Vettel unbeatable in India after “masterclass” in tyre management
Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel completed a perfect win to consolidate his lead in the Formula One Drivers’ Championship in India, using the low levels of degradation experienced with both of Pirelli’s P Zero compounds to finish at the head of a grid that mostly emulated his one-stop strategy. Vettel was fastest in every session to claim his fourth race victory in a row, achieving a similar feat to last year’s visit to the Buddh circuit – Pirelli points out that no other driver has ever led a lap there.
Vettel, along with the rest of the top 10 qualifiers, started on the P Zero Yellow soft tyres before switching to the P Zero Silver hard tyre on lap 33 in a one-stop strategy, without losing the lead. Despite the challenging track layout in India, with an ambient temperature of 30 degrees centigrade, this proved to be the most popular strategy, which was adopted by all the finishers. Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso – who finished second on the same strategy, pitting four laps earlier – claimed the runner-up spot with 10 laps to go. Red Bull’s Mark Webber was third, four seconds behind.
Lotus driver Romain Grosjean was the highest-placed driver on the grid to start on the P Zero Silver hard tyres, in 11th place, before moving onto the soft tyre on lap 36. The decision paid off, as Grosjean made up two places from his grid slot to finish ninth. An identical starting strategy was adopted by Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher, Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo, and Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi.
The other Sauber of Sergio Perez stopped twice, but he was forced to retire as a consequence of contact with a Toro Rosso. The incident caused a puncture: exactly as a similar coming together did for Schumacher on the opening lap and for Pastor Maldonado (Williams) on lap 31, all caused by contact with other competitors, with sharp front wing endplates slicing the sidewalls of the tyre. Consequently, Perez made his second stop early, planning on running his final set of hard tyres for nearly 40 laps. However, he was subsequently forced to retire.
McLaren driver Jenson Button completed the longest final stint on the hard tyre, lasting 35 laps, which took him to fifth at the finish. Both Grosjean and Kobayashi completed the longest first stint on the hard tyre, pitting both on lap 36. The Japanese driver eventually finished 14th on the soft tyre, having started from 17th on the grid.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “Both the hard and the soft tyres lasted extremely well in India, with low levels of degradation enabling the drivers to push at their hardest from start to finish on this fantastic circuit. Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull gave us a master class in tyre management and strategy, making all the right calls from start to finish.
“Grosjean and Kobayashi tried a different strategy, with a long first stint on the hard tyre, which also paid off, showing how tyre strategy can make a difference even for drivers who start outside the top 10 of the grid. Last year, most of the top runners stopped twice: this year only one stop was necessary despite the fact that our compounds have actually become softer across the board. Congratulations also to Ferrari and Fernando Alonso, who showed excellent race pace and straight-line speed to go from fifth to second, which promises a thrilling conclusion to the championship. Now we head straight to Abu Dhabi, which will constitute a completely different challenge.”