If few curious Indian Grand Prix spectators knew the stars of the sport before the inaugural F1 race at Buddh International Circuit, Sebastian Vettel
did a good job of currying favour by romping to his eleventh victory of the 2011 campaign.
After fending off Red Bull
Racing team-mate Mark Webber
at the start, the German was never headed, pulling out enough of an advantage, as Webber then squabbled with Jenson Button, to avoid any threat from the McLaren's DRS, and was able to complete both his pit-stops without anyone coming close to stealing the lead. Behind Vettel, who amused himself by chasing another rare fastest lap, there wasn't a great deal of action to enthral the crowd, although Lewis Hamilton
and Felipe Massa
added a little spice to proceedings by coming together for the fourth time this season.
With Hamilton relegated to fifth by his penalty for ignoring yellow flags in practice on Friday, it was down to Webber - or lightning start from either of the second row starters - to keep Vettel honest but, although Webber matched his team-mate's getaway, the German was comfortably in front as the field reached turn one. Fernando Alonso
then fancied a shot at the Australian into the right-hander, but succeeded only in running wide and allowing Button through into third.
Further back, the chaos predicted for turn three arrived early as Rubens Barrichello
clipped the back of Williams
team-mate Pastor Maldonado and, in then having to move left, collected Kamui Kobayashi. The Japanese driver, having been forced into the run-off, opted to rejoin as directly as possible, straight into the path of the hapless Timo Glock. Kobayashi was out on the spot, while Glock made a pit-stop for repairs before also having to call it a day.
Barrichello needed a new front wing and pitted along with Sergio Perez, who got rid of his harder Pirellis, and Jarno Trulli, who needed a new rear tyre after being tagged by Narain Karthikeyan at turn three, while Vitaly Petrov and Paul di Resta both followed Sauber's lead in swapping hard rubber for soft.
The order at the front was shuffled further on the opening lap when Button drafted past Webber on the run to turn four, cementing himself in second place despite the Australian attempting to come back at him, and touching wheels with the McLaren, a couple of laps later. Hamilton, meanwhile, had lost a place to nemesis Massa off the line and continued to run in sixth through the first ten laps, with the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg
and Michael Schumacher - the latter after another fast start - trying to keep up with the McLaren.
By the end of lap ten, Vettel had been able to open out a near five-second lap advantage over Button, and the first round of pit-stops, which came shortly afterwards, did little to alter the order as the frontrunners each took on another set of soft tyres. Hamilton and Massa continued to run in close proximity, however, and, on lap 24, the Briton decided that the time had come to make his move.
Picking the quick turn five instead of either of the tighter corners at the end of the DRS zones, the Briton moved to the inside and had his front wheels alongside the Ferrari
when Massa, clearly checking his mirrors, opted to turn in. The contact, based on recent races, was almost inevitable, although both cars were able to continue after taking to the tarmac run-off. Somehow, Massa maintained his position, but Hamilton, with damage to the front wing, needed to make another stop for a replacement, dropping to ninth as a result.
As with previous incidents between the pair, who stood together at the one-minute silence for Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli but still don't speak, the stewards decided that their intervention was needed but, this time, it was Massa who copped the penalty, dropping him to seventh just as Hamilton passed Jaime Alguersuari
for eighth. Even though the Ferrari
driver was reporting gearbox problems, there was no chance for battle to be rejoined as, having pitted for hard Pirelli and a new front wing, he clipped a kerb and broke his front suspension for the second time in as many days....