India gave us a good weekend of Formula One in our opinion. Free Practice was dominated by the Redbull Racing team, with Vettel looking ominously comfortable around the circuit every time he went out.
Alonso's went into the weekend as the only driver that could mathematically still beat Vettel, although his weekend looked doomed from the start with a gearbox issue during FP1. Alonso is known for still getting everything from a car come race day so it wasn't a completely closed book come qualifying.
James Calado was looking to impress when the opportunity presented itself in the form of FP1 running, he did well and had a good consistent run apart from one spin. As a team in its entirety Force India have been in a bit of a downward spiral as of late and they were looking to really turn that around this weekend. As it was one of their home races we were expecting them to be able to produce something come and they lived up to our expectations.
Qualifying gave us one of he biggest shocks of the year as we saw Romain Grosjean go out in Q1. Grosjean has been one of our drivers of the weekend for quite a while now but even we had to admit it wasn't looking great for him. Lotus made the wrong call, sent him out on the primes and he missed the cut, 17th on the grid was going to be tough, especially if he wanted to score good points. Vettel ran on the prime tyre too but he looked into his bag of tricks to make sure he was comfortably through.
As qualifying went on McLaren could afford a smile or two as both drivers went through to Q3. McLaren could do with some luck or a stand out performance and India looked like possibly the stage to do just that. It was pretty much set that whoever went into Q3 and ran on the softer tyre would be on pole. Alonso, both McLarens, Hulkenberg and Webber ran on the prime tyre so it would be a special lap to take pole position. That really meant the battle came down to Vettel, Rosberg and Hamilton, as both Mercedes and Red Bull have looked strong all weekend.
Vettel set the pace with a new qualifying record time of 1:24.119, no one else could get close to him all through practice and it was exactly the same story in qualifying. Rosberg took a brilliant second place, 0.752 seconds off of Vettel's lap, and only 0.07 seconds in front of his team mate.
The quicker strategy for the race looked to be for those that started on the prime tyre, Webber led the prime runners in 4th, with Alonso further back in 8th. Not really the place he wanted to find himself to stand a chance of beating Vettel.
Again our driver of qualifying was Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg, the car looks more settled on track now and he seems to be more comfortable with another good showing to qualify 7th.
As the lights went out to start Sundays race all eyes were on the man in the Red Bull, all he had to do was basically finish the race in order to secure his fourth title. Alonso had to score 16 points more than Vettel to keep the title fight alive.
Hamilton made a lightening start, nearly getting up alongside Vettel before he was squeezed and forced to drop back. The whole grid tightened up into Turn 1, some would argue that Vettel should have been handed the title then and there as Alonso's race went from a fight to almost over. Webber made contact through Turn 1 and dropped back onto Alonso's front wing. Luckily that didn't put ALonso out of the race and he pushed on, only to suffer more contact into Turn 4 with Jenson Button as he failed to make the apex and ran into the side of the McLaren. That saw the end of Jenson's race for a points finish as he was forced to pit once to change a puncture, followed shortly by another pit stop within 13 laps of he starting lights going out. Button dropped back to 18th, eventually finishing 14th a weekend to forget all in all.
His team mate had a far more successful weekend, with pressure on him still regarding his seat for next year, he produced by far his best performance of the year to finish 5th. He drove a very strong race, running 2nd from the prime tyre runners for a long time before having to pit and drop back. He drove a brilliant race back through the field still, in the final couple of laps he made a great move to pass a struggling Raikkonen and Mercedes Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton's team mate Rosberg had a very low key race with very little said about him even though he finished in 2nd place.
The driver to finish 3rd could have been a number of drivers, possibly Webber-had he not had such bad luck with another retirement due to an alternator issue, it could have been Hamilton or Massa, but no one would have expected Grosjean to finish 3rd. Another stellar performance from the Lotus driver after starting 17th. He tore up the rule back that Pirelli set, every recommended distance on each set of tyres they had set he went further to run a one stop race. 35 laps was meant to be the limit on the prime tyre but he managed an incredible 46 laps. The only point that we reckon could end up in an incident in the remaining races is thestubbornness of Raikkonen. Raikkonen didn't let Grosjean by as soon as the team possibly expected and he didn't make it easy when he finally did-is this a sign he has already resigned himself to his move to Ferrari next year? Grosjean has outperformed him for the last few races which can't be a nice feeling so there may be a team battle developing for the last few races.
Overall India gave us a good race from a spectating point of view, and you can't Vettel. He did everything that was required of him to win the race and secure his 4th title and we believe there is still plenty more to come from him. Watch this space come 2014 as the rule change may bring some other drivers into the frame but you can bet that the cheeky German will still be up there.