Formula 1: Indian GP – Ferrari on the Podium at India’s Successful F1 Debut
On Saturday, Fernando Alonso said it would be nice to end the inaugural Indian Grand Prix by discovering the view from the podium and that’s exactly what happened, as he finished third behind winner Sebastian Vettel and second placed Jenson Button. The Spaniard’s Ferrari team-mate did not have such a good day, retiring after 32 laps, when the left front suspension of Felipe Massa’s 150º Italia was broken going over a kerb, as the Brazilian tried to make up time after having to pit for a penalty and then for repairs as a result of yet another collision with Hamilton.
On the grid, fifteen minutes before the start, there was a minute’s silence in memory of Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli, both tragically killed in racing accidents in the last fortnight.
At the somewhat chaotic start Vettel maintained the lead in the Red Bull, with Button getting a great getaway off the line going from fourth to second in the McLaren, followed by Webber in the other Red Bull, while Fernando went down one place from third in the 150º Italia. Felipe had moved up one place to fifth, then came Hamilton in the other McLaren, the Mercedes duo of Rosberg and Schumacher, Sutil’s Force India, with Senna in the Renault completing the top ten. Barrichello in the Williams and Trulli in the Lotus had already been in the pits after various first lap collisions. As Vettel pulled away building a 2.7 gap by lap 3, his team-mate Webber was closing on Button, while Fernando was 1.2 behind the Australian and Massa a further 1.1 down.
Lap 15 and Sutil was the first to pit for new tyres from 11th place, while at the front Vettel led Button by 4.7 as Webber, Fernando and Hamilton all pitted, followed by Alguersuari. The Spaniard found himself seventh behind Webber and Schumacher when he rejoined and Felipe came in for new Softs on lap 17, coming out just behind his team-mate. Fernando then passed Schumacher to go up to fourth, when Rosberg pitted. Button changed tyres on lap 18, leaving Vettel still leading as he had yet to pit. Schumacher and Buemi came in at this point and the leading Red Bull was the last of the leaders to stop on lap 19. At one third distance, lap 20 of 60, the order was now Vettel, Button, Webber, Fernando, Felipe, Hamilton Rosberg and Schumacher eighth.
Lap 22 and Felipe in fifth was coming under attack from Hamilton and unbelievably, given their past history this season, on lap 25, they collided again, as the Englishman tried to come up the inside of the Ferrari. The McLaren pitted immediately, but Felipe continued nearly going off the track at one chicane. The Brazilian was given a drive-through penalty for “causing an accident” which he took on lap 30. At this point Fernando was fourth trailing Webber by 3.3 seconds. Alguersuari in the Toro Rosso was trying to fight off Hamilton, but the Englishman got by to go seventh. On lap 31, Felipe came in again, this time to replace the nose damaged in the collision, but two laps later he was out, when the left front suspension gave way as he hit a kerb. The failure was due to an unfortunate combination of factors, starting with the collision, followed by a puncture and ending with the kerb.
Fernando went up to third place when Webber made his second tyre change on lap 37, with the Spaniard coming in two laps later to change onto the slower Hard tyre and his pace on the clear laps had been enough to bring him out ahead of the Australian, over half a minute behind second placed Button who had yet to make a second trip down pit lane. Rosberg came in from sixth on lap 45, as did Hamilton from seventh, followed immediately by Button from second. Alguersuari made his stop from seventh on lap 47, followed in by Vettel, who maintained what was now a slim 2.8 lead ahead from Button, with Fernando 16.6 behind the McLaren, and with a 1.3 lead over Webber, who was followed by the Mercedes duo of Schumacher and Rosberg.
The positions seemed settled in the closing laps, even if at one point Button looked as though he was closing on the leader and Webber definitely did get very close to Fernando on the final lap. At the flag, Vettel and Button took the top two places, with Fernando making it to the first ever Indian F1 podium in third spot. Behind him the rest of the points went to Schumacher, Rosberg, Hamilton, Alguersuari, Sutil and Perez taking the last point for tenth, the Sauber man promoted into the points when Senna made a very late final tyre change.
Next stop, the penultimate round of this long season, at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, in a fortnight’s time.