Sebastian Vettel fought back from an early pit stop to win the Indian Grand Prix and in doing so wrapped up his fourth World title.
It was another dominant performance from the red Bull team, although there were late race reliability worries when Mark Webber's car stopped on Lap 39 with an alternator failure.
Nico Rosberg came home in P2 with Romain Grosjean nursing a set of Pirelli medium tyres for 47 laps to take a podium place from 17th on the grid. team-mate Kimi Raikkonen's attempt to make them last 52 laps didn't come off and he finished in P7 behind Massa, Perez and Hamilton.
There was a camera-limiting haze over the Buddh circuit as the cars lined up for the start of the Indian Grand Prix. It was dry, but the telephoto effect of the camera lenses made it look very gloomy in Greater Noida.
Grid1.Vettel, 2.Rosberg, 3.Hamilton, 4.Webber, 5.Massa, 6.Raikkonen, 7.Hulkenberg, 8.Alonso, 9.Perez, 10.Button, 11.Ricciardo, 12.DiResta, 13.Sutil, 14.Vergne, 15.Bottas, 16.Gutierrez, 17.Grosjean, 18.Maldonado, 19.Binachi, 20.van der Garde, 21.Pic, 22.Chilton
As the lights went out, Esteban Gutierrez had already started his race and braked, a jump that would give him a penalty later on. Both Mercedes got off the line quickly, Hamilton better than Rosberg, and Vettel had to move across the line to block Hamilton off. With Vettel leading through Turn 1 the squabbling started for P2, Rosberg then got ahead of Hamilton but it was the Ferrari of Felipe Massa who was able to use his KERS strategically and pass them both for P2 at the end of the opening lap.
Mark Webber, who along with Alonso and the two McLarens were starting on the medium tyres, had been advised he wasn't racing against those around him starting on the soft tyres as they would need to come in after just six or seven laps.
Going into Turn 1 he was duelling with Raikkonen and looked to clip the apex kerbing which pushed him out wider than expected and into Raikkonen's Lotus - after the bump he moved to his right and his rear wheel deranged Fernando Alonso's front wing.
Perez was already past the Ferrari but at the next corner Alonso came under pressure from Daniel Ricciardo on the inside and Alonso ran wide and hit Jenson Button's McLaren very hard. Button got a puncture and was forced into an early stop on his medium tyres which effectively ended his afternoon.
Positions after Lap 1: 1.Vettel, 2.Massa, 3.Rosberg, 4.Hamilton, 5.Hulkenberg, 6.Raikkonen, 7.Webber, 8.Perez, 9.Ricciardo, 10.Alonso, 11.Sutil, 12.Maldonado, 13.Button, 14.Gutierrez
Romain Grosjean ended the opening lap in 16th, surprisingly he had started on the soft tyres whilst all around him were on mediums.
Sebastian Vettel may have led every lap of the Indian Grand Prix up until now, but he was quick to end that reign when he dashed into the pits at the end of Lap 2 to swap his soft tyres for mediums and rejoin in P16. Fernando Alonso had already been into the pits to replace his front wing and was back in P20. After that he reported back steering problems with it heavy steering to the right and light to the left.
So from Lap 3 it was Felipe Massa leading the Indian GP for Ferrari from Rosberg and Hamilton, but it wouldn't be for long. Hulkenberg was in for tyres as early as Lap 5. By Lap 6 Mark Webber was using the durability of his medium tyres to re-establish himself in front of Kimi Raikkonen, while Romain Grosjean was up to P11.
Another medium runner, Sergio Perez, who had survived the early race bumping and boring was past Raikkonen on Lap 7 and then both Raikkonen and Rosberg dived for the pits. Massa and Hamilton were in the following lap as Mark Webber began a steady run of fastest laps from Lap 8 through to Lap 11.
With the cars who had started on the soft tyres now out of the way, the race order looked very different to Lap 2.
Positions after Lap 9: 1.Webber (not stopped), 2.Perez (not stopped), 3.Ricciardo (not stopped), 4.Grosjean (not stopped), 5.Sutil (not stopped), 6.Vettel, 7.Gutierrez (not stopped), 8.Massa, 9.Bottas (not stopped), 10.Rosberg, 11.Hamilton, 12.Hulkenberg, 13.Di Resta, 14.Raikkonen
By Lap 13 Vettel had made his way steadily past a number of cars and was past the yet-to-stop Ricciardo for P3. This was also the lap in which Romain Grosjean came in to swap his softs for mediums. He'd been losing lap time in the final three laps of the stint which indicated that Lotus might be trying to run the Frenchman all the way till the end of Lap 60.
Perez was still in between the two Red Bull drivers at the front but on Lap 14 the gap between Mark Webber in first and Sebastian Vettel in third was 12.7 seconds. Perez was told by his McLaren engineer not to fight Vettel as he was not racing him. Checo was pulling away from Daniel Ricciardo in P4 and by Lap 21 had a 14-second gap to the Toro Rosso.By Lap 21 Vettel had only reduced the gap to Webber to 11.8 seconds and by Lap 25 it was 10.8 seconds. There was little movement further down the field with Kimi Raikkonen stuck behind Hulkenberg, and Rosberg was busy duelling with Felipe Massa - the Mercedes could get in front of the Ferrari but then Massa would take him back. On Lap 26 Massa, Rosberg and Hamilton were bunched together the pace being determined by the Brazilian. The stalemate was broken on Lap 27 when Nico Rosberg came in for his second stop.
On Lap 28 the yet-to-stoppers, Webber and Perez, came in for their first stops. Because Red Bull and McLaren were wary of a Safety car that would bunch up the field, they wanted to get the soft tyre phase out of the way in the middle of the race and not at the end. So both would be back into the pits a second time.
On his new soft tyres Perez was able to get past Lewis Hamilton who was coming to the end of his stint and on Lap 30 Massa, Hamilton, Alonso and DiResta all pitted.
Pit-stops were coming thick and fast . Vettel pitted from the lead on Lap 31. Mark Webber pitted to get rid of his soft tyres on Lap32 and then on Lap 33 Ricciardo, Perez and Hulkenberg pitted again. The sum total of this was:
Positions on Lap 34: 1.Vettel (2 stops), 2.Webber (2 stops), 3.Sutil (yet to stop), 4.Raikkonen (1 stop), 5.Rosberg (2 stops), 6.Grosjean (1 stop), 7.Massa (2 stops), 8.Ricciardo (1 stop), 9.Hamilton (2 stops), 10.Perez (2 stops), 11.Hulkenberg (2 stops), 12.Maldonado (1 stop).
Pirelli had recommended that teams shouldn't try and run the medium tyres beyond 35 laps, but Sutil kept going beyond that point. He would eventually stop on Lap 41 having been passed by Raikkonen and Rosberg on track. He rejoined in P9, but would have to make his soft tyres last 19 laps to the flag.
However Mark Webber had already disappeared from the race. On Lap 39 he got a message from his engineer Simon Rennie that he was losing gearbox sync and very shortly after that, the old Renault ailment of a failed alternator shut down all systems and he had to stop the car. He had already lost the strategy battle with Vettel despite the World Champion's very early stop.
By Lap 42 all the front-runners who had planned to stop had stopped for the final time and it was a question of eking out tyre life to the flag.
Positions on Lap 42: 1.Vettel, 2.Raikkonen 3.Rosberg 4.Grosjean 5.Massa 6.Hamilton 7.Perez 8.Hulkenberg 9.Sutil, 10.DiResta, 11.Bottas, 12.Gutierrez, 13.Ricciardo, 14.Alonso.
Now it was a question of whether both Raikkonen and Grosjean could make their tyres last to the Lap 60. Sutil's race pace had started to fall apart after 42 laps on the Pirellis and Raikkonen would need to put in 52 laps on them and Grosjean 47.
Nico Rosberg began a push to catch Raikkonen and started recording fastest laps and fastest sectors. Lewis Hamilton was tucked up behind Felipe Massa and could find no way past. Rosberg was 6.8 seconds behind Raikkonen on Lap 45 and by Lap 50 he'd reduced that to 1.8 seconds. Next time round it was 0.4. Despite Massa having much younger tyres that Grosjean he was unable to catch the Lotus in front of him at all.
Rosberg passed Raikkonen on Lap 52 while the gaggle of cars behind - Grosjean, Massa, Hamilton and Perez were all bearing down on the Finn with the struggling tyres. Behind Perez there was a huge gap to Paul DiResta who'd by now made his way past his Force India team-mate.
There had been concerns about Vettel's alternator and so he was asked to switch KERS off and even stop the electric supply to his water bottle, but that didn't stop him setting the fastest lap on Lap 54 and getting a suitable reprimand from Rocky his engineer.
Lewis Hamilton had used his tyres up following Massa so closely and was dropping into the clutches of Sergio Perez. The Mexican had a look on Lap 55 but there was no way past.
Grosjean caught Raikkonen on Lap 56 but instead of letting his team-mate go, Kimi made it difficult for Grosjean to pass. He pushed Grosjean out wide and onto the run-off tarmac forcing the Frenchman to hand the place back and allowing Felipe Massa to close up on them both. Thus when Grosjean came through Massa was able to pass the Finn straight away and it also allowed Massa the potential of a podium place.
On Lap 58 Hamilton and Perez had caught him and they ran three abreast down the straight into Turn 4, the McLaren passing both cars to take two places at once. Raikkonen - now in P7 - dived for the pitlane to take on more tyres as had a massive gap to DiResta in P8. Thus when he emerged he was easily able to take the fastest lap and deny Vettel the clean sweep.
Sebastian Vettel duly took the win from pole and his fourth World Championship in a row, stopping his car and doing douhnuts on track instead of returning to parc ferme. Rosberg was thirty seconds back in P2 with a happy Grosjean in P3 from 17th on the grid.
Massa came home fourth ahead of Perez, Hamilton, Raikkonen, DiResta, Sutil and Ricciardo who had a great late-race battle with Fernando Alonso, apart from the battle he was also having with his handling.
It had been a race enlivened by Pirelli tyres and the split strategy, but which Sebastian Vettel never looked like losing after a bold early stop. The reliability gods denied Red Bull a 1-2, but there had been career-enhancing drives at the right moment from Perez and Massa.
F1 will not be back to the Buddh in 2014 and some believe the Indian Grand Prix will have to wait quite some time to have anyone but Sebastian Vettel as the winner.
01 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:31.12.187
02 Nico Rosberg Mercedes +29.8
03 Romain Grosjean Lotus +39.8
04 Felipe Massa Ferrari +41.6
05 Sergio Perez McLaren +43.8
06 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +52.4
07 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus +67.9
08 Paul di Resta Force India +72.8
09 Adrian Sutil Force India +74.7
10 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso +76.2
11 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +78.2
12 Pastor Maldonado Williams +78.9
13 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso +1 lap
14 Jenson Button McLaren +1 lap
15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber +1 lap
16 Valtteri Bottas Williams +1 lap
17 Max Chilton Marussia +2 laps
18 Jules Bianchi Marussia +2 laps
19 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber +6 laps
R Mark Webber Red Bull +21 laps
R Charles Pic Caterham +25 laps
R Giedo van der Garde Caterham +59 laps
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