31/05/2012

Monaco GP, Monte Carlo- 6 from 6, will there be 7?


Now we have 6 different winners from 6 races and this has gone down in the history books. When did it happen last time? NEVER. Such has been the season really but it’s all good, enough of one team/driver domination. The race in Monaco was not very exciting as we have seen in the previous 5 races but it was definitely a close one as top 6 drivers finished within 6 seconds. The winner this time was Mark Webber with Nico Rosberg at P2 and Fernando Alonso at P3.

The detailed review of the weekend is down here:


Practice Sessions, FP1:


Thursday start to this weekend as normally happens in Monaco. It was bright sunny morning in Monte Carlo for FP1 as teams took to the track to assess the supersoft & soft tyres around the track. It was the debut of SS tyres in the season but it was soft tyres used mostly in the morning session. Alonso ended at P1 at the end of the session with Gorsjean at P2 and Perez at P3. The SFI duo took the circuit in the soft tyres as usual, Hulkenberg ended at P12 & Di Resta at P16. Karthikeyan on the other hand surprised us all as he ended at P20 in that HRT which was looking better than what it had been in the previous races.


FP2:


Not many teams could do much run on the supersoft tyre as the sunny weather changed to a wet one soon after the practice session begun. There was limited dry running in this session but still teams did fairly good number of laps. Button ended at P1 as he set his time before the rain, Grosjean at P2 and Massa at P3, whose weekend was turning out to be a good one. The SFI duo finished at P12 (Paul) & P14 (Hulkenberg) as they couldn’t run much on the SS tyres. At the end of the day they were in good mood, both said they need to work on the rear but overall they were happy. So was Karthikeyan as he ended at P24 but that HRT was looking in a good shape in Monaco.


FP3:


After a gap of Friday, business resumed on Saturday morning in FP3 in a dry condition. Even though the season has been unpredictable, qualifying remained the top focus in a track like Monaco. And so this session became important for the teams finding out the one-lap performance. Rosberg popped up and finished at P1 at the end of the session with the somewhat resurgent Massa at P2 and Vettel at P3. Di Resta had a minor off as he clipped to the wall and damaged his front wing and perhaps missed out running on SS. Hulkenberg ended at P15 while Di Resta at P18. Karthikeyan continued the impressive run as he ended at P23.


Well, the pole battle was once again spread out but where we going to see a surprise from Massa or Grosjean? They were looking good for the pole battle but we couldn’t count out the rest of the top blokes. SFI weren’t looking the best in those sessions but I was hopeful of one driver in Q3 as the pace difference wasn’t much and it was evident that Karthikeyan would make it under 107% time without any hassle.


Qualifying, Q1:


This weekend’s qualifying was the most important of all the qualifying’s we have had in the season. All the teams were geared up for the challenge, more so Perez after last year’s big shunt. But perhaps his Monaco jinx continued as he brought out the red flag after just about 5 minutes. By the end of the session it was Hulkenberg at P1 with Kobayashi at P2 7 Grosjean at P3. The notable out goers were the usual suspects of Caterham, HRT & Marussia along with Perez this time. Both SFI made it through without much hassle. Karthikeyan was well under the 107% time and due to other penalties was to start at P22.


Q2:


The real battle for qualifying begun in Q2 as per the season. Getting into top 10 has become a lot harder for every team than what we have seen in previous seasons, the competition is such that no one is sure of booking it’s place in Top 10 until they have it in their bags. Rosberg ended at P1 with Webber at P2 & Schumacher at P3. Hulkenberg almost made it to top but was bumped to P11 on the last lap by Kimi but fortunately due to penalties, he was due to start at P10. Di Resta wasn’t happy with his lap as he ended at P15 (to start P14). Hulkenberg had the fastest time in the speed trap. Another close run for the drivers in Q2.


Q3:



There was rain prediction all day but there was no sign really as it was extreme dry situation there. The start to the final session was a bit slow but it was a fantastic end and for some an emotional end as well. Yes, the master Schumacher was back on pole as he ended at P1. But not for long as he had a grid penalty which meant Webber got the pole and was to start at P1 with Rosberg at P2 & Hamilton at P3. It was the return to the top for the master but unfortunately not for a long period of time, that’s how F1 is.

The journos and commentators were pitting Grosjean for pole but Schumacher had other ideas and it was great to see him up there, unfortunate with the penalty but I was happy for Webber as well. I was upbeat about SFI race chances as well and was seriously thinking about double point finish for them. Also, as Karthikeyan was looking great all weekend and so a strong finish was the best possible thing to sign off his weekend.




Raceday:



6 different winners from 6 races was on our way, everyone did predict but we all had to wait for the 78 laps to get over first. Another nervous situation was in had for the teams as it was cloudy and rain was predicted mid-race though it wasn’t 100% if it will be. So, we were all set for the race to begin and a first lap or first corner incident was really possible owing to the nature of the track. And it did happen as Grosjean was squeezed between Schumacher & Alonso as he lost control and spun, Kobayashi’s car suffered some damages as Maldonado & Rosa too hit each other to DNF. Ahead in the field Webber took a good lead as Rosberg was behind him. Both SFI’s had a good start as Hulkenberg was at P9 & Di Resta at P11. Even Karthikeyan had a good start as he rose to P19.


After the first round of pit stops, Vettel was leading the race as he opted for a different strategy than most of the front runners. He had hoped for rain to try and delay his pit stop but it didn’t rain and he had to come in but he had grid positions over Hamilton & Massa. Meanwhile, Hamilton had also lost a place to Alonso in the pit stops, the Britain just hasn’t been able to convert good positions into race wins yet. Behind the front field, Kimi was fending off Schumacher (until he retired), Hulkenberg, Senna Di Resta & rest as he too was hoping for some rain. In The back Button clearly couldn’t get in front of the Caterham of Heikki which was surprise even though track was tough to overtake.


The SFI duo were having some good time during the race, the pace was looking good. Hulkenberg suffered mostly due to Kimi as he was stuck behind him for most of the race while Di Resta initially struggled to keep up with the group of Kimi & ahead of Ricciardo but managed to stay ahead of the group with his pit stop strategy. He even overtook his team mate in the pit stops as both the drivers went on reverse strategies of each other. They had a fairly lonely ride as both stayed together for the latter part of the race. Karthikeyan on the other hand in the sole remaining HRT was doing all he could to match with top teams and only get lapped maybe twice or thrice. The car was looking decently well.


Towards the end it was 6 drivers fighting out for the top position, it was ironic indeed. 6 drivers fighting for becoming the 6th different winner of the season. Webber lead Rosberg, Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton & Massa. It came very close in the end laps as the top 6 were covered within just about 5 seconds. But Webber was calm and composed as he took the win thus becoming the 6th different winner this season, this win secured RBR’s second win of the season. Will this ensure the Constructor’s Championship? Di Resta finished a fine P7 behind the top 6 with Hulkenberg at P8 behind his team mate. Guess, they were enjoying within themselves in the end part. Hulkenberg posted the second fastest time of the race. Karthikeyan finished off at P15, only 2 laps behind the leaders which is a good finish considering the short track. SFI gathered a haul of 10 points in a race where their rivals gathered none, the gap is big but getting down and perhaps one podium position could change the scene soon.


The season has been tremendous really, I have enjoyed it like anything. Think you guys have as well? Next up we will have the Canadian GP which can be lottery for any team again owing to the unpredictable weather and use of DRS as it has got some long straights. Meet you guys after 2 weeks, till than cya!!

29/05/2012

Weekend sweep-up

F1
Di Resta 7th (6 points), Hulkenberg 8th (4 points), Karthikeyan 15th.

A very good weekend in terms of F1 for Indian fans. Sahara Force India picked up 10points with both cars coming home ahead of Kimi Raikkonen; is that justice for 2008? (If you're not sure what we're referring to checkout the second entry for May 2008 here).

Narain Karthikeyan meanwhile had his best result in F1 since his return to the sport in 2011. True, the 15th place was due to a large number of retirements but Narain still did well to maintain his concentration and keep his car out of the barriers to complete the race.

What this means for the championship is that Sahara Force India have closed to the gap to alot of the teams infront. The gap to the target of 5th place is now only 33pts - in a season as random as this - that's nothing! I still maintain that all teams, excluding the newer ones, have almost identical baseline setup. This season will be decided on data collection, understanding the tyres and the drivers.

As for the drivers championship; Paul di Resta has jumped into 11th place on 21pts, just behind Sauber's Perez on 22pts. Nico Hulkenberg remains in 15th place but now the German has 7pts on the board. Meanwhile that 15th place finish for Narain Karthikeyan was crucial for the Indian:

Drivers Championship (drivers on 0pts)
19) Kovalainen (best finish: 13th)
20) Glock (best finish: 14th)(x2)
21) Pic (best finish: 15th)
22) Karthikeyan (best finish: 15th)
23) Petrov (best finish: 16th)(x2)
24) de la Rosa (best finish: 19th)

Narain gained positions and is now ahead of Caterham's Petrov and HRT-teammate de la Rosa.

Here are the review quotes:

Paul di Resta (Sahara Force India driver)
"A great result today and I'm very happy to make up so much ground on my starting position. We went aggressive with the strategy and I have to say the team really optimised it. The secret was managing the tyres and trying to find clean air when we could. The car felt really good, much stronger than yesterday, and that allowed me to push when we needed to. Fortunately the rain held off at the end because that could have had a big impact on the end of the race. It’s great that we managed to get both cars in the points and we can celebrate tonight".

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver)
"It was a pretty messy start with lots of cars touching and I was lucky to make it through because I had to avoid Grosjean, who was in the middle of the track. For the first few laps I was running with Michael and we were stuck behind Kimi who was struggling on the supersofts, but it was difficult to get by. Unfortunately Kimi stopped on the same lap as me so I remained behind him and we came out in a lot of traffic, which is when Paul jumped ahead of me. The rest of the race was quite uneventful and I just focused on looking after the tyres. It's a great result for the team and we should be happy with the result".

Vijay Mallya (Sahara Force India team principle)
"A very enjoyable Monaco Grand Prix and I am delighted to see both Sahara Force Indias well inside the points. Paul drove a very strong race, making up seven places on his grid position and managing the tyres perfectly. Nico was running the reverse strategy to Paul, which also worked out well, and means we leave here with ten important points. Now we look forward to the next race in Canada where we hope to continue our run of points finishes".

Narain Karthikeyan (HRT driver)
"It was a tough race because we were very limited on our tyres. We tried to keep a constant pace, stay out of trouble and finish the race; we knew that if we managed to do that we would be able to finish in a good position. 15th position is a good result and a good way of getting over the disappointment from Barcelona. Now what I need to do is work on putting together a good lap in qualifying as that has been my weakest point this season. Hopefully I'll be able to carry the momentum from here onto the next race in Canada and continue to progress".

Formula Renault 3.5 
Bianchi 2nd (18 points).

After a disappointing opening weekend in Spain, Sahara Force India's reserve driver got his title challenge back on track with a 2nd place finish in Monaco. The Frenchman finished just 2.689s behind race winner Sam Bird. After three races, Jules is 6th in the championship, 27pts behind the leader.

Formula Two
Sureshwaren 12th (race one), 12th (race two).

The Indian driver had a consistent weekend finishing 12th in both races. Unfortunately though this means that his pointless run now extends to 23 races.

Indy Lights

Ebrahim 13th (17 points).

Going into the race named the Firestone Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Armaan Ebrahim sat in 12th place in the championship on 60pts. The Indian driver could only manage 13th place in the race however the way other drivers finished meant that Armaan has actually gained a spot in the championship. He now sits 11th on 77pts making him the 5th best rookie out of the 14 rookie drivers this season.

28/05/2012

Sunday Report- F1, F2

Sorry for the delayed Sunday report but here's a brief one:

F1- Sahara Force India, Narain Karthikeyan


Race: Paul Di Resta- P7, Nico Hulkenburg- P8, Narain Karthikeyan- P15

Well, that was indeed a great race in the end for all the fans more so with performances of both the SFI drivers and Narain, all finishing strongly in the race. All the three drivers had to avoid Grosjean car at T1 at the start and everyone came off well from there. After the start Hulk was at P9, Di Resta at P11 while Narain was at P19, relatively good positions after the first lap melee. From then on it was conserving tyres and avoiding all the incidents as strategy took over. Hulk was behind the car of Kimi & Schumacher as Kimi was holding off everyone behind but as he went in for pit stop the other cars behind him went in as well and so Hulk got behind him again. Meanwhile, Di Resta took the advantage and got ahead of this group. From then on it was all saving the tyres till the end which both managed well as Di Resta finished ahead of Hulk getting a strong 10 points when our closest rivals scored none. Also, Hulkenberg got the second fastest laps. As for Karthikeyan it was another strong finish in the race, though he was last he did manage to finish only 2 laps behind the leader in a short track. The car looked good all weekend and interestingly the fastest lap he did was not bad at all.


F2- Parthiva Sureshwaran


Qualifying 2: P11 (1:46.676), Race 2: P12

After not so great results on Staurday, Sunday proved to be better for Parthiva. It was better than Saturday at least. He qualified at a good position at P11 with a good time. In the race he lost a position and thereby ended at P12, not the best effort but decent enough once again. It's tough to see him not do very well in the series, more so because prior to the series he had high hopes from this season. We hope the next races will be great for him.


26/05/2012

F1, F2, Indy 500 Report

This is a brief report on the all the series going on this weekend.

F1- Sahara Force India & Narain Karthikeyan, FP3 & Qualifying report:


FP3: Nico Hulkenberg, P15 (1:17.027) & Paul Di Resta, P18 (1:17.390), Narain Karthikeyan, P23 (1:19.147)


It was a nice and sunny weather for FP3 as team prepared for the qualifying. After a gap of Friday, the teams had plenty of time to analyse the Thursday data. Sahara Force India drivers went through their normal FP3 program as both started of on softs as Paul even did a 7 run stint after which his rear tyres gave up. Both did two stints on soft tyres before taking up supersoft towards the end of the session. Paul had a minor off as he hit the barriers and had damaged the car's nose a bit. Hulk ended at P15 while Paul at P18, the times were close yet again. Karthikeyan continued his good performance in the HRT as he ended at P23, the team is looking rather good than the other races. There was no real problems in that HRT as they went of with all they had planned.

Qualifying: Nico Hulkenberg, P10 (1:15.421), Paul Di Resta, P14 (1:16.062), Narain Karthikeyan, P22 (1:19.310)


There were talks about qualifying being affected by rain but it didn't happen and the day went without any rain hassle. Qualifying started off well for Sahara Force India as Hulkenberg ended at P1 in Q1 though he used a supersoft tyre towards the end. Both the guys went into Q2 without any problems and then the real test begun for them to get through to Q3. They started on used softs as most of the field did went on to use the supersofts. Hulkenberg was right on the brink and was sitting good to make it to Q3 but Kimi bumped him down to P11 while Di Resta didn't get a good lap at all as he did most he could do, he said post qualifying that he was struggling with rear and traction. Additionally, Hulk ended at P1 in the speed trap with a speed of 282.5. Both stand to gain a position due penalty to Maldonado. Karthikeyan on the other hand made it under the 107% by a good margin, doing that in the small Monaco track is a very good sign of the development. He too stands to gain a position due to Maldonado's penalty. (Note: Above positions mentioned are after Maldonado's penalty)

F2- Parthiva Sureshwaran


FP1: P6, 1:48.479, FP2: P16, 1:50.360, Qualifying 1: P12, 1:48.302, Race 1: P12


Parthiva started off the weekend in Nurburbring in style as he ended at P6 in the first practice session, it was looking all good at the start but the rest of the weekend the results weren't good enough for him as ended last in P16 in the second practice session. Today in qualifying 1 he ended at P12 as ran just 9 laps. While in the race also he ended at P12, he did loose a place as one of the car suffered a DNF. Things haven't been going well for him this season at all. There's Qualifying 2 & Race 2 tomorrow, he would be hoping to do well and end in a higher position as we too hope for some good results from him.

Indy 500- Armaan Ebrahim, Fan Force United


Qualifying: P12, Race: DNF


This was the results the team wasn't hoping for at all after all the preparation they went through for this big weekend. A double DNF and luckless time on track is the worse result a team can get. With Emerson joining the team prior this race, the teams were in high hopes with two of their drivers but something else had been written for them. Having qualified at P12 though Armaan pointed out that he used a wrong gear otherwise he could have ended at a higher position but nevertheless it was good enough position to start his first ever oval race. In the race, he got away from the start melee in which his teammate got involved but towards the end the team found out about a fuel pump problem and his race ended 5 laps before the end. He got 17 points which takes his tally to 77 points and he is P11 in the drivers standings in his first season.

Also Aditya Patel was in action last weekend where his team Audi won in the 24 Hours of Nurburbring as we update you guys on our Facebook page. If you haven't checked it then head on to our page and check for the results.

Well, that's it from our brief report. Sorry for the lack of updates as our members are bit busy this weekend.

24/05/2012

Monaco GP - Thursday Practices

Unfortunately due to other commitments this will have to be a very brief article.

Practice one
Hulkenberg 12th (1:17.631), di Resta 16th (1:18.302), Karthikeyan 20th (1:20.838).

A good session of data gathering for the Sahara Force India boys who completed a total of 34laps around one of the most famous circuits in the World. There was a gap of 7tenths between the two drivers but this can be attributed to the fact that Hulkenberg did one more run on the super-soft tyres (the quicker ones) than Paul di Resta.

Meanwhile Narain Karthikeyan had an awesome session! He drove a lap good enough for 20th place, ahead of both Marussia's, his teammate and Kimi Raikkonen who didn't set a time. To beat both Marussia's is a great effort by him, irrespective of fuel loads; probably one of his best ever laps in F1.

Practice two
di Resta 12th (1:17.395), Hulkenberg 14th (1:17.800), Karthikeyan 24th (1:20.886).

A session of mixed conditions saw the Sahara Force India drivers finish 12th and 14th but the dry running was cut short by rain early on so there is more pace to come from all of the cars compared to what we saw here. Nevertheless, 46laps completed in total and feedback from the drivers was positive.

Narain Karthikeyan couldn't replicate his first session heroics in the limited dry-running and ended up in 24th position, 3tenths down on teammate de la Rosa. The good thing for Narain is that he knows from session one he's capable around Monaco - this should give him confidence for qualifying and the race.

Quotes from Sahara Force India and Narain Karthikeyan can be found here. Additionally quotes from Sahara Force India team principle Vijay Mallya can be found here.

23/05/2012

What's happening this weekend?

Boy have we got alot of action this weekend, you may wish to take a look at our calendar here.

Indy Lights
Let's start with our US-driver, Armaan Ebrahim, who will be taking part in race four of 12 in the Indy Lights championship.

Current standings (4th-18th)

4) Victor Carbone (92pts)
5) Gustavo Yacamán (80pts)
6) Oliver Webb* (77pts)
7) Juan Pablo Garcia (76pts)
8) Alon Day* (65pts)
9) Carlos Muñoz* (62pts)
10) David Ostella (61pts)
11) Jorge Goncalvez (61pts)
12) Armaan Ebrahim* (60pts)
13) Darryl Wills* (54pts)
14) João Victor Horto* (43pts)
15) Troy Castaneda* (37pts)
16) Nick Andries* (17pts)
17) Alex Jones* (16pts)
18) Rodin Younessi* (14pts)

Note: * denotes rookie driver

With the top three in the championship considerably ahead; this is the midfield pack. A win gives 50 points and so it's clearly very tight. Armaan's results so far this season are 8th, 12th and 12th. This aim for this race, named the Firestone Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will surely be top ten for Armaan. A result of this nature would surely push the Indian up in the championship.

Formula Two
Races five and six take place at the Nürburgring, a track where last weekend an Indian driver won (Sailesh Bolisetti in the British GT Championship).

Unfortunately for Parthiva Sureshwaren, it's been 21 races since he scored a point - that's including previous season's of course.

At the start of this season Parthiva said:

"
My aim this season is to improve my overall performance by regularly finishing in the points and score some podium finishes".

... but at the moment it's just not happening unfortunately. I'm really hoping Parthiva grabs points this weekend, surely he deserves it for his sheer determination?

Monaco
Correct, Monaco is not a championship - but we've got all three Sahara Force India boys (and Narain Karthikeyan) racing at the legendary track this weekend.

Let's start with Jules Bianchi who takes part in Formula Renault 3.5, a support race to the main Formula One action.

The race at Monaco is the only one-race event on the championship and Jules Bianchi is hoping for better luck than he had in the first event where the French driver got disqualified in race one (for a technical irregularity), and finished outside the points in race two. This means that Jules, who is considered in the paddock as a title contender, is currently pointless after two races in the seventeen race championship.

The aim this weekend for Sahara Force India's reserve driver will surely be a win, or at the very least a podium - he simply needs big points on the board to reduce the deficit to the championship leader, Robin Frijns on 40 points.

The main event in Monte Carlo however is of course the Monaco Grand Prix, a race that's not just famous for the on-track action but also famous for the glamour and prestige associated with the event.

Current constructors standings (5th-9th)
5) Mercedes (43pts)
6) Williams (43pts)
7) Sauber (41pts)
8) Force India (18pts)
9) Toro Rosso (6pts)

Force India are quite far behind 5th place in the constructors championship, which is the aim this season, but that's not a problem at this stage considering just how unpredictable all the races are. Every car has similar pace and any of the teams, excluding the newer ones, could win a race. It's only a matter of time before the Indian team get a podium this season, and what better place to do it than Monaco? :-)

Meanwhile, down at HRT, the aim for Narain Karthikeyan will be simply to beat his teammate as that's all his car will really allow. Having said that, the nature of the Monaco track is such that we may see many retirements - you never know, if there are loads we may just see Narain sneak a point! For sure, it's one of the best opportunities of the year for Caterham, HRT or Marussia to grab points.

It's with regret that we have to say, due to various reasons, our coverage this weekend will be limited - updates will be infrequent, but we'll do the best we can. On Monday we'll have a FULL update on the weekend's action though - we appreciate your patience.

18/05/2012

Facebook

I'd just like to divert you all to our facebook page which can be found here.

Sometimes we post updates there without blogging about them (like this weekend with Sailesh Bolisetti) so if you want to keep fully upto date make sure you "like" us so our updates appear on your news feeds :-)

15/05/2012

Spanish GP, Catalunya- A firey end to a fairytale weekend


No one was really expecting this kind of end to a fantastic race weekend. It was a fairytale weekend for Williams after starting off well in practice to getting a pole in qualifying after Hamilton’s DQ and then go on to win the race but it became a bit of anti-climax as their garage caught fire post team photo and few team members got injured. Anyways, it was yet another dramatic race in the season and we have a new winner in the name of Maldonado, his first win with Alonso coming in at P2 and Kimi at P3.

The full review of the weekend below:


Practice Sessions, FP1:


Finally, we got some action rolling after another 3 week break. There was Mugello in between but it hardly gave me any thrill. It was the start of European leg with Spanish GP and many would have hoped to see the teams settling in and the order of teams setting in as well but not yet. The weather was sunny and hot and it was all dry condition for the teams to work upon the Mugello updates. FP1 did gave us a surprise as Alonso topped the session with Vettel at P2 & Kobayashi at P3. Bianchi got his second run in the Force India car, he sat in place of Di Resta. Hulkenberg ended at P10 while Bianchi at P18 as the team carried on with their Mugello upgrades which included an updated front wing & exhausts. It was good to see that both cars were in Top 3 in top speeds. Karthikeyan didn’t run as Clos ran in his place.



FP2:


The teams carried on from the first session as they went for long runs. There was some serious runs going on as we could see from the number of laps run. Button brought McLaren to the top as he ended at P1 with Vettel at P2 and Rosberg at P3. Di Resta was back in the SFI car as he finished at P15 while Hulkenberg finished at P10. The team were reasonably OK with their performance after the day. Karthikeyan was back in the car but not for long as his car suffered problems in his time lap and thus his session ended there.



FP3:


Qualifying day as teams prepared themselves for one-lap performance and get into Q3. That’s why we saw that teams ran comparatively less number of laps than what they did in FP2. Vettel topped the time sheets after having a consistent run and then came a surprise entry of Maldonado at P2 & Kobayashi at P3. SFI duo were down in the list as Hulkenberg ended at P12 & Di Resta at P15. It wasn’t looking great for them but few hundred of seconds could change the whole thing. Finally, Karthikeyan got some running and ended P22. He must have been relieved to get those laps.


From the practice times it was hard to suggest as to who exactly was in for a shot at pole. Hamilton was the front runner with Vettel close to him. Anyone & everyone was expecting a Hamilton pole. As for SFI, I was optimistic of a Q3 for at least one driver because the qualifying pace wasn’t looking that good. And for Karthikeyan, qualifying under 107% rule was surely on after he got some run in FP3.



Qualifying, Q1:


At the start of the day or qualifying, no one would have guessed the results really. All were counting on few but as always in this season the result was unexpected. Anyways, I start of with Q1 which saw Hamilton ending at P1 with Grosjean at P2 & Alonso at P3. Both the SFI duo made it comfortably to Q2. Senna with a spin in the end ended his chances of making it to Q2. As always Caterham, Marussia & HRT did not make it ahead. But Karthikeyan did not lap a time under the 107% time and was a doubtful starter until the FIA allowed him to start seeing his FP3 time.



Q2:


This session was very crucial for the top teams as slight slip up will push them down and out of Q3. And that’s what happened with Button, Webber & Massa in Q2 as shockingly they bowed out of Q2 after late charge from the mid field guys pushing them down. Surprisingly, Maldonado ended at P1 with Hamliton at P2 & Gorsjean at P3. Bothe the SFI drivers went out in Q2 as few hundred of seconds pushed them down. Di Resta qualified at P13 (started at P12) & Hulkenberg at P14 (started at P13). Interestingly, they were starting just behind Button & Webber. Both did a good lap but the others got slightly ahead and pushed them.



Q3:


What happened in Q3 was simply out of the box, no one had predicted the results on Saturday morning. Yes, Maldonado got his maiden pole of his career and Williams got their first since Brazil 2010. The pole 

didn’t come directly but via DQ of Hamilton as his car didn’t have enough fuel to come back to pits and thereby was to start from last. Alonso the home hero was to start at P2 while Grosjean at P3. Who could have predicted this line-up, anyone? Also, at the back Vettel & Schumacher both didn’t set any time. Unusual to see big teams going for tyre saving strategy.

Another amazing qualifying we witnessed in a truly unpredictable season. Congrats to Maldonando as he did a great job there, he looked good since morning while Alonso put up another strong effort to start at P2 and Lotus continued their good form. I think SFI were a bit unlucky to miss out but as they said they just didn’t had enough extra seconds to book a Q3 place. Anyways, starting from P12 and P13 was a good sign to get a double point finish. Karthikeyan was allowed to race and perhaps his goal was to finish the race for sure.



Raceday:


Finally, the raceday which we were waiting for since Bahrain race end. All the previews stated that start of European season, a settled line-up but qualifying showed how settled it was. All eyes were on Maldonado starting alongside Alonso, a tough guy to keep up with given any car. We were in for some interesting battles as the field was pretty much spread out. So, it begun and as expected Alonso took the race lead after T1 while Kimi came up behind Maldonado fighting off his team mate Grosjean. Behind them not much changed as only few places inter-changed. Hamilton starting from behind gained few places to be at P17 and attack the STR’s. Force India guys had a good start but then a touch with Webber’s car pushed them behind the RBR car but ahead of the STR’s. Perez was biggest loser in the end as he suffered a puncture.


 Pit stops & tyres were important in the race as teams wanted to maximise their stints on some tyres more so as to have an advantage. Alonso led the race comfortably as Maldonado tried to put up a fight while Kimi was a bit behind. Behind all the top battle, we had Red Bulls & McLaren’s somewhat struggling to match up. Hmailton did make a good positions but his pace just wasn’t enough to push for more. And then there was an accident when Schumacher hit at the back of Senna as both retired and just after that Vettel & Massa received a drive-through penalty for ignoring yellow flags. Meanwhile, Kobabyashi was putting up some amazing laps pushing the Suaber in Top 5 passing Rosberg. At the back Karthikeyan had to retire after his pit stop due to mechanical problems. While Caterham, Marussia & remaining HRT were doing a decent job.


Coming to Sahara Force India, both had a mixed start but were strongly poised to score points. Both the drivers were running in and around points in the middle stint with the hard tyres on. Di Resta had some battles with Vergne and it continued for a while but Vergne having a slightly better pace got better of Di Resta. Hulkenberg was behind at the start but a slightly better strategy on the pit stops got him ahead of his team mate and quite few other of the rivals.  They were hanging in there but among the biggies towards the end as Hulkenberg was fighting with Webber for most part of the race for the final point while Di Resta was keeping Massa behind and catch Ricciardo.


Maldonado won the pit stop battle and got the track position on his final pit stop to get the P1 position and then he kept Alonso at bay for the end stint professionally to win his maiden career win and a win for his team Williams, their first win since 2004 Brazilian GP. Alonso once again drove a fantastic race to end at P2, in that slow Ferrari. But was this a Ferrari resurgence? I am not convinced yet though. Towards the end Kimi just gave a scare to all with some great laps as he came to just 3 seconds of Alonso when he was about 20 seconds off from him. Not having enough laps, he finished at P3. Behind them Kobayashi & Vettel made 2-3 positions to finish at P5 & P6 respectively. For Force India, Hulkenberg managed to keep Webber at bay and finish at P10 to clinch the final championship points, I must say Hulk did an awesome job to keep that Red Bull car behind for so long. Di Resta ended at P13 as he came ahead of Massa after they fought for the position. Once again an impressive pit stops times as they were in the Top 5 of best times.


It was yet another spectacle on the track as Catalunya is not known as a track where lots of overtaking can happen but such is this season that we saw some great moves with & without DRS. Maldanodo & Williams surprised everybody while a disappointing race for favourites Red Bull, McLaren & Mercedes. Force India had a mixed race but they can be happy with their pace, little more luck and some improvements can see them having a podium finish. I have to mention about the incident post race which was terrible. After Williams finished off with their photo session, a fire broke out in the garage and it was a massive one but it was so heartening to see that all the team’s mechanics rushed in to help immediately, some got injured but all are out of danger. Anyways, next race is the Monaco GP, one race which no one wants to miss with the on-track & off-track actions. Till now the 5 races has been absolutely amazing, it will be an interesting in Monaco with such tight field. Adios, catch you guys after Monaco!!


13/05/2012

Spanish GP - Sunday sweep-up

Well, before the race i had made a bold prediction of a podium for Nico Hulkenberg and it turns out i was right to a certain extent:

(Maldonado winning the race, click to enlarge)

As highlighted in this picture, Nico Hulkenberg was the second person to cross the line, unfortunately he was lapped however - not a 2nd place finish.

So how did the race pan out for the Sahara Force India boys? Well both drivers had the same strategy:
Start: Used Softs
1st stop: New Soft
2nd stop: New Hard
3rd stop: New Hard

And this gave mixed fortunes for our drivers:

Hulkenberg: Started 13th, Finished 10th (+3)
di Resta: Started 12th, Finished 14th (-2)

So why did Hulkenberg make up positions while di Resta lost out? To understand this we need to look at the timing of the pit stops. di Resta made his first pit stop on lap 9, Hulkenberg on lap 10. For the second pit stops Hulkenberg pitted on lap 19, di Resta on lap 23. This is where alot of ground was lost. Hulkenberg only did 9 laps on the new set of soft tyres (from lap 10-19) whereas di Resta stayed out for 14 laps on the new softs (from lap 9-23) - a bad strategy call.

I'm not a 100% sure why the team decided to keep di Resta out so long on those soft tyres, but we must remember that they have more data than us and i'm sure any decision they made at the time was completely justified - it's only with hindsight that we know they were wrong.

Nevertheless a good effort by Paul in the race, in terms of laptime he matched Nico which was a great feat considering the Scotsman was struggling on Friday in comparison. As for Nico, he made a great race, picking up a point for the team and managing to keep Red Bull's Mark Webber behind for many laps towards the end of the Grand Prix.

I've been looking through various places on the internet which play host to Sahara Force India fans, such as their facebook page, and many have expressed concern about other "midfield" teams grabbing podiums (Sauber and Williams).

This is how the standings currently look (excluding the newer teams):
  1. Red Bull (109)
  2. McLaren (98)
  3. Lotus (84)
  4. Ferrari (63)
  5. Mercedes (43)
  6. Williams (43)
  7. Sauber (41)
  8. Force India (18)
  9. Toro Rosso (6)
I'll admit based on the standings that it doesn't look brilliant for Sahara Force India to achieve their target of 5th place in the constructors, however this doesn't tell the whole story. The thing to note is that no team really has the fastest car, everyone is relatively equal this season meaning points are freely available on a race-by-race basis. One poor lap in qualifying can literally be the difference between pole and 18th (ahead of the newer teams). We saw that this weekend; Pastor Maldonado got pole and in the same car Bruno Senna qualified 17th!

All the team need are great laps during qualifying and they'll be right up there, those podiums will come this season we just have to be patient and wait our turn is all! I'm not saying Nico & Paul have done bad laps in qualifying, they have done average laps on the most part and that's why they have been mid-grid. Infact i do remember on one occasion Paul di Resta put in a stunning lap, but it was just to get into Q3 (the top ten) not to determine his grid slot. Anyway the point is just be patient, no team has a real pace advantage over another - this championship is wide open for the top nine places!

Here's what the boys had to say after today:

Nico Hulkenberg
(Sahara Force India driver):
"A lot of hard work went into today's race so it's nice to get the reward of one point. It was a very tough race physically and there was never a moment to relax because I had Mark [Webber] filling my mirrors for the second half of the race. It was a great battle, with a lot of pressure, but fortunately I was able to keep him behind, which was not easy with the DRS on the main straight. Considering where I started it's good to score a point and I don't think we could have got much more from the race. The team did an excellent job with the pit stops and the strategy, and I'm pleased with what we achieved today".

Paul di Resta (Sahara Force India driver):
"I'm disappointed not to have been further up in the battle for points because my race was looking promising to begin with. But as things unfolded I lost track position so I think we need to analyse why our performance on the hard tyres did not meet our expectations and exactly why we lost out. My main battle in the second half of the race was with the Toro Rosso's, but they were on the soft tyres when I was on the hards and it was impossible to keep them behind me. I think it's just one of those races that didn't work out for me for whatever reason so we'll take it on the chin and look to come back stronger in Monaco".

Robert Fernley (Sahara Force India deputy team principle):
"Another very tough and competitive Grand Prix, so we are pleased to have picked up a point with Nico. It was a hard-earned point with an optimised strategy and brilliant driving, especially Nico's efforts to fend off Mark Webber in the final stages of the race. Paul was not far behind, but it was hard to keep him ahead of the Toro Rosso's because our race pace was pretty similar and so we had to settle for P14. Looking back on the weekend as a whole we've seen once again that the entire field remains incredibly competitive and that we need to keep pushing hard to optimise the developments we have made to the car. We know there is more speed to come and we hope to demonstrate that in the next few races".

Meanwhile Narain Karthikeyan retired his car after 22 laps due to a mechanical failure. It was apt for him really on a weekend where he had numerous car problems - there was not much he could do!

This is what he had to say:

Narain Karthikeyan (HRT driver):
"I had some trouble at the start with a little bit too much wheel spin, but it didn't affect me too much and by the first turn I was already back up behind Pedro. It was the first time I drove on heavy fuel this weekend so, with the first set of tyres, my objective was to get used to them. On the second set I had a really good stint and was catching Pedro as we came in for the pit stop to switch to hard tyres. That's when my bad luck continued... I hope to leave it behind in Spain and have a fresh start in Monaco".

Then later on twitter:

"Utterly disappointing weekend finally ends.. Expected a lot, but rotten luck had other ideas. Hoping to leave it behind here..But really happy to see Williams back on the top. Having been a part of Sir Frank's ship, can say he's a true racer. Wishing them the best!!"

These quotes ended the on-track action but there was more to come. An explosion in the Williams garage caused a huge fire which resulted in the entire pit lane becoming engrossed in smoke (video here) and naturally every mechanic in the vicinity grabbed any fire extinguisher they could to try and help fight the flames.

(a video still at the moment of the explosion)

The fire was eventually put out and a total of 31 F1 team members had to be seen by circuit medical staff in the aftermath. Seven of those were transferred to local hospitals. One (very brave) Sahara Force India mechanic was caught up in the incident while fighting the blaze. The team said however, on twitter, that:

"Our guy is OK on the whole. Just some coughing from all that smoke. Our guys are made of strong stuff! Thanks for all your messages."

As for all the other mechanics there were thankfully no serious injuries, or at least none reported yet, if that changes then we'll let you know.

(Senna's Williams car post-fire, click to enlarge)

I want to give the final mention on this blog to the guys who helped during that fire. They deserve a mention for their heroics - the situation could have been far worse! Good effort people! :-)

(Race winner Pastor Maldonado helps a fan during the fire, click to enlarge)


(A member from the Sky Sports F1 team (UK TV coverage) helps a Williams mechanic, click to enlarge)

Spanish GP - Race Results

Results: Hulkenberg 10th (1 point), di Resta 14th, Karthikeyan (DNF).

Not a bad race for Sahara Force India, not the best either though.

Nico Hulkenberg did well, started 13th, gaining three positions and grabbing a point, good effort by him - great driving towards the end of the race to keep a charging Mark Webber behind! :-)

As for Paul Di Resta; started 12th but dropped a couple of spots during the race to 14th. The team decided to try something different strategy wise (3 stops like most, but stopping later than everyone else), unfortunately it didn't work for the Scottish driver.

Meanwhile Narain Karthikeyan didn't manage to finish the race, pulling off the track with a car problem - that sums up his weekend really, the car has been troubling him all weekend :-(

Right now i'm off to watch the final day of the English Premier League (football) and we'll have full analysis later on today of both the race and the current constructors championship standings.

12/05/2012

Spanish GP - Saturday Sweep-up

Having just watched two quite brilliant races in Spain (GP2 Feature Race and GP3 Race One) i'm even more excited about tomorrow!

The aim for the Sahara Force India boys starting in 12th and 13th (post Hamilton penalty) will be to score points of course. However, the grid is so evenly matched and the tyres are so marginal in terms of performance that a podium is a genuine possibility. Infact this is the case for any team (apart from the newer teams at the back who simply lack pace). Of course a podium would be a dream result, and there is an outside chance, but let's concentrate on points for now :-)

Some things to watch out for tomorrow include:
  • General race pace - Both Sahara Force India drivers had VERY good race pace in the practice sessions, especially Nico who was one of the fastest cars out there - could make things very interesting.
  • Lap one, turn one - the nature of the Spanish track means that there is a high probability of a collision at turn one on the opening lap. Paul and Nico need to be careful not to get caught up in any incident, especially as they start in the tightly congested midfield.
  • Rain - it's possible, a 30% chance of some precipitation during the race, that could certainly mix things up!
  • Strategy - most in the paddock have been saying three or four stops for tomorrow, but could we see one of our boys doing a risky two stopper to gain positions? A safety car could also factor into this.

Here is what the guys had to say:

Paul di Resta (Sahara Force India driver):
"It has been quite a difficult weekend so far trying to get the car dialled into the circuit. In fact, it was only during the my final qualifying run that we made a change to the aero balance and I felt that the car was really hooked up. It’s close throughout the field once again, but we've been fairly aggressive on set-up and our pace over longs runs has looked quite competitive so far this weekend, which gives us a reason to be optimistic for the race. The goal will be to make up ground tomorrow and I think it will be a big achievement if we can pick up some points".

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver):
"I'm pretty satisfied with my final lap in Q2 because I don't think we could have achieved much more from the session today. That's just where we are at the moment in terms of qualifying pace. We are still getting to understand the upgrades we have on the car, but it's also clear that everyone else has made a step forward here and so the midfield remains extremely tight. The races so far this year have shown that grid position is not as crucial as it used to be with a lot of movement in the races, so I think we can still have a good race".

Robert Fernley (Sahara Force India deputy team principal):
"The team has done an excellent job over the last few weeks to push through our upgrade package and get it on the car this weekend. But it’s still early days and I'm sure that over the coming races we can fine-tune things further and extract even more performance. With than in mind I think we can take encouragement from our qualifying showing today with both Nico and Paul just a couple of tenths shy of squeezing through to Q3. We've been pleased with our tyre wear and the performance over long runs suggests we are in good shape for a competitive race tomorrow".

Meanwhile Narain Karthikeyan failed to qualify within the 107% rule but, as i predicted, he has been given permission to race tomorrow as he's previously demonstrated in practice that he's quick enough.

Karthikeyan was very slow in qualifying, this is why:

Narain Karthikeyan (HRT driver):
"It's been a very unlucky weekend for me so far. In the morning everything went smoothly but in the afternoon, with the first set of tyres I was pushing really hard and spun on turn 3 and, as a result, I flat-spotted a tyre so I had to come back in to the garage. We were going to go on the second set of tyres but we discovered some problems and due to safety concerns, not only for myself but the others, we decided that the best thing was to not go back out. It seems like my bad luck continues to follow me this weekend and, although I'm disappointed about that, there's nothing else I can do but keep giving it my best shot".

His aim, starting from 23rd, will be to reach the checkered flag and try finish ahead of his teammate (who starts 22nd).

I'm massively excited about this race and hope you are too!! We'll have a race report very soon after the cars are done tomorrow, check back for that! :-)

Spanish GP - Qualifying Results

Results: di Resta 13th (1:23.125), Hulkenberg 14th (1:23.177), Karthikeyan DNQ (1:31.122).

It seems as if the more sessions we have this year the more insane the results - it was just completely bonkers!

A decent qualifying session for Sahara Force India in 13th and 14th, it's a shame that neither driver could make it into Q3 but these positions are fine given that sets of tyres have been saved; and that's proving crucial this year. Infact just 0.3s more would have gotten our boys upto around 5th place in Q2 - that's how close it is.

Believe me when i say anyone in the top 18 could grab a podium tomorrow, for sure we will see some surprises!

As for Narain Karthikeyan he finished dead last, 3.6seconds down on his teammate - there must have been a problem with his car; we'll find out when we get quotes from the drivers. The Indian is outside 107% of the fastest Q1 time and so he'll need to beg the stewards to let him race. As he has demonstrated pace within 107% in previous sessions he should be allowed to race without any problem!

We'll have more later today when we get more data/quotes! :-)

Spanish GP - Practice Three Results

Results: Hulkenberg 12th (1:24.323), di Resta 15th (1:24.599), Karthikeyan 22nd (1:28.207).

All that session proved is that everything is still completely unpredictable! A very topsy-turvey session and qualifying may well be a similar story.

The good news for Sahara Force India is that they got 12th and 15th places despite having traffic on their fastest laps. Where the two drivers would have been without traffic is impossible to tell - hopefully we find out during qualifying in a couple of hours!

As for Narain, he had a very good session! Along with Nico Rosberg he completed the most laps (24) to make up for yesterday's lack of running; and he finished the session 0.2seconds up on teammate de la Rosa! He also classifies ahead of Grosjean who failed to set a laptime.

We're very much looking forward to qualifying and we hope you are too! :-)

11/05/2012

Friday Sweep-up!

As we're heading into the Saturday track action it appears if Sahara Force India are a dark horse this weekend. Race pace, at least from Nico Hulkenberg, was very impressive during FP1 & FP2 - but this could be down to fuel. Nevertheless 10th place in both sessions for Nico - that's promising :-) Paul di Resta has the potential for similar performance, but he just couldn't quite manage to match his German teammate today; tomorrow could be a different story however!

Narain Karthikeyan on the other hand had a poor day. He missed the first session to let Dani Clos form an all Spanish lineup, at the Spanish team, in Spain and then in the second session Narain only managed to complete what's being described as "1.1laps". Not his fault at all, an electronic issue just meant that the car ground to a halt.

Here's what everyone had to say:

Paul di Resta (Sahara Force India driver):
"A fairly normal Friday afternoon session for me trying to get on top of the tyres quickly and fine-tune the balance of the car. I had the new parts on the car, which seem to be delivering, although it's too early to say where we stand because we don't know what everyone else was doing or their fuel loads. I think it's going to be another very close weekend, just as we have seen in the previous races, and we still have plenty of work to do before qualifying to find the sweet spot".

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver):
"We got through the programme pretty much as planned and the initial results seem quite encouraging. The main task was to continue understanding the new upgrades, which I ran for both sessions, and getting the car set-up nicely for the track. We made some changes during the lunch break and they improved things, so I'm happy about what we've done today. As always, there's still work to do, but the main tasks for today are complete".

Jules Bianchi (Sahara Force India reserve driver):
"I was driving the same car we raced in Bahrain so that the team could run a back-to-back comparison with the new developments we have here. The session went well, I managed 21 laps on the hard compound tyre and the programme has given us a lot of data to analyse before qualifying".

Jakob Andreasen (Sahara Force India chief engineer):
"A productive Friday for us with excellent feedback from Nico, Paul and Jules as we continued to evaluate the developments we ran in Mugello last week. The driver comments are encouraging and the numbers also suggest the new parts are delivering what we expected. The rest of the programme was a fairly standard Friday job list, although Nico did use two sets of hard tyres this morning. Paul was back in the car for the afternoon and quickly got up to speed as he spent the majority of the session on the soft tyres. There's still room to improve overnight to maximise final practice and leave us in good shape going into qualifying".

Narain Karthikeyan (HRT driver)
"I'm disappointed to have not got any laps under my belt today; it's certainly not how I was aiming to start my weekend in Barcelona. Tomorrow will be an uphill struggle as we've only got one hour in the morning to get the car ready for qualifying in the afternoon, so we're really going to have to get our heads down and work hard. Hopefully we can make up for the time lost today and turn things around tomorrow".

So to sum up:

- a disappointing day for Narain Karthikeyan, relaible running needed tomorrow!
- Sahara Force India had a promising day ...
- Nico Hulkenberg impressed; everything went right on the track ...
- off the track however it was a different story ...
(Hulkemberg's Hulkenberg's name sign above his garage)

Until FP3, bye for now!

Spanish GP - Practice Two Results

Results: Hulkenberg 10th (1:24.365), di Resta 15th (1:24.688), Karthikeyan 24th (no time set).

We know that every team has upgrades for this race and so far all these developments seem to have made things closer than ever before; just 1.3seconds separating the top 17 cars in that session - mighty close stuff!

Sahara Force India once again had a decent session with Nico Hulkenberg in 10th and Paul di Resta in 15th. What i did find interesting during that session however was race pace. At the start of their hard tyre stints the fastest times were set by Raikkonen, Grosjean and Hulkenberg! Our German driver was lapping quicker than the Red Bull's and McLaren's! Of course fuel loads probably have a part to play but it's certainly encouraging at this stage.

As for Narain, he only managed to get out of the pits with half an hour left due to an electronics issue. When he did get out on track though he only managed one lap until the car failed on him and he ground to a halt. It's a suspected hydraulics failure but we won't know for sure until we here from the team.

We'll have an article later today clearing everything up when we get more data and some quotes from the team personnel.

Spanish GP - Practice One Results

Results: Hulkenberg 10th (1:25.339), Bianchi 18th (1:26.630).

I'd say that was a pretty decent session for Sahara Force India. Nico Hulkenberg was running the old-spec car whereas Jules Bianchi was running all the upgrades for comparison.

Nico was 1.3s quicker than Jules but that's not a reason to worry, don't forget Jules is much more inexperienced than Nico so we'd expect the German to be faster than the Frenchman - even without the upgrades. Infact that 1.3s gap would have been smaller however Nico's lap was actually pretty special! Alonso topped the session but there was a big gap of 0.378s between him and the second placed Vettel which suggests that Fernando was running a lower fuel load for a glory run around his home track. If we exclude his glory run from the analysis, Hulkenberg was only 0.531s behind Vettel; that's special! :-)

We're looking ahead now to FP2 where di Resta will be back in the car, replacing Jules. Additionally Narain Karthikeyan will be in the car down at HRT.

What's happening this weekend?

We have the six Sahara Force India drivers in action this weekend (yes, six!).

Firstly let's start with the academy boys; Arjun Maini, Jehan Daruvala and Tarun Reddy. They will be taking part in the second race of their young careers at the Whilton Mill kart track in the UK. Indian star Karun Chandhok often does laps around this circuit (his local track) however this weekend the on-track action will be all part of the Super One Championship. We're not going to go into too much detail on this yet as we'll have a major feature on the three Sahara Force India hopefuls in the near future.

Paul di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg and Jules Bianchi will all be getting F1 mileage meanwhile during race five of the 2012 FIA F1 World Championship in Spain.

Race drivers Paul and Nico will have the aim of scoring points, however this weekend is about more than just points. As this will be the first of the European races, and the first race since the Mugello test, performance of the car relative to other teams is crucial as it will give an insight into how the rest of the season will play out. Everyone associated with the team will be hoping that a big step forward has been made! Upgrades for this race include a new exhaust system, an update to the front wing and undertray, plus slight revisions to the sidepods and rear wing.

Here are what the main players had to say:

Paul di Resta
(Sahara Force India driver):
"There's still plenty of work to do in free practice to get on top of the car, but we've already done the basic checks. I probably know Barcelona better than any other track on the calendar. We did two tests there in the winter and I had four days in the car so I already feel quite well prepared, but it's the same for everyone. I expect the field to be incredibly close once again".

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver):
"It's a track I enjoy and where I've been successful in the past. It's high-speed, there are lots of right hand corners and it's quite tough physically, especially on your neck. As a city I enjoy being in Barcelona because it’s a great place with a nice atmosphere. Also, the stands are always full on race day because the Spanish fans love Formula One. The first sector through turns one, two and three is tricky and you need to treat them as one corner. A mistake in one or two will hurt you through three and cost your lap time. It feels great when you get them just right. Also, the final sector is quite technical: it's slow and twisty, especially the last chicane and it’s easy to drop time at the end of the lap".

- Additionally, Nico Hulkenberg was one of the drivers selected for the Thursday press conference, you can watch that here.

Vijay Mallya (Sahara Force India team principal):
"Now that the European season is upon us, we should be able to bring through more updates to the car. That will start this weekend when we run with some of the new parts we evaluated in Mugello last week. However, we have to remember that most teams will make a development step for Barcelona so it remains to be seen how this will impact on our relative performance. As well as developments for the car we are pushing hard to maximise the strategies and the drivers are delivering excellent performances in the races. That's so important this year with the margins between the teams so tight. If we can continue to deliver like we did in Bahrain then we should be able to remain in the hunt for points this weekend".

While we're on the subject of Sahara Force India, the team launched their new TV feature as part of the pre-weekend build-up. Watch episode one right here:

video

Also, let's not forget the Indian driver on the grid, Narain Karthikeyan. His team, HRT, have a small aerodynamic upgrade package on the car this weekend despite missing the Mugello test to focus on relocation (of their headquarters to Madrid). Hopefully this package can push them a bit closer towards Marussia, the team ahead in terms of pace.

The other thing to mention is that we'll have driver changes for FP1, Bianchi will be in the car for the first practice session at Sahara Force India and down at HRT Narain Karthikeyan will be giving up his seat to reserve driver Dani Clos. We'll see the regular line-up from FP2 onwards however.

We wish Narain and the Sahara Force India guys the very best of luck this weekend! :-)

08/05/2012

Aditya Patel Interview!

We have a little present for you guys today, an interview with VLN driver and Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup race winner Aditya Patel!

 (click to enlarge)

We actually had two questions submitted by you guys via our facebook page, they are answered below along with some other questions we put to the rising star of Indian motorsport.

1) "WHY did you all of a sudden change from Volkswagen to Audi? I Mean because you were doing extremely well in the R-Cup" (from Mohit Gouthi)

Volkswagen and Audi belong to the same family. By shifting to Audi, it opens more avenues to move forward in GT racing since Audi runs their cars in some of the most prestigious series' in the world. Logically, it would be a step forward after using the Scirocco R Cup as a proving ground. It is probably the most competitive cup series in the world today!

2) "Aditya r u lukin 2 switch 2 single seaters......n ur ultimate goal ? Is it F1 ?" (from Zain Khan)

As of now, I'm sticking to saloons. Although you've been watching me grow up through single seaters, I somehow felt more at home when I switched to saloons. So far, I'm enjoying saloons and will stick to it for as long as I can!

3) How did you get into motorsport? Tell us about your journey. (Auto India Sports)

It all started with hobby karting on the weekends. My parents didn't really have much choice. They HAD to take me to the kart track when I was young! From then on it's been step by step up the ladder and making improvements lap after lap,race after race. From karting I shifted to single seaters and after a year in FBMW, I shifted to Saloons and things have gone well ever since!

4) Who is your racing idol, and why? (Auto India Sports)

Ayrton Senna. Need I say more...?

5) How closely do you follow the fortunes of other Indians in motorsport? (Narain, Karun, Parthiva, Armaan, Sahara Force India etc.) (Auto India Sports)

To start with, I do share close relations with all the above drivers. I guess in India racing is like a family. So yes, I do follow their progress and learn a lot from them. As for Sahara Force India, it's great to have an Indian owned team up in formula one! It's only a matter of time before we see two Indian drivers in it too!

6) Sahara Force India recently held their one from a billion (OFAB) academy contest but you couldn't take part as you were too old to enter; would you have been interested in entering if you were under the maximum age limit? (Auto India Sports)

Of course! After all, it's an opportunity that very few people get and to have your racing being taken care of at such a young age in a professional manner would be like a dream come through.

7) The OFAB contest is just one way we can see Indian Motorsport developing, another is the opening of the Buddh International Circuit; have you had the pleasure of driving on it yet? (Auto India Sports)

Yes, I've had the pleasure of driving around it many a time! It's one of those circuits that seems to get better lap after lap.

8) Back to your career, where do you hope to reach in the future - Formula One? World Rally Championship? (Auto India Sports)

Well, in the next five years, I hope to have driven at Le Mans, World GT1 and DTM. These maybe unusual to most, but to me, it's where a want to be!

9) Do you feel being an Indian has helped or hindered your career (extra publicity being one of few Indian drivers vs being hard to find sponsors)? (Auto India Sports)

Good question. In the beginning it definitely wasn't all hunky dory but as years went by, I began to find a footing it Touring cars and this opened a whole new avenue of motorsports for me. Having now signed a 3 year contract with Audi, it's like a childhood dream come true. The aim now is to work together with Audi and to move up the racing ladder.

10) How about for this season, what are your aims in the VLN series? (Auto India Sports)

It's only a few VLN races that I will be participating in. As for the rest of the season, there are many surprises in store!

A very cryptic final answer by Aditya, might we see him racing in another series, along with VLN, before the end of the season? To learn more about the Indian VLN driver, please visit his website here.

To check out our older interviews please refer to our archive here.


Stick with us here at Auto India Sports - we'll have more interviews with more people in the near future!

07/05/2012

Last time out ...

So as we mentioned in a previous article, Karun Chandhok (World Endurance Championship) and Jules Bianchi (Formula Renault 3.5) were in action this weekend, but how did they do?

World Endurance Championship
Chandhok 12th overall (2points) / 4th in his class (12points).

- Karun started 8th with a racey setup.
- On the second formation lap, in the slippery conditions, Karun found himself off on the grass, clipping the barrier at the famous Eau Rouge corner.

- He nursed the car back to the pits and the mechanics worked very quickly to be able to repair the damage before the race began.
- Karun would now start from the pitlane, a lap down on the field.
- He drove very well and found himself 6th at the first pit stop.
- Despite contact with another car Karun pushed through the field and ended his stint after 2hours 45minutes.
- Teammates David Brabham and Peter Dumbreck had their stints without major incident.
- The team finished 12th overall, 4th in their class!

(Karun going through Eau Rouge, click to enlarge)

In the drivers championship Karun now sits joint 16th, along with his teammates, on 2.5points. In the constructors championship meanwhile (LMP1 Privateer) the team sit in 3rd place out of the five competitors on 27points.

Karun Chandhok
(JRM driver):
"I think I gave the boys a bit too much work to do today. It's been a tough weekend for everybody in the team and the guys have done a fantastic job to get the car ready in time. I couldn't be a mechanic, that's for sure. Even though there were some issues to resolve earlier in the week, the car was very good today and you can tell there's definitely more to come."

Nigel Stepney (JRM team manager/head of engineering):
"We've had two races and twice we've started from the pit lane, so it would be nice to start one from the grid! It's been a tough week for the team and there's been lot of effort from everyone. This season, every event is a learning exercise and that was certainly the case for this one. We will leave Spa with a lot more data than we had before, which is important, bearing in mind our next race is Le Mans."

James Rumsey (JRM team principle):"This really has been a team-building weekend and I'm pleased the car has run so well in the race. The lads have done a mega-job, especially to get the car ready in time after the off on the way to the grid. Of course, it would have been better not to have started from the pit lane and then have to fight our way through the field again. Perhaps it will be third time lucky for Le Mans!"

As mentioned above the next event is the World famous, 24 Heures du Mans, the most prestigious sports car race in the World - it happens in June and we'll have all the news from that as it happens :-)

Formula Renault 3.5
Race One: Bianchi DSQ (appeal pending).
Race Two: Bianchi 13th.

- Jules Bianchi started 5th for race one.
- A stunning performance saw the Frenchman finish in 2nd place.
- However during scrutineering the stewards decided to disqualify Jules from the results.
- This is because of "an irregularity in the stacking of the limited slip differential discs".
- The team, Tech 1 Racing, have appealed the decision.
- Race one standings have been withheld by the series organisers until a final conclusion has been reached.

(Jules lining up in 5th place for race one, click to enlarge)

- A decent second qualifying saw Jules due to start race two from 7th place, but he started from the pitlane.
- A storming race saw Jules fight his way upto 10th.
- A drive through penalty was then given to Sahara Force India's reserve though.
- He finished the race in 13th place.

When we get some news on Jules' race one disqualification, we'll let you know.

06/05/2012

Sigh ...

Remember this article that we posted in March regarding the on-going legal situation between Caterham and Force India? Well that's only part of this on-going story which dates back to early 2010.

The upshot of that hearing was that Force India have to pay their remaining unpaid fees of around ₹57M (£700,000) to Aerolab. But ₹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.

Additionally the high court judge has now said that Force India have to pay around ₹56M (£650,000) to 1Malaysia Racing Team (the company name behind Catherham F1, formerly Lotus Racing) within 12 days. This figure is "legal costs".

It's not over yet though!

Sahara Force India have appealed the decision over the amount they receive to compensate for use of the teams intellectual property rights. It was set at ₹1.6M (£21,000); but is now subject to an appeal. A decision is expected in the coming weeks.

We know all this can be confusing, it's made me scratch my head a few times while typing all this up, so here is a profit and loss breakdown for this dispute.

1Malaysia Racing Team (Caterham F1):
+ ₹56M (£650,000): legal fees from Force India.
= ₹56M (£650,000): TOTAL

Aerolab:
+ ₹57M (£700,000): unpaid fees from Force India.
- ₹1.6M (£21,000): compensation to Force India.
= ₹55.4M (£679,000): TOTAL

Sahara Force India:
- ₹56M (£650,000): legal fees to 1Malaysia Racing Team.
- ₹57M (£700,000): unpaid fees to Aerolab.
+ ₹1.6M (£21,000): compensation from Aerolab.
=
₹111.4M (£1.3M): TOTAL

Clearly Sahara Force India have been the biggest losers in all this; despite the team making the appeal in the first place; and despite them having their own intellectual property rights used! Some very strange decisions have been made by the courts but let's just look to the future and see how this appeal goes.

(Note: figures correct at the time of conversion).

05/05/2012

What's happening this weekend?

Two drivers racing this weekend.

First up we've got Karun Chandhok competing in the World Endurance Championship at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuits in Belgium. It's the second round of the championship.

Qualifying has already taken place, the team will start from P8 with a setup engineered towards the race rather than qualifying so it looks promising! The six-hour race gets underway at 3:30PM UK Time/8PM IST.

The second driver in action is Sahara Force India's reserve driver Jules Bianchi in Formula Renault 3.5. Jules is one of the favourites to win the series so he will be hoping for a solid start at the first race of the season at the Ciudad del Motor de Aragón, Spain.

Qualifying one has already been held and Jules came 5th - that's very good in such a competitive series (the top 19 drivers were separated by less than one second in that session). Consistency will be the key to this championship.

We wish both Karun and Jules the very best of luck this weekend :-)

03/05/2012

Mugello Test - Day Three

Results: Hulkenberg 6th (1:22.325), di Resta 10th (1:23.002).

Both race drivers took part on the final day of the Mugello test. The decision to allow di Resta to run in the morning and Hulkenberg in the afternoon was forced after reliability issues yesterday forced Paul di Resta to have little on-track action.

Although both took part today their laptimes are incomparable as the track was much quicker late afternoon when Nico was in the car. However the team gathered good data with 466 km of running completed.

Here is what the team had to say:

Paul di Resta (Sahara Force India driver):
"It was a much better day and good to get a reasonable number of laps in the car in dry conditions. We had a busy programme focusing on aero data collection this morning, aero balance and general performance work. The data we have seems encouraging and I think that we are well prepared for Barcelona".

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver):
"I think we have learned quite a lot today and it's a good way to end the test with a busy afternoon. There was a lot to get through, but the main priority was on understanding the car we have here and making sure we feel ready for Barcelona. There's a lot of data to go through before we get there and we also have to look at how the different tyre compounds behaved, but overall I'm pleased with the day's work".

Jakob Andreasen (Sahara Force India chief engineer):
"After a tricky start to the week I'm pleased that we have ended the test with a full day of running. The focus this morning was on aero work and we fitted several devices to the car, which allowed us to collect the most important data to continue our assessment of the latest car developments. Later in the day we moved towards set-up work, running new sets of the medium and hard tyres and extracting performance from the car. Before we leave Mugello I would like to thank everyone in the team for their efforts over the last few days to ensure we were able to complete the main items on our job list. It puts us in a good position as we head to Barcelona for next week's Spanish Grand Prix".

There is something i've picked up on that's very interesting. On Sahara Force India's website, as part of their day three report, they have put this:

"Chassis: VJM05-04"

Of course VJM05 is the name of this season's car, however -04 means that they are using their 4th iteration of the chassis! We've only had four races so far; shows just how fast the development rate is nowadays!

Combined Force India Laptimes
1) Hulkenberg (1:22.325, day 3)
2) di Resta (1:23.002, day 3)
3) di Resta (1:24.749, day 2)

4) Bianchi (1:25.475, day 1)

Doesn't count for anything, just thought we'd show the laptimes together.

02/05/2012

Mugello Test - Day Two

Result: di Resta 13th (1:24.749).

A disappointing day for the Scottish driver as he only managed 14 laps today; considerably less than his rivals. The reason for this is that he had a hydraulic issue, which eventually resulted in an engine change.

Robert Fernley (Sahara Force India deputy team principle):
"We had some faults in the data and we needed to do quite a few changes to the hydraulic system to eliminate it; a bit of a painful day. [The] problem was tracers. We were just worried it was going to cause an issue, partly safety and not wanting to cause any damage. We changed everything; the engine, the hydraulic pack. The key thing was to make sure Paul was comfortable. We will change our schedule, run half a day with Paul [Thursday] morning and Nico in the afternoon, to give them equal time in the car".

Paul di Resta (Sahara Force India driver):
"The lack of running isn't a huge concern. I don't think it's massive. We're quite limited with what we were going to learn anyway, given the way the track is. It's not got that many similar characteristics compared to the tracks we're racing at. It would have been nice to get some more running, but these things happen. If we can get cracking tomorrow and get a full programme in we'll be okay".

As Paul said, not major - but also not ideal. It's made worse by the fact that yesterday was disrupted by the rain.

Anyhow, let's hope tomorrow will be different! Paul in the car in the morning, Nico in the car in the afternoon - could provide a great comparison for us as fans :-)