by Joe Watson
The build-up to the Indian GP promised an exciting race and it did not disappoint. Lewis Hamilton slid from a third place grid position to finish sixth as he spent most of the race attempting to climb up the order. The Brit struggled with his tyres in the latter stages meaning a higher finish was unrealistic.
Lights out in round 16 of the F1 Championship, Hamilton knew he must be quick of the mark to mount any serious challenge against Sebastian Vettel. The Brit got just that but over-steer and the Red Bull squeezing him out meant Vettel had space to plough ahead of the pack. The Brit had correctly predicted early dominance from the German.
Surprisingly Felipe Massa climbed from fifth to second in the first lap after skipping past the wounded Mark Webber, Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Jenson Button’s medium tyres didn’t get the McLaren off to the best start which directed him into the path of Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard clipped his motor due to over-steer and knocked the Brit out of his rhyme. As a result he received a rear puncture causing him to slip out of the points to 13th.
Paul Di Resta likewise couldn’t assemble a charge up the pack and the Brit moved back into 15th. Positively Max Chilton had a more convincing start compared to of late and the Marussia moved up a place to 21st.
Di Resta was the first to move from the soft compound tyres to mediums. The other 21 drivers were quick to follow suit as Button switched wheels for a soft set in lap seven, a move which startled many.
With much of the top order pitting, Chilton was gifted the opportunity to shuffle up to 16th. It is a position that is out of his comfort zone and duly the Brit was engulfed by the chasing mob.
At the midway stage of the race, Di Resta and Chilton were the only Brits to have climbed places from their grid positions. Button dropped to 16th while Hamilton fell to 6th.
Button’s chances of finishing in the points were dealt a final blow after he pitted for the third time. A three-stop-strategy was not on the cards pre-race, but he could not have prevented a bashing from Alonso.
Di Resta stepped up his charge to move unnoticed into tenth in the 43rd lap. Meanwhile Hamilton was a victim of a double-overtake as both Sergio Perez and Kimi Raikkonen eased past him.
Vettel pitted in only the second lap which meant he had to battle through traffic from the rear. He charged up the field with precision and snatched the lead at just over the half way stage of the race. His nearest competitor Mark Webber was forced to retire following team orders as the Red Bull was affected with a gearbox issue. That was his third withdrawal of the year. From then on, the three time world champion led to the line to win his third Indian GP and fourth world championship.
Hamilton remained sandwiched between Perez and Raikkonen, while Di Resta finished two places behind him respectably. Button was one of six cars to be lapped and his tyre issues condemned him to 14th. Chilton managed to finish five places higher than his grid position. He wasn’t the last car to finish the race which was an improvement, to say the least.
With three more countries to visit before the season ends, it remains to be seen what the Brits can do to close out their respective years, and how they will be positioned for 2014.