Although not a classic, the varying strategies did make the race fairly interesting. Alas, the Webber tip didn’t come off (or the hedge get matched) for various reasons I’ll explain below.
Grosjean did manage a staggeringly good podium, so congratulations to Mr. Putney for his 8/1 bet. In addition, Vettel enjoyed a huge margin of victory, so Mr. M’s winning margin bet was also green.
At the start, many things happened. Vettel just about retained the lead, Hamilton went backwards and Massa had a great start. Those on the medium compound (Webber, Alonso, Button) went backwards. Webber was 7th at the end of lap 1. Meanwhile, Grosjean had started on the soft tyre, rather surprisingly.
Vettel pitted very early (lap 2, give or take) and was 17th. Many others followed him over the coming laps and I was hoping this would give Webber a nice cushion. The Aussie had lost some time (I’d guess 6-8s) due to his poor start and dropping down the order, but not enough to significantly alter the state of play. Due to a combination of those ahead of him pitting and an almost ridiculous speed advantage, Vettel found passing those he had to rather easy. The net result was that around the middle of the race he had done one more pit stop than Webber but was only 12-13s behind (a pit stop in India takes about 21s).
Meanwhile, Alonso had suffered some damage on lap 1, and required an early front wing change. Perhaps more significantly, he reported problems turning right (and, as this isn’t NASCAR, that could’ve cost him serious time). In the end he was 11th, leading me to suspect his car had substantial damage.
The Mercedes were having a mixed afternoon. After the near certain Red Bull 1-2, Raikkonen was trying to make his tyres last forever and a day, and Rosberg (with tyres in much better shape) was behind him. Grosjean was also on older tyres, but about 7 laps younger than Raikkonen’s. Hamilton was a little further back.
With something like 20 laps left Webber’s alternator broke and he was forced to retire. Alas, if it had happened to Vettel instead then the bet would’ve come off, but that’s life. Then Raikkonen’s tyres really dropped off. He lost places to Rosberg, Grosjean, Massa, Hamilton, Perez and then pitted (staying in position due to the enormous gap to Di Resta). However, the one stop worked perfectly for Grosjean, who climbed impressively from 17th to 3rd.
Mercedes had a pretty good day with Rosberg 2nd and Hamilton 6th, losing 5th late on to Perez who passed him when the pair went past Raikkonen. This also means Mercedes top scored, which was about 25/1 (Lotus were about 40/1. I was tempted to put a little on that and decided against it).
Perez’s 5th is the joint best result for McLaren, and he seemed to lack the obnoxious driving manner that has marred some of his performances this year.
Force India will be delighted with 8th and 9th, as they not only didn’t lose any more ground to Sauber but extended their lead. With just 3 races left that’s very helpful for them. Hulkenberg had seemed destined for 8th, but late on an issue with the car forced him to retire.
Ricciardo got the final point. One suspects he’ll be crushed by Vettel next year, but we’ll have to wait and see.
In the Constructors’, Mercedes overtook Ferrari to reclaim 2nd, but that place will remain a three way contest for the rest of the season.
So, why wasn’t Webber as competitive as I and others thought?
Well, it’s hard to overtake in India. But I underestimated (or just forgot about) the enormous speed difference on tyres, and the pace advantage Vettel enjoys over almost everyone else. So, traffic was far less of an issue for him than I anticipated. In addition, the slightly bad start and time it took for some fresh air meant Webber was further behind Vettel prior to the first stops than he might’ve hoped for.
The race was more exciting than the other Indian Grands Prix, and Mr. Putney and Mr. M both had winning bets, so it wasn’t an entirely bad weekend.
Abu Dhabi is up next, in just under a week’s time.