Sebastian Vettel has cemented his place in motor racing history by winning the Indian Grand Prix to secure his fourth consecutive Formula One World Championship.
The German overcame an adverse pit stop strategy to triumph for the third time at the Buddh International Circuit near New Delhi and ensure his championship points lead was insurmountable with three races left to go in the 2013 season.
"To join people like Prost, Fangio and Michael is unbelievable. I think this is one of the best days in my life so far," said Vettel after his fourth World Championship win .
Vettel joins the great Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher as the sport’s only four-time World Champions in its 63-year history.
When he secured pole position for Sunday’s race it was by no means an inevitable win, with fast-degrading tires presenting a major hurdle to his championship bid. Instead, it was teammate Mark Webber (starting the race fourth) who looked set for the win as he started the race on the slower – but more durable – "prime" Pirelli tires.
From the start though, Vettel was in control and made his first pit stop on a very early lap two. Contrary to popular expectation, he soon began blasting a way back through the slower runners who had yet to make a stop and put himself in the optimum position to seize the lead when Webber eventually called in for fresh rubber on lap 28.
From then it seemed the German was poised for the win. An alternator failure for Webber took him from second place to out of the race.
The Red Bull driver’s closest championship challenger, Fernando Alonso, was mired down in the pack at this point, having collided with both Webber and McLaren’s Jenson Button on the opening lap. A slow pit stop for repairs dropped him well down the order and despite his best efforts, he could get nowhere near the top two finishing position needed to prevent Vettel winning the title. Instead, he struggled to his first pointless race finish since Silverstone in July 2010.
Vettel made the end of the Grand Prix, and celebrated his triumph with a series of rubber-burning "donuts" in front of the ecstatic crowd on the start/finish straight – his task was complete. “To join people like Prost, Fangio and Michael is unbelievable. I think this is one of the best days in my life so far.”
“For us there was never the luxury of leaning back just because we might know how to win a title. For us every step, every race was important,” Vettel said after the flag had fallen. “Every single box has to be ticked like in the years before, whether it is my daily report or the briefing with the engineers. Also, we are pushing to the limit on the Friday’s to find the right setup. These are the little details that I believe make the difference.”
F1 returns with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next weekend, before journeying to Austin's Circuit of the Americas for the US Grand Prix on Sunday, November 17.