Belfast Telegraph

Sebastian Vettel’s mixed emotions in triumph and tragedy

INDIAN GRAND PRIX

They 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 to take second with Fernando Alonso third.

The occasion, however, was overshadowed by another clash between Button’s team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari rival Felipe Massa.

For the sixth time in their season-long conflict the duo collided, and in the post-race aftermath they then offered different versions of events regarding an attempted reconciliation.

On this occasion the four-man stewards' panel found Massa at fault for a lap-24 collision, a decision that left the Brazilian stunned, even though he appeared to swipe across Hamilton who was attempting a pass on the inside into a left-handed corner.

That followed an apparent olive branch being offered by Hamilton 15 minutes before the start during the minute's silence.

Hamilton said: “Me and Felipe were standing next to each other. He hasn't spoken to me for a long, long time, so I made an effort, put my arm around him and said, ‘Good luck for the race’. I just wanted to squash whatever beef, or any anger he has towards me.”

Asked as to Massa's response, Hamilton said: “He gave me a really small acknowledgement, which was to be expected. I wasn't expecting anything more.”

Massa's story was slightly different as he countered: “He didn't try to do anything. He passed through, didn't even look at my face.

“After the one minute's silence he was at my side, and then he just said, ‘Have a good race’. So this is trying to do what? Saying, ‘Have a good race’? That's not talking.”

The race was adjudged a success for India, 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.

“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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