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Vettel takes fourth straight win

Overjoyed... Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel celebrates after winning the Indian GP.

Overjoyed... Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel celebrates after winning the Indian GP.

Sebastian Vettel moved within sight of becoming the youngest triple world champion in Formula One history yesterday when he cruised to his fourth consecutive victory with an outstanding, dominant triumph in the Indian Grand Prix.

The 25-year-old German, winner of the title in 2010 and 2011, delivered the 26th win of his career in utterly convincing fashion, leading the 60-laps race from start to finish in his Red Bull car.

His triumph extended his lead in the drivers championship from six points to 13 with three races remaining in Abu Dhabi next Sunday, then the United States and the season-finale in Brazil next month.

On a day of heat and dust at the shimmering, state-of-the-art Buddh International Circuit, Vettel overcame not only the determination of nearest rival Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, but also a threatening technical issue in the closing stages when parts of the floor of his car scraped along the circuit.

This contact, in parts of the track, raised sparks both literally and metaphorically as rival teams considered the condition of the Red Bull car and any possible contravention of strict technical rules.

Alonso, with superior straight line speed in his Ferrari, was unable to do better than climb from fifth on the grid to second and finished 9.4 seconds behind Vettel.

After an exultant celebration on the victory podium, in front of many of the 65,000 spectators, Vettel said: “It has been incredible. To come here both years, get the pole and win the race is fantastic. It is a very special Grand Prix and I really like this circuit.”

Vettel may have had every reason to celebrate, but he was wary of looking ahead and taking anything for granted.

“Yes, maybe I have one hand on the trophy, if you say so, but on the other side, I think Fernando has one hand on it too!” he said.

Alonso said: “It is not easy to fight Red Bull but we will never give up. Well done Red Bull and Sebastian but we want to be happy in Brazil, not only here. I am sure we will do it.”

Vettel’s Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber finished third, the Australian fending off a late challenge from Lewis Hamilton of McLaren who finished fourth ahead of Jenson Button.

Felipe Massa came home sixth in the second Ferrari ahead of Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus, Nico Hulkenberg of Force India, Romain Grosjean in the second Lotus and 10th-placed Bruno Senna of Williams.

Hamilton and Button’s efforts, in finishing fourth and fifth respectively, not only won their team valuable points in their battle for second place in the constructors’ championship, but also meant that McLaren equalled Ferrari’s record of 55 consecutive races in the points, set in 1999-2003. In the teams’ title race, Red Bull now lead with 407 ahead of Ferrari on 316 and McLaren on 306. In the drivers’ championship, Vettel has 240 ahead of Alonso on 227 and Raikkonen on 173.

On a day of close racing, without great incident, Vettel may also have remembered that it was in Abu Dhabi last year that he suffered a first-lap puncture and was forced to retire – a plight that was handed to three drivers in India.

All three retirements were caused initially by punctures and they led to the exits of Michael Schumacher of Mercedes, Sergio Perez of Sauber and Pastor Maldonado of Williams.

For Schumacher, it was his eighth enforced retirement of 2012 as he heads into final retirement.

Indian GP result

1. S. Vettel (Red Bull) - 1hr 31min 10.744sec
2. F. Alonso (Ferrari) at 9.437
3. M. Webber (Red Bull) - 13.217
4. L. Hamilton (McLaren) - 13.909
5. J. Button (McLaren) - 26.266
6. F. Massa (Ferrari) - 44.674
7. K. Raikkonen (Lotus) - 45.227
8. N. Hülkenberg (Force India) - 54.998
9. R. Grosjean (Lotus) - 56.103
10. B. Senna (Williams) - 1:14.975
11. N. Rosberg (Mercedes) - 1:21.694
12. P. Di Resta (Force India) - 1:22.815
13. D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) - 1:26.064
14. K. Kobayashi (Sauber) - 1:26.495
15. J.E. Vergne (Toro Rosso) - 1 lap
16. P. Maldonado (Williams) - 1 lap
17. V. Petrov (Caterham) - 1 lap
18. H. Kovalainen (Caterham) - 1 lap
19. C. Pic (Marussia) - 1 lap
20. T. Glock (Marussia) - 2 laps
21. N. Karthikeyan (HRT) - 2 laps
22. M. Schumacher (Mercedes) - 5 laps

Fastest lap: Jenson Button, 1:28.203, lap 60
Next race: Abu Dhabi GP, November 4.

Overall standings

Drivers
1. Vettel (GER) 240, 2. Alonso (ESP) 227, 3. Raikkonen (FIN) 173, 4. Webber (AUS) 167, 5. Hamilton (GBR) 165, 6. Button (GBR) 141, 7. Rosberg (GER) 93, 8. Grosjean (FRA) 90, 9. Massa (BRA) 89, 10. Perez (MEX) 66, 11. Kobayashi (JPN) 50, 12. Hülkenberg (GER) 49, 13. Di Resta (GBR) 44, 14. Schumacher (GER) 43, 15. Maldonado (VEN) 33, 16. Senna (BRA) 26, 17. Vergne (FRA) 12, 18. Ricciardo (AUS) 9.

Constructors
1. Red Bull 407, 2. Ferrari 316, 3. McLaren 306, 4. Lotus 263, 5. Mercedes 136, 6. Sauber 116, 7. Force India 93, 8. Williams 59, 9. Toro Rosso 21.

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