29/03/2012

News round up- Parthiva, BIC, SFI

Parthiva Sureshwaren was in action this past week as the F2 series testing took place in Silverstone. There were 4 sessions in the day. During the first session Parthiva finished P8 with a time of 1:50.114 out of the 17 cars which ran. In the second session, he finished P16 with a time of 1:51.143 out of the 18 cars. In the third session he finished at P15 with a time of 1:51.276 out of the 18 cars. In the last session of the day he finished at P17 with a time of 1:50.613 out of the 18 cars. He ran about 55 laps during the whole day of testing. WEC driver Karun Chandhok visited him at Silverstone to help Parthiva. He has put in some good decent laps, times matter little in testing as we will know about the standings when the first race takes place in Silverstone in the weekend of 13th, 14th, 15th April.

Anybody fancy to take a ride at Buddh International Circuit? Your chance to drive your personnel car is here. The track will be opened for 6 days throughout the year, first of which will take place next month in April. There will be 4 sessions (3 sessions for cars and 1 for bike) in a day from 7AM-6PM, 30 fans can drive around in each session. For one session cars will cost Rs.8500 and bikes will cost Rs.6000. If a fan wants to drive in all the sessions then he can pay Rs.20,000 in all. Forms will be available for next week on the Jaypee Sports website.

Sahara Force India is set to appeal the High Court on its dispute with Team Lotus (Caterham)/ Aerolab after the court in Italy found out that Team Lotus (Caterham) had used some of the copyright components of the SFI team in the design of the 2010 car. Deputy team Principal Robert Fernley told AUTOSPORT, 
"We will ask the judge for appeal on number of things, and out legal team has not determined that yet. What cannot be appealed is the decision; what we are saying is we want more damages." He also said that they will press the FIA to look into the matter and investigate. To go through the whole article and what he said, click here.

Staying with the team, SFI targets the in-season testing in Mugello in May for it's big upgrade for the season of the VJM05. The team has had a decent start to the season with 9 points in the kitty, the reason for a bit slow start he said, "We are a little bit behind because our focus was trying to secure sixth last season and we are about four or five races behind our schedule. We just need to get through China and Bahrain and then we see where we go." He also praised the efforts of Hulkenberg & Di Resta in doing a stellar job in the car. He said that team is not worried about there rivals scoring some good points and that the team hoped that they will catch up with them with the in season developments like last season. Click here to read as to what he said to AUTOSPORT.

27/03/2012

Malaysian GP, Sepang- Rain, safety car, underdogs shine, red flag, two winners

The race in Malaysia seemed unreal for many of us, simply because of the results. Lot changed in the course of 56 laps with an unexpected victory along with unexpected podium finish. No complaints at all, I welcome such unexpected things more to keep the excitement going. Yes, Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari took the victory while Sergio Perez stood at impressive P2 in his Sauber putting Lewis Hamilton to P3.

The details of the whole weekend is right here:

Practice Sessions, FP1:

The prediction for whole weekend was rain, thunderstorms but for now it was hot & humid as usual in FP1. Every team tweeted about, various ways of keeping themselves cool in the sultry weather.  In no way, it could stop the drivers to get out and do their jobs of getting some valuable data’s to help them do well in the race. Continuing with a good performance of the car, Hamilton ended FP1 as P1 in the McLaren with Vettel at P2 and Rosberg at P3. Both the SFI drivers were in the top 10, as Di Resta finished at P8 while Hulkenberg at P10, who was hoping to run the full race distance this weekend. Karthikeyan had several problems in his HRT to end at P23, a touch better than his teammate, both aiming to get under the 107% rule and start the race.

FP2:

Again the weather remained dry throughout with not even a little indication of rain. The teams continued their work on finding the best possible balance on their cars. Hamilton continued with where he left in FP1 to top the timesheets yet again, showing that the McLaren car is the one to beat. Schumacher ended at P2 followed by Button at P3. Hulkenberg finished at P12 while Di Resta finished at P13, who had two off moments on the track. The team was supposedly running on high fuels. Some cheer in the HRT camp as Karthikeyan finished at P23 beating his teammate and with this time they could start the race.

FP3:

Saturday was cloudy, it rained just before FP3 leaving the track wet in some parts, thereby the teams opted to run less laps than they had planned to. Interestingly, Rosberg in his Mercedes car topped the timesheets. The car this year looks better in practice and qualifying at least. Vettel finished at P2 while Webber at P3. It was a difficult session for SFI as it seemed with Hulkenberg ending at P14 while Di Resta at P17 but we don’t know how much fuel they had. Karthikeyan finished at P24 but under the 107% time which their prime aim.

From the testing it was clear that McLaren and Red Bulls were favourite for pole but the late punch from Mercedes can give them their first pole since the team’s birth. The midfield battle was as close as it can gets, all teams vying for the Q3 spot.

Qualifying, Q1:

It was cloudy but it was dry during the qualifying session. As we have been seeing from the past two seasons, the teams going out of the session were known to all. The 7th car to bow out was the one to watch out for. The SFI duo made it through safely to Q2, though they had a stiff competition. Along with Caterham, Marussia & HRT, STR’s rookie Vergne bowed out in Q1. Importantly, both the HRT’s would start the race as they qualified under the 107% time after the pace was set by Webber.

Q2:

Kimi was fastest in the session which saw Massa bowing out, the trouble run for him & Ferrari just continued. Maldonado went off briefly at T11, bringing the yellow flag which disrupted everyone’s run including Hulkenberg’s and perhaps Di Resta’s as well. This played a part in the SFI team bowing out in Q2. Yet again, the times were very-very close between the midfield teams. Di Resta qualified at P14 & Hulkenberg at P16, both were within 0.300 of a second from P11, we can see the closeness. Perez was the only midfield driver to get to Q3.

Q3:

McLaren or Mercedes? Could Vettel spring a surprise? It was indeed McLaren and Hamilton who snatched the second pole of the season on the trot. His initial lap was enough for him to claim the pole position. His teammate Button was close but not close enough, thus he ended at P2. And finally all the fans were able to see Schumacher where they have been waiting to see him, though it was only P3 but it was great to see him in the press conference. Vettel was only P6 while Alonso could only manage to be at P9.

The qualifying went as expected with Hamilton getting the pole. The surprising aspect was Red Bull’s pace, they just don’t seemed fast as we saw last year. The midfield was close again as we saw in Australia, in these cases luck matters as well and so a bit off and you are down 2-3 places.

Raceday:

The build up to the race was just like a nervous student waiting for his results. In this case it was, rain or no rain? If yes then much? The rain Gods were playing poker but eventually the rain came just before the start of the race throwing out all the possible strategies from the books. The race begun under normal circumstances but within lap 9 the race was red flagged and stopped. By then the positions had changed from top to bottom, Hamilton was still at the top but surprisingly Perez was at P3, Karthikeyan at P10, Schumacher down at P16. All were wondering if the race will go full distance? It was more looking like Canada 2011. But after a brief stop, the race was given a green signal under the condition that all will start in full wets.

It was still a mess after the start, I mean it was tough to check who is at which position. Hamilton lost notably when he was stuck at the pit stop due to Massa coming in while Button lost when he hit Karthikeyan and had to make an additional stop. This gave two unexpected teams and drivers a lead. Yes, it was Alonso leading with Perez behind him and they were fighting for win. Also, loosing in all this battles were Schumacher, Rosberg, Massa. The Mercedes duo after lots of promises once again failed to deliver. The most frustrated driver was Grosjean after suffering yet another DNF. The SFI duo faced a stiff challenge from the midfield drivers to fight their way up.

Both Hulkenberg & Di Resta had a good start to and were just outside points when the red flag came. Before the flag, Di Resta lost some places when he spun when Maldonado hit him. After the race begun, the duo quickly made some places to keep themselves among points. From then on it was just keeping up with the pace and fighting it out for places. Di Resta was chased by Senna and eventually overtaken as the Williams were a bit quicker while Hulkenberg was in constant pressure first from Kobayashi then Maldonado. The Hulk was chasing Vergne, he got close but couldn’t pass him. I was also checking the team’s pit stops times and I must say they did a superb job with all the pit stops, great times there. Eventually, the duo finished among points as Di Resta ended at P7 & Hulkenberg at P9. SFI were the only team to have a double point finish.

Karthikeyan had a troubled race but a good race for HRT ending at P22 after a penalty for Vettel's incident. He got touched twice, once by Button and the second time by Vettel towards the end of the race. Post race, Button duly apologised for his mistake but it was a really out of box reaction from Vettel, who termed him as “cucumber” or say “idiot”, even more was Vettel showing middle finger when the incident happened. That was not called for really. Vettel finished the race out of points with a rather dramatic radio stint at the end. But the hero or rather hero’s of the race were Alonso for winning the race in the slow Ferrari and Perez taking his first podium in a midfield Sauber car. Truly, it was just phenomenal to see them on the podium, Perez could have won but then P2 is not bad at all. The claims of team orders are rubbish too, in my point of view.

It was a great race in the end, stuffed with all the ingredients needed for a fantastic and absorbing race. An unexpected result not only helped us fans to enjoy but gave the season ahead the salt it needed to make it an amazing season ahead. This opens the championship well now, both in Constructors’ and Drivers’ championship. We have to wait for 2 weeks now for the next race now, Chinese GP to take place in the third week. Till then enjoy the break, do whatever you need and sit back and enjoy the back to back races.

Last time out ...

F1
Di Resta 7th (6 points), Hulkenberg 9th (2 points), Karthikeyan 22nd.

- A crazy race for all three drivers
- Di Resta had a spin during the race after being tapped by Maldonado but still finished 7th after qualifying down in 14th.
- Hulkenberg avoided incident and showed solid pace to finish 9th having started 16th.
- Sahara Force India the ONLY team to have both cars in the points.
- Karthikeyan started 24th and took a risk, beginning the race on wet tyres.
- The risk paid off, when the race was red flagged due to the standing water, Karthikeyan found himself 10th.
- The pace of his car soon dropped him back down the order on the restart.
- Jenson Button ran into the back of him at one point while trying to overtake; Jenson has taken responsibility.
- Sebastian Vettel also collided with Karthikeyan at one point, Vettel called Karthikeyan an "idiot".
- Karthikeyan finished 21st, ahead of his teammate, but received a 20s post-race penalty for the Vettel incident, dropping him to 22nd.
- Personally i think it's Vettel's fault though - he misjudged cutting back inside infront of Karthikeyan.
- What do you think?


Paul Di Resta
(Sahara Force India driver):
"The start of the race was a bit of a mess and it was all about trying to stay on the track and stay out of trouble. I did pretty well until Maldonado hit me just before the red flag, which spun me around and cost me about three places. At the restart our pace was very good on the intermediate tyres and we were able to get well up the order and stay with the leading group. As it dried out we switched to dry tyres at the same time everyone else did, which was the safe way to play it, and just tried to hold position in the points. We were a bit lucky with some of the issues for cars ahead, but in races like this you need a bit of luck and given where we started I think we can come away from here very happy with this result".

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver):
"I think today's performance with two cars in the points is a great team result and I’m very happy to pick up my first points of the season. It was quite a complicated race and the rain certainly helped mix things up, but we made the most of our chances and made good calls on the strategy. I have to say that the wet conditions today were some of the worst I've raced in and the visibility was almost zero before the race was stopped. It was much better when the race restarted, but I struggled with the balance of the car on the intermediates, so it was just a case of trying to stay in the points and catch Vergne ahead".

Robert Fernley (Sahara Force India deputy team principal)
"Today's result is thanks to a tremendous team effort with everybody rising to the challenges presented by the tricky conditions. It was an especially busy race on the pit wall, but on the whole I think we made the right calls, especially the timing of our switch to the dry tyres, and both drivers delivered very strong performances. It was important to pick up points on a day like this and given where we started we have to be happy with eight points. The race was not without drama, though, and Paul was lucky to emerge unscathed from the contact with Maldonado, which occurred in the very wet conditions. Both Paul and Nico came on the radio to say how poor the conditions were, and it's to their credit that they managed to stay largely out of trouble. We now head to China determined to carry on this momentum and hopefully add some more points to our tally".

Indy Lights
Ebrahim
8th (24 points).

- Armaan Ebrahim started his first Indy Lights race in 14th out of 16 drivers.
- Solid, consistent pace saw the Indian finish up in 8th place.
- Indy Lights has a very high scoring system and Armaan receives 24pts. The race winner receives 50pts.
- Armaan was the 3rd best rookie out of 9.

25/03/2012

Malaysian GP - Race Results

Results: Di Resta 7th (6 points), Hulkenberg 9th (2 points), Karthikeyan 21st.

Well that was an eventful race!

I was keeping an eye on the Sahara Force India cars from the start and i'm sure that Nico Hulkenberg almost lost control of his car before he'd been crossed the start finish line; i will need to check the replay to confirm this however. He did manage to keep control though and credit where credit is due, both drivers drove superbly well today! They both combated numerous pit stops, a lack of grip, rain, and sometimes completely insane circumstances to bring their cars home in the points. Infact Sahara Force India were the ONLY team to have both cars in the points today! :-)

(Nico and Paul during the red flag period, click to enlarge)

As for Karthikeyan he will also be hugely delighted with his days work despite having two collisions (with Button and Vettel, both not his fault). An inspired tyre choice at the start saw him running up in 10th place after the red flag was thrown due to the rain, epic stuff! Eventually the Indian driver ended up 21st, just over 13seconds ahead of his teammate de la Rosa, what a wonderful effort! :-)

A great day for the Indian contingent in the end - we'll have more technical analysis for you tomorrow!

Later today however, head over to our facebook page where we will be switching to the new timeline feature and we'll have a new cover photo - we hope you like it!

24/03/2012

Pre-Race Analysis: the midfield battle

So 14th and 16th are the starting positions for the Sahara Force India boys tomorrow, perhaps the team wanted higher but considering the closeness of the midfield that result is completely understandable.

Force India, Sauber, Toro Rosso, Williams and Massa's ailing Ferrari are all extremely close!

Let's have a look at the final times after Q2 for the midfield:

10) Perez (Sauber) 1:37.477
11) Maldonado (Williams) 1:37.589
12) Massa (Ferrari) 1:37.731
13) Senna (Williams) 1:37.841
14) Di Resta (Force India) 1:37.877
15) Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) 1:37.883
16) Hulkenberg (Force India) 1:37.890
17) Kobayashi (Sauber) 1:38.069
18) Vergne (Toro Rosso) Out in Q1

The most common time from that list is a 1:37.8 - we can take this to be the standard laptime for the midfield pack. If Hulkenberg was just 0.05s faster he would have finished the session three places higher in 13th!

What makes the difference here is the driver; clearly Perez and Maldonado had exceptional laps and thus they finished 0.4s and 0.3s ahead of the standard laptime respectively. Meanwhile Kobayashi had a poor lap and thus finished 0.2s slower than the standard laptime. Vergne had a poor Q1 lap and so he was knocked out. As for Felipe Massa, his story is a little different as we know that Ferrari is capable of more due to Alonso's (his teammates) performance.

Essentially this race, and the next few races infact, will have a similar trend; the Force India, Sauber, Toro Rosso and Williams teams qualifying between 10th to 18th (maybe with Massa's Ferrari). The order depends on the driver, a good lap could put you in 10th, but one mistake and you could end up knocked out in Q1!

There are two exceptions to this:

1) Penalties or reliability issues to the guys in the top teams.
2) Rain.

We didn't see rain today in Malaysia, but we may well see it tomorrow in what has the potential to be a crazy race - let's hope the Sahara Force India drivers keep all four wheels pointing in the right direction, avoid any incidents and bring home some points!

Here is what the Indian contingent had to say:

Paul Di Resta (Sahara Force India driver)
"We definitely improved the car between final practice and qualifying, but it was a tough session and it got quite a bit warmer during the two hours between qualifying and practice. My laps in Q2 were good and I got sectors one and two right, but I maybe lost out in the final sector, which I never really maximised. I think P14 is a reasonable place to start and hopefully our race pace and tyre management will pay off tomorrow. The other variable is the weather because there is always a high risk of showers late in the afternoon".

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver)
"You only have to look at the times to see how close things were today. Half a tenth would have given me two or three places, while finding a tenth would have put me twelfth on the grid. To be honest, though, I don't think there was any more to come because I pretty much got the maximum from the car. Now it's all about racing well and using the strategy to try and come away with a result. Having already missed most of the race last weekend in Melbourne, it almost feels like the first race of my season, so hopefully I can go the distance and have a strong performance. Tyre degradation will be a key factor in the race and the chance of rain could also mix things up".

Robert Fernley (Sahara Force India deputy team principle)
"Overall we can't be too disappointed with our qualifying showing today. Yes, we would have liked to have been a little higher up, but looking over the timesheets shows just how closely matched the grid is. In fact, just three tenths cover the cars from ninth to 16th and with such margins the slightest error can cost you three or four positions. Both Paul and Nico delivered consistent laps, although it's fair to say they were both marginally compromised by the release of the Mercedes cars in Q2. However, I remain optimistic for tomorrow and believe we're in good shape, and that our race pace will allow us to get up there challenging for points".

Narain Karthikeyan (HRT driver)
"The conditions changed a lot from the morning and the track was much more slippery but we qualified for the race which was our first objective for this weekend and a positive step from Australia. We had to change our strategy a little bit today because of some heating issues, and it worked, but now we must focus on overcoming those issues and aim to finish the race. It would be good for us if it rained because that keeps the car a bit cooler but, no matter what, we'll have to give it our best and try to put in a good performance".

Malaysian GP - Qualifying Results

Results: Di Resta 14th (1:37.877), Hulkenberg 16th (1:37.890), Karthikeyan 24th (will start 23rd) (1:43.655)

Not the best positions for Sahara Force India in qualifying but the promising thing is that the speed has definitely improved, we're very close to the other midfield teams around us pace wise which will make tomorrow's race thoroughly interesting, especially as our car is better in race trim than quali trim.

As for Narain Karthikeyan he made a decent lap but ran a little wide in the final turn meaning he was slower than his teammate. The crucial thing for him is that he is within the 107% rule and will start tomorrow's race. Infact he gets promoted to 23rd as Kovalainen's Caterham has a 5-place grid penalty from the last race.

We'll have full qualifying analysis later today when the review quotes are out, check back for that!

Malaysian GP - Practice Three Results

Results: Hulkenberg 14th (1:38.285), Di Resta 17th (1:38.794), Karthikeyan 24th (1:43.378).

A solid session for the Sahara Force India drivers once again with no real problems and 34 laps completed.

Hulkenberg finished ahead of Di Resta by half a second making it 5-1 to Nico in practices this season so far; although neither driver managed to set a lap which had personal bests in all three sectors so there is much more time in the car yet. Those quicker laps were set near the end of the session; at the start of the session the team were concentrating on a long runs and they made some setup changes to the cars. Both drivers gave very positive feedback about the changes made and so things are looking quite promising, at least for the race!

Meanwhile Narain Karthikeyan also had no issues, thankfully for him, and finished at the back a whole second down on teammate de la Rosa. Given that it's usually been quite close between the two drivers upto this point it is safe to suggest that Narain made an error on his quickest lap on the soft tyres.

Things are looking up for both our national team and national driver, we're hopeful of a good qualifying, it will be exciting for sure! :-)

Friday sweep-up

With two practice sessions having been completed ahead of the Malaysian GP, the pace does look to have improved for the Sahara Force India boys when compared to Australia last weekend. As there are no updates on the car this weekend this can be attributed to the style of circuit (Malaysian track, Sepang, is a dedicated race circuit whereas the Australian track, Melbourne, is part street circuit).

One thing that we're gonna be saying all season is that the midfield is so close which means that one small error by any driver could see a car drop from a potential 9th (assuming the top teams are reliable and quick) to 18th (ahead of the three newer teams).

Meanwhile Narain Karthikeyan has had an inconsistent weekend so far due to mechanical problems with his car, however when he has had tracktime, he has been quick in comparison to his teammate; qualifying under the 107% rule however will be a challenge.

Here is what team personnel had to say after yesterday:

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver):
"There's not a massive amount to say about today because it was a normal Friday where we focused on getting on top of the tyres and trying to get the car in good shape for tomorrow. I think we learnt quite a lot and the car feels totally different compared to Melbourne because of the track characteristics and the hotter conditions. The set-up work we did is promising for tomorrow and the long runs have given us lots of useful data, which was something we missed out on doing in Melbourne".

Paul Di Resta (Sahara Force India driver):
"A very hot day in the car, but we got through most of the programme and have enough information going into tomorrow. There was an issue with one of the brake discs in the afternoon session, which probably looked more dramatic from outside the car, so the team made some changes before I started my long runs on the medium tyre. It's always difficult to read too much performance-wise from a Friday, but I would expect the midfield to be very competitive once again this weekend".

Jakob Andreasen (Sahara Force India chief engineer):
"As always on a Friday, the main priority was to try and get a good understanding of the tyres, which we managed to do with both the medium and hard compound. The driver feedback is encouraging and we demonstrated some good pace over the long runs this afternoon. Other items on the job list included the usual checks to our cooling solutions, especially the engine, as well as some aero comparisons this morning. The only small issue was the braking problem for Paul in the second session, which cost us some track time as we made changes to the brake material; but we understand what happened and will revert to a known solution for the rest of the weekend".

Narain Karthikeyan (HRT driver):
"In the morning session we suffered some reliability issues, the same as in Melbourne but not as bad and we’ve also got some cooling issues too. In the afternoon these issues persisted on turns 13 and 14 where I wasn’t able to select the gears properly but the important thing is that we're within the 107 percent time and can continue to improve and be in better conditions. I definitely felt the difference with regards to Australia but we need a lot more. This is one of the hardest races of the year so we’re going to need to work hard to be able to have a good performance".

There are two additional factors to note heading into FP3 and qualifying:

Rain - the chance of precipitation at some point today is 95%, it could play a major role in the order of the grid! Although as we said yesterday, in Malaysia you can just never tell when the rain will come, if at all.

Raikkonen - he is carrying a 5-place grid penalty due to an unscheduled gearbox change, this could well benefit the Sahara Force India's if Raikkonen qualifies ahead.

23/03/2012

Malaysian GP - Practice Two Results

Results: Hulkenberg 12th (1:39.464), Di Resta 13th (1:39.625), Karthikeyan 23rd (1:43.658).

From our FP1 review:

"Heavy rain is expected for FP2 which should mean limited running, but in Malaysia you can just never tell!"

... well there was no rain but as we said, in Malaysia you can just never tell! :P

Anyhow Nico Hulkenberg made it 4-1 against Paul Di Resta in terms of who's ontop in practice. It doesn't really count for much but it will be interesting to see who has been higher, more often, come the end of the season.

In total the Sahara Force India team completed 46 laps. There was a minor problem associated with Paul's wheel but it was quickly sorted. Paul also had a few off-track excursions during the session but crucially he kept the car out of the barriers so there were no major problems.

At the back of the grid Narain Karthikeyan completed the session in his HRT with no reliability problems; he managed 18 laps, finishing 2 tenths faster than teammate de la Rosa. He did have a spin towards the end of the session, the cause looked like that he was simply distracted by adjusting something on the steering wheel - perhaps he's still getting used to the 2012 systems and procedures!

Anyhow, things looking better for both Sahara Force India and Narain Karthikeyan here in Malaysia than they did last weekend in Australia!

Malaysian GP - Practice One Results

Results: Di Resta 8th (1:39.298), Hulkenberg 10th (1:39.440), Karthikeyan 23rd (1:45.360).

Paul Di Resta stopped the practice trend so far this season by beating his teammate Nico Hulkenberg in FP1 at Malaysia. No problems for either driver meant that lots of data was gathered and Sahara Force India completed 42 laps in total.

Initially the laptimes look very promising for Force India, however it's hard to read anything into the results at this stage with all teams on different programmes.

Meanwhile Narain Karthikeyan had a disappointing session, stopping on track with a hydraulic issue just under halfway into the session. Despite this though his quickest time was still 2 tenths faster than teammate de la Rosa could manage.

Heavy rain is expected for FP2 which should mean limited running, but in Malaysia you can just never tell!

Weekend preview!

F1
Of course we all know the F1 circus heads to Malaysia this weekend. Usually we would post the championship standings but as there has only been one race so far, it seems a bit irrelevant at this stage!

Sahara Force India will be in action with the aim of scoring points, however the car struggled last time out in Australia and there will have probably been no updates to the cars (for any team) this weekend. This is due to the close proximity of the first two races of the season, both geographically and in terms of time. One thing to watch out for however, regardless of the competitiveness of the car, is the battle between the teams two drivers; Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg. Back in Australia, Nico was on top in all three practice sessions and also qualified higher - however in the race Paul won the battle as Nico had an accident on the opening lap. Clearly it's going to be a fiercely contested battle all season long!

Narain Karthikeyan will also be in action for HRT. His aims will be to get as many laps under his belt as possible, qualify under the 107% rule and beat his teammate in the race. Although considering how poor their car was in Australia you have to think that achieving these three targets are not really within his control; he just needs his machine to work for him!

Indy Lights
What some of you may not have known is that Armaan Ebrahim will be taking part in his first Indy Lights race tomorrow! The is held on the Streets of St.Petersburg, Florida, United States.

As it is his first ever race in the series, it's hard to judge exactly what his target should be however practice has initially indicated that he could be in with a chance of the race win, and just possibly, come the end of the season, be a title contender! We all hope that's the case anyhow - we wait in anticipation!

Naturally we'll bring you all the news from this weekend right here at Auto India Sports.

22/03/2012

KC speaks while Force India argue!

Unusual headline but the two topics are completely unrelated, thankfully!

Autosport.com have had a thoroughly interesting Q&A session with Karun Chandhok about his first race in the World Endurance Championship. Read it here.

Meanwhile the main F1 news this week has been a story which began at the start of 2010.

Design company Aerolab had a partnership with Force India which was terminated in July 2009 due to unpaid fees. A few days later Lotus Racing (the green one, now called Caterham) began a partnership with Aerolab. Upto this point there were no problems.

However at the beginning of 2010 some Force India parts began to appear on the Lotus car. Naturally this angered the Force India management and the team sued Aerolab/1Malaysia Racing Team (the official company name of Lotus Racing) and Mike Gascoyne (who has been chief technical officer for both teams - currently at green Team Lotus, now Caterham). This process was done through the British courts as that's where the two teams involved are predominately based.

Fast-forwarding to yesterday, the court case was eventually settled. Unfortunately for Force India, the courts settled the dispute in favour of Aerolab and the 1Malaysia Racing Team. The judge has ordered Force India to pay their remaining upaid fees of around ₹57M (£700,000) to Aerolab. Although, ₹1.6M (£21,000) has been given to Force India to compensate for use of the teams intellectual property rights which was deemed to have been done as a short cut rather than to gain a sneaky advantage. A separate hearing will be held to determine the covering of legal costs associated with the trial.

... and they say F1 is too political!

Anyhow now Sahara Force India have asked the FIA to look into the use of its intellectual property by Team Lotus, now Caterham. We're waiting for a response from them.

Aerolab's managing director, Jean Claude Migeot stated:

"When a customer is finished their contract they have to give a notice period, so when you come down to the last day everything is clean – all the computers are wiped. The trouble is I had to throw Force India out due to non-payment, then we started working for Lotus basically the day after – we had no time to clean the computers and in this overlap a few people kept some of their studies. It's a very fine line between using your knowledge and using someone else's IP, which we don't do. We have contractors and consultants and people come to us because we have the know how and experience".

Personally i can't really get my head around this, the court admitted some Force India data was used but have not done anything to Aerolab or Team Lotus. Sure, it may not have been used with bad intention, but it was still used and they did gain an advantage on-track, surely the team deserves more compensation than the measly ₹1.6M considering how much money will have been put in by Force India for the original research and development. What a crazy World we live in!

20/03/2012

Australian GP, Albert Park- It ain’t over until it’s over

Wasn’t this the start all you fans hoped for? I mean, down to the wire qualifying and a last second fight to the finish line? If this is not enough then nothing is. The 2012 season started off with a BANG, I can certainly speak for all the fans out here. We saw all the things we wanted to see in a race weekend. The true order is yet to be ascertained to the fullest extent but we got a fair bit of idea about the order. McLaren started off the season with a win as Button won the race, with Vettel at P2 & Hamilton at P3.

Without stating much, I start my weekend review with some details from Friday to Sunday:

FP1:

As all had predicted, it was a wet start to the 2012 season as rain came down during the opening practice session in Melbourne. Though it was a good chance for the teams to test the wet and the intermediate Pirelli compounds. All the teams had limited testing during the start due to wet track. Button topped the first Friday practice of the season with Hamilton & Schumacher behind. The Sahara Force Indians of Nico & Paul were down at P12 & P13 respectively. The FP1 times reflected little as it was mix table with many big teams behind the midfield teams. The lone Indian on the grid Karthikeyan ventured out on the track before his HRT halted on track due to problems.

FP2:

Just before the session had begun, it rained heavily leaving the track all wet. The track was drying all the time and by the end of the session it was all frantic running on the track. After running on the wets, intermediates the teams finally managed to run on the softs and hards. Schumacher topped the timesheets with Hulkenberg second and Perez third. Nico was P1 for most of the time until last minute of the session. While the other SFI of Paul ended at P6. A better run in a fairly unsettled session. This time Karthikeyan got a 16 laps in the car and ended at P23, though far off from pace.

FP3:

It was a great weather in Melbourne during the third practice session, a dry weather much to the delight to the teams to run final adjustments in the car for qualifying. Hamilton popped to the top beating Grosjean who beat Webber to end the session as top 3 drivers. Surprisingly, the SFI duo had a bit troubled session in which they couldn’t run on the softs, Nico ended at P15 while Paul at P17. Karthikeyan continued to get some mileage on the brand new car, ending at P24 aiming to get inside the 107% time.

The three practice sessions gave little information about the grid position. But we could ascertain that McLaren & RBR will fight for pole with Mercedes may pop a surprise. Ferrari seemed out of place. Midfield is jam packed with all doing fairly well and for the new team it was Caterham once again.

Qualifying, Q1:

Yeah, the 2012 first qualifying session was a GO. It was one hell of a start to the first qualifying, I must say. Right from the start in Q1 we saw the unexpected thing happening as Kimi Raikkonen returning to F1 after a gap two years shockingly bowed out due to mis-communication with his team. The others were the usual expected team of Caterham, Marussia & HRT. In addition HRT couldn’t finish under the 107% time and so they were not allowed to race in the Australian GP, not at all the start they had expected. Both the SFI made it to Q2 but it was tough for both of them as they just made it over the line.

Q2:

The second qualifying session will be the one the Ferrari team want to forget. As far as I remember, this has happened after a long-long time that both the Ferrari cars bowed out and did not make it to Q3. With them out, two places automatically opened for two midfield teams to get up in the top 10. In a mad scramble to make it to Q3, the drivers from P5 to P16 all went out. Nico made it to Q3 in the end with a good lap, a great performance on his return to F1. Unfortunately, Paul missed out and was to start his second season at P15 which he said happened due to traffic which didn’t help him to optimise his tyre temperature.

Q3:

The big question on everyone’s mind was, will the teams continue the 2011 trend of not running in Q3 to save tyres? At one time, it was looking like that but then all teams did at least one lap run apart from STR’s Ricciardo. Hamilton had set the time initially and must say it was seeming an untouchable time. And it happened that way as Hamilton was on pole on the first race of the season. Button completed a McLaren 1-2 for the qualifying session, the surprise though was Grosjean at P3 on his return with Lotus. Hulkenberg ended at P9 on his return to F1 with SFI giving the team a good start in the season.

I was a bit surprised with RBR being so down to be honest, more so with Ferrari. Yes, Ferrari were down but didn’t expect such a result. The midfield was closer than anyone could have guessed. SFI had a mixed day with Di Resta at P15 & Hulkenberg at P9, they are to get a tough challenge from other midfield teams.

Raceday:

The day we all were waiting for, yes the first raceday of the 2012 season. The qualifying session gave a fantastic start to the weekend and all of us were hoping for a fantastic end to the weekend. It was a bright and sunny day in Melbourne, no sign of any rain. Time passed by quickly and we geared up for the race and importantly the first lap, first corner. All were predicting that Button will start with an advantage and take the lead, I don’t know what mad them think so but that did happened as the five red lights illuminated, Hamilton lost the lead to Button and since then there was no looking back for Button. Both the Ferrari’s and Kimi made a huge start. We also got incidents involving several drivers touching each other, and Hulkenberg paid the price for that as he suffered a DNF (in two Australian GP, he hasn’t yet completed a lap).

The race went on fairly well from then on as Button settled at P1 whit Hamilton chasing him. Rosberg, Schumacher, Vettel were having their battles while Webber & Alonso had theirs behind the leaders. The midfield battle carried on with Sauber, Kimi leading the pack and surprisingly Maldonado in his Williams was battling on at par with them. As SFI lost Hulkenberg early, it was all on Di Resta to score some points. The best overtake move till then was from Vettel over Rosberg to get to P3. The pit stops round went on smoothly for the teams, the next major move in the race which changed quite many places was when the SC came out due to a stationary Caterham of Petrov.

The SC helped Vettel to get the P2 position and Webber to P4 getting ahead of Alonso. Hamilton was the biggest loser in this case. Behind this an interesting battle was on between Rosberg, Perez, Kobayashi, Kimi, Di Resta, Vergne & Ricciardo. All were fighting for P7-P10 and championship points. Talking about Di Resta, he had a good start as at one point he was running at P9 from P15. But surprisingly the pace of the rivals were a touch better (not much) as in the P7-P10 battle, he lost out to Vergne & Ricciardo but he was always running right behind them. The last lap just changed the game, I have never seen such an end honestly. It was just superb way to end a fantastic race. On the last lap, Maldanado running at P6 crashed out changing the whole scenario of the lower half of the points table. Rosberg slowed down k Ricciardo jumped upto P9 and so did Di Resta to P10. All these happened just inches away from the start/finish line.

It took time for the results to get into your mind with so many changes taking place in the last second. Apparently, cleverness, presence of mind got Ricciardo & Di Resta got the points while Vergne missed out. Many of you will say that SFI got lucky but this is a race, luck plays an important role as the performance, we need to be ready to pounce on the opportunities present with us. All in all, this was the perfect race. Surely, the kind of race we had hoped for. Still early days to rate anyone as the champion or a possible front runner. The midfield is very closely packed, the lower field is still to be ascertain though Marussia showed a good reliability, Caterham is always the favourite. Anyways, we have no time to rest as Malaysian GP is just days away. Don’t we just love back to back to back races? Just sit back and enjoy!!

19/03/2012

Weekend review!

F1
Di Resta 10th (1 point), Hulkenberg DNF, Karthikeyan DNS.

- Karthikeyan failed to qualify so his weekend ended early.
- Hulkenberg qualified 9th but tagged Mark Webber at the start causing suspension damage meaning he had to retire.
- Di Resta started 15th and avoided incident while benefiting from a crazy last lap to JUST grab 10th.

Paul Di Resta (Sahara Force India driver):
"It's always nice to start the season with a point, but it was not looking too promising until the last few laps when my engineer told me that I was catching the cars ahead of me. Fortunately I had saved quite a bit of KERS for the last corner, which helped me get a good run on Vergne and beat him to the line for tenth. So it was a pretty exciting final lap. It's a good way to start the season, but it's clear we have a lot of work to do because we were struggling for pace at the start of each stint, which hurt my overall race pace. Even so, considering where I started and the weekend we've had, I don't think I can be disappointed to have come away with a point".

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver):
"I don't seem to have much luck at Albert Park. My first race here in 2010 was less than a lap and today was a repeat of that. I'm still not really sure what happened, but I got hit when I turned into the first corner on lap one. It's such a shame because I had made a great start, moved up a couple of positions and then I just felt somebody tap me from behind. There was a puncture and the suspension was damaged so my race was over and I had to park up. These things happen when 22 cars are battling going into a tight first corner, but it’s really frustrating to miss out after such a good qualifying session. The good thing is that I will be back in the car in five days time, which is the best way to bounce back and get over the disappointment".

Robert Fernley (Sahara Force India deputy team principle):
"We always felt that today's race was likely to be full of drama and it didn't disappoint – particularly the closing lap of the race when Paul did an excellent job to grab the final point in the dash to the line. He drove a very clean race, stayed out of trouble and made the most of the strategy, but ultimately he struggled for absolute pace over the duration of the stints, which is something we need to address. As for Nico, he was simply the innocent victim of the turn one chaos. He got hit quite hard from behind going into turn one, which caused some serious damage to the left rear suspension and he immediately came on the radio to say that he needed to park the car. We have to take this on the chin because it's part of racing, but it's disappointing for Nico who needs all the race miles he can get at the moment. Still, he's shown what he is capable of and he can be proud of the job he has done this weekend".

World Endurance Championship
Chandhok 17th overall; 7th in his class (0.5 points).

- Team qualified 6th overall with teammate David Brabham at the wheel.
- A problem with a switch on the formation lap meant a pre-race stop, putting the car last.
- 1 hour 42 minutes into the race, Karun started his stint in the car.
- He began in 8th and ended his 1 hour 40 minute stint in 6th.
- After 9 hours 20 minutes the car had a suspension problem.
- After 30 minutes/15 laps in the pits fixing the problem, Karun had his second stint.
- He started the stint 25th and made up lots of positions, occasionally being the fastest man on the track.
- A small collision on the final lap meant Karun had to do the last mile with a puncture.
- Karun finished 17th overall but 7th in his class.

Karun Chandhok:
"We had a podium finish on the cards, if not overall, then definitely for the WEC, so it was a great shame not to have made it into the top three. The car felt good for my final stint and to try to make up for lost time I pushed as hard as I could. It's a long time since I've driven two hours of qualifying laps! I have to say I really enjoyed my first taste of sportscar racing and I'm already looking forward to the next time".

Competition - Feedback!

Now our competition is over we thought we'd give you some collective feedback on your answers!

Question 1
Force India's 2012 car is named the VJM05; but what exactly does VJM stand for?
Answer: V=Vijay Mallya, J=Jan Mol, M=Michael Mol

We wanted to start off the contest with a hard question and we thought lots of people would answer this incorrectly - we were right! It's a common misconception that VJM stands for Vijay Mallya; people who put this received zero points. Despite predicting lots would do this we were disappointed as we had blogged about this misconception late last year here. It is worth noting at this point that we never penalised spelling during the competition.

Some people knew that the Mol family were part of the answer, however they didn't know the names Jan and Michael and so one point was awarded. Lots of you got the full two points however!

Question 2
At the start of the year the federation of Motorsports clubs of India (FMSCI) had a number of nominees called up to serve on various FIA commissions. How many people were called up and what were the names of those people?
Answer: 8 people -
B.Vijayakumar (single seater)
Farhan Vohra (circuits)
J. Balamurugan (drag racing)
Manjeev Bhalla (cross country rally)
Manvendra Singh (historic motorsport)
Prabha Shankar (volunteers & officials)
Shivu Shivappa (rally)
Vicky Chandhok (CIK karting)

We knew lots of people would google this answer however there was little we could do about that! Only one person did not receive the maximum two points and that was most likely due to not reading the question properly. This person gave the names of the eight people correctly however they did not specifically say "eight people" and the question clearly stated "how many people were called up". Essentially we gave one point for the correct names and one point for the number eight.

Question 3 
Karun Chandhok is the ambassador for a racing series based in Asia, what is the name of this series and how many Indian drivers took part in a race in this series in 2011?
Answer: JK Racing Asia Series, eight Indian drivers

The first part of the question was fairly straightforward however we'd expected some of you to fail at the second part. Eight Indian drivers took part in the JK Racing Asia Series, seven of them were guest drivers specifically for the Indian GP so we had expected some people to to just say one Indian (Raj Barath) was participating (as he's the only permanent driver) but we're glad to say none of you fell into our trap! There was some clear copying of answers going on as one contestant posted the names of the eight Indians and then another contestant also posted the names, in the same order, with the same grammatical mistakes. There was nothing we could do to stop this however. Although even if someone was to correctly copy every answer, they would only be tied on points with the person they were copying. If this were to occur the person who had been copied from would win due to faster response time and so copying wouldn't really get you anywhere in this contest.

Question 4
How many times has an Indian driver/s won a race in the Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup and in total, how many pole positions have Indian driver/s taken?
Answer: 2 wins, 1 pole

We were surprised to see so many people get this question wrong. Lots of people answered 1 win and 2 poles (correct numbers but the wrong way round). Aditya Patel had pole at the Nurburgring (2010) which he then went on to win. He also won at Oschersleben (2011). The other Indian in the series, Sailesh Bolisetti, has never had pole or a win. Anyhow there was one point for "2 wins" and one point for "1 pole".

Question 5
Name all the Indians who have previously entered the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans race and what position did those Indians finish in?
Narain Karthikeyan - 7th


One point awarded for Narain Karthikeyan (or NK as one contestant wrote) and one point awarded for "7th place". We were surprised to see a few of you believed Narain finished in 6th, we suspect however that one contestant got the question wrong and other people copied his incorrect answer.

Question 6
Force India currently have Mercedes engines, but who supplied engines to the team in their very first season in the sport?
Ferrari

A very easy question here, everyone got the maximum two points, 'Nuff said!

Question 7
Armaan Ebrahim is an Indian Racing driver, but for how many races did he represent India in the now defunct A1GP series, and what was his best result?

22 races, 11th best result

One point was for knowing that Armaan's best result was 11th. The other point was for knowing he had represented India in 22 races. As we'd expected though, nearly everyone dropped points here, infact only one person got the full 2 points! Most people said that Armaan had taken part in 21 races and this is true to a certain extent. The discrepancy comes at the 2005 Malaysian feature race where the Indian driver was excluded from the results after being pushed by the marshalls. However an exclusion from race results still counts as a race start in the record books therefore the correct answer was 22, not 21.

Question 8
How many F2 races did Parthiva Sureshwaran take part in and what is his best result?
25 races, 10th best result

The first point was for knowing the best result was 10th. The second point was not so straightforward. Parthiva has been entered into 26 races in F2, however he did not start one of them. As the question says "take part in" the correct answer was 25 races; but we thought we'd be kind here. If you wrote the correct answer 25, or if you wrote 26 with a DNS (or words to that effect), we gave you the second point!

Question 9
Name the three drivers who won Force India's One from a billion competition to graduate into the Force India academy. Note: Name the drivers in the order in which they finished the competition.
Arjun Maini, Tarun Reddy and Jehan Daruvala

Everyone who answered got the full two points here. We thought the order of the drivers would trip some of you up but we're glad to say it didn't! :-)

Note: response time not taken into consideration for this question as we were late posting it due to internet connection problems!

Question 10
Team India owned a franchise of A1GP. How many race starts did Team India have? Also, name the drivers, and name the cars' chassis, engine and tyre history.
69 starts
Drivers: Armaan Ebrahim, Karun Chandhok, Narain Karthikeyan, Parthiva Sureshwaren
Chassis history: Lola, Ferrari
Engine history: Zytek, Ferrari
Tyre history: Cooper, Michelin

We were VERY surprised to see everyone answer this correctly (although it's quite clear some people copied). Infact, most people gave more information than required!

For the record, one point for 69 starts and one point for the chassis, driver, engine and tyre history.

Note: Internet connection problems once again meant no response time was considered for this question.

Question 11
What is the name of the racing driver who is half Indian and half another nationality? Also, what series is he currently racing in?
Neel Jani racing in the World Endurance Championship

Once more full marks for everyone on this question. A few of you put World Endurance Series rather than World Endurance Championship, but we didn't penalise it.

Question 12
In which year did the first ever racing event take place in India and which two major cities did it run between?
1904 between Delhi and Membai

We wanted to end on a hard question and were amazed when everyone got full marks! Very impressed!

We want to say a big thank you to everyone who took part and we look forward to holding more competitions in the future!

18/03/2012

Australian GP - Race Result

Results: Di Resta 10th, Hulkenberg DNF.

There were mixed fortunes for the Sahara Force India drivers at the start. Let's start with Hulkenberg who started 9th, he had brilliant start, getting alongside Maldonado, who started 8th, before the first turn but that's where things started to go wrong for the German. His rear left tyre tapped a very cautious Mark Webber causing too much damage to continue; he was out of the race. Mark Webber was so cautious into the first corner that two other cars also simultaneously tapped him too.

As for Di Resta he had a standard start and a good first lap, gaining a few positions into 13th and that would remain his place for the majority of the race. Strategy wise he stuck to the standard two stop strategy, although making his stops a few laps earlier than the other cars around him. This turned out to be a good strategy for Di Resta as after a safety car (due to Petrov stopping on the pit straight) he found himself in 11th place, just outside the points.

This is where the pace started to show for Force India, there were some very competitive laps however it was inconsistent which is slightly worrying going into the Malaysian GP next week. Paul did drive very well however and his defensive driving was really being tested with the Toro Rosso's right behind the Force India. Although Paul managed to hold them back for ten laps or so, both Ricciardo and Vergne managed to get past eventually, pushing Paul down to 13th once again.

That's where he remained until the last lap of the race which was completely bonkers! It started with Maldonado smashing into the barriers after losing control of his car followed by Rosberg and Perez tapping eachother which caused alot of bunching towards the lower end of the points. In the chaos, Paul snuck his way upto 11th place and he just managed to pass Vergne on the final straight to grab one point! Great effort from our Scottish driver!

To show you just how close it was at the lower end of the points here are the time gaps:

8) Perez
9) Ricciardo (+0.1s)
10) Di Resta (+0.2s)
11) Vergne (+0.1s)

So one point for Paul Di Resta and Sahara Force India but it was very lucky in honesty. Pace wise we are quick but very inconsistent - this will need sorting during the course of the season if we are to achieve the aim of 5th in the constructors championship.

Pre-Race Analysis

Today is going to be a very interesting day for the Sahara Force India boys, here is what they said post qualifying:

Nico Hulkenberg (driver):
"I'm very happy with today's result because I was not sure we would be able to make Q3. We did a good job after FP3 to improve the set-up and I'm feeling much more comfortable with the car now. Obviously going into the race there is some uncertainty because we haven't really done many runs on high fuel here because of the wet sessions yesterday, but all the teams are in the same situation. It’s the same case with the tyres because we will still be learning about them tomorrow and discovering how long they last. It should be an exciting race and I’m looking forward to it".

Paul Di Resta (driver):
"It was quite a difficult session and I never quite got it together. I think my out lap was compromised by traffic and, as a result, I didn't get the tyres in their working range, which hurt my quick lap. So there's a lot of work to be done tomorrow and I need to work hard tonight to see if there's anything that can be done overnight to improve things for tomorrow. Over the winter our long run pace has looked quite strong so hopefully I can move forward in the race and challenge for some points".

Robert Fernley (deputy team principle):
"I think we can come away feeling pretty satisfied with today's performance. Nico has done an outstanding job all weekend and managed to squeeze the maximum from the car in Q2 and Q3. There are some quick cars behind, but I'm confident that we can have a strong race from there and remain in the hunt for points. As for Paul, he’s in the thick of the midfield battle and will need to fight hard to move forward in the race. He didn’t have the best run in Q2 due to some tyre issues, which compromised his only timed lap at the end of the session. We know he’s a fighter and hopefully he can make some progress in the race".

I urge fans to remember that this is just one race in a twenty race season; what will be more important today is our pace. Hopefully at some point during the GP there will be a time when both Force India's are in clear air so we can analyse their laptimes in comparison to other drivers and other teams.

Having said that, the team and all fans will dearly be hoping for a solid points finish with at least one car today (most likely Nico who starts in P9). There are a few pitfalls to watch out for around the Australian track though, for instance on the first lap i will be very surprised if there isn't a collision - the nature of the track means a high safety car probability. This also means that tyre wear and strategy will be crucial! Additionally, the news i'm getting from the track is that dark clouds are currently moving in - no rain is expected for the race but no clouds were expected either! Whatever happens, we're in for a brilliant race, i'm sure of that!

Unfortunately the stewards have decided to NOT let Narain Karthikeyan and his teammate take part in the race. This comes after the two drivers failed to be within 107% of the fastest laptime in Q1. It's disappointing for the only Indian on the grid, but i can understand the stewards decision on the grounds of safety, those HRT cars are simply too slow - allowing them to race would be like having two movable chicanes.

Of course we'll have reports, views and analysis post-race, stay tuned for that! :-)

17/03/2012

Australian GP - Qualifying Results

Results: Hulkenberg 9th (1:26.451), Di Resta 15th (1:27.086), Karthikeyan Not classified (1:33.643).

After Q1 i was beginning to think about what to write here, we only just squeezed through to Q2 and the VJM05's pace looked, to be frankly honest, dismal. However in Q2 i changed my opinion ...

Nico Hulkenberg did a brilliant lap to jump into Q3. What this makes me think is that we still don't know Sahara Force India's true pace. The field is that close this season that one tiny mistake can drop you a tonne of positions (look at Raikkonen, 18th, compared to teammate Grosjean, 3rd). It's true that in FP3 and Q1 Sahara Force India were slow but i think this just may be to our drivers making errors or traffic as that lap by Hulkenberg shows our car does have pace.

Sure, it could just be a fantastic lap by Hulkenberg in a poor-paced car but i don't think so as he beat his previous best by a whole second. I very much doubt any driver in the World on an amazing lap would not improve on his previous best by such a large margin, unless the previous best was not reaching the cars potential. It seems as if then that our car is fast, just traffic or mistakes have got in the way this weekend.

Paul Di Resta starts 15th, he will be disappointed with that, we'll have to wait and see what he says in the post-quali quotes.

At the back of the grid; Narain Karthikeyan failed to be within 107% of the fastest Q1 team which means he has not qualified for the race. His teammate, de la Rosa, is in the same situation. The stewards do have discretion to let them race anyway, and they often use this power, however both cars were very slow and constantly holding up quicker cars so i think it's doubtful they will be allowed to race, we shall see when the stewards decide!

Australian GP - Practice Three Results

Results: Hulkenberg 14th (1:27.029), Di Resta 17th (1:27.428), Karthikeyan 24th (1:33.261).

Well there were some questions answered during that session, but not for Sahara Force India - infact the session raised more questions than answers for the Indian team.

The positions aren't brilliant, however once again we don't know the fuel loads - i'm hoping there is more pace in the car yet. Although looking from Di Resta's on board footage, he did not look happy with the balance of that machine.

Let's wait and see though! If that session does mirror our true pace then we'll be fighting it out with Ferrari for a top 14 spot (something no-one predicted going into this race!)

As for Narain Karthikeyan he managed to do 13laps worth of running ending the session dead last but just 1tenth of a second slower than teammate de la Rosa. They'll probably have a good tussle together in qualifying.

Anyhow it's time for all the predictions to stop, in three hours time we will know for sure who is quick and who is not! Very excited!

Day two is near!

The second day of the 2012 F1 season begins in just under half an hours time and i think everybody associated with the sport is excited.

Yesterday we could only really conclude one thing from the free practice sessions, that was that it was near impossible to conclude anything!

Here are what our drivers and staff had to say:

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver):
"Both FP1 and FP2 had mixed conditions, especially FP2 with the heavy rain, which arrived just before the start of the session. But we made the best of it and I ran on the full wets, the intermediates and the soft tyres when the track had dried out. It's difficult to read much from the times because not everyone ran the soft tyres and there were lots of different fuel loads, but the main thing for me is that I have a good feeling with the car already".

Paul Di Resta (Sahara Force India driver):
"Difficult to say too much about the first or second session because the conditions were so inconsistent with the rain showers. Even so, we made the best of it and focussed on assessing the aero package we have here and managed to learn a few things. We also made some set-up changes between the two sessions and the car felt better in the evening, so that was positive. The difficult thing is that we didn't really get an impression of where everybody is in terms of performance, so there are still lots of unknowns going into tomorrow".

Jakob Andreasen (Sahara Force India chief engineer):
“On days like this you just have to be patient and wait for the right opportunities, but it's better to play the waiting game than run when the conditions are not ideal. Overall I think we were on track at the right times and on the right tyres, and it's always worth going out even if there's just a small thing you can learn. When we were on track we did some work evaluating our aero package and got some useful data. The most important thing is that we made the most of the dry periods to get the drivers into the rhythm of the track".

Narain Karthikeyan (HRT driver):
"Today we ran with a new car in mixed conditions, so tomorrow will be like starting all over again because it looks like conditions will be dry. With few laps and a new car, we were unable to assess the balance of the car. But it was important to do some mileage and we completed 19 laps which isn't too bad, but we still have a long way to go. As for the new car, these problems are common, they tend to happen in preseason testing and this is our testing".

... so the general message was "poor weather, no data" ... and this is exactly the reason why we are probably going to see one of the busiest third practice sessions ever; at least that would be my guess!

Meanwhile spare a thought for Karun Chandhok who is taking part in his first race of the season this weekend over in the US, we wish him the best of luck! Of course we'll have a full report of his weekend when his racing is done for round one.

16/03/2012

Australian GP - Practice Two Results

Results: Hulkenberg 2nd (1:29.292), Di Resta 6th (1:31.466), Karthikeyan 23rd (1:42.627).

A session heavily affected by rain caused havoc with the timing screens as the track was drying out towards the end of the session.

You can't really read too much into these laptimes as people were on different tyres, fuel loads and some people were not using DRS. Nevertheless it's really great to see Sahara Force India up near the top, they were the best ranked team overall in FP2 (if it had have been a race we would have scored the most points).

The promising thing from Sahara Force India's point of view is that McLaren have stated that they are worried about the pace of our car which is very flattering indeed!

Meanwhile at the other end, Narain Karthikeyan had a decent session, completing 16 laps and gathering some important data for him and his team! Although his session would end with him stopping on track just after the checkered flag which was a slight blot on an otherwise decent session for the Indian.

Thanks for reading, bye for now!

Australian GP - Practice One Results

Results: Hulkenberg 12th (1:29.865), Di Resta 13th (1:29.881), Karthikeyan 23rd (No Time Set).

First thing i want to say is that it's great to be back writing these short session reviews - it's what i enjoy most! :-)

A solid session from the Sahara Force India boys saw them finish 12th and 13th with no major issues - the team will be satisfied with that. The only real conclusions we can draw from those laptimes is that we will be battling in the midfield (as expected) and that there is more pace is the car yet. How do i know there is more pace to come? I was looking closely at Paul's laptimes and before he set his fastest lap, his laptime was a 1:30.2. That's an improvement of 4 tenths of a second on his final lap; if he was running near the cars' ultimate pace any improvements would be much smaller than that!

As for Narain Karthikeyan he went out on track and had a loss of oil pressure, causing the engine to cut out which resulted in no laptime for the Indian driver :-(

He'll be hoping for better in FP2!

See you then!

15/03/2012

Indian F1 involvement 2012!

Right, we've got a host of things to discuss once again; we're going to sum up pretty much everything ahead of the new F1 season so you're in for another long article!

Most of you will know that the season kicks off this weekend with the Australian GP. The start of the F1 season is always a magical moment as no-one really knows what the pecking order is. The general consensus round the paddock is that this will be one of the closest seasons ever. Personally i think Red Bull have the fastest car followed by McLaren who are much closer to Red Bull than in 2011. So Red Bull, then McLaren then i think that Lotus and Mercedes will be having a close battle for 3rd place (at least at the start of the season). Following the top four it seems to be as if Ferrari (who are struggling), Force India and Sauber will be fighting for 5th, 6th and 7th - with Toro Rosso 8th, Williams 9th, Caterham 10th (but scoring points occasionally unlike previous years) and then HRT and Marussia at the back.

Note: these are my predictions for the start of the season only, based on pre-season testing, Ferrari may struggle initially but they have the best resources on the grid to turn things around.

One interesting thing about this season will be the apparent closeness of all teams. If one the top teams (Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari) had a bad day last season they would most likely finish a race in 5th and 6th. This season however it's looking likely that a bad day could drop them out of the points altogether and it's an opportunity for a smaller operation, like Sahara Force India, to shine. These are the opportunities that the Indian team need to take during the season to secure the target of 5th place in the constructors championship.

Deputy team principle, Robert Fernley, recently went on record to say that the owners need to make a decision on if they want Sahara Force India to be a race winning team or just an upper midfield team. Obviously being a race winning team will mean more investment - it could pay dividends but it could also be very risky as money doesn't always mean success (take the now defunct Toyota team for instance). There have been lots of stories in the media about Vijay Mallya pumping between $32M - $10M (depending on the source) into Sahara Force India from Kingfisher Airlines however the boss of both organisations posted this on his twitter account:

"Can't believe the malicious mischief going on by linking investments made in Force India F1 in the year 2010 to the current KFA situation".

... we think that's a pretty clear message but make of it what you will!

Anyhow back to racing and Mr.Mallya has stated:

"Our testing form has looked competitive, but it's only when we get to the first race that we really get a feel for the pecking order and how well everyone has done over the winter. From our side there is no doubt that Andrew Green and his technical team have done an outstanding job to deliver a well balanced car. I would even go as far as saying the VJM05 is the best engineered car we have produced and the detail of the design is beautiful. It's a car we believe can help us take another step forward. Driver-wise I'm extremely excited by our line-up this year; Nico and Paul are both young and hungry, and will ensure we squeeze every last thousandth from the car. There will be some healthy in house rivalry, too, which will be fascinating to watch, and I believe that we will get better results in the long run by having two drivers pushing each other on. As for Melbourne, it's a city I enjoy visiting immensely and the track has produced some good races over the years. It was in Melbourne that Force India made its debut back in 2008 and it's a good opportunity to reflect on how far we have come in the last five years. As for expectations, I remain cautious on making predictions, simply because there are so many unknowns. Our analysis suggests that we could see one of the closest grids in years, especially in the upper part of the midfield. Even so, our stated goal remains the same - to see Sahara Force India continue progressing and challenge the established teams that lie ahead of us".

For technical analysis on Sahara Force India's VJM05, please refer to this brilliant blog here.

Force India's drivers for the 2012 season are Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg. For those who are new to F1 here are the helmets of both drivers so you can distinguish between them when they're both on track.

(click to enlarge)

Paul's is on the left, Nico's is on the right!

So what are the drivers saying about the first race in Australia?

Paul Di Resta:

"The buildup to Melbourne has been a while coming, but at the same time it doesn't feel like there's been that much testing. In fact, compared to last year, there has been one less test, but it’s been a good winter for us in general. It's a great place to start the season and the fans always get behind the race, so it will be interesting to see how it feels second time around. After a good winter break I'm just looking forward to getting back to the racing. I enjoy the circuit. There's a good balance between high and low speed, plus it's a mixture between a street circuit and a permanent track, and that makes it quite unusual. I think the final sector stands out for me as the most interesting because it’s quite tricky and easy to get it wrong. We were strong on street circuits last year, especially Singapore, so hopefully that will continue. All the teams around us look strong and have been consistent in testing, so we just have to wait and see. Also, I think almost every team will have some new parts on their cars so it really is too early to make any judgements. To begin with our goal is simply to try and pick up points at every race".

To hear more from Paul take a look at a video interview he did with SkySportsF1 by clicking right here. He also did a fantastic feature for them at Silverstone, take a look below, you WILL want to watch this one for sure!


In addition, on that website you'll find a news story about Paul hiring somebody to help him with his season ahead, read that here.

Nico Hulkenberg:

"There's a lot of excitement - that’s the word I keep using to describe how I'm feeling. And I think it will continue until the Sunday morning in Melbourne when I wake up knowing I will be racing again in a few hours. That's when you feel the buzz and get the feeling of anticipation in your stomach. The testing has gone pretty well and it's been crucial for helping me get prepared. But I know testing is very different to racing because you don't have the same pressures of a race weekend. I think the true test will be qualifying when you have to deliver right away and you only get one chance. My first race in Australia in 2010 was cut short - only half a lap, but apart from that I have good memories from Melbourne and Australia in general. It's one of those venues with a special atmosphere and the whole city seems so relaxed and friendly. It's definitely up there with races like Monaco and Singapore in terms of the atmosphere. It's a race where we arrive very early to adapt to the time zone, so I will get a chance to look around the city, do some jogging, cycling and visit places like St.Kilda beach. If there's enough time I will try and explore the coast a bit".


At Nico said, he did visit St.Kilda beach, with Paul Di Resta, and they both look fresh and restored in their 2012 team kit.

(click to enlarge)

As things stand, the Australian GP could be brilliant for Sahara Force India, but it could also not go to plan - it's just impossible to tell. But with Vijay saying things like "the VJM05 is the best engineered car we have produced" - you can't help but feel positive!

For those who have not yet seen it, here is the VJM05:


(image from wtf1, click image to visit)

Okay, that image is a little edited! You got us!!

The team as a whole created a video preview for the upcoming GP, featuring Paul Di Resta. View that here:

(notice the cool graphics at the start with the Force India tune playing, looks awesome!)

The last thing we should mention, about Sahara Force India, is that our test driver, Jules Bianchi, is on World Series by Renault duty this weekend. As such McLaren reserve driver, Gary Paffett, has joined Sahara Force India as reserve for this race only.

That's all for Sahara Force India, but not for F1, let's not forget the "fastest Indian in the World", Narain Karthikeyan.

He is driving for HRT in 2012 and to be honest, things don't look overly promising. He's only completed 10 laps in the 2012 car, and that wasn't even on 2012 race tyres! Having said that, it's 10 more than teammate Pedro de la Rosa and 10 more than both Marussia drivers! Infact, Marussia will almost certainly be HRT's main competition during the season ahead.

On a personal level Narain needs to try and retain his drive for all twenty races and hopefully impress enough to receive some better offers for 2013.

About the Australian GP, he said:

"I'm feeling positive ahead of the Australian Grand Prix after having completed 10 laps with the new F112 last Monday. Of course this was only a first contact and we didn't push it to the limit but the important thing was to get the ball rolling. It's not ideal to miss testing but we must look forward now. The new management have done an incredible job putting everything together and we'll do the best we can to continue progressing. We're in the right direction. Last year we only managed to complete five laps in the third practice session and failed to qualify for the race, so I’m looking to etch out that memory".

That's all for now, you're fully upto date with Indian F1 involvement - it's time to let the excitement levels rise! Of course we'll be blogging about every F1 session, usually within ten minutes of the session ending so stay tuned for that!

13/03/2012

Season Preview- Lots to look forward to in 2012

Whoever thinks that the pre-season testing has given us the results to be seen in the races then he/she is hugely mistaken. Yes, the testing does give us a pretty rough idea but none to be taken very much seriously. Some teams set times on low fuel just to attract their sponsors or new sponsors. So, whatever we discuss, it should have words like “hope/hopefully, may/may not, likely, etc” to state our point until the season actually starts.

To start off the season preview, there were 3 testing this time with Jerez, Barcelona 1 & Barcelona 2 and the 4th test to be held during the season, a welcome change. The 2011 season ended with RBR at the top, Sahara Force India leading the midfield and Caterham (the then Team Lotus) the newbies. From the rough times of the pre-season testing there’s not much difference to be seen other than Ferrari’s pace which can be deceptive. Coming to the main team I am focusing on is Sahara Force India, they are having a new driver line-up in Paul Di Resta & Nico Hulkenberg with Jules Bianchi joining in as reserve driver. It is a pretty strong line-up and one of the best line-up on the grid.

Overall if we see the number of laps and the decent times (though meaningless), we have to be satisfied with it. Both Nico & Paul have done good number of laps, more importantly Nico as he sat a year out and he has to learn how to use the DRS, KERS and most importantly the behaviour of Pirelli tyres. Also, Bianchi got a bit of running in Jerez. It’s good for Bianchi to get some run to familiarise more with the team. Let me give some facts: the team in all covered 1039 laps during the three test with Paul covering 560 laps, Nico covering 433 laps and Bianchi 46 laps. Fair number of laps covered but  Nico’s days were hampered due to car problems twice which shouldn’t be a big problem. The times if we talk about were good and the post day thoughts were satisfactory too. One blip was when they did the race simulations, both Paul & Nico felt a bit uneasy but were hoping that all will be taken care before Australia.

My view after getting a rough-rough idea is that the team is in a good shape to fight with their near rivals Sauber, Toro Rosso & Williams. As for challenging the team like Lotus & Mercedes seems possible but still tough as they are looking good too. P5 is surely the aim but holding on to the P6 will the prime aim in my view with scoring regularly in all the races, not just single driver but both of them and if they can get an odd podium it will be welcomed by anyone. The few rules changes does even out the field but then it won’t affect largely on the battles we had seen in 2011. The midfield is the trickiest of all the battles, the game changes pretty quickly as we saw in 2010 with Sahara Force India & Williams and then last season Sahara Force India & Sauber. And so the team have to be on their toes always bringing new strong upgrades to stay on top. The driver line-up being strong is major boon for the team as both Nico & Paul are quite fast drivers and the team to watch out for. The Sahara Force India team has come a long way since 2008, every year gaining position is the Championship. Since Jordan this is for the first time this team has stayed as one team for 4 years with 5th year starting. There is a high hope from the team after they have done well in the past years and we all know India is very emotional when it comes to support.

In short, I’ll cover up the others teams on the grid and the relative position of Sahara Force India. I start with Red Bull as they are still the team to beat, they did quite well during the testing along with McLaren who too are there in the mix with Red Bull. People predict that Mercedes & Lotus line up behind RBR & McLaren but I put Ferrari behind McLaren still as I think they are hiding their pace somewhat and have resource to find the solutions to their problems. Yes, Mercedes have upped their performance as have Lotus but it is to be seen during the weekend. Sahara Force India is leading the midfield pack with Sauber, Williams/Toro Rosso completing the line-up there. Caterham will be the surprise as I think they will score their first points and possibly target the lower midfield teams. With the limited running HRT & Marussia have, difficult to put them in line with Caterham until we see how they are fairing in Australia. As for Karthikeyan, who hasn’t got any running may face some difficulties to get to terms but he has got the 2011 experience to bank on. But, I am a bit disappointed with Chandhok not being around the F1 paddock. Anyways, we are hoping for a fantastic season ahead. Just brace yourself for an epic ride of the V8 engines on the tracks all around the world. Roll on 2012 F1 season!!