F1: Vettel triumphant at inaugural New Delhi Grand Prix

Delhi, October 30th, 2011 – By winning his 11th grand prix this year, Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel is still on course to equal the record for the most number of wins in one season: 13, held by Michael Schumacher from 2004.

The brand-new Buddh circuit on the outskirts of Delhi evolved considerably over the course of the weekend, with the times getting faster as the track cleaned and more rubber was laid down on the track.

Vettel led from start to finish, using a two-stop strategy to win from McLaren’s Jenson Button – who made up two places from his grid position at the start of the race. The top six all used a two-stop strategy, with Lewis Hamilton the highest-placed three-stopper in seventh following a collision with Massa.

Having dropped out of the top 10 following the clash with Hamilton, Felipe Massa was the first frontrunner to switch to the hard tyre on lap 31 but the Ferrari driver was unable to finish the race due to broken suspension. His team mate Fernando Alonso used pit stop strategy to help secure a podium finish, stopping two laps after Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber for the hard tyres on lap 37. The pair of them were separated by less than two seconds all the way to the finish.

Vettel, who had claimed pole position on Saturday, moved over to the hard tyre for his final stop with 13 laps to go. The German also set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap winning by 8.433s from Button.

Lotus Renault’s Bruno Senna carried out the longest stint on the soft tyre during the race, lasting 34 laps, while Williams driver Rubens Barrichello completed the longest stint on the hard tyre, for exactly 34 laps as well.

Conditions were dry and warm throughout the race, which started with an ambient temperature of 31 degrees centigrade and a track temperature of 37 degrees, in hazy sunshine.

Driver Quotes –

Sebastien Vettel – “It was very good race for us and I enjoyed it. I had a bit of a fight with Jenson in the distance who was always around 4 seconds away, but strangely he kept closing in around the pit stops. I was pushing very hard into the box, but we seemed to lose a little bit there, which we need to understand.

On the circuit it was crucial to manage the tyres and make sure we had enough left at the end, but it was a very smooth race.

The car was very well balanced and it was a fantastic race today. Thanks to the whole team and to Renault, who have done an exceptional job so far this season. But I have mixed emotions today. I’m very proud to be the first winner of the Indian Grand Prix, but on the other hand we lost two of our mates recently. I didn’t know Dan Wheldon, but obviously he was a big name in motorsport. I got to know Marco Simoncelli this year and our thoughts are with their families at this time. We are ready to take certain risks, but obviously we pray that nothing happens; sometimes you get reminded and that’s the last thing we want to see.

It’s a very impressive country here, very different to what we know in Europe, but very inspiring. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you can learn a lot from the way the people handle things here. It’s a big country with a lot of people, but they are happy and enjoy life, which is what it’s all about. At the end of your life, it’s friendships, emotions and thoughts that you take with you, rather than what’s in your bank account. So, even though people don’t have a lot here, they are a lot richer in many ways and we can learn from that. It’s been a great race, a great event and the circuit is fantastic, so thanks a lot to all the people in India.

Jenson Button – “In terms of team effort, we did everything right today – our car just wasn’t quite quick enough to actually win. I got a good start, made up places on the first lap and then settled down to keep Mark [Webber] behind me for five or six laps. Eventually, I think we ‘broke’ his rear tyres, which enabled me to establish a gap. Then I could set about Seb [Vettel] – but it was very difficult to close him down. At the final stop, it was a risk going to the harder tyre earlier than Seb, but we had to give it a go and it worked pretty well as I was able to close him down by a further three seconds. My car felt really good: before Seb could find his rhythm on the Prime, I was able to get the gap down to 2.8 seconds, but it wasn’t quite enough. Still, this was a very good result for us – and I think we delivered the maximum possible. I loved the whole experience this weekend. And I think every driver will be excited about coming back here because it’s such a phenomenal circuit; fast and flowing with a bit of everything. It gets a big tick from me.

“The Indian people have really welcomed us to their country; I’ve never seen so many people smiling before. And the crowd has been wonderful. I hope that Formula 1 grows in India in the future and that we get an even bigger crowd here next year.”

Fernando Alonso: “It’s nice to jump on the podium for India’s debut in Formula 1 and I’m pleased to have a new trophy to take home. However, today was a special day, full of contrasting emotions. In fact, the satisfaction at getting a podium finish cannot cancel out the sadness which has been with us for several days, because of the deaths of two of our colleagues, two special people – Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli.

After this race, second place in the Drivers’ championship is still possible, but it will be very difficult because McLaren is on great form at the moment, even if the gap is only 13 points. We are aware that on paper, we are behind the two Red Bulls and two McLarens: then, if something unusual happens, we can make it to the podium. Today, the team was fantastic, managing to fix a problem on the front wing which was only identified twenty minutes before the start.

At the start, I did not get away particularly well and so Button was able to pass me. Then I tried to stay close to Webber and when he slowed down a bit, I closed right up and, staying out on track a few laps longer than him, I was able to get ahead of him. Being patient paid off. Now we head for Abu Dhabi, a race that is a bit unusual…Maybe I will go to the Ferrari Park to play golf to relax prior to the race and then, on Sunday night, I will try and bring home the only trophy not yet in my collection.”

Narain Karthikeyan: “I had a great grand prix and I really enjoyed myself, it was an amazing experience. To finish 17th in my home grand prix is the best I could have wished for with the car we have and beating my teammate and one Lotus on the way makes it all the more satisfying. It’s a shame I faced the penalty and, perhaps, we could have had a much better race without it. But I made a good start and then suffered some damage to the front wing but afterwards I picked up a good rhythm and was able to complete a good race. It’s an awesome feeling to have completed the first ever Indian Grand Prix and to have been competitive with our main rivals which proved a lot of points”.

Lewis Hamilton – “The contact with Felipe [Massa] was just one of those things. I really didn’t feel like I was at fault – it was a racing incident. On the grid, just before the one minute’s silence, he and I were standing next to each other and I put my arm around him and told him: ‘Have a great race today.’ I’ve still got great respect for him. During the race, it felt like there was a vibration in the car through the right-handers: it felt like the floor was scraping on the ground, in fact. I was pushing as hard as I could, but couldn’t find the performance, so we’ll have to look into that. It’s been an eventful year, but there are more races ahead and I’ll try to score as many world championship points as possible in both of them. Jenson did a great job today, so clearly we were quick enough. I just need to try to pick up on that for the next race.”

Felipe Massa – “There’s not much to say at the end of a weekend like this. I am really unhappy that I was not able to finish a race in which I showed I had the pace to fight for the podium. As for the collision with Hamilton, I can only say I do not share the opinion of the Stewards who inflicted the punishment. I simply stayed on the ideal line, braking on the limit and staying on the part of the track that was rubbered in. What else could I do? It’s the umpteenth time that Hamilton runs into me this year and it seems it’s some sort of fatal attraction…In the past, I tried to talk to him but he did not seem to be interested in doing so. Now it’s best to immediately turn the page and think of the final two Grands Prix of the year. They are both special, because Abu Dhabi is a sort of second home race for Ferrari, with that amazing theme park which sits alongside the circuit and then comes Interlagos, which is always special for me. I will try and forget this trip to India as quickly as possible, but that will be absolutely nothing to do with the country!”

Force India – Dr. Vijay Mallya, Team Principal and Managing Director “Today’s Indian Grand Prix was a great event and I hope that all the fans enjoyed the day as much as I did. We targeted points and that’s exactly what we delivered with Adrian’s excellent drive to ninth. As for Paul, he performed well, but we went very aggressive with the strategy to cover the chance of a safety car. In the end it didn’t work out, but we needed to cover our bases. These two points are important for our championship battle and I’m delighted that Sahara Force India will go down in the record books for scoring points in the inaugural Indian Grand Prix.”

“Regarding my decision about the 2012 drivers, I have said this week that I will give an answer to the drivers before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. I already have three excellent drivers, who are all in the running, and the decision ahead will not be an easy one.”

 

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