TEHY raced, the top three finishers in the inaugural Indian Grand Prix said, as much for their fallen comrades Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli as for their teams and a nation that had so enthusiastically and knowledgeably welcomed them. Unfortunately, Sebastian Vettel succeeded in making it a dull race, just as he did in Korea, sprinting away initially in his trademark style to present his pursuers with an unscaleable mountain to climb and, once again, his triumph was beautifully crafted and richly deserved.
This time, it was Jenson Button who was left to lead the pursuit, and he did so doggedly, cutting into a three-second deficit on his fresh tyres after each pit stop, only to see Vettel calmly open it up again.
On a day when, once again, his team-mate Lewis Hamilton got together with Ferrari rival Felipe Massa, Button admitted it was too difficult to race Vettel, even though at one stage they traded fastest laps.
"In the last race I struggled on the first lap and I wanted to redeem myself here," said Button, who snatched third place after Fernando Alonso ran wide in the first corner after the start and then slipstreamed ahead of Mark Webber's Red Bull down the back straight.
"It was then a matter of trying to hang on to Seb, but his pace was very good and he made no mistakes. Out of the pits my car felt very competitive, but as soon as he got into a rhythm I couldn't do anything about it. But for the team it was a perfect job today; yesterday was a disaster, but we put it right in the race and did the best that we could."
Once again Vettel made it look easy, leading every lap from pole position and reclaiming the fastest lap from team-mate Webber on the final tour. But of course, it wasn't easy at all.
"It was a very good race for us, and I enjoyed my time in the lead very much," Vettel beamed. "I had a bit of a fight with Jenson in the distance, and strangely he closed in during the pit stops, but all in all it was a very smooth race."
In their wake, Webber fell away after his initial fight with Button and was overtaken for third place during the second round of stops by Alonso, who completed the podium despite a last-moment drama with his Ferrari's front wing on the grid.
"We didn't make a perfect start today, as we didn't have the grip we were expecting and lost a couple of positions," Alonso said. "But we raced with Mark until the second stop and were surprised that he stopped early and did two extra laps and were able to overtake. It's always nice to taste the champagne in the first race in a new country."
The race was adjudged a success for the Indians, and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar celebrated the nation's triumph by waving the chequered flag, but all three top finishers said it was a day of mixed emotions. The recent deaths of Wheldon and Simoncelli have rocked Formula One and there was a minute's silence for them on the grid.
"I'm very proud to be the first winner in India," Vettel said, "but the last two weekends we lost two of our mates, and our thoughts are with them and especially their families. We are ready to take certain risks when we jump in the cars but that's the last thing we want to see. We should never forget those two young and very committed race drivers."
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