race.

            1. You mean this one?

              Speaking at the press conference for the Indian Grand Prix Webber said he hadn’t looked into why his strategy was changed.

              “I haven’t gone over any data from the last race whatsoever,” he said. “I still stand by what I said at the time that I was a bit surprised that we elected to do that.”

              “Having to three-stop you’ve got to pass three cars to win the race against that of maybe sticking to a two where you’re just focused on trying to beat Romain.”

              So he backed up what he said the first time…yes?

          2. @johnrkh obviously Webber wasn’t confident enough to overrule the team strategy, the way Vettel did in 2011 Monaco (which by the way won him the race)

        2. It’s an interesting point. As Autosport put it perfectly “Webber used every opportunity to paint the team that had given him the best car in F1 and paid him several million to drive it as being against him”.

          I like Webber, and he’s a fairly skilled driver, but he has a bit of a drama vibe around him and his relationship with his team. Which, for somebody who is paid 10M/year to drive the fastest car on F1, comes out as bit silly. It has earned him fans, but I could see why it could have costed him a few inside the team.

          1. Oh yes sorry I forgot, that was the Turkish incident Webber was directed by his race engineer to conserve fuel while in the lead. Vettel receiving no such orders attempted to over take on a damp track and they both went off. Marko and Horner immediately blamed Webber before speaking to either driver. Marko did clarify later though saying “Webber was slower (I wonder why?) and Vettel had immense pressure from Hamilton. Unfortunately, Mark was not told about the situation accurately by his race engineer,” It would have been more honest for the team to issue team orders and tell Webber to let Vettel pass and then block Hamilton.

            But that was three years ago that type deception dose not go on now does it ?

            1. @johnrkh I think you need to word your replies a bit more coherently. Also make sure which post you’re replying to.

            2. @johnrkh Would you rather Webber didn’t save fuel and not make the end of the race? Webber was in the lead. Ask any engineer worth their salt and they will tell you any car – even a normal road car – driving in clean air eats more fuel than one in a slipstream, because when you’re in clean air you have to use fuel in order to counter drag, before you can then use it for accelerating and forward motion.

          2. You referred to a quote “Webber used every opportunity to paint the team that had given him the best car in F1 and paid him several million to drive it as being against him”*. Yes?
            You used that quote to support your argument that Webber is in your opinion a “fairly skilled driver” yes? Talk about a back handed compliment.
            You speak as if you believe Webber should be grateful for his job, like he did not earn it. If anyone should be grateful its Vettel as he has had the full support of the Red Bull team since he was 8?
            But he was picked because he is bloody good and will very probably win several more championships before he bows out. But that break defiantly smoothed his rise to the top considerably. I do wonder what Webber could have done with the same opportunity.

            That quote* is from an article written by Edd Straw, a rather one sided piece I might add. As it leaves out much important information regarding the 2010 season and the Turkey race in particular. Obviously his personal opinion and not the type of thing any reasonable person would choose to use to draw a balanced opinion of those particular events or the people involved in them I would think.
            You seem to have a very similar opinion to Edd Straw and way you express your opinions are similar as well.
            And yes I did mean to reply to you and the post I referenced.

            1. @johnrkh Your post is still difficult to follow, so I’ll ask you to be a bit clearer next time.

              Yes, I quoted Ed Straw to further show that some people (clearly myself included) believe that Webber has been portraying himself as a victim of his own team. The Turkey incident only small part of the whole picture.

              And yes, I do think Webber should be thankful for the job, so should Vettel. They both got a chance to drive for the best team, with the best car, being paid millions. Of course, their sheer effort and talent played no small role, but that doesn’t change the amazing oportunity they have, one that other drivers like Alonso and Hamilton are desperate for.

              So yes, when somebody in such a situation portrays himself as a victim, I’m not going to be surprised if the team likes more the guy who thanks them every time he can and tells them how great they are.

      5. ” Adrian Newey wouldn’t have been there, and he certainly wouldn’t have been laughing about Vettel’s car failure if he were.”
        How do you know this? Has it happened before so You can draw a conclusion from the past?

        1. Even though Mark’s trips to the podium (sans Vettel) are quite rare, Newey rarely appears with him in these circumstances. Of course there are many major factors as to why, but I stand by my belief that had Vettel DNF’d in India, with Mark on the podium, and RBR still securing the WCC, Adrian would not have been there with Mark.

          I’m not trying to paint a picture here, just stating my beliefs.

          1. Well, my belief is that Newey would’ve been on the podium regardless of who won because that was the race they secured the constructors title.

            1. If he was there, do you think he would have been laughing and telling the story of how Vettel’s alternator failed?

            2. @oblong_cheese Even if he was or wasn’t, so what? If you want to say the team supports Vettel more than Webber (a reasonable thing to say) go and say it.

          2. @oblong_cheese Kinda interesting though, that Vettel seems more liked by the team despite the caricature of being “a spoilt child with no sense of team spirit” that his detractors so often try to sell.

      6. How can you deny a man and teams glory on winning an amazing season and instead mope over a car technical failure? You don’t do that. The problem with your comment is that you continue to look for reasons to prove that Mark was badly done by. Vettel just outperformed him for quite a few years. Don’t look further than that.

        1. No one in their right mind would deny Vettels victory or his prowess as a driver.

          Sportsmanship, integrity. Just saying.

    8. @keithcollantine I can’t remember but when was the last time the world championship had been won with the champion finishing in first place?
      Obviously there was 2008 for about 19 seconds but I don’t think that counts.

        1. @david-a I now feel incredibly stupid hahaha, thanks for pointing that out for me.
          I guess with way that race went I completley forgot how he won.

      1. Well Vettel did it in 2010, not that far back really!

    9. @dragoll @fer-no65 Thanks very much guys! :-)

    10. There is no denying that Vettel is a very talented driver, and he and the team deserve all the success, the hard work they put in always gets rewarded. Forgive me for sounding like a troll, but does anyone else feel that the record books make Vettel appear better than he is? Is he really two WDCs better than Alonso, three better than Hamilton, Raikkonen etc.? It appears to me that the failure of the other teams to match the Red Bull has greatly aided Vettel’s cause (with the exception of 2010). Even last year, the McLaren was a solid car, but team errors and reliability issues at the critical moment (Singapore) knocked Hamilton out of the running, leaving Vettel almost clear to take the title from Alonso (I have not forgotten his spectacular drive in Brazil, hence why I appreciate his talents as a driver).

      1. A valid point about Vettel, he has had an extraordinary run while others have battled to stay competitive. Even his team mate at times seems unjustifiably slower considering they are in equal cars, even taking into consideration Webbers harder use on tyres. I must confess that Vettels success is remarkable.

    11. Mr win or lose
      28th October 2013, 9:11

      In the meantime Vettel made light work of the cars behind him. It undoubtedly helped his cause that most of them appreciated they were unlikely to keep him behind for any length of time – particularly as the main DRS zone had been extended by 160 metres this year – and mostly didn’t waste their energy or tyres going off-line to defend their position. By lap 21 he was up to second.

      The only good thing about the chewing gum tyres was the extreme mixing in the first few laps. However, thanks to DRS and drivers who were instructed not to defend, Vettel wasn’t delayed too much, so his strategy worked out well. In fact, the drivers starting on the hard tyres usually fared worse (especially Alonso and Button).

      One would have expected Webber to use his soft tyres for the final few laps, as Vettel did in China. Instead, he used them in his middle stint, probably because Red Bull couldn’t predict how long the tyres would last, so they chose a more flexible strategy. But still… A 5-lap stint on softs is a complete joke. By the way, last year’s Indian Grand Prix there was no tyre degradation at all, which I think is a bad thing, but this was even worse.

      However, the medium tyre was quite durable, which meant that nothing much special happened after the opening stage pitstop frenzy. Only the last laps, when Räikkönen reached the cliff, were exiting. However, why Räikkönen was fighting Grosjean so heavily is beyond me.

      1. “chewing gum tyres” American term if I recall? We called them qualifing tyres in Aus and they were banned some time ago. How the wheel turns lol.

    12. Congratulations to Vettel. He has driven fantastically this year. Don’t want to spoil with any more words.

    13. After a fashion, Vettel did lead every lap, when you see the gaps as “pitstop corrected” if you get what I’m saying.

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