Vettel wins Indian GP to extend lead
Sebastian Vettel made it four consecutive wins for the first time in a season in his Formula One career to strengthen his grip on a third successive world title.
Vettel led the Indian Grand Prix from lights to chequered flag to open up a 13-point lead over Fernando Alonso with three races remaining as the Ferrari star was forced to settle for second, albeit his best finish since a win in Germany in July.
Not since Jenson Button in 2009 has a driver chalked up four wins in a row, with Vettel's run to the championship finish line seemingly perfectly timed.
Mark Webber just managed to hold on to third in his Red Bull ahead of McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who trails by 75 points with only 75 to play for.
The hope, from anybody other than a Vettel fan, that the German would suffer some sort of mishap or other never materialised.
Once the five red lights disappeared to signal the start of the 60-lap race at the Buddh International Circuit, Vettel was faultless for the third consecutive grand prix, leading from stat to finish.
Since inheriting the lead from Hamilton in Singapore on lap 23 when the 27-year-old's car suffered a gearbox failure, Vettel has led every single lap since.
Vettel's running total is now 206 after lights-to-flag wins in Japan, Korea and India, leaving him just 58 adrift of the all-time record set by Ayrton Senna.
More importantly, of course, Vettel is closing in on becoming a three-time champion ahead of Alonso, and but for some sort of failure or incident over the final three races, it seems improbable anyone can stop him.
There was no danger off the line, certainly not from team-mate Webber alongside him following a third consecutive front-row lock-out from Red Bull, the first in their history.
The battle, instead, saw Alonso, Hamilton and Jenson Button dice wheel-to-wheel for the places behind, which was as enthralling as the action got because there was precious little to entertain afterward.
Come the end of that first lap Hamilton had lost two places, dropping from third to fifth as Button and Alonso diced their way by.
It did not take too long for Alonso to make a move on Button, with Hamilton doing likewise shortly after.
Given how easily the McLarens were at the mercy of Alonso over those opening laps, the suggestion was the Woking-based marque had erred as to their gear ratios to assist with top speed on the straights.
With the running order Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Hamilton, it remained that way for 43 laps until a KERS issue affected the second of the two Red Bulls.
Webber radioed in at one stage that he had no KERS, the power-boost system, only to be told it would return by his engineer.
It did eventually, but not soon enough as Alonso took second on lap 45, and, whilst Hamilton closed in, he ran out of laps as he trailed by 0.6secs come the death.
The minor placings went to Button, Ferrari's Felipe Massa, with Kimi Raikkonen seventh in his Lotus, the Finn now 67 points adrift.
Force India's Nico Hulkenberg was eighth, followed by Romain Grosjean in his Lotus and Williams' Bruno Senna.
Michael Schumacher, soon to be retiring for a second time, suffered a first corner puncture after a minor collision with Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne.
That dropped him to the back of the field, with embarrassment to follow as the seven-times champion is under investigation for ignoring blue flags, waved to backmarkers to allow the leaders by.
Following a second successive win in India, Vettel said: "Everything has been incredible, from getting pole on Saturday to winning the race on Sunday.
"I don't know what it is about this circuit, but I really like the flow of it.
"A big thanks to the team. Every single person is pushing very hard, we're all working hand-in-hand together, either at the track or back at the factory in Milton Keynes, and that makes the difference."
Vettel, however, dismissed the notion he had one hand on the title, adding: "If you think about the world championship this is a good step for us.
"But we've a long way to go, and we've seen how quickly things can change.
"I'm just very proud and very happy. Now we have to focus on Abu Dhabi next week. We just have to take it step by step."
Alonso, though, will not rest as he said: "It's not easy at the moment fighting Red Bull, but we will never give up.
"We're happy today [Sunday]. We lost minimum points, which was the plan because we were not quick enough, but better races will come.
"I'm sure we will do it."
Webber was happy enough with third, despite his struggles towards the end, as he said: "I enjoyed the fight.
"It was difficult for me to get into a rhythm, I had a few issues to manage inside the car, and it was a tough old GP.
"Lewis and Fernando were very strong on the hard tyre, and without KERS it was difficult, but I was happy with the way I drove."