Sebastian Vettel gained seven championship points on his rival Fernando Alonso at the FIA Formula One Indian Grand Prix today, winning his fourth race in a row by a comfortable 9-second margin.
Mark Webber followed teammate Vettel for most of the race's sixty laps, but a KERS problem left the Aussie defenseless against a charging Alonso.
“We had a KERS issue that we had to manage," Webber explained. "We should have finished further up the road, but it’s the way it was today.”
Despite some possible fuel concerns for both Ferrari cars, Alonso pushed in the final laps to get around at the end of the DRS zone, and even continued after the long-gone leader, but an incredible start from Vettel had created a lead far too great to overcome.
"We can fight the Red Bulls, but at the moment, we still don’t have a car capable of winning," Alonso said, pessimistically.
"I tried to chase down Mark in the closing laps," Hamilton said. "But by then it was too late and he was going too quickly for me to be able to mount a serious challenge."
Felipe Massa followed in sixth to build on his lately impressive form, and may have been higher up had his fuel level not become "critical" with several minutes to go.
Kimi Raikkonen had spent the early afternoon battling with Massa and the two McLarens, but was left in the latter half of the top ten at the first pit cycle. He finished seventh, while Lotus teammate Romain Grosjean ended ninth.
Nico Hulkenberg split them in eighth, scoring four points for the home team, Sahara Force India.
The Mercedes garage was somber as Nico Rosberg lost his tenth-place spot late to Bruno Senna and Michael Schumacher first cut a tire against Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso at the start, then was investigated for ignoring blue flags, then returned to the pits and parked with just two laps to go. No explanation for this retirement has yet been offered.
Other DNF's include Sergio Perez's (mechanical, after briefly running off track) and Pedro de la Rosa, citing brake failure while fellow HRT driver and local Narain Karthikeyan was told to cool his brakes as much as possible from near the start.
A tense exchange between Kamui Kobayashi and Pastor Maldonado mid-race damaged the latter's tire and temporarily attracted the attention of the stewards. No further action was taken, but neither came close to scoring points. Maldonado's Williams teammate Senna, however, just breached the top ten for a single point.
With only three races remaining, the story of the day is, of course, championship implications. Vettel and Alonso have been battling at the fore recently, and though the Spaniard did all he could to get a solid second place, the German got first, and now leads by thirteen points. It's not insurmountable for Alonso, but if India wasn't Vettel's favorite track, the next round at Abu Dhabi would be. America's new circuit at Austin, Texas is an unknown challenge, and the season then concludes in Brazil.
The mathematic elimination cutoff bar was raised today to all drivers below sixth, now including Jenson Button. Hamilton lies on the cusp 75 points adrift. Raikkonen is third 67 points back and Webber fourth by 73.
Red Bull edges closer to a third Constructors' title win with 407 points to Ferrari's 316. Still, the Scuderia's place ahead of McLaren is impressive, given Massa's usual drag on the team championship effort. His new race-finishing agenda propels them to a lead of ten over the chrome cars. The next closest battle on the order (excluding HRT, Marussia, and Caterham tied at zero) is for fifth, with Sauber pursuing Mercedes by 20 and Force India after Sauber by 23.