Sebastian Vettel won more than the inaugural Airtel Grand Prix of India at the Buddh International Circuit here on Sunday – he won hearts of all Indians with a fitting tribute to this wonderful country by saying that the people here may have little (financially) but are much richer than those in Europe.
Red Bull Racing’s Vettel also showed what a humble champion he is by remembering IndyCar ace Dan Wheldon and MotoGP ace Marco Simoncelli who died on racing tracks in the past fortnight. Indeed, as India’s sporting legend Sachin Tendulkar waved the checkered flag with enthusiasm, there was considerable relief that the Grand Prix of India broke the shocking trend.
The 24-year-old Vettel was a deserving first champion of the Grand Prix of India. He enjoyed his first visit to India – seeing the Taj Mahal in Agra on Wednesday – and made it most memorable, driving with grace of a dancer and the precision of a seasoned surgeon using the scalpel and took home a simple but beautifully crafted trophy.
On the track itself, Vettel was simply unstoppable as he claimed a start-to-finish win in an hour, 30 minutes and 35.002 seconds. To be sure, he made the inaugural Formula 1 his own, demonstrating to a near full house his impeccable driving skills while his team managed its tyre and pit stop strategy admirably on day on which a mild wintry sun broke through the haze
There were quite a few incidents behind Vettel and he passed the slower cars but nothing affected his concentration or composure. He was off to a good start and capitalised on that as he pulled away while McLaren Mercedes’ Jenson Button fought off the other Red Bull Racing driver Mark Webber. His two pit stops were well-timed and he returned as the leader of the pack.
With Webber losing his third place after a pit stop and with McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton’s chances of making a race of it being blunted by a shunt with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, Button and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) were able to consolidate their second and third places in the drivers’ championship behind Vettel. Button was able to make smart use of the wide overtaking space at turn 3 to be pass Webber on the first lap.
For some old timers for whom Formula 1 is synonymous with a certain Michael Schumacher, the Germany veteran turned in a spectacular show. He rose from 11th at the start to finish a very creditable fifth in his Mercedes GP, ahead of his younger team-mate Nico Roseburg. The sentimental favourite showed that he is still most competitive.
“Some things are hard to imagine from where we come from but India is an inspiring place, the people here are happy, warm, friendly, respectful,” Vettel said. “India opens your eyes in the manner in which the people get along and enjoy life. This is what life is all about – friendships. I have learnt a lot in the short time I have been here.”
Then again, he appreciated the work ethic in the Red Bull Racing garage, too. “When I came to the track today, I saw the guys in the garage were already here and working hard. There was no sign of letting up or laziness,” he said, pointing out yet again that he was never going to be short on motivation as he sewed up his 11th victory in 17 starts this season.
The two-time world champion Vettel wears a comfortable and genial countenance and his wonderful choice of words, stemming from deep in his heart, about India and its people will echoed louder and longer than shrill roar of the engines that rent the air for an hour and half on Sunday. Take a bow, Sebastian Vettel.