Indian Grand Prixview

By on Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Buddh International Circuit

After an unpredictable season and just a solitary win from the opening thirteen races, Sebastian Vettel has taken command of the 2012 season at the perfect moment. The Korean Grand Prix may not have been the most enthralling event of the year, but for the first time since the European Grand Prix back in June, Fernando Alonso left a race as the hunter rather than the hunted. With Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen dropping more points against their rivals, the fight to decide who will become the sport’s youngest ever triple world champion is surely a straight fight between Vettel and Alonso.

History

As the country to have most recently hosted a Grand Prix for the first time, India doesn’t have motoring history compared to many places to which the sport travels. But it’s a developing nation that Formula One can thrive in, as testament to the strong crowds in 2011 and the reactions the drivers received (Korea, take note). After several aborted attempts to bring the sport to India in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a final agreement was signed in 2007 that would result in an Indian Grand Prix in 2010. The event was later delayed until 2011, but the sport finally touched down at the colourful Buddh International Circuit in October last year. The event took place under sombre circumstances after the deaths of Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli in the weeks preceding the event, while it was left to Sebastian Vettel to make history by winning the inaugural race at a dusty circuit.

The circuit

Photo Credit: Sahara Force India

The circuit is part of the Jaypee Green Sports City that is due to include a cricket stadium, golf course and a hockey pitch, but as of 2012 the main attraction is the Buddh circuit. A main feature of the track is the long straight between Turns 3 and 4, with the latter widening under braking the provide drivers with the best possible overtaking opportunity. After another short straight, Turn 5 begins a sequence of quick, challenging corners which caught out several drivers in 2011. As Felipe Massa will testify, cutting the Turn 8-9 chicane isn’t advisable, while an optimum line through the long, fast Turn 10 is crucial to setting a speedy lap time. The undulating nature of the circuit adds to the challenge, and although the main straight is pointlessly lengthy, the rest of the layout makes up for it, with mistakes courtesy of short run-offs, grass and gravel. The facilities were not overwhelmingly popular and security will remain tight – a dog made it onto the track in practice last season – but given time, the circuit should become one of the highlights of the season.

Photo credit: Red Bull GEPA

What might happen?

Sebastian Vettel’s traditional late-season surge is well and truly underway, with the German having won the previous three events and not headed at the front of the field since Lewis Hamilton’s smoking McLaren pulled off of the circuit in Singapore. Vettel claimed his maiden Grand Chelem in India last season as he took pole position, led every lap, won the race and set the fastest lap to complete his dominance of the event. Considering Vettel’s form in 2011 – as well as his recent domination – and it’s difficult to argue against another victory. But all runs must come to an end and the Ferrari F2012 wasn’t far off of the Red Bull RB8 in Korea. Felipe Massa’s upturn in form has been rewarded with a new contract, so the team will be hoping that he can continue his good run of results in India, or even just avoid the Sausage kerbs. Lotus and McLaren shouldn’t be too far away, especially if the Enstone based team can improve their Coanda-style exhaust system that aided Kimi Raikkonen’s progress in Korea.


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