October 27th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Sebastian Vettel secured the 2013 Formula One World Drivers' Championship with a masterful drive from pole position to win the Indian Grand Prix. Nico Rosberg finished second for Mercedes and Romain Grosjean completed the podium for Lotus with an impressive drive from 17th on the grid.
Vettel led off the line after making a strong start and defending well against the two fast-starting Mercedes drivers. He was always expected to pit early, as the soft-compound tyres he started on had proven fragile throughout free practice. But it was a surprise to see Vettel in the pits as early as the end of the second lap. He pitted from the lead to exchange his soft tyres for the more durable medium tyres, and emerged from the pit lane in 17th place.
Mark Webber had started on the medium tyres in the second Red Bull, but made a poor start, losing several places in the opening corners. However, once the soft tyre starters had pitted, Webber found himself in the lead, comfortably pulling away from everyone except Vettel. It was soon clear that the race would be a straight fight between the two Red Bull drivers, and for a while it proved to be so.
Vettel was marginally quicker than Webber on the medium tyres, and by the time Webber pitted for soft tyres at his first pit stop, Vettel was close enough to take the lead. But then Vettel made his second stop, which handed the lead back to Webber, who was still on the faster, but more fragile, soft tyres.
Webber could not make his soft tyres last and pitted soon after, handing the lead back to Vettel, and from then on it seemed clear that Vettel would win the race unless he suffered a failure on his car.
There was a failure, but not on Vettel's car. On lap 40, Mark Webber coasted to a halt in turn 2 with a failure of his Red Bull car's alternator. Webber's retirement cost Red Bull a probable 1-2 finish, which would have been the cherry on top of a sensational day for the team.
On lap 52, Vettel was told to stop using his drinks bottle, presumably to preserve the electrical system on the car and assist in preventing a similar failure to that on Webber's car. Vettel's car held together to the end, however, and he held on to take a dominant victory, almost 30 seconds ahead of second-placed Nico Rosberg.
Nico Rosberg made use of the same tyre strategy as Vettel, and it paid off, bringing him home in second place, exactly where he started. That was despite losing position to Ferrari's Felipe Massa on the opening lap. Rosberg managed to pass Massa later in the race using his pit strategy, and benefited from Webber's retirement to finish second. In the other Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton struggled in the final stint with worn-out tyres, but managed to finish sixth after losing position to Sergio Perez late in the race.
Romain Grosjean delivered a stunningly impressive drive, using a one-stop strategy to finish third from 17th on the grid. It was impressive enough that he managed his tyres well enough to be quick in the closing stages of the race, despite having done more than 40 laps on a single set of medium tyres. But he was also able to fend off a strong challenge from Felipe Massa, who had much fresher tyres in the final laps of the race.
Grosjean passed his Lotus team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen, in the last few laps of the race, when Raikkonen started to go backwards as he struggled with low fuel and a very worn set of tyres. It's Grosjean's third podium in succession in what has been a much-improved second half of the 2013 season. Raikkonen finished seventh after making a pit stop at the end of the penultimate lap.
Paul Di Resta finally finished a race, after retiring from the previous several events. He ended up 8th for Force India, just ahead of his team-mate, Adrian Sutil, in a strong double points finish for the team. Daniel Ricciardo finished tenth to take the final point for Toro Rosso.
Vettel's one remaining title rival at the start of the race, Fernando Alonso, had his afternoon ruined on the very first lap, when his front wing made contact with the right-rear tyre of Mark Webber's car coming out of the first corner. Although Alonso did not pit immediately, it became clear on the second lap that he was losing performance from the damaged wing and he pitted for a new nose and front wing assembly at the end of that lap. As he had started on the medium tyres, his strategy was completely wrecked and he eventually finished 11th after fighting in the midfield all afternoon.
Vettel's fourth World Championship puts him in some legendary company in Formula One history. The only other drivers to have won four titles are Alain Prost, Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher. At 26 years old, Vettel is 6 years younger than Schumacher was when he won his fourth title, over a decade younger than Prost was and almost 20 years younger than Fangio. Moreover, Vettel has won his first four titles in succession, something none of the others managed.
Red Bull also clinched the Constructors' Championship in India today, which is also their fourth consecutive title. It remains to be seen just how the run of success of Vettel and Red Bull will be ended, as both team and driver seem to be going from strength to strength as the years pass.
Although both World Championships are now decided, there are still three races remaining in the season, which continues next weekend in Abu Dhabi.